Writing & Research
Up CT Essay


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Editing is easy, all you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

~Mark Twain



How do I format a paper?

Research Guides

How do I find references?

How do I evaluate references?

What are scholarly journals and books?

How do I find scholarly publications?

What is a research paper?

Is there an easy way to complete footnotes/endnotes and references?

What makes a paper good?









Ideas to Help with the Difficult and Scary Process of Writing

How to Write a Great Research Paper (34:24)

Writing and Pain: includes tips for making writing a less painful experience. These notes cover common errors and bad habits to look out for, focusing on careful word choice, as well as tips for grammar, metaphor, tone, structuring and argument.

Professor Charles King's essay Battling the Six Evil Geniuses of Essay Writing, PS Online, March 1998

The Write Stuff: Writing as a Performing and Political Art

Essay Writing Center

What Is a Research Paper?

Georgetown University's How to Write a Research Paper

Indiana Writing Guides

Identify and Develop Your Topic

Paper Starter

Organizing Ideas


Using Outlines

Developing an Outline

Creating Strong Introductions

Writing the Introduction and ConclusionSrages of Writing cartoon

Simple Answers

Word Transitions

Paragraphs and Paragraphing

Creating Smooth Transitions

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Paraphrasing Tool

Guide to Grammar and Writing


Grammar Check

Grammar Checker

Punctuation: Everything You Need to Know

Editing and Proofreading

Proofreading Your Writing

A Guide to Evaluating Your Own Writing (PDF)

Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism vs Paraphrasing

Plagiarism 101

Plagiarism Checker

Read Irving Hexham's The Plague of Plagiarism if you are uncertain what constitutes plagiarism.

OWL, a multimedia online writing lab that helps students with the writing process, documentation, grammar, avoiding plagiarism and other topics. The lab can be accessed from computers, tablets or smart phones. An independent study found students who used the OWL improved their writing skills and processes, and increased their final grades by an average of 6.6 points.

Editing Yourself: Tips

Be clear about your message and who your audience/community is. Keep your core message in mind to keep your writing on-target and relevant.

To make your point clearly, you first must have a clear point to make.

Shorter paragraphs are better.

Take it easy on the jargon. Avoid sounding like those generic jargon-spouting executives that the “Dilbert” cartoon pokes fun at. If you use legal, technical or foreign jargon, will your readers know what you mean? If there’s no other term but the jargon, be sure to define the terms. Make your website content (and other messages) accessible to those who don’t know your topic as well as you do.

Try the R-E-C-E-S-S Model for editing your own work

(courtesy of Carl Sessions Stepp, University of Maryland)

Read the whole piece: What’s the message?

Edit for

Content (key points clear, logical, consistent?)

Edit for

Structure (grammar, punctuation, spelling, style, usage)

Sign off (re-read it one last time to make sure you haven’t added new errors)

Write like a spy: follow the CIA’s Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications

Watch the Weird Al “Word Crimes” video (3:45)

The latest list of overused buzzwords (July 2014, Mashable)

Why we make typos

The Snowclones Database (snowclone: a type of cliché which uses an old idiom formulaically in a new context … have two-part histories, a first phase in which a fixed model gains currency and a second in which variations are played on the model … examples: (1) Got milk? led to the model Got X? as in Got sand / girls / looks / etc? (2) If loving you is wrong I don’t want to be right. led to the model If loving X is wrong I don’t want to be right. as in If loving the Buckeyes / coffee / soap / etc is wrong I don’t want to be right. (3) not the sharpest knife in the drawer led to the model not the Xest Y in the Z as in not the brightest / quickest / etc bulb / bunny / etc in the room / forest / etc)

UNLV Writing Center

University Writing Center handouts

Grammar Guide ($.99): a quick reference guide filled with general grammar rules, hints and references











Documentation Styles (Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), and The Chicago Manual of Style)

Citation Management

Citations and Writing

Citelighter: An academic research platform that allows students to save, organize and automatically cite content. Students can open Citelighter in a Google doc to have their research appear next to their writing.

