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Transcript of College Research
It is important that you remember that:
A short quote is a passage of less than four lines of text
By contrast, a long quote is anything greater than four lines of text
Make sure you remember this key difference
Short and Long Quotes
Used correctly, quotations can:
Add a sense of depth
Emphasize a significant point
Help demonstrate your reading
Develop your writing style
Encourage further thought and reflection
Provide background information or context for your topic
Explain terms or concepts that your readers might not understand
Provide evidence for your argument or analysis
Lend authority to your argument or analysis
Offer alternative interpretations and counterevidence to your argument or analysis
College research assignments ask you to:
pose a question worth exploring
read widely in search of possible answers
interpret what you read
draw reasoned conclusions
support those conclusions with valid and well-documented evidence
—for researching, drafting, revising, and documenting. Before beginning any project that involves research, set a realistic schedule of deadlines.
College Research Defined
If your initial question is too broad, given the length of the paper you plan to write, look for ways to restrict your focus. Here, for example, is how to revise and narrow your question.
Choose A Narrow Question
Make sure that your research question is grounded, not too speculative. Although speculative questions—such as those that address morality or beliefs—are worth asking and may receive some attention in a research paper, they are inappropriate central questions. For most college courses, the central argument of a research paper should be grounded in facts.
Ask Grounded Questions
Excessive or incorrect use of quotations can…
Obscure your own ideas
Make your essay too long
Suggest that you are trying to hide poor research
Make your essay difficult to read
A good academic paper should have only 10% of quoted material
There are a number of important conventions which you should use when handling quotes…
You should always quote the passage exactly as it appears in the text. If the quote does not make sense, you can add words in square brackets.
Example: “The cat [sat] on the mat.”
Always record exactly where you took the quote from, with page number(s) included.
“The cat [sat] on the mat” (Frank, 111).
This is because your readers (who are usually your examiners) need to able to check the accuracy of your quote
Double Quotation Marks:
Use double quotation marks for all normal quotations
“The cat [sat] on the mat.”
Single Quotation Marks (or Speech Marks):
Use single quotation marks (speech marks) when citing a quote within a quote
“According to Frank, ‘The cat [sat] on the mat’.”
Short passages should be left within the main body of your paragraph:
According to Frank, “The cat [sat] on the mat” (1998, 111). From this, we can deduce that cats do indeed sit on mats.
As you can see, the actual quote itself forms a discreet part of the paragraph in which it appears
Extensive quotes (those longer than four lines) need to be treated slightly differently. Such passages need to be separated from the main paragraph and indented
As you can see, this makes such a long passage stand out clearly
Drop It Like It's Hot
Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with a context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing a context for our above example, you might write:
When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.
The fact that Franklin Roosevelt was president is common knowledge. However, should you introduce a scholar or author who might not be familiar to your audience, it is important to give a sentence or phrase that will help tell your reader not only who this person is/was but why their opinion matters.
Here’s an example from an article titles “Tea Party Radicalism is Misunderstood: Meet the ‘Newest Right’”:
Quote Like a Champion
MLA uses parenthetical citations
Parenthetical citations depend on the medium
(e.g. Print, Web, DVD)
Parenthetical citations also depend on the source’s
entry on the Works Cited page
Signal word in the text is the first thing in the
corresponding entry on the Works Cited page
In-Text Citations: the Basics
Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (263).
Romantic poetry is characterized by the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Wordsworth 263).
Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).
Corresponding Works Cited Entry:
Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads. London: Oxford UP, 1967. Print.
Human beings have been described by Kenneth Burke as “symbol-using animals” (3).
Human beings have been described as “symbol-using animals” (Burke 3).
Print Source with Author
Corresponding Works Cited Entry:
Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays
on Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley: U of
California P, 1966. Print.
Print Source with Author
Sample Works Cited Page:
Works Cited Page: The Basics
The Purdue OWL
For More Information
MLA will be frustrating
Know how to find the answers about MLA
You are not expected to memorize/know all techniques, merely how to find them
Researching takes considerable time
DO NOT use any citation generators
They do not save time
They are often wrong (even those available on JMU's library website)
Machines are only as smart as you are; if you don't know the right way, you won't spot the wrong way
Folks are always surprised when I say this and yet still use them
Any MLA error on any major essay: -5 points
How to Research
Working within the guidelines of your assignment, pose a few questions that seem worth researching—questions that you want to explore, that you feel would interest your audience, that would support a paper, and about which there is a substantial debate.
Approaching your topic with a series of worthwhile questions can help you focus your research and guide you toward developing an answer. As you think about possible questions, make sure they are appropriate lines of inquiry for a research paper.
The best questions? Narrow in approach, challenging, and grounded.
Pose Questions Worth Exploring
What are the hazards of fad diets?
What are the benefits of stricter auto emissions standards?
Why are low-carbohydrate diets hazardous?
How will stricter auto emissions standards create new, more competitive auto industry jobs?
