Research Tips for Students


A simple, step-by-step explanation of why and how to use databases in scholarly research. Bud, a student at Yavapai Community College in Prescott, AZ, designed and narrated this YouTube video on databases. Used with permission.

Power Library is the state’s manager of databases. The School District has a subscription and you can access it through Infinite Campus on the Student Message Center–look for the lightning bolt.

MLA 9th Edition

Tip sheet to changes in MLA formatting rules

MLA Template

Use this when collecting information for bibliographic citations

Primary Source Search

Links to use when working on projects requiring primary sources:


•Digital History

•Digital Public Library

•Docs Teach from National Archives

•Library of Congress


•100 Milestone Documents


History in Context

New York Times


Reference and User Services (RUSA/ALA)


Free Online Citation Generators

               Citation Machine      



Notes are required when writing a thesis paper. We write from our notes, not the source. In addition to verifying references and bibliography, the act of writing notes helps us reflect on what we have read and keeps us from plagiarizing.

  • Focus on the main ideas of the research questions.
  • Locate relevant information within a source.
  • Use a “thoughtful” notetaking cycle.
  • Analyze the information to determine if it answers research questions.
  • Evaluate the information.
  • Take appropriate notes to avoid plagiarism.
  • Use note cards or graphic organizers efficiently and effectively.
  • Use correct bibliographic form as specified by the teacher.

When taking notes, you must include the following information on the particular note:

  • Subtopic – each idea or subtopic on a separate page;
  • Citation – full citations first time used, then surname or some abbreviated title;
  • Page Numbers – accuracy is key;
  • Information in brief phrases;
  • Information in direct quotes

One tip is to record the citations on separate cards called SOURCE CARDS and label each citation with a letter. On NOTE CARDS that call back to the SOURCE CARDS, write the letter that corresponds to the SOURCE.

The SOURCE CARD would look like this:



Hardships of women suffragists

  • beaten by police
  • put in prison
  • force-fed after staging hunger strikes

The “B” corresponds to the bibliographic citation on the SOURCE CARD, so each time you write “B” on the NOTE CARD, you know it comes from that source. After taking notes, it is suggested you paraphrase the information. At the end of your research, you will separate the information into your subtopics, re-read it, and write the paper. Your notes provide your references.

Outlines provide the framework and direction for a research paper. Following a thoughtful outline can keep your paper focused and substantive. Outlines check off the main points of your paper. An outline may be likened to a more detailed Table of Contents for your paper. In fact, in very long research papers, you can treat the outline like the contents and include the page numbers each subtopic starts.

Outlines can begin with a skeletal list of what you want to include in your paper in sequential and logical order. Like the thesis, as you research, you can flesh out these main topics. The length of your paper determines how detailed the outline becomes. You can have a phrase/word phrase

There are some rules in formatting and grammar you must adhere to when writing outlines.

  • Language in the outline needs to be parallel. For example, if you start the outline with verbs, all the phrases or sentences or words need to begin with verbs.
  • Points in the outline need to be parallel. For example, for every A there is a B; for every 1, there needs to be a 2. If you don’t have two points to make about a subtopic, you can include the idea in the main subtopic.

Example of an outline:

The Benefits of Preschool: Why Having High-Quality Preschools in the United States Benefits Everyone

I. Introduction: The United States government is notorious for shortchanging preschool care.

II. Examining the early benefits

A. Enabling parents to work

B. Enriching the preschool-age child in worthwhile                                                  activities

C. Preparing the preschool-age child for school

III. Establishing a firm academic foundation

A. Ensuring on-target academic performance

B. Ensuring likelihood of further education

IV. Influencing a better society

A. Reducing crime

B. Enhancing health

C. Decreasing teen pregnancy

V. Conclusion: The investment in preschools is fiscally sound because of its wide-ranging effects on society.

Tips for Writing a Research Paper

The Online Writing Laboratory at Purdue University offers expert, clear guidelines.


Beneficial instructions on when to quote, summarize or paraphrase in an academic paper (just ignore the narrator’s initial, “um.”)


Directives on how to analyze documents. When writing an academic paper, you need to synthesize and analyze the material you read. The following link from The National Archives provides worksheets to guide you through analyzing different media.


A brief guide for writing research papers:

Research and Library Skills Handbook


A tutorial on writing a thesis statement–plain and simple.

Go to the school catalog to find bibliographies on various topics. Look to the sidebar on the right-hand and click Destiny Discover. You need to be signed in with your Destiny account to view these collections. Your Destiny account is usually your first initial and last name; your password is your student id.