Writing a research paper is about discovery! You are researching because you are seeking the answer to a question you have about a topic. The question may be about anything: an important time in history, a science theory, a famous person or a social issue. Whatever the topic, the process involves several important steps:
Choosing Your Topic
What are you interested in? Although some teachers may assign you a specific topic to research, sometimes you will have to choose your own. If this is the case, think about what you are interested in and would like to know more about. Research can be fun when you are learning about something that you are passionate about.
Is there enough research available? Briefly check some sources to make sure that there is enough research available on your topic. If you have a difficult time finding sources, your topic may be too narrow.
Ask for suggestions. If you cannot find a topic to research, ask your teacher or a professional for help. They will be happy to guide you!
– Noodle Tools is a comprehensive web-based program designed to help you with research, including online note-taking, outlining, writing, and citations.
Create a “New Project” for your research assignment:
- Logon to your Noodle Tools account.
- Click on the “Create a New Project” button.
Customize the Dashboard for your project to help keep you focused as you research:
- Click next to “Research Question” and type in the question that you are trying to answer with your research.
- Click next to “Thesis/Main Claim/Hypothesis” and write a sentence or two that summarizes the point of your research.
Brainstorming Your Topic
Make a list of what you would like to know about your topic. If you have been asked to write a short paper, fewer details will be necessary, however, for a longer paper, you will need to include more.
Use Noodle Tools to create a list of your ideas:
- Click on the project Dashboard.
- Locate the “Components” section and click on “Paper” to open a Google Doc.
- Brainstorm and create a list of the questions you would like to answer with your research.
Researching Your Topic
Now that you have a list of questions to answer, you are ready to begin your research. You can investigate your topic in many different ways. Do your best to find information from five or more sources. It is never a good idea to limit your research to only one or two sources.
Sources for Research
Below is a list of different places that you can look to find information:
- Lakeview’s Library and Online Databases – Books, journals, newspapers, magazines and websites full of good information.
- Empirical Research – Articles, books, and journals written by experts in the field.
- Internet Websites – Websites found through the use search engines such as Google or Bing.
- Interviews – Visit experts and/or eye witnesses for some keen insight on your topic.
Lakeview’s Library and Online Databases
One of your first stops in your research quest should be Lakeview’s library and online databases. Below is a guide on how to find links to these resources.
- Go to the Lakeview Academy website at www.lakeviewacademy.com.
- On the “Academics” tab, select “Technology” at the bottom on the drop down menu.
- Select “Destiny Library & School Database Link” from the “Important Links” list.
- Use the search tools within these links to search for books and database websites about your topic.
Empirical Research – It is a good idea to find information about your topic written by experts in the field, if you can. These sources may include journals, scientific papers and/or magazine articles. To search for these, you can use Lakeview’s library system or a specialized search with a search engine.
Internet Websites – You can look for information on the Internet using search engines. When you conduct open searches for websites, make sure that you consider the following:
- Use broad search terms in the beginning so that you don’t miss any potentially helpful sources. You can narrow your searches using more specific search terms as you go along.
- Be careful to evaluate these websites in determine if the information is trustworthy. Usually websites that belong to schools, organizations and the government will be legitimate. These have web addresses with domains that end in .edu, .org, and .gov.
For more information on evaluating websites, visit: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html
- Use primary sources for your information. Websites like Wikipedia are written anonymous authors who may or may not be accurate. In fact, Wikipedia offers the following disclaimer about their encyclopedia: “Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here. The content of any given article may recently have been changed, vandalized or altered by someone whose opinion does not correspond with the state of knowledge in the relevant fields.”
– If you have the opportunity to meet with an expert or eye witness who is knowledgeable about your topic, then this primary source information would be a an excellent source. Prepare your questions in advance of the interview to guide the conversation.
Creating Your Notecards
Outlining Where You Want Your Paper To Go
To begin the writing process, you should start with an outline. This is a draft of your paper, written with summarized points. Use your notecards to help you map out your thoughts in coherent form. Try to come up with a thesis sentence for each paragraph and bullet points of supporting facts you wish to discuss or find.
- Flow: your outline (and paper) should have a logical flow to it so that the reader can understand how you are making your point. Some popular ways to structure your paper include:
- Strongest argument to weakest argument (or strongest argument, weakest argument hidden in the middle, and another stronger argument to round it up)
- Pros and cons
- Main argument, broken down into sub-arguments that build on each other
- Create your outline in Noodle Tools on the Notecards page.
Writing Your Paper
Start writing with what you know. Start in the middle of the paper, if that’s the most helpful to you. A lot of people actually end up writing the introductions last. Make sure you keep citations in your paper so you can go back and properly cite them later.
Write your paper in Noodle Tools as follows:
- Click on “Paper” on the project’s home page.
- Write your paper in the Google Doc for your project.
Editing Your Paper
The next step of the research paper process is to edit your paper. This is the process of rereading and revising your paper as necessary to improve it. Here are some tips on the editing process:
- Take a day off (or as much time as you feel comfortable) and look at your draft with fresh eyes. Try to read your paper as if it was a stranger’s.
- Read your paper aloud and see what sounds good and what doesn’t.
- If you are allowed, you should ask a friend to read it and freely edit it for you. Make sure that that does not violate the rules of your assignment.
- Things to watch out for:
- Using “of” too much when you could shorten it
- Unnecessary adverbs and adjectives (ex: “The air felt extremely cold,” “Here are some helpful tips for writing a research paper”)
- Passive voice (ex: The cook is using too much garlic” is not as strong as just saying, “The cook uses too much garlic”).
Creating Your Credits Page
Once your have finished writing and editing your paper, it is time to create the credits page. This page should include the list of all of your research sources. Because you created bibliographies when you took notes in Noodle Tools, this step is quite easily accomplished.
To create your credits page, follow these steps:
- Click on “Bibliography” on the project’s home page.
- Click the button “Print/Export” and choose from the drop down menu how you would like for your credits to be downloaded. Noodle Tools will automatically format your bibliography for you.