- By Jason Bacot
- Published 11/3/2010
If you’ve been asked to write an end of term research paper at college, the first thing you’ll need to do is think of a topic. Occasionally your professor may give you a topic but at this level you may be required to decide on your own topic, especially if your professor wants to see what other reading you might have done. A good research paper is the result of reading plenty of material on the topic you have chosen, making sure that you understand what you have read, forming a thesis statement, and defending that statement in a credible manner. A good research paper is designed to persuade the reader that you know what you are talking about. You might want to run a Google search or take a look through some of the journal abstracts in your college library to come up with a topic. As soon as you have your topic area you should start gathering together your sources. Your college library will probably be your primary source of information with its books and academic journals. You may want to look at some popular journals and newspapers as well. Nowadays people will often start their research with the internet but you need to be able to distinguish credible sources from those that are not to be trusted. Most university professors will not accept Wikipedia on its own as a credible source; any information you get from this particular site should be checked out with other sources.
When you think you have enough
source material, and you’ve done some initial reading, you need to think about a question for your research paper. If you have chosen to write about Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s plays, you might want to look at why the play has made many actors superstitious about playing the role of Macbeth. Or you might want to take a closer look at the three sisters, often referred to as witches. A good research paper is one where the writer has taken the time to look at a specific aspect of a much wider question. Once you have undertaken all the steps mentioned, you have done the hardest part of the work for your paper. The next step is to make your thesis statement – e.g. Actors are traditionally superstitious about playing Macbeth, and often refer to it during rehearsal as the Scottish Play. Your thesis statement will come in the introductory part of your paper and in the middle, or body. The paper will lay out your evidence as to why some actors are superstitious about Shakespeare’s Macbeth. When you’re thinking about the shape of your paper, you should have points for and against as you try to guide the reader towards your conclusion.
Very often the conclusion to a good research paper might rephrase the thesis statement. Using different words as a preliminary to summing up your argument and attempting to demonstrate that you have taken up a reasonable position based on credible sources and brought these to a satisfactory end. You should have a full list of bibliographic sources that you have used, which these should be handed in with your paper.