- Encyclopedias — Give you a really good general idea of your topic, the important facts. You can trust encyclopedias.
- Books — Terry likes to read a couple of books to get the idea of what she’s writing about. She takes notes on interesting facts. Although she did, you don’t have to read six humongous books to write a five paragraph essay on volcanoes, but you could ask your librarian for a book on volcanoes, on geology, or on Mount St. Helens. Look in the index for the topic you’d like to read and get a more specific idea. Maybe you’ll find a special fact that will excite you. When my human was doing research on Mount St. Helens, she found out about the cool role gophers played in the recovery—that’s why she wrote “Gopher to the Rescue.”
- On-line Databases — Ask your school librarian or the librarian at your public library how to use the on-line databases. You can trust these databases. They have been reviewed by experts.
- Magazines and newspaper articles — Ask your school librarian or the librarian at your public library how to access archived (old, stored) magazine and newspaper articles for free. You can trust these articles as well, but be careful. If you are looking at a story of an event, the facts may be different from day to day. When Terry was reading about Mount St. Helens, the facts newspaper reporters knew on the first day were very different from the facts they knew a month after the eruption.
- Internet websites — Are a very good source for both general and specific facts. You can normally trust websites that finish on ".edu," and ".gov." Many websites that finish in ".org" can also be trusted. Be careful with anything else, the facts may not have been checked by experts before publishing. Wikipedia can give you general information, but always check the facts with other sources. Don’t use a Wikipedia statement or idea unless you’ve seen it in another source. They haven’t always been checked by experts for accuracy.
Once you have a good general idea and lots of interesting facts, research any questions that come up while you’re research. You may use the internet or look in the index of a general book. For instance, when my human wanted to know the first time Mount St. Helens exploded, she found that fact in a big book about volcanoes by looking in the index.
You need to tell your readers where you got your information. That tells the reader they can trust what you’re saying, and can read those books or websites for more information. A BIBLIOGRAPHY is a list of the books, articles, and on-line sources you read and used in your research. The citation—the way you write down the information about each type of source—is different for books, articles, websites, and interviews.
For books, citations include the author’s name, book title, publisher and date and city of publication. For websites, you need the URL and the date on which you read your information. For newspapers or magazine articles you need the name of the author (if known), the name of the article, the newspaper or magazine name, and the publishing information, like date, volume, etc. For interviews you should note the person’s name and the date.
Teachers, librarians, and schools each like different “STYLE” of writing citations. And the citations change over time. Make sure you consult your teacher, or librarian for the style you should use.
Even if you don’t have to turn in your bibliography, keep it. Your teacher may have questions later and you’ll be ready.
ATTRIBUTION AND PLAIGIARISM:
ATTRIBUTION is telling where the information came from like a book, a website, or even an interview—a conversation—with an expert on the subject.
PLAGIARISM is using someone else’s ideas and facts as your own. It’s just like stealing. And it's against the law. My human is very careful about attributing everything to the source where she got it. And she would be very, very, mad if someone used her words without giving her credit.
USING OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK THE RIGHT WAY
If you use someone's ideas in your own work and you write them down exactly like you saw them in their book, article, or website, you have to use quotes around them. If your piece includes a bibliography, list the source there. If you don’t include a bibliography, you need to say, before or after the quotes, where you got the information. Here’s an example.
According to the PBS program, Savage Planet, “Mount Saint Helens heads the volcano watch list
in North America. It is the most active volcano in the Northwest...It's the volcano most likely
Paraphrasing means to take someone’s words and change them to give the same meaning without writing them down exactly like you read them. You don't need to use quotations. For example:
In the United States, Mount St. Helens is the most active volcano. It is very likely that
Mount St. Helens will explode again.
ORGANIZING YOUR INFORMATION:
My human is a good researcher. She uses the computer and shortcuts to make the research task even easier. Here’s how she does it, maybe you’d like to try this method.
- Set up a folder in the computer for each project.
- Set up a document in your folder for BIBLIOGRAPHY and write the information for each source. Number each source. Don’t worry about alphabetizing, or making it pretty now, just make sure you write all the information. You want to be able to ATTRIBUTE each fact to the right source.
- Set up a document called “Documentation.” That's the document for a general outline with the ideas you want to cover in your essay.
- Taking notes—Paper sources: You can take notes on note cards, but most of the time, my human takes her notes right on her computer. She writes the information in quotes if she copied it word for word, or not in quotes if she paraphrased. She puts each note where it belongs in the outline. She always puts the number of the book (from her bibliography) and the page next to the note.
- Taking notes—On-line Sources: She copies and pastes the information from the website where it belongs on the outline. She knows that information she copies and pastes needs to be paraphrased if she uses it later.
Here is an example of her general outline, an outline with notes, and a finished paragraph for non-fiction book on Mount St. Helens that my human is writing.