For many students, the hardest part of writing a research paper is finding a
topic. Because this website is designed for all students, grades 9-12, and
there is a variety of topics that you could be assigned for this research
paper, we're going to assume that you've already mastered the feat of
finding a topic and you're ready to start writing. However, if you have not
yet accomplished that goal, please consult with your teacher for further
There are several important things to remember when conducting research, but
the most important advice is this: Find reliable, trustworthy sources.
Here's some notes on how to determine if a source is credible:
Teachers do not allow students to use information that comes from blogs,
personal websites, or Wikipedia. The best thing to do is to look for web
addresses (called URLs) that end with .edu, .gov, or .org. The school also
has a database of articles that are always safe to use and that is located
on NC WiseOwl. Ask your teacher for
the username and password to access this database from school and/or home.
All of the articles in this database are considered appropriate for use.
Other places to search for reliable information and sources include:
If it seems like the search is turning up the same articles over and over,
refine or alter your search. This will require you to find synonyms for the
words you are using. For example, if you are looking up information on gun
safety and you can not find anything new on the topic, change your search to
"weapons" and/or perhaps "education." Outwit the computer! Also remember
that there are organizations and awareness groups for almost everything, and
the members usually set up websites and have journals. For example, if you
want to know more about hearing impaired individuals, simply go to the
website for the A. G. Bell Association for the Deaf and look at the articles
that are on its website.
When you start researching, do not forget that there are resources
available to you other than the internet. Remember to look for DVDs, news
clips, audio clips, documentaries, and books on your subject. You can even
interview people who are knowledgeable on your topic. Whatever you opt you
use, however, it must be cited on the Works Cited page, so remember to
record the important information during the research process that will be
needed for this page. You will always need the author, title, publication
date, publisher, and city of publication. For more assistance, see the page
on MLA help.
There are three basic ways to gather notes:
*Summary - Summarize large chunks of what you read by recording the general
idea of the material. Remember to record the page numbers (if applicable)
where you found the information.
*Paraphrase - Read the work and restate all of the material in your own words. Remember to
record the page numbers.
*Quotation - If what the speaker or author said was important
in the exact order that he or she stated it, record the sentence(s) word-for-word as a
direct quotation. Remember to put quotation marks around the sentence(s) to
remind you later that it is a direct quotation. If you copy and paste
phrases from an article, you should put quotation marks around what you
copied to remind yourself that it's a direct quote. Record the page numbers
so that you will have them when completing the Works Cited page.
It is very important to know how to keep thorough records during the note
taking process. Use this handout for guidance.