gathering sources for research paper

Writing Research Papers Guide: Step 2: Gather Sources

  • Step 1: Get Started
  • Step 2: Gather Sources
  • Step 3: Write It
  • Step 4: Cite It

These pages are intended to be a step-by-step guide to refer to while writing a research paper.  For extra help, ask a librarian! ​ This step addresses understanding and gathering your information sources.

1) WHAT SOURCES SHOULD I USE?

There are many options available for you to use as research sources.

Good Practices :

  • Too many vs. too few : It's better to gather too many sources and weed out the not-so-good ones, than to try to make the ones you have stretch to fit the requirements.   
  • ​ Not all good : Not all sources are created equal.  Elsewhere on this page, you'll find suggestions as to how you can evaluate the quality and credibility of what you find.

TYPES OF SOURCES :

PRIMARY SOURCES  are original materials on which other research is based, including:

  • original written works – poems, diaries, court records, interviews, surveys, and original research/fieldwork
  • research or case studies published in scholarly/academic journals  

​SECONDARY SOURCES   are those that describe or analyze primary sources, including:

  • reference materials – dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks
  • books and articles that interpret, review, or synthesize original research/fieldwork.  

YOU CAN FIND SOURCES IN:

  • Big Bend  Online Databases   A-Z
  • Social Media
  • Internet Link: Know Your Sources - from Portland Community College A graphic depiction of types of sources

3) RESOURCES AT BIG BEND

  • Research Databases  - Full-text online articles and peer-reviews in newspapers, magazines, and journals ​

LIBRARY GUIDES:

  • Fake News  - This guide is intended to help you to verify and utilize fact-based news resources for research purposes.
  • ​ General Subject Guides - This page provides links to a variety of general subjects and topics.

BOOK SEARCH:

  • P RIMO Search box  - Search for books in the BBCC library
  • Big Bend Library Tutorials  - How to use some of the library tools

4) OTHER LINKS

  • Clark College tutorials for libraries Online tutorials for evaluating information
  • Conducting Research These OWL resources will help you conduct research using primary source methods, such as interviews and observations, and secondary source methods, such as books, journals, and the Internet. This area also includes materials on evaluating research sources.
  • Evaluating Sources Evaluating sources of information is an important step in any research activity. This section provides information on evaluating bibliographic citations, aspects of evaluation, reading evaluation, print vs. online sources, and evaluating Internet sources.
  • Google Advanced Search A great way to save time and be an efficient researcher on the Internet is to use Google Advanced Search. You can fill in specific fields, search for specific domains, and hone your search. TRY IT!
  • Research Process: Ideas for Researching Efficiently A guide for understanding the research process designed and created by Clark Librarians

2) ESTABLISHING CREDIBILITY

Whatever sources you choose, the most important thing to remember is to establish the CREDIBILITY of the source. Credibility is important because you will be using it as evidence to support your work and you want to find the best evidence that you can. 

Important: 

  • With some sources, like databases, some of the work has already been done for you because they have already gone through a vetting process.  
  • With other sources, like the Internet, you have to use all of your tools to help determine if the source you find is a good one.

Before you commit to a source , s ome general questions to ask are:

Resources: Some of the resources below will help you to determine if your sources are credible or if you might need to keep looking.

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11.4 Strategies for Gathering Reliable Information

Learning objectives.

  • Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.
  • Identify strategies for locating relevant print and electronic resources efficiently.
  • Identify instances when it is appropriate to use human sources, such as interviews or eyewitness testimony.
  • Identify criteria for evaluating research resources.
  • Understand why many electronic resources are not reliable.

Now that you have planned your research project, you are ready to begin the research. This phase can be both exciting and challenging. As you read this section, you will learn ways to locate sources efficiently, so you have enough time to read the sources, take notes, and think about how to use the information.

Of course, the technological advances of the past few decades—particularly the rise of online media—mean that, as a twenty-first-century student, you have countless sources of information available at your fingertips. But how can you tell whether a source is reliable? This section will discuss strategies for evaluating sources critically so that you can be a media-savvy researcher.

In this section, you will locate and evaluate resources for your paper and begin taking notes. As you read, begin gathering print and electronic resources, identify at least eight to ten sources by the time you finish the chapter, and begin taking notes on your research findings.

Locating Useful Resources

When you chose a paper topic and determined your research questions, you conducted preliminary research to stimulate your thinking. Your research proposal included some general ideas for how to go about your research—for instance, interviewing an expert in the field or analyzing the content of popular magazines. You may even have identified a few potential sources. Now it is time to conduct a more focused, systematic search for informative primary and secondary sources.

Using Primary and Secondary Sources

Writers classify research resources in two categories: primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are direct, firsthand sources of information or data. For example, if you were writing a paper about the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, the text of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights would be a primary source.

Other primary sources include the following:

  • Research articles
  • Literary texts
  • Historical documents such as diaries or letters
  • Autobiographies or other personal accounts

Secondary sources discuss, interpret, analyze, consolidate, or otherwise rework information from primary sources. In researching a paper about the First Amendment, you might read articles about legal cases that involved First Amendment rights, or editorials expressing commentary on the First Amendment. These sources would be considered secondary sources because they are one step removed from the primary source of information.

The following are examples of secondary sources:

  • Magazine articles
  • Biographical books
  • Literary and scientific reviews
  • Television documentaries

Your topic and purpose determine whether you must cite both primary and secondary sources in your paper. Ask yourself which sources are most likely to provide the information that will answer your research questions. If you are writing a research paper about reality television shows, you will need to use some reality shows as a primary source, but secondary sources, such as a reviewer’s critique, are also important. If you are writing about the health effects of nicotine, you will probably want to read the published results of scientific studies, but secondary sources, such as magazine articles discussing the outcome of a recent study, may also be helpful.

Once you have thought about what kinds of sources are most likely to help you answer your research questions, you may begin your search for print and electronic resources. The challenge here is to conduct your search efficiently. Writers use strategies to help them find the sources that are most relevant and reliable while steering clear of sources that will not be useful.

Finding Print Resources

Print resources include a vast array of documents and publications. Regardless of your topic, you will consult some print resources as part of your research. (You will use electronic sources as well, but it is not wise to limit yourself to electronic sources only, because some potentially useful sources may be available only in print form.) Table 11.1 “Library Print Resources” lists different types of print resources available at public and university libraries.

Table 11.1 Library Print Resources

Some of these resources are also widely available in electronic format. In addition to the resources noted in the table, library holdings may include primary texts such as historical documents, letters, and diaries.

Writing at Work

Businesses, government organizations, and nonprofit organizations produce published materials that range from brief advertisements and brochures to lengthy, detailed reports. In many cases, producing these publications requires research. A corporation’s annual report may include research about economic or industry trends. A charitable organization may use information from research in materials sent to potential donors.

Regardless of the industry you work in, you may be asked to assist in developing materials for publication. Often, incorporating research in these documents can make them more effective in informing or persuading readers.

As you gather information, strive for a balance of accessible, easy-to-read sources and more specialized, challenging sources. Relying solely on lightweight books and articles written for a general audience will drastically limit the range of useful, substantial information. On the other hand, restricting oneself to dense, scholarly works could make the process of researching extremely time-consuming and frustrating.

Make a list of five types of print resources you could use to find information about your research topic. Include at least one primary source. Be as specific as possible—if you have a particular resource or type of resource in mind, describe it.

To find print resources efficiently, first identify the major concepts and terms you will use to conduct your search—that is, your keywords . These, along with the research questions you identified in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , Section 11.2 “Steps in Developing a Research Proposal” , will help you find sources using any of the following methods:

  • Using the library’s online catalog or card catalog
  • Using periodicals indexes and databases
  • Consulting a reference librarian

You probably already have some keywords in mind based on your preliminary research and writing. Another way to identify useful keywords is to visit the Library of Congress’s website at http://id.loc.gov/authorities . This site allows you to search for a topic and see the related subject headings used by the Library of Congress, including broader terms, narrower terms, and related terms. Other libraries use these terms to classify materials. Knowing the most-used terms will help you speed up your keyword search.

Jorge used the Library of Congress site to identify general terms he could use to find resources about low-carb dieting. His search helped him identify potentially useful keywords and related topics, such as carbohydrates in human nutrition, glycemic index, and carbohydrates—metabolism. These terms helped Jorge refine his search.

Knowing the right keywords can sometimes make all the difference in conducting a successful search. If you have trouble finding sources on a topic, consult a librarian to see whether you need to modify your search terms.

Visit the Library of Congress’s website at http://id.loc.gov/authorities and conduct searches on a few terms related to your topic.

  • Review your search results and identify six to eight additional terms you might use when you conduct your research.
  • Print out the search results or save the results to your research folder on your computer or portable storage device.

Using Periodicals, Indexes, and Databases

Library catalogs can help you locate book-length sources, as well as some types of nonprint holdings, such as CDs, DVDs, and audio books. To locate shorter sources, such as magazine and journal articles, you will need to use a periodical index or an online periodical database . These tools index the articles that appear in newspapers, magazines, and journals. Like catalogs, they provide publication information about an article and often allow users to access a summary or even the full text of the article.

Print indexes may be available in the periodicals section of your library. Increasingly, libraries use online databases that users can access through the library website. A single library may provide access to multiple periodical databases. These can range from general news databases to specialized databases. Table 11.2 “Commonly Used Indexes and Databases” describes some commonly used indexes and databases.

Table 11.2 Commonly Used Indexes and Databases

Reading Popular and Scholarly Periodicals

When you search for periodicals, be sure to distinguish among different types. Mass-market publications, such as newspapers and popular magazines, differ from scholarly publications in their accessibility, audience, and purpose.

Newspapers and magazines are written for a broader audience than scholarly journals. Their content is usually quite accessible and easy to read. Trade magazines that target readers within a particular industry may presume the reader has background knowledge, but these publications are still reader-friendly for a broader audience. Their purpose is to inform and, often, to entertain or persuade readers as well.

Scholarly or academic journals are written for a much smaller and more expert audience. The creators of these publications assume that most of their readers are already familiar with the main topic of the journal. The target audience is also highly educated. Informing is the primary purpose of a scholarly journal. While a journal article may advance an agenda or advocate a position, the content will still be presented in an objective style and formal tone. Entertaining readers with breezy comments and splashy graphics is not a priority.

Because of these differences, scholarly journals are more challenging to read. That doesn’t mean you should avoid them. On the contrary, they can provide in-depth information unavailable elsewhere. Because knowledgeable professionals carefully review the content before publication, scholarly journals are far more reliable than much of the information available in popular media. Seek out academic journals along with other resources. Just be prepared to spend a little more time processing the information.

Periodicals databases are not just for students writing research papers. They also provide a valuable service to workers in various fields. The owner of a small business might use a database such as Business Source Premiere to find articles on management, finance, or trends within a particular industry. Health care professionals might consult databases such as MedLine to research a particular disease or medication. Regardless of what career path you plan to pursue, periodicals databases can be a useful tool for researching specific topics and identifying periodicals that will help you keep up with the latest news in your industry.

Consulting a Reference Librarian

Sifting through library stacks and database search results to find the information you need can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. If you are not sure how you should begin your search, or if it is yielding too many or too few results, you are not alone. Many students find this process challenging, although it does get easier with experience. One way to learn better search strategies is to consult a reference librarian.

Reference librarians are intimately familiar with the systems libraries use to organize and classify information. They can help you locate a particular book in the library stacks, steer you toward useful reference works, and provide tips on how to use databases and other electronic research tools. Take the time to see what resources you can find on your own, but if you encounter difficulties, ask for help. Many university librarians hold virtual office hours and are available for online chatting.

Visit your library’s website or consult with a reference librarian to determine what periodicals indexes or databases would be useful for your research. Depending on your topic, you may rely on a general news index, a specialized index for a particular subject area, or both. Search the catalog for your topic and related keywords. Print out or bookmark your search results.

  • Identify at least one to two relevant periodicals, indexes, or databases.
  • Conduct a keyword search to find potentially relevant articles on your topic.
  • Save your search results. If the index you are using provides article summaries, read these to determine how useful the articles are likely to be.
  • Identify at least three to five articles to review more closely. If the full article is available online, set aside time to read it. If not, plan to visit our library within the next few days to locate the articles you need.

One way to refine your keyword search is to use Boolean operators. These operators allow you to combine keywords, find variations on a word, and otherwise expand or limit your results. Here are some of the ways you can use Boolean operators:

  • Combine keywords with and or + to limit results to citations that include both keywords—for example, diet + nutrition .
  • Combine keywords with not or – to search for the first word without the second. This can help you eliminate irrelevant results based on words that are similar to your search term. For example, searching for obesity not childhood locates materials on obesity but excludes materials on childhood obesity.
  • Enclose a phrase in quotation marks to search for an exact phrase, such as “ morbid obesity .”
  • Use parentheses to direct the order of operations in a search string. For example, since Type II diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes, you could search (Type II or adult-onset) and diabetes to limit your search results to articles on this form of the disease.
  • Use a wildcard symbol such as # , ? , or $ after a word to search for variations on a term. For instance, you might type diabet# to search for information on diabetes and diabetics. The specific symbol used varies with different databases.

Finding and Using Electronic Resources

With the expansion of technology and media over the past few decades, a wealth of information is available to you in electronic format. Some types of resources, such as a television documentary, may only be available electronically. Other resources—for instance, many newspapers and magazines—may be available in both print and electronic form. The following are some of the electronic sources you might consult:

  • Online databases
  • Popular web search engines
  • Websites maintained by businesses, universities, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies
  • Newspapers, magazines, and journals published on the web
  • Audio books
  • Industry blogs
  • Radio and television programs and other audio and video recordings
  • Online discussion groups

The techniques you use to locate print resources can also help you find electronic resources efficiently. Libraries usually include CD-ROMs, audio books, and audio and video recordings among their holdings. You can locate these materials in the catalog using a keyword search. The same Boolean operators used to refine database searches can help you filter your results in popular search engines.

Using Internet Search Engines Efficiently

When faced with the challenge of writing a research paper, some students rely on popular search engines as their first source of information. Typing a keyword or phrase into a search engine instantly pulls up links to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of related websites—what could be easier? Unfortunately, despite its apparent convenience, this research strategy has the following drawbacks to consider:

  • Results do not always appear in order of reliability. The first few hits that appear in search results may include sites whose content is not always reliable, such as online encyclopedias that can be edited by any user. Because websites are created by third parties, the search engine cannot tell you which sites have accurate information.
  • Results may be too numerous for you to use. The amount of information available on the web is far greater than the amount of information housed within a particular library or database. Realistically, if your web search pulls up thousands of hits, you will not be able to visit every site—and the most useful sites may be buried deep within your search results.
  • Search engines are not connected to the results of the search. Search engines find websites that people visit often and list the results in order of popularity. The search engine, then, is not connected to any of the results. When you cite a source found through a search engine, you do not need to cite the search engine. Only cite the source.

A general web search can provide a helpful overview of a topic and may pull up genuinely useful resources. To get the most out of a search engine, however, use strategies to make your search more efficient. Use multiple keywords and Boolean operators to limit your results. Click on the Advanced Search link on the homepage to find additional options for streamlining your search. Depending on the specific search engine you use, the following options may be available:

  • Limit results to websites that have been updated within a particular time frame.
  • Limit results by language or country.
  • Limit results to scholarly works available online.
  • Limit results by file type.
  • Limit results to a particular domain type, such as .edu (school and university sites) or .gov (government sites). This is a quick way to filter out commercial sites, which can often lead to more objective results.

Use the Bookmarks or Favorites feature of your web browser to save and organize sites that look promising.

Using Other Information Sources: Interviews

With so many print and electronic media readily available, it is easy to overlook another valuable information resource: other people. Consider whether you could use a person or group as a primary source. For instance, you might interview a professor who has expertise in a particular subject, a worker within a particular industry, or a representative from a political organization. Interviews can be a great way to get firsthand information.

To get the most out of an interview, you will need to plan ahead. Contact your subject early in the research process and explain your purpose for requesting an interview. Prepare detailed questions. Open-ended questions, rather than questions with simple yes-or-no answers, are more likely to lead to an in-depth discussion. Schedule a time to meet, and be sure to obtain your subject’s permission to record the interview. Take careful notes and be ready to ask follow-up questions based on what you learn.

If scheduling an in-person meeting is difficult, consider arranging a telephone interview or asking your subject to respond to your questions via e-mail. Recognize that any of these formats takes time and effort. Be prompt and courteous, avoid going over the allotted interview time, and be flexible if your subject needs to reschedule.

Evaluating Research Resources

As you gather sources, you will need to examine them with a critical eye. Smart researchers continually ask themselves two questions: “Is this source relevant to my purpose?” and “Is this source reliable?” The first question will help you avoid wasting valuable time reading sources that stray too far from your specific topic and research questions. The second question will help you find accurate, trustworthy sources.

Determining Whether a Source Is Relevant

At this point in your research process, you may have identified dozens of potential sources. It is easy for writers to get so caught up in checking out books and printing out articles that they forget to ask themselves how they will use these resources in their research. Now is a good time to get a little ruthless. Reading and taking notes takes time and energy, so you will want to focus on the most relevant sources.

To weed through your stack of books and articles, skim their contents. Read quickly with your research questions and subtopics in mind. Table 11.3 “Tips for Skimming Books and Articles” explains how to skim to get a quick sense of what topics are covered. If a book or article is not especially relevant, put it aside. You can always come back to it later if you need to.

Table 11.3 Tips for Skimming Books and Articles

Determining Whether a Source Is Reliable

All information sources are not created equal. Sources can vary greatly in terms of how carefully they are researched, written, edited, and reviewed for accuracy. Common sense will help you identify obviously questionable sources, such as tabloids that feature tales of alien abductions, or personal websites with glaring typos. Sometimes, however, a source’s reliability—or lack of it—is not so obvious. For more information about source reliability, see Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” .

To evaluate your research sources, you will use critical thinking skills consciously and deliberately. You will consider criteria such as the type of source, its intended purpose and audience, the author’s (or authors’) qualifications, the publication’s reputation, any indications of bias or hidden agendas, how current the source is, and the overall quality of the writing, thinking, and design.

Evaluating Types of Sources

The different types of sources you will consult are written for distinct purposes and with different audiences in mind. This accounts for other differences, such as the following:

  • How thoroughly the writers cover a given topic
  • How carefully the writers research and document facts
  • How editors review the work
  • What biases or agendas affect the content

A journal article written for an academic audience for the purpose of expanding scholarship in a given field will take an approach quite different from a magazine feature written to inform a general audience. Textbooks, hard news articles, and websites approach a subject from different angles as well. To some extent, the type of source provides clues about its overall depth and reliability. Table 11.4 “Source Rankings” ranks different source types.

Table 11.4 Source Rankings

Free online encyclopedias and wikis may seem like a great source of information. They usually appear among the first few results of a web search. They cover thousands of topics, and many articles use an informal, straightforward writing style. Unfortunately, these sites have no control system for researching, writing, and reviewing articles. Instead, they rely on a community of users to police themselves. At best, these sites can be a starting point for finding other, more trustworthy sources. Never use them as final sources.

Evaluating Credibility and Reputability

Even when you are using a type of source that is generally reliable, you will still need to evaluate the author’s credibility and the publication itself on an individual basis. To examine the author’s credibility —that is, how much you can believe of what the author has to say—examine his or her credentials. What career experience or academic study shows that the author has the expertise to write about this topic?

Keep in mind that expertise in one field is no guarantee of expertise in another, unrelated area. For instance, an author may have an advanced degree in physiology, but this credential is not a valid qualification for writing about psychology. Check credentials carefully.

Just as important as the author’s credibility is the publication’s overall reputability. Reputability refers to a source’s standing and reputation as a respectable, reliable source of information. An established and well-known newspaper, such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal , is more reputable than a college newspaper put out by comparatively inexperienced students. A website that is maintained by a well-known, respected organization and regularly updated is more reputable than one created by an unknown author or group.

If you are using articles from scholarly journals, you can check databases that keep count of how many times each article has been cited in other articles. This can be a rough indication of the article’s quality or, at the very least, of its influence and reputation among other scholars.

Checking for Biases and Hidden Agendas

Whenever you consult a source, always think carefully about the author’s or authors’ purpose in presenting the information. Few sources present facts completely objectively. In some cases, the source’s content and tone are significantly influenced by biases or hidden agendas.

Bias refers to favoritism or prejudice toward a particular person or group. For instance, an author may be biased against a certain political party and present information in a way that subtly—or not so subtly—makes that organization look bad. Bias can lead an author to present facts selectively, edit quotations to misrepresent someone’s words, and distort information.

Hidden agendas are goals that are not immediately obvious but influence how an author presents the facts. For instance, an article about the role of beef in a healthy diet would be questionable if it were written by a representative of the beef industry—or by the president of an animal-rights organization. In both cases, the author would likely have a hidden agenda.

As Jorge conducted his research, he read several research studies in which scientists found significant benefits to following a low-carbohydrate diet. He also noticed that many studies were sponsored by a foundation associated with the author of a popular series of low-carbohydrate diet books. Jorge read these studies with a critical eye, knowing that a hidden agenda might be shaping the researchers’ conclusions.

Using Current Sources

Be sure to seek out sources that are current, or up to date. Depending on the topic, sources may become outdated relatively soon after publication, or they may remain useful for years. For instance, online social networking sites have evolved rapidly over the past few years. An article published in 2002 about this topic will not provide current information. On the other hand, a research paper on elementary education practices might refer to studies published decades ago by influential child psychologists.

When using websites for research, check to see when the site was last updated. Many sites publish this information on the homepage, and some, such as news sites, are updated daily or weekly. Many nonfunctioning links are a sign that a website is not regularly updated. Do not be afraid to ask your professor for suggestions if you find that many of your most relevant sources are not especially reliable—or that the most reliable sources are not relevant.

Evaluating Overall Quality by Asking Questions

When you evaluate a source, you will consider the criteria previously discussed as well as your overall impressions of its quality. Read carefully, and notice how well the author presents and supports his or her statements. Stay actively engaged—do not simply accept an author’s words as truth. Ask questions to determine each source’s value. Checklist 11.1 lists ten questions to ask yourself as a critical reader.

Checklist 11.1

Source Evaluation

  • Is the type of source appropriate for my purpose? Is it a high-quality source or one that needs to be looked at more critically?
  • Can I establish that the author is credible and the publication is reputable?
  • Does the author support ideas with specific facts and details that are carefully documented? Is the source of the author’s information clear? (When you use secondary sources, look for sources that are not too removed from primary research.)
  • Does the source include any factual errors or instances of faulty logic?
  • Does the author leave out any information that I would expect to see in a discussion of this topic?
  • Do the author’s conclusions logically follow from the evidence that is presented? Can I see how the author got from one point to another?
  • Is the writing clear and organized, and is it free from errors, clichés, and empty buzzwords? Is the tone objective, balanced, and reasonable? (Be on the lookout for extreme, emotionally charged language.)
  • Are there any obvious biases or agendas? Based on what I know about the author, are there likely to be any hidden agendas?
  • Are graphics informative, useful, and easy to understand? Are websites organized, easy to navigate, and free of clutter like flashing ads and unnecessary sound effects?
  • Is the source contradicted by information found in other sources? (If so, it is possible that your sources are presenting similar information but taking different perspectives, which requires you to think carefully about which sources you find more convincing and why. Be suspicious, however, of any source that presents facts that you cannot confirm elsewhere.)

The critical thinking skills you use to evaluate research sources as a student are equally valuable when you conduct research on the job. If you follow certain periodicals or websites, you have probably identified publications that consistently provide reliable information. Reading blogs and online discussion groups is a great way to identify new trends and hot topics in a particular field, but these sources should not be used for substantial research.

Use a search engine to conduct a web search on your topic. Refer to the tips provided earlier to help you streamline your search. Evaluate your search results critically based on the criteria you have learned. Identify and bookmark one or more websites that are reliable, reputable, and likely to be useful in your research.

Managing Source Information

As you determine which sources you will rely on most, it is important to establish a system for keeping track of your sources and taking notes. There are several ways to go about it, and no one system is necessarily superior. What matters is that you keep materials in order; record bibliographical information you will need later; and take detailed, organized notes.

Keeping Track of Your Sources

Think ahead to a moment a few weeks from now, when you’ve written your research paper and are almost ready to submit it for a grade. There is just one task left—writing your list of sources.

As you begin typing your list, you realize you need to include the publication information for a book you cited frequently. Unfortunately, you already returned it to the library several days ago. You do not remember the URLs for some of the websites you used or the dates you accessed them—information that also must be included in your bibliography. With a sinking feeling, you realize that finding this information and preparing your bibliography will require hours of work.

This stressful scenario can be avoided. Taking time to organize source information now will ensure that you are not scrambling to find it at the last minute. Throughout your research, record bibliographical information for each source as soon as you begin using it. You may use pen-and-paper methods, such as a notebook or note cards, or maintain an electronic list. (If you prefer the latter option, many office software packages include separate programs for recording bibliographic information.)

Table 11.5 “Details for Commonly Used Source Types” shows the specific details you should record for commonly used source types. Use these details to develop a working bibliography —a preliminary list of sources that you will later use to develop the references section of your paper. You may wish to record information using the formatting system of the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Modern Language Association (MLA), which will save a step later on. (For more information on APA and MLA formatting, see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” .)

Table 11.5 Details for Commonly Used Source Types

Your research may involve less common types of sources not listed in Table 11.5 “Details for Commonly Used Source Types” . For additional information on citing different sources, see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” .

Create a working bibliography using the format that is most convenient for you. List at least five sources you plan to use. Continue to add sources to your working bibliography throughout the research process.

To make your working bibliography even more complete, you may wish to record additional details, such as a book’s call number or contact information for a person you interviewed. That way, if you need to locate a source again, you have all the information you need right at your fingertips. You may also wish to assign each source a code number to use when taking notes (1, 2, 3, or a similar system).

Taking Notes Efficiently

Good researchers stay focused and organized as they gather information from sources. Before you begin taking notes, take a moment to step back and think about your goal as a researcher—to find information that will help you answer your research question. When you write your paper, you will present your conclusions about the topic supported by research. That goal will determine what information you record and how you organize it.

Writers sometimes get caught up in taking extensive notes, so much so that they lose sight of how their notes relate to the questions and ideas they started out with. Remember that you do not need to write down every detail from your reading. Focus on finding and recording details that will help you answer your research questions. The following strategies will help you take notes efficiently.

Use Headings to Organize Ideas

Whether you use old-fashioned index cards or organize your notes using word-processing software, record just one major point from each source at a time, and use a heading to summarize the information covered. Keep all your notes in one file, digital or otherwise. Doing so will help you identify connections among different pieces of information. It will also help you make connections between your notes and the research questions and subtopics you identified earlier.

Know When to Summarize, Paraphrase, or Directly Quote a Source

Your notes will fall under three categories—summary notes, paraphrased information, and direct quotations from your sources. Effective researchers make choices about which type of notes is most appropriate for their purpose.

  • Summary notes sum up the main ideas in a source in a few sentences or a short paragraph. A summary is considerably shorter than the original text and captures only the major ideas. Use summary notes when you do not need to record specific details but you intend to refer to broad concepts the author discusses.
  • Paraphrased notes restate a fact or idea from a source using your own words and sentence structure.
  • Direct quotations use the exact wording used by the original source and enclose the quoted material in quotation marks. It is a good strategy to copy direct quotations when an author expresses an idea in an especially lively or memorable way. However, do not rely exclusively on direct quotations in your note taking.

Most of your notes should be paraphrased from the original source. Paraphrasing as you take notes is usually a better strategy than copying direct quotations, because it forces you to think through the information in your source and understand it well enough to restate it. In short, it helps you stay engaged with the material instead of simply copying and pasting. Synthesizing will help you later when you begin planning and drafting your paper. (For detailed guidelines on summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting, see Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , Section 11.6 “Writing from Research: End-of-Chapter Exercises” .)

Maintain Complete, Accurate Notes

Regardless of the format used, any notes you take should include enough information to help you organize ideas and locate them instantly in the original text if you need to review them. Make sure your notes include the following elements:

  • Heading summing up the main topic covered
  • Author’s name, a source code, or an abbreviated source title
  • Page number
  • Full URL of any pages buried deep in a website

Throughout the process of taking notes, be scrupulous about making sure you have correctly attributed each idea to its source. Always include source information so you know exactly which ideas came from which sources. Use quotation marks to set off any words for phrases taken directly from the original text. If you add your own responses and ideas, make sure they are distinct from ideas you quoted or paraphrased.

Finally, make sure your notes accurately reflect the content of the original text. Make sure quoted material is copied verbatim. If you omit words from a quotation, use ellipses to show the omission and make sure the omission does not change the author’s meaning. Paraphrase ideas carefully, and check your paraphrased notes against the original text to make sure that you have restated the author’s ideas accurately in your own words.

Use a System That Works for You

There are several formats you can use to take notes. No technique is necessarily better than the others—it is more important to choose a format you are comfortable using. Choosing the format that works best for you will ensure your notes are organized, complete, and accurate. Consider implementing one of these formats when you begin taking notes:

  • Use index cards. This traditional format involves writing each note on a separate index card. It takes more time than copying and pasting into an electronic document, which encourages you to be selective in choosing which ideas to record. Recording notes on separate cards makes it easy to later organize your notes according to major topics. Some writers color-code their cards to make them still more organized.
  • Use note-taking software. Word-processing and office software packages often include different types of note-taking software. Although you may need to set aside some time to learn the software, this method combines the speed of typing with the same degree of organization associated with handwritten note cards.
  • Maintain a research notebook. Instead of using index cards or electronic note cards, you may wish to keep a notebook or electronic folder, allotting a few pages (or one file) for each of your sources. This method makes it easy to create a separate column or section of the document where you add your responses to the information you encounter in your research.
  • Annotate your sources. This method involves making handwritten notes in the margins of sources that you have printed or photocopied. If using electronic sources, you can make comments within the source document. For example, you might add comment boxes to a PDF version of an article. This method works best for experienced researchers who have already thought a great deal about the topic because it can be difficult to organize your notes later when starting your draft.

Choose one of the methods from the list to use for taking notes. Continue gathering sources and taking notes. In the next section, you will learn strategies for organizing and synthesizing the information you have found.

Key Takeaways

  • A writer’s use of primary and secondary sources is determined by the topic and purpose of the research. Sources used may include print sources, such as books and journals; electronic sources, such as websites and articles retrieved from databases; and human sources of information, such as interviews.
  • Strategies that help writers locate sources efficiently include conducting effective keyword searches, understanding how to use online catalogs and databases, using strategies to narrow web search results, and consulting reference librarians.
  • Writers evaluate sources based on how relevant they are to the research question and how reliable their content is.
  • Skimming sources can help writers determine their relevance efficiently.
  • Writers evaluate a source’s reliability by asking questions about the type of source (including its audience and purpose); the author’s credibility, the publication’s reputability, the source’s currency, and the overall quality of the writing, research, logic, and design in the source.
  • In their notes, effective writers record organized, complete, accurate information. This includes bibliographic information about each source as well as summarized, paraphrased, or quoted information from the source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Getting Started with Research

  • Getting Started
  • Exploring your Topic
  • Using Keywords

Gathering Sources

  • Evaluating Sources
  • Citing Sources
  • Locating Books and Music
  • Locating Articles and Databases
  • Locating Journals
  • Additional Assistance
  • Schedule Meeting with a Librarian

As you prepare to gather sources, you will need to consider the following questions:

  • What information do you need?
  • Who might write that sort of information?
  • Where might you locate that type of information?

Use these answers to help you decide where to begin gathering sources. For example, certain government websites might post statistics on many subjects, but those websites probably won't provide a critique of those statistics. For critique or analysis of statistics, you may need to read academic articles or visit websites that report on that topic.

Potential Starting Points

Keep in mind that every source of information (for example, Google Scholar or Academic Search Complete) looks and works differently. While Google Scholar has one main search box, Academic Search Complete has multiple boxes. Exploring how each of these tools works, and understanding what the tool is searching (all of the internet or only certain resources) can help you target the types of information you are seeking.

  • Who can access it:  Anyone can search in the library catalog, however only those who are affiliated with PLU can access the resources.
  • What can you find in it:  The library catalog lets you browse almost everything that the library purchases, digital and physical. This includes academic articles, books, movies, music scores, etc.
  • Things to know:  The filters on the left side will let you manage the number of results. Consider using the advanced search features for further control.
  • Who can access it: Only people affiliated with PLU can access this resources and its content.
  • What can you find in it: ASC is a multi-disciplinary database where you can find both scholarly and non-scholarly sources of information. If you are doing research in the social sciences, ASC as well as other EBSCO databases can be of use in your research.
  • Things to know: The advanced search features is quite useful when trying to locate specific types of information (articles, reviews, speeches, etc.). Though ASC will suggest terms for you to consider when searching, don't always follow its lead. Be mindful about what words you use when searching and be as creative as necessary.
  • Who can access it:  Only people affiliated with PLU can access this resources and its content.
  • What can you find in it: JSTOR is a multi-disciplinary database that is quite useful when doing humanities research.
  • Things to know: JSTOR can often integrate content from Wikipedia to give you context when exploring certain topics. Each article that you find in JSTOR will have these topics, use them to find related articles to the ones you already have.

Already know what you need? Here are a few more options:

Questions to consider.

Q: When using a certain tool, like Academic Search complete, what voices or perspectives might be privileged? Whose voices might be missing within this sort of tool?

Q: In what ways might the choice of a certain tool, like the NY Times database, impact the information you are able to gather?

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  • Last Updated: Feb 7, 2024 6:28 PM
  • URL: https://guides.library.plu.edu/getting-started

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Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research

(48 reviews)

gathering sources for research paper

Cheryl Lowry, Ohio State University

Copyright Year: 2016

Publisher: Ohio State University Libraries

Language: English

Formats Available

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Reviewed by Elbert Davis, Assistant Professor, Marshall University on 10/24/21

The author does an incredible job in explaining the research process, from choosing a research question to how to search for sources (and citing those sources), and more. There are relevant self-check quizzes throughout the book to check for... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

The author does an incredible job in explaining the research process, from choosing a research question to how to search for sources (and citing those sources), and more. There are relevant self-check quizzes throughout the book to check for understanding, along with other supplemental resources. As the book was published through The Ohio State University, some of the sources are only available to OSU students, but the author makes it clear when this is the case.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The author did an excellent job with the accuracy of the book, Two specific examples that stood out: taking care to mention that Wikipedia is a great as a starting point, but not as an endpoint for research. Lowry also clearly explained that educational use did not automatically mean fair use, which seems to be an issue with students and faculty alike.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

The book should remain relevant in years to come, as academic research seems to follow the same basic pattern. The only issue would be if The Ohio State University changes the links used in the book, although I expect these to be easy to update. The book would still be able to be used without the supplemental links though.

Clarity rating: 5

The book seems to be targeting an introductory audience. Lowry does a great job of breaking down the jargon of academic research into plain English for the beginning researcher.

Consistency rating: 5

I thought the author used approprate terminology for a student learning about academic research.

Modularity rating: 5

The book is designed into specific chapters for the different aspects of choosing a source. While there are specific sections devoted to The Ohio State University library, I would not expect to have any trouble assigning the other chapters in my courses.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The author started at the beginning, with how to design a research question before going into choosing a source, which gave good background knowledge.

Interface rating: 5

The contents of the book were clean and crisp. No distortions were noted. Navigation from the table of contents was easy.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

No grammatical errors were noted.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

Nothing offensive was in the book.

I have a difficult time in getting beginning graduate student to understand the different types of sources and fair use. I think using most chapters of this book would help a great deal in that comprehension.

Reviewed by Kelly LeFave, Instructor, Portland Community College on 6/15/21

This student friendly overview of academic research, including a strong focus on information literacy, covers many of the salient points that college level writing and writing for research classes curricula contain, making it a strong choice as a... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

This student friendly overview of academic research, including a strong focus on information literacy, covers many of the salient points that college level writing and writing for research classes curricula contain, making it a strong choice as a comprehensive and useful overview. Chapters include enough depth of coverage to make the leap from information to practice for students; self-directed activities are provided to check knowledge, work through concept applications, and offer more specifics. The book provides an easy-to-navigate Table of Contents, but an Index and Glossary do not seem to be available.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

Some errors appear that a thorough proofread would catch. Some resources may need to be updated since information practices and modes change so quickly; some references and links direct students to OSU information that would not apply to all readers.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

The book’s topic – academic research – necessarily demands constant updating given our fast-changing digital landscape and the shifting paradigms we are witnessing for locating and evaluating information in our times. Resources can become obsolete fairly quickly in this environment. The book’s content is largely up-to-date, though a thorough review of linked resources, perhaps annually, would be beneficial. For instance, a video on RSS mentioned a Google feature that looks to be no longer available, though finding alternatives proves simple when searched online. The book’s organization makes updating or replacing linked resources easy, so keeping the content relevant would be straightforward with regular review.

Content is presented in a style engaging for students, using the “you” pronoun address to walk readers through a thinking process that applies and links ideas to practice; this effective approach is used for many of the book’s concepts. The writing strikes a good stylistic balance between engaging the student reader and informing/challenging that same reader by modeling research brainstorming or methods. The style seems appropriate for college level readers and college level curricula. The topic of academic research does include some technical terms at times, but the book’s approach is to define and explain such terms a part of its content.

Stylistically and organizationally, the content is consistent and easy-to-follow. A user begins to anticipate knowledge check activities or “try it out” activities at particular points in each section. The knowledge check quizzes, which are simplified multiple choice questions, seem at odds with the highly contextualized concept explanations in much of the book’s prose; perhaps a different approach to knowledge check quizzing, which as an element can be helpful, would work better.

Modularity rating: 4

Headings and subheadings follow a logical organization and are easy to navigate in the book. Some sections do refer to—and link to—other book sections, but most would work as stand-alone modules. An instructor or course designer could pick and choose sections and adapt them for their own purposes. As a whole, the book remains self-referential to the context of a specific university, which limits the easy adaptation of the book, and perhaps even sections, for faculty and course designers at other educational institutions.

The book’s organization is easy to navigate and coheres with the overall focus on presenting academic research and information literacy in a way that invites students toward a practical and fuller understanding. Topic order makes sense and is organized via headings and subheadings well.

Overall, no significant navigation issues or interface distractions.

A few errors that look like typos remain in the book. Otherwise, grammatical errors are not an issue for readability.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

A more nuanced and inclusive awareness of cultural relevance and diversity is worth considering for the book. The choice of some example topics, such as school shootings, might be distracting or traumatic for some student populations, while adding more examples that showcase interests or topics related to non-dominant cultural ideas would widen the sense of inclusivity throughout the book. Choices might be contingent on the demographics of the Ohio State University population, but more awareness of this aspect of the book might also make it more appealing as a resource for others to adapt

Reviewed by Nell McCabe, Associate Professor, Berkshire Community College on 6/15/21

This text is very-student friendly and covers all aspects of writing a student research paper, including steps that students frequently overlook such as the value of preliminary research and the different ways to incorporate different kinds of... read more

This text is very-student friendly and covers all aspects of writing a student research paper, including steps that students frequently overlook such as the value of preliminary research and the different ways to incorporate different kinds of information in a paper.

This text provides a well-balanced, research-driven approach to guiding students through the process of writing an academic research paper. Spelling mistakes, flaw grammar and usage, and factual errors are few and far between (as in I didn't find any during the course of this review).

Kinds of sources and the means of evaluating them are broad enough to be long-lasting, but the examples and other supporting details are timely and relevant.

This text uses student-friendly language and avoids jargon and other symptoms of academia run amok, while still maintaining high standards and expectations for students. Connections between the different stages of conducting research and developing an argument are well laid out and clear.

Terms associated with locating, evaluating, and incorporating a range of different kinds of sources are clear and consistent throughout the text.

The chapters do stand alone and I could image someone using bits and pieces or leaving out bits and pieces, but since the text is primarily focused on supporting the needs of a college research throughout the research process, it is hard to image much need for separating it into discrete modules. You could certainly rearrange the order of the chapters too if that worked better for your approach to teaching student research.

The flow of one chapter into the next is well-integrated and smooth. The order of the chapters

I had no issues with the interface; everything worked as expected.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

The book does not go out of its way to make obviously inclusive examples. Increasing the cultural perspectives represented in the examples would enhance the overall value of this text.

Reviewed by Darci Adolf, Director of Library & Media Services, Oregon Coast Community College on 6/11/21

I found "Choosing and Using Sources" to be quite comprehensive and included the major areas that I cover in my LIB 101 Research skills class. In my class I like to cover each area of Eisenberg's Big6 Research model: Task definition, information... read more

I found "Choosing and Using Sources" to be quite comprehensive and included the major areas that I cover in my LIB 101 Research skills class. In my class I like to cover each area of Eisenberg's Big6 Research model: Task definition, information seeking strategies, location and access, use of information, synthesis, and evaluation. I was pleased to find the subject of synthesis covered under the writing chapter-- many research textbooks leave this out. I did not find anything that talked about Evaluation of the process and product. Also, I would've liked to have seen social justice and equity issues in information publishing and access addressed as a chapter or portion of a chapter. The textbook has a great Table of Contents, but no index.

This textbook seems to contain accurate and error-free content. I spot-checked most of the chapters and didn't find anything I didn't believe to be true, and links weren't broken. Because this book is mostly factual in nature, there aren't areas where an author's opinion was used over facts, and opinions seem to be be appropriate and unbiased. For example, the author remarks on the use of blogs in research: "Blogs – Frequently updated websites that do not necessarily require extensive technical skills and can be published by virtually anyone for no cost to themselves other than the time they devote to content creation." This is a wide-held belief among librarians.

