How to write an academic research paper
Choosing Your Topic 1 Ask yourself important questions.
With a topic selected, the next step is to begin research. In many cases, however, the professor won't provide you with a prompt. When you begin to answer all of these questions, you have started to reckon with what has been called "the rhetorical stance. Are all my citations accurate and in correct format? Because your thesis is arguably the most important sentence in your paper, you will want to hoow more about it in Developing Your Thesis. Defend yourself … justify a position Establish yourself … expand your expertise Ask a research question A sound research question why? Do not include any information that is not relevant to your topic, and do not include information that you do not understand.
Although you may be limited by specific classroom or work related guidelines, choosing your topic is the first and most important step in your research paper project. Regardless of whether your topic can be anything you want or has rigid requirements, it is important to keep a few questions in mind: Is there enough research available on this topic? Is the topic new and unique enough that I can offer fresh opinions?
Whenever possible, choose a topic that you feel passionate about. Writing about something you enjoy certainly shows in the final product, making it more likely that you will be successful writing a paper about something you enjoy. If you are writing a research paper for a class, consider the other students. Is it likely that they will also be writing about your topic?
How can you keep your paper unique and interesting if everyone is writing about the same thing? Asking a professor for help may seem frightening, but if they are worth anything as a professor, they want you to be successful with your work, and will do what they can to make that happen. Although it requires a bit more time, you have the ability to change your topic even after you begin researching others.
Method Researching 1 Begin your research. With a topic selected, the next step is to begin research. Research comes in numerous forms including web pages, journal articles, books, encyclopedias, interviews, and blog posts, among others. Take time to look for professional resources who offer valid research and insight into your topic.
Try to use a minimum of five sources to vary your information; never rely on only sources. Whenever possible, look for peer-reviewed empirical research. These are articles or books written by experts in your field of interest, whose work has been read and vouched for by other experts in the same field.
These can be found in scientific journals or via an online search. Take a trip to your local library or university library. Although it may seem old fashioned, libraries are chock full of helpful research materials from books to newspapers and magazines to journals. Typically, websites that end with. That is because these websites belong to schools, the government, or organizations dealing with your topic.
Try changing your search query often to find different search results for your topic. There are special search engines and academic databases available that search through thousands of peer-reviewed or scientifically published journals, magazines, and books. Look for databases that cover your subject only. For example, PsycINFO is an academic database that holds nothing but works done by authors in the field of psychology and sociology.
This will help you to get more tailored results than a very general search would. Take advantage of this ability to ask for specific information by using as many of the query boxes as you can. Visit your school library and ask the librarian for a full list of the academic databases they subscribe to, as well as the passwords for each. This should contain many more books and journals that are about your topic as well. Method Making an Outline 1 Annotate your research.
This step is very important: Make marks on anything that you think might be remotely important or that could be put to use in your paper. As you mark off important pieces in the research, add your own commentary and notes explaining to yourself where you might use it in your paper.
Writing down your ideas as you have them will make writing your paper much easier and give you something to refer back to. Annotating your research can take quite a bit of time, but needs to be taken one step further in order to add a bit more clarity for the outlining process. Organize your notes by collecting all of your highlighted phrases and ideas into categories based on topic.
For example, if you are writing a paper analyzing a famous work of literature, you could organize your research into a list of notes on the characters, a list of references to certain points in the plot, a list of symbols the author presents, et cetera. Try writing each quote or item that you marked onto an individual note card. That way, you can rearrange and lay out your cards however you would like.
Color code your notes to make it easier. Write down a list of all the notes you are using from each individual resource, and then highlight each category of information in a different color. For example, write everything from a particular book or journal on a single sheet of paper in order to consolidate the notes, and then everything that is related to characters highlight in green, everything related to the plot mark in orange, et cetera.
As you go through your notes, mark down the author, page number, title, and publishing information for each resource. This will come in handy when you craft your bibliography or works cited page later in the game. Generally, speaking, there are two types of research paper: Each requires a slightly different focus and writing style which should be identified prior to starting a rough draft. An argumentative research paper takes a position on a contentious issue and argues for one point of view.
The issue should be debatable with a logical counter argument. An analytic research paper offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit. This is not simply a regurgitation of ideas from your research, but an offering of your own unique ideas based on what you have learned through research.
Who would be reading this paper, should it be published? Although you want to write for your professor or other superior, it is important that the tone and focus of your paper reflect the audience who will be reading it. The thesis statement is a sentence statement at the beginning of your paper that states the main goal or argument of your paper.
