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Research Paper

Details

  1. Class: Unspecified
  2. Assignment description: Students often write research papers. Remember that a research paper is more than a summary of sources, as it offers the reader something more. Purpose statements or a thesis statement help tie these documents together.
  3. This template is published for use.
  1. Step 1: Read your assignment outline
    Percent time spent on this step: 5%

    Instructions:

    The assignment sheet or marking schema is the most valuable resource for your research paper. Don’t quickly skim through it and write the assignment that you think it should be. Set aside at least a half hour to methodically go through this resource. For tips on getting the most from your assignment sheet, you may want to use Reading Your Assignment Sheet.
  2. Step 2: Select a focus
    Percent time spent on this step: 5%

    Instructions:

    Some instructors give students a focused topic for their paper. Others allow students to pick something that is relevant to the course. When given free range on a paper, the first topic that comes to mind isn’t always the best. Try working through various brainstorming activities. Some suggestions are available in Developing Ideas.
  3. Step 3: Check reference materials for background research
    Percent time spent on this step: 5%

    Instructions:

    Background research gives you a foundation for your research topic. Look for definitions of key terms, understand the key issues, and be aware of important dates and events. Encyclopedias and dictionaries are examples of useful resources for background information. 
  4. Step 4: Develop a research question
    Percent time spent on this step: 5%

    Instructions:

    Before you jump into writing and researching, consider forming a research question or draft thesis. As you gather sources on the topic, you can refine it.  For ideas, try working through Developing a Thesis Statement.       
  5. Step 5: Develop a research strategy
    Percent time spent on this step: 20%

    Instructions:

    A research strategy gives you an organized framework for conducting your research. To build your search strategy, you will first need to determine the keywords.
    There are two ways to search using the library. You can use the big search box on the library homepage or you can search in a subject-specific database. Keep in mind that you may not find the right resources on the first try. You may need to revise your search a few times before you find the right set of keywords to describe your topic.            
  6. Step 6: Paraphrase relevant sources
    Percent time spent on this step: 10%

    Instructions:

    Because your goal is to construct a paper based on your material, you will want to read in an engaged manner. By doing prep work while you are reading, you will be able to get a head start. It can be useful to document your reaction to the text. Imagine it is a conversation where you pose questions and comments in the margins. You may want to consider responding to the following topics: the author’s intention, the author’s assumption, the author’s method or methodology, the author’s data or source material, the author’s choices or style of presentations, and the author’s contribution to knowledge on the topic.  Take the time to paraphrase key ideas, rather than cutting and pasting quotations.        
  7. Step 7: Develop a writing strategy
    Percent time spent on this step: 20%

    Instructions:

    It can be difficult to figure out an outline for your project. Before you jump into paper writing it is a good idea to reflect on what you know and how these pieces fit together.  For tips, check out Figuring Out an Outline.

    Start by writing the material with which you are most comfortable. Leave the introduction and conclusion till the end. Start by focusing on your strengths.  Remember to stay motivated through this part of the process. Consider the strategies in Staying Motivated to concentrate on the task.

  8. Step 8: Draft your bibliography
    Percent time spent on this step: 5%

    Instructions:

    Many students don’t think about their citations till they are getting to the end of the writing process.  By the time that you are done your paper, chances are you won’t have a great eye for detail. You may feel like you just want to be finished. Draft your citations when you feel like procrastinating.  Chances are you’ll be much more attentive.

    Perfect citations are a great first impression. Don’t forget, borrowing ideas from an external source without citing is considered plagiarism and is a serious academic offense. For more information, you may want to review Plagiarism: What is it and How to Avoid It. There are several citation styles used in various disciplines throughout the university.  The most common in the Arts and Social Sciences are APA, Chicago, and MLA. In the Sciences, the most common styles are APA, CSE, and Vancouver. Always check if your instructor has a preferred style. 

           
  9. Step 9: Review structure of paper
    Percent time spent on this step: 10%

    Instructions:

    The longer the document, the more likely we’re to move away from our outline, or find that it is not in-depth. We may find that we have new ideas and concepts.  Make sure that you haven’t repeated any material. Is your information in the most logical order for your reader? Watch out for presenting your sources based on the order that you read them.

    Be sure to check your introduction and conclusion.   Think like a reader. Helpful hints for constructing introductions and conclusions can be found in Beginnings and Endings.

  10. Step 10: Work through your revision checklist
    Percent time spent on this step: 10%

    Instructions:

    Read through your paper while looking for your most common errors. Start with the errors that require the most rewriting (run-on sentences) and work towards smaller typos (subject-verb agreement). Printing your paper and reading it aloud to yourself will help you become a more effective editor.  As a starting point, you may want to review Planning for Revision.      
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