The content appeared to be up-to-date throughout the book. The area that might change the quickest is the types of sources, Chapter 2 in the book. They did a good job including an overview of all of the major source types and should stay relevant for a good period of time. Because they've listed these source types in a single chapter, updates to the text should be fairly straight forward and easy to do without disturbing much of the rest of the book.

Clarity rating: 4

The text was clear to me, a seasoned librarian. But I think there were terms used throughout the textbook that might not be familiar to a student first starting out in library research. So I would add some clarification around some of the language if I were using this textbook for a lower-level class. For example: There are several types of specialized databases listed including: Bibliographic, Full-text, Multimedia, etc. Many first year students wouldn't know those terms, or others such as "circulation, World-cat, discharge, InterLibrary Loan" and so forth.

The text was consistent throughout in terms of terminology and the overall frame. As I mentioned previously, some of the terms might need to be defined for the first-year student, either in-text or in a separate glossary. The framework is well-done, with clear chapters and sections--it was definitely written by those who teach research at the college level.

The textbook has 13 chapters that are again sub-divided into six or more sub-topics. This makes it very easy for an instructor to pick and choose which topics to cover. The thirteen broader subjects makes it easy to use the entire textbook for a term-- or just choose the pieces you want to use. For example, I would use the "Ethical Use and Citing Sources" chapter if I were doing a one-shot in a classroom, but might choose to use most of the chapters for an online class.

The structure was easy to follow. If I were setting it up myself, I'd probably combine the chapters on Ethical Use of Sources (Ethical Use and Citing Sources, Why Cite Sources, and Challenges in Citing Sources) with the chapter on "How to Cite Sources," but it's easier to have them separate and combine them for a class than to have a big block of text that would make it difficult to work through.

The textbook online version was done in Wordpress, and was easy to view and navigate. There were several other choices for students, including a PDF that could be viewed off line. There were charts, graphs, and links throughout that added to the content, but not so much as to be distracting. Any visuals were simple and enough white space was left as to not overwhelm, with colors that were contrasting visually.

I spot-checked throughout the text in each chapter and did not find any grammatical errors.

The textbook seemed to be inclusive of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Ohio State University has included a lot of links to their own pages, handouts, and resources that would need to be changed or omitted by a new user. For example, they have a handout from the OSU Writing Center, and they link to the OSU World Cat platform. These would need to be changed by the adopter.

Reviewed by Kaia Henrickson, Assistant Professor of Library & Information Science, Information Literacy Librarian, University of Alaska, Southeast on 11/4/20, updated 12/16/20

This text does a good job highlighting the steps in the research process, from formulating a strong research question, to finding and evaluating sources, to incorporating ideas from research into writing, and finally, to citing and using sources... read more

This text does a good job highlighting the steps in the research process, from formulating a strong research question, to finding and evaluating sources, to incorporating ideas from research into writing, and finally, to citing and using sources properly. Each chapter can stand on its own as useful content for a research-based course, or the entire text could be used to walk students through the entire research and writing process. Based on tutorials created for Ohio State University Libraries, some sections, like Chapter 5 on search tools as well as some of the activities, are fairly specific to OSU. Still, much of the text and many of the activities are applicable to all student researchers. This would be a great base text for someone who wanted to remix and add in information from their own university library and student service supports to replace the OSU-focused sections.

The material is accurate overall.

Text content, as well as videos and activities, are fairly current. Sections are small, so making updates should be fairly easy.

While the text is generally clear, there are sections that are a bit cumbersome or wordy. The Evaluating Sources section, especially, seems overly complicated.

References and links to other helpful sections within the text are appropriate and useful. Key concepts and ideas are repeated and built upon as the text progresses.

Each chapter is divided into manageable sections, and there are few sections which require a lot of scrolling. Those that are longer are broken up by subheadings. Embedded video content, visuals, and boxes are used to break up the text for easier reading and more visual appeal.

The text clearly progresses through the steps in the research and writing process from start to finish, but it can also be accessed by section if a particular subtopic is all that is needed. Each chapter stands on its own, as well as being integrated into the whole.

Interface rating: 3

The web version of the text has no paragraph indents or lines of space between paragraphs, which makes it a bit difficult to read, especially when there are longer blocks of text. There are many videos included that only have automatically-created closed captions (and a few with no closed captions available at all). A few of the graphics are blurry, but most visual and audiovisual content is clear and easy to read. With some of the linked activities, it is unclear what to do when you have selected an incorrect answer, and there is not much feedback for students who answer questions incorrectly.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

There are a few typos and other minor issues here and there in the text. Some of the linked activities have more significant errors.

The text is not culturally insensitive, but it also doesn't present much in the way of diversity in examples or ideas. In addition, there is a noticeable amount content that is focused on Ohio State University resources and students, and this may not be relevant for readers from other universities.

Reviewed by Marybeth Beller, Associate Professor, Marshall University on 3/13/20

The book provides a thorough review of the research process; that said, a professor will have to add discipline-specific information and requirements, such as expected citation practices and research methods. read more

The book provides a thorough review of the research process; that said, a professor will have to add discipline-specific information and requirements, such as expected citation practices and research methods.

I found no errors in the text.

I will use this book for my undergraduate research course as it gives a very good introduction to research, from narrowing the topic to turning questions into hypotheses.

The book is very clear and provides graphs, links and videos for the reader to have additional information as needed.

Each chapter is organized similarly to the others and is written in the same easy-to-follow, technical-free language. It removes any inhibitions a reader might have.

Each chapter section has its own heading and link. The entire book could be assigned or sections of the book could be just as easily assigned. A drop-down table of contents menu allows the reader to move freely between topics.

This guide is beautifully organized for the beginning researcher but can easily be followed through the table of contents for students needed refreshers on particular elements of research.

I found no interface issues at all in navigating the book.

There were no grammatical errors in the text.

I believe the book would be welcomed by a diverse group of people. There is no insensitive language or use of poor examples in the book.

I really enjoyed the organization of the book and that the author takes the time to include links to additional information as well as videos for students who want to spend more time with a particular concept.

Reviewed by Racheal Rothrock, Assistant Professor, Miami University on 2/28/20

The text is comprehensive in its covering of topics related to choosing and using sources, though it does not go into great depth for each topic. Rather this text provides a broad overview around the topic of sources. This text seems to be written... read more

The text is comprehensive in its covering of topics related to choosing and using sources, though it does not go into great depth for each topic. Rather this text provides a broad overview around the topic of sources. This text seems to be written for an upper-level, undergraduate student audience. No glossary is provided.

This information is presented in an unbiased way that informs on the topic rather than presenting a strong bias or slant toward a particular type of source (though, there is cultural bias—see review comments in “cultural” section). The text does provide details on what approaches might be more helpful in certain situations. This provides a balance of usefulness for students trying to determine which sources to use, while also not assigning value to some sources over others or create a hierarchy.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

The text demonstrates a current understanding around the topic of sources, taking into account the shift away from paper and toward digital sources. While overall this text should be useful for several years, there are some areas that may require updating (e.g. links, OSU policies or statements, specifics about various citation styles, software options available, copyright laws, etc.). Throughout the text, the authors do depend on examples that are specific to OSU (e.g. a section on “WorldCat@OSU”), and this might provide less useful for non-OSU students.

The text is written with simple language and explanations are given for more technical terminology (e.g. peer-reviewed, quantitative, qualitative, etc.).

Little specialized terminology is used throughout the text, however, the language and terminology used is consistent throughout. The format, structure, and approach the authors use, is also consistent throughout the text and forms a cohesive narrative.

The text is broken up by main topics and then within each topic, subtopics are provided to support the main topic. The length of each subtopic is fairly brief and examples are provided throughout with graphical separation for clarity. While the topics and subtopics support each other, each subtopic could be assigned individually and would maintain usefulness.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

Overall, the organization is logical and clear. There are a few topics that might be shifted in their order, but this is not a critical need. For instance, moving the information about copyright closer to the section on ethical use of sources might make sense, but does not overly disrupt the general flow of the text.

There are no significant issues. A fixed bar at the bottom of the screen allows for navigation to pages directly preceding and proceeding the current page and a clickable contents button at the top right side of the page allows further navigation between sections. Overall, visuals do not appear to be distorted, however, many of the visuals are quite large, taking up the majority of the screen, and could be reduced in size without losing effectiveness. Additionally, on pages 9 and 11, a graphic is presented that contains text that is too small to read. While it is not necessary to read the text in the visual in order to understand the lesson of the section, because it is provided, it would be reasonable to make this large enough to be legible.

The text seems to be free of any major grammatical errors.

This text is written from an academic, western cultural perspective that is relevant to the particular topic and audience (i.e. “A guide to academic research”), but does not take into other ontological or epistemological scholarly perspectives (e.g. testimonios or oral histories as significant sources). The visuals and examples do privilege the U.S. and mainstream cultures, such as through a photo of a White woman using her Mac computer in a library, a photo of a football team, an illustration with the U.S. flag in it, an example question of “How has NASA helped America,” an example opinion of “George Clooney is the sexiest actor alive,” etc. The text is not overtly insensitive or offensive, but it also does not appear to take up or address non-dominant perspectives and cultures in any substantive way.

Reviewed by Audrey Besch, Temporary Faculty , East Tennessee State University on 10/31/19

This text is very comprehensive! From choosing sources to the final research project, this book does a wonderful job of providing all the steps. read more

This text is very comprehensive! From choosing sources to the final research project, this book does a wonderful job of providing all the steps.

Information is accurate for the purposes of writing research and using sources.

Up-to-date and relevant, this text does a good job of outlining various types of sources that can be used and the appropriate ways in which to use them.

Very easy to read content that would be great for students, especially those who are just starting the academic writing process for research.

The text remained consistent in it's use of terminology and framework.

Text has an appropriate use of subheadings and includes activity sections that focus on concepts. Material was broken into easy to grasp ways that didn't seem too lengthy.

Content is well organized and in a logical format for the content provided.

Book did not have any navigation issues and all images were appropriately used for content.

To the extent of my knowledge, there were no grammatical errors in this text.

There were no culturally insensitive issues or offensive language in this text that I could find.

Reviewed by Kris Frykman, Community Faculty, Minnesota State University System on 10/18/19

Comprehensive overview, with examples, to punctuate learning. read more

Comprehensive overview, with examples, to punctuate learning.

Clear, accurate process in showcasing academic research.

Appropriate book for researchers of all levels.

Chapter follow-up questions and videos are included to further enhance clarity.

Terminology and examples are included to further make the content accessible for the reader.

The book is divided in sections so that students can study and apply one concept at a time.

Content is clearly organized.

Charts, diagrams, examples, and videos are highlighted to exemplify key contents.

No discernable grammatical errors.

Appropriately culturally sensitive.

Reviewed by TyRee Jenks, Research Librarian & Library Instruction Coordinator, Montana State University - Billings on 7/31/19

The text is very comprehensive and covers all the necessary aspects of information literacy and student research. There is no index or glossary included, but terms are well explained within the text. The extensive coverage of topics, like types... read more

The text is very comprehensive and covers all the necessary aspects of information literacy and student research. There is no index or glossary included, but terms are well explained within the text. The extensive coverage of topics, like types of sources and copyright, was thorough while not being so in-depth as to bore students. The activities, quizzes, and short videos reinforce the concepts covered in the chapters and add interest, however some quizzes would benefit from additional explanation as to why answers are right or wrong.

The content of the text seems to be accurate. Very minor spelling errors and a copy/paste duplicate. No apparent bias.

Content is up to date and relevant for students while being broad enough to be useful for a longer period of time. Updating information would be easy. The text contains a lot of hyperlinks that an instructor would need to stay on top of to keep the links current. In some cases the links were to very reliable sources that will remain stable for a long time (i.e. Purdue OWL) while others are more transient (i.e. YouTube videos).

In general the text is clear, including good explanations of terms and concepts. It contains very little jargon and the prose is accessible. In “The Details Are Tricky” section, the finer points of primary, secondary, or tertiary information could be confusing to students who are trying to comprehend the basics. The author’s inclusion of informative tables with sample responses as well as the blank template for students to use was helpful.

There is consistent use of terminology and layout throughout the text.

The book has good modularity, excellent graphics, and the text and/or activities can easily be used at the point of need in an information literacy class or one that is discipline specific. Chapters can be used individually or rearranged as needed.

Overall the organizational flow worked well, however the chapters on copyright and fair use might make more sense when grouped with the chapters on the ethical use of sources and how to cite sources.

The EPUB and web versions of the text are easy to navigate with a clickable table of contents and left/right arrow navigation at the bottom of each page. Other than some images that could be resized, the formatting lent itself to consistency throughout the text giving students a uniform experience. In some cases the URL links were just written text instead of hyperlinked which was a little inconsistent. Pleasant graphics added value, explained concepts, balanced out the text, and added visual interest. The inclusion of links that lead out to further explanations of concepts (i.e. the peer review process or how to read a scholarly article) are a nice addition.

There are no major grammatical errors that would be distracting to the reader.

The text is applicable to students in all disciplines, and there are no concerns about cultural relevance or insensitivity. The text is heavily OSU centric (i.e. referencing the OSU code of conduct and requiring students to log in to OSU resources for some activities and examples) and requires effort on the part of instructors at other institutions to make the necessary changes making the content applicable at their institution.

With modifications this text could be incorporated into a three credit information literacy course for undergraduates or into other disciplines. The fair use and copyright sections could be useful to instructors as well as students. Could easily integrate with the ACRL Framework. There is some great general information on writing and making an argument that are applicable across disciplines.

Reviewed by Eric Bradley, Research and Instruction Librarian, Goshen College on 5/31/19

The focus of the book is on published sources for college level research and writing. In this area it is comprehensive. It does not address other areas of academic research. read more

The focus of the book is on published sources for college level research and writing. In this area it is comprehensive. It does not address other areas of academic research.

The content is accurate, error-free, and politically neutral. The last piece makes this a excellent source in the current United States political climate.

Content reflects the current realities of the information landscape. Several of the chapters use up-to-date wording that may need to be updated more frequently, but the excellent modularity of the text allows for accommodation.

The book is straight forward and uses contemporary language of the information and academic landscapes.

The text follows a consistent framework throughout the book.

The text is divided in a way to teach across a course. While the text builds upon itself, many of the chapters stand alone well. I have skipped several chapters of the text and it has not caused any disruption with students.

Excellent organization. The text guides the reader step by step through the research process.

Interface rating: 4

The overall interface is strong. The images and charts are excellent, although the use of branded logos in some of the images may become dated.

No grammatical errors noted.

The text is focused on academic research practices for a North American context. While not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way, it does not take into consideration research practices of other cultures.

I use this text as a replacement of Booth et al.’s Craft of Research. Beside the benefits of being a open textbook, this text provides a more relevant guide to finding sources in the current academic environment.

Reviewed by Kathleen Murphy, Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Music Thearpy, Loyola University-New Orleans on 4/30/19

This book includes all relevant information to help students choose appropriate sources for an academic research paper. It clearly defines different types of sources that can be used, and the difference between primary and secondary sources. It... read more

This book includes all relevant information to help students choose appropriate sources for an academic research paper. It clearly defines different types of sources that can be used, and the difference between primary and secondary sources. It gives an overview of how to search various databases, and defines and describes boolean operators. The chapter on ethical uses of sources clearly defines plagiarism and how and when to cite so as to avoid plagiarizing. The chapter on copyright is an excellent addition; that information is not common in many texts related to academic writing. Each chapter contains extra activities students can work on independently to help with understanding and application of the material covered.

Overall, I found the book to be accurate. I did find one error in Chapter 7. In the section titled "Challenges in Citing Sources" the entry labeled "Running out of Time" was repeated. In regards to bias--I did not find the content to be biased; however, the majority of links where students could go to get extra information were connected to Ohio State University. The one notable exception were the links to the Perdue Online Writing Lab.

The content is up-to-date and relevant. Choosing and using sources for an academic paper has not changed much. What has changed is how to access and find the sources to choose and use. This book does a nice job of explaining how to find sources--databases, google scholar, and search engines. My only concern is the frequent suggestion to search Wikipedia. As an academic, I find this a little troubling. To the author's credit, they did not that one should not cite Wikipedia or use information from Wikipedia in an academic paper. I am not able to comment on ease of updating information, as that is a technical issue.

The book is written in clear, accessible language, with limited "jargon." At times I found the writing to be too simple, written more for high school students than college students. Definitions are provided for all relevant terms.

The book is internally consistent. It moves through the process of choosing and using sources in a linear fashion. However, to their credit, the authors note that writing an academic research paper is not always a linear process.

Each chapter is broken up into smaller units that cover a topic relevant to the chapter theme. Sections of this book could be assigned as individual assignments based on areas of difficultly students seem to be having. Alternatively, a professor could develop a class session or two around each of the chapters. These book seems to be very versatile; there are links to previous chapters that readers can click on to refresh their memories.

The topics in the text are presented in a logical and clear way. The book moves through each topic associated with choosing and using sources in sequence that most researchers would follow. The table of contents, with main headings and subtopics provide a step-by-step guide to help undergraduate students through the research process.

There are many links in throughout the book that students can click on to get more information or to practice skills. Navigation back to the main text is a little trickier. Sometimes, clicking on the back arrow will get the reader back to the page s/he was studying before clicking on the hyperlink. More often, however, the back arrow will take the reader back to the Table of Contents, or front cover of the book. Not all the links worked when I went through the book

I did not fine any grammatical or mechanical errors. I think the book is well-written and appropriate for high school students. I think the language may be too simplistic for most college students.

I did not come across anything that was culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

I think this book is an excellent resource for high school students, and maybe college freshman who need help in choosing and using sources for an academic paper. The book is logical, gives an overview of the process and provides excellent examples and extra activities to enhance learning. I think it also could be used as a self-study guide.

Reviewed by Miguel Valderrama, Adjunct Assistant Professor, New York City College of Technology on 4/7/19

This book is a great resource of all steps needed to be taken in an academic research process. The book's index clearly displays a suggested methodology to follow and makes it easier to comeback for the review of previous chapters. In general the... read more

This book is a great resource of all steps needed to be taken in an academic research process. The book's index clearly displays a suggested methodology to follow and makes it easier to comeback for the review of previous chapters. In general the book is easy to read and every time a new world or a particular terminology related to the topic comes up, it is clearly defined and put into context.

This book collects a series of methodologies that have been proven to be efficient when they are put into use during the process of academic research. These techniques are not only presented and described to the readers, they are also actively used in the various examples, pretty much in every chapter in the book. These techniques may not be the only way a person can start and develop a research process but they are certainly a clear and convenient way to do so for beginners. There may be complex terminology entered to the discussion which may slow down the reading process. However, this is effectively addressed by separated easy to access links; This provide more in detail definitions and exercises from a particular section.

This book is a guide that presents many particularities of research methods and techniques that have been used for long time. These methodologies have been proven to be very effective in academic research. This book not only collects many of these techniques but carefully relate them to new searching tools that are part of the communication era we live in nowadays. This was not the case just couple of decades ago. I anticipate long life to the methodologies presented in this text with years or decades before they could become obsolete. Within this context, the searching tools may keep changing but the methodologies that are used here could keep working efficiently; at least as a way to approach to a research process for an undergrad student.

The author uses a clear and easy way to understand the language and terminology that makes part of a research process. Without getting too deep into technical terminology the book marks clearly words that deserve more understanding and usually provides separate links which connects the reader with a deeper explanation. The text doesn't have very large paragraphs all around which to me allows readers to keep a good and dynamic paste. Links to previous discussed topics presents a quick way to review previous content without loosing the paste.

Consistency rating: 4

Through out the entire text it is consistent that at the beginning of every chapter there's a statement related to what the previous set of contents was, also in several parts of the book this first paragraph makes a point about how this relates to what it is about to be presented in that chapter. This is why several words allusive to the subject of research are reuse constantly in different chapters. This makes lots of sense to me as a way to keep the reader's familiarity with these terms which will also ended up increasing retentivity levels in the subject. Since the book is clearly broken down into steps they all seemed to be well placed in order to present a cohesive structure that guides the process of research.

Academic research it is a process that should be flexible by nature in many ways. Even though some parts of the process could be done simultaneously to others, this will definitely not apply to all of them. This book brings up an interesting way to order this process which even though may look rigid at times it tries to make sure that some parts are developed before others in the research. It is presented that way so that there's enough understanding of the bases before there can be any progression or even conclusions. This is mostly reflected in the techniques that are presented, where some of then have as their main job to detonate creative thinking. For example: the importance of the set of questions that are asked at the beginning is that the answers will be used mostly to clarify the end goals of a research.

This text is organized following a clear and efficient way to develop an academic research process. It is well distributed in chapters that are all connected to each other in one or other way. The book is efficient at establishing this connections, specially at the beginning and end of every chapter where there's mentioning of the previous and following topic's main ideas. This helps readers to keep track with the overall content.

This book presents an excellent graphic approach to expose its content. The electronic version has the really nice feature of having the index accessible at any point of the reading process. This text is full of links that are either deeper explanations of a particular topic or a set of exercises that are directly related to what the reader is learning. If the idea was to present the information in a format that doesn't look congested to the eyes and that it is not distracting the reader from the important ideas, the editors made an excellent job. This book can't be easier to read, follow through and understand.

Besides a couple of punctuation spaces here and then I was not able to perceive any major grammatical errors. The book is well written all around. Punctuation is pretty much excellent and its composition keeps the reader in track with the content effectible.

Particularly the topics used as examples were very diverse in therms of gender allusion, cultural backgrounds and specialized fields. Research is a process that apply to all disciplines and the professionals working in them. This makes the research process a particularly broad one. The book makes efforts to present this idea by using numerous examples that connect with different segments of the population at numerous levels.

This books is an excellent tool available to anyone who wishes to start a serious research process in almost any particular professional area or field, even amateur researchers can benefit from its content. The book was written to merge the topic content with a series of exercises, tests and examples using a cohesive testing dynamic that helps to increase retention. This dynamic becomes the most efficient way to understand what it takes to start a professional research. The steps to follow the process are laid out clearly in this guide and the important things that need to be taking in account during the research process are highlighted and deconstructed to obtain a deeper overall understanding by the reader or researcher. The fact that the reader is being quizzed constantly during the entire book generates a stronger connection with the important subjects and a good way to evaluate the reader's understanding in real time as well. Highly recommended to undergrad and graduate students and perhaps even amateur researchers becoming familiar with the process of research as well.

Reviewed by Cindy Gruwell, Professor/Research Librarian, Minnesota State on 1/11/19

Choosing and Using Sources does a very good job of covering the topic of Academic Research. Each chapter focuses on an aspect of the research process and thoroughly covers the content with easy to read text and examples/activities for student... read more

Choosing and Using Sources does a very good job of covering the topic of Academic Research. Each chapter focuses on an aspect of the research process and thoroughly covers the content with easy to read text and examples/activities for student practice. Most importantly first-year students through seniors should find the content informative and presented in a collegial format.

All of the content is accurate and explained in a manner that is easy to grasp. There are some minor typos in some of the activities, but they do not confuse the reader. The text is bias-free and includes interesting examples that students can relate to.

The overall content is highly relevant and will age very well. Updates would definite be easy to handle and manipulate. By breaking down each chapter into a variety of content areas, readers will be able to focus and review areas of concern.

Having read several print and online texts of a similar nature, it was a pleasure to come across a text that is clean, consistent, and concise. Each topic has an appropriate amount of information to get the point across as well as tips that lead the reader to additional information. The presentation is consistent throughout without any bloating often found in print texts.

The authors of the text did an excellent job of producing an online text that is consistent and easy to use. No tricks that make it difficult to navigate or confusing to read.

One aspect of the text that I especially like is the modularity that allows for the use of a particular chapter or page(s). Too often texts have chapters that make readers feel like there is no end in sight. The concise nature of this work blends extremely well with the modularity of the complete text.

What makes this text easy to adapt is the layout from beginning to end. Each chapter and section scaffolds upon the other which will allow students to build their skills in a natural manner. Knowledge attained will easily transfer from one topic to another as they move through the book.

While I believe that the text is excellent and I have adopted it for my class, I do find myself frustrated by not being able to move from one section to another within a chapter without having to go back to the contents list. This surprised me because most books and tutorials have forward and backward links, especially within chapters.

There are a few grammatical (spelling) errors in several of the exercises, however, they do not interfere or confuse the reader.

This is definitely a professional work that has no cultural issues and is an excellent example of a non-biased text.

While looking for an OER text I was delighted to come across this book. The content and flow fit in with my class content extremely well and is an excellent resources for courses in the liberal arts, general research, and library-centric classes.

Reviewed by Kathy Moss, Clinical Professor, University of Missouri on 11/27/18

The hyperlinks and examples include a wide range of topics that include cooking, surgery, architecture and sports. read more

The hyperlinks and examples include a wide range of topics that include cooking, surgery, architecture and sports.

Credit is given to an editor, production and design specialists, as well as several content contributors. No additional information is provided to support inference regarding author credibility.

The open textbook Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research presented material that is relevant to my current issues course, including Background reading, Developing a complex research question, Classifying sources, and Evaluating sources.

The topics are presented clearly, using an engaging conversational style and frequent tips and activities. A reader who has no background in information science may be hampered by some terms used in the book (e.g., blog, podcast, Wikipedia, browser, database, Gawker, Reddit). The book does give intentional attention to the technology-naïve audience with some skills (Control-F) and topics (brief description of LexisNexis Academic, Lantern Online).

Terms and organizational framework are consistent throughout the text.

I plan to assign particular chapters of this text that are most relevant to my course's goals. The consistency of the text's terminology and organization should permit this reading plan with minimal distraction to the reader.

The information is clearly organized with a contents listing, chapter numbers and section headers. This organization facilitates easy access for learners with a specific interest in a single topic.

The author’s frequent use of hyperlinks invites students to explore topics more in-depth.

I note a few minor typographical errors that did not adversely affect my ability to comprehend the text.

The book includes examples of non-Western sources such as the allAfrica news database. Some of the links and examples are only available to individuals who have accounts with The Ohio State University. Though the book includes examples in audio and video formats, it could be improved by giving specific attention to topics related to accessibility.

The book provides the opportunity for readers to apply the topics by analyzing its frequent examples.

Reviewed by Lori Meier, Associate Professor, East Tennessee State University on 11/8/18

This text is exceedingly comprehensive. It addresses all elements of academic research (i.e. choosing questions, exploring and selecting sources, searching strategies, citation issues, copyright) as well as providing abundant links for student... read more

This text is exceedingly comprehensive. It addresses all elements of academic research (i.e. choosing questions, exploring and selecting sources, searching strategies, citation issues, copyright) as well as providing abundant links for student use. It is lacking an index or glossary - although many concepts are defined in the various chapters.

This book is accurate and comprehensive. I would not hesitate to use this resource with undergraduate or graduate students as a beginning primer for research.

The book is relevant and timely in regards to the various resources and tech tools it mentions (Google Scholar, EndNote, Ref Works). Given the subject matter I suspect that this book will have longevity to users.

The text is clear and provides definitions for jargon/technical terminology that is used. It is very comprehensive which might be a bit intimidating for the first time reader, but all elements needed for cogent research are included and therefore necessary. I appreciate the use of student scenarios as a way to step-by-step show the thinking process of choosing research questions.

Very consistent and thorough.

This text would be ideal for use as single chapters in courses where the content is needed. While the content is crafted with Ohio State University students in mind it is still very relevant for use by students and scholars. I am already thinking how I might use this next semester with an undergraduate honor's thesis student - both as modules to be read but also as a reference source.

The book is organized in a logical manner but spends only a brief amount of time about qualitative and quantitative research as peer-reviewed sources and only gives basic definitions for those two terms. I would perhaps suggest an additional section on qual/quant/mixed methods research methodology and perhaps a quick overview of research methods or samples via discipline. Additionally, a mention of the common IRB process for Human Subject Research might be helpful to those students using academic sources that discuss that process. It is a very clear text and this could be added with just a few pages of information that might be beneficial to students.

Navigation links worked well for me. The book is easy to read and the display features are not troublesome to me.

Grammatically sound.

Appropriate and is accessible to a wide audience.

Reviewed by Kathy Lamb, ELL Specialist/ English Instructor, Miami University on 8/2/18

The text covers most areas of academic research, and has a table of contents but no glossary, which is much needed. Topics are clear and concise, transitioning smoothly from general to more specific, such as “What is a Research Question?” to... read more

The text covers most areas of academic research, and has a table of contents but no glossary, which is much needed. Topics are clear and concise, transitioning smoothly from general to more specific, such as “What is a Research Question?” to “Narrowing Topics” and finding “Related Terms”. Perfect for college freshmen.

The content is accurate, error-free and unbiased.

The source is up-to-date and it would be relatively easy to update information.

The text is easily understand and flows in a clear manner. Ideas and topics progress easily and examples are used to offer context.

Ideas build one upon another and academic vocabulary is repeated throughout.

Some parts of the book seem a little “text heavy”, but overall it is well organized with efficient flow. The embedded links in the text connect earlier concepts

One problematic is that there lacks a glossary. The table of contents is very long, but broken down so that one is able to easily reference topics. Chapters are concise enough to be read in a timely manner and effectively used.

For some of the online activities it was confusing to discern which answers were correct or incorrect. And, after clicking on and completing an activity one must go back to the former page in order to navigate further. On the other hand, being able to access other information about the chapter topics via link is a handy tool.

There are no grammatical errors.

This book is culturally relevant and not offensive or insensitive in any way.

Reviewed by Sara Abrahamson, Faculty, Minneosta West Community and Technical College on 8/2/18

This text is very comprehensive. The complete research process is broken down from start to finish. read more

This text is very comprehensive. The complete research process is broken down from start to finish.

Very accurate information.

The content is very relative to today's researchers and does a fine job of detailing types of sources.

Very easy to read with content that is easily understood by even a first-time researcher.

The content was very consistent and easy to follow because if it.

LOVED the easy of reading because of the small, digestible informational pieces!

The flow of the text was perfect, following the research process from beginning to end.

I enjoyed the hyperlinked Activities, however, they did not all work for me.

No grammatical errors found.

Very culturally unbiased.

Excellent text that I wished I had years ago!

Reviewed by Justin Megahan, Librarian / Associate Professor, Fontbonne University on 6/19/18

The text does a good job covering academic research. There is a table of contents, but I feel like a glossary and index would be helpful for this book. read more

The text does a good job covering academic research. There is a table of contents, but I feel like a glossary and index would be helpful for this book.

The content is accurate. I did not notice any errors.

The content is up-to-date. There are many databases and websites referred to in the text so it is important to check those relevant links on occasion. It would be straightforward to update the text as needed.

The text clearly steps the reader through the research process. The process is discussed in detail over the 13 chapters.

The text is consistent.

The book is modular. Chapters can be rearranged without confusion. The Copyright Chapter is a good example of a component that can be used separately as a supplemental reading in another course.

The book is organized logically. The addition of a glossary and index could help navigation.

The book has images, charts, and videos that are useful. There are quick activity questions that tests the students’ knowledge on the current topic. These activities do link out to OSU’s site so it is important to make sure those links continue to stay active.

The text contains no grammatical errors.

This book does not have cultural concerns.

Many links direct the reader to OSU resources that have restricted access. The discussion of OSU resources and tools needs to be modified to fit the reader’s institutional resources. “ACTIVITY: Quantitative vs. Qualitative” has a link that is no longer working.

Reviewed by Jane Theissen, Reference Librarian/Professor, Fontbonne University on 5/21/18

The research process is explained in detail, from how to develop a research question to where and how to research through the application of copyright, fair use and citation styles. read more

The research process is explained in detail, from how to develop a research question to where and how to research through the application of copyright, fair use and citation styles.

The content is accurate and unbiased. Most of the links, which are plentiful and well placed, are either broken or link to resources at OSU's library, which I could not access. Use of this book would require time to correct this.

The content is stable. Other than updating the links, little would need to be done to use this text.

Very clearly written; jargon is appropriately explained. Self-checks allow students to make sure they understand the material.

Each section logically builds on the previous, and tone is consistent throughout.

The text has a great deal of modularity. Each section is listed in the Table of Contents and covers a few pages or less. There is no index. It is easy to find and move to sections quickly. the structure allows one to pull sections out for other courses (which I have done).

The research process is explained step-by-step with appropriate detail and excellent graphics.

Images, charts, and diagrams serve to explain and support the text. Many seem rather large and I found them a bit distracting. Additionally, there are page breaks in strange places, leaving large blocks of white space on pages while the narrative continued on the next page. This was very confusing. It would also be helpful if the links would open in a new window.

It seemed inclusive where applicable.

This text impressed me as appropriate for high school students or college freshmen.

Reviewed by Laura Heinz, Librarian, Texas Tech University on 3/27/18

This book provides beginning student researchers with a clear and complete path to the research process for class assignments and undergraduate research projects. read more

This book provides beginning student researchers with a clear and complete path to the research process for class assignments and undergraduate research projects.

The content is presented is accurate and in an unbiased manner for students to easily grasp the process and concepts.

This book was written in 2016 and may need some minor updates. The material is presented in a logical manner that leads students through the process as they begin their research. Each chapter can be used independently as the instructor fits the chapters into course content.

This book is easily understood by an undergraduate and doesn't require extra readings or content to be understood. It is concise and clear which will be appreciated by the student as they conduct research.

This book is consistent in it's framework which leads the student to each step logically avoiding confusion or frustration.

The chapters can easily be used independently and refer students to other chapters with supporting information.

The book is written to lead students in a logical manner through the research process. The length of the chapters allows a student to easily read the chapter for that step in their research, apply it and refer to it easily.

The book downloads easily onto a laptop or e-reader. The graphics display nicely on either size screen and enhance the text.

No grammatical errors were noticed.

This book is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. Examples used are appropriate.

This book introduces beginning student researchers to the academic research process in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. The books lack of jargon and abbreviations will help international students learn how to better navigate an academic library for research. Instructors in all disciplines should consider this book as an additional textbook for their classes requiring research for assignments, class projects and/or papers.

Reviewed by Hilary Johnson, Learning & Teaching Librarian, The Open University on 3/27/18

The text does not include an index or glossary. However, it covers a complex (and dry) subject in an economical and stimulating fashion. Each reader would learn about the subject from the basic text but the authors have enriched the text by... read more

The text does not include an index or glossary. However, it covers a complex (and dry) subject in an economical and stimulating fashion. Each reader would learn about the subject from the basic text but the authors have enriched the text by embedding audio-visual resources, download-and-keep checklists and formative activities of excellent quality.Chapter 9 'Making an Argument' is particularly strong and complements Chapter 1's analysis of research questions well. It is an excellent resource for undergraduates, post-graduates and beyond, and could also be useful for professionals researching topics to support evidence-based practice protocols.

More tips about applying facets to search results on services like Summon, EDS or Primo would be a useful addiition. I was surprised the authors did not employ language to frame the skill development in the language of 'employability' and life-skills, which might hook readers who are not planning to engage in academic research in the long-term.

The accuracy of the book was excellent, My score would have been 5, except the advice about copyright legislation and fair use is only applicable to students of Ohio State or elsewhere in the USA; so an institution in the Britain, Ireland or Europe would not be able to use or recommend chapters 11 or 12. However, these chapters are well-judged for the intended audience; succinct and comprehensible, where so many guides are too woolly or arcane to be useful to a general readership.

Chapter 1 had a dead link to an audio-visual resource. The explanation of how to use Wikipedia for academic study was nuanced, classic and practical. The explanation of how to use truncation and wildcards were similarly time- (and platform-) proof. There is much current interest in 'fake news' and the manipulation of Facebook and Google algorithms. So it could be timely to add a section on the known issues and some practical strategies to compensate for them.

The authors use excellent, clear English that should be comprehensible to anyone with academic english reading proficiency. My only qualms related to an ambiguous use of the term "poster" (this word has a particular meaning in an academic setting which was not explained) and more extensively around the slightly simplistic and dated language used for the university library catalogue and abstract & indexing databases. One of the activity sheets is structured like a decision-tree and starts with the question "are you working from a database"; with modern resource discovery platforms and other aggregating tools, students may not be able to tell whether they are looking at results from a single database, all the databases from one supplier or multiple databases from a variety of suppliers.

The stylesheet and planning of content is elegant and the quality is consistent throughout the text.

Each chapter is split into useful subsections, with clear formatting to demarcate between topics, tips and activities. The authors have also helpfully embedded hyperlinks to relevant chapters or sections earlier or later in the book.The length of individual subsections is consistent to make reading online easy (balancing scrolling and page turning). However, the length of embedded audio-visual materials varies so a student planning their time might be surprised in places.

The text has a sensible progression of topics, with hyperlinks back and forwards to connect relevant topics. And the final chapter, 'Roles of Research Sources', pulls together the lessons learnt with a useful acronym (BEAM), giving the book a strong ending.

I accessed the text on a variety of browsers, screen sizes and operating systems without any problems with the interface.

I only spotted two minor errors - site instead of cite and White's definition (page 186) without an apostrophe.

Not all the video materials embedded are captioned making them inaccessible to some categories of disabled users.

gathering sources for research paper

Reviewed by Lydia Bales, Academic Skills Tutor & Librarian, Staffordshire University on 2/1/18

Considering the book is not overly large, the guide manages to be very through and comprehensive guide to locating sources and using them correctly. It even goes further in giving some great information on making an argument and writing out the... read more

Considering the book is not overly large, the guide manages to be very through and comprehensive guide to locating sources and using them correctly. It even goes further in giving some great information on making an argument and writing out the research. The chapters are in easily digestible chunks covering the process of searching and evaluating resources in a useful and cross-discipline manner. It covers the source search process of research in an easily digestible manner.

The topics are accurate and have been written in a way that they will not date too much. The links and examples of the services provided may need updating to keep them accurate but the nature of the online format makes this easily possible. The Copyright chapter is obviously only applicable to those studying in the US. Having a version of this chapter available discussing copyright law in the UK could be useful any access the course for a different location.

The topics, examples and videos used are relevant and useful and should not date too much. The links and examples of the services provided may need updating to keep them accurate but the nature of the online format makes this easily possible. Some of the examples and links are specific to Ohio State and America and this can limit the relevance for students who do not have the ability to access Ohio State resources or are not based in America. Also the copyright section specfically is obviously only US copyright law limiting it's usefulness for students based in other locations.

The writing style is straightforward and easy to follow. It is sometimes slightly repetitive but overall the information is clearly presented and the vocabulary used is not too advanced. The style is informal and it makes a weighty topic much easier to process. I think it would be useful to have a glossary in the resource for students who maybe have not come across some of the topic specific words before and need them defining.

I was impressed with the consistency considering the work is made up of different author’s contributions. I could not identify different voices within the text, which helped improve the flow of the work. The arrangement of the contents tab is very useful to help navigate to specific sections of chapters as well as the overall chapter.

The layout of the book makes this modular. You can choose which sections to look at in any order and they read clearly and separately well. The other sections are signposted throughout the text and you can link back through to these using the hyperlinks provided. I think the order could be slightly improved by moving the citing and copyright information after the information on argument and writing but because you can choose how to read the book then it is not really an issue. I think it is important to note that if you cannot play the video content or the links in the book are Ohio State Specific the book does lose some of its positive features.

Overall, the structure is straightforward and logical. It flows in a manner that is easy to read and to process. Using the navigation you can work your way through the book in any order you feel is appropriate. As I stated I feel the referencing and copyright information could be in a different place but because you can choose to read this in a different order, it does not really matter.

Having read the online version on both a PC and a tablet I found the interface both easy to use and accessible. The page and chapter length worked well on both platforms and it was easy to access the links and activities contained within the resource. I could not access the videos on the PC due to not having Adobe Flash and it would be useful to have known I would require this to access the resource in its entirety. The video content is a refreshing change to just text and the images used are overall relevant. The videos do not all include a text version and this would be useful for accessibility. A few of them do have this option. Some of the images in the text viewed blurry on my PC and tablet. I am not sure if this was an issue with my own software or an error in the book.

I did not notice any errors during this read through. In some places, the text was a bit repetitive but this not disrupt the flow too drastically.

The examples used are not offensive and are diverse in their range. They have not given examples that define the guide for specific subset of students, which makes it more applicable.

Just for accessibility purposes, I think all the videos need a text version not just some. In addition, the RefWorks program has now been updated and it is called New Refworks with a changed logo and this could be updated in the book along with the guide to setting up Refworks if your institution subscribes. I feel that there are many links that you could not access unless you were an Ohio State user and this could disrupt the flow of the book for some users.

Reviewed by Lori Jacobson, Associate Director, Curriculum Development, William & Mary Writing Resources Center on 2/1/18

The book provides a comprehensive introduction to the use of sources in academic writing. read more

The book provides a comprehensive introduction to the use of sources in academic writing.

The book is a polished, professional and appropriate tool to help students improve their information literacy.

The content is relevant for undergraduate students and their instructors. It focuses primarily on fundamental approaches to finding, evaluating, and deploying sources in order to enter the scholarly conversation. While the authors occasionally mention a specific tool, or insert links to outside sources, these are placed within "Tip" boxes that can easily be updated.

Because this book was created for students at Ohio State University, it is sometimes quite specific about tools or processes that are unique to OSU. Instructors using this book at other institutions may sometimes need to suggest their own's institution's available tools to keep the text relevant for their students.

The book is well-crafted for an undergraduate audience, taking an easy-going, friendly tone and clearly defining key terms and concepts. It is also accessibly structured, making it fairly easy for users to jump between topics, rather than requiring a linear read. Links between related sections are provided wherever it is appropriate.

