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CHD Assignments Playbook

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Assignment: Research Paper

Before beginning your research process,make sure you understand the parameters your instructor has set out for this assignment. Read the assignment instructions more than once.

Some of the parameters for this assignment are:

  • 6-8 pages
  • Topic related to special education and/or exceptional children
  • Topic must be pre-approved by the instructor
  • Minimum of 5 professional references -- professional means the information was written by and for professionals -- you should not use information that is geared to the general public
  • At least one reference must be non-Internet based: this means the source cannot be found via a search engine
  • Wikipedia may not be used
  • APA or MLA format (note that APA is an easier format and it is the appropriate format for education and psychology)


Background information & topic narrowing

Background information

Before you can write about a topic, you need to learn about it.  This is done by reading background information about a topic to understand the basics of that topic.  Background information can be found in topic overviews, and sometimes in books.

To find topic overviews, go to the library's home page and search in the START HERE section by typing your topic into the search box, then clicking Search. To read an article from the results list, click the title.

Topic narrowing

Broad topics are very difficult to research because they include a multitude of sub-topics. Once you have picked a broad topic, make it research-ready by narrowing and focusing it. Narrowing a topic means making it more specific.

Focusing a topic generates terms that can be used in research databases to obtain relevant sources.

Examples of focusing a topic
Broad topic Narrowed topic Focused topic Possible searches
special education learning disabilities
  • dyslexia interventions in kindergarten
  • are dyslexic children bullied more than others?
  • dyslexia AND intervention AND kindergarten
  • dyslexia AND children AND bullying
depression depression in middle school children
  • cognitive behavioral support for middle school children with depression
  • does teacher support alleviate depression in children from low-income backgrounds?
  • cognitive behavioral therapy AND depression AND children
  • teacher support AND depression AND low-income AND children


Find books

Why use books? Books often contain background information and are written at a level that is easy to understand.  You do not have to use the entire book -- look for chapters or even passages that may help your research.

To find books, go to the library's home page and search under FIND BOOKS.  Use a subject search for more targeted results.

Red arrow pointing to subject search

Find articles

Use the EBSCO portal to access over 30 databases and millions of articles.  For more targeted results, use a subject search.

Red arrow pointing to SU Subject Terms in EBSCO search







EBSCO allows you to refine your results.  After you get your results list, check the left hand side of the screen, where you can continue to refine your results using different limiters.

Strategic Web searching

This assignment requires that you have professional sources.  These are sources that are written by professionals and also targeted to professionals. This means that you can't use the Web the way you normally do, as most of the sources you find will be inappropriate for the level of research required for this assignment.

[1] Be choosy when selecting Web sources

  • Use only sources that are written by professionals (doctor, psychologist, PhD, RN, etc.) and geared toward professional or academic audiences. 
  • Discard anything that is geared to the general public or that lacks an author (exception: government materials such as materials from the CDC and other government agencies).

[2] Filter your results by using special search patterns.  The following searches work with Google or Bing.

  • Search a specific domain:


Example:  autism site:gov

  • Search a specific site:

[term] site:

Example: migraine site:


How to incorporate research

  • Incorporate sources into your essay -- don't just drop quotes
  • Demonstrate you understand what you just quoted -- explain why it matters. What is the significance?
  • Incorporating is mashing -- combine your ideas with the research into a cohesive, seamless product
  • Cite the sources that provided the information
Example of incorporating sources:
Bad Marginally better Best

"People with norovirus illness are most contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill and for the first few days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer" ("Prevent the Spread of Norovirus," 2017).

Why: This quote is just standing by itself -- while there is a citation, the reader has no idea why the writer used this quote.  There is no analysis and no demonstration of understanding.

Norovirus is highly contagious. According to the Centers for Disease Control, "people with norovirus illness are most contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill and for the first few days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer" ("Prevent the Spread of Norovirus," 2017).

WhyAdding "According to" does not truly incorporate research nor demonstrate understanding.  There is no analysis of the significance of the quote, and the quote is the most dominant item in the sentence, which may be seen as plagiarism.

Norovirus is highly contagious. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people affected by norovirus can be contagious for several days ("Prevent the Spread of Norovirus," 2017). This is why prevention is so important.

Why: This arrangement introduces the idea of the danger of norovirus, then provides information from a source and paraphrases the information, and then explains the significance of the information.



Citing sources is a two-part process --  sources must be cited in the body of the essay (using in-text and/or parenthetical citations) and at the end of the essay (References or Works Cited lists).

Citing is not hard -- all it takes is some practice.  The librarians can help you develop your citing skills -- just ask for help.

This assignment allows you to use MLA style or APA style for citing.  Learn how to cite using the library's citation playbooks:

APA style

MLA style


  • the APA style is the appropriate style for education and for psychology.  APA is also a lot easier and more straightforward than MLA.
  • citation generators (including the one in Word)  generate erroneous citations, and it takes longer to fix them than it does to create citations from scratch.  The library does not provide support for citation generators.

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