Writing lessons:
creating a research paper

When students are in their middle and early high school grades, nearly all of them learn how to write a research paper. In these early grades, instructors walk their students step-by-step through the process. Unfortunately, most students rely too heavily on their instructors and they do not learn how to complete the paper on their own. So, when they get to later high school grades and to college, they often forget exactly what to do.

Create the Claim

Whether you have to craft a term paper for a science class, history class, or literature class, the steps it takes to finish the project are all relatively the same. Students need to build a claim, conduct research to prove it, organize their thoughts, and build the paper.

The first step is to create a claim (some instructors will call it a thesis statement). This is the sentence that will guide the argument of your paper. The claim should simply be the answer to a yes or no question about the subject you will be questioning. For example, if you are looking into whether standardized tests belong in elementary schools, you ask a yes or no question and answer it. So, your claim could be: Standardized tests should stay in elementary school so teachers can judge whether or not their students are understanding important concepts.

Find Support for the Claim

Then, you will need to find the facts that supports your claim. Many students will conduct a preliminary search to determine if there is any support before they write the claim. But, once you have committed to a claim, start gathering the necessary support. While you are gathering your support, be sure to record where you found the information. There are plenty of online apps that help you maintain a bibliography list - use them.

Evaluate Sources to Find the Best

While you are creating your paper and gathering sources, be sure that you are using quality sources. Do not just use the first sources that show up on the search you do. Look for sources that are unbiased from legitimate news sources that report the facts. It is challenging do this because anyone can write an article and post it online in today’s world. The best way to determine whether or not the source you want to use is legitimate, look at what organization is the sponsor of the website. Real new organizations, educational sites, and other professional organizations are generally the best sites to use. There are several blogs that look like real news sites, but all they are trying to do is make money baiting people to click on their sites.

Organize Using an Outlining Form

Once you have gathered all of the source information that will help you prove your claim, the next step is to start organizing the paper. Many students will use their preferred form of outlining so they can be certain they have what they need prior to writing. Some students will use bullet points, formal outlines, or templates they found online.

Write the Paper

The last step (other than proofreading and editing) is writing the paper. It is important to write the paper using the required format, so know if you need to include special sections like a literature review or methodology. Some research papers do not require any special sections, they read more like a long essay with a plethora of sources. It is always best to use the strongest part of the argument at the beginning of the paper. Include the proper style of introduction and conclusion so the reader knows what you are arguing and what you want to accomplish.

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