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Writing a Research Paper
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The pages in this section provide detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.
The Research Paper
There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.
Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.
The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:
- Genre - This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
- Choosing a Topic - This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses themselves.
- Identifying an Audience - This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
- Where Do I Begin - This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.
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- Knowledge Base
- Starting the research process
A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process
When you have to write a thesis or dissertation , it can be hard to know where to begin, but there are some clear steps you can follow.
The research process often begins with a very broad idea for a topic you’d like to know more about. You do some preliminary research to identify a problem . After refining your research questions , you can lay out the foundations of your research design , leading to a proposal that outlines your ideas and plans.
This article takes you through the first steps of the research process, helping you narrow down your ideas and build up a strong foundation for your research project.
Table of contents
Step 1: choose your topic, step 2: identify a problem, step 3: formulate research questions, step 4: create a research design, step 5: write a research proposal.
First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you’re interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you’ve taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose .
Even if you already have a good sense of your topic, you’ll need to read widely to build background knowledge and begin narrowing down your ideas. Conduct an initial literature review to begin gathering relevant sources. As you read, take notes and try to identify problems, questions, debates, contradictions and gaps. Your aim is to narrow down from a broad area of interest to a specific niche.
Make sure to consider the practicalities: the requirements of your programme, the amount of time you have to complete the research, and how difficult it will be to access sources and data on the topic. Before moving onto the next stage, it’s a good idea to discuss the topic with your thesis supervisor.
>>Read more about narrowing down a research topic
So you’ve settled on a topic and found a niche—but what exactly will your research investigate, and why does it matter? To give your project focus and purpose, you have to define a research problem .
The problem might be a practical issue—for example, a process or practice that isn’t working well, an area of concern in an organization’s performance, or a difficulty faced by a specific group of people in society.
Alternatively, you might choose to investigate a theoretical problem—for example, an underexplored phenomenon or relationship, a contradiction between different models or theories, or an unresolved debate among scholars.
To put the problem in context and set your objectives, you can write a problem statement . This describes who the problem affects, why research is needed, and how your research project will contribute to solving it.
>>Read more about defining a research problem
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Next, based on the problem statement, you need to write one or more research questions . These target exactly what you want to find out. They might focus on describing, comparing, evaluating, or explaining the research problem.
A strong research question should be specific enough that you can answer it thoroughly using appropriate qualitative or quantitative research methods. It should also be complex enough to require in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. Questions that can be answered with “yes/no” or with easily available facts are not complex enough for a thesis or dissertation.
In some types of research, at this stage you might also have to develop a conceptual framework and testable hypotheses .
>>See research question examples
The research design is a practical framework for answering your research questions. It involves making decisions about the type of data you need, the methods you’ll use to collect and analyze it, and the location and timescale of your research.
There are often many possible paths you can take to answering your questions. The decisions you make will partly be based on your priorities. For example, do you want to determine causes and effects, draw generalizable conclusions, or understand the details of a specific context?
You need to decide whether you will use primary or secondary data and qualitative or quantitative methods . You also need to determine the specific tools, procedures, and materials you’ll use to collect and analyze your data, as well as your criteria for selecting participants or sources.
>>Read more about creating a research design
Finally, after completing these steps, you are ready to complete a research proposal . The proposal outlines the context, relevance, purpose, and plan of your research.
As well as outlining the background, problem statement, and research questions, the proposal should also include a literature review that shows how your project will fit into existing work on the topic. The research design section describes your approach and explains exactly what you will do.
You might have to get the proposal approved by your supervisor before you get started, and it will guide the process of writing your thesis or dissertation.
>>Read more about writing a research proposal
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TIP Sheet HOW TO START (AND COMPLETE) A RESEARCH PAPER
You are a re-entry student and it's been fourteen years since you've written a paper. You coasted through high school on your charm and good looks and never actually wrote a research paper. You have written research papers, but every time is like the first time, and the first time was like a root canal. How do you start? Here is a step-by-step approach to starting and completing a research paper.
- Choose a topic.
- Read and keep records.
- Form a thesis.
- Create a mind map or outline.
