A NEW WAY TO THINK
How to Think About Research
Several years ago, the faculty at a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire were surveyed to find out what kinds of writing assignments were most frequently used in courses throughout the curriculum. When the results were compiled, the research paper was the most frequently assigned project. The results of this survey are fairly typical of most schools throughout the country. Regardless of all the changes in how we do research, faculty still have an abiding respect and investment in the process. So, one very good reason to read this section thoroughly is that writing research papers is expected of you throughout your academic career-regardless of your major.
However, there are other very important reasons for you to understand
the nature of academic scholarship besides the fact that your professors
want you to. Here's what becoming an effective researcher can do for you:
It's Not Just Your Opinion Anymore
It is this last piece-converting opinions to informed perspectives or positions - that is so critical for academic scholarship. Even though you may have thoughtful opinions about a topic before you begin your research, incorporating outside sources into your presentation only lends legitimacy to your thinking. No longer are you stating something because "it's a free country" and you're allowed to. Rather, you are presenting a position based on a wealth of information which increases your authority and competency in the subject area. One of the ways you can persuade people to value your perspective is by backing it up with professional sources. As your knowledge base grows, so do your thoughts and beliefs. You'll find that the next time you enter into a conversation about your topic, you can speak with greater confidence and personal authority.
Know & Use the Basic Vocabulary of Research
During your classes, professors will constantly refer to certain words and phrases that are commonplace in the research process. The sooner you become familiar with this vocabulary, the easier it will be to discuss your papers with faculty and tutors. Here are terms you need to know:
Common Knowledge: This refers to information that is so commonplace that even if you have read it in a source, referencing it seems pointless. In other words, since most people in the United States know about the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York, referencing it makes little sense. However, as the information becomes more and more specific and less known - for example, how many families were directly affected by the event - then you must use in-text citations. The concept of what is common knowledge becomes a bit more complicated when writing for someone who has expertise in the discipline. If you are writing for a psychology course, for example, and you mention something about Freud's notion of the id that most people in the field know about, then an in-text citation and bibliographic reference might be omitted. However, that same fact included in a biology paper might require a complete reference. A handy rule to remember is that if you have any doubt at all about what constitutes common knowledge, then cite it.
Direct Quotation: A passage that is copied exactly as it is phrased - word for word - from the original. (See the following pages for more information.)
In-text Citations: These are the citations that are found within the actual text of your paper - whether in parentheses or numbered depending on the style guide you use - and are inserted immediately after information that is paraphrased or directly quoted. Unfortunately, many students think that an in-text citation is only used when there is a direct quotation and is not necessary when an idea is paraphrased. All information, however, must be precisely documented as you fold it into your own paper so that the reader can clearly distinguish your words/ideas from the words of others. Whether you are paraphrasing or quoting directly makes no difference in terms of documentation - in both cases the sources must be credited within the text of the paper. (See the following pages for more information.)
Paraphrase: To paraphrase something is to take a passage that you have read and put it into your own words. Sounds simple, right? However, many students think that if they change a word or two, then they have correctly paraphrased a passage. (See the following pages for more information.)
Signal Phrase: A signal phrase usually introduces the author of the material you are citing. For example, According to Harvard researcher Robert Kegan, signals and identifies the quotation that will follow.
Style Guides: Style guides are books devoted exclusively to setting the standard for how each discipline formats their references. Your professor will tell you what style guide to follow, but be sure to ask if that information is not included in the assignment. The most frequently used ones are as follows:
Works Cited/Bibliography/References: All three of these words refer to the same thing: the comprehensive list of readings found at the end of the paper that you referred to in your text. Anything that you use as a source during the text of the paper - whether it be a journal article, book, Internet source, e-mail communication, or personal interview - must be included in your last page of references.
