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Writing Research Papers

Resources for learning technical writing

❶See recommendations for content, below. This Chapter outlines the logical steps to writing a good research paper.




To write a research paper, start by researching your topic at the library, online, or using an academic database. Once you've found at least 5 reputable sources, outline the information you've learned through your research.

Then, come up with a sentence thesis to base your paper off of. Include the information you found through your research in your paper to back up your thesis statement.

For more help writing a research paper, like how to organize it, read the article! Featured Articles Research Papers. Ask yourself important questions. Although you may be limited by specific classroom or work related guidelines, choosing your topic is the first and most important step in your research paper project.

Regardless of whether your topic can be anything you want or has rigid requirements, it is important to keep a few questions in mind: Is there enough research available on this topic? Is the topic new and unique enough that I can offer fresh opinions? Pick something you love. Whenever possible, choose a topic that you feel passionate about.

Writing about something you enjoy certainly shows in the final product, making it more likely that you will be successful writing a paper about something you enjoy. If you are writing a research paper for a class, consider the other students. Is it likely that they will also be writing about your topic? How can you keep your paper unique and interesting if everyone is writing about the same thing? Asking a professor for help may seem frightening, but if they are worth anything as a professor, they want you to be successful with your work, and will do what they can to make that happen.

Although it requires a bit more time, you have the ability to change your topic even after you begin researching others. With a topic selected, the next step is to begin research. Research comes in numerous forms including web pages, journal articles, books, encyclopedias, interviews, and blog posts, among others. Take time to look for professional resources who offer valid research and insight into your topic. Try to use a minimum of five sources to vary your information; never rely on only sources.

Look for empirical research. Whenever possible, look for peer-reviewed empirical research. These are articles or books written by experts in your field of interest, whose work has been read and vouched for by other experts in the same field.

These can be found in scientific journals or via an online search. Take a trip to your local library or university library. Although it may seem old fashioned, libraries are chock full of helpful research materials from books to newspapers and magazines to journals.

Typically, websites that end with. That is because these websites belong to schools, the government, or organizations dealing with your topic. Try changing your search query often to find different search results for your topic. There are special search engines and academic databases available that search through thousands of peer-reviewed or scientifically published journals, magazines, and books. Look for databases that cover your subject only.

For example, PsycINFO is an academic database that holds nothing but works done by authors in the field of psychology and sociology. This will help you to get more tailored results than a very general search would. Take advantage of this ability to ask for specific information by using as many of the query boxes as you can. Visit your school library and ask the librarian for a full list of the academic databases they subscribe to, as well as the passwords for each.

Get creative with your research. This should contain many more books and journals that are about your topic as well. This step is very important: Make marks on anything that you think might be remotely important or that could be put to use in your paper. As you mark off important pieces in the research, add your own commentary and notes explaining to yourself where you might use it in your paper.

Writing down your ideas as you have them will make writing your paper much easier and give you something to refer back to.

Annotating your research can take quite a bit of time, but needs to be taken one step further in order to add a bit more clarity for the outlining process. Organize your notes by collecting all of your highlighted phrases and ideas into categories based on topic.

For example, if you are writing a paper analyzing a famous work of literature, you could organize your research into a list of notes on the characters, a list of references to certain points in the plot, a list of symbols the author presents, et cetera.

Try writing each quote or item that you marked onto an individual note card. That way, you can rearrange and lay out your cards however you would like.

Color code your notes to make it easier. Write down a list of all the notes you are using from each individual resource, and then highlight each category of information in a different color. For example, write everything from a particular book or journal on a single sheet of paper in order to consolidate the notes, and then everything that is related to characters highlight in green, everything related to the plot mark in orange, et cetera.

As you go through your notes, mark down the author, page number, title, and publishing information for each resource. This will come in handy when you craft your bibliography or works cited page later in the game. Identify the goal of the paper. Generally, speaking, there are two types of research paper: Each requires a slightly different focus and writing style which should be identified prior to starting a rough draft.

An argumentative research paper takes a position on a contentious issue and argues for one point of view. The issue should be debatable with a logical counter argument. An analytic research paper offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit. This is not simply a regurgitation of ideas from your research, but an offering of your own unique ideas based on what you have learned through research.

Who would be reading this paper, should it be published? Although you want to write for your professor or other superior, it is important that the tone and focus of your paper reflect the audience who will be reading it. The thesis statement is a sentence statement at the beginning of your paper that states the main goal or argument of your paper. Although you can alter the wording of your thesis statement for the final draft later, coming up with the main goal of your essay must be done in the beginning.

All of your body paragraphs and information will revolve around your thesis, so make sure that you are clear on what your thesis is. What is the primary question or hypothesis that you are going to go about proving in your paper? Your thesis should express the main idea of your paper without listing all of your reasons or outline your entire paper.

