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How to Write a Research Paper

How to Write a Research Paper
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  • 0:04 What Is a Research Paper?
  • 0:38 The First Stages
  • 2:08 Sources
  • 3:08 Notes & an Outline
  • 4:16 The Final Stages
  • 5:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Ever struggle to write a research paper? Don't know where to begin? Watch this lesson to learn a simple, reliable method for writing a thorough research paper about a specific topic.

What Is a Research Paper?

The dreaded research paper. Just hearing that phrase sends most students into fits of panic. Where do you begin? How do know if you have a good idea? What if you have no ideas? The good news is, if you have a step-by-step process to follow, these questions will answer themselves. A research paper is just the final product of research, critical thinking, and composition about a specific topic. Usually, a research paper aims to answer a specific question within a more general topic. The rest of this lesson outlines a step-by-step process for creating one.

The First Stages

The very first step is to decide on the topic or subject to investigate. Communication, immigration, and terrorism are some examples of general topics you can choose to research. However, keep in mind that in the next step, you'll have to narrow any one of those larger subjects down into a specific research question.

At this point, you also want to determine the purpose, or the reason for writing. Are you informing? Persuading? Offering a unique perspective? Also, who will be reading your paper? Your teacher? Your classmates? Web users? The answers to these questions will influence your writing.

The second step is to create the research question. The research question is the specific focus or controlling idea of the writing project. Again, you can start with a general topic, but before you begin to research, a more precise direction is needed. The research question will give you that direction. Here are some sample research questions for each general topic already mentioned.

  • Communication: How does efficient communication affect the success of a business?
  • Immigration: What are the influences of varying immigration policies across the globe? Why are there differences?
  • Terrorism: How has technology affected the increase in terrorist attacks in the past ten years?

Each of these questions seeks a very specific type of information for each topic. This approach will help narrow down the information you need. Remember, you need to create a specific question before you begin to research.

Sources

Once you have a topic and a plan, the third step is to find sources, or search for suppliers of reliable information. Encyclopedias, academic journals, newspapers, and magazines are just some examples of information sources. Nowadays, nearly all of these sources can be found online. The web has amazing information, but you must always remember that anyone can post online. Be very careful about what you decide to include. Check the publisher and author to verify that you are using an official source. Use search engines to discover reliable experts in your topic's field.

Noting this background information about your sources lets you begin the bibliography, which is the list of your sources. As soon as you find a source you deem credible, copy down all the information available about it. The title of the source, its publisher, its author, the credentials of the publisher and author, and the date it was written should all be recorded. Use only the most up-to-date, verifiable sources in your project.

Notes & an Outline

The fourth step involves taking notes and creating an outline. Use notes to single out the useful pieces of information from your sources. Any information that may help answer your research question might be recorded. Remember, it's easier to cut out details than to return to the research stage to find new information.

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