Learning how to write a research paper isn’t the same as learning how to write a standard paper or essay, since learning how to write a research paper is more about learning how to gather and organize information than it is about learning how to write effectively.
Most research papers for high school or college classes will require to gather information for a number of sources. The number of sources depends on both the instructor and the length of the paper, but a pretty standard rule of thumb is an additional source for every page of the paper at the minimum.
The first thing you’re going to need to do when you set out to write your research paper is to decide on a topic. Some instructors will assign you a topic or a general field of study, while others will give you free reign to write about whatever you’d like. Both methods have their pros and cons. The best thing to do is to find an area you’re interested in and do a little bit of research on it.
If it seems like there’s way too much information to cover in the amount of space you have to work with, don’t be afraid to narrow down your topic. For example, instead of writing a paper on the education system, write it on the high school education system in eastern Kentucky, or even in a particular school district.
The scope of your topic is important since if it’s too broad you’ll be swamped with information and you risk either being too broad or leaving information out, but if your topic is too narrow you won’t be able to find enough information and will end up filling your essay with too much padding.
If you’re going to learn how to write a research paper you’re going to have to learn how to research properly. The best sources are scholarly sources, either from scholarly journals or from primary documents like expert studies.
Newspapers, magazines, and other secondary sources are good, but not as solid as scholarly documents in most subjects. So, once you know what you’re looking for, how do you find it? Scholarly search engines like Google Scholar are great places to start, as is your school library. Don’t be afraid to ask a librarian for help, as they’re usually very adept at tracking down the information you need.
The final step in learning how to write a research paper is putting the whole thing together. Start with a detailed outline which sketches out the shape you want your essay to take, what topics you want to cover, and where you’ll insert your quotes and citations. Once this outline is detailed enough you don’t have much writing left to do; all you need to do is connect the dots you’ve drawn out in your outline to form the finished paper.
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