How to Write a Research Paper English A January 21, 2008

How to Write a Research Paper
English A
January 21, 2008
Contents
1 How to Write a Research Paper
1.1 Establish Your Topic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2 Look for Sources of Information . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.3 Read Your Sources and Take Notes . . . . . . . . . . .
1.4 Organize Your Ideas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5 Write a First Draft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.6 Using Footnotes and Endnotes to Document Sources .
1.6.1 Sample Footnotes/Endnotes . . . . . . . . . . .
1.7 Write a Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.7.1 General Guide to Formatting a Bibliography .
1.8 Revise the First Draft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.9 Proofread the Final Draft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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2 A Guide for Writing Research Papers Based on Modern
Documentation
2.1 An Introduction to Research Techniques . . . . . . .
2.2 Gathering Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3 Taking Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.4 Preparing and Using Outlines . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.5 A Statement on Plagiarism . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.5.1 Some More Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.5.2 Penalty for Plagiarism . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.6 Working with Quotations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7 Your Research Paper’s Format . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7.1 Paper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7.2 Margins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7.3 Spacing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7.4 Heading and Title . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7.5 Page Numbers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7.6 Tables and Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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4
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. 10
Language Association (MLA)
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3
1 How to Write a Research Paper
1.1 Establish Your Topic
1. Try to pick a topic that’s fun and interesting. If your topic genuinely interests you, chances
are you’ll enjoy spending time working on it and it won’t seem like a chore.
2. Finding a topic can be difficult. Give yourself plenty of time to read and think about what
you’d like to do. Trying to answer questions you have about a particular subject may lead
you to a good paper idea.
a) What subject(s) are you interested in?
b) What interests you most about a particular subject?
c) Is there anything you wonder about or are puzzled about with regard to that subject?
3. Once you have a topic, you will probably need to narrow it down to something more manageable. For example, say you are assigned to write a 10-page paper, and you decide to
do it on Ancient Egypt. However, since Ancient Egypt is a big topic, and you only have a
limited number of pages, you will have to focus on something more specific having to do
with that topic.
Too general: Ancient Egypt.
Revised: The building of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt.
4. One method for coming up with a more specific focus is called brainstorming (or freewriting). Brainstorming is a useful way to let ideas you didn’t know you had come to the
surface.
a) Sit down with a pencil and paper, or at your computer, and write whatever comes into
your head about your topic.
b) Keep writing for a short but specific amount of time, say 35 minutes. Don’t stop to
change what you’ve written or to correct spelling or grammar errors.
c) After a few minutes, read through what you’ve written. You will probably throw
out most of it, but some of what you’ve written may give you an idea that can be
developed.
d) Do some more brainstorming and see what else you can come up with.
1.2 Look for Sources of Information
1. Take a trip to the library. Use the electronic catalog or browse the shelves to look for books
on your topic. If you find a book that is useful, check the bibliography (list of sources) in the
back of that book for other books or articles on that topic. Also check indexes of periodicals
and newspapers. Check with a librarian if you need help finding sources.
2. Try to use as many different types of sources as you can, including books, magazine articles, and Internet articles. Don’t rely on just one source for all your information.
3. Keep a list of all the sources that you use. Include the title of the source, the author, publisher, and place and date of publication. This is your preliminary, or draft, bibliography.
4
1.3 Read Your Sources and Take Notes
1.3 Read Your Sources and Take Notes
After you’ve gathered your sources, begin reading and taking notes.
1. Use 3 x 5 index cards, one fact or idea per card. This way related ideas from different
sources can be easily grouped together or rearranged.
2. On each index card, be sure to note the source, including the volume number (if there is
one) and the page number. If you wind up using that idea in your paper, you will have the
information about the source ready to put in your footnote or endnote.
3. If you copy something directly from a book without putting it in your own words, put
quotation marks around it so that you know it is an exact quotation. This will help you to
avoid plagiarism. (For more, see What is Plagiarism?).
4. Before you sit down to write your rough draft, organize your note cards by subtopic (you
can write headings on the cards) and make an outline.
Check out the differences between these two note cards for a research paper on baseball:
Good note card:
(WB, 2, p.133)
Star players become national heroes
Many Americans could name every major league player,
his batting average, and other accomplishments.
(What batting records were set?)
