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How to Research

Just getting started on a research paper or project? Don't know where to start? This is the guide for you!


Use & Create

Avoid plagiarism by citing your information sources, consider copyright, and proofread your research assignment.

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Avoid Plagiarism

The best way to avoid plagiarism is to cite your sources. This means that you have to give credit to the sources that you use for your assignment, usually by using in-text citations and a bibliography. Commonly used citation styles include APA, MLA, and Chicago.

Cartoon used as per Unshelved Reuse Policy

Plagiarism means using someone else’s work without giving proper credit.

  • “Work” includes, but is not limited to: written words, art, music, computer programs, information from the Internet, sound recordings, videos, interviews, pictures, graphical data, or statistics.
  • “Giving proper credit” means following the formatting rules of a documentation style. Two commonly used styles are the Modern Languages Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) styles. MLA is commonly used in English, History, and Philosophy. APA style is common in Psychology, the Social Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Nursing. Please note these are not the only styles used. You may be directed to use a different style.

 Why should you be concerned about plagiarism?

  • Plagiarism is dishonest and unethical.
  • Plagiarism violates the Medicine Hat College’s "Academic Regulations and Policies," and can result in failure and/or expulsion.

Avoiding plagiarism:

  • Hand in your own work.
  • Do not hand in another person’s assignment or paper as your own.
  • Learn how to use the required documentation style (APA, MLA, etc.).
  • Use quotation marks to indicate copied words. When you repeat another’s exact words, you must use quotation marks.
  • Give credit to any information that you have put into your own words (paraphrasing). You must give credit to the source of the information.
  • Give credit to any information you acquired through your research. You do not have to give credit to commonly known facts. Whenever in doubt, give credit!

Compiling information and research:

  • Record the information for each source you use in your research as you go. Print, store, or write down this information.
  • Include: author, title, copyright date, place of publication, publisher, and any additional information that is required by the documentation style.
  • Record the location of the information (i.e. name of library database).
  • Take accurate and complete notes. 

Writing the paper:

  • Use your own words and style of writing. Plagiarism can easily occur when you skip the step of note taking and write your paper directly from books and articles. The problem with writing directly from your sources is that it is very difficult to translate into your own words and is very tempting to use original words and parts of sentences. Plagiarism usually occurs when,
    • original words or phrases from a source are used in a sentence
    • the basic sentence structure is kept and some of the words are changed
    • reversing the order of words in a sentence

Take time to review and ask questions:

  • Give yourself lots of time to not only research and write your paper, but to review and proofread your assignment. 
  • Consult with your instructor, Academic Resources Centre staff, or Library Information Desk staff for assistance or clarification.

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Cite your sources: APA/MLA Style

When you research a topic you may use information from articles, books, or the Web to support your ideas. However, in order to avoid plagiarism, you must credit the original authors of these sources by citing them.

To cite means that you state where you found the information so that others can find the exact item again. In this way, we build upon the ideas and knowledge of other people.

Tips for researching and citing: 

  • Take clear, accurate notes about where you found specific ideas. 
  • Write down the complete citation information for each item you use. 
  • Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words. 
  • Always credit original authors for their information and ideas. 

There are a number of different styles or formats for citations. The style you use depends upon the subject discipline you are working in. If you are uncertain about which style to use, ask your instructor.

MHC LIbraries maintains detailed guides for APA and MLA citation styles. They may be accessed here:

APA Style Guide

This style is often used in health studies, business, education, sciences and social sciences.

MLA Style Guide

This style is often used in English and the humanities (History, Fine Arts).

Each style includes the same basic parts of a citation. These parts may be organized differently for each style.

For a book:

For a journal article:

For a website:


Consider Copyright

A copyright is a set of legal rights that authors have over their work for a limited period of time. 

Copyright protects the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself. It does not matter whether a poem is written on a napkin, saved on a computer hard-drive or engraved on a wooden plank, all formats are considered expressions and are protected by copyright, including objects on the Internet.

The author of a work is usually the copyright owner. Only the copyright owner has the right to reproduce, perform or publish a work.

Works in the public domain are not protected by copyright and can be copied freely. 

These include: 

  • ideas, facts or news
  • an insubstantial part of any work
  • works where copyright has been waived 
  • titles, names, slogans and short word combinations

Fair Dealing is a user right in the Canadian Copyright Act. Fair Dealing involves making a single copy of an entire work, or a substantial part thereof, for the purpose of:

  • research
  • private study
  • criticism
  • review
  • news reporting

If you are unsure if your use of the work constitutes Fair Dealing, err on the side of caution and obtain copyright permission.

"Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that increases sharing and improves collaboration."

You can use their Creative Commons Search to help you find licensed works that you can share, remix, or reuse.

Proofread Your Work

Whether you are writing a research paper, essay, book report, or reflective journal, or creating slides for a presentation, the last step in the research process is to proofread your work.

Writing support is available in the Vera Bracken Library (Medicine Hat Campus). 

To learn more visit: Writing Support @ MHC

These tips will help you proofread your paper:

  • Read your work backwards, word by word.
  • Read your work out loud.
  • Proofread a printed copy of your work.
  • Ask someone else to read your work.

"spelling simtaks are embracing"

Spelling mistakes are embarrassing! Most word processors have a spell check, and some have a grammar check, but both are not foolproof. Here are things to consider when proofreading:

  • homonyms (e.g. accept and except)
  • apostrophes (e.g. its and it's, your and you're)
  • punctuation (extra commas, missing periods)
  • capitalization (first letter of a sentence, proper nouns)
  • pluralization (DVDs not DVD's)