Guide to Writing a Research Paper


Guide To Writing a Research Paper Using the Tuskegee University Libraries

The pains of writing a research paper can be made easier by getting an early start on your paper. Time is the Key to a winning paper!!  If you follow the steps below you should be able to write a successful paper. Remember, if you need assistance: Ask a Librarian.
Select a topic

First, if your instructor hasn’t assigned a specific topic, select a topic that is of interest to you; one that will make the paper much more interesting to you and to the reader. However, try to avoid selecting a topic where there is very little information available. Remember, once you have selected a topic, focus on the keywords in your topic.
Look for background information on your topic…

Looking for background information on your topic helps you better understand your topic. One of the best resources to use when searching for background information is the encyclopedia. The library provides general, specialized, or subject encyclopedias.  An example of a general encyclopedia will be the Britannica and specialized or subject encyclopedia will be the Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Most encyclopedia articles will have suggested readings at the end of articles, which could very well lead you to other good sources.

Use the Library’s Online Catalog to search for books on your topic
The primary sources that form the backbone of your research are books.  It is important to know how to locate books that relate to your topic.  Go to Tuskegee University’s website or go directly to the library’s homepage by typing:

If you want to access the library’s page from the University homepage, select “Libraries” in the left column.

Once at the Library’s homepage, click on “Library Catalog.”  Begin searching by author, title, or subject. You may also use the online catalog to check the library’s subscriptions to journals.
Use the periodical databases to find articles on your topic

The library subscribes to several databases via the Internet. These databases are indexes to journal articles. Some of the databases even provide links to the actual article, which is referred to as FullText.

To access the periodical databases go to the library’s homepage and select “Search for Articles”. The databases are arranged by subject and alphabetically. Selecting the option alphabetically, will list all of the databases with links alphabetically. By selecting the option subject, you will pull up a list of subjects. Click on the subject that best fits your topic, then, select one of the databases listed under that subject.

Some of the general databases cover a wide range of topics. For example: Academic Search Premier and Expanded Academic Index ASAP. However, the subject databases such as Science Direct, Agricola, CINAHL (Nursing), and Social Work Abstracts have a more in-depth coverage of scholarly journals.

Remember, to search more than one database. Some of the information in the databases may overlap; however, there are instances where some journals are only indexed in certain databases. If you need assistance selecting or using the database(s), ask a librarian.

Using the Internet

The Internet can be one of the easiest tools to use for finding resources. However, you must be critical of the information available on your topic. Consult the library’s homepage on “Evaluating Information Found on the Web .” Also keep in mind when you search for articles using the library’s databases, you are searching via the Internet; however, the databases subscribed by the library are highly credible and it is just like using the actual printed journals.

Using Government Information

Government Information can be quite helpful when gathering facts. For instance, if you need statistics for your research, such as the census, use the link to Government Documents provided by the library by going to the library homepage and clicking on “Government Documents”.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Remember to avoid plagiarizing at all costs. It is okay to use other writer’s ideas and words, just don’t forget to give the writer(s) credit. Consult the library’s homepage on Instructions for Citing Resources.

Citing Your Resources

There are several different styles to use when citing the resources you’ve used. Check with your instructor to find out which research style to use in your paper and bibliography.  Use the library’s online catalog to locate the research style manual.

Two very popular research styles are the MLA and the APA styles. The MLA is the acronym for Modern Language Association and the APA is the acronym for the American Psychological Association. There are also other styles, e.g., Kate Turabian’s Handbook and the Chicago Manual of Style.  All handbooks are kept behind the Reference Desk.

Consult with a librarian if you have to use another writing style. There is also a link to set up to the Citation Machine from the library’s homepage. Click on Instructions for Citing Resources, then, click on The Citation Machine.

The Citation Machine will format your resources if you are using the MLA or APA styles. Follow the instructions and input the bibliographic information and the Citation Machine will set your sources up according to the MLA and APA format and show you the correct way to cite the sources in your paper.

REMEMBER: Not all types of sources are listed on the Citation Machine; therefore, you may have to consult the manuals at the Reference Desk. 

Don’t forget, if you need assistance: Ask a Librarian.