Determine your main points. The body of your essay will revolve around the ideas that you judge to be most important. Go through your research and annotations to determine what points are the most pivotal in your argument or presentation of information. What ideas can you write whole paragraphs about?

Which ideas to you have plenty of firm facts and research to back with evidence? Write your main points down on paper, and then organize the related research under each. When you outline your main ideas, putting them in a specific order is important.

Place your strongest points at the beginning and end of your essay, with more mediocre points placed in the middle or near the end of your essay. Main ideas can be spread out over as many paragraphs as you deem necessary.

Depending on your paper rubric, class guidelines, or formatting guidelines, you may have to organize your paper in a specific way. For example, when writing in APA format you must organize your paper by headings including the introduction, methods, results, and discussion. These guidelines will alter the way you craft your outline and final paper.

With the aforementioned tips taken into consideration, organize your entire outline. Justify main points to the left, and indent subsections and notes from your research below each. The outline should be an overview of your entire paper in bullet points.

Write your body paragraphs. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, writing your introduction first may be more difficult to accomplish than starting with the meat of your paper. Starting by writing the main points focusing on supporting your thesis allows you to slightly change and manipulate your ideas and commentary. Support every statement you make with evidence.

Supply ample explanations for your research. The opposite of stating opinions without facts is stating facts with no commentary. Although you certainly want to present plenty of evidence, make sure that your paper is uniquely your own by adding commentary in whenever possible.

Avoid using many long, direct quotes. Although your paper is based on research, the point is for you to present your own ideas. The purpose of a results section is to present and illustrate your findings. Make this section a completely objective report of the results, and save all interpretation for the discussion. You must clearly distinguish material that would normally be included in a research article from any raw data or other appendix material that would not be published.

In fact, such material should not be submitted at all unless requested by the instructor. The objective here is to provide an interpretation of your results and support for all of your conclusions, using evidence from your experiment and generally accepted knowledge, if appropriate.

The significance of findings should be clearly described. Interpret your data in the discussion in appropriate depth. This means that when you explain a phenomenon you must describe mechanisms that may account for the observation. If your results differ from your expectations, explain why that may have happened. If your results agree, then describe the theory that the evidence supported.

It is never appropriate to simply state that the data agreed with expectations, and let it drop at that. The biggest mistake that students make in discussions is to present a superficial interpretation that more or less re-states the results.

It is necessary to suggest why results came out as they did, focusing on the mechanisms behind the observations. Please note that in the introductory laboratory course, you will not be required to properly document sources of all of your information. One reason is that your major source of information is this website, and websites are inappropriate as primary sources.

Second, it is problematic to provide a hundred students with equal access to potential reference materials. You may nevertheless find outside sources, and you should cite any articles that the instructor provides or that you find for yourself.

Copyright and Intended Use Visitors: Resources for learning technical writing Before you begin your first writing assignment, please consult all of the following resources, in order to gain the most benefit from the experience. General form of a typical research article Specific guidelines if any for the assignment — see the writeups on individual lab studies McMillan, VE.

ISBN REQUIRED for Bioc , , recommended for other science courses that include writing Writing portfolio examples pdf As you polish up your writing skills please make use of the following resources Instructor feedback on previous assignments Common errors in student research papers Selected writing rules somewhat less serious than the other resources For Biosciences majors the general guidelines apply to future course work, as can be seen by examining the guidelines for the advanced experimental sciences research paper Bioc General form of a research paper An objective of organizing a research paper is to allow people to read your work selectively.

General style Specific editorial requirements for submission of a manuscript will always supercede instructions in these general guidelines. To make a paper readable Print or type using a 12 point standard font, such as Times, Geneva, Bookman, Helvetica, etc.

Stay focused on the research topic of the paper Use paragraphs to separate each important point except for the abstract Indent the first line of each paragraph Present your points in logical order Use present tense to report well accepted facts - for example, 'the grass is green' Use past tense to describe specific results - for example, 'When weed killer was applied, the grass was brown' Avoid informal wording, don't address the reader directly, and don't use jargon, slang terms, or superlatives Avoid use of superfluous pictures - include only those figures necessary to presenting results Title Page Select an informative title as illustrated in the examples in your writing portfolio example package.

Abstract The summary should be two hundred words or less. See the examples in the writing portfolio package. General intent An abstract is a concise single paragraph summary of completed work or work in progress. Writing an abstract Write your summary after the rest of the paper is completed. Purpose of the study - hypothesis, overall question, objective Model organism or system and brief description of the experiment Results, including specific data - if the results are quantitative in nature, report quantitative data; results of any statistical analysis shoud be reported Important conclusions or questions that follow from the experiment s Style: Single paragraph, and concise As a summary of work done, it is always written in past tense An abstract should stand on its own, and not refer to any other part of the paper such as a figure or table Focus on summarizing results - limit background information to a sentence or two, if absolutely necessary What you report in an abstract must be consistent with what you reported in the paper Corrrect spelling, clarity of sentences and phrases, and proper reporting of quantities proper units, significant figures are just as important in an abstract as they are anywhere else Introduction Your introductions should not exceed two pages double spaced, typed.