How to Begin Your Research Project
Because of the sheer quantity of available information and resources, research can sometimes be an overwhelming process. Breaking that process down into several steps is useful both as an introduction for the novice and a refresher for the experienced researcher. Below is a list of our very best recommendations created from working with hundreds of students:
How to Collect Information
If defining your question hasn't already led you to some preliminary library investigation, this next step definitely will. During this stage it is very important that you stay focused on your area of interest as you begin to survey the larger field. With today's onslaught of information, it is very easy to become sidetracked. It doesn't take too long before you have spent an entire day browsing the Internet or searching through periodicals without getting any closer to your topic. As you survey the larger world of books, articles, journals, films, videos, or unpublished works, keep pen in hand, jotting down notes and sources.
Your investigation should begin with our library - virtual or real - and move from there to other ways of collecting data. Once again, there is a basic vocabulary you need to become familiar with.
Of course, the library is not only a building, but is online at (insert college's online address.) You will be greeted by a list of information resources. Become thoroughly familiar with all of these by simply pointing and clicking on (this information might vary from college to college-customize accordingly)
You should also familiarize yourself with Bare Bones 101 by Ellen Chamberlain of the University of South Carolina. Access this handy guide to searching the Internet by clicking on Search Engines. The information and the lessons she offers will save you hours of needless surfing.
Under Online Publications, go to Citation Guides and click on Online!
Citation Styles or go directly to www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/shrttoc.html
for a complete guide for APA, MLA, Chicago Manual, and CBE online citation
To avoid something like this happening to you, (Customize the following information) The Mason Library has several documents which can aid you in evaluating the information you find. To access this information go to Resources, Reference Sources, Specific Sites, and you'll find "Evaluating Web Sites for Educational Uses."
Any original research must be documented and referenced in the same way you would primary and secondary sources; if you interview someone or survey a group of fellow students, then you must follow the format for citation that is stated in your handbook for that specific documentation style.
(Again, the following information is fairly typical of most colleges. Customize this for your students) Please note: some kinds of research require a human subject's release form issued by our Office of Institutional Research, ext. 2117. Check with your professor to see if that form is necessary for your particular kind of work.
How to Document Your Sources
As you may know, the fundamental difference between an unresearched essay and a research paper is the very deliberate gathering and integration of data (facts, figures, concepts, and perspectives) to support your central idea. As part of the academic community, it is important that you understand the reasoning behind the need for accurate documentation. Footnotes, endnotes, reference pages, and in-text citations have two basic purposes:
There is a carefully developed system in place to accomplish these two objectives, both of which must be included in your paper: one is in-text citations and the other is an accurate list of references. The system seems fairly clear to those who are familiar with it, yet many students seem to have difficulty navigating it. You may think that not knowing how to properly document a fact is a minor problem when compared with actually writing an entire paper, but each year many students face disciplinary actions which can jeopardize their entire academic careers because they did not take this information seriously enough. (See the following pages for more information about this.)
Choose a Documentation Style
Just as there are a variety of disciplines, so too are there a variety of methodologies - precise ways of documenting information. There is nothing mysterious or particularly difficult about this process and nothing needs to be memorized. For most courses, all you need is a comprehensive handbook that deals with many of these styles. As you progress in your major, faculty may require that you purchase the style guide for that discipline.
This Guide to Writing, however, does not contain all the information you need to complete scholarly research; it is an overview of the research process with some generalized information about documentation. In order to insure your success, use this Guide as a companion piece along with a current writing handbook. (Insert the appropriate information for your institution) The one most frequently used at KSC is A Writer's Reference (Bedford/St. Martins) by Diana Hacker, which is available online at the campus computer labs or at the bookstore. We strongly suggest that you keep it by your side as you write your papers. If you do trade it in at the end of the semester, then buy an updated version the following year. Styles of speech, acceptable conventions in usage, even rules of grammar change frequently to reflect a changing world. This is even more true of documentation styles, so be sure to have a current handbook that reflects acceptable practice.
Most of the time, your instructor will tell you which editorial style
to follow when documenting your work, but eventually you will become familiar
with one or more of the following formats:
MLA Style (Modern Language Association): Typically used in humanities courses.
