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  1. 1. The Research-Based PaperWhat is a Research Paper?Students are often asked to write papers based on the work of othersrather than just their own experience. These papers require the use of primaryand/or secondary research.According to the fifth edition of MLA Handbook for Writers of ResearchPapers, “Primary research is the study of a subject through firsthand observationand investigation, such as analyzing a literary or historical text, a film, or aperformance; conducting a survey or an interview; or carrying out a laboratoryexperiment. Primary sources include statistical data, historical documents, andworks of literature or art. Secondary research is the examination of studies thatother researchers have made of a subject. Examples of secondary sources arebooks and articles about political issues, historical events, scientific debates, orliterary works (2).” To avoid plagiarism, primary and/or secondary researchrequires parenthetical documentation and a “Works Cited” page.Any topic of interest can be used for a research-based paper. However, thenarrowed topic must meet three criteria:1. The paper must deal with a significant issue.2. The audience must gain more knowledge/insight from the informationprovided. The regurgitation of already known information is notsufficient.3. Research papers analyze an issue, defend a position, or explain somecomplexity. Many research papers will accomplish all three purposes.How do I start?The steps to begin a research paper are similar to those of any other paper.1. Make sure the criteria for the assignment is clear.2. Choose a suitable subject if the option is available. Then narrow thesubject to a topic.3. Read about the topic. Become familiar with it.
  2. 2. 4. Develop a preliminary outline or a series of research questions thatreflects what needs to be discovered about the topic. It can be revisedat any time during the process.5. Begin to take notes. Use of index cards (4x6) or notesheets isrecommended. See the Appendix for formats.6. Write a first draft. Evaluate the information. Is the researchcomplete? Remember to use peer editors.7. Revise the first draft. Make any necessary changes based on theevaluation of the first draft. Begin addressing the issues of style andmechanics.8. Write a second draft. Pay close attention to the parts of the paper. Isthe introduction clear? Is the body well developed with sufficientsupporting evidence? Have authorities been introduced properly in thetext? Has appropriate documentation been provided? Is the tenseappropriate and consistent? Is the voice clear? Does the conclusionfollow from the body? Does it provide the reader with a sense ofclosure?9. Organize the other parts of the paper. Pay special attention to theformat requirements.10. Prepare the final copy. Proofread.Format Requirements for Research PapersThese requirements are based on the MLA format (Lester, Writing ResearchPapers, 7th ed.). Unless otherwise indicated by the teacher, this format may beused for research-based papers.1. ORGANIZATION: a. title pageb. outline (per instruction of teacher)c. abstract (per instruction of teacher)d. text (including parenthetical documentation)e. content notes (per instruction of teacher)
  3. 3. f. appendix (per instruction of teacher)g. “Works Cited” page2. PAPER: Use standard printer paper.3. OUTLINE (optional): a. titleb. thesisc. phrase/ sentence4. TITLE PAGE*:a. Two inch margins should be provided on all sides.b. The entire page is centered.c. Information is divided into three parts: title, student’s name, andcourse information (course & teacher’s name) and date. Space theseparts evenly down the page.d. Use an inverted pyramid if the title requires more than one line.e. Use capital and lowercase letters appropriately. Underlining (oritalics) and quotation marks should be used only to indicate titleswithin the title. Do not underline the title or use a colon (:) after by.Do not use a period at the end of the title.f. See sample in “Appendix.”*If no title page is required, the following heading may be used on the first page ofthe text. On the left-hand side one inch from the top provide the student’s name,the title of the course, and the date. This should be double-spaced.5. TEXT: a. Title: Repeat the title on the first page.b. Spacing: Use double spacing for the entire text including the“Works Cited” page.c. Margins: A basic one-inch margin should be used on all sides.d. Pagination: Number the pages consecutively throughout the text inArabic numerals typed in the upper right-hand corner. Include yourname as well as the page number. They should be placed one-half inchdown from the edge of the paper. The “Works Cited” page isnumbered consecutively with the text.
  4. 4. e. Corrections: An error free paper is the goal. Computers havemade the editing process simple. Complete the revisions and submitthe corrected printed copy.f. Documentation: Appropriate parenthetical documentation of citedsources should be provided. All data whether quoted or paraphrasedmust be properly introduced and documented at the end.g. Thesis: Usually, the thesis should be clearly apparent within thefirst paragraph of the paper.h. Introduction and Conclusion: Use quotations sparingly in these twoparts of the paper. Use original thoughts and words.i. Short Quotations: Be certain to introduce them smoothly. Whilefrequent quoting from primary sources is expected, over quoting fromsecondary sources should be avoided.j. Length: See teacher.k. Revising and Proofreading: See “The Process of Writing,”sections 8 and 9.6. WORKS CITED: this page is double spaced just like the text. Center and typethe title of the page. Hit return once and begin entries. Type first lines flushwith the margin. Subsequent lines of the entry are indented five (5) spaces.Entries are organized alphabetically. See sample in “Appendix.”