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Writing a Research Paper

Academic Papers

❶Depending on the subject matter and the personal preferences of your instructor, you may be required to use a particular citation style.

Points to Consider




Make sure you cite any sources you use and create a bibliography at the end of your paper. May Thu Thu Win. Read the instructions carefully. Before you begin working on your essay, it is crucial to understand what the assignment is about, and to learn if there are any specific rules you need to follow. Read your assignment thoroughly, and assess what you need to do. Is your essay supposed to present a critical analysis of a source , such as a book, poem, film, or work of art?

Is the objective to demonstrate your ability to present an original argument based on research? Have you been asked to compare and contrast two ideas, events, or literary or artistic works? Make note of any formatting requirements. Different instructors have different expectations regarding formatting. Check your assignment carefully for formatting guidelines. These might include things like line spacing, total essay length in words, pages, or paragraphs , font size, page numbers, or requirements for cover pages and section headings.

Pay attention to citation style requirements. Depending on the subject matter and the personal preferences of your instructor, you may be required to use a particular citation style. In the US, for example: Essays on subjects in the social sciences usually use APA-style citations.

Essays on subjects in the humanities, such as literature or history, typically use MLA or Chicago Style. Essays on medical or health-related topics may use the AMA style , while other sciences have their own discipline-specific styles.

The basic rules for most common citation styles are readily available online. For more detailed information, look for a style guide in your school library or bookstore. Most instructors are happy to explain anything that might be unclear, or offer advice on how to approach the assignment.

Narrow down your topic. Unless you have been given a very specific assignment, you will probably need to pick a topic to focus on. Before you start writing, figure out what the main point of your essay will be, and how you plan to approach it. Choose a topic that really interests you, or that sparks a particular question you would like to answer. The first step in writing an academic paper is finding good sources. Another good way to start building your bibliography is to look at the reference list on an introductory overview of your subject, such as an encyclopedia entry.

Look for sources that are reputable, well-sourced, and up-to-date. Ideally, most of your sources should have been published within the last years. Scholarly books and peer-reviewed articles from academic journals are usually acceptable sources, as well as articles from reputable news organizations. Avoid popular publications and user-edited websites, such as Wikipedia. Read your sources critically. Consider some of the following as you are doing your research: Where is the author getting their information?

Do they provide credible sources? Does the author provide convincing evidence to back up their arguments? Does the author have any obvious biases or agendas that affect the way they present or interpret their information? Incorporate primary sources, if applicable. A primary source is any type of first-hand or direct evidence about your topic. Depending on the subject matter, a primary source might be something like a video recording of an event, data from a laboratory experiment, an interview with an eyewitness, or a historical document, such as a monument, work of art, or memoir.

Looking at primary data allows you to interpret the evidence for yourself. Your instructor should specify whether you need to incorporate primary sources into your research, and if so, how to find and utilize them.

Evaluate online sources carefully. While the internet offers a vast quantity of useful information for researchers, it can be hard to separate good-quality resources from bad ones. In general, look for sources that are published on scholarly websites such as university, library, or museum websites , by reputable news organizations such as the BBC, NPR, or the Associated Press , or by government organizations like the EPA or FDA.

When using online articles or other online sources, also consider these questions: Is the author qualified to write on the subject? Does the author state where they got their information? Are you able to verify the sources? Is the article written in an objective, unbiased manner? Is the article written for an academic audience?

Is the content intended to be educational? How does the URL end? Generally, sites that end in. Create a clear thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the most important part of your essay.

This is where you get to explain, in clear, concise terms, the main argument that you are planning to make in your essay. State your thesis in sentences, then work on building an outline and essay that supports your thesis. Once you have narrowed down your topic and done your research, start organizing your thoughts.

Write a list of the most important points that you would like to touch on, in the order in which you plan to address them. Introduction Body Point 1, with supporting evidence Point 2, with supporting evidence Point 3, with supporting evidence Counter-argument s Your refutation of the counter-argument s Conclusion.

Present your argument in detail. This is the main part of the essay, consisting of several paragraphs in which you present the major arguments and evidence in support of your thesis. Support each statement with examples, evidence, and an analysis. In order to make your argument convincing, you must provide concrete evidence and an analysis of the evidence.

If you got ideas from it then you better cite it. If you are familiar with official APA citation style, please use it.

At the very least, bibliographic style should look like the following examples:. University of Notre Dame Press, However, do be careful how you cite articles in edited volumes. The editor s of the book i. Usually the editor s have only one or two of them at most.

You must cite each article separately by the name of the author s of each article. Check to make sure you are clear on whose article or chapter is whose. Also make sure you underline or italicize pick one and stick with it the book title and put the article or chapter title in quotes. For more examples of bibliography formatting, and the relevant information on the course readings, consult the syllabus.

