Getting Started on a Research Paper

I.         Begin this process by examining your assignment sheet.

A.     Be sure you understand the requirements and limits of the assignment.

B.     Pay attention to wording, the audience, the scope of expected research, and the desired length.


II.      Set up a schedule

A.     Include library and Internet exploration time

B.     Set a date for when you will decide on a topic and/or hypothesis

C.     Allow time to gather sources

D.     Consider deadlines for a rough outline and thesis

E.      Take into account note taking time, rough draft deadlines, revision time, and when the final draft is due.

F.     Don’t forget to schedule a time to visit the Writing Center!


III.     Identify the purpose

·        Look for cue words, such as describe, survey, analyze, explain, classify, compare, contrast in the prompt.


IV.    Identify the audience

·        Be sure to think about what they already know, what they will want to learn about, what assumptions they may have/receive, and what response you wish to elicit from them.


V.       Identify the scope of your research

·        Sources:

1)      What kind do I need?

2)      How many do I need?


VI.    Choose a topic

A.     Think about subjects with which you are or would like to become familiar.

B.     Surf the Net and skim your textbooks or other reading materials

C.     Ask yourself if the topic is:

1)      interesting

2)      manageable

3)      has more than one angle

4)      has available resources

D.     Focus your topic so that it is compliant with the length of your assignment


VII.      Develop a hypothesis or thesis statement

·        This sentence should be an interesting statement about your research that can be proved or disproved by your evidence.

Example from Lunsford/Connors:

Topic: Heroes in U.S. films

Issue: Changes in heroes in U.S. films

Research Question: How have heroes changed since they found a home in Hollywood?

Hypothesis/Thesis statement: As real-life heroes have been dethroned in popular U.S. culture over the last century, so have film heroes, and current films suggest that the hero may not have a future at all.


VIII.         Explore your topic (see worksheet entitled Getting Started on a Composition Paper)


IX.              Convert your hypothesis to a working thesis for your paper.