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How To: Begin Your Research



Remember that writing takes time—often longer than you think it will.

Now that you are ready to start writing make sure to look back at your assignment and make sure you understand:

  • What kind of writing you are doing.
  • What your assignment calls for.
  • What kind of and how many sources you need.

Take the time to craft your thesis statement. This statement will guide your entire paper.

Creating an outline is a great way to organize your ideas and begin the process of fleshing out your argument. This is also a great way to jump-start your writing—a detailed outline will help the paper practically write itself.

There are lots of approaches to the writing process. It is 100% ok to write in bits and pieces; there is no reason why you have to write the introduction first or the conclusion last.

Make sure that you take the time to revise and proofread your paper; don't lose points on your paper just because you wrote "loose" instead of "lose". Look at the organization of your paper too, not just the grammar and spelling. Is there a paragraph that really belongs in a different order to make your argument flow more naturally?


Why cite?

There are lots of reasons why we include citations, some of them include:

  • Help your reader (or yourself) find where you got your information in case they want to know more (or verify your claims).
  • Show respect for the authors who are contributing to your work, by giving them credit.
  • Show that you are doing your best to avoid plagiarism.
How do I cite?

The format for a citation is a little bit different depending on which style (MLA, APA, and Chicago are some of the most popular styles), but all citation styles include similar information:

  • Author (who wrote the article, book, blog post, created the movie, etc.)
  • The title of the article, book, webpage, video, etc.
  • The name of the Journal, magazine, newspaper, website, etc. that the article was published in (if the thing you are citing is an article).
    • For things like journals, newspapers, and magazines that are published regularly (or periodically) you should also include the volume and issue number as well as the page range for the article you used.
  • The date when your item was published, uploaded, etc. (Where the date appears in a finished citation is one of the major differences between different citation styles; some styles (like APA) place greater importance on the date and so it is placed earlier in the citation).
  • The location of where a book was published as well as who published it (this usually isn't important for articles, webpages, etc.).
  • Where you found the information (which database, or the URL, etc.)
  • When you accessed it (this is usually only needed if you have reason to believe that your item might be gone when someone else goes to look for it).
That's great, but in what order does all this information go?

This is where you need to know what style your professor wants you to use. In the left hand column are links to the different styles in the Citation Help research guide. And there is a sample article citation for MLA, Chicago, and APA below (color coded, so you can see where each piece belongs): 


Underwood, Emily, Jennifer Nace, and Joseph Chmura. "The Dog Really Did Eat My Homework." Journal of Common Excuses, vol. 13, no. 2, 2015, pg 12-18. Academic Search Premier,


1. Emily Underwood, Jennifer Nace, and Joseph Chmura, "The Dog Really Did Eat My Homework," Journal of Common Excuses, 13, no. 2, (2015):


Underwood, E., Nace, J., & Chmura, J. (2015). The dog really did eat my homework. Journal of Common Excuses, 13(2), 12-18. Retrieved from

Find a Research Guide!


It's important to avoid using too many direct quotes in your paper. Paraphrasing (restating someone else's idea in your own words) is a great alternative. Always cite in-text something that you paraphrased--the idea still belongs to someone else. If you want more information (and practice) about paraphrasing, check the Purdue OWL.