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the practice of referencing or citing previous works within a piece of writing according to an "official" documentation style such as that of the Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA)


scholarly research

research and writing performed by an academic (e.g., a professor - a person who does research and teaches at a university or college) that is usually based on original research or experimentation

highly respected cuz the writing had to be peer-reviewed by experts in the same field

most are protected behind firewalls and require a connection via a library

also current & reliable materials online that aren't stored behind firewalls, but u won't necessarily be able to identify which ones are reliable if you use a basic search engine like Google or Yahoo.  


background questions

help you focus on what you really need to know

written in general way, not in a way that could be answered in one or two sentences; allows you to answer more than on question and bring up new ideas

should have 4-6 questions (2 about entity, 2 about dependent, 1 for independent, 1 for connections)


four background question categories


indpendent variable

dependent variable

connections between the entity, independent, and dependent variables



specific types that are easily studied

its structure and function

handling/care/safety/ethics within a controlled environment


independent variable

its structure and function

how it can safely and ethically be manipulated


dependent variable

its structure and function

how changes can best be measured, recorded, and observed


connections between the entity, independent, and dependent variables

learn what is already known about these relationships (i.e., previous research on the topic)


ideas for group projects

1. Write first draft

2. upload to Google Docs so all members have access

3. may decide to distribute diff background questions to each group member so time is used efficiently


starting early

important, cuz long, slow process

important to become very knowledgeable about your topic before writing a hypothesis


reliable scientific resources

Printed materials at libraries are usually reliable cuz they have been through an editing and publishing process. Many now have identical online versions available thru libraries' paid subscriptions to specific databases


gaining access to library databases

must either be on campus or have login permission; high school library & local public library may subscribe to certain databases that will give access to some scholarly writings

university & college libraries may grant visitors occasional login privileges, even if you're not a current student 



Open Access


growing movement towards this

research institutions are increasingly making scholarly writing available for free


note card method 

1. Research Question Cards: assign each background question a # and write the # (top left) and question(middle) on a single note card (consider using different-color cards for each question)

2. Bibliography Cards: For each resource, need to write bibliography info on single card, assigning letter (top right) 

3. Note Cards: begin taking notes on note cards

a. upper right, letter of resource

b. top left, number of question

c. lower right, page numbers where info was found (actual books, journals, & PDF files - abbrev. pg.; web page - paragraphs [para.])


pros and cons of note card system

pro: Once the note taking is complete, the cards can be shuffled and reorganized in a way that makes writing the paper easier (keys = keep organized and don't lose)

con: loose note cards are easily lost. can hole punch and use metal rings to keep together, or recipe boxes with tabs


notebook method

also works for electronically

1. Bibliography Information Page: make front pages place to list resources, assigning letters as you go

2. Research Question Pages: Write number assigned to each question on top of its own page

3. Taking Notes: 

a. bibliography letter in 1st column

b. page numbers in 2nd column


pros and cons of notebook system

pro: taking notes on NB paper is what most students are used to doing, & notebook paper is less likely to be lost. also, organized all the notes by research question, so that they can be further organized into paragraphs

con: once the notes are written, u can't change the order (unless electronic)



using another person's ideas, information, or expressions without acknowledging that person's work

take notes in your own words (1. read 2. close resource 3. write from memory)



use sparingly


e-mailing professionals


  • formal opening "Dear Dr. Smith,"
  • How you found that person 
  • who you are, where you're from
  • mention teacher's name & email address if possible
  • clearly stated request
    • could you answer three questions for me?
    • could i interview you in a skype conference call?
  • contact info
  • sincere thanks, acknowledging the person's expertise & making sure they know you value his/her time
  • sign off "Sincerely" and full name


  • questions abou the individual you can find online
  • causal language "Hey! I found you on the Internet
  • IM/text-messaging abbrev's
  • general qeustions "How do you design an experiment on this topic?"
    • an attachment of your entire paper, asking for any suggestions


identifying bias

1. Always go to the original source - check where conflicting article got info & then get a copy of the original. might have misused the info.

2. Find out where it was published - some sources are better than others. Ex: well-known science journal is fine, but personal website or special interest group needs careful checking

3. Talk with experts - one of best ways for up-to-date and accurate info is to interview at least 4 who work independently in the field


how to find experts

look for the authors of science articles on the subject; search journal, magazine, or book databases in the library or via the Internet

when u find one, write down name & contact info. email 

can send a copy of conflicting article and ask their opinion on it


red flags for bias

  • the author doesn't include an expert's name, affiliation, and where the research was published
  • the article doesn't talk about specifics, but generalizes. might lead to wrong conclusions.