- Read again.
- Rethink your thesis.
- Draft the body.
- Add the beginning and end.
- Proofread and edit.
You may read this TIP Sheet from start to finish before you begin your paper, or skip to the steps that are causing you the most grief.
1. Choosing a topic: Interest, information, and focus Your job will be more pleasant, and you will be more apt to retain information if you choose a topic that holds your interest. Even if a general topic is assigned ("Write about impacts of GMO crops on world food supply"), as much as possible find an approach that suits your interests. Your topic should be one on which you can find adequate information; you might need to do some preliminary research to determine this. Go to the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature in the reference section of the library, or to an electronic database such as Proquest or Wilson Web, and search for your topic. The Butte College Library Reference Librarians are more than happy to assist you at this (or any) stage of your research. Scan the results to see how much information has been published. Then, narrow your topic to manageable size:
Once you have decided on a topic and determined that enough information is available, you are ready to proceed. At this point, however, if you are having difficulty finding adequate quality information, stop wasting your time; find another topic.
2. Preliminary reading & recordkeeping Gather some index cards or a small notebook and keep them with you as you read. First read a general article on your topic, for example from an encyclopedia. On an index card or in the notebook, record the author, article and/or book title, and all publication information in the correct format (MLA or APA, for example) specified by your instructor. (If you need to know what publication information is needed for the various types of sources, see a writing guide such as S F Writer .) On the index cards or in your notebook, write down information you want to use from each identified source, including page numbers. Use quotation marks on anything you copy exactly, so you can distinguish later between exact quotes and paraphrasing. (You will still attribute information you have quoted or paraphrased.)
Some students use a particular index card method throughout the process of researching and writing that allows them great flexibility in organizing and re-organizing as well as in keeping track of sources; others color-code or otherwise identify groups of facts. Use any method that works for you in later drafting your paper, but always start with good recordkeeping.
3. Organizing: Mind map or outline Based on your preliminary reading, draw up a working mind map or outline. Include any important, interesting, or provocative points, including your own ideas about the topic. A mind map is less linear and may even include questions you want to find answers to. Use the method that works best for you. The object is simply to group ideas in logically related groups. You may revise this mind map or outline at any time; it is much easier to reorganize a paper by crossing out or adding sections to a mind map or outline than it is to laboriously start over with the writing itself.
4. Formulating a thesis: Focus and craftsmanship Write a well defined, focused, three- to five-point thesis statement, but be prepared to revise it later if necessary. Take your time crafting this statement into one or two sentences, for it will control the direction and development of your entire paper.
For more on developing thesis statements, see the TIP Sheets "Developing a Thesis and Supporting Arguments" and "How to Structure an Essay."
5. Researching: Facts and examples Now begin your heavy-duty research. Try the internet, electronic databases, reference books, newspaper articles, and books for a balance of sources. For each source, write down on an index card (or on a separate page of your notebook) the publication information you will need for your works cited (MLA) or bibliography (APA) page. Write important points, details, and examples, always distinguishing between direct quotes and paraphrasing. As you read, remember that an expert opinion is more valid than a general opinion, and for some topics (in science and history, for example), more recent research may be more valuable than older research. Avoid relying too heavily on internet sources, which vary widely in quality and authority and sometimes even disappear before you can complete your paper.
Never copy-and-paste from internet sources directly into any actual draft of your paper. For more information on plagiarism, obtain from the Butte College Student Services office a copy of the college's policy on plagiarism, or attend the Critical Skills Plagiarism Workshop given each semester.
6. Rethinking: Matching mind map and thesis After you have read deeply and gathered plenty of information, expand or revise your working mind map or outline by adding information, explanations, and examples. Aim for balance in developing each of your main points (they should be spelled out in your thesis statement). Return to the library for additional information if it is needed to evenly develop these points, or revise your thesis statement to better reflect what you have learned or the direction your paper seems to have taken.
7. Drafting: 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.
For more on systematically developing a thesis statement, see TIP sheets "Developing a Thesis and Supporting Arguments" and "How to Structure an Essay."
