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Research Tutorial


You’ve just been asked by the scariest professor in the college to give a very short presentation and turn in a brief write up of an issue. To make matters worse, the professor has given you the topic of global warming. The only thing you know about global warming is the handful of comments you’ve read on Twitter or random sites online or as taglines on cute pictures of polar bears on Facebook.

Scariest of all, the professor recently failed your friend when he finished his own presentation and gave him a big lecture. The professor claimed that your friend used someone else’s materials and he did something called PLAGIARIZING. You don’t want to get into trouble. You want to do the right thing. But, how?  

Well, just what the heck is plagiarism anyway?  Plagiarism takes place when a writer or a speaker uses someone else’s’ words or ideas without giving credit to the source.  The basic idea here is that when you find ideas online or in a book, you need to let the professor and the reader where you found that information.

Here is part of what your friend turned in for his assignment:

Global warming is a big problem. The world’s 6.5 billion people pump into the earth’s atmosphere twice the amount of carbon dioxide in the world’s forest and oceans can naturally absorb. The remaining carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and traps heat in a phenomena known as the greenhouse effect.

Well so what’s the problem? Your professor asked how your friend knew that the amount of carbon dioxide was double what the earth could absorb. Your friend did not know. He told the professor that these were his own words and he did his research online.

Alright, let’s look again at the passage and figure what the problem was. Well the first sentence was written by your friend. The underlined portion was actually copied and pasted from an article by Patrick Gonzales. Your friend simply took Gonzales’s words and put them into his paper. Big Mistake!

Well at least you know what plagiarism means, but how can you avoid it if you’re supposed to do research on global warming? You know very little about it. That professor is certainly making you warm right now. But what can you do? Why can’t you just grab an online research article and use it?

Is using another source always theft or plagiarism? The answer is more complicated than you might imagine. It’s not always as simple as shamelessly stealing somebody else’s work. But before we explore the forms of plagiarism in more depth, let’s be clear why you should care about plagiarism.

It’s not just an issue for evil college professors. Plagiarism is important for several reasons, and we’ll look at just a few.

Number 1

Yes you do want to avoid getting into trouble with the shadowy professor. You need to get a good grade and your need to get credit for the assignment. Your future career depends on completing your education. And, plagiarism is a serious issue of Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct.

Number 2 - Theft

Your friend did write some of the words he used in his assignment. The person who did the hard work of writing was Patrick Gonzales. Gonzales also allowed his work to be published online. This takes a great deal of effort. You probably worked hard for your car or your phone. Imagine if someone took from you and used it without your permission. The thief or borrower did not ask you. And, they did not have to work at all for the object. That’s pretty terrible, right?

Number 3 - Credibility

It’s important to use your own ideas and explanations in your writing. However; it’s very useful and sometimes necessary to bring in outside experts or sources to help you make your point. I mean you don’t know how much sea ice has melted or if it is melted at all.  

The author we mentioned earlier, Patrick Gonzales, has this information. You can use his words if you give him credit. When you do this correctly, writing begins to sound more believable because you are not relying solely on you own thoughts.

Okay, there are two basic types of plagiarism; intentional and unintentional. Intentional plagiarism is unfortunately what your friend did. He copied and pasted someone else’s work into his project. When asked about it, he told the professor the words were his own. He knew what he was doing was dishonest by using Gonzales words to improve his own writing. That’s pretty cut and dried.

Unintentional plagiarism is when you use someone else’s words and do not properly give credit or are unaware of how to correctly bring in an outside source. The good news here is that you will learn about how to effectively handle sources in your college courses. Mind you, if you get it wrong, it’s still considered plagiarism and has to be fixed. But this doesn’t involve being dishonest and trying to cheat. Even the mean old professor will probably help you sort this out if you asked early in the semester for help. 

Avoiding plagiarism

You’ve found several sources for your project and plan to use them in your presentation and as part of the written part of the assignment. You know enough about plagiarism to know that you must give an author credit. This is where things get tricky. There are essentially, three ways to research material to avoid plagiarism.

Method Number 1: Summary

You’ve found a great passage from a source that covers some of the material you want to have in your presentation. However; the passage is very long and you don’t want to have to put the entire passage in quotes. You definitely don’t want to plagiarize. A summary might be a good option for you. A summary is a short restatement of the material in your own words. It should be much shorter than the actual material being used. For example, a summary of an entire chapter can often be summarized in about a paragraph.   The goal of the summary is to mention all the main points so that the reader has a general idea about the material without getting into all the details.  The idea here is to put the material in your own words and give credit to the source.  

