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The Eight Steps of a Research Paper

1. Identify General Topic and Begin Library Work

¡¤ Brainstorm topics in the readings that spark your interest, topics that resonate with you.

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¡¤ Select one or two authors who write about common themes and who you¡¯d like to know more about.

¡¤ Look for some books and some scholarly (database) articles about the author. You may also want to use Lexus-Nexus for newspaper and magazine articles to help stimulate and focus your interest, and you may try some google.com searches to see if there are authoritative web pages about your author.

. Read to Narrow Topic

¡¤ Read several general pieces about your author to help you decide which aspect of her/his writing will be your focus.

¡¤ Ask yourself some questions as you read

1. 1. Does this interest me?

. . Does it relate to my own life in some fashion?

. . What exactly are those ways?

4. 4. Is there something in this topic I would like to prove or argue about?

5. 5. Do my readers need persuading?

6. 6. Should my readers care?

7. 7. Should I care?

¡¤ ¡¤ Once you narrow or topic, do some database searching to make sure you can find enough material to explore and support your focus.

¡¤ ¡¤ Test your topic to make sure that it will meet these three demands

1. 1. It must examine a significant issue.

. . It must address a knowledgeable reader and carry that reader to another plateau of knowledge.

. . It must have a serious purpose, one that demands analysis of the issues, argues from a position, and explains complex details.

¡¤ ¡¤ Here is example of a topic that fails to meet the tests

¡¤ ¡¤ Hemingway¡¯s Old Man of the Sea

¡¤ ¡¤ Here is an example of a topic that passes with flying colors

¡¤ ¡¤ Religious Imagery and Symbolism in Hemingway¡¯s Old Man of the Sea

. Draft a Preliminary Thesis

¡¤ Begin by asking yourself some specific questions about your topic that you¡¯d like your paper to answer.

¡¤ This does not mean that your thesis will be posed as a question; this is simply a way to arrive at an assertion that you can use as your thesis and that or paper will prove or argue.

¡¤ For instance, you might be interested Hemingway. Begin by asking yourself some questions about him that you might like to know more about What was his big deal about fishing? Was he religious? Why or why not? What was his attachment to Cuba? Did he write any other stories along this same line?

¡¤ After you have done some preliminary reading to look at these questions, you can focus your topic by writing a draft thesis statement.

¡¤ Example Although Hemingway¡¯s Old Man of the Sea appears on its surface to be little more than a tale fishing tale, a critical reading reveals that the author consciously created the giant Marlin as a symbol of purity, the shark as a metaphor for evil, and Santiago as the suffering human caught in the middle of an eternal struggle for mastery of men¡¯s souls.

4. Make a rough outline

Not a formal outline, but a very rough one to help you concentrate your research and to help you organize your paragraphs.

1. Introduction and thesis statement

. Summary of novel

. History of Hemingway as it relates to fishing and Cuba

4. Images of the Marlin and critical comments

5. Images of the shark and critical comments

6. Images of Santiago and critical comments

7. My own analysis

8. Analysis from the critics

. . Conclusion

5. Complete your gathering of materials

1. 1. Check databases, and ask a librarian for help searching

. . Look for books, and read tables of contents, introductions, forewords, and indexes

. . Use notecards to be able to properly cite and quote sources ¨C see p. 4-47 of ¡°Writing from Research.¡±

4. 4. Ask yourself these questions as you are reading to help you know what to take notes on

¡¤ ¡¤ What strikes me as the most important thing the author was trying to say?

¡¤ ¡¤ What is the most striking or most powerful thing he or she said? (quote this exactly on your note card, and record the page number)

¡¤ ¡¤ What surprised me the most?

¡¤ ¡¤ What do I remember best?

¡¤ ¡¤ How did it make me feel?

¡¤ ¡¤ What seemed most convincing?

¡¤ ¡¤ Least convincing?

¡¤ ¡¤ How has it changed my thinking on my topic?

¡¤ ¡¤ How does it compare to other things I¡¯ve read?

¡¤ ¡¤ What other research possibilities does it suggest?

6. Create a Works Consulted List

¡¤ You must credit the authors of all the facts and opinions you use in your paper; you must document ALL your sources, and you will use a standard citation format¡ªmost likely MLA, but you need to check with your prof¡ªfor this purpose.

¡¤ Begin by having notecards ready, and write down the following for each resources you think you may use

1. If the material is from a book author, title, date published/where published (back of title page), and page number

. If the material is from an anthology (a book with an editor) name of book, editor(s), date published/where published (back of title page), name of the author of the chapter, name of the chapter, and page numbers of the whole chapter, and page number of the material you use.

. If the material is from a newspaper or magazine or journal name of publication, name of article, name of author, date of publication, volume number and issue number, page numbers of article, page number of material you use

4. If the material is from a web cite, print out the first page of the site and follow guidelines in MLA citation manual

7. Write your paper

¡¤ Don¡¯t be afraid to ¡°discover¡± your conclusion.

¡¤ Don¡¯t be afraid to adjust your thesis statement as you figure out where you thinking is going.

¡¤ Be sure to address ¡°the opposition.¡±

8. Revise your paper

¡¤ Check to make sure your citations and work cited list are accurately completed.

¡¤ Make sure you have properly attributed any summaries of other author¡¯s words

¡¤ Make sure your quotes are well integrated

¡¤ Look at your overall organization.

¡¤ Make sure your paragraphs are coherent, sticking to just one point.

¡¤ Check your intro and conclusion to make sure you have completed a circle

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