When you write a research paper, the success of your work can depend almost as heavily on the work of others as it does on your own efforts. Your information sources not only provide essential facts and insights that can enhance and clarify your original ideas, source material can help you better understand your own theories and opinions and help you to arrive at more authoritative, clearly drawn conclusions.
Because of the debt that you, as the author of a research paper, owe to your sources, it is essential that you understand how to present, acknowledge, and document the sources that you have built into your work. You should be aware that using accepted standards of style and citation can benefit you as a writer as well. When your references are clearly annotated within your work, you can see where your source material appears, making it that much easier to edit, update, and expand your work.
By following accepted standards to present your work in a manner that is accessible to readers, you also enhance your credibility as a writer and researcher. When your readers can easily identify and check your sources, they are more likely to accept you as a member of their discourse communities. This is especially important in an academic environment, where your readers are likely to investigate your work as a potential source for their own research projects. To put it bluntly, careful adherence to accepted style conventions in academic writing can mean the difference between great success and total failure.
In this unit, we will review the concept of plagiarism and discuss how you can use clear, consistent documentation to avoid even the unintentional misuse of source material. We will also review many of the commonly accepted methods of acknowledging and documenting sources used in writing college research papers. We will pay particular attention to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style standards, because this is the most widely used convention in college undergraduate work.
This unit will culminate in an opportunity to build your selected source material into a fully developed first draft of your final research paper. By the time you have finished the final activity in this unit, you should have accomplished much of the groundwork for your final research paper.
By the time you have finished the work in this unit, you should have a command of the materials and techniques you will need to complete a well-developed academic paper. As a by-product, your final research paper for this course will probably be nearly finished.
The final activity in this unit is to develop a final polished and clearly documented research paper that makes full use of the tools, techniques, and products that you have discovered, developed, and organized during the preceding four units.