Helpful Hints as You Research

As you research, keeping in mind these ideas will help you use and cite your sources as you write your essay.


  • As you research, check to make sure each source is from a credible publication. This step will save you time later; if your sources lack credibility, you will have to continue to research at a later time, which will put you behind. Read more about evaluating sources here.
  • Documenting your sources as you research may save you time later. Creating those source list entries when you still have the source open will let you check that you have all the information you need to document the source and prevent you from having to go back and gather the information later. Also, citing sources in the text is easier if you have your source list prepared.
  • Plan to gather more sources than are actually required for the assignment. Chances are, some of the sources will not yield helpful information, and some will repeat information you already have.


  • Go to the title page of the book to find the author's name, the title of the book, the place of publication, and the publisher. Often, on a book's cover, this information can be difficult to decipher due to font choices or placement of the type. The title page is usually a cleaner, clearer listing of the pertinent information.
  • Most often, the copyright page of a book will be on the other side of the title page, so simply flip the page to find the most recent copyright date.
  • Click here to see how to gather information from a title page and a copyright page: Helpful Hints for Citing a Book


  • Keep in mind that the library databases and the Web are not the same. We have access to the library databases through paid subscriptions, whereas anyone can access most Web sources for free. Keep track of whether you are gathering sources from the databases or the Web, as each will be documented differently.  
  • Choose the printer-friendly format of the article when printing. Avoid going to "File," and then "Print," as the printed page will have menus and other clutter. Instead, find the button within the database that gives you a printer-friendly version (this is different in each database).
  • For some articles, you will have the choice between an *.html document, which is a single block of uninterrupted text, and a *.pdf document, which is like an image of each individual page of a document, just as you would see it in its print publication form. Either is acceptable, but if you have a choice, consider using the *.pdf version. It will print more cleanly, include the accompanying images, and retain the original page numbers. Having those page numbers will assist you later when you create your in-text citations.
  • When printing a *.pdf document, print the citation page as well. The pages of the article itself may be missing vital information such as the volume and issue numbers of the journal.
  • Keep track of which database you got the article from. Sometimes this information will print along with the article, and sometimes it will not.
  • Click here to see how to gather information from a database printout: Helpful Hints for Citing from Databases 


  • Choose the printer-friendly format of the Web page when printing. Avoid going to "File," and then "Print," as the printed page may have menus, advertisements, and other clutter. Instead, when possible, look for a link within the Web page that gives you a printer-friendly version. This option will not always be available, but often it is. Look at both the top and bottom of the page for these options.
  • When a printer-friendly version is not available, do look at a print preview before printing the page. You can then check to make sure that the text will not be cut off the edge of the page, obscured by an ad, or printed in a hard-to-read color. In most browsers, you can choose File, and then Print Preview. If you see that your text will be hard to read, you might try copying the text and pasting into a word processing program before printing. If you choose to do this, make sure you have collected all the citation you will need to use later.
  • Gather all the information you might need for when you cite your source later. This information may include the author, title of the article, any information about previous publications, name of the Web site, publisher of the Web site, date of electronic posting, date of access, and full Web address.
  • Click here to see how to gather information from a Web printout: Helpful Hints for Citing from the Web