I am Russell Reece, your library liaison. If you need help, you can e-mail me at email@example.com, or ask for me at the Bradenton campus library, building 3. Any of my colleagues are happy to help you out as well if I'm not around. Your first research assignments can be confusing and overwhelming but we here at the library will help you make sense of it!
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The MLA Citation style is a set of rules for how to format a paper and references to ensure that it is well organized, easy for the reader to follow, and follows various consistent procedures for providing the information that a reader would need to check references.
References are the sources that are used to inform your writing. Citations are a quick, consistently formatted way of presenting enough information about a source so that the reader can find it if they want to understand your thought process better by reading the works that informed you, allows the reader to go deeper into a topic that you may only have briefly mentioned, and finally allows readers to hold you accountable for using high quality information and giving proper credit to the creators of the works that influenced you.
Start here if you're new to college research or need a refresher!
When picking a topic its important to make sure its the "right size." A topic that is too broad will be hard to do justice to in a short writing assignment but a topic that is too narrow or specific may be one that you struggle to find enough good information on.
Try to avoid being too subjective.
For example if you're trying to argue that a President was good or bad, then you should decide how you are going to define good or bad.
If a President is good or bad because of how they handled the economy, how do you decide what is a good or bad economy?
If a President is good or bad because of other things they did or did not do, then why does this matter? How could this situation have been improved or been worse?
How would you go about gathering evidence to support these claims?
These resources are a bit more challenging to use but will take you to materials you can use to improve your understanding of a topic. These databases will contain scholarly articles from experts in their fields, the results of experiments, and other high level information.
Expect to try multiple search strategies and to use Advanced Search tools to try to find what you're lookin for.
Finally, many of the sources will be from scholarly publications that assume a higher level of fluency in a topic so you may need to look up definitions and concepts you're less familiar with.
Don't get discouraged! The writers whose works you are reading followed a very similar process of trial and error and assembling a coherent narrative out of the pieces of evidence that they could find. Their reference pages represent many, many, many hours of careful searching, reading, and analysis.