EasyBib: This bibliography generator helps students determine what style they need and how different citations appear.

Citing Online Sources

Formatting Citations

Bibliographic Citations: Resources and Guides

APA Style [PDF]

APSA Style [PDF]

Tutorial: Basics of APA Style

APSA Style Guide for Citations and References


The Chicago Manual of Style Online

Guide to Formatting Your Turabian-Style Paper Using Word

Turabian Citation and Format Style Guide




GEORGE ORWELLIf people cannot write well, they cannot think well,

and if they cannot think well,

others will do their thinking for them.

~George Orwell








Research Guides


Secrets of My Research Success

The Research Process

Research Strategy: The Seven Steps of the Research Process

Researching 101

Reference Identification Tools: A Skill Guide

The Research Assignment Calculator (TRAC)

Research Project Calculator

On its website, the Kentucky Virtual Library provides a detailed, student-friendly interactive map of the research process, called How To Do Research, which spells out the steps for making the most of the research process, from planning to searching to taking notes and ultimately using gathered information effectively.

Selecting a Research Topic

Developing an Hypothesis

Researching in the Social Sciences

Research at Cornell

Research Workshop 101

How the Research Literature is Structured

NoodleTools: Users can use one tool for note-taking, outlining, citations, research and more.

Scrible: Makes online reading and research apps. Its web app lets users annotate web pages in their browser and then save, share and manage them in the cloud.

Write an Annotated Bibliography













How do I find references?

Researching Your Topic

Locating Information on Your Research Topic

Databases? Google? Minerva? What's the Difference?

Google and Beyond

From Google: Better Search Results

Getting the Most from Google

Beyond Google: Other Good Search Engines

Web Evaluation Questions

Web Search Strategies

Searching the World Wide Web

Online Searching: Boolean and Relevance

Seven Steps to Effective Library Research

How to Find Articles


How Do I Find Journal Articles?

How to Read Citations (1:49)










How do I evaluate references?

There are many popular sources of information that can provide an excellent starting point for your research. However, if you will be writing a college-level paper, chances are your professor will require that most, if not all, of your sources be scholarly. The following links can take you to some good general information on evaluating your references. Eventually, though, you are going to have to be able to differentiate scholarly sources from other sources and be able to use your library to find scholarly sources. The next two sections deal with those topics.

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources of Information

Research Minutes: How to Identify Scholarly Articles (Video)

Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals

Identifying Scholarly Journals (Video)

Search for a title in Ullrich’s Periodicals Directory in your College library. Once you find it, check the document type for the terms academic/scholarly (what you want) OR consumer/popular (not what you want).

10 C'S for Evaluating Internet Resources

Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools

Evaluating Web Sites (5:16)

Critical Surfing










What are scholarly journals and books?

In order to choose the best references for your research, you need to understand the difference between popular publications and scholarly publications, and be able to identify a sources as one or the other.

Scholarly (or academic) publications are peer-reviewed or refereed publications. Scholarly journals and books (1) are used to distribute research throughout an academic discipline such as Economics, Geography, Political Science or Sociology, and (2) are usually not available for free online and are never available for purchase at Wal-Mart. However, all college libraries purchase access to scholarly journals and books so students will have access to them. The following chart should help you differentiate between scholarly sources of information and popular sources of information.


Popular Magazines

Scholarly Journals


Staff writers and journalists



General public

Scholars, including college students

Reviewed by


Editorial board made up of other scholars and researchers ... scholarly journal articles are ALWAYS peer-reviewed and tell you that

Article style/purpose

Shorter articles written to entertain, inform or elicit an emotional response

Longer articles written in a formal, scholarly style to share facts and research with the academic community


None or a website for more information

Footnotes/endnotes and bibliography/reference list
(often also includes methodology – how the author did what he/she did)


Usually published frequently (weekly or monthly)

Usually published less frequently (quarterly, semi-annually)


Numerous ads for a variety of products

If there are any ads, they are usually for scholarly products such as books or academic software