Let’s look at a simple example. The following material is from Mary Lou Constantine’s, Climate Change Will Force the Relocation of Animal Species. Now take a look at a possible summary. Note that the summary is much shorter and gives the author credit at the end. It also does not use the language from the source.

One way of doing a summary, is to pretend you are explaining to a friend what the source was about and you only have one minute to do it!  The key is to put the material in your own words and then give credit to the author.

Method Number 2: Paraphrase

A second tool for handling material and avoiding the perils of plagiarism is to paraphrase. It very similar to a summary. However; the length of paraphrase does not need to be shorter than the original source. Again, you need to put the author’s ideas into your own words but also give credit to the author.  Do NOT copy the structure or wording of the source. 

Let’s look at another example from Mary Lou Constantine’s Climate Change Will Force the Relocation of Animal Species. Now let’s look at one possible paraphrase. Notice that the paraphrase captures the meaning of the meaning of the material but does not use the structure or the words of the source.  

Method Number 3: Quotation

Perhaps the simplest way to avoid the ire of the professor and his wrath is to simply quote a source. We’ll go into the specifics of how to quote in depth later. But the process for now is relatively simple. All you have to do is introduce the author and then state the quote.

Consider this example of Fred Warmington’s, He’s Warming Up to the Orb. Here’s one way to quote the author effectively. Note that the author is introduce in the sentence. This gives the credit to the author and keeps your project safe from being accused of plagiarism.

Well Oscar Wilde once wrote, “there is not sin except stupidity." That may or not be true, but one thing is certain, plagiarism is stupid. You steal someone else’s which leaves you stupid. And you stupidly assume you won’t get caught. The truth is there’s a whole lot of tools out there to combat plagiarism. You will be busted. You also can no longer claim ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism. Thanks to this video. Your professors never believe that excuse anyway.     

There are also consequences.  You may flunk your class, get kicked out of school, be publicly shamed, get sued, or lose your job. Don’t join the growing wall of plagiarism shame.

(Video provided by the PGCC English Department)


Library Terms

It's important to understand library terms in order for you to do your research. If you have questions about the terminology used in the tutorial you can check this Glossary of Library Terms.

Abstract:  A summary or brief description of the content of another long work. An abstract is often provided along with the citation to a work.

Annotated bibliography: a bibliography in which a brief explanatory or evaluate note is added to each reference or citation. An annotation can be helpful to the researcher in evaluating whether the source is relevant to a given topic or line of inquiry. The Cornell University Libraries provide an online guide on How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography or try the OWL: Online Writing Lab at Purdue University

Archives: 1. A space which houses historical or public records. 2. The historical or public records themselves, which are generally non-circulating materials such as collections of personal papers, rare books, Ephemera, etc.

Article: A brief work—generally between 1 and 35 pages in length—on a topic. Often published as part of a journal, magazine, or newspaper.

Attachment: A separate file (e.g., text, spreadsheet, graphics, audio, video) sent with an email message.

Authentication: A security process that typically employs usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information.

Author: The person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or compiled a document. Looking for information under its author's name is one option in searching.

Bibliography: A list containing citations to the resources used in writing a research paper or other document. See also Reference.

Book: A relatively lengthy work, often on a single topic. May be in print or electronic.

Boolean operator: A word—such as AND, OR, or NOT—that commands a computer to combine search terms. Helps to narrow (AND, NOT) or broaden (OR) searches.

Browser: A software program that enables users to access Internet resources. Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Mozilla Firefox are all browsers.

Call number: A group of letters and/or numbers that identifies a specific item in a library and provides a way for organizing library holdings. Three major types of call numbers are Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, and Superintendent of Documents.

Catalog: A database (either online or on paper cards) listing and describing the books, journals, government documents, audiovisual and other materials held by a library. Various search terms allow you to look for items in the catalog.

Chat: A type of communication from person to person through typed messages, via computer or mobile device.

Check-out: To borrow an item from a library for a fixed period of time in order to read, listen to, or view it. Check-out periods vary by library. Items are checked out at the circulation desk.

Circulation: The place in the library, often a desk, where you check out, renew, and return library materials. You may also place a hold, report an item missing from the shelves, or pay late fees or fines there.

Citation: A reference to a book, magazine or journal article, or other work containing all the information necessary to identify and locate that work. A citation to a book includes its author's name, title, publisher and place of publication, and date of publication.

