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How to Write a Research Paper

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What is a research paper? A research paper is a piece of academic writing based on its author’s original research on a particular topic, and the analysis and interpretation of the research findings. It can be either a term paper, a master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation. 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.

STEP 1. HOW TO START A RESEARCH PAPER? CHOOSE A TOPIC

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.

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STEP 2. FIND INFORMATION

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.)
  • Google Scholar
  • 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
  • Newspapers
  • 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 information.

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 source.

STEP 3. MAKE YOUR THESIS STATEMENT

Most research papers normally require a thesis statement. If you are not sure, ask your teacher whether your paper requires it.

A thesis statement is a main idea, a central point of your research paper. The arguments you provide in your paper should be based on this cenral idea, that is why it is so important. Do some critical thinking and write your thesis statement down in one sentence. Your research paper thesis statement is like a declaration of your belief. The main portion of your essay will consist of arguments to support and defend this belief.

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A thesis statement should be provided early in your paper – in the introduction part, or in the second paragraph, if your paper is longer.

It is impossible to create a thesis statement immediately when you have just started fulfilling your assignment. Before you write a thesis statement, you should collect, organize and analyze materials and your ideas. You cannot make a finally formulated statement before you have completed your reseach paper. It will naturally change while you develop your ideas.

Stay away from generic and too fuzzy statements and arguments. Use a particular subject. The paper should present something new to the audience to make it interesting and educative to read.

Avoid citing other authors in this section. Present your own ideas in your own words instead of simply copying from other writers.

A thesis statement should do the following:

  • Explain the readers how you interpret the subject of the research
  • Tell the readers what to expect from your paper
  • Answer the question you were asked
  • Present your claim which other people may want to dispute

Make sure your thesis is strong.

If you have time and opportunity, show it to your instructor to revise. Otherwise, you may estimate it yourself.

  • Does my statement answer the question of my assignment?
  • Can my position be disputed or opposed? If not, maybe you have just provided a summary instead of creating an argument.
  • Is my statement precise enough? It should not be too general and vague.
  • Does it pass a so-called “so what” test? Does it provide new/interesting information to your audience or does it simply state a generic fact?
  • Does the body of my manuscript support my thesis, or are they different things? Compare them and change if necessary. Remember that changing elements of your work in the process of writing and reviewing is normal.

A well-prepared thesis means well-shaped ideas. It increases credibility of the paper and makes good impression about its author.

STEP 4. MAKE A RESEARCH PAPER OUTLINE

A research paper basically has the following structure:

  1. Title Page (including the title, the author’s name, the name of a University or colledge, and the publication date)
  2. Abstract (brief summary of the paper – 250 words or less)
  3. Introduction (background information on the topic or a brief comment leading into the subject matter – up to 2 pages)
  4. Manuscript Body, which can be broken down in further sections, depending on the nature of research:
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results (what are the results obtained)
  • Discussion and Conclusion etc.
  1. Reference
  2. Tables, figures, and appendix (optional)

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An outline might be formal or informal.

An informal outline (working outline) is a tool helping an author put down and organize their ideas. It is subject to revision, addition and canceling, without paying much attention to form. It helps an author to make their key points clear for him/her and arrange them.

Sometimes the students are asked to submit formal outlines with their research papers.

In a formal outline, numbers and letters are used to arrange topics and subtopics. The letters and numbers of the same kind should be placed directly under one another. The topics denoted by their headings and subheadings should be grouped in a logical order.

All points of a research paper outline must relate to the same major topic that you first mentioned in your capital Roman numeral.

Example of an outline:

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.

STEP 5. ORGANIZE YOUR NOTES

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:

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.

STEP 6. WRITE YOUR FIRST DRAFT

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.

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STEP 7. REVISE YOUR OUTLINE AND DRAFT

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.

CHECKLIST ONE:

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.

CHECKLIST TWO:

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?

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. (1869–1946). The Elements of Style was first published in 1918.

There is also a particular formatting style you must follow. It depends on the field of your studies or the requirements of your University/supervisor.

There are several formatting styles typically used. The most commonly used are the APA style and the MLA style. However, there are such style guides as the Chicago Manual of Style, American Medical Association (AMA) Style, and more.

