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What is a Research Paper?

Language & Lit

❶Accessed 14 September

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Ask yourself important questions. Although you may be limited by specific classroom or work related guidelines, choosing your topic is the first and most important step in your research paper project. Regardless of whether your topic can be anything you want or has rigid requirements, it is important to keep a few questions in mind: Is there enough research available on this topic?

Is the topic new and unique enough that I can offer fresh opinions? Pick something you love. Whenever possible, choose a topic that you feel passionate about. Writing about something you enjoy certainly shows in the final product, making it more likely that you will be successful writing a paper about something you enjoy.

If you are writing a research paper for a class, consider the other students. Is it likely that they will also be writing about your topic? How can you keep your paper unique and interesting if everyone is writing about the same thing? Asking a professor for help may seem frightening, but if they are worth anything as a professor, they want you to be successful with your work, and will do what they can to make that happen.

Although it requires a bit more time, you have the ability to change your topic even after you begin researching others. With a topic selected, the next step is to begin research. Research comes in numerous forms including web pages, journal articles, books, encyclopedias, interviews, and blog posts, among others.

Take time to look for professional resources who offer valid research and insight into your topic. Try to use a minimum of five sources to vary your information; never rely on only sources. Look for empirical research. Whenever possible, look for peer-reviewed empirical research.

These are articles or books written by experts in your field of interest, whose work has been read and vouched for by other experts in the same field. These can be found in scientific journals or via an online search.

Take a trip to your local library or university library. Although it may seem old fashioned, libraries are chock full of helpful research materials from books to newspapers and magazines to journals. Typically, websites that end with. That is because these websites belong to schools, the government, or organizations dealing with your topic.

Try changing your search query often to find different search results for your topic. There are special search engines and academic databases available that search through thousands of peer-reviewed or scientifically published journals, magazines, and books. Look for databases that cover your subject only. For example, PsycINFO is an academic database that holds nothing but works done by authors in the field of psychology and sociology.

This will help you to get more tailored results than a very general search would. Take advantage of this ability to ask for specific information by using as many of the query boxes as you can. Visit your school library and ask the librarian for a full list of the academic databases they subscribe to, as well as the passwords for each. Get creative with your research.

This should contain many more books and journals that are about your topic as well. This step is very important: Make marks on anything that you think might be remotely important or that could be put to use in your paper. As you mark off important pieces in the research, add your own commentary and notes explaining to yourself where you might use it in your paper.

Writing down your ideas as you have them will make writing your paper much easier and give you something to refer back to. Annotating your research can take quite a bit of time, but needs to be taken one step further in order to add a bit more clarity for the outlining process.

Organize your notes by collecting all of your highlighted phrases and ideas into categories based on topic. For example, if you are writing a paper analyzing a famous work of literature, you could organize your research into a list of notes on the characters, a list of references to certain points in the plot, a list of symbols the author presents, et cetera. Try writing each quote or item that you marked onto an individual note card.

That way, you can rearrange and lay out your cards however you would like. Color code your notes to make it easier. Write down a list of all the notes you are using from each individual resource, and then highlight each category of information in a different color. For example, write everything from a particular book or journal on a single sheet of paper in order to consolidate the notes, and then everything that is related to characters highlight in green, everything related to the plot mark in orange, et cetera.

As you go through your notes, mark down the author, page number, title, and publishing information for each resource. This will come in handy when you craft your bibliography or works cited page later in the game.

Identify the goal of the paper. Generally, speaking, there are two types of research paper: Each requires a slightly different focus and writing style which should be identified prior to starting a rough draft. An argumentative research paper takes a position on a contentious issue and argues for one point of view. The issue should be debatable with a logical counter argument. An analytic research paper offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit.

This is not simply a regurgitation of ideas from your research, but an offering of your own unique ideas based on what you have learned through research. Who would be reading this paper, should it be published? Although you want to write for your professor or other superior, it is important that the tone and focus of your paper reflect the audience who will be reading it. The thesis statement is a sentence statement at the beginning of your paper that states the main goal or argument of your paper.

Although you can alter the wording of your thesis statement for the final draft later, coming up with the main goal of your essay must be done in the beginning. All of your body paragraphs and information will revolve around your thesis, so make sure that you are clear on what your thesis is. What is the primary question or hypothesis that you are going to go about proving in your paper? Beginning in the middle Write the body of the paper, starting with the thesis statement and omitting for now the introduction unless you already know exactly how to begin, but few writers do.

Use supporting detail to logically and systematically validate your thesis statement. For now, omit the conclusion also. Organization and attribution Read, revise, and make sure that your ideas are clearly organized and that they support your thesis statement.

