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Writing Research Papers

(1) Read the assignment sheet carefully, highlighting requirements and paraphrasing the purpose. Reread the assignment sheet at each step of the writing process.

(2) Find a workable topic by consulting online indexes. Scan subheadings and article titles. Is there enough written on this topic? Do you have the background needed to write on this topic?

(3) Familiarize yourself with the topic by reading a few general online articles.

(4) Once you have some general knowledge about the topic, formulate a possible thesis . Think about questions that have come to your mind as you read about the topic. Think of problems that need solving. Decide whether you should focus on convincing us that there is a problem or, if researchers agree that the problem exists, whether you should focus on solutions. You might want to write two possible theses and ask your instructor for input on which one seems more workable and interesting.

(5) Develop a very broad outline with a number for each section. Indicate how many pages you plan to devote to each section. Visit the Writing Center with specific question on how to develop your thesis and outline.

(6) Research your thesis in depth . Using your outline as a guide, decide how much material you will need for each section, and evaluate which sources are the best. Print your sources and read them, highlighting facts and quotations that you might want to use. For books, take notes in a notebook, being careful to record proper citations and page numbers of each source.

(7) After your initial reading, go through your source material again, reevaluating everything you highlighted or notated. If a note or highlighted sentence still seems important, use red ink towrite a number in the margin to correspond with a section of your outline . Revise your outline if needed and continue revising even as you write the paper.

(8) Write the paper section by section , reading all appropriate sources just before writing a section. For example, before writing the third section your paper, scan through your sources, rereading any highlighted material that you have labeled as “section three.” Now, put your sources aside and write that section in your own words, looking back at a source only when you need to pull out a fact or quotation. If looking back at a source will get you off track, write XXX in the paper where a fact or quotation will be plugged in later. After you finish writing the section, go back to your sources to verify everything and/or plug in missing information. This method of not looking at your sources as you write, will help you avoid writing a “cut and paste” paper.

(9) Revise for clarity, accuracy, brevity, and relevance. Ask yourself the point of each paragraph and be able to express this in a single sentence. Check for plagiarism. Ask for feedback from the instructor, a fellow student, or a tutor at the Writing Center .

(10) Proofread for grammar, punctuation, and missing documentation.

A Word about Procrastination:

Be honest with yourself. If you have a tendency to put off writing a paper until the last possible minute, take steps to prevent that from happening again. The easiest method is to make an appointment with your professor or the Writing Center to review your rough draft. Set the appointment a few days before the actual due date for the paper. This will help you finish writing your paper early – in time for your appointment rather than ten minutes before the paper is due.

The UIC Writing Center:

You can make an appointment at the Writing Center at any step of the writing process – before or after you have written your first draft. Appointments begin during the third week of the semester and may be made a week in advance by calling 413-2206