Study Tips

1. While you are a full-time student, consider your coursework and your commitment to getting an education as your full-time job. That means showing up to “work” on time, meeting deadlines (definition of “deadline”: a line which, if you go past it, you are “dead”), following the rules that everyone else has to follow, and being conscientious about doing a good job. Be serious about this. Let everything else (recreation, job, errands, etc.) come second. It is always too late to get concerned about grades in the last few weeks of the semester (and see #12 below).

2. Understand that the objective of an education is to train you to think for yourself. Getting good grades is part of that objective, but not the end. Before you can think for yourself properly there are certain facts you must master. Introductory level college courses are designed to present the basics in a field of study.

3. Spend time every day studying and reviewing outside of class. After class review your notes from that day; clarify in your notes anything that is not clear while you still remember the point that was made in class.

4. Prepare for class every day. Read everything you are assigned to read. Take notes on what you read. Highlight or underline important things, but do this discriminately. Develop good study habits early in your academic career and you will be repaid with good grades throughout; but even more, you will become an educated person.

5. If you do not understand something, ask questions. Do not ask “will this be on the test?” or “Is this important?” Instead, ask for clarification so that the point of what is presented is clear. Open-minded dialogue is part of the education process. You are not expected to agree with everything that is said (although you possibly will; but this is not a big issue in introductory level courses), but you are expected to be open to considering other views in order to refine your own. The professor’s job is not to brainwash you, but to give you a basic orientation to the subject of the course.

6. Related to #5 is the fact that, contrary to popular belief, not all opinions are equal. Some opinions are much more well-informed than others and thus better. Specifically, your instructors have typically spent many years studying, at advanced levels, the subjects they teach. They have read hundreds of books on the subject and spend much time every year keeping up with the latest research and scholarship. Their opinions, while not infallible, are better than yours. Respect them accordingly.

7. Take good notes in class.

  • Good notes are not transcripts of what was said by the teacher in class. Do not get into the habit of writing down every word on a chart, but get the facts.
  • Learn to write quickly.
  • Good notes are concise and accurate.
  • Get down the main points of everything that is said.
  • Develop your own personal “shorthand” for taking notes — abbreviate words when possible. This will also enable you to write quickly.
  • You will do much better on tests if you have taken good notes and if you use your own notes to study. While some instructors provide study guides for tests, they can be misused (and poor grades result).

8. Use a weekly planner to note deadlines and scheduled tests in all your courses.

9. Generally, it is not good to study for long periods without taking a short break once in a while.

10. “Cramming” before a test is, generally, not the best way to study for a test. It is no substitute for keeping up with daily review. You should study a minimum of 2 hours for a regular college-level test; more for mid-terms and finals. Test yourself on the material and learn to recognize the same facts when they are stated in different ways (that is, do not just memorize a line, but learn the facts). Some do better if they study with a friend.

11. Tips on test-taking:

  • Use all the given time to take the test; don’t rush through it.
  • Answer all questions (and check to make sure you have looked at all the questions).
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, leave it and come back to it after you have answered all other questions.
  • On true-false questions: make sure the statement is completely true before you mark it as “true.”
  • On multiple choice questions: if more than one answer seems correct, pick the best or most accurate answer; eliminate choices that are obviously incorrect and choose the best answer among the remaining choices.

12. Do not ask the instructor for special considerations (extra absences, extra credit work, extra “curve” on a test score, etc.), because this would be unfair (and thus rude and inconsiderate) to your fellow students.

13. It is your responsibility to keep track of your progress in the course. Record your test scores and keep a total so you will know your standing in the course. At the end of the semester please do not ask the instructor “what grade to I need to get on the final exam to get a B in the course?” You should do your absolute best on every test.

14. Understand that grades are what you earn, not what the instructor gives you. The grade you get is up to you. Avoid the consumer mentality concerning education. Your tuition money does not buy you a passing grade. Your tuitition money buys you an opportunity to learn. What you do with that opportunity is up to you, but everyone who pays the tuition gets the same opportunity.

-David McClister, Professor of Biblical Studies

Law #1: Anyone can learn anything given the desire, the dedication, and the time.
These things make more difference than ability or age; remember the tortoise and the hare.