Usually numerous and with every article

Fewer, often include charts and graphs to support research findings


Usually glossy and larger in size

Usually smaller in size, thicker and have a plain cover

Found in College Libraries and Databases

Yes, and more often than scholarly sources

Yes, but not every academic source is in every library

Online Presence

Always a .org or .com site and often has free limited access

Usually a .edu site (rarely .org, never .com) with no free access beyond article titles
(but having a .edu site does NOT make it a scholarly source)


Time, Psychology Today, Rolling Stone, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, National Geographic, National Review, Atlantic Monthly (magazines you might subscribe to or buy at a newsstand)

Journal of Southern History, Annual Review of Psychology, American Literature, New England Journal of Medicine

The following are not scholarly publications.



study guides

research papers

information from publisher sites

information from educational sites

information from online or F2F lecture notes / materials

reference books: dictionaries, encyclopedias and etc.

online reference sites

government publications

governmental agency publications

think tank publications

interest group publications

union publications

information from news bureaus: AP, UPI and etc

working papers, reports, briefings or etc from an organization










How do I find scholarly publications?

When colleges purchase access to a scholarly source, it usually means they purchased access to a database, which contains thousands of titles that can be searched for specific information.

Not every title in a database is a scholarly publication. When searching for articles, most databases give you the option of limiting your search to refereed, scholarly or peer-reviewed publications, all of which are scholarly publications.


Databases are collections of thousands of publications organized by subject. Libraries have many different databases covering every academic discipline. Some databases are multidisciplinary, containing publications that cover a broad range of subjects and include both popular and scholarly sources. Other databases are subject-specific and include mainly scholarly and specialized articles. The following multidisciplinary databases are good places to start research.

Academic Search Complete, 1990-present: scholarly, popular and newspaper articles from across disciplines, includes full text

Academic One File, 1980-present: scholarly, popular and newspaper articles from across disciplines, includes full text

Info Trac Custom Newspapers: full-text articles from over 100 newspapers

LexisNexis Academic and JSTOR are also good multidisciplinary databases.

To find a subject-specific database or other multi-disciplinary databases, ask your librarian. You can access most databases online from home with a user name and password provided by your library. I’ve listed just a few of the databases in my fields in the table below.ANNUAL REVIEW OF SOCIOLOGY

2. Search the database.

To search a database, choose keywords which represent the main concepts of your topic. In order to find the best articles for your research, choose a number of keywords for each concept, including synonyms and related terms. Then combine them using AND and OR.

AND narrows your search by looking for articles that contain all of the keywords.

OR broadens your search by looking for articles that contain any of the keywords.

Example: Search for information about female college students with eating disorders.

Concept 1           AND                   Concept 2

            female college students
            college women

            eating disorders




3. Find the complete article.

When you find an article you like, it's very important that you actually look at the hard-copy or electronic version of the complete article and not just the summary given in the database. The database gives you the information you need for your reference list. It does not give you the information you need for your paper.

All databases list citations which you can use to find the entire article. Some also provide abstracts (brief summaries) of articles, while others contain the full text of the article. If the article is not full-text in the database, make sure you write down all of the information necessary to find it -– title, author, journal name, date of issue, etc.

When you click on the database link a number of things may happen. You may go (a) directly to the article, (b) to information about the journal volume/issue the article is published in and the have to use the information to find the article or (c) to the database search screen and search the database using the title of the article. Be sure to check the date ranges of the database against the article’s information to make sure the full text of your article is contained in that database.

If your library doesn’t own the journal or magazine you need, you can request the article for free through Inter-Library Loan by filling out a request form. Your library will get the article from another college.


