Most research papers begin with a thesis statement at the end of an introductory paragraph. Most research papers fall into one of three categories: analytical, expository, or argumentative. Without a well-thought-out thesis statement, your paper is likely to end up jumbled and with an unclear purpose. An outline will help you organize your thoughts before you dig into the writing process. Those main points are your sub-headings.
Now, organize your thoughts and information under each sub-heading. Keep your focus narrow and avoid the kitchen sink approach. You know, the one where you throw in every bit of interesting research you uncovered, including the fungal growth in the U-joint of your kitchen sink?
Everything you learn may be fascinating, but not all of it is going to be relevant to your paper. Need more help? Grammarly can save you from misspellings, grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and other writing issues on all your favorite websites. Your writing, at its best. Use Grammarly for mistake-free writing. Get Grammarly Here are the best elements to a research paper:. Craft a strong opening sentence that will engage the reader.
Explain the purpose of your paper and how you plan to approach the topic. Is this a factual report? An analysis? A persuasive piece? Conclude the introductory paragraph with your thesis statement. The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:.
Your paper may evolve, so keep it fluid, but do remember to stay focused on your thesis statement and proving your points. Organize first and use your sources as they become relevant. Check out the sources on the article, use keywords from your internet search to search an academic database, or ask an expert whether or not what you learned is valid and if it is, where you can find a reliable source stating the same thing.
So, just to be clear: you can use Wikipedia as a starting point in your research, but you should not cite Wikipedia as one of the primary sources for your research paper. You can find an article that says anything you want it to say. Are the spires on the Cinderella Castle at Disney World removable in case of a hurricane? Did a cook attempt to assassinate George Washington by feeding him poisoned tomatoes?
Just because you find one article stating that something is true, that does not necessarily mean it is a proven fact that you can use in your research. Work to understand all of the different viewpoints and schools of thought on your topic. This can be done by reading a variety of articles, reading a book or article that gives an overview of the topic and incorporates different points of view, or talking to an expert who can explain the topic in depth.
So you have all of this information, now what to do with it? Step four is all about getting organized. Like research, different people have different preferences here. It can also depend on your assignment. If your teacher requires you to turn in a bibliography with your research paper think back to step 1; you ought to already know exactly what the assignment is by now!
If you are just making one just for yourself, think about how you would like to organize your research. It might make sense to bookmark resources on your web browser or make a digital bibliography that allows you to link the resources you found. You might prefer a printed list of your resources or you might want to write down all you have learned that is relevant to your project on notecards or sticky notes and organize your research paper on a table or the floor. A starting point when writing a thesis might be to write a one-sentence answer to the question: what is your paper about?
The answer might be something like the following examples:. But, what is important to remember, is that this is just a starting point. A thesis needs to be definitive, and should not be about you. So, you might change the above answers to statements like:. Many universities require freshmen students to live on campus for their first year, which keeps students out of trouble, helps students get better grades, and increases their likelihood of staying in school.
Can you see the differences between the first set of sentences and the second set of thesis statements? It is also very important not to be too vague. If you look at the above examples, each of them makes a specific point about the topic. Another key to crafting a strong thesis statement is making sure that your thesis is arguable.
Another way to check whether or not your statement is arguable: Is Pride and Prejudice a book? There is no point in writing an entire essay about that obvious fact. Checking whether or not someone could argue with your thesis statement is a good way to make sure you have written a strong, specific thesis statement that will guide you as you write your paper and earn a good grade for your efforts.
After you have worked to create a specific, arguable, definitive thesis statement, this is another place that it could be helpful to check in with your professor, a writing center tutor, or another trusted educator or mentor. Show them your thesis statement and ask them if they think itis a powerful thesis that you will guide you as you build your essay.
Like a bibliography, the way that you create your outline may depend on your assignment. If your teacher asked you to turn in an outline, be sure to make an outline that follows the example, guidelines, or requirements you have been given. Creating an outline is really about structuring your paper. If you have two main points in your thesis, three or five main sections might not work for your research paper. If the assignment asks you to introduce a topic, explain different opinions on the topic, and then choose and explain your opinion, then your paper probably needs three main sections, one for each of those objectives.
As you create an outline, think critically about what you are trying to explain or communicate in your research paper and what structure allows you to do that in a clear, organized way. It usually makes sense to have an introduction and conclusion, but what goes between will vary based on the contents of your essay.
The outlining stage of producing your argument is a great time to think about bad forms of argumentation you should avoid. You might feel like you should have started writing sooner, but, rest assured: the work you have done up to this point is important. It will help you create a strong, clear, interesting research paper. There is time to perfect your research paper as you edit.
Right now, you just need to write. You have done a lot of work already, so trust that and work from memory as you write your research paper. Working from your own ideas will help you avoid plagiarism. If you quote something word-for-word, you need to cite your source.
Use quotation marks and mention the source of the quote. You will also need to include more information about the quote on a Works Cited or References page. For example, Bill Gates is a billionaire who founded Microsoft. That is a common fact; you can find it stated in numerous trustworthy sources.
You have done a lot of work to get to this point! And then, get back to work. Start by editing for content. This means thinking about structure, organization, wording, and length. You carefully organized your paper when you created an outline. Now that you have written your paper, does that organization still make sense? If so, great. If not, what do you need to move around? Did you communicate what you meant to get across?
Can you make your paper clearer or easier to understand? This is also a good point to think back to Step 1. Does your paper include everything the assignment asked for? If not, where can you include the missing pieces? If your paper is too long or too short, now is the time to cut it down or build it up to an acceptable length. Be careful and thoughtful about these edits. If you need to take something out, what makes sense to cut and how can you re-organize your paper so that it maintains a strong structure?
Think about where you could expand or what you can add that fits in with the rest of your paper, further develops the ideas you are presenting, or adds valuable information to your research paper. Once you have made all the changes you think necessary, read back through your paper again to be sure it all makes sense.
If you are tired of looking at your research paper, give it to a friend, mentor, or teacher and ask them to take a look at your paper and let you know what they think of the content. It is also important to edit for grammar. This might seem daunting, but there are lots of tools and resources that can help.
Like editing for content, editing for grammar might take a few run-throughs. It can even help you come back to your paper feeling more focused, which is key to catching and fixing mistakes. Give your paper a day or two or an hour or two, if you are running short on time and give it a final read-through. It can be helpful to print a copy of your paper and read a hard-copy if you have only read through it on a screen thus far.
You might notice mistakes or formatting issues that your eyes missed while reading on your computer. Once you have read your research paper for a final time and double checked that your paper does everything the assignment is asking for, it is time to submit.
Be sure to follow any instructions you have been given about turning in your research paper. Also give yourself time to troubleshoot if things go wrong.
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