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Research Process: A Three-Part Workshop. Part 1 Locating Sources Part 2 Evaluating & Integrating Sources Part 3 Citing Sources. Research Process Workshop Part 1: Locating Sources. How to find the evidence your essay needs. Getting Started.

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research process workshop part 1 locating sources

Research Process WorkshopPart 1: Locating Sources

How to find the evidence your essay needs

getting started
Getting Started
  • Familiarize yourself with different types of sources (books, newspapers, academic journals, websites, etc.)
  • Make use of the library’s “Help with Research Page:”
need more help
Need More Help?
  • Contact a Liaison Librarian
    • Consult and collaborate with students and faculty on their research needs
    • Select library materials in assigned subject areas
    • Communicate with academic departments
    • Instruct classes
    • Provide one-on-one research assistance in person, by phone, e-mail & IM

evaluating sources

Evaluating Sources

How to determine which sources are trustworthy and what information is appropriate for your essay

evaluating sources a checklist
Evaluating Sources: A Checklist

Ask yourself questions about 5 key areas:

  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Objectivity
  • Currency (how current is it?)
  • Coverage
how to evaluate print sources

How to Evaluate Print Sources

Let’s look at some possible scenarios

Scenario 1: You’re writing a paper about music pirating. Is it OK to use an article published in 2001?

Given how much music pirating has changed since 2001, it would probably be a good idea to use a more current source. (However, if you were using this source to describe the history of music pirating, it might still be OK.)

Scenario 2: You’re writing a paper about Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Is it OK to quote a book published in 1962?

Currency is relative. Given that As You Like It was written in 1599 or 1600, a source written 1962 is certainly current enough for your essay.

Scenario 3: You’re writing a paper about current economic trends. Which can you use?
  • An article from Time Magazine
  • An article from The North American Journal of Economics and Finance

While Time might be a more current popular source, The North American Journal of Economics and Finance is a scholarly source with more authority. In this case, check the guidelines on your assignment prompt. You may be able to use both of these sources.

Scenario 4: You’re writing an essay for your Marine Biology class.

Can you use a book written by Simon Donner?

Well, who is Simon Donner?

Dr. Simon Donner is a professor at the University of British Columbia. He has a PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies. He has published articles in scholarly journals like Limnology and Oceanography and Global Change Biology. His book would definitely be an appropriate source.

how to evaluate web sources

How to Evaluate Web Sources

Let’s think about some more scenarios

Scenario 5: You’re still writing that marine biology paper. Can you use Dr. Simon Donner’s blog, Maribo?

Given the known expertise of the author, this is a great source.

Scenario 6: How about this blog?

There’s no author listed. Without that information, we can’t decide that this is a reliable source.

Scenario 7: You’re searching for information on ALD

Although this source is not completely objective, the information provided on their website is good.

Scenario 8: You’re searching for info on novelist Henry James:

What happens if you go to:

Does this affect credibility?

Hint: Google the author’s name!

Scenario 9: You’re searching for information on dangerous chemical compounds:

Try Google again. Find anything suspicious?

integrating sources

Integrating Sources

How to effectively blend quotations, paraphrases, summary, and your own analysis to create a conversation

a good researched paper is a lot like a good conversation

A good researched paper is a lot like a good conversation

Think of each of your sources and your own argument as voices in a conversation

balancing the conversation
Balancing The Conversation

Using the SEA structure for body paragraphs ensures good balance.




an example of the sea structure in action
An Example of the SEA Structure in Action:

Another common concern is integrating autistic students’ disrupts the educational process for the other learners. Baker, Lang, and O’Reilly state “students with EBD (emotional and behavioral disorders) often engage in behavior that is disruptive in the classroom, impedes educational progress, and inhibits their ability to form and maintain peer relationships” (403). The common outbreaks and exaggerated reactions most autistic children display concerns parents that their child’s education will be sacrificed to handle these situations. Chandler-Olcott and Kluth counter this argument by noting that an autistic student’s disruptive behavior can be a warning system to a pedagogical problem (555). For example, during a common reading-writing activity in a classroom if the procedure is too unstructured and the noise level too loud many children would be quietly distracted, whereas an autistic student might start shrieking to block out the chaos (Chandler-Olcott and Kluth 555). Autistic students may react more violently to problems, but this pushes teachers to fix them more quickly for all students. The presence of autistic students in regular education classrooms can exaggerate small problems, but benefit all students in the classroom in the end.

