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Developing Research Skills: Be Respectful

The purpose of this guide is to introduce you to information literacy skills (superpowers) through the use of an existing research assignment so that you will feel more confident and equipped in college research activities.

Use Information Correctly and Ethically

Your paper will be powerful if you effectively use outside sources along with your ideas!

Writing a research paper, whether informative or argumentative, is not about offering only what your sources have to say on a topic, but synthesizing what you have learned, giving credit to your sources of authority and offering your original ideas as well.  Find a balance between evidence and your thoughts.  Remember, you are contributing to the creation of new information with the support of your research sources. 

Plagiarism is the result of neglecting to give credit to the authors of your research sources or passing off someone else's ideas and content as your own.  Plagiarism can be intentional or accidental.  Knowing how to cite sources properly and being organized in the writing process will help you avoid accidental plagiarism. In this section of the Information League, use the tools and information to help you avoid plagiarism and to find your voice!

Using Information Correctly

Which situation accurately reflects the proper use of information?

A.  I started my assignment with a question I wanted to answer.  As I looked for sources to back up my ideas, I found that I had missed one important viewpoint.  I will now adjust my original question to reflect this new information and use my research sources to show my new perspective on the situation.

B.  I wrote an essay about my views on a situation.  The paper is almost the correct length for the assignment.  I have to use sources, so I found two articles that said something similar to my ideas.  I will plug in a few quotes in my essay so that I will have evidence for my ideas.

C.  As I wrote my paper, I looked on the Internet for ideas.  I started to type in what I was learning, but forgot which websites I used for my ideas.  Can I just find another article that says the same thing and quote that source instead?

(The correct answer is A)

Using Information Ethically

The ethical use of information involves telling your reader where you found your evidence.  Instead of passing off all the words in your paper as your own original thoughts, you must give credit to the sources that informed you and expanded your knowledge.  Even if you put the information into your own words, the evidence to support your claims came from an author that deserves to be acknowledged.  If you forget to acknowledge an author's ideas or information, it is known as accidental plagiarism.  If you intentionally try to pass off someone else's work as your original work, it is known as plagiarism or academic dishonesty.

The methods that you use to ethically handle information are:

  • Paraphrasing
  • Summarizing
  • Quoting
  • Internal citations
  • Bibliographic citations

Why Do I have to put my sources in a certain format?

In addition to giving credit within a paper using internal citations (sometimes called parenthetical or in-text citations), you need to provide a list of your sources in a page at the end of your paper.  In MLA Style, this is known as the Works Cited page.  In APA Style, this is known as the References page.  

Lists of sources serve several purposes.  Works cited and references lists show your instructor and reader that you thoroughly researched your topic, give proper credit credit to the authors of your sources, and provide an organized and readable list for readers to track down your sources for their further learning or examination.

The overall structure of a source citation can be thought of as showing a part in relationship to a whole (part: article, whole: journal).  The sequence in a citation and it's various parts goes from small to larger (author, title of the part, unique publication information including date and pages, information about the larger work in which or on which it appeared, and a link to the source if relevant).  In each style's rules there may be variation in the use of italics, commas and periods.  However, there is a consistency to the way different types of information are cited within one citation format. 

The two styles most commonly used at MCC are MLA and APA, depending on the subject discipline.  Your assignment will usually specify the citation format you are to use.

Now you try it!

Using the following templates for APA or MLA style, attempt a citation of one of the sources you located earlier in this tutorial or have chosen for your research assignment.

You Have Competed the Information League training!

Please send the MCC Research Librarian an email to let us know your reactions to this Information League tutorial and if you have suggestions for improvement.