Law #2: Learning is the result of three essential attitudes:

  1. The humility to know that one does not know. If you think you already know it all, you’ll never learn anything.
  2. The confidence that one is able to learn. If you say, “I can’t!” you won’t.
  3. The persistence to stick with the task of learning even when the going gets tough. If you say, “I quit!” you will never know the joy of success.

Law #3: What seems meaningless is usually dull.
Be sure you make an effort to understand the material before class. Doing the reading before the class will keep you on target.

Law #4: Boredom is the result of an empty head and should be hidden like an intellectual deformity.
Telling everyone how bored you are tells them more than you should want them to know. The only cure for boredom is education.

Law #5: Listen for what you don’t know.
See Law #2 under humility.

Law #6: Attention, attendance, and studying are the keys to academic success.
Pay attention in class. Attend every class. Study three or more hours for each hour spent in class. Study every day; don’t put studying off until just before a test.

Law #7: The wise person asks questions that show knowledge and thought about the topic.
Questions that were answered in the readings reveal undone homework and lack of class preparation. See Law #3.

-Dr. Kemmerer’s Laws of Learning, Penn State University

Reading a textbook for comprehension is not as simple an act as it seems like it should be to people in a literate society. Of course we all have the capacity to look at the letters and call off the words that we see before us. But that is not adequate for reading a textbook. Unfortunately, this is all too often what students do. How often have you read a chapter or part of a chapter and then looked up from the text with no idea what you’d read. Here is a six-step technique to prevent that from happening again.

S – Survey
Before you read a chapter, glance through all the headings in the chapter, and read the final summary if the chapter has one. Don’t worry about looking ahead. This is not a mystery that you will spoil by reading the summary first. This survey should not take more than a few minutes, and it will show you the core ideas on which the reading is focused. This survey will provide a framework around which you can organize the ideas as you read them. This is especially necessary in survey or introductory courses where you will encounter unfamiliar information.

Q – Question
Ask questions of the text that you are about to read. Turn headings into questions. Doing so primes your mind for the information and gives purpose to your reading. Thus, it will increase your comprehension when you do read. The more you practice asking questions the better your questions will become and the more they will make important points stand out from additional details. Remember that learning is asking and answering questions.

R1 – Read
Read so as to answer your questions, but only read a short section at a time. Reading should not be a mere “calling off of the words,” but an active attempt to answer your questions and to understand the material. Read and reread paragraphs until you find out what the most important point is.

R2 – Recite
Having read the first section, look away from the book and try briefly to recite the material. Use your own words.

R3 – Review
You will need to look back at the text from time to time as you recite in order to get the information that you cannot recite or to clarify the things that you can’t put into your own words.

R4 – Write
Now that you can briefly state in your own words the meaning of each paragraph go back and highlight key words, phrases, and topic sentences. You might also write brief notes in the columns of the pages of the textbook or in a separate notebook. Remember that “the pen is the best eye.” We may fool ourselves into thinking that we know something until we have to carefully write it out. If necessary review some more in order to make accurate marginal notes.
This may seem like a lot of work but it is better than spending your time gazing at the book and learning very little and you will be amazed at how much time it will save you when you go back for a final review before your test. You might also be pleasantly surprised at how readily you recall the information at test time.

Textbook publishers have added numerous pedagogical (teaching) aids over the years. Almost all textbooks published today take advantage of the latest understanding about how students learn and incorporate these into their textbooks. Since you’ve already paid for the study aids you should use them.

Before You Read
Many students make the mistake of just jumping in and reading a chapter from beginning to end. It is commendable that you get started, but starting smart is just as important. Take a few minutes to get the “lay of the land” before you start to read. We learn faster and recall information better if we’ve first created a framework into which to place it.

  1. Table of Contents
    This is a list of the main topics of the text. Reviewing this list frequently will help you to understand the text’s organization and the relationships between the different sections. If the professor uses a different order of chapters make certain you understand why.
  2. Chapter Titles
    Chapter titles provide useful information about the contents of the chapter. You need to know the big picture of the detailed information you will be reading so keep this title in mind. Refer to the table of contents or to previous lecture notes to understand how this topic relates to what has gone before.
  3. Chapter Previews, Outlines, Goals, or Objectives
    Most textbook now provide you with a list of the big idea within the topic of the chapter. These show how the chapter is organized and what the author thinks you should carry away form the reading. These outlines provide you with a framework into which to place the information you will take from the chapter.
  4. Review Questions
    Don’t just confine yourself to examining the preview of the chapter before you read. Lots of helpful preliminary information be gathered from the end of the chapter materials as well. It is sometimes helpful to even look at the review questions prior to reading. These will help you identify the important information and help you read with a purpose: answering the questions.
  5. Chapter Summary
    Reading the chapter summary prior to the chapter will give you some idea as to the type of information you should be finding as you read. Chapter summaries may appear at the beginning or end of the chapter.

