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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!

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?

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.
  • 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!

Gale powersearch

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

  • Who: ...wrote it? Are they an expert?
  • 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?evaluate

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.

"social media"

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

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)

In the Wiley College Handbook, activities that go against academic integrity is considered academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty is discussed within the Student Handbook under Section X, Student Code of Conduct, Sub-Section 4.02. The text reads:

Academic Dishonesty - Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated in any form. Examinations and assignments are employed to encourage learning and judge its quality. To evaluate this with justice and fairness, it is necessary that they be executed with complete honesty. Persons, who are guilty of cheating or plagiarism, as defined below, will be subject to probation, suspension, or expulsion.

  1. Cheating.   Dishonesty of any kind with respect to examination, course assignments, alterations of records, or illegal possession of examinations shall be considered cheating. It is the responsibility of the student not only to abstain from cheating, but in addition, to avoid the appearance of cheating and to guard against making it possible for others to cheat. Any student who helps another student to cheat will be considered as guilty of cheating as the student he/she assists. The student should do everything possible to induce respect for the examining process and for honesty in the performance of assigned tasks in or out of class.
  2. Plagiarism.   Honesty requires that any ideas or materials taken from another for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged. Offering the work of someone else as one’s own is plagiarism. The language or ideas thus taken from another may range from isolated formulas, sentences, or paragraphs, to entire articles copied from books, periodicals, speeches, or the writings of other students. The offering of materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgement also is considered plagiarism. Any student who fails to give credit for ideas or materials that he takes from another is guilty of plagiarism.

Potential judicial sanctions for violation of the Student Code of Conduct are: admonishment, community service, fines, probation, loss of privileges, pre-hearing suspension, research assignments, restitution, seminar/workshop participation, suspension, and/or expulsion.

As you can see, academic integrity is very important. Violating one’s academic integrity will affect your academic and professional career at and beyond Wiley College.


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

Subject Guide

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Veronica Wilkerson
1109 West Panola
Carthage, Texas 75633
Subjects: English