Writing a Research Paper Mrs. Jamin Lakeland High School
Choose a Topic • Make sure you understand your assignment - What is the length? - Who is the audience? - What type of research paper? * Informational? This type summarizes material from a variety of sources. * Analytical? This goes one step further – the material is summarized and the writer analyzes it and presents his or her conclusions
Manage your time • Draw up a project schedule • Avoid a time trap: A research paper is a long-term assignment. In order to see it through successfully, you will need to plan and keep to a schedule. • Keep plugging away: Don’t get bogged down in one stage of the writing process. If you keep plugging away at your assignment, you will be able to meet your deadline.
Choose a topic • Choose a workable topic that meets all of the following requirements • Can you find enough material on the topic? • Does the topic interest you and can you make it interest your audience? • Is your topic objective, not subjective? An objective topic is factual – in a research paper you are not writing about your opinions, experiences, family, or feelings. • Is the topic limited enough to be covered in the available space?
Thesis Statement • A good thesis statement IS NOT • A statement of fact • Merely the expression of a personal opinion • A vague generalization • A question
Thesis Statement • A good thesis statement IS • A declarative sentence that states clearly and concisely the main point that the author wishes to make. • Usually a sentence that embodies a judgment, evaluation, or criticism, often apparent in its use of value terms, e.g., good, better, best, valuable, worthwhile, desirable. • A statement you consider significant, so that if someone says, “So what?” you can answer that question
Thesis Statement • A good thesis statement MAY also • Suggest a comparison or a contrast • Focus primarily on the causes or effects of a particular event, condition, or change • Propose a solution to a problem of recommend a policy
Thesis Statement • An excellent thesis statement • Is a judgment, criticism, or evaluation that research can support • Is NOT a statement of fact, a personal opinion, a vague generalization, or a question • Is a declarative statement that states the main point of the essay • Is something worth saying
SUPPORTING TOPICS • To find support for your thesis statement: • Write down the tentative thesis statement • List as many supporting topics as you can • Select the ones that seem the most promising • Do preliminary reading to locate supporting information for your major topics • As you read, add or drop major topics, depending on what you find
Locate Sources • There are two types of sources – primary and secondary • A primary source is an original text, document, interview, speech, or letter. It is not someone’s comments on or analysis of a text; it is the text itself. • A secondary source is NOT an original text or document; rather, it is someone’s comments or an analysis of a primary source
Locate Sources • Explore library sources • Use the online catalog to locate books in the library • Use the reference section to find information and sources: encyclopedias, biographical information, atlases, almanacs, dictionaries, quotations, specialized books • Look for relevant newspaper and magazine articles • Evaluate internet sources
Internet Sources • Evaluate internet sources carefully • Who wrote the Web page? How qualified or knowledgeable is the writer? Is the writer an expert or a professional working in the area the Web site discusses?
Internet Sources - #2 • How accurate is the information? Does the Web page give facts or just the writer’s opinions? Verify the given information. • How up-to-date is the information? • Is the information biased (slanted toward one point of view), or are both sides of an issue presented objectively and fairly?
Bibliography Cards • Record complete information for every source you think you will use. Make a bibliography card on a 3”x5” or 4”x6” index card for every source you consult. On each card, you will record the author, title, and publishing information (place of publication, publisher, date of publication, researcher’s source number). MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW MLA RULES!
Note cards • Use 3”x5” or 4”x6” cards • Write the source number in the upper-right-hand corner of the card. On each card take notes from only one source. • Write on only one side of each card, and write about only one main idea. (You will then be able to arrange and rearrange your note cards easily according to their main ideas.)
Note cards - #2 • Write a heading – a key word or phrase – at the top of the note card and underline it. The heading indicates the main idea discussed on the note card. Usually the heading is one of the topics you will use in your working outline. • Make a conscious effort to use your own words when you take notes. Use abbreviations and symbols.
Note cards - #3 • Enclose direct quotations in large quotation marks. Make sure you have quoted word for word, EXACTLY as the author wrote it. If you wish to leave out material, you must do so by inserting ellipses (…) at the appropriate point. • At the bottom of each note card, write the page number where you found the information
Note cards - #4 • Double check each note card to see that you have written the source number and page numbers. Without these the material will be useless because you may not find the information again.
Preliminary Outline • This is a temporary outline • It is a method of structuring your paper and your search for information • Your outline and structure will be tentative and rough in form • It should include some major areas of research • You are now ready to evaluate your note cards
Evaluate Note Cards • Sort your note cards into stacks having the same heading • Some stacks may be short, some tall. If you have a great many cards under one heading, perhaps you should divide them into two or three more manageable subheadings • Take time to reread each note card. Make sure your headings are right. You may find cards that might better be classified under different headings.