As You Read
You’ve done a lot of work already. But now you’re ready to read the chapter. Do so in small sections. Textbooks today have provided you with well organized readings organized in a logical way. As you read continue to pay attention to the textbook’s pedagogical aids.

  1. Headings
    Headings prepare you for what you are going to read in each section as well as organizing the text. Using headings helps you to make the necessary connections between what you have read and what you are about to read. This is called reading with a purpose, which is perhaps then single most important aid to understanding. Desultory reading results in tepid learning. Have a purpose more immediate than making a grade. Look for information that may be useful in your day-to-day conversations or personal evangelism or argue with the text book (or the professor) or try to find important biblical connections, etc, etc.
  2. Glossary and Marginal Notes
    Marginal notes are provided by the text publishers to clarify ot point out critical issues. Definitions of key technical words are critical to mastering any discipline and should be a top priority in your reading.
  3. Charts, Diagrams, and Pictures
    Graphics are used extensively in most textbooks today. The modern reader is visual and daunted by page after page of plain text. But graphics are more useful than simply brightening up the page. You must “read” as you read the rest of the text by understanding how they are related to the text and what information they add
  4. List of Key Terms and Glossary
    Keep your eye out for the key terms so that they are readily accessible while you are reading. Don’t read over words or key terms without looking them up. By the way key terms are good candidates for test questions.
  5. Appendices
    Often graphics, special descriptions of a technique, tables that can help you work material included in an appendix may be of two types. 1) It may be additional explanation or review necessary to understanding the chapter. 2) It may be additional material or a special topic. If it is the former make certain that you read it. If it is the latter then read and study as the professor advises you or for your own interest. But if this material is not required make certain you are attending to the material that is required first.
  6. Index
    The index will help you to locate an obscure or interesting topic elsewhere in the textbook. The index can be very helpful in reviewing your notes or preparing for tests especially if you find items in the notes or the reviews that are not immediately clear to you. Look them up.

After You Read
You’ve read the chapter, but don’t quit now. This is where the real learning can take place.

  1. Chapter Summary
    Read the summary again this is a necessary review, which will consolidate your learning, and it can help you organize your thinking and recognize the relationships among the main ideas.
  2. Review Questions
    The review questions are there for a purpose. Try to answer them. By doing so you can test your knowledge about what you have just read. And remember that learning is asking and answering questions.
Creating your own study aids can be even more helpful than using the study aids that are provided by your textbook, ancillary websites, or even by your professor. Even if you never study them creating your own study aids requires you to review the material and process the information more thoroughly than you otherwise would. Of course for maximum benefit you should not only create the study aids but use them. Here are some standard techniques:

  • Take notes both in class and while doing you reading. Good note taking forces you to understand and organize the material and of course provides an excellent stimulus to your memory when you go back over them.
  • Make lists and memorize them. Some professors especially emphasize their own lists on tests.
  • Make up and use acronyms to make memorization easier.
  • Make flash cards with the information to be memorized on the back and a stimulus question on the front.
  • Create diagrams and charts especially if you are a visual learner. These pictorial representations of the information will help you see it in a different light. Diagrams are especially helpful in mastering complex relationships.
  • Create summery sheets of notes and textbook information. Again the process of doing so will enhance your learning. Putting information “into your own words” requires you to first understand it. And reviewing the material will be much more effective from your processed summaries than from the raw notes.
  • Highlight important points in your text and take notes (especially in the margins so that it is always there). Be careful that you highlight no more than one sentence per paragraph as excessive highlight is ineffective. This process will help you to locate specific information later.
  • Don’t forget to use other available resources: group review sessions, tutoring labs, SI sessions and the study aids of other students.
Know What You Want to Write Before You Begin
The purpose of writing is to communicate. Therefore it is essential that you, the writer, have a clear idea of what you want to communicate before you begin to write. There is some truth to the observation that writing can clarify our thinking about a subject; but it can only do so if we’ve got some general idea that we work out by writing. And of course “drafts” in which we have been working out our ideas need to be edited before being offered to others for their reading.

