Skip to Main Content

Research Guide: Home

Assistance with writing a research paper

Welcome to the Panola College research paper page.  On these pages you will find information and resources for assistance with writing a research paper.  If you get stuck or need more assistance don't hesitate to contact the library!  You can use the Ask a Librarian chat for real time assistance anytime the library is open.

The Research Cycle


1. Explore Your Topic

Before you settle on a topic, it's a good idea to do some background research first.  The library is a great source for background information!

This is a great time to use the new Concept Map in the Panola Pony Power Search!

2. Refine Your Topic

Now that you've done some background research, it's time to narrow your topic.  Remember: the shorter your final paper, the narrower your topic needs to be!

3. Search for Sources

After you've refined your topic, it's time to start searching for sources.  Do you need books, articles, or something else?  Can you use secondary sources or are you required to have all primary sources? Double-check your assignment, usually in the syllabus, or ask your professor.

4. Evaluate Your Sources

It's always a good idea to evaluate sources before using them in your assignment.  Do you need to have scholarly sources, peer-reviewed, or the most recent?

If you aren't sure how to evaluate a source turn to the CRAAP test.

Basic Search Tips

Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. So you'll need to breakSearch your topic down into the most important ideas - KEYWORDS.

Example: What was the effect of social media on candidate preference in the 2016 US presidential election?

The specifics of your topic will matter when selecting sources, but for searching, you only need the most essential components.

Keywords: social media, candidate preference, 2016 US presidential election

Example sentence

Most words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!


Keyword: social media     Synonym: Facebook


Keep an Eye Out

Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.

Most library databases have search tools built in. Try some of these:

  • Subject: Think of subjects as official hashtags. Use them to find sources about that subject.Gale powersearch
  • Date Range: Limit your search to sources published between specific years.
  • Peer Reviewed: Limit your search to scholarly journal articles.
  • Full Text: Make sure all of the results are available to read in full.

Look on the left and right of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools - and more!

You can evaluate any source using the 5 W's:

  • Who: ...wrote it? Are they an expert?evaluate
  • What: the purpose of this resource?
  • Where: ...was this information published? ...does the information come from?
  • When: ...was this published or last updated?
  • Why: this resource useful? this resource better than other ones?

Advanced Search Tips

Use the operator AND to find only sources that mention both keywords.

social media AND candidate preference

This search will bring back fewer results than searching either keyword on its own.

social media

Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords.

social media OR Facebook

This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.

Use the “QUOTES” strategy to search for several words in a phrase.  Also known as PHRASE SEARCHING.

"social media"

This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.

Truncation allows you to search the root form of a word with all its different endings by adding a symbol to the end of a word. Truncation symbols vary by database (check the help screens or ask a Librarian), but are usually one of the below:

(exclamation point)
(question mark)

For example: advertis* will search for advertise, advertisement, advertising, advertises

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Academic Integrity has three main principles:

  • When you say you did the work, you actually did the work
  • When you rely on someone else’s work, you cite their work. When you use their words, you quote them openly and accurately, and you cite them, too.
  • When you present research materials, you present them fairly and truthfully. That’s true whether the research involves data, documents, or the writings of other scholars (Lipson, 2004)



Lipson, C. (2004). Doing honest work in college: How to   prepare citations, avoid plagiarism, and achieve   real academic success. Chicago, IL: University of   Chicago Press

Citation vs Copyright vs Plagiarism

Citation is how you avoid plagiarism and copyright violations.

Citation - tells your reader where a quote or idea came from

Copyright - set of laws aimed at protecting people's ideas, words, concepts

Plagiarism - act of passing off someone else's work as your own

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Martha López Coleman
She/Her/ Dr
1109 W. Panola St
Carthage, TX