integrating evidence
Integrating Evidence
  • You can present evidence in a number of ways
  • You make your own voice heard by providing analysis of this evidence


Paraphrasing + Your Analysis


*note:quotes, paraphrases, and summaries all require citations

what is quoting
What is Quoting?
  • Quotations are the exact words of an author, copied directly from a source, word for word.
  • Quotations must be cited in your text and the sources they come from listed on your “Works Cited” page (MLA format) or “References” page (APA format)

Use quotations when:

  • You want to add the power of an author’s words to support your argument
  • You want to disagree with an author’s argument
  • You want to highlight particularly eloquent phrases or powerful passages
  • You are comparing and contrasting specific points of view
  • You want to note the important research that precedes your own

(Rohrbach and Valenza cited in “What is Plagiarism?”)

introducing quotes
Introducing Quotes

Use signal phrases: The author…

argues observes insists

writes counters reveals

points out implies explains

concludes states suggests

comments claims maintains

notes demonstrates says

According to… (author, character,narrator)

integrating quotes
Integrating Quotes
  • Splice full or partial quotes into your own words. This ensures that the evidence is paired with your analysis.
      • In “The Magnolia Tree,” Jake’s failure to find his purpose in life is symbolized by the deterioration of the family tree: “Its trunk leaned against Dad’s tool shed, and the branches bore no flowers despite the early spring” (Walker 32).
      • In Walker’s essay “The Magnolia Tree,” the ailing branches that “bore no flowers despite the early spring” symbolize the narrator’s failure to find purpose in life (32).
don t drop integrate
Don’t Drop, Integrate!
  • A dropped quote is a quote that isn’t integrated into the paper. It stands alone and is not spliced into your own words. Often, the quote is incorrectly presented in a sentence by itself:

In How to Write a Research Paper, Johnson reports that a common form of plagiarism is copying and pasting text from the Internet without giving credit to the source. “Students don’t realize that computer programs, such as Turnitin, help teachers catch plagiarism” (Johnson 32). “That’s why it’s so important that students know how to properly summarize, paraphrase, and quote material”(Smythe 12).

How can we improve this paragraph?

formatting longer quotations
Formatting Longer Quotations
  • In MLA format, quotes over four lines should be flush indented one inch (10 spaces) from the left margin, double spaced, without quotation marks:

Nelly Dean belittles Heathcliff throughout her narration:

They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw's door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)

  • In APA format, quotes over 40 words should follow the same indentation format. The citation contains the author, year, and page number: (Smith, 2003, p. 42).
shortening lengthy quotations
Shortening Lengthy Quotations
  • Consider shortening your quote with ellipsis (…), if you can do so without changing the source’s original meaning
    • Quote: “Felix, my love, my all, my sweet, if you find it in your heart to forgive me, and to do so would make my heart pound with ferocity, I will guarantee that my father, the noblest of all kings, will give you a large reward” (Graw 53).
    • Shortened: “Felix, my love,…if you find it in your heart to forgive me,…I guarantee that my father, the noblest of all kings, will give you a large reward” (Graw 53).
    • Do not use an ellipse if you begin using the quote mid-sentence: When Genevieve states, “if you find it in your heart to forgive me.”
making quotations flow
Making Quotations Flow
  • Quote: “I wish there was some character who had moved into my life forever” (Kalpakian 143).
  • Integrated fluidly: In Laura Kalpakian’s short story, “Little Women,” the narrator wishes “there was some character who had moved into [her] life forever” (143).

