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Introduction to Library Research: An Overview of the Research Process

This guide is an introduction to the research process.

Why do we cite?

There are many reasons why it is so important to cite the sources you use in your research.

  • You demonstrate to your reader you've done proper research by listing sources you used to get your information.
  • You avoid plagiarism by quoting the words and ideas of other scholars.
  • You are being a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas.
  • You allow your reader to find the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper by using in-text citations or footnotes in combination with a bibliography or works cited list.

When should you cite your sources?

According to the Fitchburg State University of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct, "a student must give credit to the originality of others and acknowledge indebtedness whenever:

  1. Directly quoting another person’s actual words, whether oral or written;
  2. Using another person’s ideas, opinions, or theories;
  3. Paraphrasing the words, ideas, opinions, or theories of others, whether oral or written;
  4. Borrowing facts, statistics, or illustrative material; or
  5. Offering materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgment."

Citation Styles

 

With so many different citation styles, how do you know which one is right for your paper?

First, we strongly recommend asking your instructor. There are several factors which go into determining the appropriate citation style, including discipline (priorities in an English class might differ from those of a Psychology class, for example), academic expectations (papers intended for publication might be subject to different standards than mid-term papers), the research aims of an assignment, and the individual preference of your instructor.  MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and APA (American Psychological Association) are three of the most commonly used citation styles, but there are hundreds.

Recent editions of style manuals, which include detailed information and examples, are available at Research Help Desk at the Library. If you need help on your research project, please contact a subject liaison.

For quick reference, there are many online sources. One of the best is the Purdue OWL. But be aware that the manual is always the most authoritative source.

For additional information on formats, please visit the Citing Your Sources guide.

Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools allow you to keep citations, full-text articles, and other research resources organized in one place. These tools can also be used to format your bibliographies and the citations in your papers according to the appropriate style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) To use these tools, you should be familiar with the target citation style in order to input information correctly and notice any errors in your bibliography.

Fitchburg State University offers a tool free to students called RefWorks.  For more information on RefWorks please visit the guide on New Refworks.

Please contact a subject liaison for further assistance.