Choose A Narrow Question
A research paper will be more interesting to both you and your audience if you base it on an intellectually challenging line of inquiry. Draft questions that provoke thought or engage readers in a debate.
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?
How does DNA testing work?
Why is obsessive-compulsive disorder so difficult to treat?
How reliable is DNA testing?
You may need to address a bland question in the course of answering a more challenging one. For example, if you were writing about promising treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder, you would no doubt answer the question: “What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?” at some point in your research. It would be a mistake, however, to use that bland question as the focus for the whole paper since this question can be easily answered.
Is it wrong to share pornographic personal photos by cell phone?
Do medical scientists have the right to experiment on animals?
What role should the US government play in regulating mobile content?
How have technology breakthroughs made medical experiments on animals increasingly unnecessary?
Map Out A Search Strategy
If you speak with a reference librarian, be sure you’ve answered these questions first:
What is your assignment?
In which academic discipline are you writing?
What is your tentative research question?
How long will the paper be?
How much time can you spend on the project?
A search strategy is a systematic plan for tracking down sources. To create a search strategy appropriate for your research question, consult a reference librarian or take a look at the library’s web site, which will give you an overview of available resources.
Use the Database
You might be tempted to head straight to the Internet and ignore the library’s resources, but using them early and often in the research process can save you time in the end. Libraries make a wide range of quality materials readily available, and they weed out questionable sources.
James Madison University spends over $1 million on subscription to academic databases. That’s your money.
This should be your first resource.
This is a research university—faculty, departments, and students are expected to perform research.
That means our database is very good.
What Databases Offer
A library database can lead you to articles in periodicals such as newspapers, magazines, and scholarly or technical journals. General databases cover several subject areas; subject specific databases cover one subject area in depth.
Many databases, especially general databases, include the full text of at least some articles; others list only citations or citations with short summaries called abstracts. If the full text is not available, the citation or abstract will give you enough information to track down an article if it seems relevant to your project.
Although command terms and characters vary in electronic databases and Web search engines, some common functions are listed here:
Use quotation marks around works that are part of a phrase: “gateway drug”
Use AND to connect works that must appear in a document: hyperactivity AND children
Use NOT in front of words that must not appear in a document: Persian Gulf NOT war
Use OR if only one of the terms must appear in a document: Mountain Lion OR cougar
Use an asterisk as a substitute for letters that might vary:
“marine biolog*” (to find marine biology or marine biologist)
Use parentheses to group a search and combine it with another:
(standard OR student OR test*) AND reform
Refining Your Search
Start simple in the search field
You can be general with search terms, then get specific
Start with books first
Researchers gather context and background to see what’s available and what’s already been done
Likely easier to read than academic articles
Searching by subject is more powerful
Most books are written to provide an angle
e-book helps just as much as a physical book—it’s still a book!
Think about topic ahead of time
Saves MAJOR time on research
Articles are most narrow aspect of research
Refine results to get different sources
Wikipedia is helpful if checking on something that is common knowledge.
Scholars do not consider Wikipedia to be appropriate sources for college research because:
authorship is not limited to experts; articles can be written by amateurs who are not well informed
sources are often outdated
footnoted references are not always accurate
Including Wikipedia as a source in any paper will drastically reduce your grade on the assignment—you will fail.
Similarly, avoid the tendency to define a common word from a dictionary.
Unless you’re dealing with highly specialized material, assume your readers are smart enough to know definitions—or know how to look up definitions.
Including a dictionary as a source in any paper will drastically reduce your grade on the assignment—you will fail.
Scholarly vs. Popular Articles
Be Alert for Bias
Does the author or publisher endorse political or religious views that could affect objectivity?
Is the author or publisher associated with a special-interest group, such as Greenpeace or the National Rifle Association, what might present only one side of the issue?
Are alternative views presented and addressed? How fairly does the author treat opposing views?
Does the author’s language show signs of bias?
Who are the sources?
Is there a lack of diversity?
From whose point of view is the article written?
Are there double standards?
Are there unchallenged assumptions?
Is the language loaded?
Is there a lack of context?
What is the author’s central claim or thesis?
How does the author support this claim—with relevant and sufficient evidence or with just a few anecdotes or emotional examples?
Are statistics consistent with those you encounter in other sources? Have they been used fairly?
Are any of the author’s assumptions questionable?
Does the author consider arguments and refute them persuasively?
Does the author fall prey to any logical fallacies?
Any sources that are quoted in your paper must be cited using proper MLA citation.
Not citing sources—intentional or not—is considered plagiarism. At JMU, this can result in failure of the paper, failure of the class, academic probation with a note included in your academic transcript, or expulsion from the university. It is unpleasant, embarrassing, and inexcusable.
Play it safe and always cite your sources.
Who, if anyone, sponsors the site?
What does the domain name tell you?
When MLA Not Needed
Writing your own lived experiences, your own observations and insights, your own thoughts, and your own conclusions about a subject
When you are writing up your own results obtained through lab or field experiments
When you use your own artwork, digital photographs, video, audio, etc.
