Career Tips

Basic Steps To Writing A Research Paper

If you ever wanted to present a pure note, as regards your professional works, see the simplified form of a a professional research paper. What you must have considered:

  1. Find a question about which to write
  2. Find out what has already been written about your question
  3. Find information with which to answer your question
  4. Decide if the question is answerable
  5. Find a new question to write about (Go back to #1)
  6. Find patterns in your information
  7. Write your paper
  8. Cite your sources
  9. Prepare a bibliography
  10. Print out a final draft



STEP 1: Finding a question about what to write:

If you have no idea of what you want to research, then your first step is to read a general introduction to the history of the area. (You might also want to look at these project suggestions of another work. Finally, you could think about some of the large questions that are relevant to your field and try to answer one. Such question may be “what is education?”


STEP 2: Find out what has already been written about your question

If time permits, you must review all of the literature relevant to your question. For a doctoral dissertation or an academic article, this can take months. For an upper-level undergraduate course, this should require a few hours in the library to locate relevant books and articles, and then as many hours as it takes to read them and take notes. Use the online library catalog to find titles, and then look at each book individually. Look at the table of contents and the index for words that relate to your question.


STEP 3: Find information with which to answer your question

As you read, take notes on your reading, and in particular, keep track of what you’ve read and where you found information that appears useful so you can revisit it if necessary and cite it properly if you use it in your paper. After each new book or article, refer back to your question and see if you have increased your understanding of the question.


STEP 4: Decide if the question is answerable

If you are writing your paper during a fourteen-week semester, you need to reach this point fairly quickly probably some time before the end of the second week of the semester. If you decide that your question is “answerable,” then you can relax a bit, but if not, this will give you time to find another question before it gets too late.

Ask yourself the following questions about the material that you have found:

  1. Do I know how to define every part of my question? In other words, can I explain the precise meaning of every word and/or phrase in my question?
  2. Do I have a source for everything that I want to say about my question?
  3. Have I reached an answer to all parts of my question?

If the answer to all of these questions is “Yes,” then you are ready to start writing. If not, then read the next section


STEP 5: Find a new question

Example: Actually, you may not need to find a new question. You may be able to refine your first question. For instance, in the “education” example, you will have learned by this time that education is the life background of leadership. You may have considered asking how leadership of your state goes, but become frustrated because no one seems to know exactly challenges of education to leadership. If you do need to come up with an entirely new question because you found almost nothing on your first question, then it’s back to step 1. Otherwise, take your modified question and proceed to step 2 where you can begin looking for work that has already been published on your new question.


STEP 6: Find patterns in your information

Once you have collected a large amount of information, you must analyze it to decide what it “means.” The customary way to achieve this is to organize your facts in ways that reveal patterns and relationships.

Your first step is to organize your facts into chronological order. This is not enough to complete your analysis, but it will expose some relationships and help you to reject others. For instance, if one event occurred after another, then it cannot be the “cause” of the earlier event. Be careful though, because the earlier event is not necessarily the cause of the later event, since both could be consequences of a earlier third event, or even unrelated.


STEP 7: Write your paper

Plan to write three drafts of your paper. The first draft is used to get your ideas down on paper in coherent paragraphs. The second draft allows you to put your ideas in a logical order that takes the reader from your question to your conclusion. The third draft gives you a chance to eliminate grammar and spelling errors, and to make sure that your paper is ready to hand in


STEP 8: Cite your sources

Your paper should include reference notes that identify a specific source for everything that you included in your paper except arguments and conclusions that you created yourself. The reader should be able to use your reference notes to answer “Where did you find that?” for every single fact in your paper, and every opinion that is not your own. If your paper contains an opinion, and you provided no reference note for it, the reader will assume that it is an opinion that you developed during your research. If that is not true, and you obtained it from someone else’s work, the failure to cite the source is an act of plagiarism. Note that if you have several statements of fact in the same paragraph, and they all come from the same source, it is acceptable to use a single reference note for the whole paragraph.


STEP 9: Prepare a Bibliography

The bibliography contains a list of all the sources you used in your paper. It presents them in a way that permits a prospective reader to see how you did your research.

List your sources by type: the usual categories for historical papers are Newspapers and Periodicals, Interviews, Archives, Unpublished Theses, and Secondary Sources. Within each category other than Archives, list them in alphabetical order by author’s last name, or the author is not known, the first word in the source’s title. For archival documents, organize them by the name of the archive and the archive’s file number in numerical order. For instance, the index page to secondary sources on this Web Site is presented in the form of a bibliography.

To format entries in a bibliography, begin with the entries in reference notes. You will need to write the last name of the author (or first author in multiple author works) before the author’s first name, to make your alphabetization clear


STEP 10: Print out a final draft

By the time it is finished, your research paper will contain a complete, logical argument about a historical topic. The question that you have answered should be clearly identified in the opening paragraphs. The middle paragraphs should contain a clear and logical presentation of your argument. The concluding paragraph(s) should clearly explain the result of your argument. Your research paper should also contain complete reference notes for all sources used to construct the argument. Following the conclusion of your argument, you research paper should include a bibliography at the end of the paper which lists all of the sources used to create your argument.

To submit your research paper, it should be typed or laser-printed with one-inch margins on all size, and composed in a standard 11 or 12-point font such as Courier, Arial, Helvetica or Times Roman. All of your pages should be numbered. Fancy covers are unnecessary — a staple in the upper left-hand corner will suffice. Do not include any blank pages, and do not use a separate title page. Instead, type (single-space) your name, the course number, the date and the title of your paper at the top of your first page, skip a line, and then start your paper (double-space).

Hope this article helped. Yes Or No?

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