WRITING THE RESEARCH PAPER
In between the choosing of a topic and the final typing of the last revision lie a series of skills which, if learned thoroughly, might well be the most important and most permanent academic possession acquired in four years of college. Specifically, you need to learn how to: delve deeply into a topic; find and select raw data; reflect, speculate, and mediate upon implications and relationships; glimpse and follow insights; establish logical categories; organize an outline; think and write with clarity and precision; and revise.
Make the writing of every paper an exercise to develop these skills.
Steps In Writing The Research Paper
1. Choose your ...view middle of the document...
Narrowing Your Subject
The most common criticism of research papers is , "topic too broad." You may well wonder, "Well, how can I be sure that I have sufficiently narrowed my topic?" A Cornell English professor has this sure-fire method: put your subject through three significant narrowings, i.e., moving from one category to a class within a category, each time.
For example, here are some sample narrowings for papers of 10 to 12 pages:
1. Public opinion polls: accuracy of polls: the accuracy of such polls in national elections: factors which determine the accuracy of public opinion polls in national elections.
2. The climate of opinion between World War I and World War II: the moral climate, etc.: the particular arguments involved in the debate over Prohibition: the arguments for Prohibition used by the "Drys" in support of the 18th Amendment and their arguments in the late 1920's and early 1930's to prevent repeal.
3. Discrimination against African-Americans: Northern attitudes vs. Southern attitudes: the particular geographical distinction: how Mason and Dixon's Line became a line of demarcation.
4. The Civil War: crucial battles: one battle: Napoleonic strategy and the battle of Fredricksburg.
5. Comparative religion-two religions; Judaism and Christianity; "salvation" in Judaism.
Provide A Focus For Gathering Material
To avoid the gross error of making your paper a mere accumulation of facts, you must crystallize a genuine question, and your facts must then be used to answer this question. Whether it can be definitely answered or not is unimportant.
A detailed outline at this stage is not usually possible since you are not sure of the material that you will uncover. Nevertheless, the specific question in mind will give you the needed focus for gathering pertinent material.
Select A Bibliography
College libraries, or any good library for that matter, contain many valuable sources of reference material. It will pay you in the long run to find out just what these sources are and how you can learn to use them with the maximum efficiency. Don't make the mistake of waiting until just a few days before your paper is due to make your first acquaintance with the many reference books your library contains. A few minutes spent in the library at the beginning of the term, when you are not under pressure to finish a paper, will help you in the future.
The "backbone" of all libraries is the card catalogue system, which tells you not only what books the library possesses, but also where you can find them. Look, therefore, through the library's card file and record all pertinent references on separate 3x5 slips of paper.
Efficiency will be increased if all the information is systematically recorded in the following ways:
A. Record the name of the library where the reference is located. Many universities have special libraries located in separate schools on campus.
B. Record the short title of...