Sometimes instructors are not concerned with which style you choose as
long as you use the same format throughout the paper. One absolute rule
of academic documentation is consistency; you may not mix and match
styles, and you absolutely can not create your own!
About Signal Phrases
The definition of a signal phrase is a phrase that introduces a quotation and gives the quoted material a context. Signal phrases make all the difference in the world to the reader because they help him/her understand the identity of the authority you are quoting. Look at this example:
Without a signal phrase:
With a limited signal phrase:
To Paraphrase or To Quote?
Paraphrasing sentences or concepts from a book or article means that you are completely rewriting (putting in your own words) what someone else has written. We have included a sample of how to do this correctly, but many students are confused about how to make the decision between paraphrasing and quoting. Here's a simple guideline to follow: use a direct quotation only when the phrasing of the author is critical to the meaning of the passage and when that phrasing strengthens the point you are trying to make. Otherwise, paraphrase whenever possible.
Remember: both paraphrased and quoted material MUST be followed by an in-text citation.
When quoting, you must copy exactly what is written-words and punctuation may not be changed. If words in a quotation are omitted, use ellipses . . . to note what is missing.
If you add to the quotation for clarification, use brackets [ ].
Construct a Works Cited, Reference, or Bibliography
As mentioned in the section on the Vocabulary of Research, at the end
of all academic papers is a comprehensive list of all works used within
the text. There is a direct relationship between all in-text citations
and the works mentioned at the end of the paper. If your in-text documentation
process is clear and accurate, then the reader can check your list of
references at the end of the paper, find the book, journal or Internet
source, go directly to that source, and read further. It should be that
simple. Remember that accurate documentation helps readers interact with
your writing and nothing should hamper that process.
How to Synthesize & Conclude Your Research
Synthesizing the Material
A research paper is not just a bunch of quotations and paraphrased material - although sometimes it might feel that way. The most interesting part of the process is the way all the information is put together and only you, as the writer, are in charge of that. Many times I've seen drafts of papers that are nothing more than back-to-back quotations followed by a list of references. This is not what a research project is about. An effective paper must follow all the principles outlined by my colleague in Part I of this text: it must have a purpose, it must address an audience, it must be organized and have a logical flow of ideas. The research is there to support the assignment - whatever that assignment might be.
For example, if you are asked to explore three economic theories and decide which one is most effective, the research exists to support and enhance your evaluation, analysis, or critique. In most papers, your voice should be central - whether or not you are allowed to use the first person (I). The information you find should be woven into your text in as seamless a fashion as possible. Everyone knows that this is easier said than done. Putting the pieces together is a difficult task that requires discipline. If you find yourself getting lost along the way, STOP!! Ask yourself what the original purpose of the paper was and what you wanted to say. Sometimes writing your goal in large letters on a piece of paper and having it visible throughout the process may help you organize and synthesize your thinking.
Ending Your Search
With all this information from periodicals and magazines, newspapers and books, and endless Internet sources that can place the world's libraries at your fingertips, how do you determine when to end your search? Here's a list of tips:
How to Be Academically Honest
(or How to Avoid Plagiarism)
Before reading this section, try taking this quick Plagiarism Awareness Challenge and see how much you know about documentation policies and procedures. Answers are based on MLA style, but these questions are general enough so that anyone who understands documentation can answer them.
Answers: (b, True, d, c, a, e)
How You Might Plagiarize Without Knowing It
The Golden Rules of Intellectual Property
(Refresh your memory about the vocabulary of scholarship by reviewing
pages on the Vocabulary of Research before you read this.)
It is not just colleges, or this college, that takes this issue very seriously. You may have recently read about successful writers who have plagiarized. Although there are no academic disciplinary boards for the public, lawsuits are filed and reputations damaged. When we read something, we need to trust that the authors' ideas are their own - in fact, we assume that is so. If every time we read something, we have to trace the information to be certain it belongs to the person who wrote it, then a serious breach of trust has occurred. The general public, as well as institutions of higher learning, take this issue very seriously and we encourage you to do so as well.
