Chapter 4: Documentation: Using the Information you Find
In this chapter:
Why document sources? Research requires reading what others have written on the subject you are investigating. Remember these important points when you are finding and using sources of information you will use in your research:
When must you cite your sources? Whenever you use another person's work, you must identify the work by using a standard citation format.
How do I write accurate citations? The most important thing to remember is that you need to be consistent in the way that you present the information.
Each work is identified by three key elements: the author's name, the title or source, and the publication information. The details of order and punctuation vary according to the style used. There are a number of different styles scholars use in different disciplines. In the arts and humanities writers commonly use the MLA (Modern Language Association) Style, Historians often like to use the Chicago Style, Social Scientists may use the APA (American Psychological Association) Style, and Scientists may use one of several specific styles like the ACS (American Chemical Society) Style. The following examples will give you an idea of these distinct styles which represent differences in scholarly language in the disciplines.
For each style, a basic format with punctuation is presented, followed by an example using a simple book citation. There are many details, like multiple authors, translators, and different formats of information from electronic or audiovisual sources which are too complicated to explain in detail here. Style manuals for each of these styles, and for other discipline-specific styles, are available in the reference collection of the library. See also the Citation Style Guides on the library home page, including sample citations for electronic formats.
Modern Languages Association -- MLA Style
Author's last name, author's first name. Title of book underlined or italicized. Place of publication: Publisher, Date of publication.
[Note that the author's last name falls on the left margin. Second and later lines are indented five spaces.]
Carter, Stephen L. The Culture of Disbelief. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
Author's last name, author's first name. Date of publication. Title italicized. Place of publication: publisher.
[Note the position of the date of publication, and the fact that the second line is only indented two spaces.]
Landrum, Gene N. 1997. Profiles of Black Success. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
Author's last name, author's first initials (date of publication). Title underlined. Place of publication: Publisher.
[Note the indentation of the first line and the different placement of the date.]
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Collins.
Author's last name, author's first initials. Title italicized or underlined; Publisher: Place of publication, date.
[Note the entire citation is positioned on the left margin with no indentation, the title is followed by a semicolon, and the publisher precedes the place of publication.]
Hoffmann, R. (1993). Chemistry imagined: Reflections on Science; Smithsonian: Washington, D.C.
Tips on Documentation
Copyright is the exclusive privilege of publishing and selling a work granted by a government to an author, composer, artist, or their legally designated agent. In the United States, intellectual property laws are based on the Constitution and intend to encourage authors to publish their work. Congress has the authority to enact copyright and patent legislation to "promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8) This is the legal basis for the Copyright Act, which defines the rights and limits of intellectual property ownership. The latest major revisions to this law were enacted in the Copyright Act of 1978 . However, since that time, a number of important court decisions have underscored the need to treat copyright with respect, and important legislation about copyright and electronic media is currently in debate.
As a researcher you have the right to use the works of another author within certain limits defined by Fair Use Guidelines , which consider:
You can quote, paraphrase, or summarize the ideas of another author, as long as you give credit to that author by giving a complete citation of the source. In addition, an individual may make photocopies of an article or a chapter of a book for their own research. Fair use does not mean that you can freely copy entire books, or make use of artistic works without permission from the copyright owner. For more information about this topic, please visit Stanford University's Fairuse Site
As the creator of intellectual property, you also have the right to protection under this law. The United States Copyright Office can provide you with the forms to register your work. However, your original work is protected by copyright as soon as you have put it into a tangible form. To provide legal protection in the case of a lawsuit, place a copyright notice on the work:
"© (year of publication) (author)"
Plagiarism is the act of copying, summarizing, or paraphrasing the work or ideas of another person and publishing or presenting it as original work. The presentation of another author's work as your own constitutes theft and the consequences can be severe. You are vulnerable to a lawsuit by the copyright owner, but more likely as a student, you could be disciplined according to the policies of your college. An instructor who finds that a student has submitted work authored by another can be given a failing grade for the course, and the school may dismiss the student. Careful use of the principles of documentation described in this chapter will help you to avoid this.
Annotation: A brief statement describing, explaining, or evaluating a book, article, or other publication. An annotation should help the researcher to decide if a source is important enough to include in a research report.
Writing effective annotations is an important research skill. The discipline of recording each source and making careful notes about important points the author makes, any bias the author might present, analyses the author makes of other research on the topic may be important to your own writing. If you develop the habit of writing a complete citation for each source, and writing a brief critical note about the source and its usefulness in your research, you will save yourself hours of time tracking down important information you read "somewhere." Maybe the first time you see the source you do not have time to read it carefully, but you may want to come back to it later. Your notes will provide you with the information you need to find it again. It is good practice to note the call number and the library is also useful.
Researchers have traditionally used a card file system to organize the information gathered. Increasingly, however, many prefer to record the information in electronic from using a word processing program or bibliographic database for research notes. Others like to keep a research log or journal so that everything for a project is noted on one place. The advantage of cards and electronic database systems is that when it comes time to create the bibliography, the sources can be sorted and recorded in alphabetical order by title. The annotations and any of the notes you take notes about sources you find, you can write our your own thoughts and reflections and make notes about ideas you have as you are reading. Be careful to develop a system to distinguish the notes which reflect the content of your source, and your own ideas about them. These notes will provide a gold mine of ideas for your own writing.
Use the note keeping system presented by your instructor, or develop one that works for you. In any case, practice keeping careful records of every source you read or find that might be important.
An effective annotation:
i) Identifies the authority of the author. Effective annotations require careful consideration. Take any clues given in the text itself, or any information you can find about the author from other sources to establish the authority of the writer.
ii) Describes the content of the source. Include a description of the work: what does it contain? What is the author trying to accomplish? What evidence does the author use to support the thesis? (Graphs? Maps? Charts? Other research?)
iii) Evaluate the usefulness of the work. Identify the values of each source in reference to the research question. Look for cues to the author's bias or viewpoint. Is the author's intentions consistent with yours? What is the relative value of different sources you have identified? Does one author make their point more effectively? Does another author present a convincing argument which calls the first author's conclusion into question?
Spark, Alasdair. "Wrestling with America: Media, National Images, and the Global Village." Journal of Popular Culture 29.4
[SCCC Library] Spark is head of American Studies at King Alfred's College, Winchester.
He treats the influence of American television on British culture and notes the influences like The National Inquirer. Spark does not believe these influences result in cultural domination, but serve to reinforce national identity. He believes the cultural influences between the U.S. and Britain are reciprocal.
[This article will contribute to my treatment of American cultural influences in post-war Europe.]
Note: The author of this annotation has not yet done a close reading of the article, but has identified it as probably useful. When the researcher determines that the article will definitely be used in the final report, a more careful reading and more notes and reactions will provide material for the paper.
1. Find a current article on a topic relevant to your research topic.
2. Write a correct MLA citation for the article, using the guidelines provided in Appendix I of this textbook.
3. Browse the article for clues on the identify of the author, their purpose and intended audience. Write a brief statement about what you discover.
4. Write a brief statement about the contents and purpose of the article.
5. Write a brief statement about the possible usefulness of the article for your research project.
6. Use the section on annotations and the sample annotation in this chapter to help you write a complete annotation. If this assignment is required for class credit. Type or print your complete annotation on a separate piece of paper.
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