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hapter 1.

How to Write an A+ Research Paper

This Chapter outlines the logical steps to writing a good research paper. To achieve supreme excellence or
perfection in anything you do, you need more than just the knowledge. Like the Olympic athlete aiming for the
gold medal, you must have a positive attitude and the belief that you have the ability to achieve it. That is the real
start to writing an A+ research paper.

1. STEP 1.
2. STEP 2.
3. STEP 3.
4. STEP 4.
5. STEP 5.
6. STEP 6.
7. STEP 7.
1. Checklist One
2. Checklist Two


Choose a topic which interests and challenges you. Your attitude towards the topic may well determine the
amount of effort and enthusiasm you put into your research.

Focus on a limited aspect, e.g. narrow it down from "Religion" to "World Religion" to "Buddhism". Obtain teacher
approval for your topic before embarking on a full-scale research. If you are uncertain as to what is expected of
you in completing the assignment or project, re-read your assignment sheet carefully or ASK your teacher.

Select a subject you can manage. Avoid subjects that are too technical, learned, or specialized. Avoid topics that
have only a very narrow range of source materials.


Surf the Net.

For general or background information, check out useful URLs, general information online, almanacs or
encyclopedias online such as Britannica. Use search engines and other search tools as a starting point.

Pay attention to domain name extensions, e.g., .edu (educational institution), .gov (government), or .org (non-
profit organization). These sites represent institutions and tend to be more reliable, but be watchful of possible
political bias in some government sites. Be selective of .com (commercial) sites. Many .com sites are excellent;
however, a large number of them contain advertisements for products and nothing else. Network Solutions
provides a link where you can find out what some of the other extensions stand for. Be wary of the millions of
personal home pages on the Net. The quality of these personal homepages vary greatly. Learning how to evaluate
websites critically and to search effectively on the Internet can help you eliminate irrelevant sites and waste less
of your time.

The recent arrival of a variety of domain name extensions such as .biz (commercial businesses), .pro, .info (info
on products / organizations), .name, .ws (WebSite), .cc (Cocos Island) or .sh (St. Helena) or .tv (Tuvalu) may
create some confusion as you would not be able to tell whether a .cc or .sh or .tv site is in reality a .com, a .edu, a
.gov, a .net, or a .org site. Many of the new extensions have no registration restrictions and are available to anyone
who wishes to register a distinct domain name that has not already been taken. For instance, if Books.com is
unavailable, you can register as Books.ws or Books.info via a service agent such as Register.com.

To find books in the Library use the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog).

Check out other print materials available in the Library:

Almanacs, Atlases, AV Catalogs

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Government Publications, Guides, Reports
Magazines, Newspapers
Vertical Files
Yellow Pages, Zip or Postal Code and Telephone Directories

Check out online resources, Web based information services, or special resource materials on CDs:

Online reference materials (including databases, e.g. SIRS, ProQuest, eLibrary, etc.)
Wall Street Executive Library
Index to Periodicals and Newspapers (e.g. MagPortal.com, OnlineNewspapers.com, etc.)
Answers.com - an online dictionary and encyclopedia all-in-one resource that you can install
on your computer free of charge and find one-click answers quickly.
Encyclopedias (e.g.Britannica, Canadian Encyclopedia, etc.)
Magazines and Journals (e.g. Time, National Geographic, Maclean's, Newsweek, etc.)
Newspapers (e.g. Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, The Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, etc.)
International Public Library
Subject Specific software (e.g. discovering authors, exploring Shakespeare, etc.)

Check out public and university libraries, businesses, government agencies, as well as contact knowledgeable
people in your community.

