Research Paper Basics

When the Internet is all you have

I am writing this during the hiatus which was caused when the coronavirus (COVID-19) shut down the Ashland campus. You cannot use the on-campus library and you might not be able to use the local public library (not a bad resource in ordinary times), so I am assuming 99% of your work will be done through the Internet. (Though there's absolutely nothing wrong with using books, even course textbooks, to help make your point.) Here are a few thoughts to help you along the way.

Something besides Google

Plain old Google is made to sell things and made for a very informal audience. You might get some quality information on a deep subject there, but you are more likely to get help from Google Scholar To see the difference, type "Depression in Athletes" into both search engines. Plain Google gives you some tips for dealing with depression and a national helpline; the advice isn't too bad in this case. Try typing the same search item into Google Scholar, and you get a lot of sports medicine articles, and a tighter focus. Scholar has articles about depression after an injury, after a concussion, after a failure, and there's a fascinating study (which might redirect your reading) concerning prevalence of depression among college age athletes versus nonathletes.

Tightening things up

One major skill you need is thinking of good search terms. Going back to plain old Google:

Moving over to Google Scholar, "Depression college athletes concussion" gave 14,400 hits. In this case more is not better, because you want something focused and tight to help you write a focused, tight paper.

The skill you want to cultivate is to come up with search terms which are narrow and precise enough to take you to information you can use without being so limited that you miss information. In the example above, every additional term knocked off items that might have been off-topic. Adding "concussion" to the mix pushed us away from athletes who got depressed because they lost the game, but we should have tried "Depression athletes head injury" too—there are some head injuries which are not concussions, but which might have a connection with depression.

Who wrote this?

A huge problem with the Internet is that anyone can post anything they can type. There are no "internet police" who scan material for correctness, and companies like Facebook are just beginning to deal with all the outright lies that get posted there. To put up a site with a fancy-looking face (such as this one) all you need is a working credit card. So ask some questions:

One last rant

I have said this before—many times—but it needs repeating. Internet articles need full citations, whether you are doing an MLA paper for this course or an APA paper for another course. If I cite an article for that paper on head injury and depression, here is what the Works Cited page item would look like. (It's not a bare web address like That's just not enough.) Here's what a typical journal article from the Internet would get for a Works Cited entry:

Vargas, Gray, et al. "Predictors and Prevalence of Postconcussion Depression Symptoms in Collegiate Athletes." National Center for Biotechnology Information, Mar. 2015, articles/PMC4477919/. Accessed 15 Mar. 2020.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 3/25/20 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: