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Select Your Material

Good research involves collecting a few sources more than the minimum requirement, so that later you can choose the best sources to answer your research question. Remember to capture all potentially useful information for your bibliography: authors, titles, volume and issue numbers for periodicals, dates of publication, and page numbers or their equivalent (section headings on a website, for example). Know which documentation style your instructor requires: MLA, APA, Turabian, or AMA.

When choosing sources, be aware of the differences between primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are "original works of art or literature or are evidence provided directly by an observer of an event" (Palmquist 148). Novels, speeches, interviews, government documents, private documents such as diaries and letters, weapons connected with crimes, and archeological artifacts are examples of primary sources (148, 150). Secondary sources, on the other hand, "comment on or interpret an event, often using primary sources as evidence" (150). Examples include non-fiction books, journal articles in print or online, and valid websites. These distinctions are important to consider because primary sources allow you to reach your own conclusions; whereas, secondary sources offer you the conclusions of other researchers, including their unacknowledged biases or hidden purposes (150). If appropriate to your assignment, include as many primary sources as possible to make your argument more persuasive. For example, our Buddhism researcher could benefit from getting firsthand testimony from current American college students who practice Buddhism.

Next, learn how to take notes.


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