• Lists source (World Book, Volume 2, page 133)
• Includes heading or subtopic
• Is limited to one fact
• Has personal note/question
Bad note card:
Baseball becomes popular
Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers) outfielder one of the great
all-time players. Another star was Honus Wagner, a
bowlegged shortstop.
“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America
had better learn baseball.”
• Source not indicated in top right corner
• Heading too vague
• Too many facts
• No name after quotation
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1 How to Write a Research Paper
1.4 Organize Your Ideas
Using the information collected on the note cards, develop an outline to organize your ideas. An
outline shows your main ideas and the order in which you are going to write about them. It’s
the bare bones of what will later become a fleshed-out written report.
1. Write down all the main ideas.
2. List the subordinate ideas below the main ideas.
3. Avoid any repetition of ideas.
Below is a partial sample outline for a research paper entitled The Early Days of Baseball.
To see other sample outlines, click here.
1. Baseball is born
a) Rounders
i. Originated in England in the 1600s.
ii. Differences between rounders and baseball.
b) The Abner Doubleday theory
c) Many people think Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839.
i. Doubleday’s friend, Graves, claimed he was a witness.
ii. A commission credited Doubleday with inventing the game.
d) Historians say theory is bogus.
2. Baseball becomes popular
a) Interest soars after 1900
i. Kids’ favorite warm-weather sport.
ii. Crowds follow pennant races and World Series.
iii. Star players become national heroes.
iv. Known as “the national pastime.”
A. Quote from philosopher Jacques Barzun: “Whoever wants to know
the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”
b) The Babe Ruth era
i. Babe Ruth joins NY Yankees, 1920
A. Plays outfield.
B. Hits more and longer home runs than anyone before.
ii. Other heroes
A. Lou Gehrig.
B. Rogers Hornsby.
iii. Radio stations begin broadcasting games
A. Play-by-play accounts reach millions of people.
1.5 Write a First Draft
1. Every essay or paper is made up of three parts:
6
1.6 Using Footnotes and Endnotes to Document Sources
a) introduction
b) body
c) conclusion
2. The introduction is the first paragraph of the paper. It often begins with a general statement about the topic and ends with a more specific statement of the main idea of your
paper. The purpose of the introduction is to:
a) let the reader know what the topic is
b) inform the reader about your point of view
c) arouse the reader’s curiosity so that he or she will want to read about your topic
3. The body of the paper follows the introduction. It consists of a number of paragraphs in
which you develop your ideas in detail.
a) Limit each paragraph to one main idea. (Don’t try to talk about more than one idea
per paragraph.)
b) Prove your points continually by using specific examples and quotations from your
note cards.
c) Use transition words to ensure a smooth flow of ideas from paragraph to paragraph.
4. The conclusion is the last paragraph of the paper. Its purpose is to
a) summarize your points, leaving out specific examples
b) restate the main idea of the paper.
1.6 Using Footnotes and Endnotes to Document Sources
1. As you write your first draft, including the introduction, body, and conclusion, add the
information or quotations on your note cards to support your ideas.
Use footnotes or endnotes to identify the sources of this information. If you are using
footnotes, the note will appear on the same page as the information you are documenting,
at the bottom (or “foot”) of the page. If you are using endnotes, the note will appear
together with all other notes on a separate page at the end of your report, just before the
bibliography.
2. There are different formats for footnotes (and endnotes), so be sure to use the one your
teacher prefers.
3. Note that footnotes can be shortened if the source has already been given in full in a
previous footnote. (see below)
1.6.1 Sample Footnotes/Endnotes
Originally Mount Everest was called Peak XV.1 As it turned out, Peak XV already
had two other names. One name came from the north side of the mountain, from the
Tibetans, who had named it Joloungma, or “Goddess, Mother of the World.”2 The other
name came from the south side of the mountain, from the Nepalese, who referred to
it as Sagarmatha or “Goddess of the Sky.”3 Later the mountain was renamed in honor
of Sir George Everest. Although today it is rarely called Sagarmatha or Joloungma,
it is clear from their names for the mountain that the Tibetan and Nepalese people
worshiped this special place on earth.
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1 How to Write a Research Paper
(bottom of the same page for footnotes, separate page for endnotes)
1 Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air (New York: Villard Books, 1997), p. 10.
