Writing a Research Paper
This page lists some of the stages involved in writing a library-based research paper.
Although this list suggests that there is a simple, linear process to writing such a paper, the actual process of writing a research paper is often a messy and recursive one, so please use this outline as a flexible guide.
- Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic
- Finding, Selecting, and Reading Sources
- Grouping, Sequencing, and Documenting Information
- Writing an Outline and a Prospectus for Yourself
- Writing the Introduction
- Writing the Body
- Writing the Conclusion
- Revising the Final Draft
Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic
- Try to find a topic that truly interests you
- Try writing your way to a topic
- Talk with your course instructor and classmates about your topic
- Pose your topic as a question to be answered or a problem to be solved
Finding, Selecting, and Reading Sources
You will need to look at the following types of sources:
- library catalog, periodical indexes, bibliographies, suggestions from your instructor
- primary vs. secondary sources
- journals, books, other documents
Grouping, Sequencing, and Documenting Information
The following systems will help keep you organized:
- a system for noting sources on bibliography cards
- a system for organizing material according to its relative importance
- a system for taking notes
Writing an Outline and a Prospectus for Yourself
Consider the following questions:
- What is the topic?
- Why is it significant?
- What background material is relevant?
- What is my thesis or purpose statement?
- What organizational plan will best support my purpose?
Writing the Introduction
In the introduction you will need to do the following things:
- present relevant background or contextual material
- define terms or concepts when necessary
- explain the focus of the paper and your specific purpose
- reveal your plan of organization
Writing the Body
- Use your outline and prospectus as flexible guides
- Build your essay around points you want to make (i.e., don't let your sources organize your paper)
- Integrate your sources into your discussion
- Summarize, analyze, explain, and evaluate published work rather than merely reporting it
- Move up and down the "ladder of abstraction" from generalization to varying levels of detail back to generalization
Writing the Conclusion
- If the argument or point of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize the argument for your reader.
- If prior to your conclusion you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the end of your paper to add your points up, to explain their significance.
- Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction.
- Perhaps suggest what about this topic needs further research.
Revising the Final Draft
- Check overall organization: logical flow of introduction, coherence and depth of discussion in body, effectiveness of conclusion.
- Paragraph level concerns: topic sentences, sequence of ideas within paragraphs, use of details to support generalizations, summary sentences where necessary, use of transitions within and between paragraphs.
- Sentence level concerns: sentence structure, word choices, punctuation, spelling.
- Documentation: consistent use of one system, citation of all material not considered common knowledge, appropriate use of endnotes or footnotes, accuracy of list of works cited.
If you aren’t familiar with what a research paper is, let me give you’re a rundown of the definition: a research paper is a form of academic writing that has theoretical and substantial information that has gone through the proper process of in-depth research. It could contain arguments based on a thesis with significant evidence from a variety of supporting and reliable sources.
If you ask many individuals, they may say that writing a research paper is one challenging and meticulous task. But with enough practice throughout the years in school, it could be much easier once you get used to it. It definitely is meticulous because of the intensive research that comes with it, but if you really look at the big picture of it, a research paper just needs a few basic tips for it to be less challenging for individuals that are struggling. Before we start with the tips for writing an effective research paper, have the following materials:
- Note paper (make sure you have enough because you may be jotting down a lot of notes)
- Two or three different colored highlighters (for highlighting notes)
- Index cards
Organization is Key
Follow these substantial steps to be organized in writing a research paper:
- Select your topic carefully
- Choose sources that will be helpful and make sure they are reliable
- Index cards should be used to jot down helpful notes that you may need throughout the process or writing
- Your notes should be organized based on the topic it is under
- Have an outline that is well thought of
- Write a first draft so you have a skeleton of what your research paper
- Go through your first draft, read it thoroughly and re-write
- Edit when it is needed
Do the proper research
If you want to find helpful and reliable sources of information, the library is literally the best place to look around. There are numerous books, published articles, journals and etc. that you can choose from about your chosen topic. Choose a comfortable place in your local library where you are away from distractions and you can focus on the work that needs to be done. Try using the card catalog and computers available to make your search easier.
Choose your research topic carefully
If you have the freedom to choose what your research paper could be about, take advantage of the situation and choose a topic that you are interested in or a topic you are curious about. By doing this, it gives you motivation to do necessary research for it. Be specific when selecting a topic because most writers make a mistake in choosing a topic that is too general.
Jot down the proper notes
Like our first tip, be organized when it comes to writing down your notes. Take note of the information that will only be of help to you. Try color coding your notes by topic and you can use highlighters for marking the beneficial details so you can find that specific topic very easily. If you’re allowed, you can also photocopy an article or page from a book that you’ll need. This is best if there is too much to note down on paper. It will definitely save you time. Every time you note something down, make sure to write down the bibliographical information such as the author, the book title, page numbers used, volume number and publisher’s name and vital dates.
Brainstorm an outline
After in-depth research, you can proceed to writing an outline. With all the notes and vital information that you gathered, start brainstorming where those certain topics fit in. To “brainstorm an outline” doesn’t mean that they have to be structured in sentences. Note down what part would be the beginning, middle and end. This is the part where your research paper starts to take shape.
Write a first draft
After your outline, you can start on your first draft. Take your outline and get the ideas jotted down and form sentences and paragraphs with them. This is the part where you put more detail and life into the paper so people can read it and actually understand it. You can do more needed research if you feel like you’re lacking information. This is only the first draft, so you can still make changes as you go on.
Proofread and write your final paper
Once you reread your first draft over and over and make the necessary changes you feel you should make, it is time to write your final draft. Make sure that all the vital information is included and your paragraphs and sentences make sense and has a steady and natural flow all throughout. Check for typographical and grammatical errors. Spelling is also another thing you want to check for. Make sure that every source that you used is in the bibliography page because this is vital to your research paper.
When you’re finished with your final paper, do the final adjustments as needed. Read it as many times as you want and even ask a friend or professor to go through it and give out their opinion.
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