Writing may have many purposes. You might be writing to explain how to do something, to describe an event, or to express your opinion. In a research paper, you write to review existing literature on a particular subject. To get started, first you must have an idea that you want to convey. What do others have to say about this idea? That is what you research.
For an argumentative paper about a current controversial issue, you will gather information from several different sources. You will evaluate these materials and integrate them into a coherent paper that supports your point of view while acknowledging opposing viewpoints. The ideas you have gleaned from your sources must be properly cited both with internal documentation and with a Works Cited list at the end of your paper.
This may sound overwhelming, but it is not too difficult if you take it step by step.
Choosing a Topic
Identify a topic that interests you, formulate a thesis statement, and identify useful key words.
- REF ZA3050 .W47- 99 Jumpstarts to Research: Topic Guides for Finding Information on Current Issues
- Ninety-nine ideas, with suggestions on how to approach them, by Lone Star College-Kingwood librarians
- REF HN59 .I5 A34 - Information Plus: The Information Series on Current Topics
- Each volume in this series explores a current issue in depth. Good for statistics and for breaking your topic into manageable divisions.
- Opposing Viewpoints
- Database of controversial topics. Good for choosing a topic and finding articles on both sides of the issue
- CQ Researcher
- Database of current issues. Gives a thorough background, written to keep congressmen up on the issues.
- Issues & Controversies On File
- Database of current issues with an overview of the topic.
Your Library Assignment: Evaluating Resources
You will want to find the best articles from databases, books and internet sites, expressing differing points of view. How will you get a variety of resources without being overwhelmed?
- Web Research Guide
- Classzone lists criteria for evaluating websites.
- Evaluating Sources
- Purdue University's OWL Writing Lab helps you determine if a source suits your needs.
- Evaluating Information Found on the Internet
- by Beck, Susan. Taken from her book titled The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: or, Why It’s a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources.
- Evaluating Information Checklist
- Do the internet sources you find measure up? Find out here.
Searching for Resources
There are tricks to using the library catalog and the databases to find relevant sources.
1. Search for Reference Sources
Search the Library Catalog and limit searches by Collection (Reference Books) and Location to identify dictionaries, encyclopedias or overviews on your topic at your local library.
Most useful for their topic overviews and examples of pro/con arguments, these databases are also helpful in choosing a more narrow focus for a broad subject area:
2. Find Supporting Details
3. Update your information:
- Find magazine and scholarly journal articles with Academic Search Complete.
- Locate newspaper articles from ProQuest National Newspapers or the Houston Chronicle.
- Issues & Controversies and Opposing Viewpoints also include articles from a variety of sources and are also good sources to find statistics.
- Choose an appropriate database for the topic you're researching from the Subject Guide to Databases.
Organizing your Paper
You will want to get your information into the right place to make it interesting and convincing.
- PE1431 .M39 For Argument's Sake: A Guide to Writing Effective Arguments
- PE1408 .R675 The Writer's Brief Handbook
- These and other books in the same section of the library will help you with the actual writing
- REF PE1478 .W758 [DVD] Writing a Great Research Paper
- A ten volume set of videos on writing your research paper from start to finish. Located in the Professional Collection, it can be used only in the library.
- Help with Writing Research Papers
- George Mason University offers guidelines for getting your thoughts down on paper.
Citing your Sources
MLA citations and parenthetical references give you more credibility and help you to avoid an apperarance of plagiarism.
- Citing Sources Using the Library MLA Style Guide
- Lone Star College-Kingwood guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.
- MLA Manuscript Format
- Detailed instructions written for Microsoft Word 2007, from Georgia Southern University.
- Research Paper Layout: MLA Style
- See examples of the first page, the Works Cited page, and internal documentation, from College of the Redwoods.
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.
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