8. Revising: 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.
For more on writing papers that stay on-topic, see the TIP Sheets "Developing a Thesis and Supporting Arguments" and "How to Structure an Essay." For more on avoiding plagiarism, see the Butte College Student Services brochure, "Academic Honesty at Butte College," or attend the Critical Skills Plagiarism Workshop given each semester.
9. Writing: 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. Make sure all citations appear in the correct format for the style (MLA, APA) you are using. The conclusion should not simply restate your thesis, but should refer to it. (For more on writing conclusions, see the TIP Sheet "How to Structure an Essay.") Add a Works Cited (for MLA) or Bibliography (for APA) page.
10. Proofreading: 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. For further proofreading strategies, see the TIP Sheet "Revising, Editing, and Proofreading."
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How to start a research paper: Step-by-Step Guide
21 Mar 2022
7 steps on how to begin a research paper easily, what is a research paper introduction, introduction paragraph outline, introduction writing tips for students, research paper introduction example, concluding thoughts on starting your research paper.
Getting started on a research paper is arguably the hardest part. Before you start, you have so many questions, thoughts, and doubts. This causes a lot of students to delay their writing – not willfully, just because they simply don’t know how to start a research paper. This could be down to experience (or lack thereof), writer’s block, or just simply not knowing which topic to choose.
Many students in this predicament seek support from professional writers, even if this is just for help with an introduction to a research paper to get them going. In this article at PapersOwl.com , we’ll discuss how to begin a research paper and how to write a research paper introduction.
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Before we go over how to start writing a research paper, you need to know that it all begins before any writing is done at all. It begins with thoughts and ideas and moves on to outlines before the actual writing begins. Here are seven steps on how to begin:
- Read through all of the paper guidelines. In general, professors and teachers are very clear about what they want and how they want it to look. They will usually provide you with guidelines. You will, of course, be expected to work hard on the style as well as the content. They might, for example, say you need to write in APA format, but they won’t tell you how to start a research paper APA style.
- Choose something that is interesting both to you and others
- Make sure it’s a feasible topic
- Make sure it’s not too broad so that you have lots of sources but are not overwhelmed with too much to write about
- Seek approval from the professor once you’ve decided. Usually, professors will be more than happy to discuss your topic with you.
- Carry out your research – find examples and facts. The most exhausting part of coming up with a thesis statement is finding reliable information. You need to be clear that your thesis statement is relevant and that there are sources out there to support it. You don’t have to have the wording right just yet.
- Create an outline for your research paper. With the first steps done, it’s time to do an outline. This is an essential step as it helps you get your ideas down without thinking of the language and style (this comes in the writing part). When you create an outline, you’re planning and organizing your main ideas. You should include what you would reference and think about how the paragraphs flow on from each other.
- Finalize your thesis. Make this detailed and strong and something that will keep you on track when writing. Remember everything you write needs to be relevant to this statement. Before finalizing your thesis, formulate and brainstorm several different ones and make sure you have a clear hypothesis. Doing this is vital as it allows your audience to understand your work and evaluate it.
- Make your introduction brilliant. Writing your opening paragraph is often frustrating and time consuming. So much so that many people go back to it and re-write it after they’ve drafted their entire paper! However, if you have prepared well and written a decent outline, it will be a lot easier. You’ll already have your thesis, background research and research question, so all you need is an attention-grabbing hook to draw in the readers and organize it into a great paragraph.
- Write the research paper – it’s surprising to many that our seventh (and final) step is to actually write the research paper. You see, there are so many things to do before you write but if you do them, the writing comes easier and quicker. Finally, be sure to use a research paper editor to review your work. This professional can help to ensure that all sources are cited and referenced correctly and that the paper meets all of the requirements of the style and format guidelines. Writing the research paper may be the final step, but it is one of the most important.
The introduction is a key component of a research paper. It sets the scene, introduces your topic, and grabs your reader’s attention so that they want to read the whole paper. The research paper writer will introduce their topic, the purpose of the research and their thesis. Having a perfect introduction is crucial. When the opening lines are impressive, the rest of the paper will follow suit.
