When your instructor assigns a research paper assignment does your blood run cold with fear? It’s typical to feel helpless and overwhelmed by the prospect of finding good research paper topics and delving through books and articles to find nuggets of wisdom to inspire and guide you. Consider using good examples of research papers to help guide you.
Writing is a Process
Remember that writing is a process that can be broken down into smaller steps. Taken one at a time, each step can be completed with a lot less aggravation than you would experience if you keep your mind focused on the entire project.
Begin by deciding the type of paper you will be writing. Will it be analytical or argumentative? The analytical paper explores what others have to say about the topic and blends that information with your own perspective finally culminating in your conclusion. An argumentative paper is focused on presenting your argument and persuading your reader using information from both primary and secondary sources.
For example, in this sample paper found at http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/resdoc5e/pdf/Hacker-Orlov-MLA.pdf, the author presents her argument in the thesis statement at the end of the opening paragraph.
Next you will choose your topic or perhaps either you or your instructor decided the type of paper and the topic you would explore. At any rate, if you need help in choosing a topic you will find thousands of choices on Questia.com. If your instructor gives you a topic or a list of topics from which to choose, you might want to do some preliminary research on the topics that interest you before making a commitment.
Next you will want to do the research on your topic. Much of your research may be on the web where you are likely to find data that is valuable and data that is, well, junk. How do you know?
Educator Kathy Schrock believes in Teaching Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet. She has provided a list of what to look when evaluating content you find on the web including:
- Authority: is the creator of the information well known as an expert?
- Bias: is the information designed to persuade rather than inform?
- Citations: does the content include a bibliography or works cited with reputable sources listed?
- Dates: can you tell how current the information is on the site?
For an example of how one writer cited sources in her paper, refer to http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/resdoc5e/pdf/Hacker-Mira-APA-2010.pdf. Be sure to match the numbered, in-text citations with the entries in the References section at the end of the paper. Do you think that all of the references appear to be credible and unbiased?
Outline and Draft
After compiling your research, you should consider creating a research paper outline followed by your first draft. The outline will help you to find the flow of information and your first draft will give you a chance to see how it all fits together. Go easy on yourself when writing the first draft. Remember that it does not have to be perfect. In fact you don’t want it to be perfect so feel free to just get it all out of your head and on to the page.
Academictips.org suggests, “Write your first draft as freely as possible, following your outline closely. Use all the note card information you feel is relevant and important. Don’t pad your paper with excessive quotes. When you’ve finished the rough draft, check for accuracy and completeness of facts. If you think certain sections are too long or too skimpy, rework them until you feel they’re the strongest you can make them.”
Once you’ve got your first draft on paper the worst is over. Now you just revise and revise again until your paper is a polished piece of prose. Sounds easy and, the more you write, the easier it becomes. I can attest to that.
More examples of well crafted and structured research papers can be found at:
The Dallas TeleCollege Library http://telecollege.dcccd.edu/library/module5/sample.htm
Purdue Online Writing Lab http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/13/
Diana Hacker http://www.dianahacker.com/pdfs/hacker-shaw-apa.pdf
Bedford St. Martin http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/resdoc5e/index.htm