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Writing a Research Paper By: Joyce Garczynski Communications & Development Librarian Albert S. Cook Library
What is a research paper? • Purpose: • To make an argument (about media and society) that is supported by research • Format: • Written in organized prose with an introduction, body, and conclusion • Content: • It has a thesis – This is the argument you are making in the paper • It uses what has been said in the research as evidence in support of the thesis
What a research paper isn’t • Not an opinion piece • Not an opportunity to show off what you know on a topic • Not a series of resource summaries
Writing Step 1: Interpret the Assignment • Whenever you get an assignment, ask: • Why did your instructor ask you to do this particular task? • Who is your audience and what should your writing style be? • What kind of evidence do you need to support your ideas? • What are the absolute rules of the paper such as deadlines, length and format? • Break into 4 groups and answer these questions about your assignment in this class
Writing Step 2: Selecting a Topic • Choose a topic that interests you • Do background research and test searching to see what’s out there • Keep the topic manageable by narrowing • By medium • By population • By time period • Watch out for topics that are too local or too recent
Writing Step 3: Gather Sources • Strategize about: • Where to search • How to search • How much time it will take to retrieve sources • We’ll talk more about this next session
Writing Step 4: Draft a Thesis Statement • Develop the argument you will make (i.e. your thesis statement) • The thesis statement is one sentence or two that is at the end of the introduction • The thesis statement should: • State the topic of your paper • Preview the main points you will be making • Synthesize the research you read • This video offers some additional tips
Is this a good thesis statement? • Images in fashion magazines hurt women. • Fashion advertisements affect the perceived body image of young women. • Analyses of images in fashion magazines advertisements have found that these images portray an unrealistic standard of beauty for women and as a result they can lead to low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction in the teenage girls who consume them.
Writing Step 5: Outline Your Paper • Use your thesis statement to shape your outline
Writing Step 7: Revise, Revise, Revise • First draft is never the last draft • Review your own work after some time away • Have someone else review your work – the Writing Lab and now at Cook Library
You’re Done! Hand in your paper
Get More Information • On writing a research paper: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/658/01/ • On interpreting the assignment: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/understanding-assignments/ • On selecting a topic: http://libguides.weber.edu/researchtopic • On writing a thesis statement: http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/thesis_statement.shtml