The pronoun has been modified for the sake of flow. Brackets ([ ]) let the reader know a small change has been made.

quoting poetry
Quoting Poetry
  • If you quote two to three lines of poetry, separate each line with a slash (with a space before and after the slash) and enclose the entire quotation in quotation marks:

Reflecting on the "incident" in Baltimore, Cullen concludes, "Of all the things that happened there / That's all that I remember" (11-12).

  • Quotations more than three lines should be indented one inch from the left margin, double-spaced between lines, adding no quotation marks that do not appear in the original:  

Elizabeth Bishop's "In the Waiting Room" is rich in evocative detail:

           It was winter.  It got dark

           early. The waiting room

          was full of grown-up people, 

          arctics and overcoats,

          lamps and magazines. (6-10)

what is paraphrasing
What is Paraphrasing?
  • Paraphrasing is restating someone else’s idea in your own words
    • To properly paraphrase, you must significantly change the wording, phrasing, and sentence structure of the source. (Not just a few words!)
    • Follow your paraphrase with an in-text citation and cite the source on your “Works Cited” page (MLA format) or “References” page (APA format).
why use a paraphrase instead of a quote
Why Use a Paraphrase Instead of a Quote?

Quotation marks are like double scissors (“snip!”); they literally cut out and lift information from the original source into your paper. This is useful when the exact words of the author are important. However, if the exact words of the author are not important, paraphrase.

Look at the following example:

Quote: “Aliens have been found to inhabit the craggy surface of the moon” (Smith, 2000).

Paraphrase: Aliens were discovered on the moon (Smith, 2000).

Does the exact wording make a difference?

How about now?

Quote: “The reference to mythology in the garden calls to mind the clash of Paganism with Christianity where Medusa may rear her ugly head over Adam and Eve” (Doe 65).

Paraphrase: References to garden imagery symbolize the Garden of Eden and Christianity, whereas mythology may refer to Paganism (Doe 65).

In this case, the paraphrase does lose something in translation. The quote would be a more effective piece of evidence.

when to paraphrase
When to Paraphrase
  • When exact wording isn’t important
  • To clarify a short passage from a text
  • To explain the main points of a passage
  • To avoid overusing quotations
  • When reporting numerical data or specific facts (preferred in APA papers)
how to paraphrase practice
How to Paraphrase: Practice

James D. Lester explains, “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only 10 % of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes” (qtd. in “Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words”).

how did you do
How Did You Do?
  • An Acceptable paraphrase:

According to James Lester, in research papers, students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoting down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (cited in “Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words”).

how did you do1
How did you do?
  • Original Text:

James D. Lester explains, “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only 10 % of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes” (qtd. in “Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words”).

  • A Plagiarized Version:

Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably 10 percent of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.

what is summarizing
What is Summarizing?
  • Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.
  • Again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to their original sources.

Summarize when:

  • You want to establish background or offer an overview of a topic
  • You want to describe knowledge (from several sources) about a topic
  • You want to determine the main ideas of a single source
how to write an effective summary
How to Write an Effective Summary

Rather than writing a list summary that simply reiterates the author’s ideas in the exact consecutive order they appear in the original text (and then, and then, and then), write a ranking summary that recounts the author’s ideas in order of their importance to your argument.

list summary of the movie titanic
List Summary of the Movie Titanic

Rose, as an old woman, begins telling the story of the Titanic (Cameron). She tells how she got on the ship with her mother and fiancé (Cameron). And then how Jack won his ticket in a card game and got on the ship (Cameron). And then how she tried to commit suicide. And then how Jack saved her (Cameron)…etc.

Ranking Summary of the Movie Titanic(for an essay making an argument about the portrayal of social class in the film)

Director James Cameron first juxtaposes social class by cutting between two two scenes: Rose’s arrival to the ship and Jack’s arrival to the ship (Cameron). While she boards with other upper-class passengers including her mother and fiancé, Jack wins his ticket in a car game and makes a last minute dash to the boat from a bar (Cameron). Social class is further emphasized in the scenes in which Jack eats dinner in the first class dining room and Rose accompanies Jack to steerage for a dance (Cameron).

research process workshop part 3 citing sources

Research Process WorkshopPart 3: Citing Sources

How (and why) to cite your evidence properly

why do we cite
Why do we cite?

