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Use the discovery of prior research as an opportunity to demonstrate the significance of the problem being investigated and, if applicable, as a means of delineating your analysis from those of others [e.g., the prior study is ten years old and doesn't take into account new variables].
You can acknowledge the other research by writing in the text of your paper something like this: [see also Smith, 2002], then citing the complete source in your list of references.
When referencing prior studies, use the research problem as your guide when considering what to cite. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. This guide provides good information on the act of citation analysis, whereby you count the number of times a published work is cited by other works in order to measure the impact of a publication or author.
If a study from forty years ago investigated the same research problem, it probably should be examined and considered in your list of references because the research may have been foundational or groundbreaking even if its findings are no longer relevant to current conditions . Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015; Research and Citation Resources. The links below lead to systems where you can type in your information and have a citation compiled for you.
However, if it is someone else's particularly succinct expression, but it fits perfectly with what you are trying to say, then you can quote it directly, referencing the source.
Do not see this as a setback or become discouraged if you discover that your brilliant idea or important insight has already been identified by someone else.