A research paper is a piece of academic writing that employs the author's or student's original research to support the claim or thesis he seeks to prove and which he states at the very beginning of it, incorporating analysis and interpretation of his findings.
As a beginner, writing is neither an easy nor natural process, since your mind must piece together the thoughts, ideas, feelings, and emotions that comprise the conceptualization for writing themes, plots, scenes, characters, settings, and the interactions that are illustrated through dialogue. Next you must assemble and organize them all, using tools known as words, which become grouped in the ever-expanding parts of sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, and, perhaps, full-length books. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation must always be kept in mind. This requires continual practice so that these components can be connected by means of neuropathways in the brain. Finally, they must be channeled through the motor skills down the arm to the hand and transformed into paper- or computer-captured expressions. This process may require years and even decades to perfect, until it becomes second-natured to you.
FIRST WRITING ATTEMPT:
Before you place your pen on the paper, think about what you wish to say and then capture it in the form of words and sentences. After you have written a significant portion of it, whether it be a few paragraphs or pages, you can concern yourself with structure, grammar, and spelling. Expression is primary. Correction is secondary. There is a difference between writing better and feeling better about what you write. The latter breeds self-satisfaction and confidence.
While everyone may strive to write well, it may first be important point to define what writing poorly may be. Poor writing entails one or more of the following elements: poor conception, poor argument, lack of clarity, unpersuasive and trivial points, poor organization, incoherence, and general weakness. Mechanics, as previously stated, can always be amended or corrected. Writing, whether "good" or "bad," can thus be reduced to two aspects.
1). Content (Creativity)
2). Form (fluency)
Writers can excel in one or the other-that is, they are mutually exclusive.
"Everything is written in context," according to Bill Stott in "Write to the Point" (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984, p. 23). "It is written at a certain time, for a certain purpose, and for someone or some group of people. To write something new and useful, you must know the content, because you have to know what is already known so you can work against it in your writing. When you write, you must ask yourself 'Who am I writing for? What do they know about the topic? What do they think they know? What can I tell them that's different, but still plausible?'"
Tackling a subject that has already been written about and one which has not and giving the reader a new angle or perspective or revealing something that is not generally known is challenging. This can be expressed by the following opening lines:
1). No one has yet remarked on...
2). It has not been generally recognized that...
3). One thing few people realize about _____ is that...
These opening lines will most likely spur the reader into continuing with the piece and serve, to a degree, as hooks that lure him into it. If you are writing a research paper or thesis, however, you must be able to support what you claim. And while what an author says must be true in nonfiction papers, essays, articles, and theses, what may be more important to the reader is how fresh or interesting his approach is.
Choose, if at all possible, a topic which inspires, angers, touches, amuses, or puzzles you-that is, something you care about and in which you are intensely interested. Writing about it will not only change your feelings, but your interest and passion will be reflected by what you capture and the reader will realize this.
Consider the following when you do.
1). Say something that you believe needs to be said in the context in which you are writing.
2). Be original in either the point(s) you wish to make or the evidence used to support them. Preferably do both.
3). Look for worthwhile things to write about in people, the world at large, and in yourself. Your own experience can certainly serve as a worthwhile subject.
Secondary to the subject or topic you choose for your research paper, article, or thesis is its organization. How you express it and the order in which your arguments are presented are crucially important.
Like an unfolding road the reader follows on his journey, your organization entails the aspects, elements, and arguments needed to prove your claim. An aid to this origin-and-destination approach is, of course, a mental or written outline, bearing in mind that not all think in such terms and not all consequently need it.
Outlines or lists of points to be made cannot necessarily be categorized as "writing." Instead, they facilitate the writing process. Presenting facts requires logical transitions and support from the previous to the successive one-in other words, point B depends first upon point A. There are two principle means of connecting paragraphs.
1). Repeat the keyword or words from the previous paragraph.
2). Use spacing words, such as "but," "however, "nevertheless," and "on the other hand."
Expository or almost exclusively expository
Whatever your points are, you must next substantiate and validate your assertion through some element of factual proof. Indeed, the following aspects should yield these results.
1). Assert - Demonstrate
2). Thesis - Provide an example.
3). Opinion - Justify
4). Claim - Furnish evidence
5). Argument - Provide proof
While the fictional and memoir/creative nonfiction genres usually require a hook to grab the reader so that he will invest his time in them, an essay or thesis requires the succinct statement of what is to be discussed and ultimately proven. Writing this may prove a daunting or intimidating task, but in the true "progress-not-perfection" philosophy, the writer need not "nail it" the first time. Instead, he may wade his way into the water, using the following two methods.
1). Simply state what the thesis is, as if you were orally relating it to someone, aware that it is hardly the final draft.
2). Capture any words you can, even if they do not exactly relate to one another. Then begin the refining and defining process by crossing out, substituting other vocabulary, and explaining and expanding until you are satisfied with the final product.