2 Roberta Reynolds, The Vanishing Cultures of the Himalayas (San Diego: Harcourt,
1991), p. 23.
3 Reynolds, Vanishing Cultures, p. 24.
The paragraph on Everest is taken from a research paper submitted by Alexandra Ferber,
grade 9. This paragraph may not be reproduced without permission.
1.7 Write a Bibliography
A bibliography is a list of the sources you used to get information for your report. It is included
at the end of your report, on the last page (or last few pages).
You will find it easier to prepare your final bibliography if you keep track of each book, encyclopedia, or article you use as you are reading and taking notes. Start a preliminary, or draft,
bibliography by listing on a separate sheet of paper all your sources. Note down the full title,
author, place of publication, publisher, and date of publication for each source.
Also, every time a fact gets recorded on a note card, its source should be noted in the top
right corner. (Notice that in the sample note card, The World Book, Volume 2, page 21, has
been shortened to: WB, 2, p.133.) When you are finished writing your paper, you can use the
information on your note cards to double-check your bibliography.
When assembling a final bibliography, list your sources (texts, articles, interviews, and so on)
in alphabetical order by authors’ last names. Sources that don’t have authors (encyclopedias,
movies) should be alphabetized by title. There are different formats for bibliographies, so be
sure to use the one your teacher prefers.
1.7.1 General Guide to Formatting a Bibliography
For a book:
Author (last name first). Title of the book. City: Publisher, Date of publication.
EXAMPLE:
Dahl, Roald. The BFG. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982.
For an encyclopedia:
Encyclopedia Title, Edition Date. Volume Number, “Article Title,” page numbers.
EXAMPLE:
The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1997. Volume 7, “Gorillas,” pp. 50-51.
For a magazine:
Author (last name first), “Article Title.” Name of magazine. Volume number, (Date): page
numbers.
EXAMPLE:
Jordan, Jennifer, “Filming at the Top of the World.” Museum of Science Magazine.
Volume 47, No. 1, (Winter 1998): p. 11.
8
1.7 Write a Bibliography
For a newspaper:
Author (last name first), “Article Title.” Name of newspaper, city, state of publication. (date):
edition if available, section, page number(s).
EXAMPLE:
Powers, Ann, “New Tune for the Material Girl.” The New York Times, New York, NY.
(3/1/98): Atlantic Region, Section 2, p. 34.
For a person:
Full name (last name first). Occupation. Date of interview.
EXAMPLE:
Smeckleburg, Sweets. Bus driver. April 1, 1996.
For a film:
Title, Director, Distributor, Year.
EXAMPLE:
Braveheart, Dir. Mel Gibson, Icon Productions, 1995
CD-ROM:
Disc title: Version, Date. “Article title,” pages if given. Publisher.
EXAMPLE:
Compton’s Multimedia Encyclopedia: Macintosh version, 1995. “Civil rights movement,” p.3. Compton’s Newsmedia.
Magazine article: Author (last name first). “Article title.” Name of magazine (type of
medium). Volume number, (Date): page numbers. If available: publisher of medium, version,
date of issue.
EXAMPLE:
Rollins, Fred. “Snowboard Madness.” Sports Stuff (CD-ROM). Number 15, (February
1997): pp. 15-19. SIRS, Mac version, Winter 1997.
Newspaper article: Author (last name first). “Article title.” Name of newspaper (Type of
medium), city and state of publication. (Date): If available: Edition, section and page number(s).
If available: publisher of medium, version, date of issue.
EXAMPLE:
Stevenson, Rhoda. “Nerve Sells.” Community News (CD-ROM), Nassau, NY. (Feb
1996): pp. A4-5. SIRS, Mac. version, Spring 1996.
Online Resources
Internet: Author of message, (Date). Subject of message. Electronic conference or bulletin
board (Online). Available e-mail: [email protected] e-mail address
EXAMPLE:
Ellen Block, (September 15, 1995).
[email protected]
New Winners.
Teen Booklist (Online).
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1 How to Write a Research Paper
World Wide Web: URL (Uniform Resource Locator or WWW address). author (or item’s
name, if mentioned), date.
EXAMPLE: (Boston Globe’s www address)
http://www.boston.com. Today’s News, August 1, 1996.
