In order to write a research paper, you first need to find out information about your topic.
This is called doing research.You can't get around it!
Make sure sources that you cite in a research paper are reliable. To be reliable means that you can trust the information (duh). Books, magazines, and websites will be the primary places you will be looking for information; however, not all information on the internet is reliable. For instance, a project on Bat Boy is not recommended, even though there is a lot of information available in Weekly World News.
There are however many sites which are very reliable, one of which is Wikipedia. While information on Wikipedia is not guaranteed to be accurate, science articles are often written by experts in the field and are generally a good source of knowledge. Another positive about Wikipedia is that many articles also have sources listed at the bottom which will provide you other places to look for your topic. Look for a links section like the following example:
- Images and movies of the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) at ARKive
- How to grow a Venus flytrap
- The Carnivorous Plant FAQ
- The Mysterious Venus Flytrap
- Discovery explains how the Venus Flytrap snaps.
- How Venus Flytraps Work
- Venus Flytrap evolution
- Carolina Beach State Park, "Fly trap Trail"
- Botanical Society of America, Dionaea muscipula - The Venus Flytrap
- Save The Venus Flytrap
Here are some useful criteria for deciding if a website is reliable:
- Government addresses can generally be trusted (www.abcdefg.gov)
- College and university websites are usually accurate (www.abcdefs.edu)
- Websites from sceintific groups or non-government organizations are usually trustworthy. These websites will be run by people named “International Society of [something],” “Organization of American [something],” or “National [something] Association.”
Websites which appear to be run by a single person may be unreliable. Unless directed there by your teacher, you should be wary about using information from these sites. If you are worried that a site you found by a simple web search is inaccurate or unreliable, ask your teacher or librarian.
Whenever you do research, it is important to say where you got your information from. This way, you give credit to the people who wrote the book or website you looked at.
You also want to be sure you are not taking someone else's writing, from a book or website, and putting it in your report word for word.
This is called plagiarism.It is dishonest! (and possibly illegal...)
After using a source to write your paper, it is important to cite in on your works cited, or bibliography, page. However, each medium of information (books, journals, TV, internet ...) has a different method of citation. In addition to this, the writing experts in the world cannot decide on one way to cite work which is appropriate for everyone. The one group which seems to lead the rest is the Modern Language Association (MLA). Here's how to cite some material in the MLA format:
- Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.
- Magazine or newspaper
- Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Periodical Day Month Year: pages.
- If you are using a fancy scholarly journal, like American Mathematical Society Monthly, there is a different format:
- Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages.
- Name of Site. Date of Posting/Revision. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sometimes found in copyright statements). Date you accessed the site <electronic address (this is www.something.com)>.
More information on these formats can be found in the OWL labs.
The Science Buddies group provides a helpful guide to explain the format for a science fair research paper.