Part II

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 helps you gain a broader perspective on the subject.

  • It helps you become a more critical and careful reader as you filter through divergent information.

  • It helps you understand more about yourself and what you think or believe about a topic.

  • It enhances your own credibility thus converting your opinion to an informed position.

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:

MLA Style (Modern Language Association): Typically used in humanities courses.
APA Style (American Psychological Association): Typically used in the social sciences.
The Chicago Manual of Style: Frequently used in history, business and industry.
CBE Style (Council of Biology Editors): Frequently used in the natural and physical sciences.
ASA (American Sociological Association): Used primarily for sociology and anthropology.

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:

  • Begin with as passionate an interest as possible.
    At the heart of all scholarship is a question - any question - but the research process can be tedious if you begin to look for answers without a vested interest in the topic. Having a sincere and passionate interest will ease the way and make all the difference in your approach to the material.

  • Brainstorm and free write.
    Generate all the ideas you can by either talking with someone or by writing everything and anything about the subject. After careful consideration, select one of these ideas and attempt to narrow and clarify the topic or issue.

  • Narrow the question to a specific point of inquiry.
    The more you narrow your focus before you even begin to do the research, the easier the project will be. Narrowing the field of inquiry makes your job so much easier because it helps you stay on track and eliminate material that doesn't apply to your paper.

  • Prepared to get lost along the way.
    But even if you do have a fairly specific issue, be prepared to get a little lost once you begin to sift through all the sources. All of the information might be confusing because there are usually dozens of ways to see and interpret the same event, phenomenon, or fact. One need only look at the number of books written about one Shakespearean play to know that there are as many perspectives as there are published researchers.

    Remember that if you become confused or overwhelmed by the material, then that could be a sign that the research process is going well. It means that the information you are gathering is not as black and white as you thought it would be - one theory may be contradicting another or one view of the Civil War is in direct opposition to the one presented by your class. The lines between the "right" way of thinking and the "wrong" way of thinking become blurry as you continue to track down more and more sources. Stick with it; keep going past the confusion and a clear direction should emerge.

  • Take careful notes.
    As you accumulate information and sources from your reading, it is critical that you take careful notes about what you are reading and where that reading came from. In order to create a legitimate research paper, you must know exactly where you found a quotation or fact. Taking notes during the process will save you time during the last part of this process and will protect you from misrepresenting a source. This will be addressed more thoroughly in the section on academic honesty.

  • Periodically, go back to your original question.
    As you accumulate notes from your reading, it is important to pause and review the original question. Very often, we begin with one idea in mind, but our reading tends to steer us in another direction. That's the exciting part about research - it takes on a life of its own. However, it is your job to create a logical and clear structure for the reader, so if you find that your paper is changing direction, go back to the beginning and carefully reframe the inquiry to match the research you are collecting. It is perfectly acceptable to change your original introduction and thesis so that it matches the body of information you have collected.
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.

  • Insert Name of Your College Library
    Some students may feel confused or intimidated by college libraries, but that perception is easily displaced once you've investigated the layout of the library on your own time or with the help of a professional. The library staff is more than willing to help you during every step of the process; don't be afraid to ask questions that may appear too simple. This is your library, so take advantage of everything that is available. As holdings and systems change each year, librarians have the most current available information and enjoy sharing that expertise with you.

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)

  • Indexes & Databases
  • Major Topics
  • Online Publications
  • Reference Links
  • Search Engines

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 for a complete guide for APA, MLA, Chicago Manual, and CBE online citation protocols.

  • Periodicals
    Very often your instructors state exactly what kinds of sources they want you to include in your project. Assignments may specify, for example, that three journal articles and two books must be included in your research. Most research projects, even if they are only five pages in length, require that you read some recent literature in the area and periodicals are the best way to obtain that information. Typically, periodicals are divided into two basic categories:
  • Scholarly and technical journals are published regularly throughout the year and tend to focus on very recent and professional research in the field. Our reference librarians can help you determine what periodicals we subscribe to and how to locate journals that are not readily available. If you allot enough time to this part of the process, most anything can be obtained through document delivery. Be sure to begin your collection of information as soon as possible.

