Steps to Writing a Research Paper  

The following steps are a brief guide to assist you in the process of writing a research paper: from choosing a topic, to finding information, to the writing of your paper.

Good research takes time.
Don't expect to find the perfect article or book in only a few minutes. It may take up to two weeks to get a book from another library so start your research right away.

Make sure you understand your assignment.
Read your assignment sheet thoroughly and if you don't understand something ask your instructor for help.

Choose your topic.
This sounds easier than it is. Sometimes part of the research process is discovering that your topic is too big, too small, or too complicated. You have not wasted time if you change your topic. You have just refined your research into a more manageable thing.

Starting your research.
Make your thesis statement or topic into a question. For example, instead of "Television advertising affects girls' self-esteem," change it to "what are the effects of television advertising on girls?"

  • Identify the main concepts in your question. They are: television, advertising and girls.
  • Use them as search terms (or keywords) in the UFV Library catalogue and Research Databases.
  • Some keywords will work better than others. If television, advertisinggirls give you no results think of other related terms that may work better. Media, marketing, children, or childhood are possible alternatives.
  • You'll notice that self-esteem and effects are not identified as main concepts. Perhaps they should be. Try them as search terms. If they work, then use them. Generally though these terms do not give a lot of useful results.
  • Remember as you do your research you will start to understand the subject better and your choice of keywords will improve. You may find that you need to do some of your searches again in order to find articles/books that you missed the first time because you weren't using the right words.

Choosing Resources.
Usually your instructor will tell you what resources you need. If you need books use the library catalogue. If you need journal articles use our Research databases. If you need newspaper articles look at our Newspaper databases. If your instructor hasn't specified what resources you should use try to get a blend of books and articles. If you are using internet sites make sure you evaluate the information before you use it. Look at our guidelines on evaluating information resources.

Writing your paper.
The library has a large collection of material to help you write your research paper. Search in our library catalogue using keywords like report writing or research and writing. Here's a sample of what we have:

The people at the Writing Centre can also give you strategies to get your paper done. If you need help, just ask.  Here's some examples of what's available at the Writing Centre:

Create a step-by-step work schedule.
Our Assignment Planner can help you manage your time by calculating a guideline to your essay research and writing process.

If you still need help, ask a librarian

Last updated September 15, 2010 dc

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