Have a Schedule for Completing the Assignment
Nothing academic happens without a plan. That is certainly true of writing papers. You need to start on the paper early and have a schedule for finishing it on time, including getting it printed out and stapled or in a folder (whatever the requirements are) the night before it is due. The only way to accomplish this is to have a schedule that instructs you as follows: “On these specific days I will research a topic. On this day I will write an outline. On these days I will write the draft. On this day I will edit. And on this day I will rest, satisfied that I have done my best.”

Develop Your Ideas Before You Begin to Write
You need a specific topic, a thesis statement, and an outline before you begin to write your first draft. Of course none of these springs into your mind full blown like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. You must do some preliminary work. Choose your topic carefully as this is the first determinant of success or failure—too narrow a topic and you will have difficulty finding enough information, too broad and you will be unable to say anything intelligent about it within the parameters of your assignment. A successful topic must be something you either already know about or one that you have resources to learn about. Often your professor will help by assigning a topic; but even then you have to make it your own. How you do that depends on the type of writing assignment. If it is an essay you will need to search your own thoughts and feelings for a valid and interesting point of view about which you are competent to write. If it is a research paper you will need to research what experts have written about the topic. Even here you will need to make a selection based on what you want to say about the topic.

Next develop a thesis statement. Before you write you need to be able to express in one controlling sentence what you want the reader to take away from your paper. Students will often say “But I don’t understand it well enough to express it in one sentence.” In that case you don’t understand it well enough to write about it either. Go back and do some more research and studying until you can do so.

Your next step is to consider how to convince the reader that your point of view is valid—that your thesis statement is true. Should the paper be chronological or should your arguments be ordered according to relative strength or should you organize according to examples or expert opinions? These decisions will guide you in developing an outline before you begin writing the first draft.

Determine the Scope of the Paper
Even as you choose a topic, write a thesis, and develop an outline you need to keep in mind the parameters of the assignment; that is, how long will it be. Don’t attempt too much, resulting in a cramped, uncertain and incomplete treatment, nor too little, resulting in repetition and a desperate attempt to drag out the meager material to meet the word count.

Develop an Outline
Students often get lost in the details of outlining. For most papers I find that a simple, topic-sentence outline is best. As you research for a paper or plan an essay write out your main points in full sentences. The number of sentences (main points) is determined by the requirements of the paper. I suggest something like 20-25 for a ten page paper or 10-12 for a five page paper. Next examine your sentences: Can some be collapsed into others or are some too broad and need to be divided? Are they of approximately equal importance or scope? Now arrange them in the best order to accomplish the purpose of your thesis statement.

Write the Draft
Now that you have an outline you are prepared to write. Each sentence represents one paragraph; and, since it is atopic-sentence outline, you already have the most important sentence of each paragraph written. You can now parcel out your work—writing the paper a paragraph or two at a time as you have time. Of course you may need to make some modifications as you write—doing more research or changing the outline slightly as to order or adding additional points or merging some points together. Remember that you’re writing a draft. The sentences don’t have to be perfect at this point. Many students are paralyzed by the erroneous idea that whatever they write has to be perfect. But that is why you’ve started early and have a schedule, so that there will be time to edit and rewrite before turning in the paper.

Begin and End Well
Next write your introductory and concluding paragraphs, remembering that these are the two most important paragraphs in your paper. The introduction must get the reader’s attention in a way that does not belie the contents to follow and the conclusion must leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction that the paper was worth reading. In other words, make certain that the introduction prepares the reader for what is to come and that the conclusion supports and or summarizes the thesis without adding new material.

Edit, Edit, Edit
Once you’ve written the first draft you will have a feeling of accomplishment; but you are not finished. Let the draft sit for a day or two and then reread it. Editing will save you the embarrassment of getting your paper back with the professor’s marks on it and either recognizing immediately that you’ve made careless mistakes or reading and rereading the sentences that are marked as unclear and wondering to yourself “what in the world was I trying to say.”