  • Popular magazines and newspapers are included in the category of periodicals, instructors have varying opinions about what they find acceptable and reliable for inclusion in a research paper. Some instructors will accept magazines such as Newsweek and Time as reliable and appropriate sources while others do not find these sources to be scholarly enough. When in doubt, always ask your instructor.
  • Books
    It may seem obvious that books are central to good scholarship, but the point needs to be underscored since many students are alarmed when instructors require two or three books be included in a research project. Using books as part of this process does not necessarily mean that you are reading the work in its entirety; reading just three or four relevant chapters is all that is required to justify its inclusion in your list of references. You might find chapters addressing your issue in an anthology or collection of articles on a broader topic. It is perfectly acceptable to read only those chapters that give you the information you need. You may still cite those books and count them as sources for your paper.

One of the most useful shortcuts I discovered when doing my own research is that when you do find the perfect article or book that addresses your specific question, be sure to check that author's own list of references. Just as you need to prepare a bibliography, so do previous researchers; consequently, this is an easy and accessible resource for further references.

  • Primary vs. Secondary Sources
    Instructors may mention in their guidelines that they would like you to include primary and secondary sources in your research. Primary sources are original works by an author. For example, Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud is considered a primary source because it is considered to be an original work of the author; however, an in-depth analysis of Civilization and Its Discontents discussing its impact and meaning on twentieth-century culture is a secondary source because it takes as its subject matter another original work. Even though the ideas in such a commentary may be creative and unique, it is not usually considered primary because it is about a primary source.

    Primary sources include the following:
    o literary texts, historical records, original journals, diaries
    o collections of letters and personal papers, newspapers
    o periodicals, magazines, government documents, legislation
    o reports, public records, maps, dissertations, news footage
    o artifacts such as relics, tools, jewelry, pottery, furniture
    o visual materials such as films, art, photographs, computer-generated graphics
    o objects such as specimens and samples

    Secondary sources, anything that is written in an effort to make sense of or place in context primary material, includes:
    o textbooks, review articles, histories, critiques
    o handbooks and manuals,
    o bibliographies, indexes and digests, encyclopedias

  • Internet Sources
    While the Internet holds an extraordinary amount of information and many students feel that they can easily write a paper just relying on the Web, care must be taken to examine and evaluate material for currency, content, quality, and purpose. Familiarize yourself with the major categories of URLs because each has a different function and will automatically help you evaluate whether the source is appropriate to include in your research.

    .org-an organization usually advocating a cause
    .com-a commercial website usually affiliated with a product or economic interest; note that news agencies are also .com.
    .gov-a government agency
    .edu-an educational institution
    personal websites-a variety of URL's

    Since anyone can place anything on the Web, even experienced Internet users can be duped by unqualified individuals posing as legitimate sources. You need to carefully review the entire website to see not only who wrote the information, but what their qualifications are.

True Story: One of my favorite stories about the dangers of Internet communication comes by way of a student who included in her paper discussing the dangers of genetically engineered food, the information that Kentucky Fried Chicken had stopped using "real" chickens. According to her bibliography, the research for this assertion was being conducted at the University of New Hampshire. Curious about this unbelievable phenomenon, I visited the website and found the information. However, I also discovered a UNH website entitled the Kentucky Fried Chicken Hoax that is clearly a disclaimer by the University about any participation in this so-called research. Needless to say, this well-intentioned student was very embarrassed.

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."

  • Original Research
  • More and more faculty are encouraging students to incorporate their own research into their papers. Primary research includes a variety of activities:

    • observing and recording the activities of children
    • conducting biological experiments
    • interviewing individuals
    • creating and conducting a survey

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:

o to acknowledge the work of other individuals and organizations

o to allow readers to further investigate something that may be of interest to them

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.
APA Style (American Psychological Association): Typically used in the social sciences.
The Chicago of Manual Style: Frequently used in history, business and industry.
CBE Style (Council of Biology Editors): Frequently used in the natural and physical sciences.
ASA (American Sociological Association): Used primarily for sociology and anthropology.

