Doing good research is just a matter of being organized and paying attention to detail. Here are some suggestions to help you on your way.
- Be sure you understand the project before you start. Talk to your teacher, your school librarian or media specialist about the project to be certain you are on the right track. Try to focus on a particular topic. If you find too much information while doing your research, you may need to narrow your topic; too little information means you may have to broaden your topic.
- Get a basic understanding of the topic you have chosen. The library offers a number of resources that can be useful in pointing you in the right direction.
- Credo Reference offers thousands of Topic Pages on people, places, events, scientific discoveries, cultural and historical events, social and political movements, history and pop culture. You can browse Credo Topic Pages by Category or Alphabetically. Citations for Credo Topic pages are provided, using MLA, APA, or Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. The Topic pages also offer direct links to the library's catalog, to articles in other library databases and in NetLibrary, a collection of over 30,000 e-books, images and other media when available.
- AcademicInfo offers 25,000 subject guides, mostly links to online archives, directories and institutions. This site also contains other educational resources that may be useful to students either in secondary school or at the Undergraduate level.
- Bibliographies: compiled by librarians at the Washington County Public Library.
- Be selective in choosing your sources. Can you trust the source: does it have the author's name? Is there a date that tells you when it was published? Does the author list his/her sources?
If you are using a library database the answer to all of the above questions will be "ye." If you are using the Internet, then more often than not, the answer is "no." If you don't know the difference, be sure and ask a member of our Reference Staff. You can also email us at RefDesk@wcpl.net or call us at 276-676-6298.
- Be sure and copy down your cited sources as you use them. Having to go back and try to retrieve a source in order to properly cite it days or weeks later will be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Make sure you are using the right Style Manual for your citations. Generally speaking, when citing works for Liberal Arts courses, like English or History, you will use MLA, the Modern Language Association. Scientific courses generally require APA, the American Psychological Association. Check with your teacher on the style manual they require. The Library has the 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. A good online resource which includes a section on citing electronic resources, is West Texas A and M University, Cornette Library's "Citing Internet and Print Resources"