Avoid the following common mistakes:

  • Writing a different paper than the one that is assigned- Make certain that you understand the assignment, and then meet the parameters of that assignment. If the topic is specified, stick to that topic. If the topic is open, make certain that you understand the criteria for choosing your own topic. If you are unclear ask your professor. Stick to the word count or page count requirements. Don’t write a word less than is required and don’t write more than a page over what is required without first getting permission to do so.
  • Writing in a flowery or pedantic style- Some students try to impress the professor by writing in an overly dramatic style. Others mistakenly attempt a pseudo-academic style that often leads to misuse of the passive voice. Find your own voice and write naturally, but clearly and concisely.
  • Being too colloquial- You are writing academic papers and the style should be appropriate for college level work. Therefore avoid breezy, folksy or “hip” language and expressions. The balance between pedantic and colloquial (between pretentious and commonplace) is difficult for some students, but it is critical to academic writing.
  • Plagiarizing- The internet has made it far too easy for any or all of us to fall into the trap of cutting and pasting with only slight editing. But in academia ideas are the coin of the realm and thus stealing ideas without giving due credit is as heinous as stealing tangible property.
  • Using excessively large quotations or narratives- Do not burden your paper with long quotations, narratives or examples that are disproportionate to the rest of the paper. Try to keep your points balanced in service of the overall purpose of the paper.

Be careful with grammar and style:

  1. Be concise.
  2. Eschew “very unique.”
  3. Avoid excessive use of the passive voice; if you know who is responsible then share that with your readers.
  4. The first person (“I” or “we”) is now permissible in most forms of writing (check with your professor); but the second person (“you”) is still verboten.
  5. Less should be used when the quantity can not be counted and thus must be measured; few or fewer should be used with quantities that can be counted.
  6. Don’t confuse “into,” entering, and “in,” already there.
  7. Be careful to use the subjective “I” and the objective “me” appropriately. You and I will go to town. It will be good for you and me.
  8. Be careful with effect and affect. Effect as a noun is a result. Affect as a verb means to have an influence. Thus to affect something is to have an effect on it. To effect as a verb means to bring about thus a doctor may effect a cure.
  9. Don’t confuse “it’s,” a contraction for it is, and “its,” meaning belonging to it.
  10. Never use two negatives to express a simple negation. Remember your algebra: two negatives make a positive, albeit often inelegantly and confusedly in writing.
  11. Use personal pronouns with persons, “who” not “that.”
  12. Semicolons should only be used between two independent clauses (that means they could be separate sentences) or to separate parts of the sentence that already contain commas.
  13. Never use a colon to separate the verb from its object even when you are making a list of objects.
  14. Periods and commas go inside quotations marks.
  15. Within paragraphs don’t dangle in-text citations outside of a sentence.
  16. Remember that punctuation marks serve a purpose. It should not be sprinkled willy-nilly throughout the text like paprika.
Some students are better test takers than others. Mostly this is because they are better prepared, but test taking strategies also play a part. Here are some guidelines that might help you.

General Guidelines

  1. Begin by quickly reviewing the test. Do you have all of the pages? How many questions? How long do you have? Make a schedule, leaving time at the end to go back and finish up the questions you weren’t able to answer the first time.
  2. Do not insist on completing each question before going on to the next. Some will take longer than others; but don’t spend so much time on one question you can’t answer that you don’t have time for others you could answer. This is extremely important. If you spend a lot of time on one question that you don’t understand there are two negative outcomes—losing time and losing confidence—and you can’t afford either. Instead, stay focused and stay on your schedule.
  3. Go through the entire test answering only the questions you are reasonably confident that you know. This will make you more relaxed and more confident for what lies ahead. Now go through the test a second time working out the answers to the more difficult questions. However, don’t spend all of your time on any one question.
  4. Once you have gone through the test twice, see if any of the questions you’ve answered already contain information that can help you answer others. Sometimes questions are answered in later questions.
  5. Do not cheat. Besides being immoral, it is unfair to your colleagues, your professor and you. If you cheat, you don’t help yourself in the long run.

