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Using the Internet for Research

Probably one of the most popular sources for information today is the Internet.  If we type in a few key words, we have instant access to almost anything on a given topic.  But as accessible as it is we need to use it wisely as we research for information.

When determining whether a web site is reliable, there are four questions we need to ask.

  1. What is the purpose of the site?  Some sites are for-profit and their intent is to convince the viewer to buy their product.  Other sites offer a service and their intent is to inform the viewer to make the best decisions.
  2. Is the content relevant and clearly written? Content should be well organized and clearly written.  It should be relatively free from spelling and grammar errors.  It also should be up-to-date and accurate.
  3. Who are the writers of the website?  Writers should be qualified to write on the subjects they are presenting.  You should be able to access information about the writers and determine what their education and experience is in their field.
  4. Is the content biased, or is it objective? Some writers purposely slate their articles to persuade readers to their point of view. There is a place for persuasive writing, but generally speaking, academic writers should present their findings as objectively as they can allowing readers to form their own conclusions.

Just a word about Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is an open source for information on just about any subject. It is easy to access and many students use Wikipedia for their projects.  However, there is a downside.  The way the program is set up anyone can edit and add to almost any page.  Because of this there is no way to check the accuracy or reliability of the information. If you choose to use Wikipedias, make sure to compare the information to reliable sources.

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In-Text Citations

University courses use standardized formatting, such as MLA and APA.  If you are taking a science course you will probably use APA formatting.  If you are taking a course in the humanities, you will most likely use MLA formatting.

When paraphrasing or using direct quotations it is important to know how to properly format in-text citation.

APA In-Text Citation

If you are using APA in-text citation, you will need to include the author’s last name, the year of publication, and page number.

Abraham Lincoln was challenged to understand the complex issues involved in the war (Smith, 2007, p. 48)

According to Smith (2007), Abraham Lincoln was challenged to understand the complex issues involved in the war (p. 48).

Reedman (2013) stated, “For all appearances the war had ceased, but bitter feelings still lingered in the minds of many” (p. 138).

MLA In-Text Citation

If you are using MLA in-text citation, include the author’s last name and the page number where the paraphrase or quotation was taken.

Abraham Lincoln was challenged to understand the complex issues involved in the war (Smith 56).

According to Smith, Abraham Lincoln was challenged to understand the complex issues involved in the war (56).

Reedman stated, “For all appearances the war had ceased, but bitter feelings still lingered in the minds of many” (284).

If you do not know the author’s name, use an abbreviated form of the title with the page number in parenthetical citation.

“Technology has made it possible to predict how close meteors will travel passed the earth” (“Predicting Meteors” 2).

If your source uses a quote cited by another author, use “qtd. in” to show the original source.

Bates argues that schools must be responsible for “developing curriculum that ensures students succeed academically” (qtd. in Gibson 342).

When citing from the internet, if known, give the author’s name, article title, and website name.  It is not necessary to give a page number.

According to pacific.edu, “Actions in the digital world can have far-reaching consequences in real life” (“Online Social Networking”).

Web address should be written in the short form.  Ex: newstartclub.com verses http://newstartclub.com.

 

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Writing Academically

If we want to convince or persuade others, our writing must be strong and clear.

Words or sentences that are typically appropriate in everyday language often weaken academic ideas if not properly used.

Below is a list of word forms that should be avoided.

There are / there is

When we use there are/is too much, we are using words that often weaken our sentences and ideas.

For example, look at the two sentences below and ask which one is stronger.

  1. There are many people who believe global warming is a critical issue.
  2. Many people believe global warming is a critical issue.

Number 2 is stronger because it comes straight to the point.  Simply by removing There are….who… our sentence is clearer and stronger.

always, never

If we use words such as always or never, we set ourselves up for criticism because, obviously, our claim cannot be supported.  Instead of using these words, we should use words like tend to, or likely, or most likely.

Look at the following examples.

Weak: Factories always contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. (You cannot prove “factories always…)

Strong: Factories tend to contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Weak: Politicians never listen to the concerns of the people.

Strong: Politicians tend not to listen to the concerns of the people.

Other words that should be avoided are all, really, very, and a lot of for the same reasons.

Wordy Verbs

Instead of using verb forms like make a reservation, or conduct an investigation, that tend to be wordy, replace the noun forms with the verb form.

For example:

“The officers investigated the cases.”  This sentence is stronger than, “The officers conducted an investigation into the case.”

“After much research, the team concluded that obesity is primarily caused by fatty foods.”  This sentence is again stronger than, “After much research, the team came to the conclusion that obesity is primarily caused by fatty foods.”

Other wordy forms that should be avoided are make an objection (object), provide assistance (assist), and make a contribution (contribute).

Contractions

Strong academic language requires words to be clear and concise. Contractions should be avoided not only because they are used in informal language, but because they can also lead to misunderstandings.

Use the full forms instead of contractions.

do not instead of don’t

does not instead of doesn’t

is not instead of isn’t

cannot instead of can’t

he has had instead of he’s had

would have instead of would’ve

and so on

Personal Pronouns: I, me, my, you, your, we, us, our

In academic writing the use of personal pronouns, such as I, me, my, you, your, we, us, our, are generally avoided.  The reason is we do not want to refer to what we think or believe, but to solid evidence.

Instead of using pronouns, use direct language.

  • Instead of: In my opinion, global warming is causing damage to crops.  (This focuses the attention on “my opinion”)
  • Write: Global warming is causing damage to crops. (The focuses is on the evidence)
  • Instead of: I think art education needs to be incorporated into mainstream studies.
  • Write: Art education needs to be incorporated into mainstream studies.
  • Instead of: Before taking the final test of the course,you should study and be familiar with your notes
  • Write: Before taking the final test of the course, students should study and be familiar with their notes. 

Breaking the Rules

Sometimes you will want to use a personal experience in your essay.  This is where you can break the rules.  Use pronouns to establish the subject, but use them sparely — just enough to make your point.

have gone & have been

I am frequently asked what the difference is between have gone and have been. Generally speaking, when we say, “He has gone to New York,” we mean he has left and is in New York now.  When we say, “He has been to New York,” we mean he went to New York and he is back now, or he has left and is not in New York.

Look at the following sentences.

  • She won’t be here tomorrow because she has gone on a business trip.
  • He has been to Hawaii twice, but he hasn’t been to China yet.
  • John has already gone to work, but he hasn’t been to the bank yet.
  • Where has David gone? (Meaning he is not here now).
  • Where have you been? (Meaning you are here now, but you were somewhere).

 

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a/an Exceptions to the Rule

Exception to the Rule

We use “a” before words that begin with a consonant sound, and we use “an” before words that begin with a vowel sound.

a / e / i / o / u

For example:

  • It was raining, and I didn’t have an umbrella.
  • I ate an apple and a sandwich for lunch.
  • A rabbit is an animal.

Exceptions

  • He went to the bank an hour ago.
  • She wants to go to a university in Colorado.
  • He would rather buy a European car than an American car.

 

 

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