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Writing a Research Paper: Taking Notes & Writing the Paper

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Taking Notes

Quote, paraphrase, or outline important ideas from the materials that you have read. Be sure to cite your sources and give proper credit to those who have helped develop the ideas that you are using. Jot down the author, title, publisher, date of publication, and page number of all sources that you use. It is a good idea that you do this as you proceed, rather than waiting and coming back to a source. This will save you from having to find a passage a second time and it will help you keep track of what belongs to the author and what belongs to you.

Writing the Paper

Use your notes to write your paper. As you read over your notes, look for main themes or even the main theme or point of view. Look for how this main point may be supported by the facts and arguments that you have collected. And, of course, if you can create your own arguments to supplement and enhance what is already stated, this is even better. Try your best to state the main theme and supporting points in your own words. Talk to a friend, or pretend to talk to a friend, about your paper. In your own words, try to explain the main idea and how the subordinate points support it. In addition to helping you express these ideas in your own words, this exercise may well stimulate your own thoughts and unique contribution to this topic.

Most papers will have a thesis statement or main idea and supporting facts/ideas/arguments. State your main idea (something of interest or something to be proven or argued for or against) as your thesis statement, and then provide your supporting facts and arguments.

Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your beginning or introductory paragraph should state what you are going to do (your main idea and how you will support it), the body of the paper should execute what you have stated in the introduction, and the conclusion should briefly express what you have accomplished and how.