So You Have a Research Project…
Frequently Asked Questions
(Author Alice Kiffer)
What is research?
Research is looking up information about a subject or topic, learning about it and finding resources that back up your ideas.
How do I start?
Look at your topic. Narrow it down and focus it. For example, if your project is on “Dogs”, can you focus on something specific like their behavior or diets? Or can you focus on one type of dog, like beagles or sheepdogs?
Once you’ve focused your topic, then decide exactly what information you need. Check the instructions or the rubric to see what aspects of the topic you need to cover. Do you need to use the internet, books, or both in your research?
Where can I find the information I need online? What about in a book?
Your best bet for finding information online is by using databases. Databases are collections of reliable information, like encyclopedia articles or scientific research. Your library card gives you free access to a number of databases at: http://www.westchesterlibraries.org/digital
Other, kid-friendly online starting points are:
Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/
Infomine Database (scholarly resources) : http://infomine.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/search?k12
Awesome library: http://www.awesomelibrary.org/
Fact Monster: http://www.factmonster.com/
To find books on your subject, you can search the library catalog (http://www.westchesterlibraries.org/) or ask a librarian to help you. Once you find a few books on your subject, look at the index in the back of the book to find the specific information you need.
Can’t I just use Google and Wikipedia?
Nope! When you find information on Google, you have no way of knowing if it’s reliable—accurate and true information. Anyone can make a website and put anything on it. You might need facts but instead find someone’s opinion.
Wikipedia is a good place to start. It can give you an overview of your topic and ideas about how to narrow down your research. But because anyone can change the information on Wikipedia, you can’t always be sure it’s correct. However, the citations at the end of Wikipedia articles can be good places to look for information. Websites that end in .edu are more trustworthy than ones that end in .com. Look for websites that are authoritative, accurate, and current, and are free from bias.
What is a citation?
A citation tells where you found your information, so other people can look it up and verify it. Citations are also a way to give the author credit for his or her ideas. When you quote information, you need a citation. You should also provide citations for summarized or paraphrased information. You need to use citations to avoid plagiarism.
How do I make and use citations?
You need to cite your work in two places. First, you need to provide a citation in your paper, essay, or project after you have a direct quote or paraphrased information. That is called a “parenthetical citation” because you put it in parentheses after the quote. That citation should have the author’s last name and, if it was from a book or magazine, the page or page numbers that the information was found on. For example: “This is quoted information” (Last name 3).
Then, at the end of your paper, essay, or project, you should have a “works cited page”, which lists all of your sources and gives more complete information than the parenthetical citation does. It would have the author’s full name, the name of the book or website where the information was found, the date it was found, and more. The format for those citations varies. It depends on if you found the information on a website, in a book, in a magazine, on TV, etc.
A great resource for citations is www.easybib.com. You select your source from a drop down list and fill in the information about your source. Then EasyBib will format it for you!
What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using someone else’s words and ideas without giving them credit. If you take a quote from a book and don’t put it in quotes or cite it, you’re claiming that idea as your own. That’s plagiarism. Even if you paraphrase something from a book, you still need to cite it. Otherwise it’s plagiarism. Plagiarism is very serious. It is also called academic dishonesty. It can cause you to get a failing grade on your project or even in your class. If you plagiarized on purpose, you can even get suspended or expelled.