Researching English Papers Online

Planning to use the Internet to research your paper? First, you should learn about credibility, plagiarism, and documentation. (Then look at my short list of English links.)

Credibility on the Internet

It is up to you to separate the good sources from the questionable

If you were walking along the street and found an interesting statement scrawled on a scrap of paper, would you be willing to stake your term paper grade on it?  If you were forced to back up that point in a debate, and you blurted out, "I read that on a scrap of paper I found on the street," would you get away with it?  Cyberspace is fairly crawling with sites written by graduate students, undergraduates, or even people who know virtually nothing about their topic.

Most libraries subscribe to services that permit patrons to use a web browser to search through databases of academic journals. It's possible that the only way your library offers a particular journal is through an online database. If the journal is peer-reviewed, it doesn't matter whether you found it online or on a library shelf. 


Plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional, is a breach of professional or academic trust, in which a person takes credit for someone else's work. It comes from a Latin word meaning 'kidnapper,' because a plagiarist is one who makes off with another person's ideas.

Even if you paraphrase (using none of your source's original words) you must still cite your source in order to give the author credit for the ideas you are using.

It's still plagiarism if you "accidentally" fail to give proper credit. Depending on circumstances, penalties for plagiarism (and other forms of academic misconduct) can range all the way up to expulsion. 


Avoiding plagiarism involves more than simply re-phrasing another author's work.  There is nothing wrong with using another writer's exact words -- provided you give proper credit to the original author. 

Now that You Know What's Expected of You...

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