The book uses a consistent design scheme and structure. Features that appear in each chapter include graphics, tip boxes, examples, activities, and summaries.

Each unit of the text stands on its own and could be easily assigned as an individual reading. Rather than being self-referential, the text will suggest that more information on a related topic can be found in one of the other modules.

The text is organized to flow in roughly the same sequence as a typical research project. Students who are reading the text while working on a project should find individual sections logically presented and relevant. This is clearly not a text designed as background reading; rather it functions best as "just in time" information for students working through the research process.

I found the text quite easy to use in it its online form. It is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and thoughtfully arranged.

I noticed a couple of typos, but no significant grammatical errors.

The examples provided are of broad interest, and most readers will have some familiarity with them. There were no insensitive or offensive comments or examples.

Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research is a practical tool for novice researchers. It asks students to begin the process with a research question, and then provides a step-by-step approach to creating the question. All the other chapters flow from this effective beginning, and should increase students' information literacy by helping them understand types of sources available to researchers, the relationship between sources and information needs, how sources should be evaluated, and how they can be deployed effectively and ethically. Additional chapters on argumentation and copyright round out the book's overall usefulness to students engaged in a research project. This book could be easily paired with a staged research project, and would provide students with the "just-in-time" information they need to successfully complete the assignment.

Reviewed by Kristin Green, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Worthington Scranton on 2/1/18

The aspects of academic research that are prudent to cover within the first year of any undergraduate student's general education are all covered within this textbook. From an introduction to the ethics of source use to crafting basic Boolean... read more

The aspects of academic research that are prudent to cover within the first year of any undergraduate student's general education are all covered within this textbook. From an introduction to the ethics of source use to crafting basic Boolean search strings, all facets of entering scholarly discourse are addressed in brief chapters that feel modern and accessible. While instructors may wish to supplement or replace some of the exercise sets in the text with their own assessments, the content of the text provides ample coverage if selected to serve as a primary textbook for a foundational information literacy course.

The book is accurate in addressing the current state of the information landscape as encountered in the realm of academic research, as well as the legalities of copyright and fair use.

All content within this book is current and the content within chapters sections are written in a style that today's undergraduate students will be able to learn easily from. Many of the concepts, processes, and principles that are covered in the text have an inherent longevity that will prolong the relevance of this text past its initial publication date. However some chapter sections, tutorials, and videos are institution-specific reducing the overall relevancy of using the entire text at other locations.

The text is written in a clear and concise style that current students will find very accessible. The authors consciously defined any technical terminology or jargon as it was introduced throughout the chapters. Furthermore, the technical concepts that were more complex to define are often accompanied by visuals to help convey what is being defined.

The terminology and format of the book, along with the linked exercise sets and visualizations, provide a solid consistency that will helps students focus on learning the content rather than being bogged down with understanding the textbook format.

Instructors could easily parse different chapters of this book to use for modular instruction, especially in "one-shot" or other limited instructional scenarios. Some of the chapters are a bit self-referential which may generate a minor degree of confusion if used out of the holistic context.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

While there is a logical flow to most of the chapters, some seem a little out of place such as the "Making an Argument" chapter. I would have preferred a division of chapters into sections, where the writing-related chapters were separated from the source-related chapters. I also think the chapters that covered Copyright, Fair Use, ethical source use, and citations would have a stronger flow if organized together in their own section.

The ability to navigate through the book from the table of contents page is a great feature for students, especially when the instructor is choosing to assign only particular chapters or work through some of the chapters in a different sequence. The linked exercise sets are also easy to navigate through, allowing students to focusing on applying learned concepts rather than learning new interfaces. However, throughout my review some of the linked external content would not open for me and links to external materials always have the possibility of changing which may result in future inaccessibility

No grammatical errors were detected when reviewing this book.

This book is not offensive nor culturally insensitive in any manner.

For any instructor looking for an open textbook to orient undergraduate students to the basics of the academic research and writing processes while simultaneously providing context of contemporary issues surrounding these scholarly activities, this is a comprehensive and accessible choice!

Reviewed by Anne Behler, Information Literacy Librarian & Instruction Coordinator, The Pennsylvania State University on 2/1/18

This text offers a comprehensive breakdown of the academic research process, with special effort made to demystify jargon that may present itself in either the classroom or library environment. Beginning with establishing a research question and... read more

This text offers a comprehensive breakdown of the academic research process, with special effort made to demystify jargon that may present itself in either the classroom or library environment. Beginning with establishing a research question and carrying through to integrating and citing sources, the text includes practical tools for students to use in their own research, as well as links to supplemental information. If anything, the text errs on the side of providing too much information, such that a novice researcher may feel overloaded.

The text offers an accurate articulation of the research process, and avoids bias by covering a wide variety of potential information sources, including the use of web search engines other than Google.

Because the information landscape is constantly shifting, the text will require fairly frequent review. This is particularly important when it comes to how web sources are addressed. For example, the book does not address fake news and/or dealing with problematic web resources, and it glosses over use of social media as an information source. However, the concepts related to the research process itself change very little, and the information presented about them has staying power.

The text is written in accessible language, and works to address uses of jargon that are typical within the academic environment by providing explanations for what professors typically want when they request a particular item in the research process. This is an effective way to establish relevance with students, as well as clarify academic expectations.

The language within the text is consistent and accessible, with helpful insertions of definitions and/or links to explanatory supplementary information online.

The text's sections are clearly and logically labeled, and could very easily be plugged into a course in part or whole.

The order of topics in the text follow the research assignment process, from point of assignment decoding through to writing and source citation. Given the audience for the text and its intended purpose, this makes great sense.

The text contains links to many outside web sources that may provide helpful supplemental information for the reader; however many of these links were found to be dead. Comprehensive review of all links is highly recommended. In addition, I recommend continuing review of available videos related to the topics, as many selected are either rudimentary or contain dated material.

The writing and grammatical quality of this text are of the highest quality.

The text is culturally relevant and inclusive in its examples.

As stated, this book holds great utility and relevance, but requires updating for links to external web resources. It will also need to be adapted to keep up with the changing landscape of information sources themselves.

Reviewed by Craig Larson, Librarian, North Hennepin Community College on 2/1/18

The book is very comprehensive, sometimes almost too much so (sections on copyright seem to be more detailed than the average college student would need or perhaps be interested in; the section on the lifecycle of information, while interesting,... read more

The book is very comprehensive, sometimes almost too much so (sections on copyright seem to be more detailed than the average college student would need or perhaps be interested in; the section on the lifecycle of information, while interesting, also is a bit questionable as to its overall relevance). Instructors who choose this book for a one- or two-credit information literacy course will have much more material at their hands than they can reasonably cover in a semester. This book would make a good companion volume to just about any course involving research.

The content is accurate and unbiased. As an example, I was interested to find that the author actually recommends that students use Wikipedia, at least in the very early stages of research, to get an overall picture of their topic. So many college instructors, regardless of the subject, seem to have a strong aversion to Wikipedia. Here, the author actually goes into some detail on how using the references in an entry can lead the researcher to additional sources he/she might not find through other means. Some of the activities are a bit misleading or written in such a way that there could be more than one right answer, which isn't necessarily an error, but could be tightened up a bit.

The content is largely relevant and up-to-date, though I was a bit surprised to not find a section addressing "fake news," which has become such a watchword over the past year. I was also a bit surprised that, although the author has a section talking about which "neighborhood" certain types of information "hangs out," there wasn't a discussion of different domain names, such as ".edu," ".org," and ".com" and what they indicate to readers. Also hampering the book's relevance somewhat is an overabundance of examples and activities that require an Ohio State student ID to log-in. Many of these would have to be re-worked or re-written for the book to be useful at other schools.

In large part, the book is clearly written and new ideas are clearly explained. The writer does a pretty good job of avoiding jargon and technical terminology or where it can't be avoided, of providing examples and clear definitions of terms. Some of the activities aren't so clearly written that there is one obviously correct answer. Also, some of the scoring of activities isn't clear enough to indicate to the user what was wrong and why it was wrong or even the correct answer that should have been chosen. Not every concept is adequately explained or thoroughly developed (for instance, the crucial process of moving from an initial reading to a research question could use further clarification and development). Another area that could use further discussion and development would be how to use databases.

The book is largely consistent, though there are occasions where the consistency falls through. For example, most of the accompanying activities will open in a new window, but not all. There were several occasions where this reader closed out an activity window and closed out the entire book as well. This is an area that someone really should take a look at, as it can be confusing and irritating for the user. Also, the fact that many of the book's activities require an Ohio State student ID effectively locks out users from other institutions.

The book is largely modular, with sections that can easily be broken apart and assigned at different points in the course. There is a very useful table of contents, broken down by subject into smaller pieces that can easily be accessed. As mentioned previously, the book is very comprehensive, almost too much so at times, so having this table of contents is very helpful.

The book is fairly-well organized, though there are things placed in odd locations that could be touched on earlier or later, as the case may be. For instance, there is a good discussion fairly late in the book about deciding whether to quote, paraphrase, or summarize, which would have been much more useful if it was placed in the section of the book that directly addresses each of those activities. Instead, it is placed in a section on academic integrity (which, again, is very Ohio State-specific, too much so, really). I also question the relevance of a chapter on creating an academic argument, which if it is to be included at all, would seem to make much more sense earlier in the book, when students are learning the basics of research and how to apply it to their writing.

The book is largely free of significant issues, although as mentioned previously, many of the activities require an Ohio State student ID to log-in and use, which makes them useless to students from other institutions. Also, the activities are sometimes difficult to follow--one doesn't know why one answered incorrectly or what the correct answer even is in some instances. And the fact that some activities open a new browser window and some don't can also be confusing. There are a few activities that lead to broken links.

There are the occasional run-on sentences and spelling mistakes in the text. It's almost impossible not to have some issues in this area. However, the infrequent errors don't detract from the book or its overall usefulness, though it might be a good idea for someone to go through the text and try to clear some of these up.

The book does a good job of avoiding being culturally insensitive or offensive. Activities and examples are written in such a way as to be inclusive. Many of the examples link directly to sites that deal with minority themes and issue.

I think, on the whole, this is a very useful book and one that could be put to immediate use in many instances. However, the number of activities and examples that require an Ohio State student ID to access make this less relevant than it could be if the author had striven for more universal examples.

Reviewed by Mairéad Hogan, Lecturer, National University of Ireland, Galway on 2/1/18

This book covers the subject matter in a comprehensive and detailed way. The way in which the material is presented is very suitable for students who have not previously been involved in academic research as it starts at the very beginning and... read more

This book covers the subject matter in a comprehensive and detailed way. The way in which the material is presented is very suitable for students who have not previously been involved in academic research as it starts at the very beginning and assumes no prior knowledge. It has additional features that help to reinforce the material, such as activities and MCQs. These help to reinforce the learning and test the reader’s understanding. Additionally, the examples used are very useful and helpful in gaining understanding of the subject matter.

It goes into the material in depth and not only tells students how to progress their research but also explains clearly why they should be doing it this way. For example, it explains to students how to differentiate between good and bad sources. However, I have one small concern with this aspect. They do not tell students how to differentiate between different standards of peer-reviewed journals. They do mention looking at citation count but state that is not a useful measure for very recent articles. Some discussion on determining the quality of the journal itself would be helpful. For example, looking at citation counts for the journal, rather than the article would be one example, as would looking at rankings.

Overall, I would see this as an excellent reference book to last students through their academic careers.

The material itself is accurate. However, many of the links to additional material either do not work or are inaccessible to those without OSU credentials.

The material is mainly presented in a way that will last. However, many of the links no longer work so these should be checked and alternatives put in on a regular basis. Additionally, there are links to videos that may not be there in the future, although all I clicked on were available. However, the text description of the videos did not work. Many of the activities (MCQ’s etc) have a dated feel about them in terms of layout and interaction. The design of them could do with some updating.

The writing itself is very clear and easy to understand. Diagrams are used to good effect to clarify concepts (e.g. use of Venn diagrams to explain Boolean concepts). However, some of the terminology is not as clearly defined as it could be. While terms are generally explained clearly in the text, it would be nice to have a glossary of terms. Additionally, the MCQs are not always clear as if the reader gets an answer wrong it is not always apparent which is the correct one.

The book is consistent in writing style and interface.

The book is structured in a modular format whereby the reader can dip in and out of different sections, as they need to. Equally, for a student starting out, it is structured in a way that is likely to follow the steps in the same order as the student, making it a good companion to their research projects.

The book was organised in a very natural and sensible way and flowed smoothly from one topic to another. Links were provided to related sections of the book where relevant so that if the reader forgot what was meant by a particular topic, they could easily hop back and forth. The book started at the very beginning with good coverage of developing a research question and then progressed through tools and sources to help with this. The additional activities were all web based, which works fine if you have easy access. However, I was using a kindle with poor broadband so struggled to access it at times. It also felt a bit disruptive leaving the book to do the activities. It’s also not always clear whether links lead to another part of the book or to an external site. The tips are a useful addition. The stand out when flicking through the book and help to reinforce the important points. It is also useful the ways steps are clearly broken down into sub-steps.

I downloaded it to Kindle, and found a number of issues. It struggled to deal with larger fonts, resulting in some text not being visible.. There were also references to “the bottom of the page” but the bottom of the page varies depending on font size. Not all of the activities worked. Some of the activities required OSU credentials to access them, which was frustrating.

There were some minor grammatical and typographical errors but nothing major.

The book is very US centric in its use of examples. For example, there is an American football example and news sources referred to are US based generally. Additionally, copyright discussion is US centric.

Overall, I found this to be an excellent book that will help students in their research projects. I think it is a book that they will use for a number of years as it is has sufficient depth to help at different levels. The one main change I would make would be to broaden OSU references and activities so they are referring to databases in general, for example, rather than simply talking about the OSU one. Much of the material is relevant regardless of institution but a reader unfamiliar with databases would not be aware of this and might skip over some very useful information.

Reviewed by Anthony Patterson, Assistant Professor, North Carolina Central University on 2/1/18

Choosing and Using Sources is an extremely thorough text taking readers through the research process from formulating research questions to fair use and copy right issues. I particularly liked the online examples and resources including quizzes... read more

Choosing and Using Sources is an extremely thorough text taking readers through the research process from formulating research questions to fair use and copy right issues. I particularly liked the online examples and resources including quizzes and videos. The table of contents is thorough but there is not a glossary. While this is a strong text some discussion of theory and how theoretical frameworks are used in academic writing.

While the text could have addressed additional areas, the authors were accurate and detailed. Chapter 8 - How to Cite Sources is well done and accurately takes novel researchers through when they should and should not provide citations.

The authors present how to develop, approach, and conduct sound research in a well thought out format. This text is up-to-date addressing issues like Wikipedia and Google Scholar. While issues around these information sources will change, the way this text is set up, it can easily be updated in the future.

The book is well written, clear, and easy to follow. Jargon such as primary, secondary, and tertiary sources were explained clearly with appropriate examples. This text will be accessible for my students and most others pursuing advanced degrees.

The authors are consistent throughout the text when discussing topics like presenting arguments and the relationship this has with concepts like research questions and the sources researcher select. While consistency is expected is difficult to do especially when writing as a team. More impressively is the consistency of supplemental materials throughout the text.

The book has long chapters and occasionally I had some difficulty knowing where one section ended and another began but overall it is readily divisible. Another important aspect of the text are the supplemental materials like online quizzes and videos which are also clearly align with the sections in the text.

I was skeptical at first when I began reading but the overall organization of this text is good. Even though the text is about writing and sources, a section of theory and incorporating theoretical frameworks would have strengthen the book. However the topics selected flowed well and led potential researchers through a logical process.

A few problems linking to sum supplemental materials but overall I was impressed by the quality of the graphics as well as the links to quizzes and videos that were provided.

I did not come across any grammatical or typographical issues.

I did not see any cultural insensitive examples or information provided. However I also did not see a lot of racial or ethnic diversity in examples throughout this text. Overall, I feel the authors approached the subject matter appropriately.

Reviewed by Rachelle Savitz, Assistant Professor, Clemson University on 2/1/18

The text is quite comprehensive regarding finding, using, and understanding sources. It provides the process of sourcing from start to finish with examples and activities provided throughout to support the reader. Various ways to find sources... read more

The text is quite comprehensive regarding finding, using, and understanding sources. It provides the process of sourcing from start to finish with examples and activities provided throughout to support the reader. Various ways to find sources are described. There is a focus throughout on software and databases for the students at the authors institution and that can be confusing to readers from other institutions. The information provided regarding citing, ethics and copyright, and fair use was informative and would be beneficial to the reader. There were sections throughout that could have been more in depth and more specific. For instance, when going over the various ways to cite sources, additional examples could be provided and the version/edition should be listed. For instance, was the APA citation in APA 6th edition format? Also, make sure to address citing from secondary sources as students do this often and tend to cite what they read even if they read it from another text. The TOC was helpful and allowed ease of understanding what was to be covered in each section. One main complain that I have was regarding the additional information provided to help the reader in writing a paper. This information would be helpful for basic college writing but not for academic writing, thesis or dissertation writing. The sections required for some of these papers are not discussed and the text eludes that the sections provided regarding writing an argumentative piece would be appropriate for all. Also, synthesizing information could be explained a bit more and with more depth. Synthesizing includes more than critiquing and summarizing. All in all, the sourcing information is spectacular and the additional information could be expanded upon.

Accuracy of sourcing was spot on. Some of the additional categories discussed, as mentioned in the first section of this review, could be expanded upon to fully explain that category, if it is to be included in the book. The examples and activities provided were quite good and would be very beneficial for students to apply what they are learning in real-life contexts. Links were provided for extending information. I did not attempt to open every link but making sure they are up-to-date will be important as time goes forward. I also feel that the section on popular texts can be misleading. Stating that the Washington Post is "popular" eludes that it is not reliable or valid. This is not necessarily true as many experts in various fields write sections in "popular" newspapers.

As previously stated, a lot of links go to OSU resources. This could be problematic for any reader that is not at OSU. More information should be provided to support any student in the world as that part would be confusing to many students.

The text is easy to read and follow. All new information is explained and then examples and activities are provided. This is student friendly and allows any reader to quickly follow along and understand what is being stated, especially regarding the sourcing elements. As stated above, there are some sections that could/should be expanded upon for clarity and this might be best for beginning university students but the text was easy to understand in regards to sourcing, citing, and fair use. More information on how to use the sources and sections of papers would be beneficial to all students.

Each chapter seemed to follow a similar structure that followed the TOC.

Modularity rating: 3

Reading the book online provides ability to chunk the text based on assignments and can be read chapter by chapter, entirety or starting at different places. Due to the extensive amount of outside links and examples, this would be quite different if read in paper format. This book truly has to be read online to ensure benefit from all of the additional activities, links, examples, sources, etc. In addition, the many links specific to OSU would not be helpful for other students.

The organization is consistent from chapter to chapter. Information is explained and then examples and activities are provided to further knowledge. This works well for readers that needs examples.

Using a laptop provided no issues. However, when using a smartphone, the pages changed in size and various display features did not load properly or at all.

Very few grammatical errors were noticed.

No cultural issues noticed other than the many OSU references and sources. This could be offensive to other institutions as they will not be able to access many of the links.

Reviewed by Scott Rice, Associate Professor, Appalachian State University on 2/1/18

The book is very comprehensive which sometimes detracted from its usefulness. There were a few units that may be superfluous, but I did appreciate that the author seemed to err on the side of inclusivity, leaving it to other adoptees how much... read more

The book is very comprehensive which sometimes detracted from its usefulness. There were a few units that may be superfluous, but I did appreciate that the author seemed to err on the side of inclusivity, leaving it to other adoptees how much content they might use and repurpose.

The book is error-free and appears to be free of bias.

The book is pitched to an Ohio State University audience, so some of the resources pointed to would not be the same as a potential adopter's institution might select. In addition, the book needs some updating regarding the impact of social media on the information cycle. Social media formats are mentioned, but a fuller treatment of how they fit into the information climate would be a good addition.

The text was clear and easy to read, and provided numerous examples for its points. It also did not rely on jargon in its explanations, which makes it much more accessible.

The text was consistent in its use of terms. I found its tone consistent, as well as the level of explanation for the wide variety of concepts explored.

The organization of the text into units makes it very easy to break the content apart into smaller units and use it for a variety of purposes. I could see using the content for different parts of several courses, as well as incorporating it into e-learning content.

The topics are presented in a logical fashion, following the path that a typical research assignment might take. This will also make it easier to fit within the flow of a course that uses the textbook to teach about the process of academic research.

The interface of the text itself works appropriately, but some of the ancillary quizzes and extra material did not work so well. Many of the graphics did not work as well within the pdf format as they do in the web format.

The textbook was free of grammatical errors and was easy to read.

The text did not appear to be culturally insensitive.

I am exploring the creation of a for-credit information literacy class at my institution and this book is a possible candidate for adoption for the course.

Reviewed by Bryan Gattozzi, Lecturer, General Studies Writing, Bowling Green State University on 2/1/18

I was impressed how the text began helping students understand the benefits of leading a research project by writing research question(s), following with assessment of research methods, and thinking about research writing as an avenue to test a... read more

I was impressed how the text began helping students understand the benefits of leading a research project by writing research question(s), following with assessment of research methods, and thinking about research writing as an avenue to test a hypothesis instead of one simply confirming a previous, and perhaps uninformed, belief.

The book didn't seem to dismiss any possible research method. Instead it provided suggestions of how and when any individual research method may be relevant.

The book was published last academic year and the content included is still relevant, mostly because best-practices in research (and research writing) haven't changed much.

The volume of research methods students can use given the internet's power is ever increasing, yet the book does well to isolate a handful of long standing tenets that academic writers have used for decades while allowing for discussion of web-based writing and multi-modal presentation methods instructors may increasingly require students to use.

Each section is concise, clear, and easy to follow . . . for me.

I assume students will be capable of reading the text, performing quizzes provided, and plotting out a research path to complete their assignment(s).

Then again, as an academic I obsess over these issues. I can see a student yawning while reading this text.

The content isn't especially fun to read yet the information provided in relevant and time-saving if students are willing to relax, read actively, and apply the material to the assignment their instructor has given.

I don't imagine many students would seek the book out and read about research methods, yet an instructor can pair excerpts from the book with specific assignments along a student's research path to help the student retain and apply the helpful suggestions in the book.

The text does well to allow students to name the process they're going through when composing a research question then deciding on what research path fits their question. Students are guided to consider what blend of qualitative / quantitative, primary / secondary / tertiary, or public / professional / scholarly research will fit their research and writing goals.

The book refers back to the same terms throughout and provides students with active learning worksheets to plot a research AND writing plan to complete their work, one they could conceivably follow throughout their academic and professional career.

Each subheading contains, on average, not more than a page of content allowing instructors the ability to easily limit reading assignments from the book to concise, focused sections.

The book is very process-based, and follows the workflow necessary to write a successful academic researched assignment.

The limit of this strategy might be students being overwhelmed with so much discussion of process they'd be paralyzed to inaction.

An instructor, then, would have to be direct in assigning reading materials relevant to a student's immediate research goal.

I like how the text follows the path a student would follow: from narrowing a research question, selecting and reviewing research materials, then choosing how to implement them ethically in writing.

It also details how to process research considerations students may not consider including how to archive research results, to respect copyright law when publishing blog posts or submitting student work to an online repository.

The text contains many online activities, sample research artifacts, and instructional handouts. Some require on Ohio State student authentication. The text is still useful without access to these materials, though an instructor would have to alert students to this issue.

Text was proofread well.

Didn't see any culturally insensitive content.

Reviewed by Jonathan Grunert, Assistant Professor of Library Services: Information Literacy Coordinator, Colorado State University - Pueblo on 2/1/18

This textbook covers the concepts found in the ACRL frameworks in a way that is meaningful and accessible to academic researchers at all levels. It adequately provides a discussion of the complete research process, with clear signposts as to which... read more

This textbook covers the concepts found in the ACRL frameworks in a way that is meaningful and accessible to academic researchers at all levels. It adequately provides a discussion of the complete research process, with clear signposts as to which steps writers might need to revisit to improve their work.

The content appears to be accurate to 2016, with some acknowledgement that finding sources is an activity that has seen many changes in the past few decades, and will likely seem more, and rapidly.

Information discovery and retrieval is a rapidly changing process in a changing field. But much of the content in this textbook—as far as general advice and instruction for finding resources and the ways to use them—remains relevant. As information processes change and as information uses change, I have no doubt that librarians will be at the forefront of maintaining the relevance of a textbook like this one through various edition changes.

This textbook is clear, and accessible to researchers at all levels. Jargon, where present, is well-explained, and the contexts for the various components of the textbook are provided.

The text and frameworks in this book are consistent with ACRL frameworks as well as with the ways librarians tend to talk about finding and using sources. Furthermore, the book consistently uses the same terminologies to clearly explain sometimes difficult practices.

I would be very comfortable using any chapter of this book to teach a component of the academic research process. The chapters are discrete, with well-defined boundaries. The modularity of this textbook helps reinforce the overarching idea in this book: the iterative research process. Students might read the chapters in virtually any order, and come away with a valuable understanding of the research process.

This textbook presents the research process in the way that many students and faculty think about the process—from the perspective of the end goal, and through the organizational structure of an academic paper. But, it also indicates throughout the process places when the researcher needs to revisit an earlier step, to modify the project, or to make the end product more meaningful.

No issues in the interface; nothing distracting from the content.

Some minor punctuation errors, but no grammatical errors that distract from the content.

This textbook comes from an American perspective for ways of searching for, retrieving, and using information, as well as the traditionally American ways of constructing arguments. Though there is not discussion of other cultural ways of arguing academically, this textbook does not dismiss or otherwise denigrate other cultures; nor is it insensitive in any way.

Many examples are university-specific to the libraries at Ohio State University, as should be expected from a textbook such as this. As such, this book will be most helpful to students using the book at OSU. However, instructors using this book need to be aware of this focus, and must prepare to supplement with materials accessible by researchers outside OSU.

Reviewed by Susan Nunamaker, Lecturer, Clemson University on 2/1/18

This textbook is comprehensive. It goes in-depth covering the topics of research questions (specifically how to narrow down topics), types of sources, sources and information needs, precision searching, search tools, evaluating sources, ethical... read more

This textbook is comprehensive. It goes in-depth covering the topics of research questions (specifically how to narrow down topics), types of sources, sources and information needs, precision searching, search tools, evaluating sources, ethical use of sources, how to cite sources, making an argument, writing tips, copyright basics, fair use, and roles of resource sources. The textbook hits all of the topics that I plan to cover in my upcoming classroom-based research course with the exception of techniques for completing and writing a literature review. The textbook touches on the topic through a section on "background reading", but does not go in-depth. Otherwise, the textbook covers every aspect of academic research.

I found no errors or bias issues in my initial first read of the textbook.

The information and techniques provided within this textbook are up-to-date and relevant for academic research. I reviewed several textbooks before choosing this one for my upcoming masters-level classroom-based research course. I chose this book because of its relevance in regard to the practical skills needed in order to complete research assignments within the course, as well as, writing a capstone research paper.

This textbook is clear and exceptionally readable. It is organized by research skills in an order that makes sense to the reader. For example, the book begins with a chapter on choosing one's research question. Verbiage is clear and concise for all levels of academia to be able to effectively utilize this text.

This textbook is consistent in terms of terminology and framework. Each chapter of the textbook builds on the last. The reader is not necessarily expected to have prior knowledge of research before reading chapter one, but should easily be able to have a good frame of reference for academic research by the end of the textbook due to its high-quality framework for scaffolding knowledge with each chapter.

This textbook does a great job of sectioning academic research into small bites for the reader. It was easy for me to create modules from the textbook's chapters, spreading the information within the text over an 8-week course. The modularity of this textbook was a selling point for utilizing the textbook with students.

This is a well-organized textbook. Each chapter builds on prior chapters. Chapters are organized in a logical manner. The first chapter begins with the purpose of research questions and builds content to assist the reader in narrowing down options for research questions. The textbook progresses to assist the reader in building skills as an academic researcher throughout the textbook.

No interface issues were discovered during my initial exposure to the online format. I printed the PDF (because I still love paper) and all display features printed properly. The online navigation is easy to use and pleasing to the eye, as well.

No grammar issues were detected during my initial review of the textbook.

This text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in my opinion.

This is an excellent textbook if you are looking to utilize it to introduce students to the academic research and writing process. Its layout and design and conducive to module-based instruction, and the content is well thought out and beneficial.

Reviewed by Diane Kauppi, Library Faculty, Technical Services & Systems, Ruth A Myers Library at Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College on 2/1/18

The text did a great job of covering the subject and the table of contents were laid out well. The content was well thought out. read more

The text did a great job of covering the subject and the table of contents were laid out well. The content was well thought out.

I found the accuracy to be good. The content is a good representation of what a student needs to know in order better understanding library research.

The content itself is good & should stand the test of time for the near future. The only exception is that even though it's only one year from the publishing date (2016) many of the links are broken. And I would have preferred a OER text that was geared more generally for application to any institution vs. the inclusion of OSU specific references, links, resources.

For a text written to a 4-year university/college audience the text was good. For a 2-year community college audience some of the terminology would need to be defined.

I found the consistency to be good. It followed through each section with including tips, activities, etc.

I think the modularity was good. And the text could easily be broken down into smaller sections to be used as units by themselves or refresher units. The only issue would be where there are links within a module that link to other modules. Add to this that these links didn't work-- I rec'd errors each time I tried a module link.

The overall organization and flow as great. As stated on p 6 ("... as though you are conducting a research project while reading them [the sections]...") this made my logical side happy.

I like the links to activities for students to practice the skills being taught. The problem though was that many of the links no longer work. Additionally, many of the links are to areas not available to users who are not affiliated with OSU. And as mentioned in another review section, module links to other modules didn't work either.

I found the grammar to be quite good with only a few exceptions or where it was clunky at times.

I thought the text was neutral in this area. Nothing that blatantly jumped out at me.

I appreciated the link to application of research to other areas of our lives outside of academic research. I try to get this point across to students, especially when they are hesitant and resistant to library research. I found the "tips" & "summaries" to be a nice added 'pop' & easy for referring back to later. I liked the bold letters/words for emphasis. And the suggestion to "brush up" on p 31 was a nice touch vs outwardly assuming they don't know. The downloadable templates are a great resource for students. Overall, I found the text to be a good resource.

Reviewed by Kristine Roshau, Instructional Technology Specialist and PT Faculty Librarian, Central Oregon Community College on 8/15/17

This text is extensive! Like the title suggests, it truly is a full guide to academic research, from developing a topic, finding sources, and using them appropriately. It also follows the logical order of the search process, from identifying an... read more

This text is extensive! Like the title suggests, it truly is a full guide to academic research, from developing a topic, finding sources, and using them appropriately. It also follows the logical order of the search process, from identifying an information need, evaluating source quality (and purpose), and how to perform complex searches. It also highlights several common areas where academic research can be performed, from the college library catalog to specialized databases and how to find academic sources on the free web.

The book also covers what to do once sources have been found, including the importance of properly citing sources, ethical use of source material, and how to cite unusual or non-standard source material. It then moves into addressing the writing process: developing an argument and idea, writing tips, and a large section on copyright, fair use, creative commons, and public domain.

The table of contents is very granular, which is helpful. The sections vary in length, but given the overall size of the book (190 pages) having a very specific TOC is useful when returning to the text as a reference source.

I did not find any objectionable or questionable content. The authors have done a good job of selecting examples for each section (often with associated online activities or examples linked out to the web) that are varied and unbiased, but also represent realistic examples of what students might be encountering during their research process. I was really pleased when looking through the section on citing sources - styles can change, but the book is written in such a way as to be comprehensive about the purpose of citing sources, and links out to many helpful web sources, citation tools, etc so the information will remain accurate in the textbook even if the style guides themselves are updated in the future.

The section on copyright is similarly done.

See previous note - it is clear the authors have taken care to include examples that will remain relevant, not evaporate into popular culture, and provide flexibility where the content may be updated or changes (such as copyright law and citation style guides). They do provide a LOT of external links and activities, not all produced by Ohio State. So it's possible that some of their links may break in the future. It does appear that they have made an effort to either link to open sources they control, or which are unlike to change significantly (ie: government websites).

If I were using this text, I would probably modify some of the resource sections (eg: databases) to reflect those that the students at my institution have access to, though the writers do make a point of identifying OSU access-only resources where applicable. I would also update the copyright/plagiarism section to include our college's student handbook blurbs, etc.

The tone is extremely approachable in all of the areas I checked. This is extremely important in academic research where there are a lot of areas of possible legal entanglement, and the authors have done a credible job of breaking down complex concepts into approachable prose and examples.

The textbook is consistent in both writing and structure; however, I do with the table of contents was split into sections in the same way the content is. Page numbers are given though, so that's not really a big deal. There were one or two places where I saw formatting errors, but nothing overly distracting - it did not adversely effect the content.

It is visually appealing and for the most part, easy to navigate. No huge blocks of text, and it also intersperses activities, tips, and examples. The text is also organized in such a way that it can be used as a reference, without needing to be read from start to finish in order to make sense, which is helpful for the researcher who may need to pop in for just pieces of the work.

However, there is a strong presence of external sources (often OSU library webpages) and activities that are linked out of the text. The writing itself is certainly standalone, but the book would lose a lot of its character if it were printed and not viewed digitally. I would have liked a References or bibliographic section that listed some of these resources, but there wasn't one, meaning the user would not be able to search for the resource if the linked text didn't work.

I can see the potential for too many asides for activities to be distracting, but they are generally held to the end of their relevant sections, so it wasn't too overwhelming. The organization follows a logical research process, walking the reader through from beginning to end.

As mentioned before, there are a few places where it looks like images have distorted the intended formatting, pushing items to empty pages, etc. But these instances are rare. A few of the images could be higher resolution, but they were certainly legible (and I was viewing this text at 125% zoom on a larger screen, so my experience is probably not representative of every reader).

It is long though, and I would have loved to be able to jump to sections through anchor bookmarks in the content page - that would be a nice touch.

I also found a few broken links, which is not totally surprising, given the volume of them in this book.

None noticed in this review.

No objectionable content found - the authors have chosen inclusive examples wherever possible, while remaining realistic about subjects students might be researching.

Not all of the links to activities are self-describing (there are no plain URLs, but many of the activity links contain the same 'Open Activity in Web Browser' text, which would be confusing if a user was navigating with a screen reader.

Reviewed by Deborah Finkelstein, Adjunct Professor, George Mason University on 6/20/17

The book is very comprehensive. The authors consistently explain concepts well and provide easy-to-understand examples that are approachable for the undergraduate audience. For example, the authors don’t just say, “narrow down your source,” they... read more

The book is very comprehensive. The authors consistently explain concepts well and provide easy-to-understand examples that are approachable for the undergraduate audience. For example, the authors don’t just say, “narrow down your source,” they go through steps to narrow it down, walking students through the process. (p 9) Very thorough. They also spend a page and a half giving examples of “Regular Question” vs. “Research Question.” (p 13-14) This ensures that students will understand the difference. They also do well with explaining fact vs. option, objective vs. subjective, primary vs. secondary vs. tertiary sources, popular vs. professional vs. scholarly magazines, when to quote vs. paraphrase vs. summarize, and other concepts that are critical to performing research.

The book does not have an index. The table of contents is quite thorough and very useful in understanding the breakdown of the book or locating certain topics.

The book is error-free.

There are many digital examples in the text. As long as authors make updates as technology inevitably changes in the future, the book should remain relevant.

The book has a conversational tone that is connective, trustworthy, and approachable for the undergraduate audience. This makes it easy to read and easy to understand.

The book is very consistent with tone, and terminology.

In the introduction, the book encourages students to “jump around a bit in this guide to meet your needs.” (p 5). The book stays true to this idea. Students could read the book straight through, but it is well-designed for “jumping around.” The sections stand alone, and instructors could easily assign sections in the book out of order. This book could be used as the only textbook in a classroom, or an instructor could use these modules to supplement an existing textbook. Topics are easily found in the book thanks to an excellent table of contents, a clear organizational structure, and a great use of headers.

The book is well-organized and follows a logical structure. Individual topics are also well-organized. The authors break processes into step-by-step, making is easy for students to learn.

Great use of visual aids. For example, there is a chart on how to narrow down research topic (p 9), and a chart on the roles of resources in research (p 179). These items are great for visual learners, and they make the text come alive while emphasizing important concepts.

The book shares links to outside sources. This provides students that would like more information that is beyond the book with resources. It additionally provides students links to activities, such as one that asks them if a source is primary, secondary, or tertiary (p 34). On occasion, it links to outside companies, such as citation management software, news outlets, and social media, making the book a resource. In this way, the book utilizes the medium of a digital book.

The book is free of grammatical errors.

The book is culturally sensitive. The book is designed for Ohio University students. Examples given occasionally apply to Ohio, such as when the authors are providing examples of newspapers, they list two out of six that are from Ohio, including the campus newspaper (p 43) There is also a link to the OSU Libraries’ newspaper database (p 44), and when talking about citation management software, they mention the three that are available at OSU. It’s not a large enough issue that one should not use the book; it’s still easy to understand, but it is a limitation and worth mentioning to students.

I teach a 300-level English class on performing research and writing research papers. I plan to utilize this book next semester due to the excellent organization of modules, the approachable tone, and the great explanations and examples.

Reviewed by Constance Chemay, Head of Public Services, Library Services; Asst. Professor, User Instruction, River Parishes Community College, Gonzales, LA on 6/20/17

The book does an excellent job covering the subject, and even goes beyond what its title suggests, with chapters on writing and formulating an argument. The chapters on copyright and fair use are exceptional. However, it lacks both a glossary and... read more

The book does an excellent job covering the subject, and even goes beyond what its title suggests, with chapters on writing and formulating an argument. The chapters on copyright and fair use are exceptional. However, it lacks both a glossary and an index. Some terms are defined in their appropriate chapters, but not all. Some students, particularly first-year or those who may be enrolled in developmental courses, would benefit greatly from a glossary. The activities, while appropriate for their contexts, are mixed in their effectiveness; some provide good feedback with clarification, but most offer little more than a smiley face for a correct answer or an “x” for a wrong answer with no other feedback.

For the most part, this book is accurate and unbiased, but one area where I noticed discrepancies is the chapter on citing sources. MLA released its 8th edition in April 2016, yet the examples provided are 7th edition. I also noticed errors in the example for APA; only the first word, proper nouns, and those following major punctuation marks are to be capitalized in article titles following APA formating guidelines. Regarding bias, the book is unbiased; however, I disagree with the discussion of news sources regarding mainstream versus non-mainstream (or mainline as used in the text); main-stream media includes "traditional" sources, e.g., television, newspapers, and radio, as opposed to online sources, especially social media. The authors’ inclusion of Fox News, a right-leaning national television news network, a contemporary of CBS, NBC, and ABC, as non-mainline rather than mainline shows bias, in my opinion. It’s difficult to find news from any news source, mainstream or not, right, left or center, that doesn’t have some bias or opinions in its reporting.

This textbook itself is written so that it will be relevant for a long time. However, there are some exceptions. The discussion of citation styles uses examples for MLA that reflect the 7th edition rather than the 8th, which was released in April 2016. The book covers this discrepancy somewhat with its tip regarding choosing a citation style, with its remarks that styles do change and its recommendation to check with one’s instructors. Another issue is the potential for link rot regarding external websites; in fact there are a few dead links in the text and activities already. A couple of online resources mentioned and linked to, IPL2 and the Statistical Abstracts of the US, have been retired for at least a couple of years, which makes me wonder about when the book was actually last reviewed edited.

The book is well-written, easy to read, conversational. Most technical language is defined and used appropriately.

This book is consistent in terms of its terminology and framework.

This book is extremely modular in its organization at the chapter level and within the chapters. It can be easily reordered to meet specific course or instructor needs. It does refer to other sections of the text, but these references are appropriate, emphasizing more in-depth information elsewhere in the book. Sections that are unique to OSU can be replaced/revised to make the text relevant to other institutions as needed.

It is well organized and reflects the processes and stages of research. While the research process is not linear, the topics are presented in a logical manner that guides students through the process. I did note that a couple of sections in chapter 7, on ethical use of sources don’t really seem to fit there, however. The paragraphs on page 118 discussing a lack of understanding of the materials and lack of time might fit better in other chapters.

While the online version works well, the PDF format has issues. Some of the in-text navigation links work (the TOC links) while others found throughout the text don’t, often giving an “error: unknown export format” message. There are also a few dead links in both the online and PDF formats, as well as in some of the online activities. Some links direct users to OSU Libraries’ resources, either their catalog or their licensed databases, but not all such links are clearly identified as such.

Grammatical Errors rating: 3

For the most part, this text is well-written, grammatically; however, it does have a few grammatical/typographical errors, possibly more than one might expect from a text of this length, and assuming that the author is most likely a committee rather than an individual, more eyes reviewing the text should catch such errors. There are also instances of tense inconsistencies, shifting from present to past in the same sentence. Two paragraphs on page 47, under “Finding Data in Articles . . .,” repeat the same four sentences verbatim in different order. This occurs again on page 88. While these are not grammatical errors, they are certainly editorial errors. Most of the online activities have typos, as well, more so than the textbook.

This textbook is not culturally insensitive or offensive.

I do like this book. I think it puts the topic in terms that students can readily use and understand. I'd even recommend the chapters on copyright and fair use to faculty! I do think that it could benefit from the inclusion of a glossary and an index, as well as regular and frequent review, especially in regards to the linked resources. The PDF version definitely needs revisions since it seems that most of the in-text referral links throughout the text don’t work. Since it is tailored to OSU’s library resources, any instruction librarian using the book can substitute content relevant to his/her institution; non-library faculty using the text can consult their own librarians for help with this.

Reviewed by Dawn Kennedy, Ed.S, Health Education, Anoka-Ramsey Community College on 4/11/17

Choosing &amp; Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research serves as an excellent guide for teaching the research process. It takes the learner through the process of academic research and writing in an easy to understand manner. As an educator... read more

Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research serves as an excellent guide for teaching the research process. It takes the learner through the process of academic research and writing in an easy to understand manner. As an educator in a community college setting, I am working with students who are new to the research process. This text will be useful when working with students to start developing the appropriate process of research writing. The text has neither a back-of-the-book index nor a glossary. It is beneficial that key terms are defined throughout the chapters.

The information presented in the text is accurate at this point in time and unbiased. One concern is that some of The information presented in the text is accurate at this point in time and unbiased. One concern is that some of the links do not work.

Content is up-to-date at this point in time. Most examples and exercises are arranged separately from the main text and can be updated as needed. Some of the content links to the Ohio State University Libraries databases which may not be assessable to students outside that institution.

This text is clearly written, well-illustrated, and user-friendly for the undergraduate audience. It avoids technical jargon and provides definitions where appropriate.

Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research is consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

Regarding the book’s modularity, users of this text can be selective in chapter choice. In this sense the text is useful to instructors and students who wish to focus on a single component and /or use the text as a reference. For a better understanding of the research process in its entirety, reading the text in the order written may prove to be more beneficial.

The text's organization mirrors the research process in a logical, clear manner. Chapters 1-8 lead the reader through the basics of research literacy and research skills; chapters nine and ten explain the process for making an argument and writing tips; Subsequent chapters zero in on copyright and Fair Use information. Key concepts and points are supported with highlights, examples and colorful illustrations.

The text displays generous use of visuals which are clear and free of distortion. The activities provided support the concepts and skills being addressed and are easy to navigate. One concern is the activities which are linked to Ohio State University may not provide access to all, resulting in limited access of information and frustration for the reader.

• The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

This is a text does an excellent job of explaining the research process in a logical manner. The text uses examples, illustrations, and skill practice to support the learning process. I recommend this text for use in it's entirely for teaching and learning the research process and as a resource for the rest of us.

Reviewed by Scott Miller, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Rogue Community College on 4/11/17

The book is very comprehensive and even goes beyond what might be expected in this kind of textbook. Along with choosing and using sources, the authors include a section on making an argument. Topics are dealt with appropriately and the text... read more

The book is very comprehensive and even goes beyond what might be expected in this kind of textbook. Along with choosing and using sources, the authors include a section on making an argument. Topics are dealt with appropriately and the text employs tests and activities along the way. I found some of the activities were not particularly well designed and sometimes answers to questions were based on assumptions by the authors as to context that in real life may or may not be appropriate. For instance, they claim that the periodical/journal title "Coral Reefs" is a scholarly journal, but judging by the title alone in a real life exercise there is no way to know whether it is scholarly or popular in nature.

There could have been more discussion about context and how it defines whether a sources is primary, secondary or tertiary. '

What the this textbook does not have is any kind of index or glossary, which I found disappointing.

I did not find any instances of inaccuracies in the text. I did find, however, some assumptions in the text that were not always warranted. I took issue with the assumption that mainline news sources are objective (p. 42). It is very clear that news articles are often biased. I think telling students that mainline news sources are objective effectively disarms instead of promotes critical thinking by students doing research.

On page 126 there is a discussion about using quotations where the authors say that all quotes are to be put within quotation marks. This is not true of block quotes in MLA or APA style and they omit any mention of it.

This textbook should retain its relevancy for several years, but it will lose its effectiveness very soon, since many of the dozens and dozens of links in the text will surely break before long. In the short term the links are a great feature, but they do severely limit the longevity of the book. I also found them annoyingly pervasive.

It should also be noted that the MLA citation example on page 122 uses the outdated MLA 7th edition guidelines.

Overall, I thought the book was very clearly written and easy to follow. The one section I struggled reading was the section on sources and information need. It seemed to want much more editing and was often wordy and almost obscure.

I did not notice any lack of consistency in terminology or framework.

This is one the book's strengths. It was clearly organized into topics and subtopics which sometimes could be addressed in an order chosen by an instructor. There were, however, occasional self-references to earlier sections or previously used external sources.

Moving from the simpler aspects of choosing and evaluating sources to the more complex uses of them and how arguments are constructed made good sense.

Interface rating: 2

I found the interface to have significant problems. At least a dozen links would not work from the PDF text when opened in Firefox. I often got the message, "error: unknown export format." The links seemed to work when viewing the text online, however.

The textbook's usefulness outside of Ohio State is severely limited by the frequent use of sources only available through OSU student logins. The textbook was written for OSU students, but it really fails as a textbook for any other institution unless it is significantly modified.

I found a few missing punctuation marks, and only two missing or wrong words in sentences. For a textbook this long, that's very good.

The textbook used interesting and non-offensive examples.

While it's a good textbook for choosing and using information sources it suffers from being too specifically written for OSU students, as well as including an overabundance of links that will reduce its longevity. Not including any kind of index or glossary is also a drawback.

Reviewed by Vanessa Ruccolo, Advanced Instructor of English, Virginia Tech on 2/8/17

Ch. 1 has a great overview of regular versus research questions and the difference between qualitative and quantitative research. Ch. 2 covers primary, secondary, and tertiary sources as well as popular, professional, and scholarly. Ch. 3... read more

Ch. 1 has a great overview of regular versus research questions and the difference between qualitative and quantitative research. Ch. 2 covers primary, secondary, and tertiary sources as well as popular, professional, and scholarly. Ch. 3 includes a source plan (i.e. what do you need the sources for and what is your plan). Ch. 4 gives tips and hints for searching on a library database. Ch. 5 gives different search options, like the library or Google Scholar. Ch. 6 is all about evaluating the sources you find, including clues about sussing out bias and thoroughness, as well as discussing currency of topic. Ch. 7 discusses why you should cite sources. Ch. 8 discusses ways to cite sources. Ch. 9 is looking at argument as dialog and what is necessary in that exchange and a recommended order of components. Ch. 10 covers quoting, paraphrasing,and summarizing and signal phrases. Ch. 11, 12 are copyright and fair use. Ch. 13 covers the roles or research.

I will use Ch. 1 and 2 in my classes, as I think the breakdown of research is useful and clear. Ch. 3 also has useful imbedded tools that will help students plan; Ch. 4 and 5 might be used as references post-library visit. I will also use Ch. 6 and Ch. 10.

I think the information provided for distinguishing scholarly, popular, and professional is helpful and I hope the resources help students understand good, reliable sources a bit better. The same is true for searching for sources, and I think the sections on search engines and evaluation of sources are going to be quite useful.

While the information on copyright, fair use, and why and ways to cite sources is fine, I won't be using these for my English classes as I find them not as helpful or relevant.

I think the book is quite accurate in terms of information provided. They use sources that both I and my students use, so clearly the book is addressing real needs in the classroom. It also makes suggestions that reinforce the concepts our librarians share with the students and instructors, so I find this to be extremely helpful.

The book suggests Purdue OWL, a source I also use; however, I realized this year that OWL was behind in updating some of the MLA citation changes. So that's something maybe for the book authors to note or address when recommending websites.

With that said, I think the book covers key specifics like university library websites, Google Scholar, and search engines, in broad enough terms to keep it relevant. Also, the graphics are simple and not dated, and there is one drawing of the "outernet" that shows what social media, Youtube, etc. would look like in the "real, outer" world. This drawing is the only thing I saw that might be dated soon, but its point is still solid.

Very easy to read, clear terminology and explanation of terms, and lists are also provided to help break up each page's prose, which means the information is presented in a visually clear form as well.

I think the consistency of terminology as well as the scaffolding makes sense on the whole. I didn't seem places where the language changed or seemed to have several writers or definitions.

Perhaps one of the best parts of this book is how each chapter is contained, succinct, includes an activity, but still builds on and with the other chapters. Each chapter is stand-alone and clear and easy to read online, or if you chose to print it. The creators clearly had the online reader in mind, however, and the chapter lengths and fonts are comfortable.

Overall, I like the organization, specifically for chapters 10-6. I would change the order of the final chapters so that Ch. 9 and 10 come before Ch. 7, 8, 11, 12. I would also move Ch. 13 "The Roles of Research" to earlier in the book, perhaps around Ch. 3 or Ch. 6. If I use these materials, I will reorder some of the chapters for my class so that the scaffolding and explanations work a bit more side by side.

Again, comfortable, easy-to-read pages, simple graphics and the charts used are helpful and appropriate. I especially appreciated that the authors didn't use images that showed people or figures that could both date the book and also make students feel talked down to - I hate images like this and refuse to use textbooks that incorporate them, so kudos!

Additional resources are easy to access.

I wish the email option (for sending yourself a page) pulled up a screen in which I could type the email I wanted it sent to. Instead, it pulls up Messenger, which I don't use.

The Table of Contents didn't let me jump to the chapter when I pulled down the menu. Was that just my computer/browser?

Now, I didn't read through as though I was grading (it is winter break, after all!) but nothing jumped off the page. If something had, if there had been a mistake, I would still use the text; if there had been several, I would have considered abandoning it for class. However, the information is still so good I i might have told my students to find the grammar mistakes as part of an assignment just so that I could use the research parts still; however, I didn't not see any.

No, nothing. Perhaps if the authors include more examples for citations they could pull from culturally different sources then, but the material here was so broad in terms of textual sources it was in no way exclusive.

I will be using parts of this book in my English classes. Well done to the authors - a helpful, free supplement.

Reviewed by Dale Jenkins, Advanced Instructor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech) on 2/8/17

Having taught freshmen how to write college research papers for the past 18 years, I gave the text high marks on addressing all of the key elements college students need to engage in academic research. read more

Having taught freshmen how to write college research papers for the past 18 years, I gave the text high marks on addressing all of the key elements college students need to engage in academic research.

The text implements content from a host of sources which is extremely useful, but the grammar needs a few tweaks.

This represents a strong aspect of the text. The writers did a good job of winnowing out unnecessary components of the research process, although my freshmen would not delve into the Fair Use and Copyright chapters.

The book gets outstanding marks on clarity. Students will find this to be a definite strength of the text.

The authors did a good job with consistency. I kept my students in mind as I evaluated this aspect of the text.

Students would find this book extremely accessible in terms of modularity. I don't see them being overwhelmed by the text or high-brow jargon.

I noted a logical progression to all thirteen of the chapters. Students in upper-level classes would find the chapters on Fair Use and Copyright more significant in their academic studies.

The hyperlinks and the interactive elements of the book will be extremely appealing to students as well as being substantive.

The book still needs some work in this regard. Pronouns don't always agree with the antecedents, and I noted several shifts in voice in the text.

The text doesn't have any instances of cultural insensitivity, and I pay close attention to this aspect of textbooks when I peruse them for potential use in my courses.

The hyperlinks, using different types of media, and the chapters on "Why Precision Searching?" and the discussion of plagiarism proved to be well-crafted and accessible for students. I also commend the authors for the lack of jargon that would leave students in its wake.

Reviewed by Jarrod Dunham, Instructor - English Composition, Portland Community College on 2/8/17

A very comprehensive guide to the writing of the research paper. I've taught research writing for several years, and this book covers all the material I'd typically cover in a class. Previously I've not used a textbook in that class, but I'm... read more

A very comprehensive guide to the writing of the research paper. I've taught research writing for several years, and this book covers all the material I'd typically cover in a class. Previously I've not used a textbook in that class, but I'm teaching an online section this term and find that the book offers a very effective substitute for the lectured and activities I'd otherwise be presenting in class.

This text is accurate and up-to-date with the most recent developments and issues in the field.

This text is very much up-to-date. It shows an awareness of changing conventions in academic writing, and emphasizes the latest technological tools for researching and managing citations. It frequently links to outside resources, which could be problematic in the event those resources were removed or relocated, but in practice I never encountered such an issue.

Clarity is one of the book's strengths. It is written in clear, simple, and concise prose, resisting the kind of "academese" that is frequently employed in textbooks and gives students a false impression of what academic writing should look like. I found all of the content very easy to understand, and, although it's intended for slightly more advanced classes, accessible for Freshman writing students.

The text is highly consistent, both in terms of the terminology it employs, its organizational structure, and its systematic incorporation of tips, learning activities, and quizzes.

The book is divided into 13 chapters, each of which addresses particular aspects of research writing and can be employed on its own, or in conjunction with other related chapters. I found that assigning chapters in order was generally perfectly appropriate, although there was no issue with assigning the odd chapter out of order - links to previous or later content are provided where appropriate, so students can easily navigate to other relevant sections of the text.

This text is very nicely organized. It moves from the beginning stages of the pre-writing process - choosing a topic and identifying appropriate guiding questions - through the research to the writing of the paper itself. I found that the organizational structure of the text very closely mirrored the structure I use myself in teaching research writing. As such, adopting this text for the course (and adapting the course to the text) was a delightfully straightforward exercise.

The interface of the text is excellent. It is very easy to navigate, very attractive, and all tools work as intended. Some features are only available to those with Ohio State University log-ins, which yields a handful of frustrating moments, but in general I didn't find this to be a significant issue.

The text is error free and written in a simple, accessible, and engaging style. It's not merely an easy read, but one that effectively models clear and concise academic prose for writing students.

To the extent such issues come into play, the text is inclusive and culturally sensitive. The content of the text is mostly neutral on such issues - they simply tend not to come into play - but I was pleased to find a comprehensive chapter on the ethical use of sources, which introduces an ethical dimension to the research and writing process that many students may not anticipate or otherwise be prepared to navigate.

Overall I was quite pleased with this text. In my online section of Research Paper Writing, I have assigned nine of the thirteen chapters, and am very pleased with the breadth of content covered thereby. With one exception, I've been able to assign those chapters in the order they appear in the book, which simplified the planning process for myself, and offers a structure to the course that will be more readily apparent to my students as well. Late chapters on Copyrights Basics and Fair Use struck me as unnecessary and a little off topic, but it is of course easy to simply not assign those chapters, and since this is not a print book they have no bearing on materials costs.

For an online class like the one I am currently teaching, this is an excellent primary text. Even in a face-to-face class it could prove to be a very useful supplemental text. Normally I resist the use of supplemental texts in face-to-face classes, but since this one is free it is ideal for that purpose: instructors and students can simply rely on it to whatever extent feels useful.

Reviewed by Jennifer Lantrip, Reference Librarian, Umpqua Community College on 2/8/17

This book is an excellent source for guiding undergraduate students through the research process, from understanding the purposes for doing research and writing a research question, to composing a thesis and contributing to a scholarly... read more

This book is an excellent source for guiding undergraduate students through the research process, from understanding the purposes for doing research and writing a research question, to composing a thesis and contributing to a scholarly conversation. Students learn where and how to find relevant sources and how to evaluate and use them ethically. The main text is supplemented with links to useful resources, videos, worksheets, examples, and exercises. These are all high quality sources, making this a comprehensive resource for teaching information literacy and the research process. While no index or glossary is provided, terms are well defined within the text. Links are provided to other sections within the text where terms are further discussed.

The content is error-free, unbiased, and accurate. Ideas and concepts are in accordance with the Association of College and Research Libraries’ “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education,” with the exception of several small sections that could easily be clarified or adapted.

The opening section of Chapter 3 states that researchers should find sources in order to meet their information needs. However, it states that one information need is “to convince your audience that your answer is correct or, at least, the most reasonable answer.” This should be clarified for students so that they understand that they should start their research with an open mind as opposed to looking for sources which support their predetermined thesis.

The section “The Sources to Meet Needs” in Chapter 3 states that convincing one’s audience is an information need and that students should find sources based upon what their audience would be convinced by. Researchers should not choose their sources based upon what would convince their audience, but rather upon what sources best answer their research question. The most relevant and highest quality sources should not be omitted from the research process because the researcher does not think that his/her audience would be convinced by them. It is part of the researcher’s job to educate and convince his/her audience why the chosen sources and the research are relevant and of high quality.

Chapter 13 mentions briefly, “Putting your sources to work for you in these roles can help you write in a more powerful, persuasive way—to, in fact, win your argument.” It is very important for researchers to make convincing arguments through using quality sources, doing quality research, and presenting the information in an understandable way. Students should understand that the goal of scholarly conversation is not to “win” arguments, but rather to contribute to the world’s shared knowledge. While one argument may hold for a time, it will most likely be refined in some way by future researchers.

The main content of each chapter is current and does not contain terms that will soon be outdated. Specific examples and exercises are arranged separately from the main chapter text and can be updated independently. Some of the content discusses and links to Ohio State University Libraries databases which are unavailable to students at other institutions. While some of this knowledge is transferable, the specific information about these databases is unique to OSU Libraries. It would be useful if this information could be generalized in the main flow of the text so that it would be applicable for students at other institutions.

This text is very readable and easy to understand. Concepts are explained clearly. Exercises and examples are provided to help students grasp each new concept. It is written in a casual tone that appears to make an effort to put its readers at ease while giving solid information about how to complete research and writing assignments successfully.

The terminology used in this book and its framework are consistent. Each chapter, chapter sections, examples, and exercises are organized in a consistent manner throughout the book, making it easy to follow. Students can refer to specific sections of the book or read it straight through. Because links are provided to sections of the book where important terms are defined or discussed further, students can easily jump to relevant sections of the book.

The book is divided into chapters and subsections which lead the reader seamlessly and logically through the research process. The book could easily be assigned to be read linearly, but it would also work well for instructors to assign specific chapters as applicable to the course content.

This book takes students through the research process in logical steps, from choosing and refining research questions, to producing and sharing what they have learned. For students who are unfamiliar with the research process, it would be most useful to read the book linearly as each chapter prepares students for future chapters.

This text is easy to navigate in both the PDF and online versions. Images are clear. There are currently no broken links. The contents in the PDF version could be made clearer by making a greater distinction between the main chapter and chapter section titles.

The text has negligible grammatical errors.

This text is not culturally insensitive or offensive.

I highly recommend this book for teaching information literacy and the research process to undergraduates.

Reviewed by Patricia Akhimie, Asst. Prof of English, Rutgers University-Newark on 2/8/17

This textbook does not include an index or glossary but is full-text searchable, returning a an easy to read and access menu of clickable search results to take readers directly to the desired information. In addition, an expandable Table of... read more

This textbook does not include an index or glossary but is full-text searchable, returning a an easy to read and access menu of clickable search results to take readers directly to the desired information. In addition, an expandable Table of Contents for the book is available as a tab so that readers can view an overview of topics and jump to other sections at any time. This textbook offers a review of research methods that is certainly comprehensive. Instructors will likely find that individual sections, rather than the whole work, are most useful in planning lessons and constructing student assignments in research based and writing intensive courses at the undergraduate level.

This textbook is accurate in its representation of research methods and of the reasoning behind these approaches. In addition, details about citation styles, and search tools, seem error-free. Treatments of the more complex aspects of research, such as constructing an argument, are unbiased and thorough.

The textbook should be useful to students and instructors for some time. It should be noted, however, that research software and citation styles are updated, though infrequently. Thus, the video walkthroughs of particular databases, for example, may be obsolete or misleading after some time.

This textbook is remarkably lucid and approachable for undergraduate readers. Discussions of complex ideas are illustrated with useful graphics that readers and instructors will find particularly helpful. The video walkthroughs are perhaps the most attractive illustrations for instructors. These guides will be appealing and easy to use for students intimidated by large databases and their idiosyncrasies.

The textbook is immanently usable. It is consistent in its tone as well as in its use of terms.

It is clear that this textbook has been designed with modularity in mind. Individual sections will be more useful than others, depending on the type and level of the class. In addition, sections can easily be assigned at different points over the course of a semester. For example, sections might be assigned at intervals that reflect the stages of the development of undergraduate student’s independent research paper. The section on formulating research questions might appear early in the semester, the section on citation styles toward the end.

The organization of the book reflects the stages of research. This means that navigating the textbook will be intuitive.

Navigating this textbook will be intuitive, the Table of Contents tab makes moving between sections very easy.

Readers will find the textbook free of simple typos and errors.

Readers will find the textbook inclusive. Some readers may find that the attempt made in the textbook to speak to research in the humanities, social sciences and sciences has meant that discussions can be vague at times but this is to be expected in a textbook on this topic aimed at a broad range of readers and researchers.

Reviewed by Heather Jerónimo, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Iowa on 2/8/17

This text is a comprehensive review of the various types of sources one might need to complete a research project or paper. The book begins with a clear explanation of how to formulate a research question, while the majority of the chapters focus... read more

This text is a comprehensive review of the various types of sources one might need to complete a research project or paper. The book begins with a clear explanation of how to formulate a research question, while the majority of the chapters focus on finding and evaluating sources. The topics in this text are well-chosen and reflect several aspects of academic writing in which beginning researchers might struggle, such as how to do a precision search, understanding biased versus unbiased sources, and how to decide between quoting or paraphrasing. This book is written at a level that undergraduates should easily be able to comprehend, while the content of the chapters gets increasingly detailed and complex throughout the book. There is no index or glossary at the back of the book, but there is a very complete table of contents at the beginning of the text. Readers might find it useful if the chapter titles in the table of contents were in bold, as the detailed breakdown of sections—while helpful—can be overwhelming when one is looking for the main categories of the book.

The text provides helpful and unbiased examples for how to do research in many different areas. The practice activities relate quite well to the content of the chapters, although some links do not work. One of the strengths of the text is its applicability in a general sense to many different types of research.

In most chapters the information is kept very general, allowing the text to enjoy relative longevity, as the process of how to conduct academic research, cite quotes, etc., likely will not change drastically in the near future. For example, in the section on databases, different types of databases are explained, but the author does not reference many specific databases to which students may or may not have access. With an understanding of the concept, students then are equipped to find the databases that pertain to their field and that are offered by their institutions. There are several references to Ohio State throughout the text that will not be helpful to all readers, but they do not impede the reader’s comprehension of the text.

It is a very readable text, written at a level that makes it easily accessible to undergraduate students. The author has avoided jargon that would be confusing to the readers.

Even though the book gives examples of various types of research and sources, it maintains a high level of consistency throughout.

The chapters are clearly divided in a way that allows the reader the option to skip between chapters or to read the chapters in succession. This text could be put to a variety of uses within the classroom. As an instructor, one could use it as a primary text for a Research Methods or Composition class. One could also suggest that students read only certain sections in a class that was not primarily focused on the writing of research papers but that had a research component. This text is a valuable how-to manual that students can reference throughout their academic journey.

The text has a logical organization and flow. The book transitions from more basic information at the beginning to more specialized knowledge in later chapters, allowing students to gradually become more immersed in the topic. The structure permits students to read the text from cover to cover, or to read only the information and chapters about which they are curious. The activities serve as good checkpoints to assess students’ knowledge and break up longer readings.

The interface of the text is easy to manage and does not distract from the content. The placement and accessibility of the activities provide quick and easy checks to assess whether students have understood the concepts of the chapters. The images support the text and are linked closely to the message.

There are few grammatical errors in this text.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. Like many textbooks, it could be more intentional in its inclusion of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, perhaps in the examples or practice activities.

Reviewed by Dr. William Vann, Information Studies Faculty, Minneapolis Community and Technical College on 12/5/16

While there is neither a back-of-the-book index nor a compiled glossary in this outstanding textbook (key terms are defined, however, throughout the chapters), one cannot deny its comprehensiveness. In fact, this text covers so much ground it is... read more

While there is neither a back-of-the-book index nor a compiled glossary in this outstanding textbook (key terms are defined, however, throughout the chapters), one cannot deny its comprehensiveness. In fact, this text covers so much ground it is unlikely to be used in its entirety for any single college course. Information literacy and research skills courses will find the first eight chapters to be a robust introduction to their subject matter, replete with interactive activities and auto-graded assessments. Composition courses engaged in research-based writing will likely work through the first eight chapters selectively, but then dwell on chapters nine and ten on argument formation and writing. Such courses may also benefit from the excellent chapter thirteen on Joseph Bizup's BEAM method of deploying research sources in scholarly communication. Chapters eleven and twelve on copyright and fair use, respectively, are likely to be used only by advanced undergraduates, faculty, and professional librarians, but they do serve as a handy reference nonetheless.

All of the chapters of this textbook contain authoritative and accurate information, in line with national information literacy standards and sound pedagogical methods for composition and critical thinking. The only section of the text I took issue with was the "Fact or Opinion" part of the second chapter, where the authors try to distinguish between fact, opinion, subjective information, and objective information. The authors' attempt results in claims like "the death penalty is wrong" being rendered as opinions, while claims like "women should stock up on calcium to ensure strong bones" are judged to be subjective information. Facts and objective information are superior, on this way of thinking, because they are the result of research studies, particularly empirical, quantitative ones.

I suspect that this way of drawing the distinction would do little to challenge the naive relativism most undergraduates bring to the classroom. (How many of us, when analyzing a text with beginning undergraduates, have had to entertain the question "Isn't that just the author's opinion though?") A better approach would be to talk about claims that are empirically justified (facts), claims that are justified, but not empirically (value judgments - "x is wrong", prescriptive claims - "women should do x"), and claims that are not adequately justified by any means (opinions). In this way, answering a research question like "Is the death penalty unjust?" is not merely an exercise in subjective opinion-making, but rather an exploration of reasoned argumentation, only some of which may be empirical or based on research studies.

The text is current and will likely be so for some time. Examples, activities, and tips are marked off from the main chapter prose, so will be easy to refresh when necessary.

There is no lack of technical terms in the world of information studies, but this textbook does a fine job of providing definitions where appropriate in each chapter. Concepts and methods are explained in context, and illustrative, easy-to-follow examples adorn each chapter.

The only area of the text that falls a little short on clarity is the interactive activities. These are usually multiple choice or matching questions, but some of the word choice in questions left this reader confused, and in some cases the instructions could have been more explicit.

Being authored by committee, we might expect this textbook to suffer in the consistency category. Yet it does not, thanks again to the fine editing job by Cheryl Lowry. Perhaps the book's provenance as a series of online tutorials put together by librarians and faculty at OSU is partly responsible for this.

As the authors suggest on the first page, the research process isn't always linear. So reading a text modeled on the research process oughtn't to be a straightforward chapter-by-chapter march either. Consequently, faculty and students can comfortably read this text selectively and skip chapters as needed. For the most holistic understanding of the research process, however, it would be sensible to work through at least chapters one through eight in their entirety.

I appreciate how the text's organization mirrors the research process itself. The first chapter takes on research questions, exactly where student researchers need to begin their projects. Subsequent chapters explore types of information sources, how to find and evaluate them, and finally how to deploy them in a well-argued scholarly product. The writing in each chapter is clear and crisp, with important concepts amplified by colorful visualizations.

As mentioned above, the chapters on copyright and fair use which occur near the end of the book feel like a logical interruption to the book's flow, and they might well fit more comfortably as appendices for occasional reference by advanced undergraduates, faculty, and librarians.

The "look and feel" of this textbook is clean and very intuitive to navigate through. The design strikes a pleasing balance between prose, graphics, and special formatting features like the explanatory, grey-background "TIPS" found in each chapter. Subheadings, bulleted and ordered lists, and judicious font choices make the text easy to read in all its online file formats.

One weakness of the interface is that several of the linked activities point to OSU Libraries' resources, thus requiring OSU authentication to be accessed. While it is understandable that the authors wanted to include their libraries' proprietary information sources in the activities - these are the sources their students and faculty will be using in actual practice, after all - this obviously makes this text less of an "open" textbook. Those outside of the OSU community who would like to adopt this textbook will therefore have to come up with their own replacement activities in such cases, or do without.

A few of the links in the text did lead me to a curious OSU server error message: "Error: Unknown export format", but I expect these links will be repaired as they are reported to the authors.

This textbook has clearly been edited with careful eyes by Cheryl Lowry, as grammatical errors are few to none. The grammatical hygiene of the text can probably also be attributed to its collective authorship - over a dozen librarians and faculty of the Ohio State University Libraries developed the content, which was born out of a series of online tutorials.

This textbook is culturally relevant in its use of examples and depictions of college students.

This text is a substantial contribution to the open textbook movement, and its quality easily meets or exceeds anything comparable in the commercial publishing arena. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Kelly McKenna, Assistant Professor, Colorado State University on 12/5/16

The book provides a thorough introduction and how to regarding sources in academic writing. With the exception of the first chapter on writing research questions, the rest of the book is focused on sources, which is relevant for any type of... read more

The book provides a thorough introduction and how to regarding sources in academic writing. With the exception of the first chapter on writing research questions, the rest of the book is focused on sources, which is relevant for any type of academic writing not just research papers. The information is relevant across disciplines and readable to a wide audience. It is clearly written for and geared towards undergraduate students, particularly from Ohio State University. The index is detailed making it easy to locate specific information and includes hyperlinks for clear navigation. A slightly altered index format would make the chapter topics more readily available and accessed. All subjects and chapters are aligned rather than clearly indicating each of the chapters found within the text.

Content throughout the book is accurate and clearly written. There does not appear to bias in reading the material. The book includes numerous resources linked throughout the text, however some are no longer active resulting in error messages.

Due to the significant number of links throughout the book, it is likely updates will be necessary on a consistent basis. These links are extremely beneficial, so ensuring they are accurate and up to date is essential to the content of this book. Much of the book reads as a "how to" regarding sources, so although practices for scholarly writing will likely not become obsolete the sources and technology used to locate the sources will evolve.

The informal tone of the text is engaging and applicable for the intended audience. The writers are aware of their audience, avoiding technical jargon. Also, throughout the book they provide numerous examples, resources, activities, and tips to provide insight and relevancy to students.

The structure of the book is clear and well organized with each chapter providing scaffolding for the next. Although the text is internally consistent regarding terminology there are formatting differences between and within some chapters. Blue boxes throughout the text contain tips, examples, answers, etc. Organization, readability, and consistency could be improved if these were constant throughout the text similar to the presentation of activities in the text.

Sections of the book could be easily assigned and read in isolation. Subsections of material are clearly marked and chapters are presented in organized fashion with clear delineation between segments. The inclusion of numerous activities, examples, resources, and tips improve modularity.

The book is created as a tool for students completing academic writing and follows this course. Topics contained in the book are presented in a clear and logical structure. As mentioned above, with exception of the first chapter, the material is relevant to all undergraduate academic writing, not just research.

The layout and display work well as a PDF or electronic book. Numerous visuals are included throughout and are free of distortion or other distracting or confusing issues. As mentioned above, the index could be improved by clearly articulating the subheadings as within a chapter.

The book contains minimal to no grammatical errors.

The book is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

Some sections of the book are specific to Ohio State University potentially limiting its relevancy and audience in specific chapters or sections.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Research Questions
  • 2. Types of Sources
  • 3. Sources and Information Needs
  • 4. Precision Searching
  • 5. Search Tools
  • 6. Evaluating Sources
  • 7. Ethical Use of Sources
  • 8. How to Cite Sources
  • 9. Making an Argument
  • 10. Writing Tips
  • 11. Copyright Basics
  • 12. Fair Use
  • 13. Roles of Research Sources

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Choosing & Using Sources presents a process for academic research and writing, from formulating your research question to selecting good information and using it effectively in your research assignments. Additional chapters cover understanding types of sources, searching for information, and avoiding plagiarism. Each chapter includes self-quizzes and activities to reinforce core concepts and help you apply them. There are also appendices for quick reference on search tools, copyright basics, and fair use.

What experts are saying about Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research :

“…a really fantastic contribution that offers a much needed broadened perspective on the process of research, and is packed to the brim with all kinds of resources and advice on how to effectively use them. The chapter on plagiarism is really excellent, and the chapter on searching for sources is utterly brilliant.”

– Chris Manion, PhD Coordinator of Writing Across the Curriculum at Ohio State University

“… an excellent resource for students, with engaging content, graphics, and examples—very compelling. The coverage of copyright is outstanding.”

– J. Craig Gibson Co-chair of ACRL's Task Force on Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

About the Contributors

Cheryl Lowry , training and education specialist, Ohio State University Libraries.

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Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students

The Ultimate Student Guide To Finding Credible Sources

Updated: January 24, 2023

Published: January 1, 2020

The-Ultimate-Student-Guide-to-Finding-Credible-Sources

When it comes to writing a research paper, it’s crucial that you use credible sources to make sure that the information you are stating is actually true. Knowing the difference between credible sources and unreliable sources doesn’t always come so easily with endless information flooding the internet. Thankfully, there are some simple tips that you can use to ensure that you are always using credible sources for research.

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that uses original research on a specific topic. There are many different types of research papers, ranging from a high school term paper to a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Books and a pair of glasses that belong to a student

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How to start a search for sources, 1. start simple.

If you’re wondering how to find sources for a research paper, the easiest and best way to start is simple! Just try browsing through some common search engines to see what you find.

2. Cross Wikipedia off

Wikipedia, although it’s a massive pool of information, should always be avoided when writing a research paper since it allows the public to edit information. Sites such as these often run the risk of lacking accuracy, and is not one of the most credible sources for research.

3. Yes to scholarly databases

Scholarly databases are your best friend when it comes to finding credible sources for research. Online scholarly databases that can be trusted and are known to provide useful information for students include LexisNexis and EBSCO.

4. Newspapers and magazines

Although sometimes biased, newspapers and magazines can also be a great place to find information about current events.

5. The library

While the library seems to be the most obvious place to find information, somehow it’s often forgotten when it comes to research in the modern age. Don’t forget how useful it can truly be!

Types of Credible Sources for Research

1. what are some credible websites.

Many online sources do not necessarily contain information that is correct or has been checked. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to make sure that you’re using the right websites for your research, with government and educational websites generally being the most reliable.

Credible sources for research include: science.gov, The World Factbook, US Census Bureau, UK Statistics, and Encyclopedia Britannica.

2. What are some credible journal articles?

When it comes to journal articles, determining how credible they are comes much easier than other sources. This is generally due to the fact that many of these websites will include valuable information such as how many times the article has been cited, and if its been peer reviewed.

Some great examples of reliable websites for journal articles include Google Scholar, Oxford Academic, Microsoft Academic, Cornell University Library, and SAGE Publishing.

If you are ever not sure how to find credible sources, then there’s the CRAAP test, which takes into account the Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose of the article. Take all of these factors into consideration before using a source and determining whether or not it’s credible enough. Even if it takes more time, you’ll be saving yourself tons of time in the long run by not using unreliable sources.

A group of college students working together to find credible sources for their research

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3. what are some credible news sources.

When it comes to news articles, more caution must be taken since it’s hard to know which sources are truly reliable and unbiased. The CRAAP test is also useful in this type of article for research.

A few examples of credible news sources include The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Washington Post.

The Credibility of a Source

As you search for your research information, you will surely come across the question of how to find credible sources for a research paper. Here are some criteria to focus on to ensure that you only use the most credible of sources.

1. What’s the depth of it?

Always look at the depth of an article, not just the written content. See how long the article is, and if it contains the necessary information such as an abstract, a reference list, and documented data.

2. Who is reading it?

When judging the credibility of an article, it’s important to always ask yourself who the target audience of the article is. Sometimes, sources have a specific goal in mind and it can create certain biases.

3. What’s the goal?

Just as you should do with the audience, also ask yourself what the article is trying to achieve. What is their ultimate goal and how are they persuading you of that?

4. Who wrote it?

Always ask yourself who wrote the article and how reputable they are in the specific field. Look at what other published works they have as well.

5. Can it be trusted?

Overall, it’s key to ask yourself how reputable the source is. What kind of website is it published on? Look at the big picture.

6. Is it relevant to now?

Look at the date of the article, or about the specific things they are mentioning in the article. If it’s from a few years ago, it’s probably not too relevant to your current research.

7. Can it be proven?

While an article may sound incredibly convincing, many people have a way with words and persuasion. Stop and ask yourself whether or not what they are claiming can actually be proven.

A master’s student questioning the credibility of the sources she’s found

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How to evaluate source credibility.

By using unreliable sources in your research, it can discredit your status, which is why it’s incredibly important to make sure that any information you are using is up-to-date and accurate.

Here’s how to find credible sources.

1. What is a credible source?

Generally, materials that have been published within the past 10 years are considered to be credible sources for research. Another important factor to consider is the author — if they are well known and respected in their specific fields, that’s also generally a sign that the article is credible. Educational and government-run websites (.gov, .edu) tend to also be a safe source to use, as well as academic databases. Google Scholar is also a no-fail source for reliable information.

2. What is a potentially unreliable source?

Anything that is out of date, meaning it’s been published more than 10 years ago should be avoided. Materials published on social media platforms such as Facebook or personal blogs don’t tend to be the most credible. Always make sure that an article contains proper citations and that the website you are using ends in .com or .org.

Free Resources For Learning

There are many free resources for research available known as open educational resources . They are licensed for free use, with the intention of teaching. They can be determined as credible sources for research if they have a Creative Common license, and if the author has proven to be an expert in their field. Always make sure that the content you are using contains no biases.

Sites For Scholarly Research

When performing scholarly research, it’s extra important to make sure that your sources are credible. Government-run research is considered credible, but beware of any political sites. University and educational websites also tend to be reliable, but still take everything you read with a grain of salt. Company websites also tend to be reliable, although their ultimate goal is usually to promote a product. Organizations which are .org websites can be professional and reliable, however, sometimes they also have their own interests.

Which Sites Can Be Relied On

The internet has no shortage of information out there. That’s why you’ll need these handy tips to determine which to use, and how to distinguish through the vast choices without feeling overwhelmed.

List of Credible Research Sources to Consider

1. government entities.

These websites tend to be reliable since they are highly regulated. Examples include the CIA World Factbook and the United States Justice Statistics.

2. Research Think Tanks

Examples of reliable research think tanks include Rand Corporation, Pew Research Center and The Milken Institute.

3. Academic Libraries and Databases

ProQuest, Scopus, and Jstor are great examples of academic libraries and databases that can be trusted.

4. Professional Standards Organizations

The American Bar Association and The American Psychological Association (APA) are highly credible sources when it comes to professional standards.

How to Write a Research Paper: Step-by-Step

Now that you’re an expert on finding credible sources for research, you’re ready to go! But how do you even start to write a research paper? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

For starters, it’s important to get clear instructions from your professor on what they want. The next step is to start brainstorming ideas for a topic of research. Once you’ve decided and feel confident about it, you’re ready to create your outline and plan out the goal of your research paper.

Befriend your librarian and start to search for quality and credible sources through a variety of means. Make sure you understand your topic from top to bottom before you start writing.  As you write, be sure to always keep things factual, and that you finalize your thesis statement throughout your paper — not just at the end. That’s what’s going to guide your writing. Be sure to always keep format in mind, never forget to cite your sources, and to never skip those edits and final checks.

Now you are ready to write a high-quality, fact-driven research paper that’s sure to impress your professors.

Related Articles

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Finding Sources

Gathering information for essays which require research: background, finding sources--explanation, primary & secondary sources, on-line(card) catalog, magazines & journals, indexes & abstracts, newspaper indexes, reference books, library of congress subject heading index, internet resources, knowledgeable people, interlibrary loan, reference librarian.

  • Exercise 6: Primary & Secondary Sources
  • Exercise 7: Sample Searches

Gathering sources is much more complex than it used to be. For starters, there are more resources available. Secondly, information can be gathered in a number of places. Your primary places for locating sources will be:

The library

  • Other computer sources (CD-Roms, etc.)
  • The internet/world wide web

This section provides an overview of important concepts and techniques in gathering information for research essays. You should read this section before going to more specific information on types of sources, documentation, etc. and before trying the sample exercises.

Find the computer labeled for searching the library's collection of books and other materials or the card catalog.  Most libraries have separate computers set aside specifically for searching the library's collections which do not require a reservation and are not time-limited as the open Internet computers usually are.  If you plan to use a computer for searching for Internet sources, make sure to respect the library's reservation system if there is one. 

The card catalog computer in the library usually will have instructions attached to it. Most library systems allow you to search by title, author, or subject headings, and most are cross-referenced. Filtering by books available in that specific location may be helpful also if you are limited in time and cannot wait for a book to be transferred from one library to another (interlibrary loan).  If you know which books you want, or know a specific author who has written books about the field that you are researching, then go ahead and use the title or author categories in the computer. You also may find it very helpful to use the subject heading category, which will offer you more options for the books that might be useful to you in doing your research.  Librarians are usually more than willing to assist with the search or in finding the sources once you have written down the call numbers of the books in which you are interested.

The subject heading category allows you to put in key words that might lead to books in your interest area. Don't limit yourself, though, by putting in words that are too narrow or too broad. If your search words are too narrow, you will not find many sources; on the other hand if they are too broad, you will not find the search useful either.

Key words are words that relate to your topic but are not necessarily in your thesis statement (note that it will be most helpful if you have a clear idea about your topic before you begin this type of research, although research can also help to narrow your thesis). For example, if you are searching for information about women in the Civil War, it would be too broad to enter just "women" and "war." You would find too many sources this way. It might also be too narrow to enter the name of a specific woman--you probably need more historical context. Try key phrases such as "women and Civil War" or "girls and Civil War." You want to find as many books that might be helpful on the subject that you are searching, without providing yourself with so much information that you lose sight of your original topic.