KSC's Policy on Academic Honesty
(Insert your institution's policies and procedures on
plagiarism and academic integrity.)
The pleasures and sense of accomplishment in doing original scholarship are central to the college experience. For some students, the resulting excitement and sense of purpose will be so great that they will decide to go beyond the undergraduate experience and dedicate their lives to research and writing. But for all students, the feeling of satisfaction and pride in producing their own work, without misusing or misappropriating the work of others, helps build confidence in their intellectual abilities and their powers of dealing with the larger world. To encourage this sense of purpose and accomplishment, Keene State College asks students to understand and observe certain widely accepted principles and standards of academic and intellectual honesty.
What Is Academic Honesty?
Academic honesty is taking full responsibility for your course work and for your intellectual and educational development. One important aspect of academic honesty is acknowledging the writing, ideas, and research of others. This enables you to accept, without reservation, full credit for your own ideas and scholarly work. While learning from the work of others is essential to the educational process and to all serious research, it is important for you and for your audience to discern what is original in your work.
The accepted method of acknowledging the work of others when it appears in your writing is through citation and proper quotation. Citation may take one of several forms: footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citation within the text of your essay. The best method is the one generally accepted in the field in which you are working. Quotations should be exact and enclosed in quotation marks. Some form of citation usually accompanies quotations. If you are restating in your own words the ideas of others you should use some form of citation to remind the reader that these ideas originated elsewhere. Websites as well as books and articles are sources you should acknowledge. If in dealing with a website you are unsure of the author you should at least cite the location of the web page so your reader can examine it. Current handbooks and manuals such as the MLA Handbook and The Chicago Manual of Style explain how to cite websites as well as all kinds of printed materials. See the discussion of plagiarism (below) for further information.
Beyond the writing and research process, academic honesty extends to every aspect of course work. It requires proper conduct during exams, accepting assignments and carrying them out to the best of your ability, and always being truthful about every aspect of your course work, research, and laboratory work. The academically honest and responsible student respects the work of fellow students, respects the function and property of the library, honors scientific procedure, and understands the role of exams in determining intellectual growth.
What Is Academic Dishonesty?
Honoring your own work is essential to the principles of academic honesty and integrity. If you plagiarize by incorporating the ideas or words of others without properly acknowledging them you are violating those principles and doing yourself, your instructor, and the college a disservice. You cannot be fairly evaluated and cannot fairly evaluate your own education without distinguishing your own intellectual accomplishment from the accomplishments of others. If you cheat on exams you are violating not only the regulations of the college and the trust of your instructor but your own intellectual integrity. If you fail to properly carry out laboratory experiments and simply fake the results you are violating the principles of scientific research that have made the modern world possible. Because academic honesty is essential to the educational process, college policy must state clearly the grounds of academic dishonesty and must prescribe sanctions for violation of the principles of academic honesty and integrity.
Academic dishonesty is the violation of the principles of academic integrity. Academic dishonesty may include (but is not limited to) any of the following cases:
There may be occasions when a faculty member permits, recommends, or even requires collaborative effort; however, students should be careful to follow whatever guidelines are set up by faculty for collaborative work. Unless such collaboration is specifically discussed, students should assume that collaboration is not acceptable, that collaboration is, in fact, a punishable offense.
Plagiarism is the use in a paper or presentation, the words, ideas, or opinions of someone else, from any source whatsoever, that appear to be your own. The most obvious kind of plagiarism is the use of another's exact words without quotation marks and/or without appropriate citation. A second kind of plagiarism is the use of another's ideas, thoughts, or opinions without proper citation: simply putting another's thoughts into your own words (paraphrasing) is not enough - you must also cite the source of material when you paraphrase another's ideas.