APA (American Psychological Association) style is mostly used to cite sources within the field of social sciences. The detailed information can be found in Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6 th ed., 2 nd printing).

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used for the liberal arts and humanities. The most recent printed guide on it is the MLA Handbook (8 th ed.). Instead of providing individual recommendations for each publishing format (printed, online, e-books etc.), this edition recommends a single universal set of guidelines, which writers can apply to any kind of source.

You should necessarily ask your instuctor which formatting style is required for your paper and format it accordingly before submitting.

STEP 8. TYPE FINAL PAPER

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?”

Format for a Research Paper

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Regardless of the nature of your research, if you are writing a paper an outline will help you to not only organize your thoughts, it will also serve as the template for your entire paper. An outline for a research paper is a visual reminder to include all of the pertinent details of your research into your essay or paper. It is essentially a skeletal version of the true paper, and will guide you through the entire process.

How do you create an outline for your paper?

Initially, separating your essay, research or other paper into various components (Introduction, Body, Conclusion, etc.) will help you to stay better organized and reduce the risk of important information being forgotten or unintentionally omitted. Furthermore, breaking the essay down into these parts will allow you to address specific parts individually and lessen the chances of feeling overwhelmed or like you might be in over your head.

How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

The structure of your outline will be similar regardless of whether you are writing a scientific paper or something more general. Interestingly, the structure of a research outline is nearly identical to that of a research paper template. In order to better acquaint yourself with the structure of an outline, check out sample research papers online. The USC Guide to Making an Outline will also help you.

The chief components to an outline are:

Relatively straightforward, right? However, the part to remember is that each part serves a specific purpose and how you arrange information in your outline will drive how your paper reads upon completion.

The Introduction is one of the most important elements of any great research paper, and interestingly enough, often written LAST. This is because the purpose of the introduction is to grab the attention of the reader, this is done by presenting the reader with the topic, and using the thesis statement as an opportunity to ‘hook’ the attention of the reader.

The Body is the heartiest part of the essay, it includes many fact-rich paragraphs or subsections and will allow you to build upon your thesis statement by providing facts to support your argument. This section should not only elaborate on your opening statement, but also provide insight into the methods used to conduct your research and also include investigative points or answers to questions pondered.

You will also want to consider using a literature overview. This is achieved by documenting the literary sources used to support your theories and hypothesis. The topic of your paper and the selected literature should be adjacent.

If you used any sort of data validation, this will typically follow the methodology and literature sections. This is where you will highlight your results and mention other variables that you’ve uncovered in your research. You might choose to use graphs or tables, but remember to explain these to your readers.

Lastly, you will write your Conclusion. The conclusion typically does not offer new information, but rather summarizes the main points addressed in the paper. It is mandatory to also reiterate the thesis statement and mention any future research.

How to Format a Research Paper

There are a number of sources you can turn to for research paper examples and, depending on your field of study, a plethora of potential high quality topics exist to pull your subject matter from.

As you will learn from looking any good research paper example, writing a great paper involves so much more than simply throwing a bunch of text and citations into a word processor and hoping for the best.

A passing grade means not only thoroughly researching your topic and ensuring that all of your sources are accurately cited, it also means ensuring that your research essay is properly formatted. The following guideline will help you to create finished paper that not only reads like it was professionally written – but also looks like it!

Formatting A Research Paper

Use clean, good quality 8 1/2″ x 11″ white paper, one side only.

Leave margins of your essay 1″ (2.5 cm) at the top, bottom, left and right sides of each and every page. 1″ is about 10 typed spaces. Exception is made for page numbers which are placed 1/2″ (1.25 cm) from the top upper-right hand corner, flushed to the right margin.

3. Title Page

A title page is not essential for a research paper unless specifically requested by your teacher. The MLA Handbook provides a general guideline on writing a research paper and documenting sources. In case of conflict, you should always follow guidelines set down by your teacher.

If you don’t have a title page, you may begin 1″ from the top of the first page of your essay and start typing your name flushed against the left margin. Then under your name, on separate lines, double-spaced, and flushed against the left margin, type your teacher’s name, your course code, and the date.

If your teacher prefers the first page of your essay not be numbered, you will begin numbering with page 2.