Databases Your College Library Might Have





Business Abstracts with Full Text

Business Monitor

Business Source Complete

Econ Lit

Foundations and Trends in Business and Economics

Global Development Finance (GDF)


IMF e-Library

Market Line Advantage

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Statistical Abstract of the United States

World Agricultural Economics Abstracts


Access Science

Arctic and Antarctic Regions


Columbia Gazetteer of the World

Dictionary of Geography


Environment Abstracts

General Science Abstracts



Index Islamic


Land Scan

Water Resources Abstracts

Air University Library Index to Military Periodicals

Artemis Primary Sources

Bibliography of Asian Studies

Chinese Academic Journals (in Chinese)


Eastview Universal Database (in Russian)

FBIS Reports: Latin America

HAPI: Hispanic American Periodicals Index

HLAS: Handbook of Humanities and Social Sciences

International Political Science Abstracts

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts

Annual Review of Sociology

Annual Reviews Online

Anthropology Online

Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online

Country Studies

Family Studies Abstracts



Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

RAMBI: Index of Articles on Jewish Studies

Rural Sociology Abstracts

Social Services Abstracts

Sociological Abstracts










What is a research paper?

1.    A research paper is not "about" a subject.

A research paper should have a thesis, a clear point of view. It is not simply a generalized discussion of an issue. The focus of the paper is not the views of others but your opinions and interpretations.

2.    A research paper is not a summary of everything you can find.

Your goal is not to collect everything you can find out about a subject and summarize it. Although you should review as much material as possible, you should select sources that directly support your thesis. A research paper has a clear focus. The more narrow you make your subject, the easier your paper will be to write.

3.    A research paper is not a list of quotes.

The focus of your paper is your point of view, your commentary. Direct quotations, facts and statistics may be woven throughout your paper, but they should support your position. Your commentary should do more than simply introduce or link quotations.

4.    A research paper does not support a pre-conceived point of view.

Looking up facts that support what you already believe is not genuine research. You should examine evidence then form an opinion. A research paper comments on the quantity and quality of sources. It distinguishes between reliable and biased sources, between authoritative and questionable statistics, between fact and opinion.

5.    A research paper does not present the ideas of others without documentation.

Research papers must use documentation methods to prevent writers from plagiarizing sources. Do not borrow ideas, statistics or facts without noting their original source.










Is there an easy way to complete footnotes/endnotes and references?

1.  Create a new file in your computer called references.doc

2.  Whenever you start to read a book, article or government document, open references.doc and type in the full citation.

3.  Take the time now to format the citation correctly. You have to do it sometime, why not now? After a while, you'll get used to the formatting style and do it automatically.

4.  Whenever you take notes, make sure that you keep track of the exact page number from which you are taking notes, even if you are not taking exact quotes.

5.  Generally, it is better to carefully write down the full and exact quotes rather than to paraphrase. If you keep the full quote, you can paraphrase later without re-looking at the source.

6.  Once you start writing your paper, make sure you include appropriate citations as you go along, including page numbers. It really will be a hassle later (trust me) if you don't do this as you write.

7.  In-text citations with a reference list at the end is by far the easiest way of doing your citations.

8.  If you keep a correctly formatted reference list of all your potential sources from the beginning, then your reference list will be done when your note-taking is done. If you include good citations as you write, then your footnoting/endnoting will be done when you finish your writing. Much easier than saving them to the end.










What makes a paper good?

1.  A paper of just about any kind has to be based around a clear, simple thesis which (a) makes one simple point and (b) sums up your reasons for reaching that conclusion. The body of the paper is designed to use the evidence at your disposal to convince the reader you're right. 

2.  In many cases (especially if you aren't terribly self-confident about writing), your final paragraph will really be your thesis. If it is noticeably more profound, interesting, detailed, etc. than your first paragraph, cut and paste it at the top of your paper and edit your paper with that as your thesis. 

3.  Work on the assumption that you need to leave yourself time to write at least two drafts. Many people write six or seven before they have things the way they want them. 

4.  Each concrete point you raise in the body of your paper should be used to show the reader explicitly (a) how it helps support your thesis and (b) how it is connected to the other points you raise.

5.  There should be one idea per paragraph and one paragraph per idea.

6.  Write with an audience in mind: someone who is (a) smart, (b) likes you and (c) doesn't know much about the material.

7.  Only use phrases, words and expressions which you'd include in normal conversation (profanity aside, of course). In short, if you write the way you speak, you'll communicate the most effectively.






Copyright © 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated:   11/10/2023 2330

Creative Commons License