Conducting Research

Also see: IRB Applications for information about conducting ethical research with human participants and completing an IRB application.


Once you have an idea of what you want to write about, it's time to start researching the topic. The best place to begin your research is by using the resources available to you through Sprague Library. In addition to the resources and assistance at Sprague Library, you may find the following online resources helpful as you conduct research and incorporate it into your writing.

Also see: Citing Sources for discipline-specific citation styles and web-based citation tools | Academic Integrity for guidelines to help you use research responsibly.

Glossary of Research Terms (Hacker and Fister Research and Documentation Online) An alphabetical list of commonly used terms in research and their definitions.

Interactive Exercises (the companion web site for Mike Palmquist's The Bedford Researcher)
Interactive exercises that walk the writer through the entire research paper writing process from analyzing the assignment to integrating quotations.

Research and Documentation Online(companion web site for Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference)
Online guides for finding and documenting sources in the Humanities, Social Sciences, History, and Sciences. There is also information on evaluating sources, a list of style manuals, and a glossary of research terms.

Research Exercises (companion website for Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference)
The companion web site for Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference offers research exercises in four areas: General research (to help you narrow your topic), MLA Style, APA Style, and CMS (Chicago Manual of Style).
Site Access: To access these exercises, you need to register with the site. Registration is fast and simple.

Researching in History (Hacker and Fister Research and Documentation Online) A guide to finding sources to use in a history paper and citing them according to Chicago documentation style.

Researching in the Humanities (Hacker and Fister Research and Documentation Online) A guide to finding sources to use in humanities papers (literature, philosophy, religion, music, art, etc.) and citing them according to MLA documentation style.

Researching in the Sciences (Hacker and Fister Research and Documentation Online) A guide to finding sources to use in science papers (biology, engineering, nursing, math, etc.) and citing them according to CSE documentation style.

Researching in the Social Sciences (Hacker and Fister Research and Documentation Online) A guide to finding sources to use in social sciences papers (anthropology, criminal justice, education, law, psychology, etc.) and citing them according to APA documentation style.

The Seven Steps of the Research Process (Cornell Univ. Library) "These steps outline a simple and effective strategy for finding information for your research paper and documenting the sources you find. Depending on your topic and your familiarity with the library, you may need to rearrange or recycle these steps."

Writing a Research Paper (Purdue OWL)
"This handout provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.”

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Articles and Databases at Sprague (MSU Sprague Library) A direct link to the databases available at MSU. You will need to use your Net ID to access them.

Finding Sources (Empire State College) An overview of the different resources you can use to conduct research effectively.

Finding Sources for Research in the Humanities, Social Sciences, History, and Sciences (Hacker and Fister Research and Documentation Online) Includes information on "Finding Sources" for your humanities, social sciences, history, and science papers.

Guide to Electronic Sources (MSU Sprague Library) "The nature of information retrieval has changed radically in recent years. Library research has evolved into an endeavor that combines the use of traditional paper sources (indexes, abstracts, etc.) with modern electronic sources (online databases, eBooks, streaming audio and video, eJournals and the Internet). It is now essential for library users to be familiar with both sets of tools. This guide is meant as a first step in introducing patrons to the different electronic tools available at Sprague Library."

Primary Research (Purdue OWL) Explains what primary research is and provides some examples.

Research Guides at Sprague (MSU Sprague Library) Library research guides that are divided by subject and show available resources.

Research: Where Do I Begin? (Purdue OWL) "We live in an age overflowing with sources of information. With so many information sources at our fingertips, knowing where to start, sorting through it all and finding what we want can be overwhelming! This handout provides answers to the following research-related questions: Where do I begin? Where should I look for information? What types of sources are available?"

Types of Sources (Purdue OWL) Lists different types of print sources and internet sources where you can find information.

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Annotated Bibliographies (Purdue OWL) “This handout provides information about annotated bibliographies in MLA, APA, and CMS.”

Annotated Bibliographies (UNC at Chapel Hill, The Writing Center) “This handout will explain why annotated bibliographies are useful for researchers, provide an explanation of what constitutes an annotation, describe various types of annotations and styles for writing them, and offer multiple examples of annotated bibliographies in the MLA, APA, and CBE/CSE styles of citation.”

Annotated Bibliography Samples (Purdue OWL) Here you’ll find sample annotated bibliography entries cited in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles.

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography (Cornell University Library) Explains what an annotated bibliography is, how it differs from an abstract, and how to create an annotated bibliography. It also includes a sample entry for a journal article, cited in both APA and MLA styles.

Write an Annotated Bibliography (UC Santa Cruz) Explains the definition, content, and purpose of an annotated bibliography.

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When should you use a quote from your research? When should you paraphrase? When should you summarize? And what is the difference between these different ways of incorporating research into your writing?

The resources on this page will help you to understand the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, and decide when it is best to use each technique in your writing.

How to Work with Information from Sources (The Bedford Research Room)
A tutorial on how to use direct quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.

Including Outside Sources (Writing@CSU)
A writing guide on how to incorporate outside sources. This guide has four sections: Choosing Source Material, Quoting Source Material, Paraphrasing Source Material, and Summarizing Source Material.

Integrating Sources in MLA Style (Professor David Hennessy, Broward College)
Posted on YouTube: July 23, 2008 | length 6:48
A clear and informative video of a student explaining how she learned to integrate sources into her writing rather than dropping in a quotation without explaining its purpose.

Quotations (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center)
"Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro."

Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing (Purdue OWL)
"This handout is intended to help you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. This handout compares and contrasts the three terms, gives some pointers, and includes a short excerpt that you can use to practice these skills."

Research Tutorials (the companion web site for Mike Palmquist's The Bedford Researcher)
Interactive tutorials on gathering and integrating research into your writing. There are exercises on paraphrasing, integrating quotations, and even revising source information in the revision and editing process.
Site Access: To access these exercises, you need to register with the site. Registration is fast and simple.

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All sources are not equal. It is essential that you know how to evaluate the sources you find to ensure that they are accurate, reliable, and timely.

Critically Analyzing Information Sources (Cornell University Library) "Ten things to look for when you evaluate an information source."

Evaluation During Reading (Purdue OWL) "After you have asked yourself some questions about the source and determined that it's worth your time to find and read that source, you can evaluate the material in the source as you read through it." This site contains useful steps and questions you can ask yourself when evaluating sources.

Evaluating Print vs. Internet Sources (Purdue OWL) "With the advent of the World Wide Web, we are seeing a massive influx of digital texts and sources. Understanding the difference between what you can find on the Web and what you can find in more traditional print sources is key to evaluating your sources." This source compares print and digital texts based on these categories: publication process, authorship & affiliations, sources & quotations, bias & special interests, author qualifications, and publication information.

Evaluating Sources: Overview (Purdue OWL) "Evaluating sources of information is an important step in any research activity. This section provides information on evaluating bibliographic citations, aspects of evaluation, reading evaluation, print vs. Internet sources, and evaluating Internet sources."

Tips for Evaluating Sources (Hacker and Fister Research and Documentation Online) A checklist of questions for evaluating print, multimedia, and web sources.

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