Skip to main content

Research Strategies & Tips: Use Information Ethically

This guide provides information on identifying topics, developing search statements, finding and evaluating sources, and using information ethically.

Why cite sources?

In a research project, you will use information and ideas from your research sources to support the statements you make. Whether those sources are books, articles, government documents, web pages, email, images, or any other types of sources, you must use them fairly and credit them appropriately.

When you present your research, whether in a paper, on a web page, or in some other format, the bibliography of sources you have consulted documents and gives credit for any quotations or ideas you have used from other people's work. When you document sources appropriately, others interested in your research are able to follow your research path and retrieve the information you used.

Ethical use

How should you use information from research sources?

When you find ideas or information from a source that you want to use in your paper or presentation, rephrase that material into your own words. Use exact quotations sparingly--only when a phrase is unique or when rephrasing will lose the essence of the idea. The Writing Center at your college can provide additional information on ethical use of sources.

Why must you document information from research sources?

You document, or cite, the information and ideas you use from your sources to give credit to the author or creator and to allow your readers to follow your research path.

Keep a record of all the information you will need from each source for your bibliography--author, title, journal title, date of publication, publisher and place of publication of a book, volume and issue number of a journal, page numbers. If your source is from the internet, such as a web page or email, record the address and date you accessed the document. You may want to save the document or print it out so you will have it as it existed on the date you accessed it.

Sometimes it is difficult to know whether you need to cite an idea or not. If you are unsure, talk with your professor.

How does copyright law affect your research projects?

Unless they are "public domain" or are so old they have passed out of copyright, all the sources you use are copyrighted. Since copyright law allows "fair use" for educational purposes, you may use information from copyrighted sources in class papers and presentations without securing permission from the copyright holder. These uses do not constitute publication.

When you put information up on the open web, you are publishing that information; therefore, you do have to consider copyright law. When you quote significant portions from a poem or a song, include a video clip, or copy data, charts, tables, diagrams, or images from another source, you may need to secure permission from the copyright holder.

For more information

Tools to Manage Your Research -- RefWorks & Zotero

Both RefWorks and Zotero allow you to keep citations, full text articles, and other research resources organized in one place. You can also use these tools to format your bibliographies and the notes/citations in your papers according to the appropriate style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).

RefWorks
RefWorks is web-based. You can access it and create an account from any computer connected to the internet. RefWorks is free to current students of The Claremont Colleges.

Zotero
Zotero is a free, open-source application that you download from the web and install on your computer.

The Library offers workshops on how to use both of these "bibliographic management" tools.

For more information about these tools, or about workshops, contact Dani Cook.