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Writing a Research Paper
Transcript of Writing a Research Paper
Writing a Great Research Paper.
(DVD Video). 2007 Video Aided
presents an original approach to some academic topic
doesn't just repeat information
one's own ideas are at least as important as the research
Research means reading and studying various kinds of evidence, mainly but not exclusively drawn from written materials
Scholars are people who practice the arts of scholarship. They build a new knowledge by analyzing and learning from what others have done and adding fresh insights to it.
The ability to do research and use it intelligently in writing is a basic tool of any educated person.
In today's "knowledge economy," more and more people are using research skills in their daily work.
Understanding how to analyze, evaluate, criticize, combine, and draw conclusions from information sources is crucial to everyday decisions.
: a very broad category - a general area of interest - usually assigned by teacher
: the best topics are built around intriguing questions
: more specific focus within the general subject - developed by the student - the narrower, the better
: states what you want to say about the topic - your conclusion based on your research and thought - a strong thesis can usually be stated in a single sentence
: "Reading around" your subject and narrowing your research focus based on what you learn.
a topic that interests you and
not the teacher's perceived interests
a topic about which a good amount of research material appears to be available
What you want to say about the topic. It states your idea, your opinion, or your conclusion.
positive, non-obvious statement
tested through your research
Bibliography / Works Cited
Write down all bibliographic information
title and subtitle
date and place of publication
name of magazine or journal
A reference work that lists books, articles, and other materials related to a subject.
: Don't try to use a book or article as a source for your paper unless you really understand what it says.
: All things being equal, more recent sources are better than older ones.
reputation of the source
: Primarily, this refers to the author's reputation. It also refers to the reputation of the periodical or book publisher.
: If a book or article takes a strong point of view that's very different from what's offered in most sources, you may be encountering bias.
nature of the work
: scholarly? serious? thoughtful? reliable? . . . or not?
what others say
: An Internet search can help you discover what other scholars have said about the author or specific sources you're considering using.
A research paper must be basically
your own work
and must use facts and ideas
from research to back up and support
your original concepts.
Whenever you do use facts and ideas borrowed from research sources, you need to
explain and acknowledge
these sources rather than let readers get the impression that you came up with the facts and ideas completely on your own.
Plagiarism is a kind of theft.
Types of Plagiarism
buying, borrowing, or reusing a paper (reusing your own paper is a breach of scholarly ethics because it is not fresh writing)
claiming as your own a piece of writing from a public source
"publishing" also refers to the act of posting information on the Internet
quoting words, sentences, paragraphs, or pages from another writer's work without giving that writer credit
When you cut and paste materials from the Internet, make sure that you put quotation marks around them and clearly label (on the same page) exactly where those materials came from, who the author was, and all the bibliographic information about the published source.
copying another writer's sequence of ideas without giving that writer credit
If you model yor paper onthe one you read and describe the same historical events in the same order, using the same details, you are guilty of plagiarism.
Keep reading and thinking. Find a way to expand, extend, or connect the author's ideas to some other aspects of your topic.
When you borrow ideas or details from an article, you must include a bibliographic reference.
to mention any facts that fall into a special category known as "Common Knowledge."
It's Common Knowledge if
it's easy to verify a particular fact from generally available sources of information
it's an idea (or concept) that's widely discussed and generally known
Rule of Thumb
If, in the course of your research, you encounter the same fact or idea in at least 3 separate sources, it is common knowledge. However, if you only encounter a particular fact or idea in one or two sources, it is probably not common knowledge, so cite a source.
When in doubt, give a citation.
Finding the Best Research Sources
Plagiarism doesn't refer only to the act of quoting the actual words of another writer without mentioning the source.
It can also refer to mentioning facts or ideas without naming their source - depending on whether or not those facts or ideas qualify as common knowledge.
Rules of Academic Integrity
Resist the temptation to fake research
Don't be guilty of misrepresenting, distorting, or "spinning" the contents of someone else's work. (You can take what you want from a source and use it in context.)
Disagree with a source? Don't quote selectively - or twist the information in your source. Present all the information fairly and honestly. Give your own point of view and let the reader decide what s/he agrees with.
The Philosophy of Note-Taking
Note-taking is the art of absorbing, recording, tracking, organizing, and using information that you gather from the work of previous thinkers.
Research = Reading
Note-Taking = Writing
Joting down a brief description of every piece of information you gather from your reading.
Note-Taking is the first stage in writing your research paper.
Your notes must be
Your notes must record accurately what you read and why you find it interesting, useful, and relevant.
always write detailed notes
taking too many notes is always better than taking too few.