Double-space after the date. On a new line, center the title of your essay. If you have a long title, double-space between lines of the title.

16 January 2006

Gun Control: Pros and Cons

Do not type your title all in capital letters. Do not put quotations marks before and after the title. Do not underline the title, or put a period at the end of the title. Proper names of people and places as well as important words should be capitalized in the title, but prepositions and conjunctions are normally shown in lower case letters, e.g. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The same rule applies to headings and subheadings as well.

Follow the same capitalization rules for acronyms as you normally would in writing a text of the essay, e.g. FBI would be all in capitals as it is the acronym for Federal Bureau of Investigations . When using an acronym, especially an uncommon one, you must indicate what the letters stand for at the first occurrence in your essay. Example: The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is nearly finished converting from using standard desktop PCs to blade PCs.

If a Title Page is a requirement for your assignment, begin on a new page. Use a format preferred by your teacher. Otherwise, center each line and double-space every line on a blank page: name of school (optional), title of paper in upper and lower case, course code, course name (optional), teacher’s name, your first and last name, and date.

Your separate title page should appear as follows:

Gun Control: Pros and Cons

16 January 2006

The following example shows what NOT to do for a title page:

TITLE OF ESSAY: “GUN CONTROL: PROS AND CONS”

COURSE CODE: “NRW-3A1-01”

TO MY TEACHER: “MS. KATIE ELIZABETH SMITH”

FROM YOUR STUDENT: “TRACY MARIA CHRISTINA CARMELA JONES”

ASSIGNMENT DUE DATE: “MONDAY, JANUARY THE SIXTEENTH, IN THE YEAR 2006”

It is not necessary to describe or explain the title page by adding the words: Title, Course Code, To, From, or Due Date. More is not better. Minimal information providing simple identification is adequate.

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4. Numbering Pages and Paragraphs

Number your pages consecutively throughout the essay in the upper right hand corner, flush against the right margin and 1/2″ from the top. The MLA Handbook recommends that you type your last name just before the page number in case the pages get misplaced (134). On page 4 of your essay, for example, your top right-hand corner should show: Jones 4

Page numbers must be written in Arabic numerals. Do not add anything fancy to decorate a page number. Do not underline it, enclose it between hyphens, parentheses, asterisks, or precede it with “Page”, “Pg.”, “P.”, or add a period after the number. In other words, DO NOT use any of the following:

PAGE 4, Page 4, Pg. 4, P 4, pg. 4, p. 4, #4,

Remember, there is no period after the page number.

If you are submitting your essay to your teacher via e-mail, he or she may prefer that you number all your paragraphs consecutively with reference points by adding [1] at the beginning of your 1st paragraph, [2] before your 2nd paragraph, and so forth. Electronic submission of documents is becoming more common as e-mail is being used widely. This system will facilitate the citation of sources by identifying a specific paragraph for reference very quickly.

5. Spacing Between Lines

Whether your essay is handwritten, typed or printed, the entire essay should be double-spaced between lines along with 1″ margin on all sides for your teacher to write comments.

Spacing Between Words

In general, leave one space between words and one space after every comma, semi-colon, or colon. Traditionally, two spaces are required at the end of every sentence whether the sentence ends with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation mark. Although it is not wrong to leave two spaces after a period, it is quite acceptable nowadays to leave only one space after each punctuation mark. However, NO space should be left in front of a punctuation mark; for example, the following would be incorrect: op. cit. or “Why me?”

For details on how to place tables, illustrations, figures, musical notations, labels, captions, etc. in your essay, please see the MLA Handbook (134-137).

6. Indentation

If a handwritten essay is acceptable to your teacher, remember to double-space all lines, and begin each paragraph with an indentation of 1″ from the left margin. Use the width of your thumb as a rough guide.

If you are using a typewriter or a word processor on a computer, indent 5 spaces or 1/2″ at the beginning of each paragraph. Indent set-off quotations 10 spaces or 1″ from the left margin.

Your instructor may give you a choice to indent or not to indent your paragraphs. No matter whichever one you choose to use, you must be consistent throughout your essay.

