How do I go about doing a research paper?

From LitWiki

Basically, writing a research paper may be broken into six steps:

  • Planning Your Research
  • Finding Sources
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Using Sources without Plagiarizing
  • Outline/Organize Information
  • Writing the Research Paper

Planning Your Research

Before starting your research paper, you should set deadlines for each step that you must complete when writing a research paper. After you have set your deadlines the first deadline that you should set is to choose a suitable topic and come up with several research questions that are related to the topic. The questions should be narrow and not to broad. The questions should also be challenging which will make your research paper more interesting. You research questions should also be grounded, not based on your beliefs, but on the facts. After you have you research questions, you should begin gathering as much information as possible to answer the questions.

Finding Sources

The best way to find sources in the library. You can consult with your libriarian about your research project and he or she can direct you to the correct sources, and also show you how to use them. Your library has many sources such as the database that has information on article in newspapers, magazines,journals, monographs, e-journals, and dissertations. When searching the database for information you will find that it has full text, citations, or abstracts of articles. It is best that you locate full text documents, or use the citation to locate the articale that your are looking for. The library also has a print index that has articles that were published befor 1980. Many libraries have a computerized catalog that tells you what books, videos and any other source that your library may have and also where to locate it. More sources for your reseach project can be found on the internet by using the many search engines, directories, archives, online discussions, government sites, and news sites. The internet is a great source, which hold rich sources of information, but doesn't have quality control and therefore anyone can put a their own documents on the Web so be very carful. Other sources can come from your general reference works, like your dictionary, atlas, encyclopedia, and statistics, but are not sources that should be used alone. You can also look up bibliograpies and scholarly citations to find the material that you need or conduct a field research in which you may visit a place that has something to do with your project that can answer some of your questions. With every piece of information that you get, take notes.

Evaluating Sources

After you have gathered all of the information you must evaluate the sources that you have gathered by checking it's authority, timeliness, reliability, scope, and it's credibility. You have to read the information that you've gathered with an open mind and a critical eye. Determine whether your sources are primary sources, which are original documents like: labratory studies, diaries, eyewitness accounts, letters, legislative bills, and field research reports

Using Sources without Plagiarizing

When taking notes, try to paraphrase as much as possible to prevent plagiarism. Remember to input quotation marks for words copied exactly as you read them. All excerts from other sources must be cited. Also, any ideas taken from other sources must be cited.

Outline\Organize Information

Take all paraphrased notes and gathered information and input it into an outline to ensure the organizational flow, tone, and the location of main points to hold the reader's interest.

Writing the research Paper


An outline gives a writer a chance to organize the topic before the actual writing begins. The writer will have the opportunity to shuffle different parts of the paper around to improve the tone and flow. Outlining information before writing also exposes information not needed and, will make the main points stand out. This allows them to be spreaded evenly.

Next, you want to decide on a particular writing style for the paper. The most approved, by English and humanities instructors is the Modern Language Association writing style. The MLA style gives the writer certain guidelines to go by when writing their paper. It protects the writer from plagiarism by demanding more of the writers' work. Another well known writing style is the American Psychological Association published in 2001.


Now begin your paper. As the body of the paper is being created, make sure that a good thesis is formed and the rest of the paper supports it. A good writer will use descriptive text to hold the attention of the readers.


Include all quotations and all proper citations of works cited. Be sure to proofread: check all punctuation, grammar, and spelling.

Works Cited

Composition FAQ