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Writing "A" Great Paper and Library Navigation

How Can I Write That "A" Paper?

Being able to write an effective research paper is essential for every college student. Perhaps you will not write one until your sophomore or junior year, but when you finally encounter a class with a research paper it will probably be worth a high percentage of your grade.

An Overview

  • Research papers take more time than most people think. They cannot be written the night before they are due! Quite frankly, they should be started, at the latest, two weeks before they are due.
  • The term “Research” paper implies outside research—thus you will need to cite
    books, periodicals, Internet sites, or more likely, a combination of all of these sources.
  • Research papers are an easy way of boosting your grade if you are willing to work—
    think of them as an open book exam; they’re often worth just as much as an exam.

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Suggested Steps For Writing A Research Paper

Pick a topic:

  • If you’re lucky you actually have a choice of topics. Try to pick something you are interested in so you will
    not mind doing the research. Also, keep in mind that you must pick a topic for which there is a sufficient
    amount of information.
    Hint: Another source to find a topic could be viewing your Table of Contents in your textbook.
  • Write down exactly what your topic is—it will make it much easier to find information on a topic if you know
    exactly what it is.
  • At this point, you should keep your topic rather broad—you can narrow the topic once you have found your
    research and can see a possible area of focus.
  • Talk to the professor—she/he can give you suggestions as well as help you to broaden or narrow your topic.

Search for sources:

  • Try asking the professor for some guidance—it’s their class, chances are they will know the most
    about where to find effective sources. Tell him/her your topic and ask for any suggestions where to
    find good information.
  • Other great places to gather information are Internet searches and, especially, reference librarians.
  • Make sure your sources are from a variety of genres. For many topics it will be difficult to get primary
    sources (i.e., first hand data or narrative), but try to get a variety of different authors in order to get
    various viewpoints.

Review your sources/Creating index cards:

  • Go through your sources to see which ones seem to be the best and most appropriate for your topic.
  • Be realistic—if you’re a slow reader or are pressed for time, don’t pick several long books.
    Rather, try to find important chapters from books, periodicals, or Internet articles that are shorter.
  • When you find a source you think will work well with your paper, write down the main point of the
    source on an index card along with all bibliographic information (this will help you later when you
    are writing the bibliography).

Sample Index Card:

Author’s Name Book Title

Main Point or Topic of the Quote

Page Number and Related Quote (if the quote is too long then just put the first few words and the last few)

Publisher Information and Copyright date (for bibliography)

This will help you later when you are writing the bibliography.

Organize your index cards:

  • Once you have your index cards with all of your sources on them, you are ready to organize.
  • Group your index cards together in the form that works best for you (i.e., grouping by topic, author, time period, genre).

Develop a rough outline for your paper:

  • By grouping your index cards you have essentially created your outline.
  • You now must decide on a logical order in which to present your topics/arguments.
  • As you construct your outline you should be thinking about the following questions:
    • What is the main point of this paragraph?
    • Would this topic fit better somewhere else?
    • What sources/quotes should I use to make this point?
    • How will this point/paragraph serve to explain my thesis?

Solidify your thesis:

  • Now that you have outlined your paper, you know exactly what you will be saying—thus it is time to write your thesis.
  • Look at what you plan to say and/or prove and try to write in one to three sentences the point of your entire paper.
  • The thesis should be clean, concise and encompass everything you plan to say within the paper. A strong thesis won’t help you if it’s not what you actually cover in your paper.
  • A sample thesis statement: Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.) afflicts over 40 million people in the United States. This disorder does not discriminate against race or gender. In order to have a better understanding of this complex disorder, it is important to note its characteristics, causes, and treatments. A detailed analysis of A.D.D. will be presented; the analysis will include case studies and an interview with an individual who has been diagnosed with A.D.D.

Write the paper:

  • Now that your paper is organized you can start writing the body—at no point during the research paper writing process before now did you need to go near a word processing program!
  • Because you have already created a detailed outline for the paper, just stick to your outline and write.

    When writing remember a few key things:

    • What is this paragraph doing for my essay?
    • What is this sentence doing for my paragraph?
    • What is this word doing for my sentence?
    • Eliminate all unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs.
    • Also ask, could I say this in a clearer, more concise way?

The bibliography and avoiding plagiarism:

  • Regardless of how wonderful your research paper is, no teacher will accept one without a bibliography and the proper citations.
  • Each time you quote or paraphrase from a source make sure to cite it afterwards by writing the author’s last name and the page number the quote was found on in parentheses.

    “This war was not fought for any reason other than national pride” (Garner, 34).

    Remember: To include a bibliography with the proper format (see example below). Because you have your index cards with all the relevant information, writing the bibliography should be a snap!

Quick Link For Citations

Proofread/Go for help:

  • Make sure to save time for this very important step.
  • Your professor: He/she can read your paper if you have that option and you will be able to finish the paper with enough time. This is the most important person from whom to get feedback.
  • A friend or roommate: They can read your paper for general grammar and readability – something that makes sense to you may be very confusing to another reader.
  • The Writing Center: The Writing Center Staff can assist you at any stage of the writing process. The Center is located on the upper level of the Library (Library 248). The Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Contact the Center at Extension 1286 for more information.
  • The Tutorial Center: The Tutorial Center is also located on the upper level of the library (Library 252). Here you can make an appointment to meet with a tutor for a specific class or area of study. He/she can help you with the structure of your paper, as well as help you to improve the content. The Tutorial Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 am to 9:00 pm, Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm and Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Call Extension 2855 for more information.

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