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HONR 200: Rhetoric

Advanced research strategies for HONR 200: Rhetoric students

Starting Your Research

Welcome! This guide explains how to find articles and other sources for your rhetoric paper. It includes advice for:

Library Research FAQs

What are the library research issues that Honors faculty and the Honors Librarian find most frequently in students' work? These questions and their answers are provided below.

  • Question: I'm collecting a lot of sources for my Rhetoric paper—how do I keep track of them all?
  • Answer: You can add sources as you find them to a citation manager such as Zotero or Mendeley. Citation managers also let you organize your sources using folders and tags and will even generate your References list for your final paper. Learn more about how to get a free account and use your chosen citation manager with our Citation Tools guide.


  • Question: Which citation style should I use for my Rhetoric paper?
  • Answer: The most common citation styles are APA, Chicago/Turabian, and MLA, but each discipline has its preferred style. For example, because the social sciences often prefer more recent research, the publication date appears second only to the author's name in APA, most social sciences' preferred style. Publication date is less important in the humanities, so date appears near the end of MLA citations. The most important thing to keep in mind is to stick with whichever citation style you've chosen throughout your paper. If your topic is an interdisciplinary one, you might be collecting sources from journals in (for example) the hard sciences as well as the social sciences, which means those journals might style their citations differently. You must reformat all citations into your chosen style for your Rhetoric paper (and for all your college/grad school papers, for that matter).


  • Question: How do I get the DOI/URL for online sources to include in my References list?
  • Answer: On the article page, CTRL + F for the words "permalink," "DOI," and "cite" to find the DOI (permanent URL) for online sources. Can't find any of these words? Look up an article's DOI at Do NOT use any URL that has the word "proxy" in it (the URL from your browser's URL bar) because they are not permanent links that only work for 24-48 hours.


  • Question: When using library databases, I can't tell which of the names at the top of the page are the database name. Which one should I use?
  • Answer: VCU Libraries subscribes to several large database platforms that can have dozens of databases. Databases will therefore often include both the name of the platform as well as the name of the database. When citing sources, include the database, NOT the platform, as your reader may not be able to track the source down without the database name. The database will usually have a subject-specific name such as Sociological Abstracts or Business Source Complete. The main database vendors to avoid citing are EBSCOhost and ProQuest. When in doubt, ask a librarian.


  • Question: Can I use citation generators (e.g., Citation Machine, the built-in citation generators in library databases, or citation managers such as Zotero/Mendeley) to help with my References list?
  • Answer: Citation generators are helpful for building the first draft of a citation and may be used for this purpose. However, citation generators frequently have errors in how they punctuate and capitalize sources and may even omit important elements (such as a journal's issue number), so it's important to check all citations against the manual of the style you're using.