documentation (research)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

evidence
When you quote, paraphrase, or summarize someone else's words and ideas, you have to document your source. (Rafe Swan/Getty Images)

Definition

In a report or research paper, documentation is the evidence provided (in the form of endnotes, footnotes, and entries in bibliographies) for information and ideas borrowed from others. That evidence includes both primary sources and secondary sources.

There are numerous documentation styles and formats, including MLA style (used for research in the humanities), APA style (psychology, sociology, education), Chicago style (history), and ACS style (chemistry).

For more information about these different styles, see Choosing a Style Manual and Documentation Guide.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "Documentation has many meanings, from the broad--anything written in any medium--to the narrow--policies and procedures manuals or perhaps records."
    (Adrienne Escoe, The Practical Guide to People-Friendly Documentation, 2nd. ed. ASQ Quality Press, 2001)
  • "An issue more important than documentation form is knowing when to document. In brief, anything that is copied needs to be documented. . . .

    "Perhaps the best tip for knowing when to document is to use common sense. If writers are careful to give credit where it is due and to provide the reader with easy access to all the source material, the text is probably documented appropriately."
    (Kristin R. Woolever, About Writing: A Rhetoric for Advanced Writers. Wadsworth, 1991)
  • Note-Taking and Documentation During the Research Process
    "The most important thing to remember when you take notes from your sources is that you must clearly distinguish between quoted, paraphrased, and summarized material that must be documented in your paper and ideas that do not require documentation because they are considered general knowledge about that subject."
    (Linda Smoak Schwartz, The Wadsworth Guide to MLA Documentation, 2nd ed. Wadsworth, 2011)
  • Library Resources Versus Internet Resources
    "When you are reviewing and analyzing your resources, keep in mind that the library/Internet distinction is not quite as simple as it might seem at first. The Internet is where students often turn when they are having difficulty getting started. Many instructors warn students against using Internet resources because they are easily alterable and because anyone can construct and publish a Web site. These points are important to remember, but it is essential to use clear evaluative criteria when you are looking at any resource. Print resources can be self-published as well. Analyzing how easily a resource is changed, how often it is changed, who changed it, who reviews it, and who is responsible for the content will help you choose resources that are reliable and credible, wherever you might find them."
    (Susan K. Miller-Cochran and Rochelle L. Rodrigo, The Wadsworth Guide to Research, Documentation, rev. ed. Wadsworth, 2011)
  • Parenthetical Documentation
    You may decide to vary the pattern of documentation by presenting the information from a source and placing the author's name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence. This method is particularly useful if you have already established the identity of your source in a previous sentence and now want to develop the author's idea in some detail without having to clutter your sentences with constant references to his or her name.
    Writers have been persecuted throughout literary history (Morrison 2).

    Works Cited

    Morrison, Toni. "Peril." Burn This Book. Ed. Toni Morrison. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.
    (Joseph F. Trimmer, A Guide to MLA Documentation, 9th ed. Wadsworth, 2012)

    Pronunciation: dok-yuh-men-TAY-shun

    Format
    mla apa chicago
    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "documentation (research)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/documentation-in-research-1690405. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, March 3). documentation (research). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/documentation-in-research-1690405 Nordquist, Richard. "documentation (research)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/documentation-in-research-1690405 (accessed May 27, 2018).