Controlled vocabulary: Standardized terms used in searching a specific database.

Copy card: A card that enables its user to print from a computer, or to make copies of a document at a photocopy machine. Student ID cards sometimes serve as copy cards.

Course management system (CMS): Integrated online applications that allow users to view and complete class materials and post messages, which facilitate discussion beyond the classroom. Also referred to as a “Learning Management System” or “Course Management Software.”

Course reserve: Select books, articles, videotapes, or other materials that instructors want students to read or view for a particular course. These materials are usually kept in one area of the library and circulate for only a short period of time. See also Electronic reserve.

Database: A collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer.

Descriptor: A word that describes the subject of an article or book; used in many computer databases.

Dial-Dial-up: A device using telephone lines that allows a computer to access the Internet or two computers to communicate.

Dissertation: An extended written treatment of a subject (like a book) submitted by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctorate.

Document delivery: A service that retrieves or photocopies information sources for library users. Some libraries restrict document delivery services to distance education students, faculty members, or graduate students.

DOI: Acronym for Digital Object Identifier. It is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by the publisher to a digital object.

Download: 1. To transfer information from a computer to a program or storage device to be viewed at a later date. 2. To transfer information from one computer to another computer using a modem.

E-book (or Electronic book): An electronic version of a book that can be read on a computer or mobile device.

Editor: A person or group responsible for compiling the writings of others into a single information source. Looking for information under the editor's name is one option in searching.

Electronic reserve (or E-reserve): An electronic version of a course reserve that is read on a computer display screen. See also Course reserve.

Encyclopedia: A work containing information on all branches of knowledge or treating comprehensively a particular branch of knowledge (such as history or chemistry). Often has entries or articles arranged alphabetically.

Flash drive: A small portable device for storing computerized information. A flash drive, sometimes called a thumb drive, can plug into the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port of any computer and store electronic information. See also Thumb drive.

Hardware: The physical and electronic components of a computer system, such as the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Hardware works in conjunction with software.

High-speed access: Refers to the speed and efficiency of an Internet connection—which determines how long Web users must wait for a particular Web site to load, or appear on their computer after they click on a link to it. High-speed access is usually achieved by using a DSL line (digital subscriber line) or a cable modem to connect to the Web, as opposed to a dial-up line which results in a slower connection speed.

Hold: A request to have an item saved (put aside) to be picked up later. Holds can generally, be placed on any regularly circulating library material in-person or online.

Holdings: The materials owned by a library.

Hyperlink: An image or a portion of text which a Web user can click to jump to another document or page on the Web. Textual hyperlinks are often underlined and appear as a different color than the majority of the text on a Web page.

Icon: A small symbol on a computer screen that represents a computer operation or data file.

Index: 1. A list of names or topics—usually found at the end of a publication—that directs you to the pages where those names or topics are discussed within the publication. 2. A printed or electronic publication that provides references to periodical articles or books by their subject, author, or other search terms.

Instant messaging (IM): An Internet-based service allowing real-time, text communication between two or more users. Instant messaging is also known as chat, especially when more than two people are communicating.

Interlibrary services/loan: A service that allows you to borrow materials from other libraries through your own library. See also Document delivery.

Journal: A publication, issued on a regular basis, which contains scholarly research published as articles, papers, research reports, or technical reports. See also Periodical.

Keyword: A significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of an information resource that indicates its subject and is often used as a search term.

Learning management system: See Course management system.

Limits/limiters: Options used in searching that restrict your results to only information resources meeting certain other, non-subject-related, criteria. Limiting options vary by database, but common options include limiting results to materials available full-text in the database, to scholarly publications, to materials written in a particular language, to materials available in a particular location, or to materials published at a specific time. 

Link: See Hyperlink.

Magazine: A publication, issued on a regular basis, containing popular articles, written and illustrated in a less technical manner than the articles found in a journal.

Microform: A reduced sized photographic reproduction of printed information on reel to reel film (microfilm) or film cards (microfiche) or opaque pages that can be read with a microform reader/printer.

Modem: A device that connects a PC to the Internet and converts digital signals from the computer to a form that can be sent using a voice (analog sound signal) telephone line and vice versa.

Mouse: A device that allows the user to move and click the cursor on a computer screen for different functions.

Multimedia: Any information resource that presents information using more than one media (print, picture, audio, or video).

Newspaper: A publication containing information about varied topics that are pertinent to general information, a geographic area, or a specific subject matter (i.e. business, culture, education). Often published daily.

