Research PaperIntroductionA Writer’s ChecklistChoosing your research topicRemembering your purposeDeveloping your research questionsFinding and evaluating your sourcesGathering your informationDrafting your thesisOrganizing your informationA Writer’s ModelYour Turn: Writing a research paper
IntroductionThink for a moment about how many questions youconsider during the course of a day.“How old is that building?”“Why don’t The Rolling Stones call it quits?”“How long until lunch?”People are naturally curious. All human knowledge isa result of people wanting their questions answered.
IntroductionTo find answers, people explore. That explorationtakes many forms. Some people travel through jungles;others dig around old ruins. Still others read to gainnew knowledge.Research isexploration toanswer questions.Researchers often share theirdiscoveries by arranging andpresenting their discoveriesin a research paper.
A Writer’s ChecklistWhen you write a research paper, you should: Choose a research topic that you and your audience will find interesting. Remember the purpose of your research paper and keep it in mind as you write. Develop a list of research questions to guide your research. Find and evaluate sources to ensure that your research paper is based on solid information. Gather information from the sources to answer your research questions. Draft a thesis, organize the information, and write your paper.
Choosing your research topicBegin work on your research paper by choosing aresearch topic. Find a subject that will generate aninteresting thesis. Consider these strategies: Investigate nonfiction books, newspapers, magazines, and informational TV programs. What subjects catch your attention? Explore them further on the Internet. Observe your surroundings. What things in your everyday life might make interesting subjects? Talk to people about their jobs and interests.
Choosing your research topicRosetta came upon a book about Greek mythology inher school library. She thought: These Other stories are people fascinating might ! think so, too!
Choosing your research topicOnce you’ve picked an overall subject, you mustrefine your topic to make it a manageable size.As Rosetta investigated Greek myths further, she foundan article entitled “Greek Nature Myths.” She decided tonarrow her focus to that topic. She jotted down a shortdescription of her research topic. How the ancient Greeks used myths to explain things in nature.
Writing Tip: Choosing your research topic When choosing and refining a researchtopic: Make certain that your topic is objective rather than subjective. Personal (subjective) experiences and opinions are not suitable for research papers. Be sure that you have adequate access to sources on your topic. You don’t want to choose a topic that is difficult to find information about.
Remembering your purposeAs you work, remember the purpose of research.You conduct research toanswer your own questionsabout a research topic, andyou publish your researchin order to inform othersabout that topic.To achieve this second purpose effectively, you mustconsider your audience and communicate with themusing the proper tone.
Remembering your purposeReaders expect to come away from a research paperwith a new and better understanding of its topic. Asyou prepare to write, ask yourself: Who is my audience? Which aspects of my topic might interest them? What background information might they need to understand my topic? How might I increase their understanding of my topic?
Remembering your purposeRosetta wrote these notes to clarify her purpose andher audience’s needs: Topic: Greek Nature Myths My audience is: my classmates Interesting aspects of my topic: some of the stories ancient Greeks told to explain natural phenomena Background information needed: The ancient Greeks didn’t have the knowledge of science that we do. I want my readers to understand that: The Greeks believed their myths. They used the myths to make sense of nature.
Developing your research questionsBefore you begin your research, develop a list ofresearch questions to explore. To get started, askyourself:What exactly are the parameters of my topic?What does it include and exclude?What are some of the “smaller pieces” of myoverall topic? How do these pieces fit together?What other topics are related to mine?Remember that revising your list of questions (or evenyour topic) as you work is a natural part of the researchprocess.
Developing your research questionsHere are some of Rosetta’s research questions: Which gods did the early Greeks hold responsible for fire? How did the early Greeks think diseases originated and spread? How did the Greeks explain day, night, and the seasons?She wrote out her questions and kept them at hand.They would help her to keep her information organizedas she collected it.
Finding and evaluating your sourcesYou must find and evaluate sources to support thecontent of your research paper. The first step infinding information on your topic is knowing where tolook.There are many resources for tracking and findingreliable information. Here are a few: the Internet encyclopedias magazines libraries museums dictionaries newspapers maps bookstores
Writing Tip: Choosing your research topic The quality of your research paper will be only as good as the quality of your sources.Evaluate your sources carefully. Ask yourself: Do all of my sources contain information relevant to my topic? Are the sources I am using reliable? Are they accurate and objective? Is the information in my sources recent? Are my sources representative of both sides of any controversial issue?