Read and evaluate. Bookmark your favorite Internet sites. Printout, photocopy, and take notes of relevant

As you gather your resources, jot down full bibliographical information (author, title, place of publication,
publisher, date of publication, page numbers, URLs, creation or modification dates on Web pages, and your date
of access) on your work sheet, printout, or enter the information on your laptop or desktop computer for later
retrieval. If printing from the Internet, it is wise to set up the browser to print the URL and date of access for
every page. Remember that an article without bibliographical information is useless since you cannot cite its

Do some critical thinking and write your thesis statement down in one sentence. Your thesis statement is like a
declaration of your belief. The main portion of your essay will consist of arguments to support and defend this


All points must relate to the same major topic that you first mentioned in your capital Roman numeral.

Example of an outline:

I. INTRODUCTION - (Brief comment leading into subject matter -

Thesis statement on Shakespeare)

II. BODY - Shakespeare's Early Life, Marriage, Works, Later Years

A. Early life in Stratford

1. Shakespeare's family

a. Shakespeare's father

b. Shakespeare's mother

2. Shakespeare's marriage

a. Life of Anne Hathaway

b. Reference in Shakespeare's Poems

B. Shakespeare's works

1. Plays

a. Tragedies

i. Hamlet

ii. Romeo and Juliet

b. Comedies

i. The Tempest

ii. Much Ado About Nothing

c. Histories

i. King John

ii. Richard III

iii. Henry VIII

2. Sonnets

3. Other poems

C. Shakespeare's Later Years

1. Last two plays

2. Retired to Stratford

a. Death

b. Burial
i. Epitaph on his tombstone


A. Analytical summary

1. Shakespeare's early life

2. Shakespeare's works

3. Shakespeare's later years

B. Thesis reworded

C. Concluding statement

The purpose of an outline is to help you think through your topic carefully and organize it logically before you
start writing. A good outline is the most important step in writing a good paper. Check your outline to make sure
that the points covered flow logically from one to the other. Include in your outline an INTRODUCTION, a BODY,
and a CONCLUSION. Make the first outline tentative.

INTRODUCTION - State your thesis and the purpose of your research paper clearly. What is the chief reason you
are writing the paper? State also how you plan to approach your topic. Is this a factual report, a book review, a
comparison, or an analysis of a problem? Explain briefly the major points you plan to cover in your paper and
why readers should be interested in your topic.

BODY - This is where you present your arguments to support your thesis statement. Remember the Rule of 3, i.e.
find 3 supporting arguments for each position you take. Begin with a strong argument, then use a stronger one,
and end with the strongest argument for your final point.

CONCLUSION - Restate or reword your thesis. Summarize your arguments. Explain why you have come to this
particular conclusion.


Organize all the information you have gathered according to your outline. Critically analyze your research data.
Using the best available sources, check for accuracy and verify that the information is factual, up-to-date, and
correct. Opposing views should also be noted if they help to support your thesis. This is the most important stage
in writing a research paper. Here you will analyze, synthesize, sort, and digest the information you have gathered
and hopefully learn something about your topic which is the real purpose of doing a research paper in the first
place. You must also be able to effectively communicate your thoughts, ideas, insights, and research findings to
others through written words as in a report, an essay, a research or term paper, or through spoken words as in an
oral or multimedia presentation with audio-visual aids.

Do not include any information that is not relevant to your topic, and do not include information that you do not
understand. Make sure the information that you have noted is carefully recorded and in your own words, if
possible. Plagiarism is definitely out of the question. Document all ideas borrowed or quotes used very accurately.
As you organize your notes, jot down detailed bibliographical information for each cited paragraph and have it
ready to transfer to your Works Cited page.
Devise your own method to organize your notes. One method may be to mark with a different color ink or use a
hi-liter to identify sections in your outline, e.g., IA3b - meaning that the item "Accessing WWW" belongs in the
following location of your outline:

I. Understanding the Internet

A. What is the Internet

3. How to "Surf the Net"

b. Accessing WWW

Group your notes following the outline codes you have assigned to your notes, e.g., IA2, IA3, IA4, etc. This
method will enable you to quickly put all your resources in the right place as you organize your notes according to
your outline.