1.8 Revise the First Draft
1. Try to set aside your draft for a day or two before revising. This makes it easier to view
your work objectively and see any gaps or problems.
2. Revising involves rethinking your ideas, refining your arguments, reorganizing paragraphs,
and rewording sentences. You may need to develop your ideas in more detail, give more
evidence to support your claims, or delete material that is unnecessary.
3. Read your paper out loud. This sometimes makes it easier to identify writing that is
awkward or unclear.
4. Have somebody else read the paper and tell you if there’s anything that’s unclear or confusing.
1.9 Proofread the Final Draft
1. Look for careless errors such as misspelled words and incorrect punctuation and capitalization.
2. Errors are harder to spot on a computer screen than on paper. If you type your paper on a
computer, print out a copy to proofread. Remember, spell checkers and grammar checkers
don’t always catch errors, so it is best not to rely on them too much.
From: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/research-papers/writing/2123.html
10
2 A Guide for Writing Research Papers Based
on Modern Language Association (MLA)
Documentation
Prepared by the Humanities Department as part of
The Guide to Grammar and Writing
and the Arthur C. Banks Jr. Library
Capital Community College
Hartford, Connecticut
2.1 An Introduction to Research Techniques
A research paper presents the results of your investigations on a selected topic. Based on your
own thoughts and the facts and ideas you have gathered from a variety of sources, a research
paper is a creation that is uniquely yours. The experience of gathering, interpreting, and documenting information, developing and organizing ideas and conclusions, and communicating
them clearly will prove to be an important and satisfying part of your education.
Revisions to this Guide were made in May 2004 to reflect recommendations in the MLA Handbook’s sixth edition (2003) and on the MLA’s own Web pages.
There are many approaches to research — an essential part of every business and profession
— and many ways to document findings. The library has books which will help you, and most
English composition textbooks contain chapters on research techniques and style. It is important to follow consistently and accurately a recommended format that is clear and concise and
that has been approved by your teacher.
The formatting of citations recommended in this guide is based on Modern Language Association recommendations. If your instructor requires another format, you can ask that instructor
how such a format will be different from the recommendations we have made and make the
appropriate adjustments. (Pay special attention to the material on “Footnotes and Endnotes”
appearing in the section called “Parenthetical Documentation.”)
This guide may suffice for most students’ needs for most academic purposes in Humanities
disciplines, but for advanced research projects it is by no means a substitute for the Modern
Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers Sixth Edition (2003). That
handbook can be purchased in most bookstores and copies should be available in every college
and municipal library. A Guide similar to this one, but based on the APA style, is also available
online (see link on the navigation bar). Your best source of advice on all these matters is, of
course, your instructor and library professionals.
2.2 Gathering Materials
Once your topic has been approved, begin to gather information from authoritative reference
sources: pertinent books, encyclopedias, and articles in magazines, journals, and magazines.
Librarians will be happy to show you how to use the various research tools within the library
and may suggest other sources of information. Important new resources are now available to
11
2 A Guide for Writing Research Papers Based on Modern Language Association (MLA) Documentation
you through electronic services which provide many learning and reference tools as well as
access to the Internet, where you can often discover an abundance of information.
We recommend the Capital Community College online Library and Information Skills Workbook as an introduction to using library and online resources. The workbook has chapters on
finding books and journal articles, using CD-ROM databases, discovering resources on the internet, developing critical thinking skills, and designing a search strategy. It would be a good
idea to go through the Workbook (and take its computer-graded quizzes) before beginning a
major research project.
Depending on the resources available and the length requirements of your assignment, you
may find it necessary to widen or restrict the scope of your topic.
2.3 Taking Notes
As you examine each source, make a separate note of each fact or quotation you might want
to use in your paper. Unless you are really good at manipulating text with your computer or
laptop, it might be wise to use index cards when preparing notes. Be sure to identify the source
of the information on the listing (include the author’s name and page number on which the
information appears). Try to summarize the information in your own words (paraphrasing);
use quotation marks if you copy the information exactly. (This rule should apply whether you
are copying a great deal of material or only a phrase.) Give each listing a simple descriptive
heading. note card
Your listings — whether they appear on index cards or within some format on your computer
— will now provide the authoritative basis for your paper’s content and documentation. By
arranging and rearranging the listings and using your descriptive headings, you may well discover a certain order or different categories which will help you prepare an outline. You may
find that you need additional information, or that some of the listings may not be appropriate
and should be set aside or discarded.