If you were to not include and introduction – or include a poorly-written one – your readers will be lost. They wouldn’t know why you’re writing the paper, nor its purpose. When writing an academic paper, order is valued. If everyone wrote in their own format, it would be very difficult to distinguish excellence.
A research paper introduce has key elements to it. These form your research paper’s backbone. You have the hypothesis, your ‘hook’ and your thesis statement. Your hypothesis describes the idea you are trying to persuade your audience to believe or not. In your introduction, you can state the hypothesis and show that you support or oppose it. After such an introduction, the rest of your paper will explain the research findings, supported by your evidence.
A decent research paper introduction will follow a specific structure. You’ll need to mention certain things, which each have their own goal. In general, this is what you should include:
- Start with a general sentence to introduce your topic and its background.
- The next two sentences should talk about the related issue and focus in on the exact question and research point of your research paper thesis.
- The final sentences in the introduction should state your research paper writing these. It should summarize the entire paper in a single sentence.
The thesis needs to highlight the topic as well as the problem to be discussed. Your readers should be kept engaged with this thought in their minds as they’re reading. It shouldn’t be confusing or easy to forget.
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Given the importance of the introduction in a research paper, it’s not surprising that many students worry about theirs. If you’re struggling with it, here are some more writing tips.
- Ensure the introduction is on point and doesn’t contain any “fluff.”
- Choose your words and phrases carefully.
- Use a catchy and relevant hook. Make this engaging. It could contain an interesting or surprising fact, significant and unique background information, an anecdote, or statistics, for example. Ultimately, the hook contains anything that entices your audience and grabs their attention.
- Remember that the key points made in the introduction will be elaborated as you work through the main body – that is where you will present and analyze research to support your thesis statement.
If you’ve never written a research paper, you might like to look for some examples of what a good introduction paragraph looks like. Here is one on the topic of climate change that shows how to start a research paper intro well:
The Example “hook”
In this example, the hook is the question “Are cows the cause of global warming?” It’s bold and somewhat radical, which means the reader is more likely to be drawn in to read more. This sort of hook is best way to start a research paper introduction. There are other good ways to start a research paper and the hook could also be a bold statement, an interesting statistic or fact, or a quick anecdote.
The Example Background information
After catching the attention of the reader, the writer provides context and narrows down the topic. Only background information that is relevant is presented here and it doesn’t go into too much depth:
This background information provides a great introduction paragraph for research paper ; it is interesting but not too detailed.
The Example Research Problem
In this example, the research problem is clarified by the following sentences:
Though efforts are under way to mitigate such emissions, there is a reluctance amongst policymakers to deal with the large scale of this problem.
This clearly emphasizes the importance and originality of the argument that the paper will present.
The Example Thesis Statement
As you can see, the thesis statement in this research paper is presented clearly in the sentence:
This essay argues the government in the Netherlands must subsidize and stimulate livestock farmers – particularly cattle farmers – so they can transition to the more sustainable activity of vegetable farming.
It states the writer’s position directly and clearly but doesn’t provide arguments for it yet.
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The Example Paper Overview
The final part of this introduction is dedicated to a short overview of what the body of the paper will contain:
Firstly, it will establish how the current measures in place to mitigate the problem are inadequate. Then it will discuss the numerous advantages of the proposed results. Finally, it will address any potential objections in terms of economic grounds.
It is concise and direct so that the reader knows what to expect.
Now you know how to start an introduction to a research paper and what your introductory paragraph should look like, you’re ready to begin crafting your paper. Simply follow the processes in this article and you’ll produce something that’s certainly worthy of reading. If you don't have the necessary time or skills to complete your writing assignment, you can always buy research papers from PapersOwl. Good luck!
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This course is part of the Academic English: Writing Specialization
Project: Writing a Research Paper
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About this Course
Welcome to the capstone project for the Academic English: Writing Specialization! This project lets you apply everything you’ve learned and gives you the practice you need for college classes by having you write a research paper. You'll have several due dates throughout the capstone to help you stay on schedule.