If you are NOT indenting, you will start each paragraph flush to the left margin. It is essential that you double-space between lines and quadruple-space between paragraphs. When paragraphs are not indented, it is difficult for a reader to see where a new paragraph begins, hence quadruple-space is called for between paragraphs. Set-off quotations should still be indented 10 spaces or 1″ from the left margin.

7. Right Justify and Automatic Hyphens:

Do not right justify your entire essay and do not automatically format hyphens if you are using a word processor to type your essay. Left justify or justify your essay and type in the hyphens yourself where needed. Left justification is preferred as it will not leave big gaps between words.

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8. Titles of Books, Magazines, Newspapers, or Journals

When used within the text of your paper, titles of all full-length works such as novels, plays, or books, should be underlined, e.g. Shakespeare’s Theater.

Put in quotation marks titles of shorter works, such as newspaper, journal, and magazine articles, chapters of books or essays, e.g.: “Giving Back to the Earth: Western Helps Make a Difference in India.”

For all title citations, every word, except articles ( “a”, “an”, “the” ), prepositions (such as “in”, “on”, “under”, “over” ), and conjunctions (such as “and”, “because”, “but”, “however” ), should be capitalized, unless they occur at the beginning of the title or subtitle, e.g.: “And Now for Something Completely Different: A Hedgehog Hospital.”

Look it up in a dictionary whenever you are not sure whether a word is being used as a preposition, a conjunction, a noun, a verb, or an adverb. The word “near” , for instance, may be an adverb, an adjective, a verb, or a preposition depending on the context in which it is used.

For complicated details on how to cite titles and quotations within titles, sacred texts, shortened titles, exceptions to the rule, etc. please consult the MLA Handbook (102-109).

9. Writing an Essay All in Capital Letters:

DO NOT WRITE OR TYPE EVERYTHING ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS EVEN THOUGH THIS SAVES YOU TIME AND EFFORT NOT TO HAVE TO USE THE SHIFT KEY REPEATEDLY OR TO HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHEN OR WHEN NOT TO USE CAPITAL LETTERS.SOME PEOPLE WRITE EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE THEY HAD NEVER LEARNED TO WRITE SENTENCES IN UPPER AND LOWER-CASE LETTERS PROPERLY WHEN THEY WERE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.OTHER PEOPLE WRITE ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE THEY WANT TO MAKE WHAT THEY WRITE APPEAR IMPORTANT.READING A PAPER ALL WRITTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS,ESPECIALLY ONE WITHOUT SPACES AFTER PUNCTUATION MARKS,SLOWS DOWN READING SPEED AND MAY EVEN REDUCE READER COMPREHENSION,BESIDES BEING EXTREMELY ANNOYING TO THE READER.REMEMBER THAT THE PURPOSE OF WRITING ANYTHING IS TO COMMUNICATE.MOST OF US ARE NOT CONDITIONED TO READ ALL TEXT IN CAPITAL LETTERS.WORD PROCESSORS ALSO TREAT WORDS STUCK TOGETHER WITHOUT SPACES AS SINGLE WORDS CAUSING OTHER PROBLEMS.

10. Table of Contents

A short essay or research paper requires no Table of Contents.

If your written report or research paper is extremely long, it may be helpful to include a Table of Contents showing the page number where each section begins.

For those writing a lengthy document, i.e. a book, here is the suggested order for placing items in a Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements, Foreword, Introduction, Body (Parts I, II, III), Summary or Conclusion, Afterword, Explanatory Notes, Appendices, Contact Organizations, Glossary, Endnotes (if not using Footnotes or Parenthetical citations), Bibliography, Index.

A less involved Table of Contents may include simply the following sections: Introduction, Body (use main section headings), Conclusion (or Summary), Works Cited (or References), along with the corresponding page number where each section begins.

11. End of Essay

No special word, phrase or fancy symbol is needed to mark the end of your essay. A period at the end of your last sentence is all that is needed.

12. Keeping Essay Together

Sheets of paper should be stapled at the upper left-hand corner. Use a paper clip if no stapler is available. Do not use a pin or fold the paper. Unless specifically requested by your teacher, do not hand in your paper in a folder, a binder, a plastic jacket, rolled up with an elastic band around it, or tied with a ribbon or a string. Do not spray perfume or cologne on your paper or use scented paper. And NEVER hand in your research or term paper in loose sheets even if the sheets are numbered and neatly placed in an envelope or folder.

