There are many excellent comprehensive guides to writing research papers, both in book form and on the World Wide Web. Books can be purchased at the bookstore or borrowed from the library. Links to some of the best websites are provided below. What is offered here is a brief guide to writing research papers.
1.) Choosing a Topic
a.) The choice of a paper topic is typically related to the content of the course being taken. If there is something in the class presentation or discussion that arouses your interest, you may wish to choose this as your paper topic. It is frequently helpful to keep a record of all your responses to the course material in the back of your class notebook. This way you will have a number of possible topics to choose from, or perhaps you will discover a pattern already expressed in your responses, a pattern that can then be organized into a meaningful paper. Make sure you check with your teacher, to see if your topic is acceptable, before you proceed with your research and writing.
b.) Look at the Opposing Viewpoints Series in your library for ideas about a paper. Also peruse the Current Issues Series. (Ask the librarian for tips about searching for these series in the library.)
c.) Look at the news, newspapers, and magazines for current issues that interest you. Again, check with your teacher to see if your paper topic is acceptable before you proceed with researching and writing the paper.
2.) Researching the Topic
Search newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals and books for your topic. (Don't be afraid to ask your librarian for help determining the best ways to do this.) Use the library's databases to search newspapers, magazines and journals for your topic. Read these materials. It is usually not necessary to read all of everything that you have found. Read the most relevant carefully and thoroughly, and skim those that are only tangentially related. Read relevant sections of a particular book or essay and skim the less relevant sections.
3.) Taking Notes
Quote, paraphrase, or outline important ideas from the materials that you have read. Be sure to cite your sources and give proper credit to those who have helped develop the ideas that you are using. Jot down the author, title, publisher, date of publication, and page number of all sources that you use. It is a good idea that you do this as you proceed, rather than waiting and coming back to a source. This will save you from having to find a passage a second time and it will help you keep track of what belongs to the author and what belongs to you.
4.) Writing the Paper
Use your notes to write your paper. As you read over your notes, look for main themes or even the main theme or point of view. Look for how this main point may be supported by the facts and arguments that you have collected. And, of course, if you can create your own arguments to supplement and enhance what is already stated, this is even better. Try your best to state the main theme and supporting points in your own words. Talk to a friend, or pretend to talk to a friend, about your paper. In your own words, try to explain the main idea and how the subordinate points support it. In addition to helping you express these ideas in your own words, this exercise may well stimulate your own thoughts and unique contribution to this topic.
Most papers will have a thesis statement or main idea and supporting facts/ideas/arguments. State your main idea (something of interest or something to be proven or argued for or against) as your thesis statement, and then provide your supporting facts and arguments.
Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your beginning or introductory paragraph should state what you are going to do (your main idea and how you will support it), the body of the paper should execute what you have stated in the introduction, and the conclusion should briefly express what you have accomplished and how.
5 .) Preparing a Works Cited Page
Make sure you prepare a bibliography and that you cite all works properly. There are a number of citation styles, for example, APA Style, or MLA Style, to mention just a few. Most citation styles have published complete manuals stating the proper format to be used. Check with your teacher to see which style is to be used for your paper, then check with your library and consult the appropriate manual. If you cannot get to the library, many websites are available that provide samples of most citation styles.
Simply go to a search engine like Google and, for example, search something like:
APA style guide samples, and numerous websites will appear that provide sample citations of various sorts.
Important Note: These tips have been adopted and adapted from the book Harbrace Writing Course. They are intended as a brief general guide. Specific faculty members in specific disciplines may develop different rubrics or criteria for evaluating different types of papers. Students should thus consult with their current teachers about grading criteria for specific classes and for specific paper assignments. Also, please consult the current Harbrace College Handbook, available at the library, for details about grammar, paragraph unity, paper unity, etc.
1.) Assignment Requirements
Students should pay close attention to the assignment as set forth by their instructors. In general, however, students should ensure that the assignment:
2.) Writing Guidelines
In general the paper should contain:
3.) Critical Thinking Guidelines
Students should display knowledge of the material by ensuring their papers reveal:
There are many excellent online guides to writing papers. Here are a few:
A Guide for Writing Research Papers, MLA-Style: http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/library/mla.pdf
A Guide for Writing Research Papers, APA-Style: http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/apa/
The Nuts and Bots of College Writing: http://nutsandbolts.washcoll.edu/
IPL Teenspace: A+ Research & Writing: http://www.ipl.org/div/teen/aplus/
How to Write an Essay: http://www.bham.ac.uk/english/bibliography/students/essay.htm
Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper:http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/humanities/philosophy.shtml
A Guide to Writing in Mathematics Classes: http://edisk.fandm.edu/annalisa.crannell/writing_in_math/guide.html
A Guide to Writing in the Sciences: http://classweb.gmu.edu/biologyresources/writingguide/ScientificPaper.htm
Guide to Writing History Papers: http://www.sou.edu/history/carney/writing.htm