Keeping track of your sources
For all sources, jot down all the bibliographic information you'll need to refer to in your paper.
Use a notebook, your computer, a sheet of paper, or
preferably, index cards
For a web page
author, title, date posted, name of website, organization sponsoring the web site, URL - you should record the exact date of access
Basic Principles of Note-Taking
Many students tend to use too many. A research paper is an original work with your own ideas
quote only when the phrasing is distinctive, memorable, or especially powerful
avoid copying long sections
copy the quotation precisely
Occasionally, you may find that you'll need to add a word or phrase to clarify the meaning of something that's in the quotation.
When you do this, put the word or phrase that you added inside square brackets [ ].
If you decide to leave out part of the quotation, use . . . (ellipsis) to show exactly where the words have been omitted.
Be sure to write down the number of the specific page in the book or article where the quotation comes form
If the quotation runs from one page onto the next, use a / (slash mark) to show where the page break occurs.
In most cases, paraphrasing is a better choice than direct quotation. This means completely rewriting your source from the ground up - NOT keeping some phrases and changing others.
You want to absorb the meaning of the source and then restate it precisely and accurately but totally in your own words.
Kinds of Evidence
definition of terms
accounts of events that suggest a cause-and-effect relationship
statistics or other numerical data
individual examples that suggest a broader pattern
facts or ideas from primary sources
facts or ideas from secondary sources
evidence related to alternative theses
If you want your paper to be truly persuasive, you need to not only show that your thesis is right but also that the other theses are wrong.
Support your thesis
explain your idea clearly and fully
define your terms
cite factual evidence
include data from primary sources, ideas from secondary sources, or both
statistics and other numerical data may be needed
you may also need explanation of cause-and-effect relationships
you may also need information about alternative theses, including facts and ideas to show why these alternative theses are wrong
Ask yourself, "What do I need to say in order to support the thesis?"
Tips for Conquering Writer's Block
say it in a single sentence (then begin elaborating)
write down what you'd tell a friend
just start writing (use free writing, stream-of-consciousness style, or some other kind of writing, eg. email, letters, etc.)
play with blocks (think of it as blocks and write one block at a time)
start with what you can write most easily
don't be a perfectionist
experiment with writing at different times and in different places
give yourself time - write a page or two a day
Your best strategy is to take a somewhat little known idea and add you own original twist to it.
Your thesis is an idea that emerges gradually as you read about you topic, think about it, and analyze and compare sources of information.
Your thesis must
be supported by your research. It must state an idea, opinion, interpretation, or theory that is backed up by the evidence your reading has uncovered.
be a positive, non-obvious statement. It must not be a truism (common knowledge or obviously true).
not be a tautology, which is something that must be true or cannot be disproved.
be worth arguing, and, preferably, original and interesting.
Look for items that
help to explain the thesis
help to show that it is true
may call into question or weaken it
sharpen, focus, clarify or modify it
After you've stated your thesis in a sentence.
Go through your notes and pick out the facts and ideas that are most relevant to that thesis.
Before you start drafting your paper, state your thesis in a sentence.
Your thesis can serve as a guide and a reminder of what you want to say.
Developing a Thesis
The final thesis for your research paper is the answer to the central question you've been investigating. It may be the same as your working thesis, or it might be quite different.
Comment of Your Own
This is an idea you might have about how the source material you are making notes about is relevant to your paper.
Your comment might
serve as a reminder to you about how you might use the source material in your paper
indicate how or why you agree or disagree with the source
raise a question for further study or research
For your personal comments
use a different colored ink or
use circles or brackets
- can be agreed upon, can be verified in a number of ways
- can't be absolutely proven or verified
You need both facts and ideas to write a first-rate research paper.
A really great research paper is one that offers interesting, significant
that are supported by powerful, compelling facts.
create and organize files by subtopics
name and rename files as needed
back up your files on Internet or elsewhere
Different Types of Notes
your own comments
1. note-taking is not about gathering raw material and dumping it on paper for later study. It's about reading, analyzing, thinking about, and digesting information as you read and then capturing that information in a form that will make it easier to use later on.
2. One way to gauge whether or not your note-taking is appropriately detailed is simply by looking at the sheer volume.
3. Your notes should capture two things:
that are not common knowledge and that help to answer the key questions on which your paper is focused, either strengthening, weakening, clarifying, or modifying your working thesis
- that is, interpretations, opinions, analyses, or theories - that are relevant to your question and your working thesis and with which you either agree or disagree