In this capstone project, you will: - conduct research on an academic topic of your choice - create an outline to plan out your essay - write a short annotated bibliography to help you evaluate your sources - write a 7-8 page research paper - use source material correctly with MLA format
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Syllabus - What you will learn from this course
In this Capstone project, you will combine all of the skills you've learned in the 4 courses of the Academic English: Writing specialization. This week, you will choose an academic topic to research and formulate an effective research question. By the end of this week, you should know your topic and have a rough outline of your research paper.
Research and Annotated Bibliography
Last week, you learned about the assignment for this Capstone project, chose a topic, and created an outline. This week, you need to start researching and looking for source material. You will then create an annotated bibliography to submit.
First Draft and Introduction Paragraph
This week, you should start your first draft. Try to write several paragraphs including the introduction paragraph, which you should submit for feedback.
The Rough Draft
This week, you should continue working on the first draft. Try to have at least four pages written when you submit the rough draft for feedback. Also, include your Works Cited page for feedback.
Revise and Rewrite
You're getting near the end. Keep up the good work! This week, you don't have anything to submit. Just keep revising and get that next draft to at least 7 pages. Then revise and revise again.
The Final Draft
You're almost finished! In this final week, use the time to revise your research paper and edit it carefully. When you're finished, submit it for grading and review three other learners' papers. Then you'll be done!
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TOP REVIEWS FROM PROJECT: WRITING A RESEARCH PAPER
Its a really user friendly and lovable course! Thank you :)
I recommend this course for everyone who wants to improve his writing in English, you will get directly the easy and clear information, for me, this course is necessary to build your writing.
I have confident how to write a research paper without help. Thanks a lot.
This specialization is designed for people who have an academic interest and want to learn more about how to write with accuracy in English.
About the Academic English: Writing Specialization
The skills taught in this Specialization will empower you to succeed in any college-level course or professional field. You’ll learn to conduct rigorous academic research and to express your ideas clearly in an academic format. In the final Capstone Project, all the knowledge that you’ve gained over the span of these courses will culminate into an academic research paper on an issue of your choice.
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Access to lectures and assignments depends on your type of enrollment. If you take a course in audit mode, you will be able to see most course materials for free. To access graded assignments and to earn a Certificate, you will need to purchase the Certificate experience, during or after your audit. If you don't see the audit option:
The course may not offer an audit option. You can try a Free Trial instead, or apply for Financial Aid.
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When you enroll in the course, you get access to all of the courses in the Specialization, and you earn a certificate when you complete the work. Your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.
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How to Write a College Research Paper (With Examples)
- by Daniel Friedman
- 9 minute read
Want to know how to write A+ essays from an A+ student? This guide will show you how to write a college research paper perfectly!
Some of the most common assignments you will receive in college are essays. They can be intimidating and time consuming, but they don’t have to be.
I’m going to share with you how I approach essays, from the initial preparation, to how I create an outline which basically writes the essay for me.
Let’s get started!
Before you write your college research paper, it’s essential that you review the guidelines of your essay.
Create a document with the following basic guidelines of the paper:
- The number of sources needed
- Where your sources have to come from
This gives you an easy place to refer back to without reading the whole page of guidelines everytime.
I recommend using the same document to write your outline so you have everything in one place at all times.
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Research question example.
Writing out your research question (if necessary) or topic up front is really helpful as well. Do a bit of googling on several topics that match your prompt.
For example, if the prompt is to pick a historical event between 1950-1970 which impacted the United States in a negative way and explain the history of the event, how it impacted the US when it occurred, and the effects of the event, you’ll want to begin by looking up historical events between 1950 and 1970 which were impactful for the United States.
From there, choose events which have a lot of research essays, news articles, and papers written about them.
This just makes it a lot easier to find research to back up your essay claims compared to picking a niche topic with only 2 papers written about them.
This will also allow you to create a more original essay because there’s more research to choose from than merely 2 academic essays.
How to Research for a College Paper
To write a college research paper, it boils to down to one main thing… the research.
Often professors will give you guidelines as to where your research must come from. Remember to pay attention to these guidelines and use the databases your professor suggests.
Use databases provided by your university library’s website that match the genre you’re writing about. If it’s a history paper, be sure to use a historical database. Same for political science, english, or any other subject.