Because citation benefits:

  • The readers
  • The writer
  • The author of the source being cited
benefits for readers
Benefits for readers:
  • If readers want more information, citation tells them where to track it down
  • Citation also helps establish relationships among texts. It helps the readers understand the conversation going on in your essay.

Robillard, A. “Young Scholars Affecting Composition: A Challenge to Disciplinary Citation Practices.” College English 68.3 (2006): 253-271. Print.

benefits for the writer
Benefits for the writer:
  • Citation shows your awareness of the conversation going on around your topic. It helps establish your expertise.
  • Citation shows that you are backing up your claims with good evidence.
  • Citation can align you with a particular school of thought within a discipline.

Robillard, A. “Young Scholars Affecting Composition: A Challenge to Disciplinary Citation Practices.” College English 68.3 (2006): 253-271. Print.

benefits for the author of the source being cited
Benefits for the author of the source being cited:
  • Citation gives credit where credit is due.
  • It shows which ideas belong not to writer of the paper, but to other scholars.

Robillard, A. “Young Scholars Affecting Composition: A Challenge to Disciplinary Citation Practices.” College English 68.3 (2006): 253-271. Print.

why is it important to give credit where credit is due
Why is it important to give credit where credit is due?

Because failure to cite correctly can result in plagiarism.

  • Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional presentation of another source’s words, ideas, or images as your own
  • Plagiarism could result in:
    • An “F” grade on the paper
    • An “F” in the class
    • Expulsion from the university
  • Students who plagiarize at George Mason violate the Honor Code and must attend a hearing to determine the consequences
the george mason honor code
The George Mason Honor Code

Defines plagiarism as:

Presenting as one's own the words, the work, or the opinions of someone else without proper acknowledgment. 

Borrowing the sequence of ideas, the arrangement of material, or the pattern of thought of someone else without proper acknowledgment. 

See the Undergraduate Catalog or visit the Honor Code online at for more information

when do we cite
When do we cite?

Cite sources within your paper and at the end of your paper whenever:

  • You summarize, paraphrase, or quote an original idea from a source
  • You use factual information that is not common knowledge to the general public or to your particular discipline (not sure? cite it!)
  • You use charts, graphs, photos, or any artwork from a source
  • You are citing statistics, evidence, or data that doesn’t come from your own experiments


does that mean everything in my paper needs to be cited
Does that mean EVERYTHING in my paper needs to be cited?

The Following do NOT have to be documented

  • Facts that are widely known to the general public
  • Information or judgments considered to be “common knowledge”
  • Facts widely known in your particular discipline
examples of common knowledge
Examples of Common Knowledge
  • John Adams was the second president
  • The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941

If you see a fact in three or more sources, and you are fairly certain your readers already know this information, it is likely to be “common knowledge”


let s test our knowledge
Let’s Test our Knowledge!

Plagiarism Quiz:

citation styles
Citation Styles

Although there are many different citation styles, three of the most common are:

APA (American Psychology Association)

MLA (Modern Language Association)

Chicago (The Chicago Manual of Style)

which style should you use
Which Style Should You Use?
  • APA is often used in disciplines like Psychology, in which the currency of a study is most important
    • Currency is important because research in the sciences is continual process. New research builds upon existing research and findings are constantly changing.
    • In-text citations of summary and paraphrase include author name and date (Murray, 2004)
    • In-text citations of quotes include author name, date, and page (Murray, 2004, p. 76)
  • MLA is often used in disciplines like English, in which the currency of a text is not as important as identifying the page number of the information
    • Because the humanities are generally more interested in dissecting language and citing ideas (rather than data) the information isn’t as time-sensitive.
    • All in-text citations include author name and page (Jones 13)
  • Chicago is often preferred in History and many other fields. At George Mason, it is also the preferred citation style in the School of Management
    • In-text citations take the form of footnotes which include all bibliographic information
other styles
Other Styles

Other styles not discussed in this workshop include:

  • Turabian
  • CSE
  • AP

Check with your professor if you are unsure which style to use