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If we knew what it was we were doing it would not be called research, would it? -- A. Einstein
WHAT IS A RESEARCH PAPER?
A research assignment or a research paper begins with a “research question” – a question about a particular subject matter that a student wants to investigate and answer. To do good research students need to locate and properly use good sources.
Before you start researching try to make a research plan. A research plan will help you to decide how to use your time most effectively:
1. The sources available in a library
Reference materials – encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, atlases, maps, etc.
An excellent starting point is an encyclopedia, print or on-line. An encyclopedia print or electronic gives you background information about the subject, and a list of recommended books and articles for further reading.
Books – textbooks, manuals, fiction, non-fiction, etc.
Books give reliable, in-depth knowledge of a subject. Publication information such as date of publication, publisher, author, and editor are always clearly listed in print publications, which is very helpful for further citation of your research paper.
Periodicals/Serials – magazines, journals, newspapers, etc.
For more recent information and a greater selection of information it is always useful to refer to articles in periodicals. A large selection of periodicals may be found on the Internet.
Online Resources – online encyclopedias, databases, e-books, magazines, journals, dictionaries, etc.
The Internet is a source of information that easy to access and easy to search. However not all the information to be found on the Internet is reliable. You must be prepared to evaluate the sources you have chosen for your research.
Media – CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, Streamed Audio and Video, etc.
Libraries also have collections of materials in audio and visual formats.
A database is a collection of information on a particular subject. Some databases give just the title, author, and publication where you can find an article or other information. Other databases give this information and a summary of the article contents, or even the complete article. There are many online databases that provide full text articles, or abstracts. Most of these databases have restricted access to subscribers only. Since there are not many free online databases available on the Internet, your local public library may be of great help. Vancouver Public Library has a vast selection of online databases (e.g. MasterFILE Premier Database), which you can access using your library card.
2. Evaluate your sources
In order to evaluate your sources, you should ask yourself several questions:
3. Once you have chosen and evaluated your sources start taking notes
Write down information of the source you are taking notes from. You will need this information for your citations and references.
DOI - Digital Object Identifier - is a unique alphanumeric combination assigned to a particular electronic article in order to provide a persistent link to its location on the Internet. It is recommended by the APA to indicate the DOI, when it is available, for both print and electronic sources. The DOI is typically located on the first page of the electronic journal article. DOIs are assigned to articles in scientific publications. The publisher has to be a participant of a registration agency such as CrossRef (http://www.crossref.org). A digital object identifier (DOI) can be used to cite and link to electronic documents. A DOI never changes, so you can use it to link permanently to electronic documents.
E.g. Electronic Journal Article with DOI:
Langhorne, P. (2011). Stroke rehabilitation. The Lancet, 377(9778), 1693-1702. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60325-5
Electronic Journal Article without a DOI:
Kelley, M. (2011, May 17). Design institute explores changing place of libraries. Library Journal. Retrieved from
4. Incorporate source information into your paper
There are three ways of incorporating source information into your own writing: summarize, paraphrase, and quote.
5. Document and cite
Documentation means acknowledging source material. Citation means a quotation from or reference to a book, paper, or author, especially in a scholarly work. If you use another person’s words or ideas in your paper, you must provide information about the sources of those words or ideas. There are many different formal systems of documentation. The two most widely used in academic settings are MLA and APA. To avoid plagiarism you must always cite your sources in an approved documentation style. Plagiarism means copying or imitating the language, ideas, or thoughts of another author and representing them as one’s own original work.
6. Edit and format your paper
After you complete your research, writing, documentation and citation work, it is time format your paper. You should follow the exact formatting instructions given by your instructor. These instructions will likely include creating a title page, table of contents, providing page numbers, and spell check.