How To Write A Research Paper in 10 Steps
How to Research a Paper
Got a big research paper to write? Properly researching your paper can seem like a mammoth task, but it's not nearly as daunting if you break it down into steps. Read on to find out how to prepare your research paper with the minimum amount of fuss and the maximum amount of impact.
Decide on your objective.Spend some time thinking about what you want your paper to accomplish. Do you want it to prove your viewpoint? Explain a topic? You’ll want to have a clear focus before you begin your research. You also need to know what kind of paper you are doing, for example literary analysis, historical, scientific, etc. This will determine the structure and style of your paper.
- Know the specialized requirements sought by your educational institution with respect to format, style, and content for a research paper in a specific field. Sometimes the requirements are very exacting.
Choose a title.Pick a clear and concise title to sum up your paper. Keep the title focused, so that your paper goes into one specific subject or question really deeply, rather than giving a less informative overview of the entire topic area. Make it fit in with your objective, for example, if you were aiming to write an analytical paper, consider saying something more like "To what extent did X affect Y", rather than just "What were the effects of X". However, be prepared to change this if your research takes you in a different direction.
List some key words.Make a list of key words on your topic that will be helpful in locating information when you conduct online and offline searches. Making a mind map of all the topics and sub-topics you are thinking about covering can be very helpful.
Go to the library.While you can find an abundance of material with your laptop, to get an actual book on a topic, plus find academic papers, journals, and other subscriber-only materials, you’ll need to head to a library. Find a quiet spot, grab some books and get down to work! You can find books by looking down the shelves of books for that topic, asking a librarian, or using the library catalogue, if there is one. Libraries may also have tables or desks which you can use, so take advantage of this and spread out your notes and books!
- Don't forget to use reserved or reference sections. These will usually carry the most popular information as well as restricted borrowing items.
Make some notes on your sources.Get down any facts, and make detailed notes from a variety of sources, as long as your notes arecompletely in your own words. If you don't think you can write something in your own words but you need to include it, you can always directly quote the source, as long as you use speech or quote marks "" and make it absolutely clear that it is a quote, and referencing where you got it from in the footnotes or end notes. If the books have any relevant pictures, you could also scan the pages and include them in your paper, as long as you reference where you got them too! Don't be afraid to make your notes colourful, as well as making them more interesting to look at; doing this can help you keep organised, for example by colour-coding by sub-topic. If you want, you could also scan in or photocopy some of your paper sources, so you can make notes or highlight on copies of them!
- If reading PDFs online, learn how to highlight text for quick return referencing when writing up your paper.
- Avoid leaving notes penciled in the margins of library books. This is a nuisance for later readers; always erase any marks you make.
Check library indexes.Use the library’s indexes to find articles in periodicals, like trade journals and magazines. They’ll contain the very latest information on your subject, and are much more likely to be peer-reviewed and reliable. Ask a librarian for help if you need it - they will know better than anyone what information is available to you.
Go online.Now you can do some online research by plugging in those keywords you listed at the start. Only take information from reputable sites and organizations. Wikipedia, for example, has been shown to be about as accurate as "proper" encyclopedias, but isn't completely accurate and wouldn't be respected as a research source unless your educational institution has said otherwise. It can be put to good use however, to gather a brief overview of the topic and to send you to other sources that are considered reputable; look at bottom of any Wikipedia article – see which sources they used to decide whether these might be useful to you too! There is also a large number of books, or portions of books, that can be found online without cost or (much) effort. Check places like Google Books, Google Scholar, Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg.
Find statistics.While you’re researching the facts, don’t forget the figures. Find some useful statistics to aid your research. Helpful search words when looking for statistics include “percent of,” “Census Bureau,” and/or “survey results.” These will be more useful if you're writing a more scientific or economics paper, but can also be used to illustrate a point in a wide variety of topics. Once you have the statistics, you can always use a program like Excel to make them into graphs to include in your paper.
- Be sure to analyse the statistics with care and not simply pick and choose elements of them to meet what you want them to demonstrate.
- "Numbers are like people — torture them enough and they'll tell you anything." — Anonymous
Don't forget the videos.See if there are any documentaries on your topic. These will be more visual, more interesting to research, and will also add some variation to your list of sources! Check the television schedules of some relevant documentary channels, look around for DVDs or some older documentaries can also be found on places like . If you do quote from a video, be sure to cite it properly.
Start writing.Organise your research, mull it over, and then start writing! Once you've started, don't be afraid to go back to the library to do a little more research in a particular area if needed, or to alter your title slightly if one area of your research is particularly interesting or detailed.
Sample Research Papers
QuestionHow do I write an introduction for a term paper?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYour introduction could start with a definition, a fact, or a quote about the subject you are trying to write about.Thanks!
QuestionCould the extinction of crows be a topic for a research paper?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSure. Of course, crows are not currently extinct, so presumably you would be writing about how we can protect the environment to ensure they do not go extinct, or something like that.Thanks!
QuestionCan you give me an example of a paper using articles?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA newspaper is a popular one!Thanks!
How can I write an abstract?
Is "Whose social and governance systems provide the best model for development in the 21st Century-China or America's" a good topic introduction for a term paper?
How does cooperative development contribute to the agriculture sector in Nepal?
How to make a research paper of "The Famous Diseases in the Philippines?"
What are some sample psychology assessment topics?
- Consider interviewing an expert in the field you’re researching. It’s a guaranteed way to impress your professor. If you can't find an accessible expert, think about doing a search online for an expert in the relevant field and sending them an email.
- Finding information on the subject can be found in books related to but not specifically on the subject. Sometimes you find "a bit of gold" that's only a paragraph but is very interesting or informative and definitely worth including.
- Note your sources carefully as you go along to make the bibliography easier - and to prevent plagiarism! Read How to Cite Sources for a list of the details you will need to include for each type of source.
- If your library doesn’t have a book you need, ask the librarian if they can borrow it from another branch.
- Always be wary of plagiarism. Write only in your own words, and properly cite any sources you use, not just quotes. This may seem like a bit of a hassle, but noting down everything you've read will also impress your professor with how much work you have put into the paper.
- If more than one person is researching the same topic, or you have been set in a group, make sure you get to the library early. Otherwise other individuals or the members of your group could have checked all the books on that topic out already!
- Avoid procrastination. It would be a good idea to make a realistic time plan of when you expect to complete each stage of your paper and stick to it. Stay focused and never leave anything to the last minute.
Things You'll Need
Expert to interview (optional)
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to Write a Research Paper
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