2.4 Preparing and Using Outlines
Using an outline can help you organize your material and can also help you discover connections
between pieces of information that you weren’t aware of when you first conceived the plan of
12
2.4 Preparing and Using Outlines
your paper. It can also make you aware of material that is not really relevant to the purposes
of your paper or material that you have covered before and should therefore be removed.
A Working Outline might be only an informal list of topics and subtopics which you are thinking of covering in your paper. Sometimes, however, an instructor might require that a working
outline be submitted at the beginning of your work; then your instructor might suggest ways in
which the work needs to be further developed or cut back. Your instructor might also see that
you’re trying to accomplish too much or too little for the scope of the assignment he or she has
in mind. The working outline can be revised as you discover new material and get new ideas
that ought to go into your paper. Most word processing programs have outlining features with
automatic formatting that make it easy to create and revise outlines. It is a good idea to keep
copies of old outlines in a computer folder in case new versions of the outline lead you in false
directions that you will later have to abandon.
A Final Outline should enhance the organization and coherence of your research paper. Instructors sometimes require that a final outline be submitted along with the final version of
your paper. Material that is not relevant to the purpose of your paper as revealed in your
outline should be excised from the paper; if portions of your outline seem weak in comparison
to others, more research may be required to create a sense of balance in your argument and
presentation.
Outlines can be organized according to your purposes. Are you attempting to show the
chronology of some historical development, the cause-and-effect relationship between one phenomenon and another, the process by which something is accomplished, or the logic of some
position? Are you defining or analyzing something? Comparing or contrasting one thing to
another? Presenting an argument (one side or both)?
In any case, try to bring related material together under general headings and arrange sections so they relate logically to each other. An effective introduction will map out the journey
your reader is about to take, and a satisfactory conclusion will wrap up the sequence of ideas in
a nice package.
A final outline can be written as a topic outline, in which you use only short phrases to suggest
ideas, or as a sentence outline, in which you use full sentences (even very brief paragraphs)
to show the development of ideas more fully. If your instructor requires an outline, follow
consistently whichever plan he or she prefers.
The MLA Handbook suggests the following “descending parts of an outline”:
Logic requires that if you have an “A” in your paper, you need to have a “B”; a “1” requires a
“2,” and so forth.
The following sample of a topic outline is also taken from the 1994 MLA Handbook:
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2 A Guide for Writing Research Papers Based on Modern Language Association (MLA) Documentation
14
2.5 A Statement on Plagiarism
2.5 A Statement on Plagiarism
Using someone else’s ideas or phrasing and representing those ideas or phrasing as our own,
either on purpose or through carelessness, is a serious offense known as plagiarism. “Ideas or
phrasing” includes written or spoken material, of course — from whole papers and paragraphs
to sentences, and, indeed, phrases — but it also includes statistics, lab results, art work, etc.
“Someone else” can mean a professional source, such as a published writer or critic in a book,
magazine, encyclopedia, or journal; an electronic resource such as material we discover on the
World Wide Web; another student at our school or anywhere else; a paper-writing “service”
(online or otherwise) which offers to sell written papers for a fee.
Let us suppose, for example, that we’re doing a paper for Music Appreciation on the child
prodigy years of the composer and pianist Franz Liszt and that we’ve read about the development of the young artist in several sources. In Alan Walker’s book Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso
Years (Ithaca: 1983), we read that Liszt’s father encouraged him, at age six, to play the piano
from memory, to sight-read music and, above all, to improvise. We can report in our paper (and
in our own words) that Liszt was probably the most gifted of the child prodigies making their
mark in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century — because that is the kind of information we
could have gotten from a number of sources; it has become what we call common knowledge.
However, if we report on the boy’s father’s role in the prodigy’s development, we should give
proper credit to Alan Walker. We could write, for instance, the following: Franz Liszt’s father
encouraged him, as early as age six, to practice skills which later served him as an internationally recognized prodigy (Walker 59). Or, we could write something like this: Alan Walker notes
that, under the tutelage of his father, Franz Liszt began work in earnest on his piano playing at
the age of six (59). Not to give Walker credit for this important information is plagiarism.