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!

Without Signal Phrases
With Signal Phrases
(a phrase that identifies or introduces the material before the quotation actually begins), the citation varies slightly:

"Every developmental stage, I said, is an evolutionary truce" (Kegan 108).

"Every developmental stage, I said, is an evolutionary truce" (Kegan, 1982, p. 108).

"Every developmental stage, I said, is an evolutionary truce." 1 (You may use either an endnote page at the end of the paper or a footnote at the bottom of the page.)

"Every developmental stage, I said, is an evolutionary truce." 1 OR "Every developmental stage, I said, is an evolutionary truce" (kegan, 1982).

According to Robert Kegan, "Every developmental stage . . ." (108)

According to Robert Kegan (1982), "Every developmental stage . . ." (p. 108)

According to Robert Kegan, "Every developmental stage . . ." 1

According to Robert Kegan, 1 "Every developmental stage . . ."

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:
"Control the manner in which a man interprets his world, and you have gone a long way toward controlling his behavior" (Milgram 145).

With a limited signal phrase:
According to Stanley Milgram, "Control the manner in which a man interprets his world, and you have gone a long way toward controlling his behavior" (145).

With a complete signal phrase:
After three years of experimental research in human behavior, Yale University Professor Stanley Milgram concluded, "Control the manner in which a man interprets his world and you have gone a long way toward controlling his behavior" (145).

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.

The list at the end of the paper must follow the same documentation style that you are using for your citations within your paper, i.e., MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.

Examples of Reference Page Formats:
MLA - Works Cited
  Kegan, Robert. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge:      Harvard UP, 1982.
APA - References
  Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem and process in human development. Cambridge:      Harvard University Press.
CHICAGO - Bibliography
  Kegan, Robert. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge:      Harvard University Press, 1982.
CBE - References
  Kegan, R. The evolving self: problem and process in human development. Cambridge:
     Harvard University Press; 1982. 318 p.

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:

Review the length requirements and the actual assignment one more time.
The required length really determines what you can accomplish and what must be left unsaid. Make sure you understand the assignment and what the instructor expects of you. Let those requirements set the parameters of your search and as you finish, quickly check the assignment once more and make sure you have done what is being asked of you.


Have someone else read your paper.
Very often students will go as far as a first draft and hit the print button-a most unfortunate end to a respectable process. Since writing is an intense and solitary business, we are often not able to see our own errors. It helps to have an objective reader give you honest feedback. Have a Writing Center tutor or knowledgeable friend read your work.


Plan on giving yourself some time away from your paper.
Let your words sit for a day or two before returning for a final proofreading. You'd be surprised how even a brief respite can help you read your paper more objectively.


Proofread one more time.
Always review your draft one last time, reading it out loud. There is no better way to catch mistakes than to actually say the words.


Have your conclusion answer the question, "So what?"
What has been learned about this topic and what is left for us to think about in the future are solid ways to summarize the findings of a research project.

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.

Plagiarism Awareness Challenge
1. Which of the following best defines plagiarism?
  a. Paraphrasing or quoting someone else's work and using it in your own writing.
  b. Stealing or "temporarily borrowing" the ideas or writings of another person and passing them off as your own work.
  c. A tiny single celled organism that lived during the early Precambrian era.
All students who are caught plagiarizing will be reported to the Dean, and punishment for plagiarizing can include receiving an F for the class, but repeated offenses can result in as severe a sanction as expulsion from Keene State College. (Customize this question to conform to your school's policy on academic honesty.)
3. Why do we use other sources in our papers, and why is documenting those sources so important?
Sources by other authors are used in academic writing to give supporting evidence to the point(s) you are trying to make.
Using credible sources by other authors makes your own work more viable in the academic world and beyond.
Documenting sources by other authors keeps you academically honest. It protects the work done by your fellow scholars while at the same time recognizing that you've gone out of your way to support your argument.
  d. All of the above.