The condition of the paper you hand in is an indication of the respect you have for yourself and the respect you have for your teacher. Before handing in your paper, ask yourself, “Is this the VERY BEST that I can do?”

Final Note on Your Essay

The topics used for each research paper are inherently different, and even identical topics will appear to be unique based on the viewpoints and educational level of the author. Regardless of your grade level or the topic you’ve been assigned, a research paper outline can help you turn in a great essay. It should include a bulleted list of subheadings and headings, be sure to include as much detail as possible. Crossing out each section as you finish it will help you to stay thorough.

  1. A quick overview or introduction of the topic or issue
  2. The methodology being used
  3. The thesis statement
  4. A full review of every source used and all of the corresponding literature
  5. A brief explanation of the relevance of the research
  1. Detailed and thorough information about the main points of the argument
  2. Use as many paragraphs as necessary. Each paragraph should represent a different point.
  1. Brief summary of all of the main points or facts mentioned in the body.
  2. Reiteration of the thesis statement
  3. Closing remark or thought.

Research, Writing, and Style Guides (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, CGOS, CBE)

1. Citing Sources – General

As a writer of academic papers, you must document any source of information which you use in your research papers, articles, presentations and any kind of scientific projects.

If you properly document the original works of other authors your ideas are based upon, it makes easy for the readers to see and consult the resources you used. Furthermore, accurate and proper quoting shall help you avoid plagiarism, which is considered a serious breach of academic conduct.

There are 3 methods of including other writer’s work into your paper. They are citing (quoting), paraphrasing and summarizing.

Citation should repeat the original text word-for-word and include a reference to the original writer of the source document.

Paraphrasing means retelling a passage of the original text using your own words and sentence structures. The author of the original must also be referenced.

Summarizing means reproducing only the most important ideas and main points of the source using your own words. It usually summarizes a larger statement in a form of a shorter explanation. However, the original source must be referenced, too.

When you have to incorporate other author’s ideas into your text, you should first decide which approach to use.

You should use direct citation in a situation when the exact wording of a passage is important, so that you can be sure you have reproduced the original accurately.

You might also use citation if the original statement is very well formulated and you feel it will enrich your writing.

Paraphrasing is widely used in research papers and argumentative essays, showing your supervisors you understand a source text well and may reformulate it and find and emphasize its main points. It also helps change the stylistic characteristics of your source, adapting it to the readers (for example, if you use it for a presentation of some scientific topic before your class) and omitting unnecessary details.

The purpose of a summary is similar to that of a paraphrasing, but it helps making a long text shorter, explaining a lengthy chapter, article or a book in a brief essay or even in a single paragraph.

There is a list of useful resources on citation and writing in general:

Writing Center at Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU), Savannah, GA Annotated Bibliography, APA, Chicago-Turabian, and MLA Documentation, plus Grammar-Mechanics Handouts and Exercises, Regents’ Handouts, Writing Process Handouts, all available in PDF.

Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI Free Citation Generator for MLA, APA and Chicago styles.

Site created by Justin Searls, Student Intern, Teaching & Learning Digital Studio, Calvin Information Technology.

Online tool that creates MLA and APA citations instantly.

This web tool was created by David Warlick of The Landmark Project on October 29, 2000 and is part of the Landmarks for Schools web site for teachers.

2. Citing Electronic Sources

Students often ask how to cite electronic (digitized) primary sources.

At present, students often access their sources using electronic means, because a large portion of information has become available in the electronic format. Using electronic or online sources is convenient, but you have to know how to cite them properly.

Due to the fact that different disciplines and fields of knowledge require different styles, no universal example for citing electronic sources can be provided. You should look for a particular style guideline used in your field (MLA, APA, Chicago Style etc.). They address citing electronic sources, too.

Saint John Ward Chipman Library, University of New Brunswick, NB APA Style, MLA Style, Related Resources, Navigating EResearch.

The Learning Page, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

MLA and Turabian citation examples for Films, Legal Documents and Government Publications, Maps, Photographs, Recorded Sound, Special Presentations, and Texts. Includes links to Citation Guidelines.