2.5.1 Some More Examples
(The examples below were originally written by the writing center staff at an esteemed college;
that institution has asked us to remove its name from this Web page.) The original text from
Elaine Tyler May’s “Myths and Realities of the American Family” reads as follows:
Because women’s wages often continue to reflect the fiction that men earn the family
wage, single mothers rarely earn enough to support themselves and their children
adequately. And because work is still organized around the assumption that mothers
stay home with children, even though few mothers can afford to do so, child-care
facilities in the United States remain woefully inadequate.
Here are some possible uses of this text. As you read through each version, try to decide if it
is a legitimate use of May’s text or a plagiarism.
Version A:
Since women’s wages often continue to reflect the mistaken notion that men are
the main wage earners in the family, single mothers rarely make enough to support
themselves and their children very well. Also, because work is still based on the
assumption that mothers stay home with children, facilities for child care remain
woefully inadequate in the United States.
Plagiarism: In Version A there is too much direct borrowing of sentence structure and wording.
The writer changes some words, drops one phrase, and adds some new language, but the overall
text closely resembles May’s. Even with a citation, the writer is still plagiarizing because the
lack of quotation marks indicates that Version A is a paraphrase, and should thus be in the
writer’s own language.
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2 A Guide for Writing Research Papers Based on Modern Language Association (MLA) Documentation
Version B:
As Elaine Tyler May points out, “women’s wages often continue to reflect the fiction
that men earn the family wage” (588). Thus many single mothers cannot support
themselves and their children adequately. Furthermore, since work is based on the
assumption that mothers stay home with children, facilities for day care in this country are still “woefully inadequate.” (May 589).
Plagiarism: The writer now cites May, so we’re closer to telling the truth about the relationship
of our text to the source, but this text continues to borrow too much language.
Version C:
By and large, our economy still operates on the mistaken notion that men are the
main breadwinners in the family. Thus, women continue to earn lower wages than
men. This means, in effect, that many single mothers cannot earn a decent living.
Furthermore, adequate day care is not available in the United States because of the
mistaken assumption that mothers remain at home with their children.
Plagiarism: Version C shows good paraphrasing of wording and sentence structure, but May’s
original ideas are not acknowledged. Some of May’s points are common knowledge (women earn
less than men, many single mothers live in poverty), but May uses this common knowledge to
make a specific and original point and her original conception of this idea is not acknowledged.
Version D:
Women today still earn less than men — so much less that many single mothers
and their children live near or below the poverty line. Elaine Tyler May argues that
this situation stems in part from “the fiction that men earn the family wage” (588).
May further suggests that the American workplace still operates on the assumption
that mothers with children stay home to care for them (589).
This assumption, in my opinion, does not have the force it once did. More and
more businesses offer in-house day-care facilities . . .
No Plagiarism: The writer makes use of the common knowledge in May’s work, but acknowledges May’s original conclusion and does not try to pass it off as his or her own. The quotation
is properly cited, as is a later paraphrase of another of May’s ideas.
2.5.2 Penalty for Plagiarism
The penalty for plagiarism is usually determined by the instructor teaching the course involved.
In many schools and colleges, it could involve failure for the paper and it could mean failure
for the entire course and even expulsion from school. Ignorance of the rules about plagiarism
is no excuse, and carelessness is just as bad as purposeful violation. At the very least, however,
students who plagiarize have cheated themselves out of the experience of being responsible
members of the academic community and have cheated their classmates by pretending to contribute something original which is, in fact, a cheap copy. Within schools and colleges that have
a diverse student body, instructors should be aware that some international students from other
cultures may have ideas about using outside resources that differ from the institution’s policies
regarding plagiarism; opportunities should be provided for all students to become familiar with
institutional policies regarding plagiarism.
Students who do not thoroughly understand the concept of plagiarism and methods of proper
documentation should request assistance from their teacher and from librarians.
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2.6 Working with Quotations
Another resource on avoiding plagiarism is available through the Writing Center at Indiana
University [http://www.indiana.edu/˜wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml].
2.6 Working with Quotations
Quotations that constitute fewer than five lines in your paper should be set off with quotation
marks [“ ”] and be incorporated within the normal flow of your text. For material exceeding that
length, omit the quotation marks and indent the quoted language one inch from your left-hand
margin. If an indented quotation is taken entirely from one paragraph, the first line should be
even with all the other lines in that quotation; however, if an indented quotation comes from
two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph an additional one-quarter inch.
