These basic steps will help you create a research paper that is simple and effective. These steps may need to be rearranged depending on how familiar you are with the topic, or the challenges encountered along the way.
Step 1: Identify your topic and then develop it
The most difficult part of a research assignment is choosing a topic. It is crucial that you do this correctly, as it is the first step of writing a paper. Here are some suggestions for choosing a topic:
- Choose a topic that fits the requirements of the assignment. Your instructor will often give clear guidelines on what topics you are allowed to write about. Your instructor may reject your paper if you don’t follow these guidelines.
- Find a topic that interests you personally and research it. Writing a paper is more fun if it’s something you find fascinating.
- Choose a topic that you can find sufficient information about. To determine if existing information sources can meet your needs, do a preliminary search. You may need to reduce the amount of information you find. If you find too many, you might need to narrow down your topic.
- Be unique. Every year, your instructor reads hundreds upon hundreds of research papers. Many of these papers are related topics (topics in the news, controversial issues, areas for which there is plenty of information, etc.).
- Are you still having trouble finding a topic? Ask your instructor for help.
It may be helpful to form a question after you have chosen your topic. Asking your topic as a question will help you to identify the key concepts and keywords that will be used in your research.
Step 2: Perform a preliminary search to find information
Do a preliminary search before you start your research. This will allow you to establish the context and determine if there is enough information available. You can search for your keywords in the Reference collection of the library (e.g. encyclopedias, dictionaries), and other sources like our catalog of books and Internet search engines.
Step 3: Locate the materials
Now that you know where you want to go with your research, you can start looking for information on the topic. There are many places where you can find information.
You can search the electronic periodical databases of the library to locate newspaper and magazine articles. You can choose the database and format that is most appropriate for your topic. Ask the Reference Desk librarian for help in choosing the right database. Many articles are available in full text format.
Use search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) Use search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) and subject directories to find materials on the Internet. For useful subject links, visit the Internet Resources section on the NHCC Library website.
Step 4: Evaluate your sources
Your instructor expects you to provide reliable, credible, and truthful information. You have every right expect the same from the sources you use. This is particularly important when you are using Internet resources which can be regarded as less reliable.
Step 5: Take notes
Note the useful information in the resource you have selected. Even if you don’t use a particular source, be sure to record all sources. When creating a bibliography, you will need the author, title, publisher and URL information.
Step 6: Write your paper
Start by organizing all the information that you have gathered. Next, you will need to create a rough draft. This is where you put your thoughts on paper. This step will allow you to organize your thoughts and decide the format of your final paper. You will then revise your draft as many times you feel necessary to produce a final product that you can submit to your instructor.
Step 7: Cite your sources properly
Citing and documenting sources used in research serves two purposes. It gives credit to the authors and allows others to copy your work and locate the references you have provided. Two popular citation formats are the MLA Styles and the APA Styles.
Step 8: Proofread
Final step is to proofread your paper. Check the text for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation. Check that the source you used is properly cited. You must clearly communicate the message you wish to convey to the reader.
Additional research tips
- Start with the general and then move on to the specific. First, find background information. Then search for more specific sources.
- Print sources are important – often print materials can be accessed more quickly and are just as useful as online resources.
- Ask your instructor if you have any questions regarding the assignment.
- Ask the librarian if you have questions about how to find information in the library.