When you are using "common knowledge," things like folklore, common sense observations, myths, urban legends, and historical events (but not historical documents)
When you are using generally-accepted facts, e.g., pollution is bad for the environment, including facts that are accepted within particular discourse communities, e.g., in the field of composition studies, "writing is a process" is a generally-accepted fact.
Deciding if something is "common knowledge”
Generally speaking, you can regard something as common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources. Additionally, it might be common knowledge if you think the information you're presenting is something your readers will already know, or something that a person could easily find in general reference sources. But when in doubt, cite; if the citation turns out to be unnecessary, your teacher or editor will tell you.
Works Consulted/Used for This Prezi:
Beason, Larry, and Mark Lester.
A Commonsense Guide to Grammar and Usage
. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012. Print.
How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide
. New York: W. W. Norton, 2014. Print.
Wysocki, Anne Frances, and Dennis A. Lynch.
Compose Design Advocate: A Rhetoric for Integrating Written, Visual, and Oral Communication
. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print.
Avoid Confirmation Bias
You are not looking solely for information that supports your own opinions. You need to ask what it is you want to know about a topic, and then research it to find out what other people are saying.
After reading and thinking about the information you find, you can then come to a conclusion. This conclusion is your thesis statement. Your paper will focus on supporting this conclusion, and you will include sources that you found during your research to back up your argument.
You should come to your own, NEW conclusions based upon your research, not simply repeat what you find in your research. Doing a research paper is not an exercise in repetition or summarization.
The C in CRAAP is for currency. Currency refers to the timeliness of the information. Some written work such as classic literature, are ageless. While others, like technological news are outdated quickly.
To determine currency ask yourself, when was the source written or published? Has the information been updated more recently? Is the information current or out of date for your topic? When evaluating a website, are the links functional? If not, this may be a sign that the site is no longer being updated or maintained.
The R in CRAAP is for relevance. Relevance refers to the importance of the information to your specific research needs.
To determine relevancy ask yourself, is the information relevant to your question or topic? To what
extent does the information answer your research question? Does it cover your topic comprehensively or focus on only one aspect? Who is the intended audience of the publication? Is the information at an appropriate level for your needs? Meaning that the content is neither too elementary, nor too advanced.
The first A in CRAAP is for Authority. Authority refers to the source or the author of the information.
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether the information is credible. The
author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.
To determine the author’s authority or credibility ask yourself, who is the author? Is it a person,
company, or organization? Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the
author is an expert on the topic? For example, can you find information about the author’s education,
experience or other publications the author has written on the topic? Is contact information such as a
publisher or an email address listed on the source? If you are evaluating a website does the URL reveal anything about the author? For example a .com site indicates the site may be used for commercial purposes, where as a .gov site indicates the information is being derived from a government agency.
The second A in CRAAP is for accuracy. Accuracy refers to the reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the information.
To determine accuracy ask yourself, based on your knowledge does the information seem accurate? Is the information supported by evidence? Can you verify any of the information in another source? Has the information been peer reviewed? Does the language or tone seem unbiased? Are there spelling, grammar or other typographical errors?
The last letter in CRAAP is P for Purpose. Purpose refers to the reason or motivation for the information to exist. Knowing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased.
To determine the purpose ask yourself, what is the intention of the source? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade? Does the author make his or her intentions clear? Does the point of view appear to be objective and impartial? Are their political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases? And finally who is the intended audience?
Why is it important to avoid dropped quotations?
A dropped quotation—a quote that appears in a paper without introduction—can disrupt the flow of thought, create an abrupt change in voice, and/or leave the reader wondering why the quote is included.
Instead of creating an unwelcome disruption in their paper’s cohesiveness with a dropped quotation, thoughtful writers should employ strategies for smoothly integrating source material into their own work.
What are the benefits of fluently integrating a direct quotation?
When quotations are smoothly integrated, writers can strategically introduce their readers to the new speaker, connect their point to the quotation’s theme, and provide their audience with a clear sense of how the quote supports the paper’s argument. Using these tactics to segue from the writer’s voice to the source’s voice can add agency and authority to the writer’s ideas.
What can be done to fluently integrate a direct quotation into a paper?
Use a signal phrase at the beginning or end of the quotation:
Sample signal phrases:
Noted journalist John Doe proposed that “ . . . ” (14).
Experts from The Centers for Disease Control advise citizens to “ . . . ” (CDC).
“. . . ,” suggested researcher Jane Doe (1).
Use an informative sentence to introduce the quotation:
Sample introductory sentences:
The results of dietician Sally Smith’s research counter the popular misconception that a vegan diet is nutritionally incomplete:
An experiment conducted by Dave Brown indicates that texting while driving is more dangerous than previously believed:
Use appropriate signal verbs:
adds confirms lists reports
argues describes illustrates states
asserts discusses notes suggests
claims emphasizes observes writes