My first step in writing a research paper is the selection of a broad topic that is challenging and interesting and then later narrow it down to a specific issue. I consider my attitude towards the topic I choose because this could determine how well I work on it. My main focus is usually on a limit aspect. I find brainstorming to be very useful in this part. For instance, if it's a topic dealing with religion, I narrow it down to a specific religion like Buddhism. I then make sure that I do enough investigation of the topic by reading many sources that contain information about it. This includes magazines, books, the internet and even newspapers. I give myself enough time to read through various kinds of sources as I keep record of all the sources I used. This gives me ample time when writing the bibliography.
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While reading the sources, I make sure that I arrange the information into groups so that reviewing it becomes much simpler. Ideas related to one issue are all written under one page. The page number from which I get the information is also noted down for easier referencing. Any important information from a book that I take directly is put into quotation marks so that the examiner can understand that it's a direct quote and therefore avoid being penalized for plagiarism. A quote is normally followed by an in-text of the author and page from where I got the quote from. Before I start writing my rough draft, I organize the notes in subtopics and even make an outline to guide me through the writing. The outline also helps organize the ideas in a sequence in which I will write about them. This ensures that the research paper has some flow rather than skipping and mixing information from here and there. The plot of the paper has to be in a systematic manner.
In organizing my outline, I first write down the main ideas followed by supporting ideas below the main ones. While doing this, I make sure that there is no repetition of any points. From here, I construct my first draft using the skeleton information in my outline. The introduction of the draft begins with a wider and more general statement regarding my chosen topic and ends with a thesis statement which is specific about the paper. It helps the examiner to understand what my topic is all about and arouse the curiosity of anyone who might be reading it. The next thing after the introduction is the body which consists of several paragraphs with each paragraph bearing one main idea. I then prove my point after every main idea by giving relevant examples and quotations that I had noted down. Transition words come in handy in smoothening the flow of ideas between one paragraph and the other.
I then write my conclusion which summarizes the main points in the paper without giving examples. A restatement of the thesis statement closes the paper. Documentation of sources in a research paper depends with the format the examiner requires me to use. There are various kinds of formats but the most common ones are APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago. In most cases I prefer using MLA because it gives a detailed referencing of the sources I used by including the page from where I got my point from. This gives credit to the original owner of the information borrowed and helps avoid plagiarism. After making parenthesis in the paper, it is now time to write a bibliography of all the sources that I used. The bibliography includes the full title of the source, the author, the city of publication followed by the publisher. The date when the source was published comes last. I ensure that the bibliography is listed in an alphabetical order with hanging indentation.
The next thing is usually revising my first draft. This calls for rethinking of my ideas as I refine my arguments and reorganize my paragraphs in a better manner. Sometimes I am forced to give more detail to support my ideas in cases where I feel it's needed or delete some material that I find to be unnecessary. I then give a friend to read through the paper so as to identify errors that I might not have seen or any confusing information that I might have included. The last step is now proof reading my final draft and presenting it to the examiner.
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