Start with the first topic in your outline. Read all the relevant notes you have gathered that have been marked, e.g.
with the capital Roman numeral I.

Summarize, paraphrase or quote directly for each idea you plan to use in your essay. Use a technique that suits
you, e.g. write summaries, paraphrases or quotations on note cards, or separate sheets of lined paper. Mark each
card or sheet of paper clearly with your outline code or reference, e.g., IB2a or IIC, etc.

Put all your note cards or paper in the order of your outline, e.g. IA, IB, IC. If using a word processor, create
meaningful filenames that match your outline codes for easy cut and paste as you type up your final paper, e.g.
cut first Introduction paragraph and paste it to IA. Before you know it, you have a well organized term paper
completed exactly as outlined.

If it is helpful to you, use a symbol such as "#" to mark the spot where you would like to check back later to edit a
paragraph. The unusual symbol will make it easy for you to find the exact location again. Delete the symbol once
editing is completed.


Read your paper for any content errors. Double check the facts and figures. Arrange and rearrange ideas to follow
your outline. Reorganize your outline if necessary, but always keep the purpose of your paper and your readers in
mind. Use a free grammar and proof reading checker such as Grammarly.


1. Is my thesis statement concise and clear?

2. Did I follow my outline? Did I miss anything?
3. Are my arguments presented in a logical sequence?
4. Are all sources properly cited to ensure that I am not plagiarizing?
5. Have I proved my thesis with strong supporting arguments?
6. Have I made my intentions and points clear in the essay?
Re-read your paper for grammatical errors. Use a dictionary or a thesaurus as needed. Do a spell check. Correct
all errors that you can spot and improve the overall quality of the paper to the best of your ability. Get someone
else to read it over. Sometimes a second pair of eyes can see mistakes that you missed.


1. Did I begin each paragraph with a proper topic sentence?

2. Have I supported my arguments with documented proof or examples?
3. Any run-on or unfinished sentences?
4. Any unnecessary or repetitious words?
5. Varying lengths of sentences?
6. Does one paragraph or idea flow smoothly into the next?
7. Any spelling or grammatical errors?
8. Quotes accurate in source, spelling, and punctuation?
9. Are all my citations accurate and in correct format?
10. Did I avoid using contractions? Use "cannot" instead of "can't", "do not" instead of "don't"?
11. Did I use third person as much as possible? Avoid using phrases such as "I think", "I guess", "I suppose"
12. Have I made my points clear and interesting but remained objective?
13. Did I leave a sense of completion for my reader(s) at the end of the paper?

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, by William Strunk, Jr.

For an excellent source on English composition, check out this classic book by William Strunk, Jr. on the
Elements of Style. Contents include: Elementary Rules of Usage, Elementary Principles of Composition, Words &
Expressions Commonly Misused, An Approach to Style with a List of Reminders: Place yourself in the
background, Revise and rewrite, Avoid fancy words, Be clear, Do not inject opinion, Do not take shortcuts at the
cost of clarity, ... and much more. Details of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. partially available online
at Bartleby.com. Note: William Strunk, Jr. (18691946). The Elements of Style was first published in 1918.


All formal reports or essays should be typewritten and printed, preferably on a good quality printer.

Read the assignment sheet again to be sure that you understand fully what is expected of you, and that your essay
meets the requirements as specified by your teacher. Know how your essay will be evaluated.
Proofread final paper carefully for spelling, punctuation, missing or duplicated words. Make the effort to ensure
that your final paper is clean, tidy, neat, and attractive.

Aim to have your final paper ready a day or two before the deadline. This gives you peace of mind and a chance to
triple check. Before handing in your assignment for marking, ask yourself: "Is this the VERY BEST that I can do?"

Writing the Rough Draft

Writing the rough draft is a transition, one that takes you from the mental aspect of note taking, outlining and prewriting to the
act of writing. Your topic is defined with a clarified and supported focus. As you incorporate all the work you have completed up
to this point, keep in mind that your rough draft is just thata rough copy of your paper that you continue to shape, edit and
strengthen after it is written.