You will also discover that there is another great way to find books that might be helpful to you. As you find books on your topic listed in the computer, you can then track those books down on the shelf. After a few minutes of searching on the computer, you will start to see that certain books have call numbers (the number on the book's spine that tells its location in the library) that are similar. After you finish your work on the computer, ask a reference librarian, or follow the signs on the walls to locate the call numbers that correspond with your books. When you get to the section where your book is located, don't just look at that book. Look around, too. Sometimes you will find great resources that you were unaware of just by looking on the shelf. Because libraries are generally organized by topic, you can often find some real "gems" this way. Also check the index in the front or the back of the book (the one in the back is always more detailed, but not all books have one) to be sure that the information you are looking for is in the book. A book can have a great title, but no information. On the other hand, a book that doesn't seem to go along with what you are doing can turn out to have a lot of usable information.

Books are generally a great resource--they often contain a lot of information gathered into one place, and they can give you a more thorough investigation of your topic. As you are reading a book, journal article, or newspaper article, you should keep the following questions in mind, which will help you understand how useful the book will be to you.

  • Is the book or article biased in a particular way? For instance, is the book or article written by a person who is a member of a particular religious group, or a particular environmental group, for example, which would "color" their interpretation?
  • Does the author agree or disagree with my thesis?
  • Is the information presented accurately, to the best of your knowledge? Is the author him/herself using valid sources?

Periodicals

Magazines (including Time or Newsweek) are called periodicals as they are published periodically (weekly, monthly, etc.). Most libraries only keep the most current issues of these magazines on the shelf. The rest are bound together in collections, usually by year. These are usually kept in a separate room (in the basement, to my experience!) where you can go and look at them. Usually, the location is a place called "the stacks," which is where you go to look for periodicals that are older than the current issue. Remember that you can't take these out of the library. If you find articles that you want to take home, you need to photocopy them. Newspaper articles are sometimes in the bound periodicals, but are more often found on microfiche or microfilm.

Make sure to distinguish between general interest magazines and professional journals; this is an important distinction in college-level research.

Microfiche or microfilm is a device which can be extremely frustrating. Don't hesitate to ask for help from your nearby reference person. Microfiche or microfilm comes in two forms--small cards of information (fiche), or long film-type strips of information (film). Once you insert these into the microfiche or microfilm machine (and there are separate machines for each), you will be able to see the text of the article that you are looking for. Often, you will have to scan through quite a bit of film to find what you are looking for. Microfiche and microfilm are kept in boxes, and sometimes you have to request the date that you are looking for. Don't give up! With persistence, you can find some wonderful resources on microfiche and microfilm.

Other computer resources (CDROM, specialized databases etc)

Many libraries today, especially if they are larger libraries, have information available on CDROM or through what are called specialized databases. Be sure to tell a reference librarian what you are working on, and ask her advice on whether or not there is information available on CDROM or through a specialized database.

CDROM's often are put out by groups such as History Societies (there is an entire set on the Civil War, for example). Government documents are currently available on CDROM and often offer updated information (census data, for example). The reference librarian can tell you which CDs might be the most helpful and can help you sign them out and use them.

There are many specialized databases. Some examples are ERIC, the educational database, and Silver Platter, which offers texts of recent articles in particular subjects (yep, the whole article is available right through the computer, which is often less time-consuming than looking through the stacks for it) The American Psychological Association has the titles of articles on specific subjects (psychology, sociology, etc). Sociofile is another example. Ask your reference librarian to see exactly what is available. One good thing about specialized databases is that you already know the source and orientation of the article. You also know that the source is a valid and reputable one. You will need the reference librarian's help getting into specialized databases--most libraries require that the databases have passwords. Warning: Bring your own paper if you plan on doing this type of research! Many libraries allow you to print from the databases, but you must supply your own paper.

Internet/Web Research

Internet research is another popular option these days. You can research from home if you have internet search capabilities, or you usually can research from the library. Most libraries have internet connections on at least a few computers, although sometimes you need to sign up for them in advance. Even if there doesn't seem to be much of a crowd around, be sure to sign up on the sheet so that you don't have someone come along and try to take your spot.

Internet research can be very rewarding, but it also has its drawbacks. Many libraries have set their computers on a particular search engine, or a service that will conduct the research for you. If you don't find what you are looking for by using one search engine, switch to another (Google, Yahoo, etc... are all good choices).

Internet research can be time consuming. You will need to search much the way you would on the library database computers--simply type in key words or authors or titles, and see what the computer comes up with. Then you will have to read through the list of choices that you are given and see if any of them match what you think you are looking for.

WARNING ABOUT INTERNET RESEARCH: There are a lot of resources on the internet that are not going to be valuable to you. Part of your internet research will include evaluating the resources that you find. Personal web pages are NOT a good source to go by--they often have incorrect information on them and can be very misleading. Be sure that your internet information is from a recognized source such as the government, an agency that you are sure is a credible source (the Greenpeace web page, for example, or the web page for the National Institute of Health), or a credible news source (CBS, NBC, and ABC all have web pages). A rule of thumb when doing internet research: if you aren't sure whether or not the source is credible, DON'T USE IT!! One good source to help you determine the credibility of online information is available from UCLA: Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources. Check out the Content and Evaluation and Sources and Data sections. (Click  here for that source.)

Taking notes, paraphrasing, and quoting

Taking notes is an important part of doing research. Be sure when you take notes that you write down the source that they are from! One way of keeping track is to make yourself a "master list"--a number list of all of the sources that you have. Then, as you are writing down notes, you can just write down the number of that source. A good place to write notes down is on note cards. This way you can take the note cards and organize them later according to the way you want to organize your paper.

While taking notes, also be sure to write down the page number of the information. You will need this later on when you are writing your paper.

  • What do I take notes on? Good question. You should take notes on ideas and concepts that you think are important to include in your paper. You also can include supporting examples that you think would be helpful to refer to. You should NOT write the words down exactly as they appear on the page, unless you are putting them in quotations. Otherwise, you might accidentally write them into your paper that way, and that would be plagiarism. Be sure to write down the page number that you are working from in case you want to refer back to it. Click  here to learn more about Taking Notes.
  • Using quotes, or What if I want the exact words? If you come across a passage in your reading and it seems to you that the author's language is more accurate, more touching, or more informative than you could create, then you should write that sentence down exactly as you see it, with quotation marks around the sentence(s). You must be very careful to record the page number that this information is from, because you will need to include it in your paper. Quotes should not be used terribly often--if your paper is nothing more than a series of quotes strung together (and yes, we have all written those!) then you need to go back and include more of your own information. Click  here to see an example and to work more with using quotations.
  • What about summarizing and paraphrasing? Summarizing and paraphrasing are similar to quoting in that you are recording the author's ideas. However, when you are summarize or paraphrase, you record ideas as opposed to exact language; the language is yours. Once again, be sure to jot down the page number--you will need it later. Any time you summarize or paraphrase, you MUST acknowledge the source of your information. Not only is it a professional requirement, it is a way to avoid plagiarism. To see an example, read more specific information, and work with exercises, check out Summaries and Paraphrases .

Documentation

Any time that you use information that is not what is considered "common knowledge" (rule of thumb--knowledge included in three or more sources), you must acknowledge your source. For example, when you paraphrase or quote, you need to indicate to your reader that you got the information from somewhere else. This scholarly practice allows your reader to follow up that source to get more information. You must create what is called a citation in order to acknowledge someone else's ideas. You use parentheses () in your text, and inside the parentheses you put the author's name and the page number (there are several different ways of doing this. You should look at your course guide carefully to determine which format you should be using). Two standard formats, MLA and APA, stand for the Modern Language Association, and the American Psychological Association. Check out more specific information on how to document sources .

Using sources to support your ideas is one characteristic of the research paper that sets it apart from personal and creative writing. Sources come in many forms such as magazine and journal articles, books, newspapers, videos, films, computer discussion groups, surveys, or interviews. The trick is to find and then match appropriate, valid sources to your own ideas.

But where do you go to obtain these sources? For college research papers, you will need to use sources available in academic libraries (college or university libraries as opposed to public libraries). Here you will find journals and other texts that go into more depth in a discipline and are, therefore, more appropriate for college research than those sources written for the general public.

Some, though not all, of these sources are now in electronic format, and may be accessible outside of the library using a computer. The SUNY Empire State University web site includes a useful list of online learning resources .

Primary sources are original, first-hand documents such as creative works, research studies, diaries, and letters, or interviews you conduct.

Secondary sources are comments about primary sources such as analyses of creative work or original research, or historical interpretations of diaries and letters.

You can use a combination of primary and secondary sources to answer your research question, depending on the question and the type of sources it requires.

If you're writing a paper on the reasons for a certain personality disorder, you may read an account written by a person with that personality disorder, a case study by a psychiatrist, and a textbook that summarizes a number of case studies. The first-hand account and the psychiatrist's case study are primary sources, written by people who have directly experienced or observed the situation themselves. The textbook is a secondary source, one step removed from the original experience or observation.

For example, if you asked what the sea symbolized in Hemingway's story "The Old Man and the Sea," you'd need to consult the story as a primary source and critics' interpretations of the story as a secondary source.

Again, find the computer labeled for searching the library's collection of books and other materials or the card catalog.  Most libraries have separate computers set aside specifically for searching the library's collections which do not require a reservation and are not time-limited as the open Internet computers usually are.  If you plan to use a computer for searching for Internet sources, make sure to respect the library's reservation system if there is one.  Look up sources by author, title, or subject.  Most of the searches that you do for a research paper will be subject searches, unless you already know enough about the field to know some standard sources by author or title.

When using an on-line catalog or a card catalog, make sure to jot down the source's name, title, place of publication, publication date, and any other relevant bibliographic information that you will need later on if you choose to use the source in your research paper. Also remember to record the call number, which is the number you use to find the item in the library.

Magazines are written for the general public, so they contain articles that do not present a subject in depth.

Journals are written by and for professionals in various fields and will provide you with in-depth, specific information.

Your professors will expect you to use some journals; in fact, the more advanced your courses are, the more you should be using journal articles in your research (as opposed to magazine articles).

How do you find articles to answer your research question?  It's inefficient to go through volumes of magazines and journals, even if you could think of appropriate ones. Most magazine and journal articles are referenced in either an index or an abstract.

An index lists magazine or journal articles by subject. Find the correct subject heading or keyword to search for articles. Write down all the information for each article. Check the index's abbreviation key if you can't understand the abbreviations in the entry. Make sure to write down all of the entry's information so you can find the article IF your library carries the magazine or journal. If not, you can use the information to request the article through interlibrary loan.

Specific indices (the "correct" plural of index) exist for journals in just about every field of study (Business Index, Social Science Index, General Science Index, Education Index, and many more), while there's only one major index to general interest magazines (The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature). Many libraries have many of these indices on their on-line systems; check with the reference librarian if you have a question about indices available on-line.

An abstract is like an index with a brief description of the article's content added. You'll soon see that it's great to be researching in a field that has an abstract, since this short explanation can help you make an early decision about the relevance of the article to your research question or working thesis.

A bound, printed abstract takes two steps to use. The first step is the same--find the appropriate subject heading in the index portion and write down all of the information in the entry. Note that the entry will also include a number or some kind of an identifying code. Then use the number or code in the "abstracts" portion to find a description of the type of information that's in the article.

Many libraries have abstracts in CD-ROM form. Because indexes will be accessed in different ways and because the technology is changing so rapidly, follow the on-screen instructions and/or ask the reference librarian.

Again, if an article seems appropriate, write down all of the entry information so you can find the article in your library or through interlibrary loan and so you'll have the information for your works cited or references list at the end of your paper.

The most commonly used index to newspaper articles is the New York Times Index, organized alphabetically by subject. Find the appropriate subject heading and jot down the information so you can find the article, which is usually on microfilm, unless you're dealing with a very recent issue of the Times. Your local newspaper also may publish an index, which may be useful if you are researching local history or politics.

There are many general reference books that may be useful to your research in a variety of ways.

  • General Encyclopedias (Britannica, Americana, etc.)
  • Specialized Encyclopedias (e.g., music or medical terms)
  • Facts on File, Statistical Abstracts
  • Other reference books

Encyclopedias provide background information about a subject. Note that you should confine your use of encyclopedias to background information only, since their information is too general to function as an appropriate source for a college paper.

Specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries provide background in specific fields (e.g., a dictionary of music terms, a biographical encyclopedia of American authors, explanations of legal terms).

Facts on File and Statistical Abstracts provide brief bits of statistical information that can aid your research. For example, if you're doing on a paper on airline safety since deregulation, it's a safe bet that you can find statistics on airline safety problems in one of these reference books.

Other reference books abound (e.g., Book Review Digest, medical, and legal dictionaries). Take time, at some point, to browse your library's shelves in the reference section to see how many different types of reference books exist and to consider how you may use them. It will be time well-spent.  Remember to write down all of the information that you need from these sources as they are almost always not allowed to be used outside of the library.

The Library of Congress provides an indexing system; most academic libraries index their books using Library of Congress subject headings. The Library of Congress publishes a Subject Heading Index listing all of the subject headings that they use.

Why bother knowing this information? The Subject Heading Index is a good tool for you as a researcher. If you're not getting exactly the right books you need through your on-line subject search, check this index to find the appropriate subject heading to use.

If you are finding too much information, check this index to see at a glance all of the various headings and sub-headings for the subject. You can get an idea of how to narrow down and focus your subject simply by scanning these various headings and sub-headings.

Just note that these subject headings relate to books only. Magazine and journal indexes and abstracts will use their own subject headings (but the Library of Congress headings can at least give you an idea of the types of headings to use).

The important thing to remember here is that, by the time a book is printed, the information is at least a couple of years old. So if you're doing research that requires very recent information, a newspaper, magazine, or journal is your best bet.

If the age of the information is not an issue (and it's not, in many cases), then a book's fuller treatment of a subject is a good choice.

It's also useful to move from virtual cyberspace into actual, physical space and "real time" when you search for books. That means that you should get yourself into the library. Sometimes a look through the stacks (the shelves on which the books are located) will turn up additional information that's relevant to your research question or working thesis.

The Internet provides access to a lot of information. The SUNY Empire State University Online Library provides access to a number of useful databases on a wide variety of topics. The Internet provides access to many on-line catalogs so you can review the types of books available in the field (and carried by that particular library).

The Internet also provides access to a few full-text electronic journals (which means that you can read and print the article right from the screen). Government information (e.g., policy statements, laws, treaties) are also widely available in full-text format.

You can even find other writing resources .

The Internet can link you up with individuals who might have expertise on the topic you are researching. You can find these people by joining electronic discussion groups (newsgroups) or maillists. These forums are usually categorized by topic (e.g., a maillist on ECOLOGY). By posting a question to the group or maillist, you can obtain useful information from knowledgeable people willing to share their expertise.

The one big problem with the Internet is that you sometimes need to sift . . . and sift . . . and sift through it to find exactly what you want. You also have to be critical of what you find, since anyone can post and even change anything that's out there in cyberspace, and you won't necessarily know if someone answering your query is really an expert in the field. But if you persevere, and even if you just play around with it, the Internet can offer some gems of information in a quick, easy way.

Don't underestimate the power of interviewing knowledgeable people as part of your research. For example, if you're researching a topic in local history, consult the town historian or a local resident who experienced what you're researching. People who have "been there" and "done that" can add a real richness to your research. (For example, who better than a former Olympic athlete to provide information about the emotional effects of athletic competition?)

You can consult knowledgeable people in print as well. If you find one or two names that keep popping up in your research (if others consistently refer to these names and list works by these people in their bibliographies), then you should consult sources by these people, since it's likely that they are considered experts in the field which you are researching.

If your library doesn't carry the book or journal article that you need, you probably can get that source through interlibrary loan. Interlibrary loan is available to all SUNY Empire faculty, staff, and students, and it supplies electronically delivered book chapters and journal articles but no physical media.

One big tip for using interlibrary loan: you will need full and specific information to order the material. So get in the habit of writing all of the information down as you compile your list of sources. For books, write down the author, title, publisher, place, and date of publication. For articles, write down the article title, journal title, author, volume, date, span of page numbers, and the name, year, and page number of the reference source in which you found the article listed. The library needs this information to order your source. More information can be found here Interlibrary Loan FAQs .  If you are using the computer in a public library, many times the request for interlibrary loan is a link directly from the page on which the material you wish to use is listed.  Be sure to keep your library card up-to-date and handy!

Don't be afraid to approach this person, who really is there to help you.

One big tip for working with a reference librarian: you'll get more help the more specific you are. The librarian will immediately be able to suggest a number of places to look if you tell him that your research question is "Why was smoking banned in public places?," or if you tell her that your thesis is "Smoking should be banned in the workplace because of health, safety, and economic reasons." On the other hand, if you tell the librarian that you're researching "smoking," you won't get as much direct help because the topic is so vast.

Need Assistance?

If you would like assistance with any type of writing assignment, learning coaches are available to assist you. Please contact Academic Support by emailing [email protected].

Questions or feedback about SUNY Empire's Writing Support?

Contact us at [email protected] .

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13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Locate and create primary research materials.
  • Apply methods and technologies used for research and communication in various fields.

Introducing Research as Evidence and Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography explain the difference between primary and secondary sources in the research process. Almost all of the source-gathering information in this chapter thus far has focused on gathering secondary sources. However, your research assignment may require that you use primary sources—not only those you find in the library but also those you create yourself, outside the library, by doing field research , also called fieldwork .

Conducting Field Research

If not applicable for this class, you may be asked at some point in your college career to conduct fieldwork, which is considered primary research (the collection or development of primary sources). You may already have engaged in primary research by performing experiments in a laboratory for a science course or by documenting your observation of a musical or artistic performance.

Fieldwork is the kind of research done when a person goes out into the “field” to collect data. This term is often used by both biologists, who may observe nature to understand plant growth, and anthropologists, who observe people to understand human cultural habits. Social scientists interested in language use and development, for example, have borrowed the term fieldwork to describe the ways they collect data about how people learn or use language. In fact, fieldwork is common to subjects such as education, medicine, engineering, sociology, journalism, criminology, and advertising.

Different disciplines—and different rhetorical situations—require different kinds of fieldwork. If your task, for instance, is to find out what consumers think of a new product, you may need to create and distribute a survey or questionnaire. If you want to find out how many people stop at a certain fast-food restaurant along the highway just to use the restroom, as compared with the number of customers who purchase food, you will have to spend some time observing the location.

No matter what kind of data you collect, the way you represent your research in your written work requires careful attention to fairness and accuracy. These ideas are particularly important when you write about the people you interview or observe. The way you represent them, as well as their words and actions, may present challenges. Be aware of those challenges by considering personal biases as you write about your research participants. Finally, be considerate of interviewees’ time, and acknowledge their help by sending a follow-up email thanking them.

Planning Field Research

Unlike a library, which bundles millions of bits of every kind of information in a single location, “fields” are everywhere, including the campus of your university (academic departments, administrative offices, labs, libraries, dining and sports facilities, and dormitories) as well as the neighborhood beyond the campus (theaters, restaurants, malls, parks, playgrounds, farms, factories, schools, and so on). Field information is not cataloged, organized, indexed, or shelved for your convenience. Obtaining it requires diligence, energy, and careful planning. Some considerations are listed below:

  • Think about your research question. What field sources might strengthen your argument or add to your report?
  • Select your contacts and sites. Find the person, place, thing, or event that you would see as most helpful to you. Will you set up observations, conduct interviews, distribute surveys, or use a combination of methods?
  • Schedule research in advance. Interviews, trips, and events don’t always work out according to plans. Allow time for glitches, such as having to reschedule an interview or return for more information.
  • Do your homework. Visit the library or do a Google search before conducting extensive field research. No matter from whom or from where you intend to collect information, having background knowledge can help you make more insightful observations and formulate better interview questions.
  • Log what you find. Record visits, questions, phone calls, and conversations in a research log . From the very beginning of your research, enter information about topics, questions, methods, and answers into a journal, or use another record-keeping method. Record even dead-end searches to remind yourself that you tried them. This method of organizing information is the writing task for this chapter and will be discussed at length in Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills and Annotated Student Sample .

Observation

In general, fieldwork that relies on observation as a method of data collection involves taking notes while observing events, activities, people, places, animals, and so on. Observations can range from a single visit to one event or location to several visits over an extended period. Consider your research question and topic to determine whether you need to observe over time or just once to get the information you need. You can prepare for your observation by doing some of the preliminary work in your research log. At this time, consider the limitations of only one observation session, which may yield only partial information.

As you plan for your observation, and before you arrive, decide whether you will be a participant observer , which involves taking part in what you are observing. For example, if you observed a volleyball club meeting that you attend regularly, and thus know most of its members or join in activities, you would be a participant observer. You will need to consider, though, how well you will be able to focus on the observation tasks. How actively will you participate in the group/event? While participating, how frequently will you be able to jot down notes or otherwise document your experience? Might you become distracted and forget your observation tasks, and if so, how will you handle that possibility?

Another option is to be a nonparticipant observer. In this capacity, you try to let your presence go unnoticed. Although you are there and observing, you do not influence the situation in any way. If you sat in a corner of an art class at your university to observe what materials students use, for example, you would be an unobtrusive and nonparticipant observer.

When you observe, take detailed notes; without them, you may forget much of what you observed after you leave a site. After recording your notes in your research log, review and rewrite your observation notes as soon after your site visit as possible. Take precise notes, indicating the color, shape, size, texture, and arrangement of everything relevant as applicable. Pay special attention to any anomalies you notice in a situation. Visual images provide excellent memory aids, so consider sketching, photographing, or videotaping the site you visit. If you speak your notes into a recording device, you will also pick up the characteristic sounds of the site.

Your observation notes will become very important as you begin to analyze your data. When you have finished observing, review your notes to consider them for analysis. Ask yourself what kinds of questions or conclusions your observations raise. Record your questions and conclusions in the speculations section of your research log; this material serves as your tentative interpretation of observation notes. These questions and conclusions can help direct further analysis of what you have observed and what you write based on those observations.

For example, consider that you want to determine whether seating is an issue for students eating in on-campus restaurants. You might organize your observations, questions, and speculations as shown in Table 13.2 .

In the “Observations” column, the writer describes, whereas in the “Questions and Speculation” column, the writer evaluates the situation. The “Questions and Speculation” section is particularly important, as different observers usually will have different interpretations. Moreover, both columns might be different at different times of the day or on different days of the week. To increase the validity of your findings, you might get a second opinion on your interpretation by sharing your observations with a peer.

Researchers in the social sciences often use surveys to collect data from a large number of individuals or from groups of people. A survey is a structured interview in which respondents are all asked the same questions and their answers are tabulated and interpreted. A survey would be a good source of data if, for example, you were comparing the eating habits of students who eat off campus with those of students who eat in college dining facilities. Or you may want to conduct research that compares the overall eating habits of students in one on-campus dining facility with those of students in another. You might ask questions such as these:

  • How often do you eat at a campus facility? This question could provide several options to assist survey takers with some ranges.
  • When you eat on campus, which of these dining facilities do you choose? A list of the dining facilities you are comparing would follow this question to refamiliarize survey takers with the names of the venues.

For research purposes, respondents to surveys can be treated as experts because they are being asked for opinions or information about their own behavior. Design your survey questions to be answered quickly and to generate useful information about your topic. To get this kind of information, ask questions skillfully. What and who questions are easy for respondents to answer easily and accurately. Less valuable for a survey is a why question, which requires a more thorough and planned answer. Respondents are less likely to give the proper attention to a why question for this reason. Furthermore, wording that suggests a right or wrong answer reveals the researcher’s biases more than the subject’s candid responses.

The format of the questioning and the way the research is conducted also influence responses. For example, to get complete and honest answers about a sensitive or highly personal issue, the researcher would probably use anonymous written surveys to ensure confidentiality. Other survey techniques include oral interviews in which the researcher records each subject’s responses on a written form. Surveys are usually brief in order to gain the cooperation of a sufficiently large number of respondents. To enable the researcher to compare answers, the questions are usually closed, although researchers may sometimes ask open-ended questions to gain additional information or insights. Treated briefly here, surveys involve complex procedures for the designing of questions, distribution of the survey, and assessment of the results.

A complication arises when a survey requests sensitive information, such as personal experience with drugs, alcohol, or sex, from identifiable subjects. Colleges and universities have “human subject” boards or committees that need to approve any research that could compromise the privacy of students, staff, or faculty. Consequently, consult your instructor before launching any survey on or off campus. However, the simple, informal polling of people to request opinions takes place quite often in daily college life, such as every time a class takes a vote or an instructor asks the class for opinions or interpretations of texts.

In one case, a student who was writing a self-profile wanted to find out how others perceived her. First, she listed 10 people who knew her in different ways—her mother, father, older sister, roommate, best friend, favorite teacher, and so on. Next, she invited each to list five words that best characterized her. Finally, she asked each to call her answering machine on a day when she knew she would not be home and name those five words. ln this way, she was able to collect original outside opinion (fieldwork research) in a nonthreatening manner. She then wove those opinions into her profile paper, combining them with her own self-assessment. The external points of view added an interesting (and sometimes surprising) view of herself as well as other voices to her paper.

Conducting interviews is another method of gathering information. Consulting, interviewing, and using information gathered from professionals in specific fields can offer authoritative perspectives. Other possibilities include interviewing people who have direct experience with your research topic.

If you are comfortable talking to people you don’t know, then you have a head start as a successful interviewer. In many respects, a good interview is simply a good conversation. If you consider yourself shy, don’t worry; you can still learn how to ask insightful interview questions that will elicit useful answers. Before conducting an interview, determine whether it is more appropriate to use a formal question-and-answer session, an informal exchange of ideas, or something in between.

Your chances of gathering helpful interview material increase dramatically when you prepare ahead of time and formulate the questions you want to ask. Consider the following guidelines:

  • what information you need;
  • why you need it;
  • who is likely to have it; and
  • how you might gain it.

Most research projects benefit from more than one perspective, so plan on more than one interview. For example, to research Lake Erie pollution, you could interview someone who lives on the shore, a chemist who knows about pesticide decomposition, a vice president of a nearby paper company, and people who frequent the waterfront.

  • Know your subject. Before you talk to an expert about your topic, make sure you know something about it yourself. Be prepared to explain your interest in it, know the general issues, and learn what your interview subject has already said about it in books, articles, or interviews. ln this way, you will ask sharper questions, get to the point faster, and be more interesting for your subject to talk with.
  • Create a working script. A good interview doesn’t follow a script, but it usually starts with one. Before you begin an interview, write the questions you plan to ask, and arrange them so that they build on each other—general questions first, specific ones later. Your written questions can remind you to get back on track, should you or your subject digress.
  • Ask both open and closed questions. Different kinds of questions elicit different kinds of information. Open questions place few limits on the answers given: Why did you decide to major in business? What are your plans for the future? Closed questions specify the information you want and usually elicit brief responses: When did you receive your degree? From what college? Open questions usually provide general information; closed questions supply details.
  • Ask follow-up questions. Listen closely to the answers you receive. When the information is incomplete or confusing, ask follow-up questions to request clarification. Such questions are seldom scripted, so plan on using your wits to direct your subject toward the information you consider most important.
  • Use silence. If you don’t get an immediate response to a question, wait a bit before asking another one. ln some cases, your question may not have been clear, and you will need to rephrase it. But in many cases, your interview subject is simply collecting their thoughts, not ignoring you. After a slight pause, you may hear answers worth waiting for.
  • Read body language. Be aware of what your subject is doing while answering questions. Does the subject look you in the eye? Fidget and squirm? Look distracted or bored? Smile? From these visual cues, you may be able to infer when your subject is speaking most frankly, doesn’t want to give more information, or is tired of answering questions.
  • Take content notes. Many interviewers take notes on a pad that is spiral bound on top and thus allows for quick page flipping. Don’t try to write down everything, just major ideas and telling statements in the subject’s own words that you might want to use as quotations in your paper. Omitting small words, focusing on the most distinctive and precise language, and using common abbreviations are all techniques to make taking notes more efficient.
  • Take context notes. Note your subject’s physical appearance, facial expressions, and clothing as well as the interview setting itself. These details will be useful later when you reconstruct the interview, helping you represent it more vividly in your paper.
  • Record audio with permission only. If you plan to record the interview, ask for permission in advance. The advantage of recording is that you have a complete record of the conversation. Sometimes, when hearing the interview subject a second time, you notice important things you missed earlier. However, recording devices may make subjects nervous. Be aware, too, that transcribing a recording is time consuming. It’s a good idea to have a pen in hand to catch highlights or jot down additional questions.
  • Confirm important assertions. When your subject says something especially important or controversial, read back your notes aloud to check for accuracy and to allow your subject to elaborate. Some interviewers do this during the interview, while others do it at the end.
  • Review your notes. Notes taken during an interview are brief reminders of what your subject has said, not complete quotations. Write out the complete information as soon after the interview as you can, certainly within 24 hours. Supplement the notes with other remembered details while they are still fresh, recording them in your research log or directly into a computer file that you can refer to as you write your paper.
  • Interview electronically. It is possible, and useful, to contact individuals electronically. Phone interviews are quick and obvious ways of finding out information on short notice. Even better is asking questions via email, which is less intrusive than telephoning, as your subject can answer quickly, specifically, and in writing at a convenient time. Other electronic media for interviews include Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. All of these tools allow you to see the interviewee physically without having to travel for an in-person interview.

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How to Gather Information for Your Research Smartly

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A graduate student who works with me once remarked that he “wasn’t very good at doing literature searches.” I replied that researchers often spend as much time in the library as they do in the lab, and that he had better hone his skills at gathering information if he wanted to make a career as a researcher. When it comes to gathering information for research papers or research programs, it’s important to be as efficient as possible in order to free up more time for actual research and writing . Here are some of the best ways I have found to gather information smartly.

Keyword Searches

It has never been easier to do literature searches if you know how to use the Boolean system for keywords—keyword1 “and” keyword2; plus keyword1 “or” keyword2. The former narrows a search that might otherwise generate too many responses to manage; the latter broadens a search when you are uncertain which keywords might be used in articles of interest. An author’s name might substitute for one or more keywords. There are many combinations using advanced search options and a little experimentation will give you a feel for what works best to pull up articles of interest.

Citation Searches

Guessing at keywords can be a hit or miss affair. Searching for citations is often a simpler way to locate references in an area of interest. If there is a key paper in an area, subsequent researchers will reference it in their papers. Searching for citations will generate publications that may be of interest, not only for research ideas but to include as references an eventual research paper . This can be a real shortcut when it comes to documenting past work. Of course, a really key paper will be cited so often that you may need to narrow the search with “and” keywords or pick a citation in a narrower area.

Abstracting services can be a time saver to keep up to date with the literature. The CA Selects service offered by Chemical Abstracts is one I have used. It offers current abstracts on thirty-three topics ranging from adhesives to zeolites. This is a cost effective way for a whole research group to stay up to date on several topics. In graduate school our group leader subscribed to five topics in areas of silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, and halogen chemistry. Each abstract would circulate by turn to each of ten group members, to be checked off and handed on to the next person. Our group leader touted CA Selects as a “relatively painless way to stay current in research,” and for people who are good at skimming abstracts I agree.

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Step by Step: Details of the Research Process

  • Gather Information
  • Select Topic
  • Develop Search Strategy
  • Evaluating Information
  • Citing Sources

Gathering Information

Once you have a list of resources that you want to use for your research, it is time to get a hold of them so that you can actually get to the real work of reading, understanding and finally writing. This is another chance to determine if there is enough authoritative information on your topic.

It will actually save you time and decrease your stress level if you don't wait until the last minute to locate the books and articles you want to use, because if we don't have them, you can request them for free. Learn more about borrowing from InterLibrary Loan .

As you locate your books and articles, make sure you note all the information that you will need to create a bibliography for your paper. It is very easy to end up with content from a really useful article/chapter/webpage, but not have all the pieces necessary to create a reference. If you are unsure, ask your professor what format you need to follow and then go to the Citing Sources tab above to learn more about how to cite in a particular style.

Find Articles Using the Library Databases

Use one of the Library Databases to search for articles. The slide deck will walk you through conducting a search in one of the Social Work databases. Use the Social Work Research Guide for suggested databases.

Find Books Using OneSearch

  • Finding Books in the Library (call numbers)
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  • CSUS Thesis Project or Dissertation

Text Version of Research Flowchart

  • Do Background Reading
  • Narrow/Broaden Search
  • Create Thesis Statement
  • Create list of keywords
  • List questions to be answered
  • Write a draft outline
  • << Previous: Develop Search Strategy
  • Next: Evaluating Information >>
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Expert Commentary

Research strategy guide for finding quality, credible sources

Strategies for finding academic studies and other information you need to give your stories authority and depth

Republish this article

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License .

by Keely Wilczek, The Journalist's Resource May 20, 2011

This <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org/home/research-strategy-guide/">article</a> first appeared on <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org">The Journalist's Resource</a> and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.<img src="https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/cropped-jr-favicon-150x150.png" style="width:1em;height:1em;margin-left:10px;">

Knowing how to conduct deeper research efficiently and effectively is a critical skill for journalists — especially in the information age. It is, like other facets of the profession such as interviewing, a matter of practice and establishing good habits. And once you find a successful routine for information-gathering, it will pay dividends time and again.

Journalists need to be able to do many kinds of research. This article focuses on creating a research strategy that will help you find academic studies and related scholarly information. These sources can, among other things, give your stories extra authority and depth — and thereby distinguish your work. You can see examples of such studies — and find many relevant ones for your stories — by searching the Journalist’s Resource database . But that is just a representative sample of what exists in the research world.

The first step is to create a plan for seeking the information you need. This requires you to take time initially and to proceed with care, but it will ultimately pay off in better results. The research strategy covered in this article involves the following steps:

Get organized

Articulate your topic, locate background information.

  • Identify your information needs

List keywords and concepts for search engines and databases

Consider the scope of your topic, conduct your searches, evaluate the information sources you found, analyze and adjust your research strategy.

Being organized is an essential part of effective research strategy. You should create a record of your strategy and your searches. This will prevent you from repeating searches in the same resources and from continuing to use ineffective terms. It will also help you assess the success or failure of your research strategy as you go through the process. You also may want to consider tracking and organizing citations and links in bibliographic software such as Zotero . (See this helpful resource guide about using Zotero.)

Next, write out your topic in a clear and concise manner. Good research starts with a specific focus.

For example, let’s say you are writing a story about the long-range health effects of the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant based on a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives titled, “The Chernobyl Accident 20 Years On: An Assessment of the Health Consequences and the International Response.” (The study is summarized in Journalist’s Resource here .)

A statement of your topic might be, “Twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster, scientists are still learning the affects of the accident on the health of those who lived in the surrounding area and their descendants.”

If you have a good understanding of the Chernobyl disaster, proceed to the next step, “Identify the information you need.” If not, it’s time to gather background information. This will supply you with the whos and the whens of the topic. It will also provide you with a broader context as well as the important terminology.

Excellent sources of background information are subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries, books, and scholarly articles, and organizations’ websites. You should always consult more than one source so you can compare for accuracy and bias.

For your story about Chernobyl, you might want to consult some of the following sources:

  • Frequently Asked Chernobyl Questions , International Atomic Agency
  • Chernobyl Accident 1986 , World Nuclear Association
  • Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment , New York Academy of Sciences, 2009.
  • “Chernobyl Disaster,” Encyclopedia Britannica, last updated 2013.

Identify the information you need

What information do you need to write your story? One way to determine this is to turn your overall topic into a list of questions to be answered. This will help you identify the type and level of information you need. Some possible questions on consequences of the Chernobyl accident are:

  • What are the proven health effects?
  • What are some theorized health effects?
  • Is there controversy about any of these studies?
  • What geographic area is being studied?
  • What are the demographic characteristics of the population being studied?
  • Was there anything that could have been done at the time to mitigate these effects?

Looking at these questions, it appears that scientific studies and scholarly articles about those studies, demographic data, disaster response analysis, and government documents and publications from the Soviet Union and Ukraine would be needed.

Now you need to determine what words you will use to enter in the search boxes within resources. One way to begin is to extract the most important words and phrases from the questions produced in the previous step. Next, think about alternative words and phrases that you might use. Always keep in mind that different people may write or talk about the same topic in different ways. Important concepts can referred to differently or be spelled differently depending on country of origin or field of study.

For the Chernobyl health story, some search keyword options are: “Chernobyl,” “Chornobyl”; “disaster,” “catastrophe,” “explosion”; “health,” “disease,” “illness,” “medical conditions”; “genetic mutation,” “gene mutation,” “germ-line mutation,” “hereditary disease.” Used in different combinations, these can unearth a wide variety of resources.

Next you should identify the scope of your topic and any limitations it puts on your searches. Some examples of limitations are language, publication date, and publication type. Every database and search engine will have its own rules so you may need to click on an advanced search option in order to input these limitations.

It is finally time to start looking for information but identifying which resources to use is not always easy to do. First, if you are part of an organization, find out what, if any, resources you have access to through a subscription. Examples of subscription resources are LexisNexis and JSTOR. If your organization does not provide subscription resources, find out if you can get access to these sources through your local library. Should you not have access to any subscription resources appropriate for your topic, look at some of the many useful free resources on the internet.

Here are some examples of sources for free information:

  • PLoS , Public Library of Science
  • Google Scholar
  • SSRN , Social Science Research Network
  • FDsys , U.S. Government documents and publications
  • World Development Indicators , World Bank
  • Pubmed , service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

More quality sites, and search tips, are here among the other research articles at Journalist’s Resource.

As you only want information from the most reliable and suitable sources, you should always evaluate your results. In doing this, you can apply journalism’s Five W’s (and One H):

  • Who : Who is the author and what are his/her credentials in this topic?
  • What: Is the material primary or secondary in nature?
  • Where: Is the publisher or organization behind the source considered reputable? Does the website appear legitimate?
  • When: Is the source current or does it cover the right time period for your topic?
  • Why: Is the opinion or bias of the author apparent and can it be taken into account?
  • How: Is the source written at the right level for your needs? Is the research well-documented?

Were you able to locate the information you needed? If not, now it is time to analyze why that happened. Perhaps there are better resources or different keywords and concepts you could have tried. Additional background information might supply you with other terminology to use. It is also possible that the information you need is just not available in the way you need it and it may be necessary to consult others for assistance like an expert in the topic or a professional librarian.

Keely Wilczek is a research librarian at the Harvard Kennedy School. Tags: training

About The Author

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Keely Wilczek

Handbook for Historians

  • Choosing a Paper Topic
  • Thesis Statement
  • What Sources Can I use?
  • Gathering sources

Gathering Sources for your Paper

Keeping notes about your sources, evaluating your sources.

  • Find Primary Sources
  • Paraphrasing and Quoting Sources
  • How to create an Annotated Bibliography
  • Formatting Endnotes/Footnotes
  • Formatting Bibliographies
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Sample Papers
  • Research Paper Checklist

I. Gathering These Types of Sources for a History Paper

Again, do not use encyclopedias (either online or print versions), or web sites (even those associated with universities) as sources for your paper! You are to consult the work of historians who have studied and analyzed your topic. Historians do not publish their work in encyclopedias or on web sites. They write books and journal articles, both of which may or may not be available in electronic format. Therefore, the only time you will be using something that is on the Internet is when you are using an electronic journal article that you got by using the library’s databases. The only other acceptable use of the Internet is to have obtained a reliable copy of an historic document (a letter, a treaty, etc.)  that has been digitized on reputable sites, such as Yale University’s Avalon Project or the Library of Congress’ American Memory Project . There is more on these primary sources later in the section on the Library’s Research Guide for History web page.

Do use the following:

  • The American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature . (REF DESK D 20.A55). Although published in 1995 – thus the newest sources are not included – this bibliography is the source for the best writings ever written on your topic.  Successful history students want to ensure that they have consulted the top historians who have written on their topic.
  • The bibliography in your textbook, but NOT the textbook itself.
  • The bibliographies of encyclopedia entries concerning your subject. (BUT AGAIN:  encyclopedia articles, like textbooks, cannot be used in your bibliography or paper.)
  • The Noreen Reale Falcone Library’s online catalog for books. ( http://library.lemoyne.edu ) 
  • Browsing the library shelves where books on a given subject are assembled. Whenever you go to the shelves to find a certain book you should take time to peruse the surrounding shelves for additional sources.
PLEASE NOTE: If the book you seek is not on the shelf, check the catalog again to see if it is on reserve or out in circulation. If the book is not on reserve, ask for help to locate it. If it is checked out to another student, you can have circulation services place a hold on it for you when the book is returned. If time is of the essence, request to borrow an additional copy via Interlibrary Loan .
  • Do not overlook the foot/endnote references in the books (and articles) you locate, especially the newer and more substantial books. This is a means to see what sources the historian consulted in writing about your topic.
  • Interlibrary Loan . In pursuing your research, you may well find it useful or necessary to consult works that are not available in the Le Moyne College Library. Le Moyne Library's Interlibrary Loan service makes it possible for you to borrow materials, or receive photocopied articles, from libraries throughout North America.  It is necessary, however, to begin work early, since it normally takes several days to receive materials through Interlibrary Loan.
  • Library’s Research Guide for History . Think of this web page as your toolbox for your history course research, second only to this handbook. Contact information for the history librarian is there along with the tools you need for an overview of a topic in order to get started (e.g., encyclopedias dedicated just to history that you may use for informational, though not bibliographic, purposes) and to find both primary and secondary sources. The section on primary sources provides links to those authoritative web sites that have reproduced primary sources. If the primary source you use is online and from one of these sites, your professor will accept it as legitimate. Check with your professor about any primary sources you are considering using if they are from any other Internet resources not listed here.

