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Writing Research Papers

Resources to help students interested in writing research papers

Basic Research Paper Outline

Steps in Writing a Research Paper

1. Read the research paper assignment instructions provided to you by your instructor. Be sure to pay attention to any specific assignment requirements such as page length, style guidelines, topic selection, source types, etc.

2. Choose a topic for your paper. Narrow or expand your topic as needed, to meet the requirements of your assignment.

3. Find and read sources about your topic (books, articles, web sites, etc.). You can find many sources at the library.

4. Take notes of ideas or quotations you may want to cite in your paper ( it can be useful to write notes on index cards or in a notebook, making sure you also write down where the information came from).

5. Prepare an outline of your paper.

6. Write a first draft of your paper.

7. Conduct any additional research if necessary

8. Look over your first draft and then revise/rewrite as needed for clarity, accuracy, and quality. 

9. Check to make sure you have included all necessary citation information (Works Cited or Bibliography at end of paper, in-text citations, etc).

10. Proofread your paper one last time for correct spelling, punctuation, and style guidelines and then make any final corrections to your paper.

Citing Your Sources

Citing Your Sources: When writing a research paper, you will often need to evaluate and refer to the work of other people (your "sources").  When you draw upon the work of others, you must give proper credit by citing their work in your paper.  Even when you do not quote another's work directly, if reading that source contributed to the ideas presented in your paper, you should give the author due credit by citing him or her.  

Other Reasons Why You Should Cite:  Citing sources in your paper shows that you have taken the time and effort to learn about what others have written about a research topic before putting forth your own ideas. This builds your credibility as a careful researcher and writer. Citations can also provide evidence for any factual claims you make in your paper, and they can be a useful source of more information for the paper's reader.

Think of including cited sources in your paper as similar to having a conversation with other researchers in the field.  You show you have read others' work on the topic, you acknowledge their research ideas with a citation, and then you add your own ideas on the topic.

How Do You Cite?  Your instructor will tell you what style guide to use when citing other's work in your paper. Two common styles are MLA and APA. For links to several citation style guides, please visit the Citation Guide.

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Maureen Cropper
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BCTC - Lexington, KY


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