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A Step by Step Guide for Research Papers

A Step by Step Guide for Research Papers

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A Step by Step Guide for Research Papers

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  1. A Step by Step Guide for Research Papers Steve Wood TCCC

  2. A Successful Investigation andResearch Assignment • Ask questions • Find answers • Present those answers A successful investigation/research paper is successful on all three accounts: interesting questions are asked, solid answers are found, and those findings are clearly presented.

  3. Research Papers vs. Regular Essays It is the presence of the researched information that makes a paper a research paper, not the mere presence of footnotes or quotations. In most respects, a research paper is exactly like the other essays you’ve written this semester.

  4. Step One: Questions • Choose a good topic. “Good” in this case means interesting to you. • Ask questions about that topic, based on what you know, or what you would like to know about that topic. • Have a childlike attitude towards asking questions. Don’t be afraid to ask.

  5. Step One (continued) • One of the difficulties in writing a literary research paper is that it is often difficult to come up with research questions early in the process. • Reading your primary text (the work on which you intend to focus) as well as some general sources (e.g., encyclopedias, literature survey texts, literary histories, Masterplots, or Magill’s surveys) may give some guidance in formulating questions.

  6. Step Two: Search Strategy • Make a plan for research your topic and answering your questions. • Base this plan on: • The types of resources available to you • The types of resources typically used for your topic

  7. Step Two (continued) • The Internet has a wealth of information on literary subjects. • Older authors and works are often in the public domain. • Newer authors and works often have official and fan web sites.

  8. A working bibliography is a list of the possible sources for a research paper. Since you will be unsure of what research materials will best fit into your paper, make a note of any promising source. Depending on the type of source, you will need to note different information. Step Three: Working Bibliography

  9. Step Three (continued) • Books -- author, title, publisher, year of publication, call number • Magazines -- author, title of article, title of magazine, issue number, page numbers, call number or URL • Internet source -- author (if available), name of site, name of page, URL, date accessed

  10. Step Four: Research • Look for resources based upon your plan. • Don’t judge your sources prematurely, but at the same time remember Sturgeon’s Law. • Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. • The more academic a literary resource is, the easier it is to make an early Sturgeon’s Law determination.

  11. Step Five: Taking Notes • As you research your sources and look for answers to the questions you posed (as well as any other questions that occur to you in the process), take good notes. • Good notes generally take one of three forms: quotation, summary, or paraphrase.

  12. Step Five (continued) • Quotation -- take what is written or said in your source and copy it exactly word for word into your notes. • Summary -- in your own words, write the main points of the research material. • Paraphrase -- put the source material completely in your own words.

  13. Step Five (continued) • There are many methods for taking notes. • Two of the most common are: • Note cards (which allow the materials to be easily sorted) • Computer notes (which are easily copied and pasted into the final report)

  14. Step Five (continued) • With older authors and works, public domain texts often provide an easy way to obtain quotations. • Keep in mind the Google principle. • Google principle: Any idiot can use a search engine.

  15. Step Six: Make an Argument • Decide on the thesis statement (which will be the major claim for your argument). • Decide how you will support your claim (which types of appeals you will use, which research items you might include). • Remember, most of the process of doing a research paper is exactly like writing a regular essay. That certainly applies to this step.

  16. Step Six (continued) • This is often the most difficult step in a literary research paper. • Use the guidance from your instructor, textbooks, Cliff notes, etc. to help decide on your particular claim. • Use sample topics like the following:

  17. Step Six (continued) • What is a theme of the work? • Does the work give any particular insights on life? • What is the main character like? • How do two or more characters of the work compare to each other? • Why is the setting of the story important? • Is there a particular historical event that would help us to understand the work better? • What was the reception of the work in its day? Would it be any different today?

  18. Step Six (continued) • What is the overall shaping principle of the work? What parts work together towards that principle? • Does anything in the life of the author help us to understand the work better? • How does the work compare to any filmed version of it? • How does the work compare to other works by the same author? • Does the work remind you of another work (book, movie, TV show, etc.)? • What is the style of the author?

  19. Step Six (continued) • Do the theories of Sigmund Freud help us to understand the work better? • Do the theories of Carl Jung help us to understand the work better? • Can the work be analyzed from a Marxist perspective? • Can the work be analyzed from a feminist perspective?

  20. Step Seven: Cite Sources This is the step that gives people the most trouble, but it will be pretty straightforward if you keep in mind that in academic writing, you can steal from any source, as long as you tell the reader that you have borrowed that information.

  21. Step Seven (continued) • Failing to inform the reader that a piece of information is borrowed is plagiarism. • Plagiarism is copying someone else’s words or ideas and passing it off as your own. • Many people assume that putting an idea into your own words avoids plagiarism, but that is not the case.

  22. Step Seven (continued) • To avoid plagiarism, it is necessary to follow a stylesheet. • A stylesheet is a system for giving credit, in effect, a system for writing research papers.

  23. Step Seven (continued) • There are many stylesheets. The three major ones are the Modern Language Association (MLA) stylesheet, the American Psychological Association (APA) stylesheet, and the Chicago Manual of Style stylesheet.

  24. Step Seven (continued) • The stylesheet used in this course is the MLA stylesheet. • You will be given a handout with the particulars of the MLA system. That information is also in the textbook as well as most grammar handbooks.

  25. Step Seven (continued) • How do you know if you should cite the source for a particular piece of information? • First, ask yourself if the information is your own personal knowledge, common or general knowledge, or documentable knowledge. • Then, look at the actual format of the info: quotation, paraphrase or summary.

  26. Step Seven (continued)

  27. Step Eight Bask in the glory of your completed assignment.