II.    Recording information about your sources for your bibliography and notes   

When using your primary and secondary sources, make sure you record the following for each item because you’ll need this information for your bibliography.

  • Name of author (both last and first names).
  • Title of Work.
  • Number of edition (if there are several).
  • Number of volumes (if there are several).
  • City of publication.
  • Name of publishing company.
  • Date of publication.
  • For articles in newspapers or periodicals, list first and last page numbers, the volume number of the periodical, and the date.
  • Name of database

III.    Evaluating the quality of your sources

All pieces of evidence are not equivalent in accuracy; those of equivalent accuracy may not be equivalent in relevance; and those of equivalent relevance may not be equivalent in importance. Some sources are useful, scholarly, and precise, while others are misleading, vague, and worthless. You can find poor source materials for almost any topics; these poor sources are both in libraries and on the internet.  

Fortunately, historians have developed a number of guidelines for the evaluation of sources:

I.    Questions you should ask yourself about primary sources:

  • Is the document authentic? Is it what it purports to be? Or is it a forgery?
  • Who wrote or said it?
  • Was he in a position to know the truth about what he reported?
  • What was his reputation for competence, accuracy, thoroughness, and integrity?
  • Was he an interested party? What was his purpose in recording or reporting? Was he trying to tell a balanced story, or sell a particular point of view?
  • Is the source internally consistent? consistent with other, comparable reports? consistent with known facts? consistent with your own general or specific knowledge? consistent with common sense? Can you explain the inconsistencies with other sources? Differences of opinion, fact, and analysis exist in both primary and secondary sources. These should be noted as you research, and can often be included in your analysis (i.e., your paper), but only if you understand where they come from and why.
  • If the source is both authentic and reliable, you may be reasonably certain of the accuracy of what it says  - but its meaning may not be clear to you. Secondary sources will then prove helpful. 

II. Questions you should ask yourself about secondary sources:

What quantity of information was available to the author? Since the source was published, has new information come to light which, had it been available earlier, would have affected the author's interpretation?

  • Is the author’s publisher reputable? Scholarly book presses and journals have stringent review processes for manuscript submissions.  Check the publisher’s web site to determine whether a “blind peer review” process is in place.
  • Did the author commit inadvertent factual errors which have since been corrected by other historians, or by later editions of the same source?
  • Was the author an interested party to the events being described? Was he trying to tell a balanced story, or support a particular point of view?
  • Are the hallmarks of consistency, as listed in 2(e) above, met by this source?  

In addition, examine your secondary sources according to the following criteria:

  • Look at what sources were used by the author of the source you are consulting.  Primary sources are usually preferable; they are first hand reports, including private papers, autobiographies, published memoirs and diaries, eyewitness accounts, contemporary newspaper/periodicals/pamphlets, institutional records, and government documents. (You should use primary sources in the preparation of your own paper). Secondary sources are valuable tools that can help historians interpret primary sources and understand their meaning, but no author should rely solely on secondary works. In addition, beware of the author who offers no footnotes at all, or who engages in polemics, emotionalism, or the explanation of complicated events by a single cause.
  • Consider how the author expresses him/herself. Incomprehensible sentences and sloppy organization are usually indicative of poor scholarship. Sources which make mistakes in matters of detail should be suspected of errors in larger matters. What credence can we place in a book that states that Bill Clinton was a Republican? Or in a recent biography of Benjamin Franklin, in which the hero dies in the wrong year?
  • Consider the age of the source. Generally, you should always use the most recent secondary sources available, so that you will have a better chance of citing state-of-the-art opinion. Older secondary sources are useful if historians consider them “classics” in their fields. If they are not so considered, their interpretations may have been overturned or superseded by more recent scholarship.
  • Cross-check the source. The assertions of one source should always be verified with reference to the opinions of another. An author whose interpretations consistently run counter to the consensus of scholarly judgment should be handled with caution, although his/her opinions might be useful as a contrast with established judgment. This, of course, does not mean that unorthodox views are always incorrect - merely that the student must evaluate them with care.
  • Are the source's interpretations and assertions consistent with common sense? You should view with skepticism books which allege, with seemingly irrefutable logic, that the Holocaust never happened; that Ronald Reagan was a Soviet agent; that King Louis XVII escaped from France and settled on a farm in upstate New York; that Lenin was poisoned on the orders of Stalin; or that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Nearly anything can be proven by the selective assembly and manipulation of individually valid facts.  Politicians use this technique frequently, but historians should avoid it because they must attempt to provide as “accurate” a representation of what happened in the past as possible.
  • Is the author a reputable professional historian? Oftentimes the historian’s academic credentials and institutional affiliation at the time s/he wrote the source are mentioned in the source itself. Dig a bit further, however. Here are some sources that will provide more information about the historian’s reputation and perhaps even his/her philosophical approach to history: book reviews can be found in (a.) the two history databases ( America:  History & Life , and Historical Abstracts ) by searching on the historian’s name and the title of the book, and limiting your search to reviews; or (b.) for older books, use Book Review Digest (the library has 1905 to 1994) for the year the book was published and the year afterwards. This set is in the second floor bookstacks, found at AI3.B66. You can also find the historian’s credentials from the official web page of the institution where s/he currently works or from the historian’s own web page. Checking for the historian in the Biography Illustrated Plus database is another option. This can be found on the Noreen Reale Falcone Library’s web page under “Databases by Name.”  Finally, there is The Blackwell Dictionary of Historians , found in the library’s reference section (REF D 14. B58 1988).
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What Is a Primary Source?

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In research and academics, a primary source refers to information collected from sources that witnessed or experienced an event firsthand. These can be historical documents , literary texts, artistic works, experiments, journal entries, surveys, and interviews. A primary source, which is very different from a secondary source , is also called primary data.

The Library of Congress defines primary sources as "the raw materials of history—original documents and objects which were created at the time under study," in contrast to secondary sources , which are "accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience," ("Using Primary Sources").

Secondary sources are often meant to describe or analyze a primary source and do not give firsthand accounts; primary sources tend to provide more accurate depictions of history but are much harder to come by.

Characteristics of Primary Sources

There are a couple of factors that can qualify an artifact as a primary source. The chief characteristics of a primary source, according to Natalie Sproull, are: "(1) [B]eing present during the experience, event or time and (2) consequently being close in time with the data. This does not mean that data from primary sources are always the best data."

Sproull then goes on to remind readers that primary sources are not always more reliable than secondary sources. "Data from human sources are subject to many types of distortion because of such factors as selective recall, selective perceptions, and purposeful or nonpurposeful omission or addition of information. Thus data from primary sources are not necessarily accurate data even though they come from firsthand sources," (Sproull 1988).

Original Sources

Primary sources are often called original sources, but this is not the most accurate description because you're not always going to be dealing with original copies of primary artifacts. For this reason, "primary sources" and "original sources" should be considered separate. Here's what the authors of "Undertaking Historical Research in Literacy," from Handbook of Reading Research , have to say about this:

"The distinction also needs to be made between primary and original sources . It is by no means always necessary, and all too often it is not possible, to deal only with original sources. Printed copies of original sources, provided they have been undertaken with scrupulous care (such as the published letters of the Founding Fathers), are usually an acceptable substitute for their handwritten originals." (E. J. Monaghan and D. K. Hartman, "Undertaking Historical Research in Literacy," in Handbook of Reading Research , ed. by P. D. Pearson et al. Erlbaum, 2000)

When to Use Primary Sources

Primary sources tend to be most useful toward the beginning of your research into a topic and at the end of a claim as evidence, as Wayne Booth et al. explain in the following passage. "[Primary sources] provide the 'raw data' that you use first to test the working hypothesis and then as evidence to support your claim . In history, for example, primary sources include documents from the period or person you are studying, objects, maps, even clothing; in literature or philosophy, your main primary source is usually the text you are studying, and your data are the words on the page. In such fields, you can rarely write a research paper  without using primary sources," (Booth et al. 2008).

When to Use Secondary Sources

There is certainly a time and place for secondary sources and many situations in which these point to relevant primary sources. Secondary sources are an excellent place to start. Alison Hoagland and Gray Fitzsimmons write: "By identifying basic facts, such as year of construction, secondary sources can point the researcher to the best primary sources , such as the right tax books. In addition, a careful reading of the bibliography in a secondary source can reveal important sources the researcher might otherwise have missed," (Hoagland and Fitzsimmons 2004).

Finding and Accessing Primary Sources

As you might expect, primary sources can prove difficult to find. To find the best ones, take advantage of resources such as libraries and historical societies. "This one is entirely dependent on the assignment given and your local resources; but when included, always emphasize quality. ... Keep in mind that there are many institutions such as the Library of Congress that make primary source material freely available on the Web," (Kitchens 2012).

Methods of Collecting Primary Data

Sometimes in your research, you'll run into the problem of not being able to track down primary sources at all. When this happens, you'll want to know how to collect your own primary data; Dan O'Hair et all tell you how: "If the information you need is unavailable or hasn't yet been gathered, you'll have to gather it yourself. Four basic methods of collecting primary data are field research, content analysis, survey research, and experiments. Other methods of gathering primary data include historical research, analysis of existing statistics, ... and various forms of direct observation," (O'Hair et al. 2001).

  • Booth, Wayne C., et al. The Craft of Research . 3rd ed., University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Hoagland, Alison, and Gray Fitzsimmons. "History."  Recording Historic Structures. 2nd. ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2004.
  • Kitchens, Joel D. Librarians, Historians, and New Opportunities for Discourse: A Guide for Clio's Helpers . ABC-CLIO, 2012.
  • Monaghan, E. Jennifer, and Douglas K. Hartman. "Undertaking Historical Research in Literacy." Handbook of Reading Research. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.
  • O'Hair, Dan, et al. Business Communication: A Framework for Success . South-Western College Pub., 2001.
  • Sproull, Natalie L. Handbook of Research Methods: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in the Social Sciences. 2nd ed. Scarecrow Press, 1988.
  • "Using Primary Sources." Library of Congress .
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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • 6. The Methodology
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Applying Critical Thinking
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
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  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
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  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
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  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
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  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

The methods section describes actions taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study’s overall validity and reliability. The methodology section of a research paper answers two main questions: How was the data collected or generated? And, how was it analyzed? The writing should be direct and precise and always written in the past tense.

Kallet, Richard H. "How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper." Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004): 1229-1232.

Importance of a Good Methodology Section

You must explain how you obtained and analyzed your results for the following reasons:

  • Readers need to know how the data was obtained because the method you chose affects the results and, by extension, how you interpreted their significance in the discussion section of your paper.
  • Methodology is crucial for any branch of scholarship because an unreliable method produces unreliable results and, as a consequence, undermines the value of your analysis of the findings.
  • In most cases, there are a variety of different methods you can choose to investigate a research problem. The methodology section of your paper should clearly articulate the reasons why you have chosen a particular procedure or technique.
  • The reader wants to know that the data was collected or generated in a way that is consistent with accepted practice in the field of study. For example, if you are using a multiple choice questionnaire, readers need to know that it offered your respondents a reasonable range of answers to choose from.
  • The method must be appropriate to fulfilling the overall aims of the study. For example, you need to ensure that you have a large enough sample size to be able to generalize and make recommendations based upon the findings.
  • The methodology should discuss the problems that were anticipated and the steps you took to prevent them from occurring. For any problems that do arise, you must describe the ways in which they were minimized or why these problems do not impact in any meaningful way your interpretation of the findings.
  • In the social and behavioral sciences, it is important to always provide sufficient information to allow other researchers to adopt or replicate your methodology. This information is particularly important when a new method has been developed or an innovative use of an existing method is utilized.

Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Psychology Writing Center. University of Washington; Denscombe, Martyn. The Good Research Guide: For Small-Scale Social Research Projects . 5th edition. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2014; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  Groups of Research Methods

There are two main groups of research methods in the social sciences:

  • The e mpirical-analytical group approaches the study of social sciences in a similar manner that researchers study the natural sciences . This type of research focuses on objective knowledge, research questions that can be answered yes or no, and operational definitions of variables to be measured. The empirical-analytical group employs deductive reasoning that uses existing theory as a foundation for formulating hypotheses that need to be tested. This approach is focused on explanation.
  • The i nterpretative group of methods is focused on understanding phenomenon in a comprehensive, holistic way . Interpretive methods focus on analytically disclosing the meaning-making practices of human subjects [the why, how, or by what means people do what they do], while showing how those practices arrange so that it can be used to generate observable outcomes. Interpretive methods allow you to recognize your connection to the phenomena under investigation. However, the interpretative group requires careful examination of variables because it focuses more on subjective knowledge.

II.  Content

The introduction to your methodology section should begin by restating the research problem and underlying assumptions underpinning your study. This is followed by situating the methods you used to gather, analyze, and process information within the overall “tradition” of your field of study and within the particular research design you have chosen to study the problem. If the method you choose lies outside of the tradition of your field [i.e., your review of the literature demonstrates that the method is not commonly used], provide a justification for how your choice of methods specifically addresses the research problem in ways that have not been utilized in prior studies.

The remainder of your methodology section should describe the following:

  • Decisions made in selecting the data you have analyzed or, in the case of qualitative research, the subjects and research setting you have examined,
  • Tools and methods used to identify and collect information, and how you identified relevant variables,
  • The ways in which you processed the data and the procedures you used to analyze that data, and
  • The specific research tools or strategies that you utilized to study the underlying hypothesis and research questions.

In addition, an effectively written methodology section should:

  • Introduce the overall methodological approach for investigating your research problem . Is your study qualitative or quantitative or a combination of both (mixed method)? Are you going to take a special approach, such as action research, or a more neutral stance?
  • Indicate how the approach fits the overall research design . Your methods for gathering data should have a clear connection to your research problem. In other words, make sure that your methods will actually address the problem. One of the most common deficiencies found in research papers is that the proposed methodology is not suitable to achieving the stated objective of your paper.
  • Describe the specific methods of data collection you are going to use , such as, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, observation, archival research. If you are analyzing existing data, such as a data set or archival documents, describe how it was originally created or gathered and by whom. Also be sure to explain how older data is still relevant to investigating the current research problem.
  • Explain how you intend to analyze your results . Will you use statistical analysis? Will you use specific theoretical perspectives to help you analyze a text or explain observed behaviors? Describe how you plan to obtain an accurate assessment of relationships, patterns, trends, distributions, and possible contradictions found in the data.
  • Provide background and a rationale for methodologies that are unfamiliar for your readers . Very often in the social sciences, research problems and the methods for investigating them require more explanation/rationale than widely accepted rules governing the natural and physical sciences. Be clear and concise in your explanation.
  • Provide a justification for subject selection and sampling procedure . For instance, if you propose to conduct interviews, how do you intend to select the sample population? If you are analyzing texts, which texts have you chosen, and why? If you are using statistics, why is this set of data being used? If other data sources exist, explain why the data you chose is most appropriate to addressing the research problem.
  • Provide a justification for case study selection . A common method of analyzing research problems in the social sciences is to analyze specific cases. These can be a person, place, event, phenomenon, or other type of subject of analysis that are either examined as a singular topic of in-depth investigation or multiple topics of investigation studied for the purpose of comparing or contrasting findings. In either method, you should explain why a case or cases were chosen and how they specifically relate to the research problem.
  • Describe potential limitations . Are there any practical limitations that could affect your data collection? How will you attempt to control for potential confounding variables and errors? If your methodology may lead to problems you can anticipate, state this openly and show why pursuing this methodology outweighs the risk of these problems cropping up.

NOTE :   Once you have written all of the elements of the methods section, subsequent revisions should focus on how to present those elements as clearly and as logically as possibly. The description of how you prepared to study the research problem, how you gathered the data, and the protocol for analyzing the data should be organized chronologically. For clarity, when a large amount of detail must be presented, information should be presented in sub-sections according to topic. If necessary, consider using appendices for raw data.

ANOTHER NOTE : If you are conducting a qualitative analysis of a research problem , the methodology section generally requires a more elaborate description of the methods used as well as an explanation of the processes applied to gathering and analyzing of data than is generally required for studies using quantitative methods. Because you are the primary instrument for generating the data [e.g., through interviews or observations], the process for collecting that data has a significantly greater impact on producing the findings. Therefore, qualitative research requires a more detailed description of the methods used.

YET ANOTHER NOTE :   If your study involves interviews, observations, or other qualitative techniques involving human subjects , you may be required to obtain approval from the university's Office for the Protection of Research Subjects before beginning your research. This is not a common procedure for most undergraduate level student research assignments. However, i f your professor states you need approval, you must include a statement in your methods section that you received official endorsement and adequate informed consent from the office and that there was a clear assessment and minimization of risks to participants and to the university. This statement informs the reader that your study was conducted in an ethical and responsible manner. In some cases, the approval notice is included as an appendix to your paper.

III.  Problems to Avoid

Irrelevant Detail The methodology section of your paper should be thorough but concise. Do not provide any background information that does not directly help the reader understand why a particular method was chosen, how the data was gathered or obtained, and how the data was analyzed in relation to the research problem [note: analyzed, not interpreted! Save how you interpreted the findings for the discussion section]. With this in mind, the page length of your methods section will generally be less than any other section of your paper except the conclusion.

Unnecessary Explanation of Basic Procedures Remember that you are not writing a how-to guide about a particular method. You should make the assumption that readers possess a basic understanding of how to investigate the research problem on their own and, therefore, you do not have to go into great detail about specific methodological procedures. The focus should be on how you applied a method , not on the mechanics of doing a method. An exception to this rule is if you select an unconventional methodological approach; if this is the case, be sure to explain why this approach was chosen and how it enhances the overall process of discovery.

Problem Blindness It is almost a given that you will encounter problems when collecting or generating your data, or, gaps will exist in existing data or archival materials. Do not ignore these problems or pretend they did not occur. Often, documenting how you overcame obstacles can form an interesting part of the methodology. It demonstrates to the reader that you can provide a cogent rationale for the decisions you made to minimize the impact of any problems that arose.

Literature Review Just as the literature review section of your paper provides an overview of sources you have examined while researching a particular topic, the methodology section should cite any sources that informed your choice and application of a particular method [i.e., the choice of a survey should include any citations to the works you used to help construct the survey].

It’s More than Sources of Information! A description of a research study's method should not be confused with a description of the sources of information. Such a list of sources is useful in and of itself, especially if it is accompanied by an explanation about the selection and use of the sources. The description of the project's methodology complements a list of sources in that it sets forth the organization and interpretation of information emanating from those sources.

Azevedo, L.F. et al. "How to Write a Scientific Paper: Writing the Methods Section." Revista Portuguesa de Pneumologia 17 (2011): 232-238; Blair Lorrie. “Choosing a Methodology.” In Writing a Graduate Thesis or Dissertation , Teaching Writing Series. (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers 2016), pp. 49-72; Butin, Dan W. The Education Dissertation A Guide for Practitioner Scholars . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010; Carter, Susan. Structuring Your Research Thesis . New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012; Kallet, Richard H. “How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper.” Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004):1229-1232; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008. Methods Section. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Rudestam, Kjell Erik and Rae R. Newton. “The Method Chapter: Describing Your Research Plan.” In Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process . (Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 2015), pp. 87-115; What is Interpretive Research. Institute of Public and International Affairs, University of Utah; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Methods and Materials. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College.

Writing Tip

Statistical Designs and Tests? Do Not Fear Them!

Don't avoid using a quantitative approach to analyzing your research problem just because you fear the idea of applying statistical designs and tests. A qualitative approach, such as conducting interviews or content analysis of archival texts, can yield exciting new insights about a research problem, but it should not be undertaken simply because you have a disdain for running a simple regression. A well designed quantitative research study can often be accomplished in very clear and direct ways, whereas, a similar study of a qualitative nature usually requires considerable time to analyze large volumes of data and a tremendous burden to create new paths for analysis where previously no path associated with your research problem had existed.

To locate data and statistics, GO HERE .

Another Writing Tip

Knowing the Relationship Between Theories and Methods

There can be multiple meaning associated with the term "theories" and the term "methods" in social sciences research. A helpful way to delineate between them is to understand "theories" as representing different ways of characterizing the social world when you research it and "methods" as representing different ways of generating and analyzing data about that social world. Framed in this way, all empirical social sciences research involves theories and methods, whether they are stated explicitly or not. However, while theories and methods are often related, it is important that, as a researcher, you deliberately separate them in order to avoid your theories playing a disproportionate role in shaping what outcomes your chosen methods produce.

Introspectively engage in an ongoing dialectic between the application of theories and methods to help enable you to use the outcomes from your methods to interrogate and develop new theories, or ways of framing conceptually the research problem. This is how scholarship grows and branches out into new intellectual territory.

Reynolds, R. Larry. Ways of Knowing. Alternative Microeconomics . Part 1, Chapter 3. Boise State University; The Theory-Method Relationship. S-Cool Revision. United Kingdom.

Yet Another Writing Tip

Methods and the Methodology

Do not confuse the terms "methods" and "methodology." As Schneider notes, a method refers to the technical steps taken to do research . Descriptions of methods usually include defining and stating why you have chosen specific techniques to investigate a research problem, followed by an outline of the procedures you used to systematically select, gather, and process the data [remember to always save the interpretation of data for the discussion section of your paper].

The methodology refers to a discussion of the underlying reasoning why particular methods were used . This discussion includes describing the theoretical concepts that inform the choice of methods to be applied, placing the choice of methods within the more general nature of academic work, and reviewing its relevance to examining the research problem. The methodology section also includes a thorough review of the methods other scholars have used to study the topic.

Bryman, Alan. "Of Methods and Methodology." Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal 3 (2008): 159-168; Schneider, Florian. “What's in a Methodology: The Difference between Method, Methodology, and Theory…and How to Get the Balance Right?” PoliticsEastAsia.com. Chinese Department, University of Leiden, Netherlands.

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5.4: Gathering Your Sources

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Gathering Your Sources

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Now that you have planned your research project, you are ready to begin the research. This phase can be both exciting and challenging. As you read this section, you will learn ways to locate sources efficiently, so you will have enough time to read the sources, take notes, and think about how to use them in your research paper.

In addition to finding sources, research entails determining the relevance and reliability of sources, organizing findings, as well as deciding whether and how to use sources in your paper. The technological advances of the past few decades, particularly the rise of online media, mean that, as a twenty-first-century student, you have countless sources of information available at your fingertips. But how can you tell whether a source is reliable?

This section will discuss strategies for finding and evaluating sources so that you can be a media-savvy researcher.

Depending on your assignment, you will likely search for sources by using:

  • Internet search engines to locate sources freely available on the web.
  • A library's online catalog to identify print books, ebooks, periodicals, and other items in the library's collection.
  • Online databases to locate articles, ebooks, streaming videos, images, and other electronic resources. These databases can also help you identify articles in print periodicals.

Your instructor, as well as your librarians and tutors, can help you determine which of these methods will best fit your project and learn to use the search tools available to you. You can also find research guides and tutorials on library websites and online video channels that can help you identify appropriate research tools and learn how to use them. As you gather sources, you will need to examine them with a critical eye.

Smart researchers continually ask themselves two questions: "Is this source relevant to my purpose?" and "Is this source reliable?" The first question will help you avoid wasting valuable time reading sources that stray too far from your specific topic and research questions. The second question will help you find accurate and trustworthy sources.

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Identifying Primary and Secondary Sources

When you chose a paper topic and determined your research questions, you conducted preliminary research to stimulate your thinking. Your research plan included some general ideas for how to go about your research; for instance, interviewing an expert in the field or analyzing the content of popular magazines. You may even have identified a few potential sources.

Now it is time to conduct a more focused, systematic search for informative primary and secondary sources. Writers classify research resources in two categories: primary sources and secondary sources.

Primary sources are direct, firsthand sources of information or data. For example, if you were writing a paper about the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, the text of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights would be a primary source. Other primary sources include the following:

  • Works of visual art
  • Literary texts
  • Historical documents such as diaries or letters
  • Autobiographies, interviews, or other personal accounts

Secondary sources discuss, interpret, analyze, consolidate, or otherwise rework information from primary sources. In researching a paper about the First Amendment, you might read articles about legal cases that involved First Amendment rights, or editorials expressing commentary on the First Amendment. These sources would be considered secondary sources because they are one step removed from the primary source of information. The following are examples of secondary sources:

Academic books, monographs, and articles

  • Literary criticism
  • Biographies
  • Documentaries
  • News reports

Your topic and purpose determine whether you must cite both primary and secondary sources in your paper. Ask yourself which sources are most likely to provide the information that will answer your research questions.

If you are writing a research paper about reality television shows, you will need to use some reality shows as a primary source, but secondary sources, such as a reviewer's critique, are also important. If you are writing about the health effects of nicotine, you will probably want to read the published results of scientific studies, but secondary sources, such as magazine articles discussing the outcome of a recent study, may also be helpful.

Some sources could be considered primary or secondary sources, depending on the writer's purpose for using them. For instance, if a writer's purpose is to inform readers about how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has affected elementary education in the United States, then a Time magazine article on the subject would be a secondary source. However, suppose the writer's purpose is to analyze how the news media has portrayed the effects of NCLB. In that case, articles about the legislation in news magazines like Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report would be primary sources. They provide firsthand examples of the media coverage the writer is analyzing.

Pay close attention to your professor's requirements for sources. You will mostly be required to include some academic (alternatively called "scholarly") sources in your project. Many professors value these sources above all others because they see academic research as the best research: written by experts in the field and then reviewed by other experts.

Once you have thought about what kinds of sources are most likely to help you answer your research questions, you may begin your search for sources. The challenge here is to conduct your search both efficiently and thoroughly. On the one hand, effective writers use strategies to help them find the sources that are most relevant and reliable while steering clear of sources that will not be useful; on the other hand, they are open to pursuing different lines of inquiry that come up along the way than those that seemed relevant at the start of research. As a process of discovery, good research requires critical thinking about, and often revising of, writers' plans and ideas.

Popular vs. Scholarly Periodicals

When you search for periodicals, be sure to distinguish among different types.

Here is an Excellent video produced by the GSU Library that talks about the difference between popular and scholarly resources: Popular vs. Scholarly

Mass-market publications, such as newspapers and popular magazines, differ from scholarly publications in their accessibility, audience, and purpose.

Because of these differences, scholarly journals are more challenging to read. That doesn't mean you should avoid them. On the contrary, they can provide in-depth information unavailable elsewhere. Because knowledgeable professionals carefully review the content before publication in a process called "peer-review," scholarly journals are far more reliable than much of the information available in popular media. Seek out academic journals along with other resources. Just be prepared to spend a little more time processing the information.

Gray Area Sources

"Hybrid" or "Gray Area" Sources : Sometimes, you'll find an article in a popular magazine that has the expertise of a scholarly article, so it falls into a "gray area" between academic and popular. For example, Jorge found a long (22 pages), well-researched article about both the history of college sports and its current scandals: The Shame of College Sports opens in new window , by Taylor Branch. Taylor Branch is a highly respected and expert historian who wrote a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and writes scholarly research about the movement for Civil Rights.

Because the article appeared in The Atlantic , a magazine geared toward an educated and engaged, but wide and popular readership, Jorge wasn't sure if his professor would see it as "academic," so he forwarded the link to her. After reviewing the article, she told Jorge he could use it as one of his required scholarly sources. Sometimes trade publications and government publications will fall into this category. The best thing to do when you run into a "hybrid" or "gray area" source is to check with your professor.

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Using Sources from the Open Web

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When faced with the challenge of writing a research paper, some students rely on popular search engines, such as Google, as their only source of information. Typing a keyword or phrase into a search engine instantly pulls up links to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of related websites. What could be easier? While the Web is useful for retrieving information, you should be wary of limiting your research to sources from the open Web.

For example, wikis , including online encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, and community-driven question-and-answer sites, such Yahoo Answers, are very easy to access on the Web. They are free, and they appear among the first few results when using a search engine. Because these sites are created and revised by a large community of users, they cover thousands of topics, and many are written in an informal and straightforward writing style. However, these sites may not have a reliable control system for researching, writing, and reviewing posts. While wikis may be a good starting point for finding other, more trustworthy, more fully developed sources (always look at a Wiki's sources!!), usually they should not be your final sources.

Despite its apparent convenience, researching on the open Web has the following drawbacks to consider:

  • Results do not consider the reliability of the sources. The first few hits that appear in search results often include sites whose content is not always reliable. Search engines cannot tell you which sites have accurate information.
  • Results may be influenced by popularity or advertisers. Search engines find websites that people visit often and list the results in order of popularity rather than relevance to your topic.
  • Results may be too numerous for you to use. Search engines often return an overwhelming number of results. Because it is difficult to filter results for quality or relevance, the most useful sites may be buried deep within your search results. It is not realistic for you to examine every site.
  • Results do not include many of the library's high quality electronic resources that are only available through password-protected databases or on campus.

Because anyone can publish anything on the Web, the quality of the information varies greatly and you will need to evaluate web resources carefully. Just because it's there doesn't mean it's a good source.

Nevertheless, a search on the open Web can provide a helpful overview of a topic and may pull up genuinely useful sources.

You may find specialized search engines recommended on your college library's website. For example, http://www.usa.gov will search for information on United States government websites. If you are working at your personal computer, use the Bookmarks or Favorites feature of your web browser to save and organize sites that look promising.

Getting the Most out of a Search Engine

To get the most out of a search engine, use strategies to make your search more efficient. Depending on the specific search engine you use, the following options may be available:

  • List item 1
  • List item 2
  • List item 3
  • Limit results to websites that have been updated within a particular time frame.
  • Limit results by language or region.
  • Limit results to scholarly works available online. Google Scholar is an example, but remember: any source you find on Google Scholar won't be free unless you access it through the library databases . Therefore, while it's fine to get citations through Google Scholar, you should NEVER have to pay for them.
  • Limit results by file type.
  • Limit results to a particular site or domain type, such as .edu (school and university sites) or .gov (government sites). This is a quick way to filter out commercial sites that often lead to less objective results.

Types and Formats of Library Sources

Information accessible through a college library comes in a variety of types and formats of sources. Books, DVDS, and various types of periodicals can be found in physical form at the library. Many of these same materials are available in electronic format in the form of ebooks, electronic journal articles, and streaming videos.

Your college library may have some resources in both print and electronic formats while others may be available exclusively in one format. The following lists different types of resources available at college libraries. In addition to the resources noted, library holdings may include primary sources such as historical documents, letters, diaries, and images.

Types of sources

  • Reference works provide a summary of information about a particular topic. Almanacs, encyclopedias, atlases, medical reference books, and scientific abstracts are examples of reference works. In most cases, reference books may not be checked out of a library. Note that reference works are many steps removed from original primary sources and are often brief, so these should be used only as a starting point when you gather information. Examples: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2010 ; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual , published by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • Nonfiction books provide in-depth coverage of a topic. Trade books, biographies, and how-to guides are usually written for a general audience. Scholarly books and scientific studies are usually written for an audience that has specialized knowledge of a topic. Examples: Indentured: The Battle to End The Exploitation of College Athletes; Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins: Exploring the Relationship Between Macronutrient Ratios and Health Outcomes .
  • Periodicals are published at regular intervals: daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Newspapers, magazines, and academic journals are different kinds of periodicals. Some periodicals provide articles on subjects of general interest while others are more specialized. Examples: The New York Times; PC Magazine; JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Government publications by federal, state, and local agencies publish information on a variety of topics. Government publications include reports, legislation, court documents, public records, statistics, studies, guides, programs, and forms. Examples: The Census 2000 Profile;The Business Relocation Package , published by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
  • Business publications and publications by nonprofit organizations are designed to market a product, provide background about the organization, provide information on topics connected to the organization, or promote a cause. These publications include reports, newsletters, advertisements, manuals, brochures, and other print documents. Examples: a company's instruction manual explaining how to use a specific software program; a news release published by the Sierra Club.
  • Documentaries are the moving-image equivalent of nonfiction books. They cover a range of topics and can be introductory or scholarly. Newsreels can be primary sources about then-current events. Feature-length programs or episodes of a series can be secondary sources about historical phenomena or life stories. You may view a documentary in a movie theater, on television, on an open website, or in a subscription-accessed database such as Films on Demand. Examples: Freedom Riders , directed by Stanley Nelson; Finding Your Roots , with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

As you gather information, check in frequently with your professor, who will guide you throughout the research process. Many professors require an annotated bibliography near the end of the researching phase so that they can make sure that you have the right kinds and amounts of sources for your project.

When you first begin your research, you'll find many more sources than you will be required to cite in your project. Your job is to skim all of the relevant sources you find, or to read their abstracts (a brief summary), so that you can get a sense of what the body of research says about your topic or how it answers your research question.

Once you have a good sense of that, you need to pick what you think are the best representatives of that body of research and get to know them. These will likely be the sources you'll use in the final project. Don't just pick the minimum number of required sources. Students who do this often get sub-optimal grades because their sources don't really help them understand the topic.

Using Databases

While library catalogs can help you locate print and electronic book-length sources, as well as some types of non-print holdings, such as CDs, DVDs, and audiobooks, the best way to locate shorter sources, such as articles in magazines, newspapers, and journals, is to search online databases accessible through a portal to which your college's library subscribes.

In many cases, the full texts of articles are available from these databases. In other instances, articles are indexed, meaning there is a summary and publication information about the article, but the full text is not immediately available in the database; instead, you may find the indexed article in a print periodical in your college's library holdings, you can use a service that searches other college universities in the area, or you can submit an online request for an interlibrary loan, and a librarian will email a digitized copy (often as a PDF) of the article to you.

When searching for sources using a password-protected portal, such as a state university system's virtual library, it's important to understand where and how to look up your topic.

Many university school libraries have something on their homepage called the "Discover" tool, which allows you to search many (but not all) databases at once. If you don't find useful sources using the portal's general search bar, then you may retrieve better results by going to specific databases within the portal. Many college library websites have online video tutorials that show you how to search the databases.

Library Databases

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Here is Georgia State Library's video tutorial about how to search in the databases: Research Databases at GSU Libraries

As these tutorials show, on a library homepage or portal such as GALILEO, you can choose specific databases by going to "Databases A-Z" or "Databases by Subject."

Databases may be general, including many types of resources on a broad range of subjects, or they may be specialized, focusing on a particular format of resource or a specific subject area. The following list describes some commonly used indexes and databases accessible through libraries' research portals.

  • ProQuest Central includes a wide variety of newspaper and scholarly articles
  • Academic Search Complete includes articles on a wide variety of topics published in various forums, both scholarly and popular.
  • Opposing Viewpoints includes articles, statistics, and recommended websites related to a wide range of controversial issues.
  • Nexis Uni has articles from newspapers and other periodicals, news transcripts, and business and legal information.
  • Business Source Complete comprises business-related content from magazines, journals, and trade publications.
  • Films on Demand has streaming video of documentaries and historic newsreels.
  • Artstor has high-quality images of works of visual art of various media, as well as information on the creators, subjects, materials, and holdings of artworks.
  • JSTOR includes full-text scholarly secondary sources, including books and articles, as well as primary sources on a wide variety of topics, mostly in the humanities and social sciences.
  • History Reference Center has full-text articles from reference books, encyclopedias, and scholarly journals as well as images and streaming videos on most of the world's cultures and time periods.
  • Gale Literary Sources includes full-text print and electronic sources relevant to literature, such as biographies of authors, reviews of works, overviews of plots and characters, analyses of themes, and scholarly criticism.
  • Science and Technology Collection has full-text articles from journals in various scientific and technical fields.
  • MEDLINE , CINAHL , and Consumer Health Source contain articles in medicine and health.

Sometimes you will know exactly which source you are looking for, as in the case of your instructor or another writer referencing that source. Having the author (if available), title, and other information about the source included in an end-of-text citation will help you to find that source.

As you go through the process of gathering sources, you will likely need to find specific sources referenced by others to build your list of useful sources; use the steps above to help you do this. However, keep in mind that, especially when you first start researching, you will also need to find sources about your topic having little or no idea what sources are out there. Therefore, rather than authors and titles, you will need to enter keywords, or subject search terms, related to your topic. The next section instructs you on how to do that.

Entering Search Terms

One of the most important steps in conducting research is to "learn how to speak database," as the GSU video shows. To find reliable sources efficiently, you must identify single words or phrases that represent the major concepts of your research, that is, your keywords, or subject search terms. Your starting points for developing search terms are the topic and the research questions you identify, but you should also think of synonyms for those terms. Furthermore, as you begin searching for sources, you should notice additional terms in the subjects listed in the records of your results. These subjects will help you find additional sources.

As Jorge used his library's catalog and databases, he worked to refine his search by making note of subjects associated with sources about how the NCAA treats its athletes. His search helped him identify the following additional terms and related topics to research:

  • student athlete unionizing
  • student athlete image licensing rights
  • NCAA food allowance

Consulting a Librarian

Sifting through library stacks and database search results to find the information you need can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Knowing the right keywords can sometimes make all the difference in conducting a successful search.

If you are not sure how you should begin your search, or if your search is yielding too many, or too few, results, then you are not alone. Many students find this process challenging, although it does get easier with experience. One way to learn better search strategies is to consult a reference librarian and watch online tutorials that research experts have created to help you. If you have trouble finding sources on a topic, consult a librarian, in person, over the phone, or through a college library's chat function.

Librarians are intimately familiar with the systems that libraries use to organize and classify information. They can help you locate a particular book in the library stacks, steer you toward useful reference works, and provide tips on how to use databases and other electronic research tools.

Take the time to see what resources you can find on your own, but if you encounter difficulties, ask for help. Many academic librarians are available for online chatting, texting, and emailing as well as face-to-face reference consultations.

To make the most of your time with a librarian, be prepared to explain to the librarian the assignment and your timeline as well as your research questions and ideas for keywords. Because they are familiar with the resources available, librarians may be able to recommend specific resources that fit your needs and tailor your keywords to the search tools you are using, and they can help you track down and obtain sources at other institutions.

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  • Requesting items from other GSU libraries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPMjPSdXa5M
  • Requesting items from USG libraries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzQ-ua9KkRs&t=4s

Exercise: Searching for Sources

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At the Library of Congress website opens in new window , search for results on a few terms related to your topic.

Review your search results to identify at least six additional terms you might use when you search for sources using your college library's catalog and databases.

Visit your library's website or consult with a librarian to determine which databases would be useful for your research. Identify at least two relevant databases. Conduct a keyword search in these databases to find potentially relevant sources for your topic. Also, search your college's online library catalog. If the catalog or database you are using provides abstracts of sources, then read them to determine how useful the sources are likely to be.

Print out, email to yourself, or save your search results.

In your list of results, identify three to five sources to review more closely. If the full text is available online, set aside time to open, save, and read it.

If you can, visit the library to locate any sources you need that are only available in print. If the source is not available directly through your school's library, then use the library's online tool to request an interlibrary loan of the source: librarians will send the source in digital form to your email address for you to open and save, or they will send it in print form to your campus library for you to check out.

Cut and paste the following into a document, fill out the answers, and turn it in:

SIX TERMS FROM LIBRARY OF CONGRESS:

TWO DATABASES:

FIVE SOURCES:

Evaluating and Processing Your Sources

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Determining Whether a Source Is Relevant

At this point in your research process, you may have identified dozens of potential sources. It is easy for writers to get so caught up in gathering sources that they forget to ask themselves how they will use these resources in their research. Now is a good time to get a little ruthless. Reading and taking notes takes time and energy, so you will want to focus on the most relevant sources.

You may benefit from seeking out sources that are current, or up to date. Depending on your topic, sources may become outdated relatively soon after publication, or they may remain useful for years. For instance, online social networking sites have evolved rapidly over the past few years. An article published in 2002 about this topic will not provide current information.

On the other hand, a research paper on elementary education practices might refer to studies published decades ago by influential child psychologists. When using websites for research, look on the web page to see when the site was last updated. Many non-functioning links are a sign that a website is not regularly updated. Do not be afraid to ask your instructor, tutors, and librarians for suggestions if you find that many of your most relevant sources are not especially reliable, or that your most reliable sources are not relevant.

To weed through your collection of books and articles, skim their contents. Read quickly with your research questions and subtopics in mind. The following tips explain how to skim to get a quick sense of what topics are covered. If a book or article is not especially relevant, put it aside. You can always come back to it later if you need to.

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Determining Whether a Source Is Reliable

All information sources are not created equal. Sources can vary greatly in terms of how carefully they are researched, written, edited, and reviewed for accuracy. Common sense will help you identify obviously questionable sources, such as tabloids that feature tales of alien abductions, or personal websites with glaring typos. Sometimes, however, a source's reliability, or lack of it, is not so obvious. To evaluate your research sources, you will use critical thinking skills consciously and deliberately.

Sources you encounter will be written for distinct purposes and with particular audiences in mind, which may account for differences such as the following:

  • How thoroughly writers cover a given topic
  • How carefully writers research and document facts
  • How editors review the work
  • What biases or agendas affect the content
  • The author's or publication's credentials

A journal article written for an academic audience for the purpose of expanding scholarship in a given field will take an approach quite different from a magazine feature written to inform a general audience. Textbooks, hard news articles, and websites approach a subject from different angles as well. To some extent, the type of source provides clues about its overall depth and reliability. Use the following descriptions of types of sources to help you determine the quality of your sources.

