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Writing a Research Paper

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Writing a research paper can be a challenge. Not only do you have to come up with shockingly clever ideas, you also have to figure out what the so-called experts think, and learn to format your paper correctly. When you finish, you'll be surprised at what you've learned. But, start early; it may take more time than you realize.


  1. Decide on a topic. If it hasn't been assigned to you, try to think of something original. Choosing something that actually interests you will make the process a lot less painful. Also, make sure that you will be able to find books and articles about your topic.
  2. Find all of the information that you can about your topic. Check the book and article database at the library, search the internet, and check out encyclopedias and other reference books.
  3. Skim through your materials to find the good stuff. Unless you have a few years to kill, you're not going to want to read everything. Instead, put a bookmark on all the important pages and write down any quotes you want to use in your paper.
  4. Write your thesis statement. This is one sentence that gives the main point of the entire paper. Make sure that it says something meaningful about the topic that can be proven.
  5. Write your paper. Every paragraph should prove your thesis statement. Now is the time to use that time-consuming research. Put quotes in whenever they prove your point and make sure to cite your sources.
  6. Format and proofread your essay. Check with your teacher to find out what format your paper should be in (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) and consult a guide to learn the specifics of that format. Be sure that you have all required elements including a works cited page, bibliography, or footnotes. Before turning it in, check that paper over at least three times.

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  • Stick to the topic of your paper.
  • Reading your paper out loud or having a friend check it can help you find easy to miss mistakes.

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  • Watch out for poor quality references. Most teachers frown upon quotes from thrown-together personal websites (complete with corny music and mouse trailers) used as scholarly references.
  • Don't plagiarize. Failing to cite their sources or purposefully using someone else's material has gotten many a student kicked out of school.


How to Write a Research Paper

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Writing a Research Paper. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License