With that in mind, you can tackle your rough draft. Focus on the content and the flow of information rather than on the little
details, such as detailed information and grammar there is plenty of time to clean up and strengthen your paper between the
rough draft and the final version. Your rough draft consists of writing an introduction, supporting body paragraphs and a
conclusion. As you write, keep the following tips in mind:

Maintain a logical development

Create smooth transitions between paragraphs

Stay in the active voice

Vary your sentence structure by using simple, complex and compound sentences

Avoid 1-2 sentence paragraphs

What you need to get started:

Your notes

Your outline

A clear mind

Time and room to work

While following your outline is important, putting every little detail and piece of supporting information into your paper in the
rough draft is not always necessary, but do what works for you. Your notes and outline together serve as guides for what you
intend to include and where you intend to include it.

Writing the introduction of your rough draft

With your outline in sight, start writing the introduction of your rough draft. The ultimate goal of a strong introduction is to get the
attention and interest of your readers. In addition, your introduction should do the following:

Include some background information on your topic

Make the perspective and point of view clear

Contain your thesis statement

Provide a roadmap of how your paper is organized (broadly defined)

Focus on the main points you make within the body of your paper

Writing the body paragraphs of your rough draft

The body paragraphs of your rough draft are the backbone of your paper; they hold the supporting information that backs up
your thesis. Keep the suggestions below in mind as you write each paragraph:

Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that defines what the paragraph is about

Write smooth transitions between paragraphs using transitional words and phrases

Avoid writing paragraphs that are too short because they show a lack of development

Stay in the active voice to keep your paper clear and effective

Maintain your point of view or perspective to keep the paper focused

Avoid summarizing information you have already written about save it for the conclusion

Support your perspective and interpretations with data in the form of indirect and direct quotations

Replace your keywords with synonyms periodically to avoid repetitive language

Cite all sourced material

Make sure the sentences of each paragraph flow to form a cohesive point

Writing the conclusion of your rough draft

The conclusion of your rough draft is where you tie everything together. Some of the information is similar to that found in the
introduction, but it should not be a word-for-word copy. In the conclusion, more emphasis is placed on the results of your
research or on broader implications on the subject as a whole. To write the conclusion, follow the below steps:

Re-read your introduction while paying particular attention to the development of it and supporting body paragraphs

Set the introduction aside

Summarize the argument made in your introduction

Conclude your argument(s)

Ultimately, your conclusion is your last chance to help readers truly understand what your paper is about, so it needs to show
the order and importance of your main points and show how you logically conclude the paper.

Remember as you write your rough draft that it is okay to omit the more detailed information to focus on the flow and transition
of each paragraph. The details obtained through your research are easily added after the first draft is complete. In fact, through
the process of finalizing your paper, you are likely to edit, proofread, make corrections and change things up quite a bit.

Once the basics of your paper are in place, though, applying those finishing touches to strengthen your paper is much easier.
With a rough draft completed, you should take a day or two away from the paper to provide clarity and a fresh perspective
when you come back to finalizing it.

Send to Kindle

Here are some helpful tips for writing academic papers from the Center for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Texas at Austin
(my alma mater)

1.GETTING STARTED: Brainstorm on problems and issues you would like to examine that might fit the assignment.

2.EXPLORATION AND REHEARSAL: Talk about your ideas in small groups: read as believers and doubters. Use expressive writing (idea
log, freewriting, idea-mapping) to plan your ideas.

3.DISCOVERY DRAFT: Write like the wind, focusing on getting your ideas clear on paper. Forget about grammar and mechanics for now.

4.REVISION OR "SEEING AGAIN": Look with fresh eyes on your draft, focusing on the organization, unity, anD coherence of your
arguments. This is a good time for seeking outside advice, such as through peer critiques or consultations at the Writing Lab.