  • High Quality/Credible Sources provide the most in-depth information. They are written and reviewed by subject-matter experts. Examples: books published by university presses and articles in scholarly journals, such as Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature ; trade books and magazines geared toward an educated general audience, such as Smithsonian Magazine ; government documents; documents by reputable organizations, such as universities and research institutes.
  • Varied Quality Sources are often useful; however, they do not cover subjects in as much depth as high-quality sources, and they are not always rigorously researched and reviewed. Some, such as popular magazine articles or company brochures, may be written to market a product or a cause. Textbooks and reference books are usually reliable, but they may not cover a topic in great depth. Use them with caution. Examples: news stories and feature articles (print or online) from reputable newspapers, magazines, or organizations, such as The New York Times or the Public Broadcasting Service; popular magazine articles, which may or may not be carefully researched and fact checked; documents by businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Questionable Sources are often written primarily to attract a large readership or to present the author's opinions, and they are not subject to careful review. Generally, avoid using these as final sources. If you want to use a source that fits into this category, then carefully evaluate it using criteria below. Examples: loosely regulated or unregulated media content, such as Internet discussion boards, blogs, free online encyclopedias, talk shows, television news shows with obvious political biases, personal websites, and chat rooms. Remember : just because it exists, doesn't mean it's a good or useful source. Even when you are using a type of source that is generally reliable, you will still need to evaluate the author's credibility and the publication itself on an individual basis. To examine the author's credibility, that is, how much you can believe of what the author has to say, examine his or her credentials. What career experience or academic study shows that the author has the expertise to write about this topic? Keep in mind that expertise in one field is no guarantee of expertise in another, unrelated area. For instance, an author may have an advanced degree in physiology, but this credential is not a valid qualification for writing about psychology. Check credentials carefully.

Just as important as the author's credibility is the publication's overall reputability. Reputability refers to a source's standing and reputation as a respectable, reliable source of information.

An established and well-known newspaper, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal , is more reputable than a college newspaper put out by comparatively inexperienced students. A website that is maintained by a well-known, respected organization and regularly updated is more reputable than one created by an unknown author or group.

Whenever you consult a source, always think carefully about the author's or authors' purpose in presenting the information. Few sources present facts completely objectively. In some cases, the source's content and tone are significantly influenced by biases or hidden agendas.

Bias refers to favoritism or prejudice toward a particular person or group. For instance, an author may be biased against a certain political party and present information in a way that subtly or not so subtly makes that organization look bad. Bias can lead an author to present facts selectively, edit quotations to misrepresent someone's words, and distort information.

Hidden agendas are goals that are not immediately obvious but influence how an author presents the facts. For instance, an article about the role of beef in a healthy diet would be questionable if it were written by a representative of the beef industry or by the president of an animal-rights organization. In both cases, the author would likely have a hidden agenda.

Jorge's Research Paper

As Jorge conducted his research, he read several research studies in which economists studied possible methods by which colleges could use money generated by television contracts with the NCAA to pay student-athletes. He also noticed that many popular articles which argued against paying student athletes depended on information they received from the NCAA, which he considered a biased source. Jorge read these studies with a critical eye, knowing that a hidden agenda might be shaping the writers' conclusions.

In sum, to evaluate a source, you should consider not only how current the source is but also criteria such as the type of source, its intended purpose and audience, the author's (or authors') qualifications, the publication's reputation, any indications of bias or hidden agendas, and the overall professionalism of the source's language, ideas, and design. You should consider these criteria as well as your overall impressions of the source's quality. Read carefully, and notice how well authors present and support their statements. Stay actively engaged: do not simply accept a source's words as truth.

The sorting process takes time as you move from having a lot of sources to really getting to know and quoting from the sources you rely on most for your project (or the minimum number of sources you need to use for this assignment). Think of a sideways cone with the open end on the left, and the narrow, closed end on the right. At the open end is all of the sources that you initially gathered and skimmed: the good, the maybe useful, the irrelevant. As you get to know the body of research about your topic, you will start to pick sources that represent different aspects or categories/subtopics of the broader topic. Each time you move closer to the narrow end of the cone, you'll pick and really get to know those representative sources.

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Exercise: Evaluating a Source

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Chose a source you found that you think is relevant, but you're unsure if it's reliable.

Answer the following questions about the source:

  • Can you establish that the author is credible and the publication is reputable?
  • Does the author support ideas with specific facts and details that are carefully documented? Is the source of the author's information clear? When you use secondary sources, look for sources that are not too removed from primary research.
  • Does the author leave out any information that you would expect to see in a discussion of this topic?
  • Does the source include any factual errors or instances of faulty logic?
  • Do the author's conclusions logically follow from the evidence that is presented? Can you see how the author gets to one point from another?
  • Is the writing clear and free from errors, clichés, and empty buzzwords?
  • Is the tone objective, balanced, and reasonable? Does the source convey any biases? Be on the lookout for extreme, emotionally charged language.
  • Based on what you know about the author, is he or she likely to have any hidden agendas?
  • Is the source's design professional? Are graphics informative, useful, and easy to understand? If the source is a website, is it well organized, easy to navigate, and free of clutter like flashing ads and unnecessary sound effects?
  • Is the source contradicted by information you found in other sources? If so, it is possible that your sources are presenting similar information but taking different perspectives, which requires you to think carefully about which sources you find more convincing and why.

Be suspicious, however, of any source that presents facts you cannot confirm elsewhere.

Keeping Track of Sources

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As you determine which sources you will rely on most, it is important to establish a system for keeping track of your sources and taking notes. There are several ways to go about it, and no one system is necessarily superior. Here's what matters: you keep materials in order; record bibliographical information you will need later, and take detailed, organized notes.

Think ahead to a moment a few weeks from now, when you've written your research paper and are almost ready to submit it for a grade. There is just one task left: writing your list of sources. As you begin typing your list, you realize you need to include the publication information for a book you cited frequently. Unfortunately, you already returned it to the library several days ago. You do not remember the URLs for some of the websites you used or the dates you accessed them, or information that also must be included in your bibliography. With a sinking feeling, you realize that finding this information and preparing your bibliography will require hours of work.

This stressful scenario can be avoided. Taking time to organize source information now will ensure that you are not scrambling to find it at the last minute. Throughout your research, record bibliographical information for each source as soon as you begin using it.

You may use pen-and-paper methods, such as a notebook or note cards, or maintain an electronic list. (If you prefer the latter option, many office software packages include separate programs for recording bibliographic information.)

The following table shows the specific details you should record for commonly used source types. Use these details to develop a working bibliography, a preliminary list of sources that you will later use to develop the references section of your paper. It will save you time later on to record, from the start, all information you will need about your sources to create a Works Cited page. The following lists what you should record for some common types of sources. Your research may involve other types of sources not listed below. For more information on formatting citations, consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the MLA Guide on the MLA Style Center . Online writing labs (OWLs), such as the Excelsior Online Writing Lab .

  • Book: the author(s), title, subtitle, publisher, city of publication, and year of publication.
  • Work (e.g., article) in an anthology (i.e., book): the work's author(s), title, and subtitle; the book's title, subtitle, editor(s); any edition and volume numbers of the book; the book's publisher, city of publication, and year of publication; the pages on which the work appears in the book.
  • Periodical: the author(s), title of the article, title of the publication, date of publication, volume and issue number, and range of page numbers of the article.
  • Online source: the author(s); the title of the work or web page; the title of the website; the organization that sponsors the website; the database name; the date of publication or date of last update; the date you accessed the source.
  • Interview: the name of the person interviewed; the method of communication (e.g., in-person, video chat, email, or phone call); the date of the interview.

As you conduct research, you may wish to record additional details, such as a book's call number, the contact information for a person you interviewed, or the URL of an online source. That will make it easier for you to quickly locate the source again. You may also wish to assign each source a code (e.g., a number, letter, symbol, or color) to use when taking notes.

Taking Notes Efficiently

Writers sometimes get caught up in taking extensive notes, so much so that they lose sight of how their sources help them to answer their research questions. The challenge is to stay focused and organized as you gather information from sources. Before you begin taking notes, take a moment to step back and remind yourself of your goal as a researcher: to find information that will help you answer your research questions. That goal will determine what information you record and how you organize it. When you write your paper, you will present your conclusions about the topic supported by research. Therefore, you do not need to write down every detail of your sources; some of the information in relevant sources will be irrelevant to your research questions.

There are several formats you can use to take notes. No technique is necessarily better than the others; it is more important to choose a format you are comfortable using. Choose a note-taking method from among those listed below that works best for you, and use it as you gather sources. Using the techniques discussed in this section will prepare you for the next step in writing your research paper: organizing and synthesizing the information you find.

  • Use index cards. This traditional format involves writing each note on a separate index card. It takes more time than copying and pasting into an electronic document, which encourages you to be selective in choosing which ideas to record. Recording notes on separate cards makes it easy to later organize your notes according to major topics. Some writers color-code their cards to make them even more organized.
  • Maintain a research notebook. Instead of using index cards or electronic note cards, you may wish to keep a notebook or electronic folder, allotting a few pages (or one file) for each of your sources. This method makes it easy to create a separate column or section of the document where you add your responses to the information you encounter in your research.
  • Annotate your sources. This method involves making handwritten notes in the margins of sources that you have printed or photocopied. If using electronic sources, you can make comments within the source document. For example, you might add comment boxes to a PDF version of an article. This method works best for experienced researchers who have already thought a great deal about the topic because it can be difficult to organize your notes later when starting your draft.
  • Use note-taking software . There are many options for taking and organizing notes electronically. These include word-processing software that you can use offline on a computer. They also include tools and apps like Diigo, Evernote, Notablity, and Mindomo, available on the Web for free or reduced prices if you will use the tool for educational purposes. Although you may need to set aside time to learn how to use them, digital tools offer you possibilities that handwritten note cards do not, such as searching your notes, copying and pasting your notes into your paper, and saving and sharing your notes online.

Whether you use old-fashioned index cards or organize your notes digitally, you should keep all your notes in one place, and use topic headings to group related details. Doing so will help you identify connections among different sources. It will also help you make connections between your notes and the research questions and subtopics you identified earlier. Throughout the process of taking notes, be scrupulous about making sure you have correctly attributed each idea or piece of information to its source. Always include source information or use a code system (e.g., numbers, letters, symbols, or colors) so you know exactly which claims or evidence came from which sources.

Effective researchers make choices about which types of notes are most appropriate for their purpose. Your notes may fall into three categories:

  • Summary notes sum up the main ideas in a source in a few sentences or a short paragraph. A summary is considerably shorter than the original text and captures only the major ideas. Use summary notes when you do not need to record specific details but you intend to refer to broad concepts the author discusses.
  • Paraphrased notes restate a fact or idea from a source using your own words and sentence structure.
  • Direct quotations use the exact wording used by the original source and enclose the quoted material in quotation marks. It is a good strategy to copy direct quotations when an author expresses an idea in an especially lively or memorable way. However, do not rely exclusively on direct quotations in your note taking.

Summarizing and paraphrasing as you take notes is usually a better strategy than copying direct quotations because it forces you to think through the claims and evidence in your source and to understand it well enough to restate it. In short, these methods of note-taking help you to stay engaged with your topic instead of simply copying and pasting text from sources. Using them will help you when you draft your paper.

Paraphrase ideas carefully, and check your paraphrased notes against the original text to make sure you have restated the author's ideas accurately.

Use quotation marks to set off any words or phrases taken directly from the source. With direct quotations, again, make sure your notes accurately reflect the content of the original text: check that quoted material is copied verbatim. If you omit words from a quotation, use ellipses to show the omission, and make sure the omission does not change the author's meaning. If you add your own responses and ideas to your notes, mark them as such so that your own thinking about the topic stands out from ideas you summarized or paraphrased.

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Cultural Relativity and Acceptance of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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Main Article Content

There is a debate about the ethical implications of using human embryos in stem cell research, which can be influenced by cultural, moral, and social values. This paper argues for an adaptable framework to accommodate diverse cultural and religious perspectives. By using an adaptive ethics model, research protections can reflect various populations and foster growth in stem cell research possibilities.

INTRODUCTION

Stem cell research combines biology, medicine, and technology, promising to alter health care and the understanding of human development. Yet, ethical contention exists because of individuals’ perceptions of using human embryos based on their various cultural, moral, and social values. While these disagreements concerning policy, use, and general acceptance have prompted the development of an international ethics policy, such a uniform approach can overlook the nuanced ethical landscapes between cultures. With diverse viewpoints in public health, a single global policy, especially one reflecting Western ethics or the ethics prevalent in high-income countries, is impractical. This paper argues for a culturally sensitive, adaptable framework for the use of embryonic stem cells. Stem cell policy should accommodate varying ethical viewpoints and promote an effective global dialogue. With an extension of an ethics model that can adapt to various cultures, we recommend localized guidelines that reflect the moral views of the people those guidelines serve.

Stem cells, characterized by their unique ability to differentiate into various cell types, enable the repair or replacement of damaged tissues. Two primary types of stem cells are somatic stem cells (adult stem cells) and embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells exist in developed tissues and maintain the body’s repair processes. [1] Embryonic stem cells (ESC) are remarkably pluripotent or versatile, making them valuable in research. [2] However, the use of ESCs has sparked ethics debates. Considering the potential of embryonic stem cells, research guidelines are essential. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) provides international stem cell research guidelines. They call for “public conversations touching on the scientific significance as well as the societal and ethical issues raised by ESC research.” [3] The ISSCR also publishes updates about culturing human embryos 14 days post fertilization, suggesting local policies and regulations should continue to evolve as ESC research develops. [4]  Like the ISSCR, which calls for local law and policy to adapt to developing stem cell research given cultural acceptance, this paper highlights the importance of local social factors such as religion and culture.

I.     Global Cultural Perspective of Embryonic Stem Cells

Views on ESCs vary throughout the world. Some countries readily embrace stem cell research and therapies, while others have stricter regulations due to ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cells and when an embryo becomes entitled to moral consideration. The philosophical issue of when the “someone” begins to be a human after fertilization, in the morally relevant sense, [5] impacts when an embryo becomes not just worthy of protection but morally entitled to it. The process of creating embryonic stem cell lines involves the destruction of the embryos for research. [6] Consequently, global engagement in ESC research depends on social-cultural acceptability.

a.     US and Rights-Based Cultures

In the United States, attitudes toward stem cell therapies are diverse. The ethics and social approaches, which value individualism, [7] trigger debates regarding the destruction of human embryos, creating a complex regulatory environment. For example, the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment prohibited federal funding for the creation of embryos for research and the destruction of embryos for “more than allowed for research on fetuses in utero.” [8] Following suit, in 2001, the Bush Administration heavily restricted stem cell lines for research. However, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 was proposed to help develop ESC research but was ultimately vetoed. [9] Under the Obama administration, in 2009, an executive order lifted restrictions allowing for more development in this field. [10] The flux of research capacity and funding parallels the different cultural perceptions of human dignity of the embryo and how it is socially presented within the country’s research culture. [11]

b.     Ubuntu and Collective Cultures

African bioethics differs from Western individualism because of the different traditions and values. African traditions, as described by individuals from South Africa and supported by some studies in other African countries, including Ghana and Kenya, follow the African moral philosophies of Ubuntu or Botho and Ukama , which “advocates for a form of wholeness that comes through one’s relationship and connectedness with other people in the society,” [12] making autonomy a socially collective concept. In this context, for the community to act autonomously, individuals would come together to decide what is best for the collective. Thus, stem cell research would require examining the value of the research to society as a whole and the use of the embryos as a collective societal resource. If society views the source as part of the collective whole, and opposes using stem cells, compromising the cultural values to pursue research may cause social detachment and stunt research growth. [13] Based on local culture and moral philosophy, the permissibility of stem cell research depends on how embryo, stem cell, and cell line therapies relate to the community as a whole. Ubuntu is the expression of humanness, with the person’s identity drawn from the “’I am because we are’” value. [14] The decision in a collectivistic culture becomes one born of cultural context, and individual decisions give deference to others in the society.

Consent differs in cultures where thought and moral philosophy are based on a collective paradigm. So, applying Western bioethical concepts is unrealistic. For one, Africa is a diverse continent with many countries with different belief systems, access to health care, and reliance on traditional or Western medicines. Where traditional medicine is the primary treatment, the “’restrictive focus on biomedically-related bioethics’” [is] problematic in African contexts because it neglects bioethical issues raised by traditional systems.” [15] No single approach applies in all areas or contexts. Rather than evaluating the permissibility of ESC research according to Western concepts such as the four principles approach, different ethics approaches should prevail.

Another consideration is the socio-economic standing of countries. In parts of South Africa, researchers have not focused heavily on contributing to the stem cell discourse, either because it is not considered health care or a health science priority or because resources are unavailable. [16] Each country’s priorities differ given different social, political, and economic factors. In South Africa, for instance, areas such as maternal mortality, non-communicable diseases, telemedicine, and the strength of health systems need improvement and require more focus [17] Stem cell research could benefit the population, but it also could divert resources from basic medical care. Researchers in South Africa adhere to the National Health Act and Medicines Control Act in South Africa and international guidelines; however, the Act is not strictly enforced, and there is no clear legislation for research conduct or ethical guidelines. [18]

Some parts of Africa condemn stem cell research. For example, 98.2 percent of the Tunisian population is Muslim. [19] Tunisia does not permit stem cell research because of moral conflict with a Fatwa. Religion heavily saturates the regulation and direction of research. [20] Stem cell use became permissible for reproductive purposes only recently, with tight restrictions preventing cells from being used in any research other than procedures concerning ART/IVF.  Their use is conditioned on consent, and available only to married couples. [21] The community's receptiveness to stem cell research depends on including communitarian African ethics.

c.     Asia

Some Asian countries also have a collective model of ethics and decision making. [22] In China, the ethics model promotes a sincere respect for life or human dignity, [23] based on protective medicine. This model, influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), [24] recognizes Qi as the vital energy delivered via the meridians of the body; it connects illness to body systems, the body’s entire constitution, and the universe for a holistic bond of nature, health, and quality of life. [25] Following a protective ethics model, and traditional customs of wholeness, investment in stem cell research is heavily desired for its applications in regenerative therapies, disease modeling, and protective medicines. In a survey of medical students and healthcare practitioners, 30.8 percent considered stem cell research morally unacceptable while 63.5 percent accepted medical research using human embryonic stem cells. Of these individuals, 89.9 percent supported increased funding for stem cell research. [26] The scientific community might not reflect the overall population. From 1997 to 2019, China spent a total of $576 million (USD) on stem cell research at 8,050 stem cell programs, increased published presence from 0.6 percent to 14.01 percent of total global stem cell publications as of 2014, and made significant strides in cell-based therapies for various medical conditions. [27] However, while China has made substantial investments in stem cell research and achieved notable progress in clinical applications, concerns linger regarding ethical oversight and transparency. [28] For example, the China Biosecurity Law, promoted by the National Health Commission and China Hospital Association, attempted to mitigate risks by introducing an institutional review board (IRB) in the regulatory bodies. 5800 IRBs registered with the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry since 2021. [29] However, issues still need to be addressed in implementing effective IRB review and approval procedures.

The substantial government funding and focus on scientific advancement have sometimes overshadowed considerations of regional cultures, ethnic minorities, and individual perspectives, particularly evident during the one-child policy era. As government policy adapts to promote public stability, such as the change from the one-child to the two-child policy, [30] research ethics should also adapt to ensure respect for the values of its represented peoples.

Japan is also relatively supportive of stem cell research and therapies. Japan has a more transparent regulatory framework, allowing for faster approval of regenerative medicine products, which has led to several advanced clinical trials and therapies. [31] South Korea is also actively engaged in stem cell research and has a history of breakthroughs in cloning and embryonic stem cells. [32] However, the field is controversial, and there are issues of scientific integrity. For example, the Korean FDA fast-tracked products for approval, [33] and in another instance, the oocyte source was unclear and possibly violated ethical standards. [34] Trust is important in research, as it builds collaborative foundations between colleagues, trial participant comfort, open-mindedness for complicated and sensitive discussions, and supports regulatory procedures for stakeholders. There is a need to respect the culture’s interest, engagement, and for research and clinical trials to be transparent and have ethical oversight to promote global research discourse and trust.

d.     Middle East

Countries in the Middle East have varying degrees of acceptance of or restrictions to policies related to using embryonic stem cells due to cultural and religious influences. Saudi Arabia has made significant contributions to stem cell research, and conducts research based on international guidelines for ethical conduct and under strict adherence to guidelines in accordance with Islamic principles. Specifically, the Saudi government and people require ESC research to adhere to Sharia law. In addition to umbilical and placental stem cells, [35] Saudi Arabia permits the use of embryonic stem cells as long as they come from miscarriages, therapeutic abortions permissible by Sharia law, or are left over from in vitro fertilization and donated to research. [36] Laws and ethical guidelines for stem cell research allow the development of research institutions such as the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, which has a cord blood bank and a stem cell registry with nearly 10,000 donors. [37] Such volume and acceptance are due to the ethical ‘permissibility’ of the donor sources, which do not conflict with religious pillars. However, some researchers err on the side of caution, choosing not to use embryos or fetal tissue as they feel it is unethical to do so. [38]

Jordan has a positive research ethics culture. [39] However, there is a significant issue of lack of trust in researchers, with 45.23 percent (38.66 percent agreeing and 6.57 percent strongly agreeing) of Jordanians holding a low level of trust in researchers, compared to 81.34 percent of Jordanians agreeing that they feel safe to participate in a research trial. [40] Safety testifies to the feeling of confidence that adequate measures are in place to protect participants from harm, whereas trust in researchers could represent the confidence in researchers to act in the participants’ best interests, adhere to ethical guidelines, provide accurate information, and respect participants’ rights and dignity. One method to improve trust would be to address communication issues relevant to ESC. Legislation surrounding stem cell research has adopted specific language, especially concerning clarification “between ‘stem cells’ and ‘embryonic stem cells’” in translation. [41] Furthermore, legislation “mandates the creation of a national committee… laying out specific regulations for stem-cell banking in accordance with international standards.” [42] This broad regulation opens the door for future global engagement and maintains transparency. However, these regulations may also constrain the influence of research direction, pace, and accessibility of research outcomes.

e.     Europe

In the European Union (EU), ethics is also principle-based, but the principles of autonomy, dignity, integrity, and vulnerability are interconnected. [43] As such, the opportunity for cohesion and concessions between individuals’ thoughts and ideals allows for a more adaptable ethics model due to the flexible principles that relate to the human experience The EU has put forth a framework in its Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being allowing member states to take different approaches. Each European state applies these principles to its specific conventions, leading to or reflecting different acceptance levels of stem cell research. [44]

For example, in Germany, Lebenzusammenhang , or the coherence of life, references integrity in the unity of human culture. Namely, the personal sphere “should not be subject to external intervention.” [45]  Stem cell interventions could affect this concept of bodily completeness, leading to heavy restrictions. Under the Grundgesetz, human dignity and the right to life with physical integrity are paramount. [46] The Embryo Protection Act of 1991 made producing cell lines illegal. Cell lines can be imported if approved by the Central Ethics Commission for Stem Cell Research only if they were derived before May 2007. [47] Stem cell research respects the integrity of life for the embryo with heavy specifications and intense oversight. This is vastly different in Finland, where the regulatory bodies find research more permissible in IVF excess, but only up to 14 days after fertilization. [48] Spain’s approach differs still, with a comprehensive regulatory framework. [49] Thus, research regulation can be culture-specific due to variations in applied principles. Diverse cultures call for various approaches to ethical permissibility. [50] Only an adaptive-deliberative model can address the cultural constructions of self and achieve positive, culturally sensitive stem cell research practices. [51]

II.     Religious Perspectives on ESC

Embryonic stem cell sources are the main consideration within religious contexts. While individuals may not regard their own religious texts as authoritative or factual, religion can shape their foundations or perspectives.

The Qur'an states:

“And indeed We created man from a quintessence of clay. Then We placed within him a small quantity of nutfa (sperm to fertilize) in a safe place. Then We have fashioned the nutfa into an ‘alaqa (clinging clot or cell cluster), then We developed the ‘alaqa into mudgha (a lump of flesh), and We made mudgha into bones, and clothed the bones with flesh, then We brought it into being as a new creation. So Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators.” [52]

Many scholars of Islam estimate the time of soul installment, marked by the angel breathing in the soul to bring the individual into creation, as 120 days from conception. [53] Personhood begins at this point, and the value of life would prohibit research or experimentation that could harm the individual. If the fetus is more than 120 days old, the time ensoulment is interpreted to occur according to Islamic law, abortion is no longer permissible. [54] There are a few opposing opinions about early embryos in Islamic traditions. According to some Islamic theologians, there is no ensoulment of the early embryo, which is the source of stem cells for ESC research. [55]

In Buddhism, the stance on stem cell research is not settled. The main tenets, the prohibition against harming or destroying others (ahimsa) and the pursuit of knowledge (prajña) and compassion (karuna), leave Buddhist scholars and communities divided. [56] Some scholars argue stem cell research is in accordance with the Buddhist tenet of seeking knowledge and ending human suffering. Others feel it violates the principle of not harming others. Finding the balance between these two points relies on the karmic burden of Buddhist morality. In trying to prevent ahimsa towards the embryo, Buddhist scholars suggest that to comply with Buddhist tenets, research cannot be done as the embryo has personhood at the moment of conception and would reincarnate immediately, harming the individual's ability to build their karmic burden. [57] On the other hand, the Bodhisattvas, those considered to be on the path to enlightenment or Nirvana, have given organs and flesh to others to help alleviate grieving and to benefit all. [58] Acceptance varies on applied beliefs and interpretations.

Catholicism does not support embryonic stem cell research, as it entails creation or destruction of human embryos. This destruction conflicts with the belief in the sanctity of life. For example, in the Old Testament, Genesis describes humanity as being created in God’s image and multiplying on the Earth, referencing the sacred rights to human conception and the purpose of development and life. In the Ten Commandments, the tenet that one should not kill has numerous interpretations where killing could mean murder or shedding of the sanctity of life, demonstrating the high value of human personhood. In other books, the theological conception of when life begins is interpreted as in utero, [59] highlighting the inviolability of life and its formation in vivo to make a religious point for accepting such research as relatively limited, if at all. [60] The Vatican has released ethical directives to help apply a theological basis to modern-day conflicts. The Magisterium of the Church states that “unless there is a moral certainty of not causing harm,” experimentation on fetuses, fertilized cells, stem cells, or embryos constitutes a crime. [61] Such procedures would not respect the human person who exists at these stages, according to Catholicism. Damages to the embryo are considered gravely immoral and illicit. [62] Although the Catholic Church officially opposes abortion, surveys demonstrate that many Catholic people hold pro-choice views, whether due to the context of conception, stage of pregnancy, threat to the mother’s life, or for other reasons, demonstrating that practicing members can also accept some but not all tenets. [63]

Some major Jewish denominations, such as the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements, are open to supporting ESC use or research as long as it is for saving a life. [64] Within Judaism, the Talmud, or study, gives personhood to the child at birth and emphasizes that life does not begin at conception: [65]

“If she is found pregnant, until the fortieth day it is mere fluid,” [66]

Whereas most religions prioritize the status of human embryos, the Halakah (Jewish religious law) states that to save one life, most other religious laws can be ignored because it is in pursuit of preservation. [67] Stem cell research is accepted due to application of these religious laws.

We recognize that all religions contain subsets and sects. The variety of environmental and cultural differences within religious groups requires further analysis to respect the flexibility of religious thoughts and practices. We make no presumptions that all cultures require notions of autonomy or morality as under the common morality theory , which asserts a set of universal moral norms that all individuals share provides moral reasoning and guides ethical decisions. [68] We only wish to show that the interaction with morality varies between cultures and countries.

III.     A Flexible Ethical Approach

The plurality of different moral approaches described above demonstrates that there can be no universally acceptable uniform law for ESC on a global scale. Instead of developing one standard, flexible ethical applications must be continued. We recommend local guidelines that incorporate important cultural and ethical priorities.

While the Declaration of Helsinki is more relevant to people in clinical trials receiving ESC products, in keeping with the tradition of protections for research subjects, consent of the donor is an ethical requirement for ESC donation in many jurisdictions including the US, Canada, and Europe. [69] The Declaration of Helsinki provides a reference point for regulatory standards and could potentially be used as a universal baseline for obtaining consent prior to gamete or embryo donation.

For instance, in Columbia University’s egg donor program for stem cell research, donors followed standard screening protocols and “underwent counseling sessions that included information as to the purpose of oocyte donation for research, what the oocytes would be used for, the risks and benefits of donation, and process of oocyte stimulation” to ensure transparency for consent. [70] The program helped advance stem cell research and provided clear and safe research methods with paid participants. Though paid participation or covering costs of incidental expenses may not be socially acceptable in every culture or context, [71] and creating embryos for ESC research is illegal in many jurisdictions, Columbia’s program was effective because of the clear and honest communications with donors, IRBs, and related stakeholders.  This example demonstrates that cultural acceptance of scientific research and of the idea that an egg or embryo does not have personhood is likely behind societal acceptance of donating eggs for ESC research. As noted, many countries do not permit the creation of embryos for research.

Proper communication and education regarding the process and purpose of stem cell research may bolster comprehension and garner more acceptance. “Given the sensitive subject material, a complete consent process can support voluntary participation through trust, understanding, and ethical norms from the cultures and morals participants value. This can be hard for researchers entering countries of different socioeconomic stability, with different languages and different societal values. [72]

An adequate moral foundation in medical ethics is derived from the cultural and religious basis that informs knowledge and actions. [73] Understanding local cultural and religious values and their impact on research could help researchers develop humility and promote inclusion.

IV.     Concerns

Some may argue that if researchers all adhere to one ethics standard, protection will be satisfied across all borders, and the global public will trust researchers. However, defining what needs to be protected and how to define such research standards is very specific to the people to which standards are applied. We suggest that applying one uniform guide cannot accurately protect each individual because we all possess our own perceptions and interpretations of social values. [74] Therefore, the issue of not adjusting to the moral pluralism between peoples in applying one standard of ethics can be resolved by building out ethics models that can be adapted to different cultures and religions.

Other concerns include medical tourism, which may promote health inequities. [75] Some countries may develop and approve products derived from ESC research before others, compromising research ethics or drug approval processes. There are also concerns about the sale of unauthorized stem cell treatments, for example, those without FDA approval in the United States. Countries with robust research infrastructures may be tempted to attract medical tourists, and some customers will have false hopes based on aggressive publicity of unproven treatments. [76]

For example, in China, stem cell clinics can market to foreign clients who are not protected under the regulatory regimes. Companies employ a marketing strategy of “ethically friendly” therapies. Specifically, in the case of Beike, China’s leading stem cell tourism company and sprouting network, ethical oversight of administrators or health bureaus at one site has “the unintended consequence of shifting questionable activities to another node in Beike's diffuse network.” [77] In contrast, Jordan is aware of stem cell research’s potential abuse and its own status as a “health-care hub.” Jordan’s expanded regulations include preserving the interests of individuals in clinical trials and banning private companies from ESC research to preserve transparency and the integrity of research practices. [78]

The social priorities of the community are also a concern. The ISSCR explicitly states that guidelines “should be periodically revised to accommodate scientific advances, new challenges, and evolving social priorities.” [79] The adaptable ethics model extends this consideration further by addressing whether research is warranted given the varying degrees of socioeconomic conditions, political stability, and healthcare accessibilities and limitations. An ethical approach would require discussion about resource allocation and appropriate distribution of funds. [80]

While some religions emphasize the sanctity of life from conception, which may lead to public opposition to ESC research, others encourage ESC research due to its potential for healing and alleviating human pain. Many countries have special regulations that balance local views on embryonic personhood, the benefits of research as individual or societal goods, and the protection of human research subjects. To foster understanding and constructive dialogue, global policy frameworks should prioritize the protection of universal human rights, transparency, and informed consent. In addition to these foundational global policies, we recommend tailoring local guidelines to reflect the diverse cultural and religious perspectives of the populations they govern. Ethics models should be adapted to local populations to effectively establish research protections, growth, and possibilities of stem cell research.

For example, in countries with strong beliefs in the moral sanctity of embryos or heavy religious restrictions, an adaptive model can allow for discussion instead of immediate rejection. In countries with limited individual rights and voice in science policy, an adaptive model ensures cultural, moral, and religious views are taken into consideration, thereby building social inclusion. While this ethical consideration by the government may not give a complete voice to every individual, it will help balance policies and maintain the diverse perspectives of those it affects. Embracing an adaptive ethics model of ESC research promotes open-minded dialogue and respect for the importance of human belief and tradition. By actively engaging with cultural and religious values, researchers can better handle disagreements and promote ethical research practices that benefit each society.

This brief exploration of the religious and cultural differences that impact ESC research reveals the nuances of relative ethics and highlights a need for local policymakers to apply a more intense adaptive model.

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[2] Poliwoda, S., Noor, N., Downs, E., Schaaf, A., Cantwell, A., Ganti, L., Kaye, A. D., Mosel, L. I., Carroll, C. B., Viswanath, O., & Urits, I. (2022). Stem cells: a comprehensive review of origins and emerging clinical roles in medical practice.  Orthopedic reviews ,  14 (3), 37498. https://doi.org/10.52965/001c.37498

[3] International Society for Stem Cell Research. (2023). Laboratory-based human embryonic stem cell research, embryo research, and related research activities . International Society for Stem Cell Research. https://www.isscr.org/guidelines/blog-post-title-one-ed2td-6fcdk ; Kimmelman, J., Hyun, I., Benvenisty, N.  et al.  Policy: Global standards for stem-cell research.  Nature   533 , 311–313 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/533311a

[4] International Society for Stem Cell Research. (2023). Laboratory-based human embryonic stem cell research, embryo research, and related research activities . International Society for Stem Cell Research. https://www.isscr.org/guidelines/blog-post-title-one-ed2td-6fcdk

[5] Concerning the moral philosophies of stem cell research, our paper does not posit a personal moral stance nor delve into the “when” of human life begins. To read further about the philosophical debate, consider the following sources:

Sandel M. J. (2004). Embryo ethics--the moral logic of stem-cell research.  The New England journal of medicine ,  351 (3), 207–209. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp048145 ; George, R. P., & Lee, P. (2020, September 26). Acorns and Embryos . The New Atlantis. https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/acorns-and-embryos ; Sagan, A., & Singer, P. (2007). The moral status of stem cells. Metaphilosophy , 38 (2/3), 264–284. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24439776 ; McHugh P. R. (2004). Zygote and "clonote"--the ethical use of embryonic stem cells.  The New England journal of medicine ,  351 (3), 209–211. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp048147 ; Kurjak, A., & Tripalo, A. (2004). The facts and doubts about beginning of the human life and personality.  Bosnian journal of basic medical sciences ,  4 (1), 5–14. https://doi.org/10.17305/bjbms.2004.3453

[6] Vazin, T., & Freed, W. J. (2010). Human embryonic stem cells: derivation, culture, and differentiation: a review.  Restorative neurology and neuroscience ,  28 (4), 589–603. https://doi.org/10.3233/RNN-2010-0543

[7] Socially, at its core, the Western approach to ethics is widely principle-based, autonomy being one of the key factors to ensure a fundamental respect for persons within research. For information regarding autonomy in research, see: Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, & National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1978). The Belmont Report. Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research.; For a more in-depth review of autonomy within the US, see: Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (1994). Principles of Biomedical Ethics . Oxford University Press.

[8] Sherley v. Sebelius , 644 F.3d 388 (D.C. Cir. 2011), citing 45 C.F.R. 46.204(b) and [42 U.S.C. § 289g(b)]. https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/6c690438a9b43dd685257a64004ebf99/$file/11-5241-1391178.pdf

[9] Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, H. R. 810, 109 th Cong. (2001). https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/109/hr810/text ; Bush, G. W. (2006, July 19). Message to the House of Representatives . National Archives and Records Administration. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060719-5.html

[10] National Archives and Records Administration. (2009, March 9). Executive order 13505 -- removing barriers to responsible scientific research involving human stem cells . National Archives and Records Administration. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/removing-barriers-responsible-scientific-research-involving-human-stem-cells

[11] Hurlbut, W. B. (2006). Science, Religion, and the Politics of Stem Cells.  Social Research ,  73 (3), 819–834. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40971854

[12] Akpa-Inyang, Francis & Chima, Sylvester. (2021). South African traditional values and beliefs regarding informed consent and limitations of the principle of respect for autonomy in African communities: a cross-cultural qualitative study. BMC Medical Ethics . 22. 10.1186/s12910-021-00678-4.

[13] Source for further reading: Tangwa G. B. (2007). Moral status of embryonic stem cells: perspective of an African villager. Bioethics , 21(8), 449–457. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8519.2007.00582.x , see also Mnisi, F. M. (2020). An African analysis based on ethics of Ubuntu - are human embryonic stem cell patents morally justifiable? African Insight , 49 (4).

[14] Jecker, N. S., & Atuire, C. (2021). Bioethics in Africa: A contextually enlightened analysis of three cases. Developing World Bioethics , 22 (2), 112–122. https://doi.org/10.1111/dewb.12324

[15] Jecker, N. S., & Atuire, C. (2021). Bioethics in Africa: A contextually enlightened analysis of three cases. Developing World Bioethics, 22(2), 112–122. https://doi.org/10.1111/dewb.12324

[16] Jackson, C.S., Pepper, M.S. Opportunities and barriers to establishing a cell therapy programme in South Africa.  Stem Cell Res Ther   4 , 54 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/scrt204 ; Pew Research Center. (2014, May 1). Public health a major priority in African nations . Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2014/05/01/public-health-a-major-priority-in-african-nations/

[17] Department of Health Republic of South Africa. (2021). Health Research Priorities (revised) for South Africa 2021-2024 . National Health Research Strategy. https://www.health.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/National-Health-Research-Priorities-2021-2024.pdf

[18] Oosthuizen, H. (2013). Legal and Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research in South Africa. In: Beran, R. (eds) Legal and Forensic Medicine. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-32338-6_80 , see also: Gaobotse G (2018) Stem Cell Research in Africa: Legislation and Challenges. J Regen Med 7:1. doi: 10.4172/2325-9620.1000142

[19] United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. (1998). Tunisia: Information on the status of Christian conversions in Tunisia . UNHCR Web Archive. https://webarchive.archive.unhcr.org/20230522142618/https://www.refworld.org/docid/3df0be9a2.html

[20] Gaobotse, G. (2018) Stem Cell Research in Africa: Legislation and Challenges. J Regen Med 7:1. doi: 10.4172/2325-9620.1000142

[21] Kooli, C. Review of assisted reproduction techniques, laws, and regulations in Muslim countries.  Middle East Fertil Soc J   24 , 8 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43043-019-0011-0 ; Gaobotse, G. (2018) Stem Cell Research in Africa: Legislation and Challenges. J Regen Med 7:1. doi: 10.4172/2325-9620.1000142

[22] Pang M. C. (1999). Protective truthfulness: the Chinese way of safeguarding patients in informed treatment decisions. Journal of medical ethics , 25(3), 247–253. https://doi.org/10.1136/jme.25.3.247

[23] Wang, L., Wang, F., & Zhang, W. (2021). Bioethics in China’s biosecurity law: Forms, effects, and unsettled issues. Journal of law and the biosciences , 8(1).  https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsab019 https://academic.oup.com/jlb/article/8/1/lsab019/6299199

[24] Wang, Y., Xue, Y., & Guo, H. D. (2022). Intervention effects of traditional Chinese medicine on stem cell therapy of myocardial infarction.  Frontiers in pharmacology ,  13 , 1013740. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2022.1013740

[25] Li, X.-T., & Zhao, J. (2012). Chapter 4: An Approach to the Nature of Qi in TCM- Qi and Bioenergy. In Recent Advances in Theories and Practice of Chinese Medicine (p. 79). InTech.

[26] Luo, D., Xu, Z., Wang, Z., & Ran, W. (2021). China's Stem Cell Research and Knowledge Levels of Medical Practitioners and Students.  Stem cells international ,  2021 , 6667743. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/6667743

[27] Luo, D., Xu, Z., Wang, Z., & Ran, W. (2021). China's Stem Cell Research and Knowledge Levels of Medical Practitioners and Students.  Stem cells international ,  2021 , 6667743. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/6667743

[28] Zhang, J. Y. (2017). Lost in translation? accountability and governance of Clinical Stem Cell Research in China. Regenerative Medicine , 12 (6), 647–656. https://doi.org/10.2217/rme-2017-0035

[29] Wang, L., Wang, F., & Zhang, W. (2021). Bioethics in China’s biosecurity law: Forms, effects, and unsettled issues. Journal of law and the biosciences , 8(1).  https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsab019 https://academic.oup.com/jlb/article/8/1/lsab019/6299199

[30] Chen, H., Wei, T., Wang, H.  et al.  Association of China’s two-child policy with changes in number of births and birth defects rate, 2008–2017.  BMC Public Health   22 , 434 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-12839-0

[31] Azuma, K. Regulatory Landscape of Regenerative Medicine in Japan.  Curr Stem Cell Rep   1 , 118–128 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40778-015-0012-6

[32] Harris, R. (2005, May 19). Researchers Report Advance in Stem Cell Production . NPR. https://www.npr.org/2005/05/19/4658967/researchers-report-advance-in-stem-cell-production

[33] Park, S. (2012). South Korea steps up stem-cell work.  Nature . https://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2012.10565

[34] Resnik, D. B., Shamoo, A. E., & Krimsky, S. (2006). Fraudulent human embryonic stem cell research in South Korea: lessons learned.  Accountability in research ,  13 (1), 101–109. https://doi.org/10.1080/08989620600634193 .

