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How to Research a Paper

Got a big research paper? It’s not nearly as daunting if you break it down into steps.


  • Step 1: Decide your objective Spend some time thinking about what you want your paper to accomplish. Do you want it to prove your viewpoint? Explain a topic? You’ll want to have a clear focus before you begin your research.
  • Step 2: List key words Make a list of key words that will be helpful in locating information when you conduct online and offline searches.
  • Step 3: Go to the library Go to the library. Yeah, we know—you think you can find everything you need with your laptop. But to get an actual book on a topic, plus find academic papers, journals, and other subscriber-only materials, you’ll need to head to a library.
  • TIP: If your library doesn’t have a book you need, ask the librarian to borrow it from another branch.
  • Step 4: Check library indexes Use the library’s indexes to find articles in periodicals, like trade journals and magazines. They’ll contain the very latest information on your subject.
  • TIP: Note your sources carefully as you go along to make the bibliography easier—and to prevent plagiarism!
  • Step 5: Go online Okay, now you can do some online research by plugging in those key words you listed at the start. Only take information from reputable sites and organizations.
  • TIP: Consider interviewing an expert in the field you’re researching. It’s a guaranteed way to impress your professor.
  • Step 6: Find statistics While you’re researching the facts, don’t forget the figures. Find useful statistics.
  • TIP: Helpful search words for stats include 'percent of,' 'Census Bureau,' and 'survey results.'
  • Step 7: Don't forget the videos Don’t forget the videos. See if there are any documentaries on your topic.
  • Step 8: Start writing Organize your research, mull it over, and then start writing!
  • FACT: Did you know? One study found that students who frequently used the library got higher ACT scores and performed better on reading and writing exams.

You Will Need

  • Good Library
  • Notebook
  • Internet Access
  • Expert to Interview

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