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC): A computerized database that can be searched in various ways— such as by keyword, author, title, subject, or call number— to find out what resources a library owns. OPAC’s will supply listings of the title, call number, author, location, and description of any items matching one's search. Also referred to as “library catalog ” or “online catalog.”

PDF: A file format developed by Adobe Acrobat® that allows files to be transmitted from one computer to another while retaining their original appearance both on-screen and when printed. An acronym for Portable Document Format.

Peer-reviewed journal: Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or articles submitted for publication by the experts’ peers. Peer review helps to ensure the quality of an information source. A peer-reviewed journal is also called a refereed journal or scholarly journal.

Periodical: An information source published in multiple parts at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, biannually). Journals, magazines, and newspapers are all periodicals. See also Serial.

Permalink: A link that will return you to the same page every time you click the link.

Plagiarism: Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledging the original source.

Primary source: An original record of events, such as a diary, a newspaper article, a public record, or scientific documentation.

Print: The written symbols of a language as portrayed on paper. Information sources may be either print or electronic.

Proxy server: An Internet server that acts as a “go-between” for a computer on a local network (secure system) and the open Web. Often checks to determine “right of access” to the secure environment and speeds up requests by caching frequently accessed Web pages. Can also act as a firewall. See also Authentication.

Publisher: An entity or company that produces and issues books, journals, newspapers, or other publications.

QR code: Abbreviation for Quick Response code. A two-dimensional bar code that is made of small squares in a unique pattern. QR codes allow users to connect to additional resources through mobile devices.

Recall: A request for the return of library material before the due date.

Refereed journal: See Peer-reviewed journal.

Reference: 1. A service that helps people find needed information. 2. Sometimes "reference" refers to reference collections, such as encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc. 3. A citation to a work is also known as a reference.

Remote access: The ability to log onto (or access) networked computer resources from a distant location. Remote access makes available library databases to students researching from home, office, or other locations outside the library. See also

Renewal: An extension of the loan period for library materials.

Reserve: 1. A service providing special, often short-term, access to course-related materials (book or article readings, lecture notes, sample tests) or to other materials (CD-ROMs, audio-visual materials, current newspapers or magazines). 2. Also the
physical location—often a service desk or room—within a library where materials on reserve are kept. Materials can also be made available electronically. See also Course reserve, Electronic reserve.

Scholarly journal: See Peer-reviewed journal.

Search statement/Search Query: Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information. Words relating to an information source's author, editor, title, subject heading or keyword serve as search terms. Search terms can be combined by using Boolean operators and can also be used with limits/limiters.

Secondary sources: Materials such as books and journal articles that analyze primary sources. Secondary sources usually provide evaluation or interpretation of data or evidence found in original research or documents such as historical manuscripts or memoirs.

Serial: Publications such as journals, magazines, and newspapers that are generally published multiple times per year, month, or week. Serials usually have number volumes and issues.

Software: The programs installed on and used by the components of a computer system (or, hardware).

Stacks: Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored. Books in the stacks are normally arranged by call number. May be referred to as “book stacks.”

Style manual: An information source providing guidelines for people who are writing research papers. A style manual outlines specific formats for arranging research papers and citing the sources that are used in writing the paper.

Subject heading: Descriptions of an information source’s content assigned to make finding information easier. See also Controlled vocabulary, Descriptors.

Thumb Drive: See also Flash drive.

Title: The name of a book, article, or other information sources. Upload: To transfer information from a computer system or a personal computer to another computer system or a larger computer system.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL): The unique address for a Web page which is used in citing it. A URL consists of the access protocol (HTTP), the domain name (, and often the path to a file or resource residing on that server.

User ID: A number or name unique to a particular user of computerized resources. A user ID must often be entered in order to access library resources remotely.

Virtual reference: A service allowing library users to ask questions through email, text message, or live-chat as opposed to coming to the reference desk at the library and asking a question in person. Also referred to as “online reference” or “e-reference.”

Wireless: The name given to any electronic device that sends messages through space via electric or electromagnetic waves instead of via power cords.

Zip drive/zip disk: Devices used in the creation of compressed (or “zipped”) electronic information.

Library Terms Flash Cards

Some people find using flashcards to be helpful for learning definitions. If so, check out the Library Terms Flash Cards.  

Multilingual Glossary for Today’s Library Users - Definitions

Multilingual Glossary for Today’s Library Users


If English is not your first language, then this resource will help you navigate the definitions of library terms in the following languages: English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Vietnamese.