With the example we’ve been working with, let’s say we chose the Cuban Missile Crisis as our event. I would then type the Cuban Missile Crisis into my database and see what academic papers come up.
There will be LOTS of options with a topic like the Cuban missile crisis which is good.
It can also be a bit daunting, so it may help to add something a little more specific to your search.
For example, searching “Cuban Missile Crisis long term effects on the United States” may give you a better pool of options for the “effects” portion of your essay. Doing the same for each section will help you find the right research papers for your essay.
You will need to read through several research papers. I say need because this is what will help you write MUCH better papers. By reading through a good few papers, you not only gain a much better understanding of what your topic is about, but it helps you figure out which papers are the best for your topic.
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Start taking notes of the papers. This is super important when you need lots of sources.
When more than 5 sources are needed, reading so many papers without taking notes means you will forget everything you’ve read. You can then refer back to these notes and quotes when writing out your essay, and you’ll easily know which source to use for your point and which source to cite.
Keep in mind, your notes don’t have to be crazy. Getting the general idea with a few key points to recite back to is all you need to sort out the best ideas.
How to Create an Effective Outline
Once you know the instructions, the topic, and which research you’ll be pulling from, the next step is an outline. Each outline differs based on what your professor asks of you, but I will give you several examples of different outlines.
Always begin an outline by writing out the basic structure of your paper. Most papers will start with an introduction, followed by several sections/paragraphs depending on the length of your paper, and ending with a conclusion.
For longer essays, the best approach is to create sections. Sections will be titled based on the content, and split up into paragraphs within the section.
Sample College Research Paper Outline
If we continue with the aforementioned example prompt, this is how the sections would be split up:
- The Cuban Missile Crisis (a description of the event and how it impacted the United States)
- Effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Your introduction and conclusion should be short. Most professors don’t want a lot of information in those two sections, and prefer instead that you put the bulk of your essay into the main sections.
Your introduction should include the following:
- Your research question/topic
- The context of the event (what’s going on in the United States around the time of the event)
- A brief overview of what your paper talks about.
This includes your thesis!
Your conclusion is merely a summary of what you spoke about in your paper. Do not include new information in your conclusion! Doing so takes away from what the paper was really about and confuses the reader.
In your outline, bullet point these things so you know exactly what to write out in your essay.
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Creating proper sections.
The most important part of your outline is your sections. This is where you’ll bullet point exactly what you’ll be talking about, and which research/sources you will be pulling from.
Group your sources based on which section they go into. If it’s a good source on the context of your main topic, put it under your background section with your source notes included, and create points based on that research.
This is generally how you should outline your college research paper. By already having your sources, notes from those sources, and creating points based on it, You’ll already have the bulk of your paper mapped out.
Theories and Hypotheses
Some research papers require you to come up with a theory made up of hypotheses. Your hypothesis will be based on your research question if this is the case.
Here’s an example of a research question, and a practical theory created from it:
Research Question – What are the causes of the use of terrorism by the Palestinians and how has its use affected Arab-Israeli relations?
Hypothesis of causes are: a sense of abandonment from the Arab world, humiliation at the hands of Israelis, and demands falling on deaf ears, all of this caused Palestininans to utilize more drastic measures in order to get their needs heard and acted on.
Hypothesis of how its use affected Arab-Israeli relations: Terrorism created more distrust and fearfulness between Israel and Palestine wherein Israelis didn’t and don’t feel comfortable trusting any group of Palestinians due to the extreme actions of several groups, and utilize harsher retaliation or countermeasures as a result of the Palestinian terrorism, pushing both sides farther from cooperation.
A hypothesis is essentially coming up with what you believe the research will prove, and then supporting or contrasting that hypothesis based on what the research proves.
How to Write a Thesis for a College Research Paper
Getting a clear idea of your sections and what they’re about is how to write a college research paper with an effective thesis.
By doing so, your thesis will include the main points of your sections rather than just the names of your sections, which gives a better overview of what your paper is actually about.
You don’t have to create it at the end though. You might find often that you’ll write a thesis at the start and just correct it as your essay points change while writing.
