The Best Research Paper Strategies

Issue 1: When to Cite?

Remember that you must add a citation of all sources in your research paper. Neglecting to properly do so suggests that you are plagiarizing from your source material. The only exceptions are when a) the thought is original to you or b) the item is “common knowledge.” Things that are “common knowledge” are historical events, common sense observations, and generally accepted facts.

Underline all information that requires an in-text citation. Remember that if you are ever in doubt, you should always cite it.

            Mount Everest, a peak in the Himalayan range, is the highest mountain on earth. Located on the border between Nepal and Tibet, the mountain is a popular destination for thrill-seekers who aspire to ascend its summit. Today the mountain is well known throughout the world, but before it was recognized as the world’s highest peak, Everest was simply referred to as Peak XV. In the early 1850s the surveyors who first measured the angle of Everest’s rise with a twenty-four-inch theodolite had no idea of its importance. This changed, however, in 1852 when a clerk hurried into the office of India’s surveyor general, a man named Sir Andrew Waugh, and excitedly proclaimed that his colleague Radhanath Sikhdar had “discovered the highest mountain in the world.” Yet as exciting as this discovery was, it would be another 101 years before anyone set foot on the mountain’s summit.

Issue 2: Paraphrasing

When the precise wording of a quotation is not essential in research paper, it is best to paraphrase it, or put it into your own words. Remember, however, don’t forget about citation the source!

Paraphrase these direct quotations for your research paper. If you believe the precise wording is essential and it would be better to integrate the full quotation, write “no change” on the line.

“[Ian Woodall] relished telling anecdotes about his brave exploits as a military commando behind enemy lines during South Africa’s long, brutal conflict with Angola in the 1980s.”

“Woodall’s deceits became an international scandal, reported on the front pages of newspapers throughout the British Commonwealth.”

“[Sandy Hill Pittman] was known in certain elevated circles more as a social climber than a mountain climber.”

Issue 3. Parenthetical Citations

There are a variety of approaches to citing your sources. You can either cite the author’s name in the text itself or add a parenthetical citation. Either way is acceptable.

Example 1: John Krakauer describes his guide Rob Hall as appearing “cherubic” yet with “sharply etched creases at the corners of his eyes.” (33).

Example 2: Rob Hall had a “cherubic” appearance that was undercut by the “sharply etched creases at the corners of his eyes” (Krakauer 33).

Integrate and cite the following quotation from page 33 of Into Thin Air:

 “Gregarious by nature, Hall proved to be a skillful raconteur with a caustic Kiwi wit”



  1. Unlike essays of literary analysis, the research paper describes historical events. For this reason you should use PAST TENSE.
  2. Refer to your subject by his or her LAST NAME. (“Krakauer climbed” NOT “Jon climbed”)
  3. Part of this process involves DRAWING INDEPENDENT CONLCUSIONS. A source might not specify that luck, or teamwork, or technological innovation was key to your subject’s success. However, by analyzing the information presented by that source, you must draw this type of conclusion yourself and support it with appropriate evidence.
  4. An essay without parenthetical citations or a Works Cited page will receive a zero.