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Don't know how to start your research paper?

At some point in your academic career, you will likely have to write a research paper.  Although the task can seem daunting, once you break the process down into smaller objectives it is really not so bad.  Here's a basic checklist to get you started:

First Steps

  1. Choose a topic (advice on choosing a topic)
  2. Begin preliminary reading - browse our collection of subject guides for links to relevant resources on your topic or review reference sources, like Encyclopedia Britannica for background information.
  3. Narrow your subject (by time frame, geography,population group, or discipline for example)
  4. Develop a preliminary thesis statement - Your thesis statement will usually be one or two sentences that states precisely what is to be answered, proven, or what you will inform your audience about your topic.

Gathering Information

  1. Begin extensive library research - review library guides on how to find books and find articles
  2. Compile the working bibliography (a list of books and articles)

Taking Notes

  1. Develop a preliminary outline - Why and how to create an outline
  2. Critically evaluate information you find
  3. Take notes and avoid plagiarism

Writing the Paper

  1. Develop the final outline
  2. Prepare to write:
    * put your notes in the order that your outline is in
    * consider your readers and how their expectations may affect your tone and style
  3. Write the rough draft
  4. Check your documentation carefully
  5. Revise and rewrite - Does your paper clearly state and support your thesis? Are there unclear or confusing ideas or sentences?
  6. Make sure you use the citation style requested by your instructor
  7. Proofread

(Adapted from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.) For more helpful tips and tools, view our Writing links. For one-on-one assistance with any writing assignment, visit the Writing Center. Need more help? Ask Us!