Here’s an example of an A+ thesis in an introduction of an essay:
In the example above, I’ve highlighted the main issue of the poem in blue and the main argument of the poem in red.
Keep in mind, the whole point of a thesis is to explain what your entire paper is going to be discussing/arguing for within 1 or 2 sentences.
As long as you get the issue across along with (more importantly) the main argument of discussion, then your thesis will be formatted perfectly.
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How to structure a college research paper.
Structuring your paper is fairly simple. Often just asking your professor or TA will give you the best idea of how to structure. But if they don’t give you structure, the best way to go about it is in the way I mentioned before.
Introduction, sections, conclusion. It’s simple and clear cut, and most professors will appreciate that.
Reading through the sources also helps with structure. Often the sequence of events will guide the structure of your paper, so really understanding your topic helps not only with the content of your paper, but with the structure as well.
How to Cite Properly to Avoid Plagiarism
In my experience most professors won’t ask for a specific format in their essay guidelines. This means you’ll want to use whatever you’re most comfortable with.
MLA format is very common amongst most classes. If you didn’t have a clear format you learned in class, or don’t feel particularly comfortable with any one format, I suggest you use MLA.
A quick google search will give you the basic guidelines of MLA. Use this MLA format tool if you’re confused about how to cite sources properly.
An important part of citing is including parenthetical citations, AKA citing after a quote or paraphrased section.
It’s crucial that you cite ANY quote you use. This also goes for any section where you paraphrase from a source.
Both of these need parenthetical citations right after the direct quote or paraphrase.
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The last portion of Citing you need to think about is your works cited or bibliography page. This has all your sources in one place, in the format you’re using.
In order to make this I always use EasyBib . EasyBib will cite your sources for you and create a bibliography with very little effort on your part, and it can be in any format you choose.
Your works cited page will go at the end of your essay, after your conclusion, on a separate page. Not including one means you are plagiarizing , so make sure you don’t forget it!
Hopefully these tips help you how to write a college research paper and better college essays overall.
Take it from an A+ student who can help you achieve the same goal in your college classes.
A huge thanks to Nivi at nivishahamphotography.com for helping out Modern Teen with this incredible post!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions leave them below. Thanks for reading!
Hey, I'm Daniel - The owner of Modern Teen! I love sharing everything I've experienced and learned through my teen and college years. I designed this blog to build a community of young adults from all around the world so we can grow together and share our knowledge! Enjoy and Welcome!
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Write a first draft of the research paper Write the introduction Write a compelling body of text Write the conclusion The second draft The revision process Research paper checklist Free lecture slides Understand the assignment Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you.
Upload your paper & get a free Expert Check Get a real writing expert to proofread your paper before you turn it in Check my paper Using paper checkers responsibly The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:
Step 2: Identify a problem Step 3: Formulate research questions Step 4: Create a research design Step 5: Write a research proposal Step 1: Choose your topic First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad.
Begin the paper with an introduction to provide background on the topic, cite related studies, and contextualize the paper. Use descriptive headings to identify other sections as needed (e.g., Method, Results, Discussion for quantitative research papers). Sections and headings vary depending on the paper type and its complexity.
How do you start? Here is a step-by-step approach to starting and completing a research paper. Choose a topic. Read and keep records. Form a thesis. Create a mind map or outline. Read again. Rethink your thesis. Draft the body. Revise. Add the beginning and end. Proofread and edit.
Here are seven steps on how to begin: Read through all of the paper guidelines. In general, professors and teachers are very clear about what they want and how they want it to look. They will usually provide you with guidelines. You will, of course, be expected to work hard on the style as well as the content.
This project lets you apply everything you’ve learned and gives you the practice you need for college classes by having you write a research paper. You'll have several due dates throughout the capstone to help you stay on schedule. In this capstone project, you will: - conduct research on an academic topic of your choice - create an outline ...
Create a document with the following basic guidelines of the paper: The prompt. The number of sources needed. Where your sources have to come from. Font size. Word count. This gives you an easy place to refer back to without reading the whole page of guidelines everytime.