Make a plan:
- Decide what the focus of your writing assignment will be
- What specific information will help support your thesis?
- What type of information will be best? Primary (original text) or secondary (about the text or person)
- current academic articles by experts in the field
- academic articles from any time period (try JETS and Bibliotheca Sacra)
- reference materials: updated
- reference materials of any time (encyclopedias . . .)
- books by experts or respected figures in the field (search Horizon Library’s Catalog)
- current/ past opinion (laypeople, journalists, related field. . .?)
- Where to go for this information (visit Horizon University’s Library webpage for these and other links)
- Respected national news sources (through google news, SDP Library database, but not blogs)
- Respected scholarly articles (try TWENEL, Google Scholar, LOGOS, local library databases)
- Use catalogs for your local libraries to access recognized reference material (encyclopedias . . .)
- Who might have a free database? (Local Library, check Horizon University’s Library site for other links)
- Search for topics through the library catalogs at your local library to find suitable books
- See if free books online help your thesis (ex: google books, Project Guttenberg . . .)
One of the biggest challenges will be finding an appropriate resource that will be free. Here are some important tips for narrowing your search that will save time and produce more frequent successes:
- Ask the librarian for help!
- Librarians, wherever you go, live to help students with their needs. Often a librarian has a good idea how to narrow and search for a topic, or where the best section or materials are to begin.
- Online searches should be limited to a known appropriate website or scholarly search engine
- Ex: for the history of the Wesleyan Church, it is appropriate to search their website along with other sources
- Scrutinize sources through an academic lens: Wikipedia is best for initial familiarization with a topic, and for links to primary sources at the bottom, but not quotable information. There are numerous free encyclopedias online through the San Diego Public Library. Use your keycard.
- Use search engines like google scholar
- Databases through your local library offer articles already grouped by subject, and are quickly searched
Once you narrow your search to appropriate sources, you must search efficiently:
- Try to include keywords in your search that are vital for narrowing down the options
- Use “quotation” marks around indispensible words or phrases
- Use similes in the same search when the field is too narrow: theology doctrine “Grace”
- If there is a particular area you need to specify, don’t leave it to chance: theology doctrine “Grace” “early church”
- Narrow your search by date if it is time-sensitive, or likely to be affected by new discoveries
- Some databases permit for “full text” searches, such as the SDP Library
- Once you have found and article, in addition to visually scanning it, you can perform a word search for additional keywords to see if the article will help your thesis.
It is important to evaluate a resource for the kind of information it will offer:
- Will there be bias?
- Is it a bias you agree with? Even so does it go too far?
- Will the bias affect the information given?
- Can you use the source for your academic purpose in spite of the bias?
- Evaluate the context that the article is written in
- Do the circumstances affect the accuracy of the information?
- Does the piece support the dominant or deviant view, and can it be corroborated?
Once you find appropriate resources, the best option is to print it if you are able:
- Frequently students use copy and paste to transfer information into their papers, but this is a dangerous practice. Printing a page for reference is a simple way to avoid plagiarism, and generally the bibliographic information is printed on the page. You can also annotate the paper for easy use.
- Any word phrases that are not yours need to be quoted. The best practice is
- to read the information
- formulate a synopsis of what it is discussing
- Write your understanding of what you read without looking at it as you write
- Go back and enter specifics and a selected quote or quotes if appropriate
- All ideas you get from a source need to be credited even if they are not in the original language
- YOUR ESSAY NEEDS TO BE MOSTLY YOUR WORDING! READ A LOT, AND SUMMARIZE IT DOWN. YOU SHOULD NEED TO QUOTE VERY LITTLE, AND WHEN YOU DO, MAKE IT MEANINGFUL. AS LONG AS THE FACTS ARE RIGHT, SUM UP THE IDEAS AND GIVE CREDIT TO YOUR SOURCE.
Be sure to collect all the necessary bibliographic information regardless of where the information is obtained (look at Turabian handout). You will need title (of both website and the article), the author’s name if credited or evident, the time and date of access, section title if applicable, the host of the site (government, school, online encyclopedia etc if not apparent from the web address), and for books, include all the publisher information (inside front flap): publisher, location, date and edition, volume, and be sure to note the page numbers and applicable section titles (Reference books often have section titles).
- It’s good to copy and paste any electronic information right onto a blank page where you can collect your bibliographies until your paper is finished. Later you can simply plug this information into a citation generator online or into your own Word Processing program if you have Word 2007 or later under the “References” tab. You can select “Chicago.” Visit Horizon University’s Library webpage for links to Research and Writing & citation tips.