Answer questions 4, 5, and 6 based on this passage from Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm. In 1997, this book was published by HarperCollins Publishers in New York City. The following passage can be found on page 123:


So far the weather had been overcast but calm, light winds out of the northwest and a little bit of sea. Before the Portland Gale of 1898, one captain reported that it was "the greasiest evening you ever saw," and a few hours later 450 people were dead. It's not quite that calm, but almost. The wind hovers around ten knots and a six-foot swell rolls lazily under the boat. The Andrea Gail passes just north of Albert Johnston during the night, and by dawn they've almost made the western edge of the Banks, around 52 degrees west. They're halfway home. Dawn creeps in with a few shreds of salmon-pink sky, and the wind starts to inch to the southeast. That's called a backing wind; it goes counterclockwise around the compass and usually means bad weather is coming. A backing wind is an ill wind; it's the first distant touch of a low-pressure system going into its cyclonic spin.

4. Which of the following is correctly paraphrased?
Junger says that a backing wind is a wind that goes counterclockwise around the compass and usually means bad weather is coming (123).
A wind that begins to move counterclockwise is a backing wind, and is often the first sign that a storm is on its way (Junger 123).
Junger says that: "a backing wind . . . goes counterclockwise around the compass and usually means bad weather is coming" (123).
5. Which of the following is a correct example of a direct quotation?
Sebastian Junger says that when the wind starts to inch to the southeast, that's called a backing wind; it goes counterclockwise around the compass and usually means bad weather is coming.
Junger explains that a wind that begins to move in a counterclockwise direction is a backing wind, and if often the first sign that a storm is on its way.
"A backing wind . . . goes counterclockwise around the compass and usually means bad weather is coming" (Junger 123).
6. How would the above passage best be displayed on your Works Cited page?
  a. Junger, Sebastian. The Perfect Storm. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997.
  b. The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. Copyright 1997 by HarperCollins Publishers.
  c. Sebastian Junger. "The Perfect Storm," HarperCollins: 1997, page 123.
7. At which of the following places on campus can information be found regarding correct documentation? (Customize appropriately.)
  a. The Keene State College Library
  b. The Writing Center in Elliot Hall
  c. The Keene State College Bookstore
  d. The Rhodes Computer lab where Diana Hacker's book A Writer's Reference is available on desktop
  e. All of the above

Answers: (b, True, d, c, a, e)

How You Might Plagiarize Without Knowing It

As you become immersed in a subject, the wording and vocabulary become so familiar that you may forget that a phrase or a concept is not really your own; however, what may begin as genuine confusion, can very well end with a permanent blemish on your academic record. Plagiarism is the act of taking the words, ideas, or concepts of another and presenting it as your own - whether or not you intend to do so. Most students are in earnest about their work, have the most honorable intentions, and yet still plagiarize because they have not learned some very simple rules about how to document sources. As a college student, you are expected to know these rules and ignorance of them will not help you when a faculty member files a complaint. So, take the time to read this section thoroughly.


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.)

1. All words, phrases, or sentences that are copied from other sources (direct quotations) must have quotations marks around the material and must be followed by an in-text citation whether that be a number designating a footnote or endnote or parenthetical material.
2. All paraphrased words, phrases, sentences or concepts must be followed by an in-text citation. Remember that paraphrasing requires a substantial rewrite of the original-not simply changing a word or two. Examine the following example used in the Plagiarism Challenge.

Original: "That's called a backing wind; it goes counterclockwise around the compass and usually means bad weather is coming."

Incorrect Paraphrase: Junger says that a backing wind is a wind that goes counterclockwise around the compass and usually means bad weather is coming (123). This is the wrong way to paraphrase because it is too close to the original quotation. Even though there is a page reference, this is still considered to be copied material.