Specific Advice for Multiple Choice Tests

  1. Read each question carefully and try to answer it before you read the alternatives. If you do and then see your answer as one of the alternatives, you can be more certain that you’ve answered it correctly than just by recognizing an alternative.
  2. But make sure you look at all the answers before choosing. It is important to read all the answers, and not just take the first seemingly correct answer that you see. Remember that the wrong answers are called distracters because that’s what they are. They may well be familiar terms from the course, just not the answer to that question.
  3. Do not spend too much time on any one question. Sometimes the question will seem to have no right answer. You may think that the professor has made a mistake and that there is no correct answer. Maybe, but not as likely as that you just don’t know the answer at the moment. In any case don’t waste too much time trying to answer a difficult question. Leave it blank and you can come back to it later if you have extra time.
  4. If the question asks you something you do not know, see if you can cross out any of the wrong answers before you make a choice. By carefully eliminating answers you know must be wrong, you can increase your chances of guessing correctly. If you only know the answers to half the questions on a multiple-choice test, your score will be 50%. But if you can eliminate one alternative from each of the other questions you could bring your score up to 67%. And if you can eliminate two alternatives on each your score may rise to 75%.
  5. Don’t keep changing your answer. Most research suggests that your first answer is more likely correct than any changes you would make. Change your answer only if you are certain that you made a mistake as in the case where another question provides you with additional information.
  6. After you have finished the test, go back to those questions you left blank. See if you can answer them now. Use all of the rest of the time wisely. Never leave a test early, unless you are sure you have answered every question correctly.
  7. If you still cannot answer a question, guess before you turn in the test. On a four alternative multiple choice test you have a 25% chance of getting an answer right. On standardized tests this amount may be deducted for each wrong answer to penalize guessing; but few class room tests are graded this way.

How to Take Essay Tests
Essay tests require a different kind of preparation than objective tests. Professors who use essay tests are trying to determine if you understand the material and whether you can apply it rather than if you just know certain facts. You will of course need to know the facts but you must also look for connections and contrasts between these facts. You must know them well enough to do something with them.

  1. Read all the questions quickly before you begin to plan your answer. There will generally be a plan for the test so that it adequately covers the course material. You should understand that plan and know what kind of information needs to be included in each question.
  2. Plan your time. How much time will you have to write each answer? Allow yourself some extra time at the end to make certain that you’ve answered every question and that you’ve numbered, named, labeled and organized the test as the professor has requested before your turn the test in—on time. Don’t make the professor wait just on you—that can’t help your grade.
  3. As you read each question pay close attention to the verbs asking you to do something specific with the course information. (See below for examples.) If you don’t understand what the professor wants, ask for clarification.
  4. Write out a plan for how you will meet the requirements of the question. The more systematic the structure you can provide, the better organized (and therefore more readable) your essay will be.
  5. Plan your answer based on the criteria the professor uses to grade the exam. Is the grade based on organization, content, spelling and grammar, quantity or conciseness? The more you now about the essays are graded the more you can tailor your work to those criteria.
  6. Write a draft. Now you are writing for yourself, to get as much relevant information down on paper as quickly as possible while it occurs to you. Don’t think about handwriting or spelling or complete sentences.
  7. Now write your answer, revising, to make certain that the organization is clear. You will do well to underline and otherwise organize the answer so that it is immediately clear that you have answered it completely and clearly.
  8. Reread the answer slowly. Do more details come to mind? Is there anything you should delete? Have you met all the criteria? Does your essay answer all parts of the question?

Key Verbs in Essay Questions

  • Analyze- Break concepts down into parts, identify the parts and demonstrate how they relate to each other to make the whole.
  • Assess/Criticize/Evaluate- Clearly state your criteria and determine whether the concepts measure up.
  • Classify- Break the concept into categories making certain that you provide a rationale for doing so and that you clearly label the categories.
  • Compare/Contrast- Find important similarities and differences between two ideas and indicate why these are significant issues. Emphasize similarities if you are asked to compare, differences if you are asked to contrast.
  • Define/Identify- What makes the topic, concept or issue what it is? How is it different from other members of the same category?
  • Discuss/Examine- Analyze or evaluate the topic, generating your own significant questions, and going beyond mere summary.
    Illustrate Use specific examples to clarify the characteristics of the idea.
  • Outline/Review/State- Organize main and subordinate points in order to classify the elements or stages of development of the idea, concept, topic, etc.
  • Prove/Validate Provide logical reasons and cite evidence to convince the reader of the truth of the concept.
Your research for ENC 1102, and for other college courses, will likely include looking for online sources. If you find potential sources online, you will probably find that they vary widely in quality, in currency, and in reliability. You should limit yourself to only those sources that show evidence of carrying authority. Does the site identify authors and provide their credentials? Does the site offer documentation so that readers can substantiate information? Does the site avoid seeming to offer political propaganda? Is it free of advertising, commercial or political? Is the site up-to-date? By asking such questions, you can avoid selecting sources that will undermine your own credibility.

