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Research Tips

Topic Selection    Locate Resources     Assemble the Content     APA Format

Writing a paper is similar to preparing a meal. When cooking you have to:

 

  • Decide what to make.
  • Assemble the right ingredients.
  • Mix and prepare them in the correct order.
  • And finally, use effective “presentation” so it looks appetizing!

 

Similarly, when writing a paper you have to:

  • Select a topic.
  • Locate the resources.
  • Use the resources to “assemble” your content.
  • Use APA format to provide a professional presentation.

 

Topic Selection

You may have an assigned topic or be able to choose one. If you can choose a topic, select one that interests you. Look through your textbook for ideas or go to the Issues & Controversies database for suggestions.

Make sure the topic isn’t so broad that you can’t cover it effectively or so narrow that you won’t be able to find enough resources.

State the topic as a question. If you want to learn about eating disorders, for example, you might ask, “How serious are eating disorders among adolescent girls?”

Identify the main concepts or keywords that describe your topic.

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Locate Resources
 

Make sure you note and follow your teacher’s instructions about the types of resources that should or should NOT be used.

 

  • Should sources be up-to-date, or can you use items older than 5 years?
  • Should all sources be from professional journals or can general interest publications be used?

 

It’s very tempting to type your topic into an Internet search tool like Google and make use of the first few results. BUT while these may be the quickest to find, they probably are not be the BEST. Just as with cooking, it pays to use quality ingredients!

 

  1. Start with an introductory work such as an encyclopedia article or textbook. The Virtual Reference Library might be a good starting point.
  2. Use the Mercy Library Catalog to locate books on your topic. If there are no results from your search, think of other terms to use OR use a broader term. Example: If “agoraphobia” doesn’t produce any results, use “phobia” or “abnormal psychology.”
  3. Find journal articles through EBSCO using the most appropriate database for your topic. For a nursing topic, for example, use EBSCO Health Source: Nursing/Academic and CINAHL. For a psychology topic, use PsycArticles. Most topics are covered in EBSCO Academic Search.
  4. Locate high-quality website information. Always evaluate Internet information carefully since anyone can post anything! Ask yourself:

 

  • Who is responsible for the information and what are his/her credentials?
  • When was the information posted?
  • What type of information is provided: Fact or opinion? Complete or incomplete?
  • Are sources documented or not?
  • Why does the site exist? To sell, persuade, or educate?

     

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Assemble the Content
 

Each paper should have an introduction, body and conclusion:

The introduction provides background information, states the topic, and lets your reader know the purpose of the paper.

The body of the paper contains the actual information and needs to be carefully organized. Some suggested types of organization are:

 

  • Chronological (oldest to newest)
  • Comparison/contrast (how things are the same and how they differ)
  • Parts of a whole (steps in a process, types of things)

 

The conclusion should review or summarize the major points and draw a conclusion based on the information presented in the body.

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APA Format
 

Mercy College requires use of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association or APA. The purpose of any style guide is to provide a model format so that writers can let their readers know where they obtained the information.

 

  • Within the text of your paper, you need to cite or mention the sources you used.
     
  • The References page at the end of your paper should list complete information about each of these sources.

 

The Mercy College APA Style Guide has citation and reference samples.

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