Every single paragraph should have a single topic that is derived from the thesis statement. If any paragraph does not, take it out, or revise your thesis if you think it is warranted.

Check that you have quoted and paraphrased accurately, and that you have acknowledged your sources even for your paraphrasing. Every single idea that did not come to you as a personal epiphany or as a result of your own methodical reasoning should be attributed to its owner.

Intro, conclusion, and citations Write the final draft. Add a one-paragraph introduction and a one-paragraph conclusion. Usually the thesis statement appears as the last sentence or two of the first, introductory paragraph. The conclusion should not simply restate your thesis, but should refer to it. Time and objectivity Time permitting, allow a few days to elapse between the time you finish writing your last draft and the time you begin to make final corrections.

This "time out" will make you more perceptive, more objective, and more critical. On your final read, check for grammar, punctuation, correct word choice, adequate and smooth transitions, sentence structure, and sentence variety.

How to Start and Complete a Research Paper. Read and keep records. Create a mind map or outline. Add the beginning and end.

Then, narrow your topic to manageable size: Anorexia Nervosa Once you have decided on a topic and determined that enough information is available, you are ready to proceed. A well-prepared thesis means well-shaped ideas. It increases credibility of the paper and makes good impression about its author.

More helpful hints about Writing a Research Paper. An informal outline working outline is a tool helping an author put down and organize their ideas. It is subject to revision, addition and canceling, without paying much attention to form.

In a formal outline, numbers and letters are used to arrange topics and subtopics. The letters and numbers of the same kind should be placed directly under one another. The topics denoted by their headings and subheadings should be grouped in a logical order. All points of a research paper outline must relate to the same major topic that you first mentioned in your capital Roman numeral. The purpose of an outline is to help you think through your topic carefully and organize it logically before you start writing.

A good outline is the most important step in writing a good paper. Check your outline to make sure that the points covered flow logically from one to the other. Make the first outline tentative. What is the chief reason you are writing the paper? State also how you plan to approach your topic.

Is this a factual report, a book review, a comparison, or an analysis of a problem? Explain briefly the major points you plan to cover in your paper and why readers should be interested in your topic. BODY — This is where you present your arguments to support your thesis statement. Remember the Rule of 3, i. Begin with a strong argument, then use a stronger one, and end with the strongest argument for your final point.

Explain why you have come to this particular conclusion. Organize all the information you have gathered according to your outline. Critically analyze your research data. Using the best available sources, check for accuracy and verify that the information is factual, up-to-date, and correct. Opposing views should also be noted if they help to support your thesis. This is the most important stage in writing a research paper.

Here you will analyze, synthesize, sort, and digest the information you have gathered and hopefully learn something about your topic which is the real purpose of doing a research paper in the first place.

You must also be able to effectively communicate your thoughts, ideas, insights, and research findings to others through written words as in a report, an essay, a research or term paper, or through spoken words as in an oral or multimedia presentation with audio-visual aids.

Do not include any information that is not relevant to your topic, and do not include information that you do not understand. Make sure the information that you have noted is carefully recorded and in your own words, if possible.

Plagiarism is definitely out of the question. Document all ideas borrowed or quotes used very accurately. As you organize your notes, jot down detailed bibliographical information for each cited paragraph and have it ready to transfer to your Works Cited page. Devise your own method to organize your notes.

One method may be to mark with a different color ink or use a hi-liter to identify sections in your outline, e. Group your notes following the outline codes you have assigned to your notes, e. This method will enable you to quickly put all your resources in the right place as you organize your notes according to your outline.

Start with the first topic in your outline. Read all the relevant notes you have gathered that have been marked, e. Summarize, paraphrase or quote directly for each idea you plan to use in your essay. Use a technique that suits you, e. Mark each card or sheet of paper clearly with your outline code or reference, e. Put all your note cards or paper in the order of your outline, e.

If using a word processor, create meaningful filenames that match your outline codes for easy cut and paste as you type up your final paper, e. Before you know it, you have a well organized term paper completed exactly as outlined. The unusual symbol will make it easy for you to find the exact location again. Delete the symbol once editing is completed. Read your paper for any content errors. Double check the facts and figures. Arrange and rearrange ideas to follow your outline.


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Community College Pathways; Corporate; Government Agencies Steps in Writing a Research Paper. A series of steps, starting with developing a research question and working thesis, will lead you through writing a research paper. As you move through these steps and actually create the research paper, you may find that you can't move through.

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Many college courses require students to write one or more research papers. Creating an effective and engaging introductory paragraph is one of the keys to writing a .

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A research paper involves surveying a field of knowledge in order to find the best possible information in that field. And that survey can be orderly and focused, if you know how to approach it. Don't worry--you won't get lost in a sea of sources.

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