3. APA Style (American Psychological Association)

Using a particular citing/formatting style can simplify the editors’ work because every author adheres to the same format, as well as make it easier for the audience to follow the author’s ideas because they are organized according to a familiar structure. Demonstrating that you know and follow the style requirements of your field will also make your work more credible and trusted.

APA Style is often used for citation and formatting in social sciences (Psychology, Sociology, Linguistics, Economics, Criminology, as well as the areas of Business and Nursing). It also deals with the overall writing style, content organization and preparation of a paper for publication, if needed.

Thus, we recommend having a look at their manual as well as other online sources.

Writing Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Get a quick orientation to APA, Create APA parenthetical citations, Create an APA reference list, Format a paper using APA guidelines, Format APA headings for a paper, Review APA usage and style guidelines, and Locate other APA resources on the Web.

USM Libraries, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS

Examples of APA citations for books, journals, other media, and electronic information.

From APA Online, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC

A useful tutorial following the 6th Edition of APA’s Publication Manual, © 2009.

There are also some useful FAQs.

Excerpted from the new 6th edition of the APA Publication Manual.

4. MLA Style (Modern Language Association)

MLA Style of citation and formatting is widely used in the field of Art, Liberal Arts, and Humanities.

Its approach is to give a writer a universal formatting tool which can be applied to various kinds of sources (citing different kinds of sources, like research papers, articles, essays, government publications, newspapers, manuscripts, maps, charts, spoken interviews, sound recordings, web sites, films and illustrations and more). With the development of the Internet, texts may be found online in any format, and new designs and presentation forms are invented. That is why MLA offers a writer a number of general principles finding them more important than a rigid set of rules for every particular source.

Again there is a manual you can use.

Citing Film and Video in slightly adapted version of MLA style – with Examples

Citing TV and Radio – with Examples by Gary Handman, Media Resources Center, Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA.

Vanguard University of Southern California

1998 MLA Web citation style. In-text Citation, Works Cited, Examples of Typical Web Sites, and Citing from Web Site Databases.

We have prepared a number of articles on particular subjects available on this website for your convenience.

St. Francis Xavier Secondary School Library, Mississauga, ON

Writing Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

General information about MLA parenthetical citations, Using the MLA abbreviation guidelines, Using the MLA quotation guidelines, Formatting MLA parenthetical citations, Create an MLA Works Cited Page, and Format the MLA Works Cited page. Includes a section on Numbered References.

University of Houston Libraries

Examples show the correct format for citing online sources in Modern Language Association (MLA) style.

LEO: Literacy Education Online, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN

How to correctly document different types of sources using MLA Parenthetical Documentation: Author(s) name, Multivolume works, Classic literary works, Special cases.

The Purdue University Online Writing Lab, West Lafayette, IN

Using APA format, Formatting in Sociology, Handling quotations in text, Works Cited list, Footnotes and Endnotes, Paper format.

We can help you With Your Research Paper

5. CGOS Style – Columbia Guide to Online Style

A specialized style guide for citing and creating electronic sources. It is a a special manual that addresses the complications and peculiarities associated with online publishing and offers the rules of online citation to students, researchers and the wide public.

6. CBE Style – Council of Biology Editors

Used mostly to write research papers and cite sources within the Biology domain. Such works must always adhere to the requirements of Scientific Style and Format, following the rules of Scientific Writing.

Writing Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Use the citation-sequence system, Create a CBE citation-sequence reference list, Use the name-year system, and Create a CBE name-year reference list.

Adapted from the Columbia Guide to Online Style, by Janice R. Walker and Todd Taylor. Citation styles described are Humanities Style.

With examples by Gary Handman, Media Resources Center, Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA.

7. Harvard Style

Harvard Style of citation in quite similar to APA Style in terms of use. It is used mostly in the humanities field. While APA is common for the USA, Harvard Style is popular in the UK and Australia.

A Uniform System of Citation,

Dickson College, Canberra, Australia

Essay Writing, Locating Information – Effective Reading, Selecting Information – Note Taking, Bibliographies, Examples of Bibliographic Entries, Points to Remember, and Textual References or Citations (including Parenthetical Reference examples).

