1. Understand your assignment. Discuss any concerns with your instructor.
Make sure you're clear on exactly what your instructor expects. Talk to him or her about any guidelines you don't understand. Remember, your instructor wants to see you succeed! If you have questions or concerns, discuss it with them early. Maintaining good communication with your instructors throughout the semester can be one of your best resources!
2. Don't wait to get started, and break your assignment into smaller steps.
Wait too long to begin an assignment, and it may soon become overwhelming to you. You may not realize how much time it takes to formulate a topic, gather and read research on that topic, and write about it in a properly formatted paper. Note the assignment deadline and set intermediate deadlines for yourself for each step in completing your project. Tackling a paper in sections of two or three pages each doesn't just sound easier than writing a 15-page paper, it is easier. Your assignment's guidelines may differ, so check them carefully, but most research papers can be broken into the following steps:
3. Document each of these steps and your sources well as you go along. Paraphrase properly.
Avoid plagiarizing an author's work accidentally by carefully documenting every source you have read. Remember that you must cite each source, that is, give the author(s) credit, in the text of your paper as each of their ideas is discussed. Keep printouts of articles and/or a photocopy of a book's title and copyright pages (or write down all the publication information) so that you have everything needed for a complete citation. If you quote a source directly, make sure to include the page number(s). If you paraphrase your source, you must cite the source, but your paraphrased passage must also be sufficiently distinct from the original while conveying its meaning accurately. More about paraphrasing here.
4. Understand the required citation style and how to use it.
A citation style is a set of formatting guidelines for both your in-text citations and full citations on your reference/works cited list. A citation style may also determine the technical aspects of your paper, such as margin width, font size, and page number placement. This guide was created to help you understand and follow the two most common citation styles: APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association). You can find these guidelines and example citations to follow under the "Citing Sources" tab for each style on the left.
5. Get help with writing and citing!
No student need feel as though he or she can't get by in college without cheating or plagiarizing. If you do not understand how to complete your assignment correctly, ask for help! Remember, this is a learning process, and there are many resources available to help you along the way.
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