Start with appropriate sources. Appropriate may not have the same meaning for every assignment, but if you stick to some basic questions, you can direct yourself to the right sources for a project.

  • Who is the author? What are his/her credentials?
  • What information is available from this resource? Is it useful for your project?
  • Where did the author(s) get the information? Are citations provided?
  • When was the resource produced? (For books, check the copyright date. For articles, check the publication date. For websites, look for a “created on” or “last updated on” date.)
  • Why does this resource exist? Is the purpose to entertain, persuade, inform, sell you something? Is the resource biased?
  • How comprehensive is the resource? Does it go into the depth you need? Is the information presented in a way that makes sense to you?

Take careful notes. The act of copying and pasting is not necessarily plagiarism. Look at it this way: What did people do to write research papers before the Internet and cheap photocopies? They went to the library with a stack of note cards and wrote down summaries, quotes, and paraphrases, carefully noting the page number of each piece of information. You can do the same basic thing with your computer. Think of the process as creating electronic note cards.

  • Break up the information so that you have only one idea per note. If you’re pasting or typing notes, leave spaces between ideas.
  • Take the time to place quotation marks around the copied material and type in the author’s name and a page number. You’ll need the source information later for your citations.
  • Do not make the mistake of reading all your sources without taking notes and then trying to go back and find the information you remember. You must show where you got your information.