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Northwest State Community College Library Homepage: Writing Your Research Paper

Homepage for the NSCC Library

Research Paper Tips

Understand the Instructions

  • Make sure you are clear on 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.

Choose a General Topic

  • It's a good idea to select a topic that you are interested in.
  • Unless it's an argument paper, 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!
  • If your instructor gives feedback on your topic, and says it needs to be more specific, then follow those instructions!  Your instructor is always the guide for each assignment. 

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?
  • Make sure you follow your instructor's requirements for sources. Sometimes it's OK to use general websites, but often it's not. 
  • Remember that 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. 
  • 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.
  • For each of your sources, you will need to scan/read carefully. You may not need to read the entire article or chapter, but enough to get context for your topic.
  • Use sticky notes or page 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 - whether online or hard copy - use them!  

Format Your Paper

  • Set up your document using the style your instructor specified, which is usually APA or MLA.  
  • Your course textbook might be helpful in this process, as well as credible websites such as Purdue University's Online Writing Lab
  • The Library has hard copy APA and MLA style guide books available. 
  • You can also contact the Writing Lab in the Success Center with any questions.

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 makes an impact on the reader.
  • Creating an outline is helpful for many students at this point. The Online Writing Lab has excellent tips on how to create an outline.
  • Just let the words flow - don't be too hard on yourself as you're writing! 

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.  Or, you can read it out loud to yourself to get a sense of how it flows and where there might be gaps.  
  • The college's Success Center has a walk-in Writing Lab as well as individual tutors.  You can contact them at or 419-267-1447.


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