What Makes An Effective Research Paper

Steps to Writing a Research Paper


Writing a research paper can be intimidating, but the following steps will help you prepare an effective research paper:

The Preliminaries

___ 1. Choose a subject to write about
___ 2. Conduct some preliminary research
___ 3. Narrow your topic
___ 4. Develop an initial thesis statement. It can change during the research process

Helpful Hints:
When choosing a topic to write about, select a topic you find challenging and interesting. Choosing a topic of interest will help you put the necessary amount of effort in your research. Avoid choosing a subject that is to technical or too general. Narrow you topic down to a specific aspect of a subject, concept or idea. For example, narrow your topic from "Religion" to "Catholicism".

Your thesis statement should be a declaration of your belief or position regarding the topic you have chosen to research and write your paper. It should be concise and no longer than one sentence. The bulk of your essay will consist of arguments and proof defending your thesis. Your thesis state should reflect the type of research paper you're writing: analytical, expository or argumentative.

Gathering Data

___ 1. Collect research materials for a working bibliography
___ 2. List your initial sources in bibliographic from on (3" x 5" cards)
___ 3. Expand your research by checking:
       a. general bibliographies
       b. trade bibliographies
       c. indexes (books and collections, literature in periodicals, newspaper indexes, pamphlet indexes)
       d. library electronic catalogue

Helpful Hints:
The internet is also a great source to get started gathering data for your research paper. Use search engines as your starting point. However, notwithstanding the plethora of information that can be found on the net, information found online isn't always reliable. You'll want to avoid relying on information from government sites that offer information tainted by political bias, commercial websites that have an agenda and the millions of personal pages that offers opinions and conjecture. Make sure you evaluate websites and the information they present critically before including it in your paper.

A few reliable online resources for gathering data include Wikipedia, Wall Street Executive Library, Britannica, International Public Library and Online Reference Materials, among many others. However, even with these sources, you'll want to verify all information you decided to use in your research paper.

Taking Notes

___ 1. Prepare an outline for your research paper
___ 2. Take time to review your sources to determine whether they are secondary or primary sources
___ 3. Jot notes and key facts on (4" x 6" cards)
___ 4. Never plagiarize another author!

Writing the Paper

___ 1. Prepare a final outline and compare it with your research conclusions
___ 2. Prepare to write:
       a. Arrange your notes in the order the information will appear in the paper
       b. Take time to think about how your audience will react to your paper

___ 3. Prepare a rough draft
___ 4. Review your essay to make sure you have referenced your sources
___ 5. Review the essay and make revisions if necessary
___ 6. Complete a final review of citations and your bibliography
___ 7. Review the essay for spelling and grammatical errors

Before we start our discussion off about how to write an effective research paper, let us go over the basics.

What is a research paper?

A research paper is basically a type of academic writing that should have theoretical and significant data that has gone through proper in-depth research. Take the five-paragraph expository essays of your high school days and imagine them on a more detailed—more epic—scale! They may also contain arguments based on a thesis with vital evidence from various helpful and reliable sources.

Though writing a research paper may seem painstaking and difficult at first, it really isn’t all too complicated once you know what proper steps you can follow to make it easier. It may be challenging because of the intensive research that it needs, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating for anyone. Before starting the steps, be sure you have enough note paper, various colors of highlighters (for your research markings) and index cards. Also take note, that reading the checklist regarding research ethics could also be of big help for you and writing your research paper.

Start off by following these essential steps:

  1. Select a topic that inspires you
  2. Find reliable sources
  3. Organize your notes
  4. Brainstorm a substantial outline
  5. Write a first draft
  6. Read through first draft and re-write
  7. Edit

Proper research

A great place to do reliable (quiet!) research for your sources is the library. There are various potential references available there and countless books, published articles, journals, etc.—not to mention free Internet access—that you can go over to find exactly what you need. Try finding yourself a cozy place, away from distractions, where you can do research. Use notebooks or index cards to track information as you uncover it in your research. It is best to be familiar with the services available and where your potential sources are located. Try asking the librarians for their help conducting the most effective research as possible as well; that’s why they’re there! And you can take those lessons on with you as you continue researching at home. Remember: the Internet is a rich, invaluable resource, and there are many legitimate scholarly articles to be found, but always check your facts using alternative sites and reference books.

Select your research topic

If you have the freedom to choose what to write about, it is generally best to choose a topic you’ve always been curious about so that you have interest in it learning about it in depth. Choosing a topic that doesn’t interest you much might not give that motivation to do effective research. Also remember to be specific when selecting a topic. A common mistake is choosing a subject that is too general—a wealth of resources about a broad topic can quickly become overwhelming.

Taking down the proper notes

Be organized when taking notes and learn what information is essential and contributive to your research so you’re not bogged down with useless facts and statistics. Color code your notes by topic and highlight the essential details so you can find that specific topic easily.

You may also try photocopying an article or a page from a book if there is too much to jot down. Highlighters pay a big role in this because you can highlight only what you need to remember when writing your research paper.

Every time you make note of something, write down the bibliographical information, including the author, book title, page numbers used, volume number, publisher name, and dates. This is vital to use in your research paper.

Write an outline

After your in-depth research, you are now ready to write an outline. With the notes you took down, you can start brainstorming where the topics and supporting information best fit. They don’t necessary have to be structured in a sentence, as this is only the “brainstorming” part. Does that statistic belong in the beginning, middle, or end of the paper? Is that anecdote good introduction material? You can rearrange as needed. This is a crucial part and may take longer than the other steps, but it’s well worth the time and effort, because this is the foundation of your final research paper.

Work on your first draft

When you’re finished with your outline, you may start on your first draft. Since your outline is done, you may now structure it into sentence and paragraph form, putting more life and detail into the paper so that people can better understand the point you’re trying to make. You may do more necessary research along the way if you feel like your information is lacking. And relax—this is only the first draft, so you can still change things around.

Write and edit your final paper

Once your first draft feels right, with all the vital information and sources put in, you can proceed to editing and writing out your final paper. Check for grammatical and typographical errors and spelling. Also, make sure that every source used is in your bibliography page. Do your final adjustments and read over it as many times as you’d like to make sure that it meets your professor’s requirements.

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