Franklin Style Manual Online

1.1 Finding Sources

For many writing assignments, your instructor will provide sources with which to work. However, you will often be required to locate sources on your own. While the types of sources you are asked to use may vary from class to class and assignment to assignment, you will ultimately have the responsibility to resolve these following research decisions more or less independently: (a) how to locate credible and appropriate sources addressing your topic; (b) whether the sources you locate suit the purposes of the assignment; and (c) whether you have done enough research to achieve the goals of the assignments. Your instructors will give you more or less specific guidance for achieving these research tasks, depending on the scope of the assignment and level of the course, but below you will find some fundamental considerations for doing any research project.

1.1.1 Are you conducting the appropriate kind of research?

There are two general types of research, primary and secondary. Primary research includes any collection of facts and details gathered through direct interaction with or observation of the subject being studied. Interviews, surveys, laboratory experiments, and methodical field observations are all examples of primary research. Secondary research comes from published sources documenting the research efforts (primary or secondary) of other individuals. Many writing assignments will accommodate both primary research and secondary research, but some assignments may favor one kind over the other. As you direct your research efforts, consider where to expend your energy in order to best meet the requirements of the assignment. For example, you will not want to spend time trying to locate a published interview of an expert (a secondary source) when your assignment calls for you to conduct your own interview of an expert (a primary source).

1.1.2 Are you exploring a variety of media?

All sources come in some medium—or physical format—and some sources actually come in multimedia formats. While the most common distinction made is that between print and online media, there are, in fact, numerous other formats that can be used for a variety of research projects. These formats include CDs and DVDs, as well as paintings and sculptures. Print and online media themselves take a number of more or less common forms. Print sources can be books, periodicals, or pamphlets, to name some of the most common. Online sources can be websites, digital media files, digitized articles and books, or e‐mails. As a researcher, you need to understand how to access and navigate the media most likely to provide sources useful for your projects. You also need to know which publication and production details to record in your notes, so that you can document the sources appropriately. Each medium has special qualities that are considered more or less relevant for the purposes of documentation. Note that the list of model entries for the References page (in Section 2.3) is divided, for the most part, according to medium.

1.1.3 Are you using the right search tools?

Besides existing in a variety of media, sources can be found in many ways. Primary sources, for instance, people to survey or interview, can be located on organizational websites. Many secondary sources, on the other hand, are thoroughly catalogued in library databases, including the main catalogue of the library’s collection and more specialized research databases. A mix of sources, as most people know, can be found through Web search engines. At Franklin, you will probably use all these kinds of search tools. Be sure to take advantage of the many tutorials and other search resources provided by Franklin’s Nationwide Library. When having difficulty locating suitable sources, ask a librarian for assistance, referring to your assignment as you explain to the librarian what kinds of sources you are trying to find and how you plan to use them.

1.1.4 Are you recording the right information about your sources?

Before you can expect to use a source in a paper, you need to record some key information about the source so you can both determine whether the source has the proper credibility (see Section 1.2) and cite the source correctly, assuming you actually use it in your paper (see Section 2.2). The details you should record depend upon the medium by which the source was published or produced and (to a certain extent) how you found the source. Before you fully commit to reading a source, you might make sure you can find all the information needed to cite the source (see Section 2.3). This step may seem premature when you are still doing exploratory research, but locating such information actually prevents you from wasting time writing a paper built on sources that ultimately will not prove authoritative enough for your audience.

Last Updated: 06/8/2012 16:51