Writing a research paper recap: From thesis statements to citations to conclusion

Get the help you need from start to finish. (Courtesy of  Kotecky)

Get the help you need from start to finish. (Courtesy of Kotecky)

As we have seen in our series on writing a research paper, it’s important to allow yourself enough time to complete your assignment. The entire process begins with choosing your topic and includes research, creating thesis statements, writing, inserting citations, revising, formatting and writing your conclusion. Let’s review the highlights of the research paper writing process.

Writing a research paper: Finding research paper topics

In week one of writing your research paper you spent your time finding the right topic. Along the way you probably learned that the best topic is one that is tightly focused.

Once you have an idea in mind, take the advice of the folks at the University of Santa Cruz library.

“Taking a few minutes to read about your topic in a specialized encyclopedia, dictionary or handbook may be one of the most effective and time saving research tips on this list. You will probably refine and refocus your topic several times before you finalize it,” they said.

Writing a research paper: How to take notes and create thesis statements

In part two of our series we talked about how to take notes and create your thesis statement. Taking notes while you read will help you to write your paper and cite your sources. But taking notes for a paper is different from taking notes in class.

You’ll get helpful tips and tutorials on research and note-taking at Questia, the Internet’s largest online library of full-text books and articles. For example, the tutorial on reading critically explains how to get the most from the books and articles that serve as resources for your paper.

Tips for reading include:

  • skim first, taking in headings and bolded terms
  • start recording your ideas as you re-read the text
  • underline terms you don’t understand
  • write down any questions that you have
  • summarize what you’ve read in your own words

Your reading and the notes you take will help you to frame your thesis statement. The rest of your efforts will be centered around explaining the thesis statement to your readers. The typical thesis statement:

  • answers a question, or,
  • takes a position on an issue

The librarians at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC) writing center give several tips to help students craft good thesis statements.

“Does my thesis pass the ‘So what?’ test? If a reader’s first response is, ‘So what?’ then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue,” they suggested.

Writing a research paper: How to write an outline, draft and create citations

All of your notes will eventually become the outline of your paper. You’ll find rules for outlining at the Los Angeles Valley College library website. In their article on How to Write an Outline they offered samples and general rules for writing outlines.

“The most common order in outlines is to go from the general to the specific. This means you begin with a general idea and then support it with specific examples,” they said.

Once you have your outline, your paper practically writes itself. Remember to add citations as you write. Without proper citations you risk committing plagiarism – an offense that could cost you your grade.

Writing a research paper: Revising, formatting and writing the conclusion

Revising your paper may be the most important step in the writing process. The experts at the writing center at the College of the Sequoias offered these words of advice, “A surprisingly low amount of people refer back to the assignment instructions that their professor has given them while they are writing their paper, though it can be exceptionally useful when revising.”

Formatting your paper means following proper guidelines for either MLA or APA formats. Check with your professor to make sure that you know which format is required for your paper. Writing your conclusion means discussing what you covered in the paper. It is not the place to bring up new ideas or information.

Wrapping it up

During your four years of college, chances are you’ll be writing plenty of research papers. If you plan ahead and allow yourself plenty of time, you’ll be able to take advantage of the many resources available to help you craft an “A” paper without a lot of stress or anxiety.

Learn more about the research paper process at Questia.

What resources and tips have helped you in writing your research paper? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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