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By now you have learned about words and how they relate to each other, you have learned about sentence structures, how to write a paragraph and how to write a book report. However, now it is time that you learn how to prepare a research paper.
A research paper is an expanded essay and is generally between 5 to 15 pages long. The first objective is to get the writer to find information on a specific topic then present that information with supporting evidence. It also requires the writer to incorporate their own views, opinions and summation of the topic.
In order to have an effective and well written research paper you will need to follow a series of steps. Don’t be alarmed by the steps. With each research paper you do, most of these steps will become so natural to you that you won’t even have to think about them. Other steps will take more time. So now let’s look at the steps.
Let’s say you were given the assignment to write a research paper on the Pilgrims. That seems simple enough until you sit down to a blank piece of paper and ask yourself, “Okay, what am I going to say about the Pilgrims?” It is at this point that you realize you need to do some research. The first step in researching is to narrow the topic.
Step 1: Narrow the Topic
To make your paper more interesting you need to determine what you want to tell about the Pilgrims. Do you want to talk about the way they dressed, the way they farmed, their travel to the New World, life on board of the Mayflower, their religious values, their political values or whatnot? By narrowing your research down to one or two topics, it helps to take away the anxiety of just what you are supposed to write about. It can also help you to eliminate unnecessary research time. Once you pick the one or two areas or topics to focus on, it’s time to move to step 2.
Step 2: Take Notes
As you read through researched materials, jot down notes that interest you in the topics you have chosen. Some people find that jotting down notes on index cards helps them while others just jot them down on a piece of paper. Whichever way is most comfortable to you is okay. However, be sure your notes are detailed enough to remind you of a point or event. If your notes are too vague, later on when you have to rely upon them you will be wondering what the note was supposed to be about and why did you write it out anyway. So your notes shouldn’t be too wordy but they should give you enough information that you remember why you wrote the note and where you thought that information could go in your research paper. Make sure that your notes are about relevant items that should go into your paper. Don’t get sidetracked from the one or two areas that you have chosen to focus on. After all notes have been taken, move on to step 3.
Step 3: Primary and Secondary
When researching a topic, record all of the resources you have used. Resources can include autobiographies, biographies, diaries, encyclopedias, history books, personal journals and so on. Some sources are considered to be “primary” sources which mean they come from reliable records, government records (birth, marriage and death), personal journals, diaries or autobiographies or even interviews directly with a person or a family member. “Secondary” sources would include newspapers clippings, word of mouth, people’s writings based on their own opinions, etc.
Always be aware of your sources and then verify as best as you can that the source is legitimate. If the source is unreliable or cannot be verified, your best option is to not use any materials or notes from that source. In this process you will select and limit your sources for a more accurate research paper. Because many sources will not be verifiable, during your note taking step, the more sources you use the better. This way when you start weeding out the unreliable sources you should still have plenty of notes to write your research paper. Now you are ready for step 4.
Step 4: Develop the Topic and Create an Outline
Now that you have all of the notes that are reliable, organize the notes into different sections. For example, if you chose to write about the clothing of the Pilgrims, you might have notes that described what women wore, some about what men wore and others about what children wore. You might even have notes about how the clothes were made or how they were repaired. Separate each grouping of notes and put them in the order you would like to present them. Once you have all of your notes grouped into sections and in order, it’s time to write an outline. In other words, start writing brief sentences and breakdowns for each grouping of notes. Read through your outline and see if it flows from one section to the next. If not, make the appropriate changes. If it does, then it’s time to move to step 5.
Step 5: First Draft
At this point it is time to turn your outline into a written paper. Be sure to include an amazing introductory paragraph that will capture the reader’s attention. In the introductory paragraph you will give a brief overview of what your paper will be about. If written well the reader will want to read on. Write out the main body of your paper in the order you assigned in the outline. Once the draft is done, move on to step 6.
Step 6: Present Pertinent Facts
Now read over your first draft and check to see that you included within your writing the references that you used to present the material. If you used any pictures, maps or any other form of graphics, be sure to include the source reference for those as well. If you omitted a reference, here is where you need to add it in. When all references have been documented, move on to step 7.
Step 7: Second Draft: Organize Paragraphs and Formatting
Now it’s time to write a second draft, polishing it up with the edits and changes you made to the first draft. This is also where you will check to see if the paragraphs have been organized well or if they need to be moved around. Tweak the paragraphs so the flow of the body of the paper is smooth and orderly. It is also at this point that you need to check the formatting. If you have titles in your paper do you want the titles in all capital letters or upper and lower cases? Do you want them to be bolded or underlined or both? Be consistent throughout. When the introductory paragraph and body have been successfully rewritten, reworked and made consistent, it is time to move on to step 8.
Step 8: Conclusion
Now it’s time to add your concluding paragraph. The concluding paragraph needs to wrap up the research paper with a pretty bow. The concluding paragraph will include the writer’s final opinion and/or views and should be written in a way that will inspire the reader to either look more into the topic(s) or feel satisfied and informed by having read the paper. Now it’s time to move to step 9.
Step 9: Appendix
This is a page or pages that will be at the end of the research paper and will include an alphabetical listing of the references used. This will allow the readers to look up the references themselves if they so choose to do so. Once the Appendix is done it’s time to move to the step 10 – the final step!
Step 10: Final Paper
Now that you have done your first and second drafts and cleaned everything up, it’s time to create the final product. By this stage, everything should be in top shape. Complete the final paper and turn it in. YOU’RE DONE!
Well, there you have it, the steps in how to prepare a research paper. Try to memorize these steps carefully. They will help you in all of your papers through middle school, high school and even college. So now let’s move to the next step of this quiz – the questions!
Read each question carefully and see if you can find the correct answer on how to prepare a research paper.