Step-By-Step Development of a Research Paper
"Langston Hughes and the Invention of the Blues Poem"

Step 2: Locate Sources

Luke's first step was to explore library resources. Using the library's online catalog, he located encyclopedia articles and biographical information on Langston Hughes. He was also able to find a number of critical works on the Harlem Renaissance that included commentary on Hughes's life and work.

As he worked, Luke consciously separated his sources into two categories: primary and secondary. Sources featuring original works by Hughes were classified as primary; sources compiled by later biographers or literary critics were classified as secondary.

His teacher, Mr. Palumbo, had instructed the students to use the MLA format for citing sources. Therefore, Luke made bibliography cards that looked like this:


Lewis, David Levering. When Harlem Was in Vogue. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

My note: Interesting account of Langston Hughes's early days in Harlem, pp. 78–87

Each bibliography card identified the author, title, publisher, and city and date of publication, as well as any reminder notes for himself. He made sure to include information about the pages where he obtained his information.

Next, Luke searched for online sources. Typing the search term Langston Hughes into a search engine, he uncovered 1.6 million results. The top-ranking results were these:

As a first step to evaluating his results, Luke looked at the domains in the Web addresses. He knew that URLs with the suffixes .edu and .gov are generally more reliable than ones with the suffixes .com and .org. Luke saw that one result was a Webcast from the Library of Congress. He decided to watch the Webcast to acquire an overview of the subject matter.