Academic Research Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions


Bibliography formats


What are reliable Internet sites and why do I need to use them?

The Internet is a huge resource for information. There is no editor on the Internet. Anyone can put up a Web page. Because there is so much information from questionable sources, it is necessary to evaluate what you find. Questions to ask yourself when viewing Web pages are:

Check the domain name (,, etc.) endings

.edu -- educational site (university or college)
.com -- commercial business site (usually wants to take your money)
.gov -- U.S. governmental/non-military site
.org -- U.S. non-profit organizations and others

More information on evaluating Internet sites

Five Criteria for Evaluating Web pages

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Search.gif     Subject Directories vs. Search engines What's the difference?

Search engines are automated programs that blindly find sites containing words that match your search terms. Google is a search engine. There are no human beings looking through Internet sites to determine whether they will be useful. Subject directories, on the other hand are put together by humans. Somebody, usually a subject expert in the particular field, has sifted through parts of the Internet and selected the sites thought to be the most useful for individual topics. These subject directories start with a broad, general category (the trunk), and gradually branch out to more specific topics. Some people call these directories 'subject trees' because of this design. Librarians Internet Index ( is a reputable subject directory.



Why do I need to use books in my research?
Books often provide in-depth coverage and background information for your topic. Books are good for overview information. In addition to print books Gavilan Library also has a 24,000+ volume eBook collection available through EBSCOhost. Books can be located using the Gavilan library catalog.



What are scholarly journals as opposed to popular journals and why do I need to use them?

Professional journals have these characteristics in common:

They are focused on one single subject.
They are written for and by professionals in the particular field.
They have bibliographies of sources consulted at the end of articles.
They use language or jargon that is specific to the field.
They give the author's name and usually the credentials of the author.
Most illustrations are technical and used to explain a point in the article.

Popular magazines have these characteristics in common:

They are written for the general public.
They do not cite their sources, usually.
They use language that is understood by the general public.
Sometimes they don't give an author's name. The articles are written by a staff person on the magazine. Even if they give the author's name, they give no indication of who that person is or what credentials he/she has for writing the article.
They often have illustrations and photos to add interest to the article.

How to find scholarly articles with EBSCOhost

“EBSCOhost” pdf flier

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  What is reliable literary criticism and why do I need to use it?

Reliable literary criticism of your author's work is available from the database, Literature Resource Center. It contains articles written by scholars who have authoritative knowledge of particular authors and/or genres. Referencing reputable critics in your paper will enhance its depth and credibility.



What is plagiarism and how can I avoid it?
Plagiarism is using the thoughts and words of others as your own.
Read more about how you can avoid plagiarism

Read the Gavilan Academic Honesty Policy statement (Once you get to the site, scroll down about half way to view the honesty guidelines.)



MLA seventh edition cover    APA sixth edition cover   What are the different bibliography formats and why do I need to use them?

A bibliography (works cited or references) is necessary because it shows the sources you used to write your paper.
MLA examples and APA examples and Chicago style examples.

What is an annotated bibliography and how do I create one?
Your bibliography is your list of resources (books, journal articles, Internet sites, etc.) used to create your paper. An annotated bibliography contains the same information as a standard bibliography plus a summary or evaluation of your resource. Find more annotated bibliography information from Purdue and Cornell.


Content examples in MLA format

(the good, the bad and the unreliable)

“Intellectual Freedom Basics.” 2005. ALA: American Library Association. American Library Assoc. Web. 7 Apr. 2010 <>. (from a reputable, professional site)


“New Study Proves Copper Bracelets Relieve Arthritis.” Truth About Copper. Copper For All, Inc. 1995. Web. 10 Jan. 2010 <>. (commercial site probably trying to sell you copper bracelets)


“Ernest Hemingway Was a Woman.” ABC Elementary School. ABC Elementary School. Web. 10 Dec. 2009 <>. (a 6th grade book report is not a scholarly resource)

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Last updated on September 8, 2011
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