Finding and evaluating your sourcesYour readers will want to know where you got yourinformation, so it’s important to keep track of yoursources as you find them. For each of your sources, record the author, title, and publication information. You should also assign each source a number for your own reference.
Finding and evaluating your sourcesRosetta organized her source information on note cardslike this one: 8 Bullfinch, Thomas. The Age of Fable. New York, NY: Review of Reviews Company, 1999. School Library 115.22BulAlong with the source number and publicationinformation, she wrote the location where the sourcewas found and the book’s call number.
Gathering your informationWith her research questions before her, Rosetta beganto gather information from her sources.She skimmed each source and took notes when shefound information that related to her researchquestions.
Gathering your informationRosetta used note cards to record the information shefound. For each note she recorded the source numberand a keyword describing the card’s subject. For printsources, she also noted the page number. Keyword Source Number Information from Source Page Number
Gathering your informationResearch papers often make use of direct quotations.Quotations are used when the exact words of theauthor are important. Disease Myth 2 “Forthwith escaped a multitude of plagues for hapless man, such as gout, rheumatism, and colic for his body, and envy, spite, and revenge for his mind.” page 8
Gathering your informationParaphrasing is used when you want to explain anidea in detail. When you paraphrase, you use your ownwords to either restate or elaborate on a point. Fire Myth 6 Prometheus was a Titan. The Greeks believed that Titans were giants who lived on earth long ago. Prometheus is credited with bringing fire from the Sun down to man. page 13
Gathering your informationA summary is a condensed version of a point or idea.Like a paraphrase, it is stated in your own words. Fire Myth 4 The ancient Greeks also knew about fire, but their explanation of its origin was very different. page 27
Writing Tip: Gathering your information Unless you are using a direct quotation, do not copy word-for-word from yoursources. Any time you use someone else’s words orideas without giving proper credit, you are committingplagiarism.Always cite, or name,your sources, whetheryou are summarizing,paraphrasing, or directlyquoting the words orideas of others.
Drafting your thesisNext, draft a thesis statement to identify your topicand tell which aspects of it you will cover. To do this:1. Review your note cards, focusing on main ideas.2. Consider which approach your notes suggest. A. Do your notes suggest a certain relationship, such as cause-effect or comparison-contrast? B. Will your paper explore new information? C. Will your paper examine how the topic has changed over time?
Drafting your thesis3. Write a statement that illustrates the approach supported by your notes.After reviewing her information and choosing herapproach, Rosetta wrote this thesis statement: The ancient Greeks used myths to explain phenomena they observed in nature.Remember that the content orwording of your thesis may changeto suit the needs of your paper.
Organizing your informationOrganize your information in accordance with theapproach you have chosen for your paper.Group your note cards according to their keywords.Then put the groups in the order in which you willdiscuss them in your paper. Finally, decide how best toorder the ideas within each group of cards. Disease Myth 2 “Forthwith escaped a multitude of Fire Myth 4 plagues for hapless man, such as Fire Myth 6 The ancient Greeks also knew gout, rheumatism, and colic for his body, and envy, spite, andfire, but their explanation of was a Titan. The Greeks about revenge Prometheus for his mind.” its origin 8 believed that Titans were giants who Page was very different. lived on earth long ago. Prometheus Page 27 is credited with bringing fire from the Sun down to man. Page 13
Gathering your informationOnce your note cards are in order, use them to createan outline to follow as you write your paper.Begin with a working outline, arranging your detailsin groups without using numbers or letters. Main idea from first group of cards: First point (note card text) Supporting detail (note card text) Main idea from second group of cards: First point (note card text)) Supporting detail (note card text) Etc. . . .
Gathering your informationYou may then choose to create a formal outline, withRoman numerals and capital letters. Thesis I. Main idea from first group of cards A. First point 1. Supporting detail 2. Supporting detail B. Second point 1. Supporting detail 2. Supporting detail Etc. . . .Either type of outline will give you a map to follow asyou write the first draft of your research paper.