If quotation marks appear within the text of a quotation that already has the usual doublequote marks [“ ”] around it (a quote-within-a-quote), set off that inner quotation with singlequote marks [‘ ’] . Such a quote-within-a-quote within an indented quotation is marked with
double-quote marks.
In the United States, the usual practice is to place periods and commas inside quotation
marks, regardless of logic. Other punctuation marks — question marks, exclamation marks,
semicolons, and colons — go where logic would dictate. Thus, we might see the following sentences in a paper about Robert Frost:
The first two lines of this stanza, “My little horse must think it queer / To stop
without a farmhouse near,” remind us of a nursery rhyme.
(Note, also, the slash mark / (with a space on either side) to denote the poem’s line-break.) But
observe the placement of this semicolon:
There is a hint of the nursery rhyme in the line “My little horse must think it queer”;
however, the poem then quickly turns darkly serious.
Pay close attention to the placement of commas and periods in the use of citations.
For further help with the use of quotation marks, see the appropriate section in the Guide to
Grammar and Writing and our English faculty’s Suggestions for Writing Papers for Literature
Courses.
2.7 Your Research Paper’s Format
Recommendations here are based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. It is
important to note, however, that individual instructors and institutions or departments may
vary from these recommendations somewhat and that it is always wise to consult with your
instructor before formatting and submitting your work.
2.7.1 Paper
Use white, twenty-pound, 8.5-inch by 11-inch paper. Erasable paper tends to smudge and
should be avoided for a final draft. If you prefer to use erasable paper in the preparation of
your paper, submit a good photocopy to your instructor.
2.7.2 Margins
Except for page numbers (see below), leave one-inch margins all around the text of your paper
— left side, right side, and top and bottom. Paragraphs should be indented half an inch; setoff quotations should be indented an inch from the left margin (five spaces and ten spaces,
respectively, on standard typewriters).
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2 A Guide for Writing Research Papers Based on Modern Language Association (MLA) Documentation
2.7.3 Spacing
The MLA Guide says that “the research paper must be double-spaced,” including quotations,
notes, and the list of works cited.
2.7.4 Heading and Title
Your research paper does not need a title page. At the top of the first page, at the left-hand
margin, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course name and number, and the date –
all on separate, double-spaced lines. Then double-space again and center the title above your
text. (If your title requires more than one line, double-space between the lines.) Double-space
again before beginning your text. The title should be neither underlined nor written in all
capital letters. Capitalize only the first, last, and principal words of the title. Titles might
end with a question mark or an exclamation mark if that is appropriate, but not in a period.
Titles written in other languages are capitalized and punctuated according to different rules,
and writers should consult the MLA Guide or their instructors.
2.7.5 Page Numbers
Number your pages consecutively throughout the manuscript (including the first page) in the
upper right-hand corner of each page, one-half inch from the top. Type your last name before the
page number. Most word processing programs provide for a “running head,” which you can set
up as you create the format for the paper, at the same time you are establishing things like the
one-inch margins and the double-spacing. This feature makes the appearance and consistency
of the page numbering a great convenience. Make sure the page-number is always an inch from
the right-hand edge of the paper (flush with the right-hand margin of your text) and that there
is a double-space between the page number and the top line of text. Do not use the abbreviation
p. or any other mark before the page number.
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2.7 Your Research Paper’s Format
2.7.6 Tables and Figures
Tables should be labeled “Table,” given an arabic numeral, and captioned (with those words
flush to the left-hand margin). Other material such as photographs, images, charts, and linedrawings should be labeled “Figure” and be properly numbered and captioned. Binders:
Generally, the simpler the better. Why spend money on gimmicky, unwieldy, slippery binders,
when instructors prefer nice, flat stacks of papers they can stuff into their briefcases and backpacks? A simple staple in the upper left-hand corner of your paper should suffice, although
the MLA Guide suggests that a paper clip can be removed and this facilitates reading (which
suggests to us that it’s been a long time since the people at MLA have had to deal with stacks of
student papers). Your instructors or their departments may have their own rules about binders,
and you should consult with them about this matter.
From: http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/mla/
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