Evaluate Note Cards - #2 • Evaluate your note cards • Be selective: Do you have too much information on one subject? Use only the best – the most interesting, the most pertinent, the most persuasive. • Fill in the gaps: If there is not enough information in some stacks go back to the library and find more sources and take more notes.
Topic/Formal Outline • The key points about an outline are: • It provides the structure for your paper • It allows you to see relationships among main ideas and supporting facts • It changes – you should keep revising your outline as your research and writing progress so that it reflects new insights, deletions, modifications, connections, and improvements • It is finished only when the paper is finished
Topic/Formal Outline - #2 • Follow the correct outline form • A number or letter precedes each heading. Each number or letter is followed by a period or is enclosed in parentheses. • The first word in every heading begins with a capital letter. Sentence outlines (but not topic outlines) have a period at the end of each heading.
Topic/Formal Outline - #3 When outlining remember: Indentations show a heading’s level of importance. An indented heading is a subdivision of the preceding heading.
Topic/Formal Outline - #4 • Identify the major sections of your paper. These will be your main (Roman numeral) headings. • If you did a working outline to help guide your note-taking, you have already made a stab at identifying the main headings and subheadings. • When you are figuring out your main headings and subheadings, you are using the critical-thinking skill of analysis (breaking your topic into its smaller, separate parts)
Topic/Formal Outline - #5 • Divide the main headings into subheadings and then into sub-subheadings, as needed. You can never have only one subheading, you must have at least two. • Within any level, word the headings so that they are parallel in structure. (Parallel means having the same grammatical structure.)
Write a First Draft: The Introduction • Write an introduction that attracts your reader’s attention and clearly indicates what your paper will be about. Include your thesis statement in your introduction.
Write a First Draft: The Body • Write the body of you paper. • Keep very careful track of your sources. Insert your bibliography source card number after ideas or quotations that need to be acknowledged. • Write in the present tense. Use the past tense only to refer to historical events. • Each paragraph in the body should include a topic sentence that states a main idea. The rest of the sentences should provide supporting details.
Write a First Draft: The Conclusion • Write a conclusion that brings your paper to a satisfying conclusion and says something worthwhile.
Checking Citations • Make sure in your paper that you have followed the conventions for using direct quotations. Make sure that you clearly have identified the source of the quotation. • Check to make sure the parenthetical citations are correctly formatted and placed.
Works Cited List • Your Works Cited list should be an alphabetical list of all the sources you have referred to in your paper. • The Works Cited list should be at the end of your research paper.
Revise Draft • You should ask yourself the following questions when you revise your paper: • How can I improve my word choice? Have I used dull, trite, childish, and overworked words? Have I used empty adverbs like obviously, certainly, and simply? Have I avoided clichés, e.g., last but not least?
Revise Draft - #2 • Have I chosen the best verbs for the job? Have I used strong action verbs instead of verbs of being, e.g., crashed instead of is down, participates instead of is in? Have I used active rather than passive verbs, e.g., “I made a mistake” rather than “Mistakes were made.”
Revise Draft - #3 • Do my sentences show variety in length and structure? • Do any of my sentences sound awkward when I read them aloud? • Do I show instead of tell, by providing vivid descriptive details, figurative language, examples, or anecdotes?
Revise Draft - #4 • Have I used transitions – words like however, then, on the other hand – to improve the coherence and flow of my writing?
Revise Draft - #5 • Have I paid attention to the basic rules of expository writing? Does my introductory paragraph include a clear, concise thesis statement and a method of development? Do my topic sentences connect to my thesis statement? Do my body paragraphs support my thesis statement? Does my conclusion remind the reader of my thesis statement?
Revise Draft - #6 • When using borrowed material, have I provided: • A lead-in, identifying the speaker or situation? • An accurate quotation? • Follow-up, a comment or analysis of the quotation?
Revise Draft - #7 • Have I observed the rules of grammar and usage avoiding run-ons, fragments, misplaced modifiers, passive voice, and lack of agreement between subjects and verbs, pronouns and antecedents? • Have I paid attention to mechanics, making sure that my capitalization and punctuation are correct? • Have I checked my spelling carefully?
Final Manuscript • Use 8 ½” x 11” white paper • Print on only one side of each piece of paper • Double-space • Use 1 inch margins a the top, bottom, and sides of you paper • Indent each paragraph ½ inch (5 spaces) from the left margin • Number each page in the center at the bottom • Place your Works Cited page at the end