General intent The purpose of an introduction is to aquaint the reader with the rationale behind the work, with the intention of defending it. Writing an introduction The abstract is the only text in a research paper to be written without using paragraphs in order to separate major points. Describe the importance significance of the study - why was this worth doing in the first place? Provide a broad context. Defend the model - why did you use this particular organism or system? What are its advantages?

You might comment on its suitability from a theoretical point of view as well as indicate practical reasons for using it. State your specific hypothesis es or objective s , and describe the reasoning that led you to select them. Very briefy describe the experimental design and how it accomplished the stated objectives.

Use past tense except when referring to established facts. After all, the paper will be submitted after all of the work is completed. Organize your ideas, making one major point with each paragraph. If you make the four points listed above, you will need a minimum of four paragraphs. Present background information only as needed in order support a position.

The reader does not want to read everything you know about a subject. As always, pay attention to spelling, clarity and appropriateness of sentences and phrases. Materials and Methods There is no specific page limit, but a key concept is to keep this section as concise as you possibly can.

People will want to read this material selectively. The reader may only be interested in one formula or part of a procedure. Materials and methods may be reported under separate subheadings within this section or can be incorporated together. General intent This should be the easiest section to write, but many students misunderstand the purpose. Writing a materials and methods section Materials: Describe materials separately only if the study is so complicated that it saves space this way.

Include specialized chemicals, biological materials, and any equipment or supplies that are not commonly found in laboratories. Do not include commonly found supplies such as test tubes, pipet tips, beakers, etc.

If use of a specific type of equipment, a specific enzyme, or a culture from a particular supplier is critical to the success of the experiment, then it and the source should be singled out, otherwise no. Materials may be reported in a separate paragraph or else they may be identified along with your procedures.

In biosciences we frequently work with solutions - refer to them by name and describe completely, including concentrations of all reagents, and pH of aqueous solutions, solvent if non-aqueous. See the examples in the writing portfolio package Report the methodology not details of each procedure that employed the same methodology Describe the mehodology completely, including such specifics as temperatures, incubation times, etc. To be concise, present methods under headings devoted to specific procedures or groups of procedures Generalize - report how procedures were done, not how they were specifically performed on a particular day.

If well documented procedures were used, report the procedure by name, perhaps with reference, and that's all. For example, the Bradford assay is well known.

You need not report the procedure in full - just that you used a Bradford assay to estimate protein concentration, and identify what you used as a standard. It is awkward or impossible to use active voice when documenting methods without using first person, which would focus the reader's attention on the investigator rather than the work.

Therefore when writing up the methods most authors use third person passive voice. Use normal prose in this and in every other section of the paper — avoid informal lists, and use complete sentences.

What to avoid Materials and methods are not a set of instructions. Omit all explanatory information and background - save it for the discussion. Omit information that is irrelevant to a third party, such as what color ice bucket you used, or which individual logged in the data. Results The page length of this section is set by the amount and types of data to be reported.

Continue to be concise, using figures and tables, if appropriate, to present results most effectively. See recommendations for content, below. General intent The purpose of a results section is to present and illustrate your findings. Content Summarize your findings in text and illustrate them, if appropriate, with figures and tables.

In text, describe each of your results, pointing the reader to observations that are most relevant. Provide a context, such as by describing the question that was addressed by making a particular observation. Describe results of control experiments and include observations that are not presented in a formal figure or table, if appropriate.


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How to Write a Research Paper. What is a research paper? A research paper is a piece of academic writing based on its author’s original research on a particular topic, and the analysis and interpretation of the research findings. It can be either a term paper, a master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation.

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Writing a Research Paper. This page lists some of the stages involved in writing a library-based research paper. Although this list suggests that there is a simple, linear process to writing such a paper, the actual process of writing a research paper is often a messy and recursive one, so please use this outline as a flexible guide.

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Steps in Writing a Research Paper. A series of steps, starting with developing a research question and working thesis, will lead you through writing a research paper. As you move through these steps and actually create the research paper, you may find that you can't move through all of them in chronological order, and that's o.k. Writing Research Papers. Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. Gene Fowler.

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Research papers are generally longer pieces of written work than essays. Writing a research paper involves all of the steps for writing an essay plus some additional ones. To write a research paper you must first do some research, that is, investigate your topic by reading about it in many different. May 14,  · Research essays are extremely common assignments in high school, college, and graduate school, and are not unheard of in middle school. If you are a student, chances are you will sooner or later be faced with the task of researching a topic and writing a paper about it. Knowing how to efficiently 95%(29).