Although you can alter the wording of your thesis statement for the final draft later, coming up with the main goal of your essay must be done in the beginning. All of your body paragraphs and information will revolve around your thesis, so make sure that you are clear on what your thesis is. What is the primary question or hypothesis that you are going to go about proving in your paper?
Your thesis should express the main idea of your paper without listing all of your reasons or outline your entire paper. The body of your essay will revolve around the ideas that you judge to be most important. Go through your research and annotations to determine what points are the most pivotal in your argument or presentation of information. What ideas can you write whole paragraphs about? Which ideas to you have plenty of firm facts and research to back with evidence?
Write your main points down on paper, and then organize the related research under each.
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When you outline your main ideas, putting them in a specific order is important. Place your strongest points at the beginning and end of your essay, with more mediocre points placed in the middle or near the end of your essay. Main ideas can be spread out over as many paragraphs as you deem necessary. Depending on your paper rubric, class guidelines, or formatting guidelines, you may have to organize your paper in a specific way.
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For example, when writing in APA format you must organize your paper by headings including the introduction, methods, results, and discussion. These guidelines will alter the way you craft your outline and final paper. With the aforementioned tips taken into consideration, organize your entire outline. Justify main points to the left, and indent subsections and notes from your research below each.
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- Because every thesis presents an arguable point, you as a writer are obligated to acknowledge in your paper the other side s of an argument.
- The most used standards for referencing in research papers are APA-standard and MLA-standard.
The outline should be an overview of your entire paper in bullet points. Method Writing Your Paper 1 Write your body paragraphs. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, writing your introduction first may be more difficult to accomplish than starting with the meat of your paper. Starting by writing the main points focusing on supporting your thesis allows you to slightly change and manipulate your ideas and commentary. Support every statement you make with evidence. Supply ample explanations for your research. The opposite of stating opinions without facts is stating facts with no commentary.
Although you certainly want to present plenty of evidence, make sure that your paper is uniquely your own by adding commentary in whenever possible. Avoid using many long, direct quotes. Although your paper is based on research, the point is for you to present your own ideas. Unless the quote you intend on using is absolutely necessary, try paraphrasing and analyzing it in your own words instead. Use clear segues into adjacent points in your paper. Your essay should flow well, rather than stopping and starting in a blunt fashion. Make sure that each of your body paragraphs flows nicely into the one after it.
Now that you have carefully worked through your evidence, write a conclusion that briefly summarizes your findings for the reader and provides a sense of closure. Start by briefly restating the thesis statement, then remind the reader of the points you covered over the course of the paper.
This is the most important stage in writing a research paper. For example, when writing in APA format you must organize your paper by headings including the introduction, methods, results, and discussion. Because your thesis is arguably the most important sentence in your paper, you will want to read more about it in Developing Your Thesis. These guidelines will alter the way you craft your outline and final paper.
Slowly zoom out of the topic as you write, ending on a broad note by emphasizing the larger implication of your findings. First of all, the conclusion is easier to write when the evidence is still fresh in your mind. The introduction is, in many respects, the conclusion written in reverse: Avoid repeating exact phrases that you already used in the conclusion. All research essays must be documented in certain ways in order to avoid plagiarism.
Depending on the topic of your research and your field of study, you will have to use different styles of formatting. MLA, APA, and Chicago are the three most common citation formats and determine the way in-text citations or footnotes should be used, as well as the order of information in your paper. This format requires in-text citations. APA format is used by researchers in the social sciences field, and requires in-text citations as well.
Chicago formatting is used mainly for historical research papers and uses footnotes at the bottom of each page rather than in-text citations and works cited or references page. Although it is tempting to simply read over your essay and use the spell-check tool, editing your paper should be a bit more in-depth.
Have them edit for basic grammatical and spelling errors as well as the persuasiveness of your essay and the flow and form of your paper. If you edit your own paper, wait at least three days before returning to click. Studies show that your writing is still fresh in your mind for days after finishing, and so you are more likely to skim over basic mistakes that you would otherwise catch.
If they suggest that you rewrite a section of your paper, there is probably a valid reason for their request. Take the time to edit your paper thoroughly.
When you have edited and re-edited your paper, formatted your work according to the subject matter, and finalized all the main points, you are ready to create the final draft. Go through your paper and fix all mistakes, rearranging information if necessary. Adjust the font, line spacing, and margins to meet the requirements set by your professor or profession. If necessary, create an introduction page and a works cited or references page to bookend your paper.
The completion of these tasks finalizes your paper! Make sure to save the paper in multiple places, for extra security and print out your final draft. Sample Research Papers and Outlines.