Although you cannot personally know those who will read your paper, except, of course, your professor, there are several guidelines that will enable you to reach them, if you keep the following points in mind.
1). They are logical, reasonable people.
2). They function with a considerable amount of common sense.
3). They have emotions and can therefore be moved, persuaded, surprised, angered, and saddened.
4). They can be persuaded to adopt and accept your points of view, provided that you furnish sufficient support and evidence to prove them.
5). They have enough education and interest in the world, life, people, and your topic.
The more impersonal your paper, the more formal should be its tone, avoiding contractions such as "I've" and "didn't" and respectively replacing them with "I have" and "did not."
Because research papers and theses require evidence and support to prove, quotes from other sources and people are integral parts of this writing genre. There are three other times they should be used.
1). When they put words before the reader for close analysis.
2). When they offer that crucial, point-proving evidence.
3). When they say something so well, clearly, and/or succinctly, that the author cannot improve upon them himself.
There are two types of sources.
1). Primary: works, writings, documents, and artifacts created at the time of the recorded event or person.
2). Secondary: Writings that decipher, analyze, and/or comment on these original materials, or the type preferred by scholars.
Transitions are words such as "but," "however," "on the other hand," "in addition to," and "nevertheless" which change the direction of a subject or topic. For example, Poverty is the core of the problem. However, the underlying causes of this aspect must first be discussed before a solution can be considered.
There is no official or correct paragraph length. A paragraph provides subtle breaks and signals the beginning of a new topic, direction, or thought.
RESEARCH PAPER WRITING STEPS:
1). Choose your topic: Topics may depend upon assignment, a list from which only one may be selected, and/or professor-approval. But nothing enhances a literary work more than a theme the writer is interested in, is challenged by, believes in, and is passionate about. These parameters facilitate the transcendence from sheer "chore" in order to earn a grade to reflection of his passion or, to a degree, from mundane writing mechanics to emotional expression. The former is a coast. The latter is a drive. On the other hand, limitations of your own knowledge concerning certain fields, such as technical ones, and source material will significantly narrow the scope and quality of your work, and may be beyond your capability to write or even understand.
Here are five examples of thesis topics:
a). How do fats affect the human body and mind?
b). How close has humanity come to creating artificial intelligence?
c). What are the best ways to reduce global warming?
d). How does a new adoption law in Russia minimize orphans' opportunities for happiness?
e). Is multitasking a productive or destructive work method?
2). Assess Source Material: Before you select a theme or thesis, you may first wish to determine the amount and quality of material with which you can prove your thesis. If little exists, you are not likely to produce a satisfactory paper. Sources, needless to say, include libraries, published works, electronic venues, documents, businesses, government agencies, subject-specific works, and experts in the particular field. Cited sources must be credited and listed in the work's bibliography.
3). Make your Thesis Statement: Thesis statements, which can be considered declarations of belief you must ultimately support and prove through your sources, are the themes of your paper. They should be stated immediately, such as in the first line or paragraph. They become the origin from which the literary journey begins and their proof becomes the destination.
As you research, analyze your statement, develop your ideas, and support them, the statement itself may be refined or modified. You may discover that it is either too narrow or too broad. It should be strong and specific.
4). Create an Outline: Like a road map, an outline enables you to both chart and follow your course from origin or thesis to destination or conclusion, providing direction. It can be either formal, with steps checked by numbers, letters, headings, and subheadings, or informal, which may only entail a bulleted list, but can include some or all of the following sections.
a). Title page.
b). Abstract-a brief summary of the paper.
d). Body, subdivided into arguments, points of proof, and sources to be cited.
e). Reference or bibliography.
f). Tables, figures, and appendix, if applicable.
5). Organize your Notes: Notes form the raw data that will ultimately be transformed into the body of the work, whose final product will be greatly enhanced if they are placed in the order of argument. If opposing views support your thesis, they should be included. This note organization step enables you to analyze, synthesize, sort, and digest your collected information. All quoted material must appear in the order in which the arguments are presented.
6). Write your First Draft: Following your outline and using your organized notes and sources, you are ready to write your first draft.
7). Revise your Thesis: Revision is the process of rewriting and refining, ensuring that facts are correct, that ideas are clearly expressed, and that the text logically flows and is always supported. In so doing, you may ask yourself the following questions.
a). Is my thesis statement concise and clear?
b). Did I follow my outline? Did I miss anything?
c). Are my arguments presented in a logical sequence?
d). Are all sources properly cited?
e). Have I proved my thesis with strong supporting arguments?
f). Did I leave a sense of completion for my readers at the end of the paper?
8). Edit your Thesis: Revision is rewriting. Editing is proof-reading and checking for errors, such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Stott, Bill. "Write to the Point." Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984.