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Northwest State Community College Library Homepage: Writing Your Research Paper

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Research Paper Tips

Not sure where to start with your research paper?  We have some recommendations that might help!

  • Understand the Instructions
    Make sure you understand the purpose and requirements of the assignment. Check your syllabus and review any notes from class or emails from your instructor. If you still have questions, contact your instructor and ask for clarification on on the assignment.
  • Choose a General Topic
    Try selecting a topic that you would like to learn more about. Unless it is an argument paper, it's good to choose a topic that you don't already have a strong opinion about. That way, you won't limit yourself to only finding information that you agree with...and you might even learn something new!
  • Find Authoritative Sources
    Not all sources are equal. Using Google or Wikipedia may seem like a good idea, but how do you know if the information is credible? The library has access to databases and print resources on a variety of topics. Best of all, the library's resources include scholarly references with updated, verified information. The stronger your resources, the better your chance of getting a good grade on your research paper.
    Be sure to start researching as early as possible. Avoid added stress and last-minute issues by preparing in advance. It's also helpful to find more resources than you think you need for your assignment. That way, you can choose the best, most-relevant sources to use once the writing begins. 
  • Compile Your Research
    If you need to focus on one specific aspect of your topic, this is the time to do it. Use sticky notes or flags to make notes as you do your research. This will help you remember and prioritize what you have read.  Whatever organization style or tools work best for you - online or hard copy - use them!  
  • Format Your Paper
    Set up your document in accordance with the appropriate style guide. Be sure to check your assignment instructions for any special notes on formatting and citation.  Your textbook might be helpful in this process, as well as credible websites such as the Online Writing Lab. You are responsible for making sure your paper follows the format indicated in the official APA or MLA style guides, which are available in the library if you'd like to look at a hard copy.
  • Write Your Paper
    You've already done most of the work, now it's time to organize the information into sections and connect the ideas so that your paper flows. Creating an outline is helpful for many students at this point. The Online Writing Lab has excellent tips on how to create an outline.
  • Revise Your Paper
    This is a critical step for making sure your paper represents your best work. Keep in mind that a rough draft is just that--rough. It is common for a paper to go through many revisions. It's also helpful to have someone else read your paper and provide feedback.  The college's Success Center has a walk-in Writing Lab as well as individual tutors.  Contact them at 419-267-1447.

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