5.EDITING: Polish your draft by scrutinizing the content, clarity, and precision of your prose. This is also the time to focus on surface
features, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, format.

Click on the topics below for more helps:

[Brainstorming] [Getting Started] [Writing the draft] [Organization] [Continuity] [Content] [Writing Style] [home]


1.What type of paper has your instructor asked you to write? Describe the assignment in your own words:

2.Did your instructor emphasize any additional specific requirements for this paper?

3.As spontaneously as you can, try listing below some topics that you might be interested in writing about (you need not use complete
sentences or even complete ideas).

[top] [home]


1.Write down as much information and as many questions as you can about your subject. Don't worry about how the ideas sound or

2.Look for (circle) main ideas or sentences which contain main ideas.

3.Make a list, grouping ideas that you think go together. Try several different arrangements of your ideas.

4.Read through your information and questions, looking for ideas and sentences that will support the main ideas. Mark main ideas that
need examples or further support.

5.Write a preliminary statement which explains what you are trying to accomplish in the paper. This will become your thesis or claim,
although it may not fully take shape until you have written some of your paper.

[top] [home]


1.Using the information and questions you have from step one and other ideas you have had, start filling in the sections of your outline.
Focus on getting your ideas on the paper in some sort of order rather than making each sentence sound good. Continue until you have
written down some ideas for each section.

2.Read over what you have written so far. Is your outline working? If not, try rearranging sections or ideas.

3.Look at each of your sections. Separate each larger idea in each section into paragraphs.
4.Mark paragraphs that you think are underdeveloped or overdeveloped. Can the overdeveloped ones be separate into two separate
points? Can the underdeveloped ones be combined or expanded? Can you tell from the length of each paragraph which ideas are most
important or central to your claim?

[top] [home]


Read through only the topic sentences in your paper, or assemble these into a second document on your word processor.

Does each sentence follow logically the one proceeding it?

Do they form a reasonable mini-essay in themselves?

Do you like the sequence of ideas?

Are similar ideas grouped together?

If necessary, move ideas -- whole paragraphs, sentences, part of text -- around like blocks to improve organization.

[top] [home]


Ask yourself whether sentences and paragraphs flow smoothly and logically. If necessary, tell your reader what point you're discussing,
what you'll talk about next. You may need to write some new sections, transition sentences or whole paragraphs.

[top] [home]


When your instructor comments on the organization of your writing, here are some things to consider as possible sources of problems:

Clear Statement of Purpose: Have you made it clear what you are trying to accomplish in this assignment? Somewhere near
the beginning there should be at least one sentence which states your purpose. Can you find it? How easily? Maybe you need
to make it stand out more from the rest of the writing.

Accurate Information: Do you have all your facts straight and accurate? Can you document those facts?

Have you included all the appropriate footnotes and references? Recheck what you have said about an idea if the instructor
questions your information. You may have misinterpreted the original or confused it with something else.

Correct Analysis: Is the position you're taking one which is justified by the evidence you present? Are you making any logical
leaps which are not based on the information you're providing? Write out your analysis in one or two paragraphs without the
evidence to see if the ideas make sense by themselves.

Points Made and Supported: This is one of the most common errors students make in writing assignments. First, the points
you want to make should be just as clearly stated as your original statement of purpose. Can you find those points in the
midst of your writing? Then each time you make a claim or generalization, you should provide data and examples to support
that statement. Have you provided that support for each main point?

Logical Sequence of Ideas: Your sequence of points should build to a "therefore" statement near the end of the assignment.
As in point 3, write out just the statements of main points and read them to see if they flow logically. Examples of logical
sequences are:
o From generalizations to the specific situation you are addressing
o From specific situations to an overall generalization
o One position on an issue, then a contrary position, then a synthesis of the two

There are many other possibilities. Just be sure your writing has some order to the sequence of points.

