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How to Research a Paper

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Uploaded on Feb 22, 2008

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Got a big research paper? It's not nearly as daunting if you break it down into steps.


Step 1: Decide your objective
Spend some time thinking about what you want your paper to accomplish. Do you want it to prove your viewpoint? Explain a topic? You'll want to have a clear focus before you begin your research.

Step 2: List key words
Make a list of key words that will be helpful in locating information when you conduct online and offline searches.

Step 3: Go to the library
Go to the library. Yeah, we know—you think you can find everything you need with your laptop. But to get an actual book on a topic, plus find academic papers, journals, and other subscriber-only materials, you'll need to head to a library.

Tip
If your library doesn't have a book you need, ask the librarian to borrow it from another branch.

Step 4: Check library indexes
Use the library's indexes to find articles in periodicals, like trade journals and magazines. They'll contain the very latest information on your subject.

Tip
Note your sources carefully as you go along to make the bibliography easier—and to prevent plagiarism!

Step 5: Go online
Okay, now you can do some online research by plugging in those key words you listed at the start. Only take information from reputable sites and organizations.

Tip
Consider interviewing an expert in the field you're researching. It's a guaranteed way to impress your professor.

Step 6: Find statistics
While you're researching the facts, don't forget the figures. Find useful statistics.

Tip
Helpful search words for stats include 'percent of,' 'Census Bureau,' and 'survey results.'

Step 7: Don't forget the videos
Don't forget the videos. See if there are any documentaries on your topic.

Step 8: Start writing
Organize your research, mull it over, and then start writing!

Did You Know?
Did you know? One study found that students who frequently used the library got higher ACT scores and performed better on reading and writing exams.

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