Steps to Writing a Research Paper

Writing a research paper can be intimidating, but the following steps will help you prepare an effective research paper:

The Preliminaries

___ 1. Choose a subject to write about
___ 2. Conduct some preliminary research
___ 3. Narrow your topic
___ 4. Develop an initial thesis statement. It can change during the research process

Helpful Hints:
When choosing a topic to write about, select a topic you find challenging and interesting. Choosing a topic of interest will help you put the necessary amount of effort in your research. Avoid choosing a subject that is too technical or too general. Narrow your topic down to a specific aspect of a subject, concept or idea. For example, narrow your topic from “Religion” to “Catholicism”.

Your thesis statement should be a declaration of your belief or position regarding the topic you have chosen to research and write your paper. It should be concise and no longer than one sentence. The bulk of your essay will consist of arguments and proof defending your thesis. Your thesis state should reflect the type of research paper you’re writing: analytical, expository or argumentative.

Gathering Data

___ 1. Collect research materials for a working bibliography
___ 2. List your initial sources in bibliographic from on (3″ x 5″ cards)
___ 3. Expand your research by checking:
       a. general bibliographies
       b. trade bibliographies
       c. indexes (books and collections, literature in periodicals, newspaper indexes, pamphlet indexes)
       d. library electronic catalogue

Helpful Hints:
The internet is also a great source to get started gathering data for your research paper. Use search engines as your starting point. However, notwithstanding the plethora of information that can be found on the net, information found online isn’t always reliable.

You’ll want to avoid relying on information from government sites that offer information tainted by political bias, commercial websites that have an agenda and the millions of personal pages that offers opinions and conjecture. Make sure you evaluate websites and the information they present critically before including it in your paper.

A few reliable online resources for gathering data include Wikipedia, Britannica and Online Reference Materials, among many others. However, even with these sources, you’ll want to verify all information you decided to use in your research paper.

Taking Notes

___ 1. Prepare an outline for your research paper
___ 2. Take time to review your sources to determine whether they are secondary or primary sources
___ 3. Jot notes and key facts on (4″ x 6″ cards)
___ 4. Never plagiarize another author!

Writing the Paper

___ 1. Prepare a final outline and compare it with your research conclusions
___ 2. Prepare to write:
       a. Arrange your notes in the order the information will appear in the paper
       b. Take time to think about how your audience will react to your paper

___ 3. Prepare a rough draft
___ 4. Review your essay to make sure you have referenced your sources
___ 5. Review the essay and make revisions if necessary
___ 6. Complete a final review of citations and your bibliography
___ 7. Review the essay for spelling and grammatical errors

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