Writing the Research Paper
Essential Information and Tips
Step 1: Choose your topic.
• If at all possible, choose a
subject or an aspect of a
subject that interests you
• Narrow down the topic. Notice
the difference between:
– “Christianity and Islam: A
– “The concept of God in
Christianity and Islam”
– “The role of Jesus in Christianity
Step 2: Gather materials.
• Have a focus for your paper: a
question that you want to
answer -- e.g., “How are
Christianity and Islam similar
and different in their concepts
– Note: this is not yet a thesis. A
thesis would be a tentative answer
to this question
• Put together a bibliography
– Professors will often require this
Step 3: Take notes on your sources.
• Organize your notes according to
– Use 3x5 file cards
– or different sheets of paper for
• Give each note card or page a
title and make sure you have all
referencing information (it’s easier
to do this sooner than later!)
• Use your own words when possible;
avoid excessive use of long
Step 4: Decide on a thesis.
• A thesis is a statement that states
an argument or makes an assertion.
– It is a statement that someone could
– This thesis is tentative; you will probably
need to revise it between the first and
the final draft
• You don’t have a thesis if you say
– “This paper is about . . .” or
– “This paper will discuss the question . . .”
Step 5: make an outline.
• Thesis statement
• Development of thesis
– supporting research
– contrary research
reaction -- or a
combination of these,
depending on what your
Step 6: write the first drafts.
• STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR THESIS! Eliminate
materials that do not relate to it.
• Pay attention to the flow of ideas.
• Reference properly all quotes,
paraphrases, and uses of ideas from your
• Run a spell and grammar check
• Print out paper or review on screen
– PROOFREAD!! Correct mechanical and
• Re-print paper
• The rough draft should not be the same
as “first draft” that your professor sees
Step 7: revise and rewrite.
• Take seriously all comments made
by professors on your drafts!
• If not “officially” a multi-draft
project, write at least two to
three drafts anyway.
• Be sure to spell check, proofread,
and check references for the final
– DO NOT turn in a paper with
– Final draft should be a refined piece
of work: clear, clean, coherent.