Another, more subtle form of plagiarism is the use of another's sequence of ideas, arrangement of material, or pattern of thought without giving proper citation. Material taken from Internet or web sources must also be acknowledged through appropriate citation, whether you use the original source's words or not. In general, students should be aware that a good deal of material needs to have the source cited, that citations are not limited only to direct quotations (exact words within quotation marks).
There is, of course, nothing wrong with using the work of others, if the writer gives proper documentation. In fact, the use of sources ("authorities") to support one's views is often a tactic in increasing credibility; indeed, in certain kinds of papers students are often required to use other sources. A simple test . . .
If the answer to all three questions is "no," the writer probably need not worry about using sources dishonestly; however, if the answer to any of these questions if "yes," the student must provide proper citation of his or her source(s). If there is any doubt whatsoever, it is always best to ask the faculty member for whom the paper is being written. Indeed, any question about any form of academic dishonesty should be addressed to the appropriate faculty member. It is always "better to be safe than sorry."
ACADEMIC HONESTY FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Academic honesty has a very different meaning in educational institutions abroad, and there is an increasing number of international students at Keene State College. The National and International Exchange center provides assistance both to international students and to faculty who are dealing with issues of academic honesty with students from other countries. However, all Keene State students will be held accountable for adhering to the Academic Honesty Policy.
HANDLING OF INCIDENTS OF ACADEMIC DISHONESTY
Although all cases of academic dishonesty are serious, some are more serious than others. Those which are less serious will be handled by the faculty member, who will decide on the appropriate sanction-from redoing the assignment to failure for the assignment to an F for the course. The initial sanction will be imposed by the faculty member, but all violations will be reported to the appropriate Dean, who will schedule a conference with the student to discuss the incident and the student's right to appeal. The Dean will report the outcome to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), where the reports will be kept on file. The reports, with appropriate supporting documentation, will be kept in the VPAA's "active" file for three years after a student either graduates or stops taking courses at the college, after which time the reports will be removed to an archival file.
More serious offenses - the stealing, selling, or buying of an exam; the presentation of a paper which is wholly or largely the work of another, including "purchased" or "file copies" of term papers; or having a "substitute" take an exam - will be considered as grounds for, and result in, permanent dismissal from the college. If the Dean determines an offense is serious in nature or is a second offense, he/she may consider it grounds for dismissal.
Appeals of Charges of Academic Dishonesty
A student charged with academic dishonesty will be informed of the charge, the reasons for the charge, and the sanction to be imposed by the faculty member. The student will receive a copy of a form detailing the charge and the sanction. The form will be submitted, along with appropriate documentation, to the Divisional Dean's office, and the Dean will see that the report is filed.
The student has the right to appeal. The appeals procedure is as follows:
ACADEMIC HONESTY AS A PRINCIPLE
As indicated at the outset, the principle of academic integrity is so central to an academic institution that academic dishonesty is one of the most serious offenses in any college, and it is one that Keene State College will not tolerate. Ignorance about what constitutes academic dishonesty or about the policy of the college will not be considered an acceptable defense, and to that end, efforts will be made to inform students of Keene State's policy - through discussions at Orientation and in appropriate courses (like English Composition and through publication in appropriate places (the catalog and student handbook for instance). Any questions about the policy or the procedures may be addressed to the Divisional Deans. Questions about specific cases should be addressed to the appropriate faculty.
Why Bother to Learn This?
Though it may appear that academic research is just about rules and conventions, let's review some of the ideas presented at the beginning of this unit. Learning how to collect, evaluate, and correctly cite evidence is fundamentally about learning how to think through and present your ideas to an audience. Although the system for doing this may seem tiresome at times, remember that it exists to serve your thinking about a subject.
In the final analysis, a research project is only as good as your ability to logically present and support your ideas. It reflects your willingness to explore a topic, hear what others say about it, and arrive at some conclusions of your own. The answer to "Why bother to learn this?" is that engaging in academic research will make you more informed, aware, and insightful participants in your world.
We welcome you into this system of inquiry and hope that you see its value and excitement.