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How to Write a Research Paper

A step-by-step guide to writing a research paper.


...a topic that interests you and will hold your attention. 

It'll make the research process more enjoyable.

Image source:  US Dept. Agriculture.  CC BY 2.0.  Wikimedia Commons.


Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand the assignment and its requirements. 

Consider the following:

  • Have you been assigned a topic?  Can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources? (e.g. scholarly journal, book, etc.)
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?
  • Is currency of information important?

Always clarify questions you may have with your professor.


 Can’t think of a topic to research? 

  • Try asking ChatGPT.  Query it on "hot topics" and whatever it is you're thinking about.
  • Scan your textbook for broad topic ideas
  • Peruse current magazines and newspapers to see what catches your eye
  • Discuss potential topics with your instructor, a librarian, or a classmate


Image source: Train stuck in snow.  1881.  Elmer and Tenney.  Public Domain.  Wikimedia Commons.