Transitions Between Ideas: If you have a nice sequence of main points, you should highlight the logical movement of the
argument from one point to the next. This is done by having transitions between the points. Transitions are phrases like "In
the first place," "in the second place," "If...., then," "on the other hand." They are also logical transitions. You can't simply
launch into an argument without giving some hint as to how it ties to the one before it and the one after it. Begin paragraphs
with sentences which tie the preceding thought to the one you are about to make.

Good Opening and Closing: An old axiom for communication is "tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them; and tell
them what you told them." The same applies to writing assignments. The opening should catch the reader's attention and
give him or her an idea about what the paper is going to accomplish. Then you proceed with the body of the paper. Finally
you have a big finish which wraps up all the main points and reiterates the original statement of purpose. Both the opening
and closing should be written with powerful images that leave the reader feeling energized and convinced of your brilliance.

[top] [home]


When your instructor comments on the writing style of your paper, here are some things to consider as possible sources of problems:

Appropriate for the Audience: Every time you write a paper, you should have a clear idea of who the probable audience is.
Different audiences require you to use different styles. Some require a formal style; some an informal style. Some audiences
require more explanation of basic concepts than others. A hostile audience will require more evidence and logic than an
audience which is already on your side. An informal audience would call more for anecdotal evidence and personal color. Be
sure you match the type of style you use to the intended audience of the paper. If you're not sure what that style is, check
with your instructor. Reading some of the literature in a given field will also give you an idea of the style which is typical for
that type of material.

Clear and Concise: You should be able to state your point and illustrate it with one or two examples or elaborations. You
should also be careful to say what you want in the fewest words necessary to convey the full meaning. Don't digress too often
or ramble. Think of what you would like a professor to do in a lecture: be clear and concise, and then base your own
discussion on that model.

Adequate Vocabulary: Every field has its technical terms. Learn to use the ones appropriate to the paper you are writing and
use them correctly. Try to use variety in the words you choose, but be sure that those words mean what you think they mean.
Using "big words" incorrectly is worse in most instructors' opinion than sticking to simpler words and using them correctly.

Mature Sentence Structure: Sentences can be short. Or they can go on at great length with several prepositional phrases and
modifiers plus dependent clauses which interrupt the flow of thought until the reader can't remember what the original
purpose of the sentence was. Neither type of sentence alone makes for mature sentence structure in writing. You should
strive for variety in sentence length and structure. A few sentences in a row with the same structure (I came; I saw; I
conquered) can build a rhythm which will heighten the effectiveness of a series of ideas, but too much parallel structure
becomes boring. Sentences which are very short will sound simplistic unless they are mixed in with more complex sentences.
Overly complex sentences, on the other hand, only make it hard for the reader to follow your thinking.

Voice: This is a technical term in writing which refers to the overall style a writer uses. It includes the concepts of formal
versus informal writing, the active versus the passive voice, and past, present and future tense. Each discipline has its own
characteristic "voice" in writing. The best way to develop an ear for the voice of your discipline is to read the writing of
professionals, such as in the journals or books prominent in the field. Voice manifests itself in the word choice, the sentence
structure, the use of pronouns, the type of vocabulary and several other less well-defined variables. It is sort of like speaking
with an accent; once you develop an ear for the voice of a discipline, you start to write like a sociologist or a chemist or
someone from any other field.

Mechanics: There is no easy way to overcome problems of grammar, punctuation and spelling. It takes simple hard work,
patience and attention to detail. On the other hand, with all the spelling and grammar checkers, handbooks, and dictionaries
available today, there is no reason for making simple mechanical errors. In most cases it comes down to taking the time to do
it. The best suggestions for overcoming problems with mechanics are:

a. Start writing early enough to give yourself time for proofreading

b. Get a good grammar handbook and dictionary and use them

c. Stick to words you know and sentence structures you can punctuate

d. Be patient and persistent

e. If you don't know, ask someone

Remember that the way you present information has as much to do with the impression it makes as the information itself. Don't let your
message be overcome by the medium.