Correct Paraphrase: A wind that begins to move counterclockwise is a backing wind, and is often the first sign that a storm is on its way (Junger 123). This is the correct way to paraphrase because the wording is completely different from the original and is followed by the source.

3. Every direct quotation or paraphrased sentence must not only have an in-text citation, but a corresponding, complete bibliographic entry in the reference page.
4. Include only those books, articles, interviews, movies, etc., that you actually used for your research in your list of references. You may not include sources that you did not use - this is called "padding" your bibliography and can result in academic penalties.
5. Choose a documentation style and follow that format from the beginning of the paper until the end. Do not mix styles or create your own.


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.)


KSC's newly rewritten policy on academic honesty includes other forms of dishonesty such as giving and accepting aid during exams, but so much of it directly addresses written communication that we thought it was best to reproduce the entire policy here. Pay particular attention to how plagiarism is handled by the administration since this can directly impact on your college career.


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:

  1. Giving or receiving aid in quizzes or tests, in the writing of papers, or in the preparation of lab reports or other homework assignments;
  2. Taking an exam for someone else or having someone take an exam in one's place;
  3. Purchasing a term paper, using one from a "file" of old papers, having someone write a paper, or writing one for someone else;
  4. Turning in a "dry" lab report (faking the data without doing the experiment);
  5. "Padding" items in a bibliography (i.e., listing works not actually used);
  6. Feigning illness to avoid an exam or other required work;
  7. Stealing, selling, or using a stolen copy of an exam;
  8. Sabotaging someone else's work or removing material from the library that other students are required to use or cutting material out of books or journals in the library;
  9. Plagiarizing the work of others, including using material off the Internet without proper citation (see also below);
  10. Two students in two different sections or classes sharing research for a paper or in-class presentation (without specific permission to do so);
  11. Altering or forging college documents (e.g., changing information in transcripts or grade reports or forging a faculty member's name or initials on a form);
  12. Using materials, information, illustrations, charts or diagrams from websites without proper acknowledgment;
  13. Not properly citing sources of information in speeches and/or public presentations.

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 . . .

  1. Have I read any materials which I am using in this paper but have not cited?
  2. Am I deliberately referring to or recalling any particular source of information as I write this paper?
  3. Am I quoting or paraphrasing any source as I write?

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 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.


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:


After the student has been charged and is not satisfied by a conference with the instructor, the student may appeal the instructor's allegation or the sanction. The appeal must be put in writing to the appropriate Divisional Dean, explaining in detail why the student thinks the charge or the sanction is not justified and must be filed within five calendar days after the instructor renders his/her decision. The Dean will consult with the faculty member about the appropriateness of both the charge and the sanction.


The Dean may uphold the faculty member's action, or the Dean may overturn the allegation or the sanction. The Dean will also consult the central file in the VPAA Office to determine if there has been a prior offense. If there is a prior offense or if the Dean determines the offense to be of a more serious nature, the Dean may institute dismissal procedures through the Office of the Academic Vice President. In all cases and at all levels, a written report of the rationale must be provided within two weeks of each decision.


All dismissal cases will be reviewed by an Academic Appeals Board, made up of four faculty and three students and chaired by one of the faculty. This board is separate from the Judicial Board, which hears cases regarding student behavior. An Academic Appeals Board will recommend to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, whereas the Judicial Board recommends to the Vice President of Student Affairs. The College Senate will establish procedures for electing the faculty, and the Student Government will oversee election of student members of the Academic Appeals Board.


If either student or the faculty member is not satisfied with the Divisional Dean's disposition of the case, an appeal can be filed in writing to the VPAA. The appeal must be filed within five calendar days after the Divisional Dean renders his/her decision.


The Vice President will refer the appeal to an Academic Appeals Board for recommendation. All dismissal cases will automatically be heard by an Academic Appeals Board convened by the VPAA.


The decision rendered by the VPAA in all cases of appeal will be final.


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.