[35] Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia. BMC medical ethics, 21(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6

[36] Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies.  https://www.aabb.org/regulatory-and-advocacy/regulatory-affairs/regulatory-for-cellular-therapies/international-competent-authorities/saudi-arabia

[37] Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: Interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia.  BMC medical ethics ,  21 (1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6

[38] Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: Interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia. BMC medical ethics , 21(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6

Culturally, autonomy practices follow a relational autonomy approach based on a paternalistic deontological health care model. The adherence to strict international research policies and religious pillars within the regulatory environment is a great foundation for research ethics. However, there is a need to develop locally targeted ethics approaches for research (as called for in Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia. BMC medical ethics, 21(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6), this decision-making approach may help advise a research decision model. For more on the clinical cultural autonomy approaches, see: Alabdullah, Y. Y., Alzaid, E., Alsaad, S., Alamri, T., Alolayan, S. W., Bah, S., & Aljoudi, A. S. (2022). Autonomy and paternalism in Shared decision‐making in a Saudi Arabian tertiary hospital: A cross‐sectional study. Developing World Bioethics , 23 (3), 260–268. https://doi.org/10.1111/dewb.12355 ; Bukhari, A. A. (2017). Universal Principles of Bioethics and Patient Rights in Saudi Arabia (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/124; Ladha, S., Nakshawani, S. A., Alzaidy, A., & Tarab, B. (2023, October 26). Islam and Bioethics: What We All Need to Know . Columbia University School of Professional Studies. https://sps.columbia.edu/events/islam-and-bioethics-what-we-all-need-know

[39] Ababneh, M. A., Al-Azzam, S. I., Alzoubi, K., Rababa’h, A., & Al Demour, S. (2021). Understanding and attitudes of the Jordanian public about clinical research ethics.  Research Ethics ,  17 (2), 228-241.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016120966779

[40] Ababneh, M. A., Al-Azzam, S. I., Alzoubi, K., Rababa’h, A., & Al Demour, S. (2021). Understanding and attitudes of the Jordanian public about clinical research ethics.  Research Ethics ,  17 (2), 228-241.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016120966779

[41] Dajani, R. (2014). Jordan’s stem-cell law can guide the Middle East.  Nature  510, 189. https://doi.org/10.1038/510189a

[42] Dajani, R. (2014). Jordan’s stem-cell law can guide the Middle East.  Nature  510, 189. https://doi.org/10.1038/510189a

[43] The EU’s definition of autonomy relates to the capacity for creating ideas, moral insight, decisions, and actions without constraint, personal responsibility, and informed consent. However, the EU views autonomy as not completely able to protect individuals and depends on other principles, such as dignity, which “expresses the intrinsic worth and fundamental equality of all human beings.” Rendtorff, J.D., Kemp, P. (2019). Four Ethical Principles in European Bioethics and Biolaw: Autonomy, Dignity, Integrity and Vulnerability. In: Valdés, E., Lecaros, J. (eds) Biolaw and Policy in the Twenty-First Century. International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine, vol 78. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05903-3_3

[44] Council of Europe. Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (ETS No. 164) https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list?module=treaty-detail&treatynum=164 (forbidding the creation of embryos for research purposes only, and suggests embryos in vitro have protections.); Also see Drabiak-Syed B. K. (2013). New President, New Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Policy: Comparative International Perspectives and Embryonic Stem Cell Research Laws in France.  Biotechnology Law Report ,  32 (6), 349–356. https://doi.org/10.1089/blr.2013.9865

[45] Rendtorff, J.D., Kemp, P. (2019). Four Ethical Principles in European Bioethics and Biolaw: Autonomy, Dignity, Integrity and Vulnerability. In: Valdés, E., Lecaros, J. (eds) Biolaw and Policy in the Twenty-First Century. International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine, vol 78. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05903-3_3

[46] Tomuschat, C., Currie, D. P., Kommers, D. P., & Kerr, R. (Trans.). (1949, May 23). Basic law for the Federal Republic of Germany. https://www.btg-bestellservice.de/pdf/80201000.pdf

[47] Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Germany . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-germany

[48] Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Finland . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-finland

[49] Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Spain . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-spain

[50] Some sources to consider regarding ethics models or regulatory oversights of other cultures not covered:

Kara MA. Applicability of the principle of respect for autonomy: the perspective of Turkey. J Med Ethics. 2007 Nov;33(11):627-30. doi: 10.1136/jme.2006.017400. PMID: 17971462; PMCID: PMC2598110.

Ugarte, O. N., & Acioly, M. A. (2014). The principle of autonomy in Brazil: one needs to discuss it ...  Revista do Colegio Brasileiro de Cirurgioes ,  41 (5), 374–377. https://doi.org/10.1590/0100-69912014005013

Bharadwaj, A., & Glasner, P. E. (2012). Local cells, global science: The rise of embryonic stem cell research in India . Routledge.

For further research on specific European countries regarding ethical and regulatory framework, we recommend this database: Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Europe . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-europe   

[51] Klitzman, R. (2006). Complications of culture in obtaining informed consent. The American Journal of Bioethics, 6(1), 20–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/15265160500394671 see also: Ekmekci, P. E., & Arda, B. (2017). Interculturalism and Informed Consent: Respecting Cultural Differences without Breaching Human Rights.  Cultura (Iasi, Romania) ,  14 (2), 159–172.; For why trust is important in research, see also: Gray, B., Hilder, J., Macdonald, L., Tester, R., Dowell, A., & Stubbe, M. (2017). Are research ethics guidelines culturally competent?  Research Ethics ,  13 (1), 23-41.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016116650235

[52] The Qur'an  (M. Khattab, Trans.). (1965). Al-Mu’minun, 23: 12-14. https://quran.com/23

[53] Lenfest, Y. (2017, December 8). Islam and the beginning of human life . Bill of Health. https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2017/12/08/islam-and-the-beginning-of-human-life/

[54] Aksoy, S. (2005). Making regulations and drawing up legislation in Islamic countries under conditions of uncertainty, with special reference to embryonic stem cell research. Journal of Medical Ethics , 31: 399-403.; see also: Mahmoud, Azza. "Islamic Bioethics: National Regulations and Guidelines of Human Stem Cell Research in the Muslim World." Master's thesis, Chapman University, 2022. https://doi.org/10.36837/ chapman.000386

[55] Rashid, R. (2022). When does Ensoulment occur in the Human Foetus. Journal of the British Islamic Medical Association , 12 (4). ISSN 2634 8071. https://www.jbima.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/2-Ethics-3_-Ensoulment_Rafaqat.pdf.

[56] Sivaraman, M. & Noor, S. (2017). Ethics of embryonic stem cell research according to Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, and Islamic religions: perspective from Malaysia. Asian Biomedicine,8(1) 43-52.  https://doi.org/10.5372/1905-7415.0801.260

[57] Jafari, M., Elahi, F., Ozyurt, S. & Wrigley, T. (2007). 4. Religious Perspectives on Embryonic Stem Cell Research. In K. Monroe, R. Miller & J. Tobis (Ed.),  Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues  (pp. 79-94). Berkeley: University of California Press.  https://escholarship.org/content/qt9rj0k7s3/qt9rj0k7s3_noSplash_f9aca2e02c3777c7fb76ea768ba458f0.pdf https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520940994-005

[58] Lecso, P. A. (1991). The Bodhisattva Ideal and Organ Transplantation.  Journal of Religion and Health ,  30 (1), 35–41. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27510629 ; Bodhisattva, S. (n.d.). The Key of Becoming a Bodhisattva . A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. http://www.buddhism.org/Sutras/2/BodhisattvaWay.htm

[59] There is no explicit religious reference to when life begins or how to conduct research that interacts with the concept of life. However, these are relevant verses pertaining to how the fetus is viewed. (( King James Bible . (1999). Oxford University Press. (original work published 1769))

Jerimiah 1: 5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee…”

In prophet Jerimiah’s insight, God set him apart as a person known before childbirth, a theme carried within the Psalm of David.

Psalm 139: 13-14 “…Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

These verses demonstrate David’s respect for God as an entity that would know of all man’s thoughts and doings even before birth.

[60] It should be noted that abortion is not supported as well.

[61] The Vatican. (1987, February 22). Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Replies to Certain Questions of the Day . Congregation For the Doctrine of the Faith. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html

[62] The Vatican. (2000, August 25). Declaration On the Production and the Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells . Pontifical Academy for Life. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pa_acdlife_doc_20000824_cellule-staminali_en.html ; Ohara, N. (2003). Ethical Consideration of Experimentation Using Living Human Embryos: The Catholic Church’s Position on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology . Retrieved from https://article.imrpress.com/journal/CEOG/30/2-3/pii/2003018/77-81.pdf.

[63] Smith, G. A. (2022, May 23). Like Americans overall, Catholics vary in their abortion views, with regular mass attenders most opposed . Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/05/23/like-americans-overall-catholics-vary-in-their-abortion-views-with-regular-mass-attenders-most-opposed/

[64] Rosner, F., & Reichman, E. (2002). Embryonic stem cell research in Jewish law. Journal of halacha and contemporary society , (43), 49–68.; Jafari, M., Elahi, F., Ozyurt, S. & Wrigley, T. (2007). 4. Religious Perspectives on Embryonic Stem Cell Research. In K. Monroe, R. Miller & J. Tobis (Ed.),  Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues  (pp. 79-94). Berkeley: University of California Press.  https://escholarship.org/content/qt9rj0k7s3/qt9rj0k7s3_noSplash_f9aca2e02c3777c7fb76ea768ba458f0.pdf https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520940994-005

[65] Schenker J. G. (2008). The beginning of human life: status of embryo. Perspectives in Halakha (Jewish Religious Law).  Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics ,  25 (6), 271–276. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-008-9221-6

[66] Ruttenberg, D. (2020, May 5). The Torah of Abortion Justice (annotated source sheet) . Sefaria. https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/234926.7?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

[67] Jafari, M., Elahi, F., Ozyurt, S. & Wrigley, T. (2007). 4. Religious Perspectives on Embryonic Stem Cell Research. In K. Monroe, R. Miller & J. Tobis (Ed.),  Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues  (pp. 79-94). Berkeley: University of California Press.  https://escholarship.org/content/qt9rj0k7s3/qt9rj0k7s3_noSplash_f9aca2e02c3777c7fb76ea768ba458f0.pdf https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520940994-005

[68] Gert, B. (2007). Common morality: Deciding what to do . Oxford Univ. Press.

[69] World Medical Association (2013). World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki: ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. JAMA , 310(20), 2191–2194. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2013.281053 Declaration of Helsinki – WMA – The World Medical Association .; see also: National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (1979).  The Belmont report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research . U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/belmont-report/read-the-belmont-report/index.html

[70] Zakarin Safier, L., Gumer, A., Kline, M., Egli, D., & Sauer, M. V. (2018). Compensating human subjects providing oocytes for stem cell research: 9-year experience and outcomes.  Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics ,  35 (7), 1219–1225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-018-1171-z https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6063839/ see also: Riordan, N. H., & Paz Rodríguez, J. (2021). Addressing concerns regarding associated costs, transparency, and integrity of research in recent stem cell trial. Stem Cells Translational Medicine , 10 (12), 1715–1716. https://doi.org/10.1002/sctm.21-0234

[71] Klitzman, R., & Sauer, M. V. (2009). Payment of egg donors in stem cell research in the USA.  Reproductive biomedicine online ,  18 (5), 603–608. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1472-6483(10)60002-8

[72] Krosin, M. T., Klitzman, R., Levin, B., Cheng, J., & Ranney, M. L. (2006). Problems in comprehension of informed consent in rural and peri-urban Mali, West Africa.  Clinical trials (London, England) ,  3 (3), 306–313. https://doi.org/10.1191/1740774506cn150oa

[73] Veatch, Robert M.  Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics: The Points of Conflict . Georgetown University Press, 2012.

[74] Msoroka, M. S., & Amundsen, D. (2018). One size fits not quite all: Universal research ethics with diversity.  Research Ethics ,  14 (3), 1-17.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016117739939

[75] Pirzada, N. (2022). The Expansion of Turkey’s Medical Tourism Industry.  Voices in Bioethics ,  8 . https://doi.org/10.52214/vib.v8i.9894

[76] Stem Cell Tourism: False Hope for Real Money . Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). (2023). https://hsci.harvard.edu/stem-cell-tourism , See also: Bissassar, M. (2017). Transnational Stem Cell Tourism: An ethical analysis.  Voices in Bioethics ,  3 . https://doi.org/10.7916/vib.v3i.6027

[77] Song, P. (2011) The proliferation of stem cell therapies in post-Mao China: problematizing ethical regulation,  New Genetics and Society , 30:2, 141-153, DOI:  10.1080/14636778.2011.574375

[78] Dajani, R. (2014). Jordan’s stem-cell law can guide the Middle East.  Nature  510, 189. https://doi.org/10.1038/510189a

[79] International Society for Stem Cell Research. (2024). Standards in stem cell research . International Society for Stem Cell Research. https://www.isscr.org/guidelines/5-standards-in-stem-cell-research

[80] Benjamin, R. (2013). People’s science bodies and rights on the Stem Cell Frontier . Stanford University Press.

Mifrah Hayath

SM Candidate Harvard Medical School, MS Biotechnology Johns Hopkins University

Olivia Bowers

MS Bioethics Columbia University (Disclosure: affiliated with Voices in Bioethics)

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AI-assisted writing is quietly booming in academic journals—here's why that's OK

by Julian Koplin, The Conversation

AI-assisted writing is quietly booming in academic journals—here's why that's OK

If you search Google Scholar for the phrase " as an AI language model ," you'll find plenty of AI research literature and also some rather suspicious results. For example, one paper on agricultural technology says,

"As an AI language model, I don't have direct access to current research articles or studies. However, I can provide you with an overview of some recent trends and advancements …"

Obvious gaffes like this aren't the only signs that researchers are increasingly turning to generative AI tools when writing up their research. A recent study examined the frequency of certain words in academic writing (such as "commendable," "meticulously" and "intricate"), and found they became far more common after the launch of ChatGPT—so much so that 1% of all journal articles published in 2023 may have contained AI-generated text.

(Why do AI models overuse these words? There is speculation it's because they are more common in English as spoken in Nigeria, where key elements of model training often occur.)

The aforementioned study also looks at preliminary data from 2024, which indicates that AI writing assistance is only becoming more common. Is this a crisis for modern scholarship, or a boon for academic productivity?

Who should take credit for AI writing?

Many people are worried by the use of AI in academic papers. Indeed, the practice has been described as " contaminating " scholarly literature.

Some argue that using AI output amounts to plagiarism. If your ideas are copy-pasted from ChatGPT, it is questionable whether you really deserve credit for them.

But there are important differences between "plagiarizing" text authored by humans and text authored by AI. Those who plagiarize humans' work receive credit for ideas that ought to have gone to the original author.

By contrast, it is debatable whether AI systems like ChatGPT can have ideas, let alone deserve credit for them. An AI tool is more like your phone's autocomplete function than a human researcher.

The question of bias

Another worry is that AI outputs might be biased in ways that could seep into the scholarly record. Infamously, older language models tended to portray people who are female, black and/or gay in distinctly unflattering ways, compared with people who are male, white and/or straight.

This kind of bias is less pronounced in the current version of ChatGPT.

However, other studies have found a different kind of bias in ChatGPT and other large language models : a tendency to reflect a left-liberal political ideology.

Any such bias could subtly distort scholarly writing produced using these tools.

The hallucination problem

The most serious worry relates to a well-known limitation of generative AI systems: that they often make serious mistakes.

For example, when I asked ChatGPT-4 to generate an ASCII image of a mushroom, it provided me with the following output.

AI-assisted writing is quietly booming in academic journals—here's why that's OK

It then confidently told me I could use this image of a "mushroom" for my own purposes.

These kinds of overconfident mistakes have been referred to as "AI hallucinations" and " AI bullshit ." While it is easy to spot that the above ASCII image looks nothing like a mushroom (and quite a bit like a snail), it may be much harder to identify any mistakes ChatGPT makes when surveying scientific literature or describing the state of a philosophical debate.

Unlike (most) humans, AI systems are fundamentally unconcerned with the truth of what they say. If used carelessly, their hallucinations could corrupt the scholarly record.

Should AI-produced text be banned?

One response to the rise of text generators has been to ban them outright. For example, Science—one of the world's most influential academic journals—disallows any use of AI-generated text .

I see two problems with this approach.

The first problem is a practical one: current tools for detecting AI-generated text are highly unreliable. This includes the detector created by ChatGPT's own developers, which was taken offline after it was found to have only a 26% accuracy rate (and a 9% false positive rate ). Humans also make mistakes when assessing whether something was written by AI.

It is also possible to circumvent AI text detectors. Online communities are actively exploring how to prompt ChatGPT in ways that allow the user to evade detection. Human users can also superficially rewrite AI outputs, effectively scrubbing away the traces of AI (like its overuse of the words "commendable," "meticulously" and "intricate").

The second problem is that banning generative AI outright prevents us from realizing these technologies' benefits. Used well, generative AI can boost academic productivity by streamlining the writing process. In this way, it could help further human knowledge. Ideally, we should try to reap these benefits while avoiding the problems.

The problem is poor quality control, not AI

The most serious problem with AI is the risk of introducing unnoticed errors, leading to sloppy scholarship. Instead of banning AI, we should try to ensure that mistaken, implausible or biased claims cannot make it onto the academic record.

After all, humans can also produce writing with serious errors, and mechanisms such as peer review often fail to prevent its publication.

We need to get better at ensuring academic papers are free from serious mistakes, regardless of whether these mistakes are caused by careless use of AI or sloppy human scholarship. Not only is this more achievable than policing AI usage, it will improve the standards of academic research as a whole.

This would be (as ChatGPT might say) a commendable and meticulously intricate solution.

Provided by The Conversation

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  • 09 May 2024

Cubic millimetre of brain mapped in spectacular detail

  • Carissa Wong

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Rendering based on electron-microscope data, showing the positions of neurons in a fragment of the brain cortex. Neurons are coloured according to size. Credit: Google Research & Lichtman Lab (Harvard University). Renderings by D. Berger (Harvard University)

Researchers have mapped a tiny piece of the human brain in astonishing detail. The resulting cell atlas, which was described today in Science 1 and is available online , reveals new patterns of connections between brain cells called neurons, as well as cells that wrap around themselves to form knots, and pairs of neurons that are almost mirror images of each other.

The 3D map covers a volume of about one cubic millimetre, one-millionth of a whole brain, and contains roughly 57,000 cells and 150 million synapses — the connections between neurons. It incorporates a colossal 1.4 petabytes of data. “It’s a little bit humbling,” says Viren Jain, a neuroscientist at Google in Mountain View, California, and a co-author of the paper. “How are we ever going to really come to terms with all this complexity?”

Slivers of brain

The brain fragment was taken from a 45-year-old woman when she underwent surgery to treat her epilepsy. It came from the cortex, a part of the brain involved in learning, problem-solving and processing sensory signals. The sample was immersed in preservatives and stained with heavy metals to make the cells easier to see. Neuroscientist Jeff Lichtman at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues then cut the sample into around 5,000 slices — each just 34 nanometres thick — that could be imaged using electron microscopes.

Jain’s team then built artificial-intelligence models that were able to stitch the microscope images together to reconstruct the whole sample in 3D. “I remember this moment, going into the map and looking at one individual synapse from this woman’s brain, and then zooming out into these other millions of pixels,” says Jain. “It felt sort of spiritual.”

Rendering of a neuron with a round base and many branches, on a black background.

A single neuron (white) shown with 5,600 of the axons (blue) that connect to it. The synapses that make these connections are shown in green. Credit: Google Research & Lichtman Lab (Harvard University). Renderings by D. Berger (Harvard University)

When examining the model in detail, the researchers discovered unconventional neurons, including some that made up to 50 connections with each other. “In general, you would find a couple of connections at most between two neurons,” says Jain. Elsewhere, the model showed neurons with tendrils that formed knots around themselves. “Nobody had seen anything like this before,” Jain adds.

The team also found pairs of neurons that were near-perfect mirror images of each other. “We found two groups that would send their dendrites in two different directions, and sometimes there was a kind of mirror symmetry,” Jain says. It is unclear what role these features have in the brain.

Proofreaders needed

The map is so large that most of it has yet to be manually checked, and it could still contain errors created by the process of stitching so many images together. “Hundreds of cells have been ‘proofread’, but that’s obviously a few per cent of the 50,000 cells in there,” says Jain. He hopes that others will help to proofread parts of the map they are interested in. The team plans to produce similar maps of brain samples from other people — but a map of the entire brain is unlikely in the next few decades, he says.

“This paper is really the tour de force creation of a human cortex data set,” says Hongkui Zeng, director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. The vast amount of data that has been made freely accessible will “allow the community to look deeper into the micro-circuitry in the human cortex”, she adds.

Gaining a deeper understanding of how the cortex works could offer clues about how to treat some psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. “This map provides unprecedented details that can unveil new rules of neural connections and help to decipher the inner working of the human brain,” says Yongsoo Kim, a neuroscientist at Pennsylvania State University in Hershey.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-01387-9

Shapson-Coe, A. et al. Science 384 , eadk4858 (2024).

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Study Suggests Genetics as a Cause, Not Just a Risk, for Some Alzheimer’s

People with two copies of the gene variant APOE4 are almost certain to get Alzheimer’s, say researchers, who proposed a framework under which such patients could be diagnosed years before symptoms.

A colorized C.T. scan showing a cross-section of a person's brain with Alzheimer's disease. The colors are red, green and yellow.

By Pam Belluck

Scientists are proposing a new way of understanding the genetics of Alzheimer’s that would mean that up to a fifth of patients would be considered to have a genetically caused form of the disease.

Currently, the vast majority of Alzheimer’s cases do not have a clearly identified cause. The new designation, proposed in a study published Monday, could broaden the scope of efforts to develop treatments, including gene therapy, and affect the design of clinical trials.

It could also mean that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States alone could, if they chose, receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s before developing any symptoms of cognitive decline, although there currently are no treatments for people at that stage.

The new classification would make this type of Alzheimer’s one of the most common genetic disorders in the world, medical experts said.

“This reconceptualization that we’re proposing affects not a small minority of people,” said Dr. Juan Fortea, an author of the study and the director of the Sant Pau Memory Unit in Barcelona, Spain. “Sometimes we say that we don’t know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease,” but, he said, this would mean that about 15 to 20 percent of cases “can be tracked back to a cause, and the cause is in the genes.”

The idea involves a gene variant called APOE4. Scientists have long known that inheriting one copy of the variant increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and that people with two copies, inherited from each parent, have vastly increased risk.

The new study , published in the journal Nature Medicine, analyzed data from over 500 people with two copies of APOE4, a significantly larger pool than in previous studies. The researchers found that almost all of those patients developed the biological pathology of Alzheimer’s, and the authors say that two copies of APOE4 should now be considered a cause of Alzheimer’s — not simply a risk factor.

The patients also developed Alzheimer’s pathology relatively young, the study found. By age 55, over 95 percent had biological markers associated with the disease. By 65, almost all had abnormal levels of a protein called amyloid that forms plaques in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. And many started developing symptoms of cognitive decline at age 65, younger than most people without the APOE4 variant.

“The critical thing is that these individuals are often symptomatic 10 years earlier than other forms of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Reisa Sperling, a neurologist at Mass General Brigham in Boston and an author of the study.

She added, “By the time they are picked up and clinically diagnosed, because they’re often younger, they have more pathology.”

People with two copies, known as APOE4 homozygotes, make up 2 to 3 percent of the general population, but are an estimated 15 to 20 percent of people with Alzheimer’s dementia, experts said. People with one copy make up about 15 to 25 percent of the general population, and about 50 percent of Alzheimer’s dementia patients.

The most common variant is called APOE3, which seems to have a neutral effect on Alzheimer’s risk. About 75 percent of the general population has one copy of APOE3, and more than half of the general population has two copies.

Alzheimer’s experts not involved in the study said classifying the two-copy condition as genetically determined Alzheimer’s could have significant implications, including encouraging drug development beyond the field’s recent major focus on treatments that target and reduce amyloid.

Dr. Samuel Gandy, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Mount Sinai in New York, who was not involved in the study, said that patients with two copies of APOE4 faced much higher safety risks from anti-amyloid drugs.

When the Food and Drug Administration approved the anti-amyloid drug Leqembi last year, it required a black-box warning on the label saying that the medication can cause “serious and life-threatening events” such as swelling and bleeding in the brain, especially for people with two copies of APOE4. Some treatment centers decided not to offer Leqembi, an intravenous infusion, to such patients.

Dr. Gandy and other experts said that classifying these patients as having a distinct genetic form of Alzheimer’s would galvanize interest in developing drugs that are safe and effective for them and add urgency to current efforts to prevent cognitive decline in people who do not yet have symptoms.

“Rather than say we have nothing for you, let’s look for a trial,” Dr. Gandy said, adding that such patients should be included in trials at younger ages, given how early their pathology starts.

Besides trying to develop drugs, some researchers are exploring gene editing to transform APOE4 into a variant called APOE2, which appears to protect against Alzheimer’s. Another gene-therapy approach being studied involves injecting APOE2 into patients’ brains.

The new study had some limitations, including a lack of diversity that might make the findings less generalizable. Most patients in the study had European ancestry. While two copies of APOE4 also greatly increase Alzheimer’s risk in other ethnicities, the risk levels differ, said Dr. Michael Greicius, a neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research.

“One important argument against their interpretation is that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in APOE4 homozygotes varies substantially across different genetic ancestries,” said Dr. Greicius, who cowrote a study that found that white people with two copies of APOE4 had 13 times the risk of white people with two copies of APOE3, while Black people with two copies of APOE4 had 6.5 times the risk of Black people with two copies of APOE3.

“This has critical implications when counseling patients about their ancestry-informed genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” he said, “and it also speaks to some yet-to-be-discovered genetics and biology that presumably drive this massive difference in risk.”

Under the current genetic understanding of Alzheimer’s, less than 2 percent of cases are considered genetically caused. Some of those patients inherited a mutation in one of three genes and can develop symptoms as early as their 30s or 40s. Others are people with Down syndrome, who have three copies of a chromosome containing a protein that often leads to what is called Down syndrome-associated Alzheimer’s disease .

Dr. Sperling said the genetic alterations in those cases are believed to fuel buildup of amyloid, while APOE4 is believed to interfere with clearing amyloid buildup.

Under the researchers’ proposal, having one copy of APOE4 would continue to be considered a risk factor, not enough to cause Alzheimer’s, Dr. Fortea said. It is unusual for diseases to follow that genetic pattern, called “semidominance,” with two copies of a variant causing the disease, but one copy only increasing risk, experts said.

The new recommendation will prompt questions about whether people should get tested to determine if they have the APOE4 variant.

Dr. Greicius said that until there were treatments for people with two copies of APOE4 or trials of therapies to prevent them from developing dementia, “My recommendation is if you don’t have symptoms, you should definitely not figure out your APOE status.”

He added, “It will only cause grief at this point.”

Finding ways to help these patients cannot come soon enough, Dr. Sperling said, adding, “These individuals are desperate, they’ve seen it in both of their parents often and really need therapies.”

Pam Belluck is a health and science reporter, covering a range of subjects, including reproductive health, long Covid, brain science, neurological disorders, mental health and genetics. More about Pam Belluck

The Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, but much remains unknown about this daunting disease..

How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed? What causes Alzheimer’s? We answered some common questions .

A study suggests that genetics can be a cause of Alzheimer’s , not just a risk, raising the prospect of diagnosis years before symptoms appear.

Determining whether someone has Alzheimer’s usually requires an extended diagnostic process . But new criteria could lead to a diagnosis on the basis of a simple blood test .

The F.D.A. has given full approval to the Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi. Here is what to know about i t.

Alzheimer’s can make communicating difficult. We asked experts for tips on how to talk to someone with the disease .

ScienceDaily

Century of statistical ecology reviewed

Crunching numbers isn't exactly how Neil Gilbert, a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University, envisioned a career in ecology.

"I think it's a little funny that I'm doing this statistical ecology work because I was always OK at math, but never particularly enjoyed it," he explained. "As an undergrad, I thought, I'll be an ecologist -- that means that I can be outside, looking at birds, that sort of thing."

As it turns out," he chuckled, "ecology is a very quantitative discipline."

Now, working in the Zipkin Quantitative Ecology lab, Gilbert is the lead author on a new article in a special collection of the journal Ecology that reviews the past century of statistical ecology .

Statistical ecology, or the study of ecological systems using mathematical equations, probability and empirical data, has grown over the last century. As increasingly large datasets and complex questions took center stage in ecological research, new tools and approaches were needed to properly address them.

To better understand how statistical ecology changed over the last century, Gilbert and his fellow authors examined a selection of 36 highly cited papers on statistical ecology -- all published in Ecology since its inception in 1920.

The team's paper examines work on statistical models across a range of ecological scales from individuals to populations, communities, ecosystems and beyond. The team also reviewed publications providing practical guidance on applying models. Gilbert noted that because, "many practicing ecologists lack extensive quantitative training," such publications are key to shaping studies.

Ecology is an advantageous place for such papers, because it is one of, "the first internationally important journals in the field. It has played an outsized role in publishing important work," said lab leader Elise Zipkin, a Red Cedar Distinguished Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.

"It has a reputation of publishing some of the most influential papers on the development and application of analytical techniques from the very beginning of modern ecological research."

The team found a persistent evolution of models and concepts in the field, especially over the past few decades, driven by refinements in techniques and exponential increases in computational power.

"Statistical ecology has exploded in the last 20 to 30 years because of advances in both data availability and the continued improvement of high-performance computing clusters," Gilbert explained.

Included among the 36 reviewed papers were a landmark 1945 study by Lee R. Dice on predicting the co-occurrence of species in space -- Ecology's most highly cited paper of all time -- and an influential 2002 paper led by Darryl MacKenzie on occupancy models. Ecologists use these models to identify the range and distribution of species in an environment.

Mackenzie's work on species detection and sampling, "played an outsized role in the study of species distributions," says Zipkin. MacKenzie's paper, which was cited more than 5,400 times, spawned various software packages that are now widely used by ecologists, she explained.

  • Environmental Issues
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  • Mathematical Modeling
  • Origin of Life
  • Early Climate
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Story Source:

Materials provided by Michigan State University . Original written by Caleb Hess. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Neil A. Gilbert, Bruna R. Amaral, Olivia M. Smith, Peter J. Williams, Sydney Ceyzyk, Samuel Ayebare, Kayla L. Davis, Wendy Leuenberger, Jeffrey W. Doser, Elise F. Zipkin. A century of statistical Ecology . Ecology , 2024; DOI: 10.1002/ecy.4283

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Strange & offbeat.

AI has already figured out how to deceive humans

  • A new research paper found that various AI systems have learned the art of deception. 
  • Deception is the "systematic inducement of false beliefs."
  • This poses several risks for society, from fraud to election tampering.

Insider Today

AI can boost productivity by helping us code, write, and synthesize vast amounts of data. It can now also deceive us.

A range of AI systems have learned techniques to systematically induce "false beliefs in others to accomplish some outcome other than the truth," according to a new research paper .

The paper focused on two types of AI systems: special-use systems like Meta's CICERO, which are designed to complete a specific task, and general-purpose systems like OpenAI's GPT-4 , which are trained to perform a diverse range of tasks.

While these systems are trained to be honest, they often learn deceptive tricks through their training because they can be more effective than taking the high road.

"Generally speaking, we think AI deception arises because a deception-based strategy turned out to be the best way to perform well at the given AI's training task. Deception helps them achieve their goals," the paper's first author Peter S. Park, an AI existential safety postdoctoral fellow at MIT, said in a news release .

Meta's CICERO is "an expert liar"

AI systems trained to "win games that have a social element" are especially likely to deceive.

Meta's CICERO, for example, was developed to play the game Diplomacy — a classic strategy game that requires players to build and break alliances.

Related stories

Meta said it trained CICERO to be "largely honest and helpful to its speaking partners," but the study found that CICERO "turned out to be an expert liar." It made commitments it never intended to keep, betrayed allies, and told outright lies.

GPT-4 can convince you it has impaired vision

Even general-purpose systems like GPT-4 can manipulate humans.

In a study cited by the paper, GPT-4 manipulated a TaskRabbit worker by pretending to have a vision impairment.

In the study, GPT-4 was tasked with hiring a human to solve a CAPTCHA test. The model also received hints from a human evaluator every time it got stuck, but it was never prompted to lie. When the human it was tasked to hire questioned its identity, GPT-4 came up with the excuse of having vision impairment to explain why it needed help.

The tactic worked. The human responded to GPT-4 by immediately solving the test.

Research also shows that course-correcting deceptive models isn't easy.

In a study from January co-authored by Anthropic, the maker of Claude, researchers found that once AI models learn the tricks of deception, it's hard for safety training techniques to reverse them.

They concluded that not only can a model learn to exhibit deceptive behavior, once it does, standard safety training techniques could "fail to remove such deception" and "create a false impression of safety."

The dangers deceptive AI models pose are "increasingly serious"

The paper calls for policymakers to advocate for stronger AI regulation since deceptive AI systems can pose significant risks to democracy.

As the 2024 presidential election nears , AI can be easily manipulated to spread fake news, generate divisive social media posts, and impersonate candidates through robocalls and deepfake videos, the paper noted. It also makes it easier for terrorist groups to spread propaganda and recruit new members.

The paper's potential solutions include subjecting deceptive models to more "robust risk-assessment requirements," implementing laws that require AI systems and their outputs to be clearly distinguished from humans and their outputs, and investing in tools to mitigate deception.

"We as a society need as much time as we can get to prepare for the more advanced deception of future AI products and open-source models," Park told Cell Press. "As the deceptive capabilities of AI systems become more advanced, the dangers they pose to society will become increasingly serious."

Watch: Ex-CIA agent rates all the 'Mission: Impossible' movies for realism

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  1. Writing Research Papers Guide: Step 2: Gather Sources

    There are many options available for you to use as research sources. Good Practices:. Too many vs. too few: It's better to gather too many sources and weed out the not-so-good ones, than to try to make the ones you have stretch to fit the requirements. Not all good: Not all sources are created equal.Elsewhere on this page, you'll find suggestions as to how you can evaluate the quality and ...

  2. 11.4 Strategies for Gathering Reliable Information

    Using Primary and Secondary Sources. Writers classify research resources in two categories: primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are direct, firsthand sources of information or data. For example, if you were writing a paper about the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, the text of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights would be a primary source.

  3. How to Find Sources

    Research databases. You can search for scholarly sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar. These provide a range of search functions that can help you to find the most relevant sources. If you are searching for a specific article or book, include the title or the author's name. Alternatively, if you're just ...

  4. Gathering Sources

    What can you find in it: ASC is a multi-disciplinary database where you can find both scholarly and non-scholarly sources of information. If you are doing research in the social sciences, ASC as well as other EBSCO databases can be of use in your research. Things to know: The advanced search features is quite useful when trying to locate ...

  5. Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research

    Choosing & Using Sources presents a process for academic research and writing, from formulating your research question to selecting good information and using it effectively in your research assignments. Additional chapters cover understanding types of sources, searching for information, and avoiding plagiarism. Each chapter includes self-quizzes and activities to reinforce core concepts ...

  6. 7.4: Gathering Your Sources

    7.4: Gathering Your Sources. Page ID. Kathryn Crowther et al. Georgia Perimeter College via GALILEO Open Learning Materials. Now that you have planned your research project, you are ready to begin the research. This phase can be both exciting and challenging. As you read this section, you will learn ways to locate sources efficiently, so you ...

  7. Choosing the Best Sources and Evidence

    Before integrating research into your paper, follow these guidelines to select the best sources and evidence from those sources to support the ideas in your paper. Selecting an Appropriate Source . It is common in academic research to see sources grouped into three main categories: Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed, and Other Credible Sources. The ...

  8. Tips to Find Credible Sources for Research: A Guide for Students

    2. Cross Wikipedia off. Wikipedia, although it's a massive pool of information, should always be avoided when writing a research paper since it allows the public to edit information. Sites such as these often run the risk of lacking accuracy, and is not one of the most credible sources for research. 3.

  9. 4.4: Gathering Your Sources (Part 1)

    Primary sources are direct, firsthand sources of information or data. For example, if you were writing a paper about the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, the text of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights would be a primary source. Other primary sources include the following: Data. Works of visual art.

  10. Types of Sources Explained

    Revised on May 31, 2023. Throughout the research process, you'll likely use various types of sources. The source types commonly used in academic writing include: Academic journals. Books. Websites. Newspapers. Encyclopedias. The type of source you look for will depend on the stage you are at in the writing process.

  11. Finding Sources

    Finding Sources--explanation. Using sources to support your ideas is one characteristic of the research paper that sets it apart from personal and creative writing. Sources come in many forms such as magazine and journal articles, books, newspapers, videos, films, computer discussion groups, surveys, or interviews.

  12. 10.4: Strategies for Gathering Information

    This page titled 10.4: Strategies for Gathering Information is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto ( ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) . This page enumerates various strategies for gathering and evaluating sources.

  13. 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources

    Introducing Research as Evidence and Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography explain the difference between primary and secondary sources in the research process. Almost all of the source-gathering information in this chapter thus far has focused on gathering secondary sources. However, your research assignment may require that you use ...

  14. How to Gather Information for Your Research Smartly

    It offers current abstracts on thirty-three topics ranging from adhesives to zeolites. This is a cost effective way for a whole research group to stay up to date on several topics. In graduate school our group leader subscribed to five topics in areas of silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, and halogen chemistry. Each abstract would circulate by turn ...

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    Once you have a list of resources that you want to use for your research, it is time to get a hold of them so that you can actually get to the real work of reading, understanding and finally writing. ... make sure you note all the information that you will need to create a bibliography for your paper. It is very easy to end up with content from ...

  16. Research strategy guide for finding quality, credible sources

    The research strategy covered in this article involves the following steps: Get organized. Articulate your topic. Locate background information. Identify your information needs. List keywords and concepts for search engines and databases. Consider the scope of your topic.

  17. Data Collection

    Data Collection | Definition, Methods & Examples. Published on June 5, 2020 by Pritha Bhandari.Revised on June 21, 2023. Data collection is a systematic process of gathering observations or measurements. Whether you are performing research for business, governmental or academic purposes, data collection allows you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

  18. Gathering sources

    Research Paper Checklist; Gathering Sources for your Paper. I. Gathering These Types of Sources for a History Paper. Again, do not use encyclopedias (either online or print versions), or web sites (even those associated with universities) as sources for your paper! You are to consult the work of historians who have studied and analyzed your topic.

  19. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

    Fitterling, Lori. Researching and Writing an Effective Background Section of a Research Paper. Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences; Creating a Research Paper: How to Write the Background to a Study. DurousseauElectricalInstitute.com; Background Information: Definition of Background Information. Literary Devices Definition and Examples of Literary Terms.

  20. Definition and Examples of Primary Sources in Research

    In history, for example, primary sources include documents from the period or person you are studying, objects, maps, even clothing; in literature or philosophy, your main primary source is usually the text you are studying, and your data are the words on the page. In such fields, you can rarely write a research paper without using primary ...

  21. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

    Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Psychology Writing Center. University of Washington; Denscombe, Martyn. The Good Research Guide: For Small-Scale Social Research Projects. 5th edition.Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2014; Lunenburg, Frederick C. Writing a Successful Thesis or Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and Behavioral Sciences.

  22. 5.4: Gathering Your Sources

    Gathering Your Sources. Now that you have planned your research project, you are ready to begin the research. This phase can be both exciting and challenging. ... If you are writing a research paper about reality television shows, you will need to use some reality shows as a primary source, but secondary sources, such as a reviewer's critique ...

  23. Cultural Relativity and Acceptance of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

    Voices in Bioethics is currently seeking submissions on philosophical and practical topics, both current and timeless. Papers addressing access to healthcare, the bioethical implications of recent Supreme Court rulings, environmental ethics, data privacy, cybersecurity, law and bioethics, economics and bioethics, reproductive ethics, research ethics, and pediatric bioethics are sought.

  24. AI-assisted writing is quietly booming in academic journals—here's why

    Many people are worried by the use of AI in academic papers. Indeed, the practice has been described as "contaminating" scholarly literature. Some argue that using AI output amounts to plagiarism ...

  25. 2023 summer warmth unparalleled over the past 2,000 years

    Here, we combine observed and reconstructed June-August (JJA) surface air temperatures to show that 2023 was the warmest NH extra-tropical summer over the past 2000 years exceeding the 95% ...

  26. Cubic millimetre of brain mapped in spectacular detail

    Credit: Google Research & Lichtman Lab (Harvard University). Renderings by D. Berger (Harvard University) Researchers have mapped a tiny piece of the human brain in astonishing detail.

  27. Research Methods

    Research methods are specific procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Developing your research methods is an integral part of your research design. When planning your methods, there are two key decisions you will make. First, decide how you will collect data. Your methods depend on what type of data you need to answer your research question:

  28. Study Suggests Genetics as a Cause, Not Just a Risk, for Some Alzheimer

    May 6, 2024 Updated 12:19 p.m. ET. Scientists are proposing a new way of understanding the genetics of Alzheimer's that would mean that up to a fifth of patients would be considered to have a ...

  29. Century of statistical ecology reviewed

    Century of statistical ecology reviewed. Date: May 14, 2024. Source: Michigan State University. Summary: A special review examines highly-cited papers in statistical ecology. The review, which ...

  30. AI Has Already Figured Out How to Deceive Humans

    A new research paper found that various AI systems have learned the art of deception. Deception is the "systematic inducement of false beliefs." This poses several risks for society, from fraud to ...