Writing a Research Paper
The research paper
Many authors have described the research paper, but perhaps the most succint definition appears in Basic College Research written by P. Berge and C. Saffioti.
"A research paper is exactly that: a paper written to reflect a search that will present information to support a point of view on a particular topic."
What makes a paper a good research paper?
According to Berge and Saffioti, a good research paper has all the elements described in the following checklist:
- topic can be supported by research found in appropriate sources.
- topic has the potential to be focussed into a statement with a point of view, it is neither too broadly nor too narrowly defined
- Research strategy
- appropriate sources have been consulted
- within boundaries set by the topic, there is evidence of adequate coverage
- the paper reflects a systematic search of the literature of the field
- main idea or point of view about the topic is clearly expressed
- Evaluation of sources
- when determining which sources to consult keep in mind:
- scope or content (comprehensive and objective rather than superficial and/or biased)
- intended audience (written for an informed audience rather than for the general public)
- authority (written by someone with expertise and presented objectively)
- timeliness (historical perspective will require different material than will recent theories)
- Point of view
- evaluation and analysis of information is balanced, accurate and fair
- writer's point of view is clear and objective
- differing points of view are acknowledged
- material taken from others is acknowledged, credit is given for both direct and indirect quotations
- quotations are accurate, they are neither taken out of context nor distorted
- citations are consistent with format chosen
- Writing skills
- general organization of the paper is clear
- paragraphs follow each other, within each paragraph sentences follow each other
- sentences are checked for usage, punctuation and style
To find books on how to write research papers, look up any of the following terms in the subjects file of the NEOS Libraries' Catalogue:
English language - rhetoric
Useful guides include:
- Basic college research. P. Berge and C. Saffioti
LB 2369 B495 1987 HSS
- Canadian Oxford guide to writing. T.S. Kane
PE 1408 K159 1993 HSS
- Canadian writer's handbook. 2nd ed, W.E. Messenger
PE 1413 M58 1986 CURR / EDUC RF / HSS / HSS RF
- The Communications handbook. P.S. Goepfert
PE 1429 C73 1982 CURR / HSS
- Elements of writing. W.E. Messenger
LB 2369 M58 1984 EDUC / HSS RF
- Essay writing for Canadian students. 2nd ed, K.L. Stewart
LB 2369 S84 1985 EDUC / HSS / HSS RF
- Form and style: research papers, reports, theses. 9th ed, C. Slade, W. Campbell and
LB 2369 C19 1994 HSS RF
- The new Oxford guide to writing. T.S. Kane
PE 1408 K162 1988 HSS RF
- Practical stylist. 2nd Canadian ed, S.W. Baker
PE 1408 B168 1986 HSS / HSS RF
- Writing with a purpose. 9th ed, J.M. McCrimmon
PE 1408 M13 1988 HSS
The final copy
Preparing the final text:
"Good writing takes time, and requires composition and editing." (Berge, 126)
Reading and revising:
Look at the three major parts of your paper:
- do you have a solid introduction?
- are you clearly stating the thesis of your presentation?
- does the body of the paper offer convincing support of the thesis?
- based on the research presented, is your conclusion logical?
Next look closely at the style of your writing:
- do your paragraphs work together?
- are the transitions between them clear?
- are your sentences well constructed?
- does the paper contain sentences which vary in length and style so as to maintain the reader's interest?
- have you used words as effectively as possible? Is your language specific and vivid?
- proofread for spelling mistakes and typos.
Preparing the bibliography
Keep in mind that the purpose of a bibliography is to provide the reader with the exact location of all facts, ideas and quotations that are not your own.
Help for preparing bibliographies and footnotes can be found in:
- Chicago manual of style.
Z 253 M26 2003 EDUC RF / HSS / HSS RF / SCI RF
- Manual for writers of term papers, theses and dissertations. 6th ed, K.L. Turabian
LB 2369 T92 1996 BUS RF / EDUC RF / FSJ RES / HLTHSC RF / HSS / HSS RF / LAW RF / MUSIC RF / SCI RF
- MLA handbook for writer of research papers. 3rd ed
PN 146 M68 1988 EDUC RF / HSS RF / HSS
- The MLA style manual.
PN 147 A179 1999 BUS RF / HSS / HSS RF / SCI RF
- Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. 5th ed.
PE 1475 A52 2001 BUS RF / EDUC / EDUC RF / HLTHSC / HLTHSC RF / HSS / HSS RF
- Ask your professor which bibliographic style is preferable (i.e., Psychology students may be required to use the APA manual listed above).
- When gathering research, keep accurate notes of the sources you consult. Keep track of the author's or editor's name, title of the book or article (and journal) as well as dates and pages. It will save you time..... you won't have to backtrack or retrace your steps.