Writing a Research Paper
Writing a research paper can be an extensive process, and it can be overwhelming if you do not break it down into small manageable steps. It is important to complete each of the steps in a specific order in order to create the best possible paper. First, you should begin by choosing a topic for your paper. Usually the topic will depend on the class that you are taking, but then you have a range of topics available within the context of the assignment. The trick to choosing a good topic is to find one that interests you and that is fairly easy to research.
Tips on Choosing a Topic
- Purdue University: Offers a guide to choosing a topic
- Teacher2B: Offers a guide to helping your student choose topics for their papers
- Duke University: Offers a guide to choosing a topic for a paper
Next, you will need to research your topic. You can begin your research by doing a broad study of the topic. This can be done in encyclopedias, but you should begin to focus your research down to a smaller specific topic. You may use articles from journals and magazines, books and credible online resources to conduct your research. Additionally, you can ask a librarian for help if you become stumped. As you do your research, be sure to keep track of the sources for your materials and the quotes that you decide to use.
- Cornell University: Offers a seven step guide to the research process
- Science Buddies: Offers tips on researching science topics
After you have done your research, and before you begin writing your paper, you should make an outline. This will help your ideas to flow smoothly as you write, and should point out any areas that you may need to research further. Additionally, it will prevent you from rambling as you write about each point in your outline.
Tips on Outlining
- State University of New York at Albany: Offers a sample format for your outline
- Dartmouth University: Explains the importance of the outlining process
When you write your first draft you should make sure that you cover all the areas you listed in your outline. Once you have finished your first draft, you need to read over it and make sure that you did not miss any major points, and that your logic is easy to follow. Once you have fixed these errors, you can proofread for punctuation and spelling errors.
Tips on Writing Your Paper
- Academic Tips: Offers a guide on writing your paper
- A Research Guide: Offers tips on writing your first draft
It is important to correctly cite all of your sources for your research paper. All of your quotes should include a reference to the source. You will need to include all the sources that you used for research, not just the ones that you quote in a Works Cited page at the end of the paper. The format of your paper will depend on the style guide that you are assigned to use. This may include MLA, APA, or Chicago Style guides.
Tips on Citing Your Paper According to Style Guide
- Purdue University: Shares a basic APA style guide
- Chicago Manual of Style: Offers a quick citation guide
Once you have completed the final draft of your paper, you should make sure that you include the proper format according to your style guide. This may or may not include a title page and a header with your name and page numbering. You should also prepare to present your paper if your teacher requires you to. This means that you should be able to explain what your paper is about and answer any questions that may be asked. You may also want to prepare visual elements to support your presentation.