8. Chicago Manual of Style / Turabian Style

Chicago Style and Turabian Style are also similar. They are designed be used first of all in history and economics.

Turabian Style is basically a modification of Chicago Style for the needs of students. It is used in history, literature, and arts. There is also a style used in the scientific field, in natural and social sciences. Turabian Style guide includes the notes and bibliography style and the author-date style.

The recent edition of Kate L. Turabian A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is aligned with the newest Chicago Manual of Style to match its requirements.

From the Chicago Manual of Style Online.

Provides examples on writing footnotes, in-text citations, reference-list entries and bibliographical citations for both print and electronic sources using Chicago Style.

Writing Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI

Get a quick orientation to note systems, Create Chicago/Turabian first references, Create Chicago/Turabian subsequent references, and Create a Chicago/Turabian Works Cited page.

We can help you With Your Research Paper

9. Resumé Writing and Cover Letters

Preparing a good resume and cover letter is important for anyone seeking a job because if these documents are well-written, they help to create a good impression and get a desired positon.

A job applicant should be careful about the content and form of their CV and cover letter. They should use a particular wording and follow a specific structure and formatting requirements.

An efficient resume means a properly written one demonstrating your expertise and credentials and shall help you get an interview from a company.

While a resume highlights your experience and skills, a good cover letter is intended to demonstrate how your knowledge and experience match the position you are currently applying for, therefore it has to be specific and targeted.

The provided information, structure, language, tone and other details of a CV and cover letter should be carefully chosen to help you reach your goal. You might make use of the efficient resume samples and templates found below.

How to Write a Resume.org. Resume Writing Tips, Resume Writing & Distribution Services.

10. Writing – Grammar Guides

When writing on any assignment, it is critical to avoid grammar, stylistic, spelling and other kinds of mistakes and write properly and accurately. A text full of errors will create a poor impression, no matter how important and profound are the ideas it provides.

It is wise to start improving your style by consulting the classic book by William Strunk first.

This classic book by William Strunk, Jr. on the Elements of Style includes: 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. See details of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. online at Bartleby.com.

By Dr. Paul Brians, Professor of English, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

Adjectives and Adverbs, Articles, Comparatives and Superlatives, Clauses, Conditionals, Confusing Words, Nouns, Numbers, Prepositions and Conjunctions, Pronouns, and Questions. Site includes Verbs, Idioms, Paragraph Writing, and more.

By Anthony Hughes

Free but copyrighted material. Sound files to learn to pronounce alphabet. Table of contents. Alphabetical subject index. Grammar clinic. English language practice pages. (Slow loading).

11. Writing – Research Guides

To write a research paper successfully, first thing you need is to know about the formal requirements and the general approach to academic writing you have to be familiar with. It is recommended to make your statement specific, definitive and clear and avoid using unnecessary informal elements. Writing a research paper might be tricky, so there is an extensive list of tips and instructions to follow.

by Verena Vaneeva

Contents include: How to write an Essay, Coursework or Report, Marketing or Marketing Communications Campaign, Dissertation, How to define Issue or Argument, Research Methods, Dissertation Structure.

St. Francis Xavier Secondary School, Mississauga, ON

Step by step guide on how to write an excellent research paper quickly and successfully.

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Tutorial Center for Writers. Online Writing Labs (OWLs), Internet Search Tools, Resources for Writers and Teachers, Purdue Resources, Links to other WWW writing resources.

University of Minnesota Libraries, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN

Learn How to Use the Library: Starting Your Research, Designing a Research Strategy, Find Books, Articles, Web Sites, Facts, Reviews, and More, Evaluating and Citing Sources, and Searching the MLA International Bibliography. Includes an Instructor’s Manual for QuickStudy.

Saint Louis University, MO

Tutorial guide to conducting research on the WWW for first year college students. Anatomy of a Web page. Evaluating Web sources. Web page types. Web search strategies. Citing online sources. Glossary.

Department of English, Northern Illinois University.

Students’ Resources include Editor’s Grammar and Mechanics, Quoting and Quotations, Citing Sources: The MLA Way, and Plagiarism: A MUST read. See also Tutors’ Resources, Instructors’ Resources, and Visitors’ Resources.

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