All of that information is there for you. A word of advice about Internet sources: Be familiar with the journal literature and the popular sources that are also available on paper. Learn how to use EconLit and other scholarly and popular indexes. Then, and only then, should you Google. Net sources are on average much less reliable than printed ones because even though scholarly material is available via Google, a much larger percentage of what you find is, in one way or another, self-published and therefore less reliable.

The best way to determine whether a Net source is a legitimate one is having read lots of printed material and having a sense for what kinds of arguments are considered reasonable. However, if you do find a usable Net source, you should cite it like any other work.

Note that there must be an author and a title of the page or paper in question. Then you can provide the complete URL and either a date listed on the page, or the date that you accessed the information. The hardest part about making use of sources is not finding them or learning how manipulate the mechanics of citation. The hard part is evaluating whether a source is reliable or not. This is especially true on the Net, but is also true for printed material. The best way to become a good judge of sources is to read them.

For example, papers that keep being cited by other authors are probably important. But the only way to know that is to have done a fair amount of reading and research including the reference lists of the sources you find and entering the ongoing conversation. And that requires making the time and doing the work.

Nothing is more disappointing and annoying than a sloppy looking paper. Show some pride in what you do and take the time to make it at least look like you care.

You should feel flattered that someone has asked you to tell them what you have to say about a subject. The following is a list of things that your papers, first drafts included , must contain.

This includes any drafts you send as a file attached to an email or place in a drop box on Angel. If I print that file, it should look just like a paper you would hand in as hard copy.

Use Times New Roman 12 point font or something else easily readable like Garamond and do not use the templates in Word or for writing papers. Just plain black text on a white page please.

If a hard copy, your entire paper must be stapled or paper clipped — Do not use geeky plastic binders. A few comments on this list.

First, pick a title that says something about your paper. An Example of the Failures of Stalinism. Your title should also not be a complete sentence. It should be a short, declarative summary of the paper. Second, if you have a long paper that seems to divide up into distinct sections, break it up by using section headings. For example, if the first half of your paper on Albania was about socialist theory, you could use a section heading to indicate it.

Before you start the next section, say on the history of Albania, you could use another section heading, and then use one to indicate your conclusion.

This will help keep your organization straight and make it clearer for your reader. Third, number your pages. This enables me to give you help or criticism on specific pages. No little thing annoys me more than a lack of page numbers. Fourth, give yourself enough time to do the assignment well. The biggest cause of sloppy work and bad analysis is not taking your time. If you start enough in advance, you can run a draft or two and take the time to read them for analytical and grammatical errors.

Here is a deliberately brief summary of guidance that some folk have found useful:. There two major models for structuring an academic paper: Whatever method you use, it is important to set it up right, and plan your paper beforehand.

You may find it useful to also c heck tips in my post on storyboarding research. A paper should have 40 paragraphs, arranged in eight even-length sections:. Do not make this section too long!

This section tends to be ultra-conventional in many papers. Think about what details readers need to know: That would mean 15 paragraphs,maybe divided into two or three parts, e. You need at least 5 paragraphs discussing the results. Later on in the conclusion, open out to next stage research questions. The beginning and the end of papers are the hardest to write. Ideas at the beginning and the end frame what has to be said. The beginning has to establish a commonality between you and the reader.

This advice is based on an 8, words article. If your article has to be shorter, reduce the number of paragraphs on a pro-rata basis. The focus here is on positively attracting readers to read, remember and cite your paper. DL] 8 Oct Both these factors mean that it is well worth writing the best designed and most accessible paper that you can. Three basic designs are feasible:.


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Academic writing is devoted to topics and questions that are of interest to the academic community. When you write an academic paper, you must first try to find a topic or a question that is relevant and appropriate - not only to you, but to the academic community of which you are now a part.

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Use Times New Roman 12 point font or something else easily readable like Garamond and do not use the templates in Word or for writing papers. Just plain black text on a white page please. Just plain black text on a white page please.

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Academic Papers. Academic papers also known as, research papers or refers to those papers which reach a particular objective or analysis through arguments and analysis, provided by past inferences or factual data.. Methods of study for conducting academic research and writing an academic paper might differ according to the subject and level of study but the basic structure of academic papers. Writing an Academic Paper Listed below are the steps required to write an academic paper. These steps do not have to be done in the order listed; in fact, they may be repeated many times during the process. Repeating steps most often happens during the research, reading, and first draft stage of writing. Writing and learning is a fluid.

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The writer of the academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence. The beginning of the essay is a crucial first step in this process. In order to engage readers and establish your authority, the beginning of your essay has to accomplish certain business. Your beginning should introduce the essay, focus it, and . Writing a Research Paper. This page lists some of the stages involved in writing a library-based research paper. Although this list suggests that there is a simple, linear process to writing such a paper, the actual process of writing a research paper is often a messy and recursive one, so please use this outline as a flexible guide.