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English 101--Senior Research Paper  

Last Updated: Nov 17, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Getting Started Print Page

What is a Research Paper?


A research paper is an in-depth account about a specific topic. It is based on facts and information collected as a result of thorough research of a topic.

A research paper requires that writers focus on a particular subject, develop a claim or thesis, and support their postitions with convincing evidence: background information, facts, statistics, and descriptions.  


Research Process

research process

Understand your assignment 
Read your assignment thoroughly. What are the deadlines? How many pages and sources are required?

Select a topic from the choices provided.

Get an overview of your topic 
Begin with a general reference source such as an encyclopedia or atlas to get an overview

Develop a list of keywords 
Using the information you read to get an overview, create a list of keywords that will help you in the next stages of information gathering

Find, review and evaluate resources 
Search the library and other local library catalogues for book and other print resources. Search the library databases for magazine and journal articles. Evaluate resources for validity, accuracy and usefulness. Create a working bibliography of potential sources.

Focus in on the detail of your topic and if necessary develop a research question.

Read first, then take notes 
It is easier to take notes after reading through the material once. You will be better oriented and have a greater overall understanding. Use a systematic approach to notetaking

Develop an outline 
Now that you have a few notes and a better understanding of your topic you're ready to turn your focus question into an outline for your paper.

Revisit notes and identify where you need more information Now that you have an outline, take notes on your different sections. Evaluate your notes to ensure you have enough information to write each section.

Write, Edit and Review 
Review the citation guide so you can be sure to avoid plagiarism. Refer to your assignment for formatting specifications.


Choosing a Topic--The Goldilocks Approach

Goldilocks illustration
Uploaded to flickr by coffeelatte

Remember the fairy tale about a little girl named Goldilocks? She finds a house in the woods and walks right in. She finds food that's too hot, too cold, and just right; chairs that are too hard, too soft, and just right... you get the picture. 

When you’re working on finding a topic for a research assignment, you want to find a topic that’s not too broad, not too narrow, but just right.


Picking Your Topic IS RESEARCH!

Once you've picked a research topic for your paper, it isn't set in stone. It's just an idea that you will test and develop through exploratory research. This exploratory research may guide you into modifying your original idea for a research topic. Watch this video for more info:


1 Minute Elevator Pitch & Presearching

If you can talk about your research topic for an entire minute without stopping, then you are ready to formulate a working thesis statement. Being able to fill a whole minute with the ins and outs, and ups and downs, of your topic means that you have the background information it takes to come up with a good thesis statement.

So... how can you already know about a topic before you've done the research?

Doing a little bit of background reading now can help you write a great thesis statement. You can search Wikipedia to get a grasp on the basics of your topic. You can use the table of contents for an entry to identify some of the  5 W's, the who, what, where, when and why research questions (which you should record in your RESEARCH PROJECT PLANNER) and follow the external links and references to other informative sources. Just don't use Wikipedia in your final paper, because it's not an authoritative source (anybody can change the entries)!!



Research Doesn't Have to be Hard!


Need Help?

Need help with your paper? You can contact Mrs. Brusca or Ms. Resnick to set up a time to meet. Stop by the Library or email them anytime: or


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