A Writer’s ChecklistUse the checklist as you look at the following Writer’sModel and as you evaluate and revise your own paper. Choose a research topic that you and your audience will find interesting. Remember the purpose of your research paper and keep it in mind as you write. Develop a list of research questions to guide your research. Find and evaluate sources to ensure that your research paper is based on solid information. Gather information from the sources to answer your research questions. Draft a thesis, organize the information, and write your paper.
Greek Nature Myths We learn about science from the attention-gettertime we are children. Basic factsabout nature are common knowledge.For instance, most of us take it for background informationgranted that our world is round. Weknow that Earth’s rotation gives usday and night and that the stars aresuns much like our own. We knowthat clouds are made of evaporatedwater and that lightning is actually aform of electricity. A list of well-known science facts could go on andon.
In ancient Greece, however, it backgroundwas different. Although the Greeks informationare known for their contributions tocivilization (“Greek Civilization”), their shortenedgrasp of science was very incomplete. form of source title The ancient Greeks did not haveour scientific knowledge. To explain thesisthe world around them, they createdmyths which, historian Bernard Doyle author’s nametells us, “sought to explain everyday in textnatural phenomena. Drops ofmorning dew, for instance, were seen quotation/as tears from Heaven over its first exampleseparation from Earth.” (14)
For example, any scientist today second examplecan describe the physical process thatresults in fire (“Fire”). The ancient summary withGreeks also knew about fire, but their supporting detailsexplanation of its origin was verydifferent. They believed that anancient race of giants called Titansformed the Earth, animals, andpeople out of Chaos. According to this paraphrasemythology, a Titan namedPrometheus stole fire from the chariotthat held the Sun and brought it toEarth as a gift to humankind(Bullfinch 12).
Similarly, although the ancient third exampleGreeks knew nothing about germs(“Germs”), they still had an online sourceexplanation of where diseases camefrom. According to a myth still summaryfamous today, sickness, pain, andsadness were unleashed upon theworld by Pandora, the first woman.Out of curiosity, she disobeyed the paraphrase ofGreek gods and opened a box in supporting detailswhich the Titan Epimetheus(Prometheus’s brother) had placed “a phrase quotationmultitude of plagues for hapless man”(Bullfinch 13).
Many of the constellations in our fourth examplenight skies were originally named byancient Greeks. We know some ofthem by the same names today.(Bell). Of course, the Greeks were not summarythe only ancient people with naturemyths. Even today, many cultures tell restatement offanciful stories to explain the world thesisaround them (Buxton). Even thoughwe know that myths are not true,these stories give us insight intocultures of long ago while at the concluding thoughtsame time entertaining us.
Works CitedBell, Cathy. “The Mythology of the online source Constellations.” Princeton University. 8 Nov. 2008. <http:// www.comfychair.org>. bookBullfinch, Thomas. The Age of Fable. New York: Review Of Reviews Company, 1999.
Works Cited (cont’d)Buxton, Richard. “The Complete magazine World of Greek Mythology.” Science News. 7 Mar. 2004: 53-62. bookDoyle, Bernard. Mythology. Cambridge, UK: Anthropographia Publications, 1996.
Works Cited (cont’d)“Fire.” The Encyclopedia Britannica. encyclopedia article International ed. 1998.“Greek Civilization Topics.” 9 Nov. online source 2008. <http:// atschool.eduweb.co.uk>.
Works Cited (cont’d)“Louis Pasteur Proves Germs Cause online source Disease.” Great Moments in the History of Science. <http://www. hawkhill.com>.
Your Turn: Writing a research paperWrite a research paper in response to one of theprompts below. Then, use the Writer’s Checklist as aguide to evaluating and revising your work. Brainstorm three subjects that might be interesting to research. Choose a subject from your list and write a short research paper, following the instructions in this lesson. Remember to cite sources. Choose a topic that is current in today’s news and explore it in a research paper. Remember to find a variety of sources to give different information and perspectives on the topic.