More specifically, your research assignment for ENC 1102 is most likely to involve online sources of these three types:

  1. Articles in online periodicals (journals and magazines actually published on the World Wide Web)
  2. Periodical articles available through electronic databases such as ProQuest
  3. Web sites of special pertinence and exceptional reliability

The instructions below explain how you can find such sources and how you should include them in your Works Cited list.

Web Sites and Articles in Online Periodicals
Suppose, for example, you are writing a paper on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. You might begin your online search by using a Web browser in Internet Explorer to do an Internet search. Then you would type in keywords such as these: Petruchio, Taming, Shrew. Among the many potential sources your search produced, you would find the three listed below, one an article in a scholarly journal, one an article in a magazine, the third a Web site. The last fits into category #3 above; the other two fit into category #1. Each is given here in the MLA form you would use should you use material from it and thus include it in your Works Cited list.

Heaney, Peter F. “Petruchio’s Horse: Equine and Household Mismanagement in The Taming of the Shrew.” Early Modern Literary Studies 4.1 (1998): 12 pars. 12 Jan. 2004 <>.

Kerrigan, William W. “The Case for Bardolatry: Harold Bloom Rescues Shakespeare from the Critics.” Lingua Franca Nov. 1998. 12 Jan. 2004 < 9811/kerrigan.html>.

Pressley, J. M. “Shakespeare’s Works.” Shakespeare Resource Center. 5 Jan. 2006. 25 Jan. 2006 <>.

Full-Text Print Articles Available Through Database
In order to locate sources fitting into category #2 above (periodical articles available through an electronic database), you would again begin with Internet Explorer. Using a computer station connected to the FC network, you enter the ―Academics‖ section of the FC Web site, then click on “Library,” on ―Subscription Databases,‖ and then on the database you intend to use—for example, “ProQuest.”

Entering the search words “Taming AND Shrew,” you would find (again, among many other listings) a reference to the following article, which ProQuest offers in full text or “page image” (that is, appearing on the screen page by page, just as the article appeared in its print form). The citation is given here in Works Cited format, MLA Style:

Fisher, Will. “The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England.” Renaissance Quarterly 54 (2001): 155 – 87. ProQuest. Florida College Chatlos Library, Temple Terrace, FL. 12 Aug. 2007 <>.

General Comments on the MLA Forms Illustrated Above
Essentially, the sample “Works Cited” entries above offer the following information:

  1. Author’s name, in inverted order. (If the relevant source is an editor or compiler, the appropriate abbreviation should follow the name: “ed.” or “comp.”)
  2. “Essay Title”
  3. Title of Site or Journal with publication information for the print version (if a print version exists). For scholarly journals, this information includes volume and issue numbers (separated by a period), followed by the year (in parenthesis). For magazines, the issue date suffices (as in the example above from Lingua Franca). Then a colon should introduce the page numbers for the article (if those are available, as in the Fisher sample entry above), or the number of pages (if the electronic version displays print pagination) or the number of paragraphs (if the source has numbered them, as in the Heaney sample entry above)
  4. For a Web site, the date of the most recent update (if available)
  5. For a category #2 source (like the Fisher example), the name of the database or subscription service and the name and location of the subscribing library
  6. The date of your access to the source
  7. The electronic location (URL) of the source, enclosed in angle brackets; or, if access came through a database or subscription service, the URL of the main page of that service (as in the ProQuest illustration above)

The sample entries offered here, as well as the general description of MLA “Works Cited” forms for electronic sources, are based on the more detailed explanation available in the MLA Handbook (6th edition) or through the MLA Web site, at < style_faq4>. For more detailed information, consult one of those sources.