- By Jason Bacot
- Published 09/29/2010
Don’t panic if you’ve been assigned to write a research paper. Even if you think you “can’t write,” – if you take the task step by step, you can obtain a good mark on the assignment. But don’t put it off to the last minute! If you have been assigned a topic, you’re already ahead of the game. If you have not, then choose a topic that fulfills the assignment’s requirements, and ask for your instructor’s approval of your topic if you are unsure. Your topic should not be overly broad. You will have a much easier time writing a research paper on a topic like, “Invasive Carp Species in Kansas Waterways,” than on a topic like “Carp.” That’s because you have something specific on which to focus. Your title should reflect your topic, and should be brief and straightforward. Even if you are not required to write an outline for your research paper, you should do so. This can be a detailed, hierarchical outline that shows all topics and sub-topics, or it can be a quick list written on the back of an envelope of five or so points you want to cover. The important thing is to make your outline meaningful to you. It should keep you on topic, keep you from repeating yourself, and keep you from forgetting any important points.
Start your research paper with an introductory paragraph that begins broadly: “Asian carp are heavy-set fish that weigh around 20 lbs., and they can cause real problems when introduced into local streams.” Then logically work your way to the overarching point of your paper, stated in a concise the
sis statement: “Invasive carp species frighten boaters, threaten commercial and sport fishing, and crowd out native fish species in Kansas waterways.” Next, address each point on your outline in turn, backing up your words with references and quotes. If your instructor hasn’t told you how long your essay has to be and you have no clue, start with 100 words per outline point and see if that is enough to cover everything sufficiently. You want to cover what you need to without repeating yourself. Your concluding paragraph should restate your thesis statement (from your introductory paragraph). Then you should recap your outline points and finish with a broad statement similar to the way you began the introductory paragraph: “A single 20-lb. Asian carp may not seem threatening, but wildlife experts strongly warn against letting populations of these non-native fish grow in local waterways.” Cite the sources used in your research according to the format required by your instructor. Never use another person’s words or ideas as if they were your own. It is fine to quote others, or even paraphrase, as long as you attribute quotes or ideas properly. Plagiarism is never OK. Your instructor would much rather have an original, if imperfect research paper than one that you’ve stolen from someone else. Plagiarism is often grounds for an automatic failing grade, too.
Writing a research paper is something you can do if you follow your instructor’s specifications, and take it step by step, keeping your paper organized without repetition or leaving out important points. Be sure to thoroughly edit and proofread your research paper before turning it in.