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Research Process: Researching and Writing: Writing Process

This guide has been created to provide quick access to resources that support the research process.

Steps in the Writing Process

1. Understand the Assignment

This is the most important step in writing an essay or research paper. What is the topic of the essay and how long should it be? Is the essay assignment asking for your opinion, the opinion of scholarly sources, or just facts? What kind of information sources can you use? What citation style should you use? If you are unsure, ask your instructor to clarify the assignment.

2. Create a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the main argument or point to be discussed in your paper. Your thesis statement will guide your entire paper. As you write your paper, refer to your thesis statement many times to ensure that you do not stray from your main points.

3. Make an Outline

Plan your essay/research paper before writing it. Working from your thesis statement, plot out how you want your paper to flow and what information you want to include.

4. Use Credible Sources

If you are writing a research paper, use credible sources to support your argument such as peer-reviewed articles, textbooks, and content from credible websites. You can find these sources on your library website or ask library staff for assistance.

A research paper contains three parts – the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion

5. The Introduction

A good introduction sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect. This is where to catch your reader’s attention and give some background on your topic. Your thesis statement is included in your introduction.

6. The Body

Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, which expresses the main idea of the paragraph. Each paragraph should defend your topic sentence and thesis statement. If you are writing a research paper, cite all direct and indirect quotes and include a reference page for all sources at the end of your paper.

7. The Conclusion

Your conclusion should always begin by restating your thesis statement. This is your chance to tie your main points together. A good conclusion will address the main arguments of each paragraph and prove your thesis statement.

8. Proofread your paper

Proofread your paper and have others proofread it to find spelling and grammar errors. Printing your paper and reading it and/or reading your paper out loud catches more errors than reading it on a computer screen.

Infographic regarding the 6 steps of the writing process.

Enokson. (2011, September 7). The writing process [Image]. CC-BY-2.0

Cover Page and Title

The cover page often includes the paper's title and subtitle, the author's name, address, phone number, e-mail, date, course name and number and instructor's name and title.

Create a title that is specific and reflective of the theme of your paper. Consider using strong keywords that give your reader an indication of the topic you will explore. 

Owl Purdue Writing Center: The Student Title Page Guide

Abstract

The abstract provides a quick overview of your paper (200-300 words in length). The abstract includes the research question, its significance, the methodology, and the findings. Not every research paper requires an abstract. Be sure to consult with your instructor.

The Introduction

Your introduction should grab the reader's interest and attention. It should explain the scope of your research, your main points and why the topic is important. Your thesis statement is presented at the end of your introduction. You may ask your self the following questions:

  • What exactly are you researching and why is it important?

  • Does it support other research in your field

It is important to explain  the scope of your research. Clearly explain what you hope to explore in your research. You may also indicate any factors that maybe important to your research such as age, disability, gender, participation in research, racial and ethnic identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and intersectionality. 

Review the APA Guidelines on Bias-free Language tab.

Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is your main idea and clearly explains for your reader the position or argument you will be taking throughout your paper. The thesis statement is typically placed at the end of the first paragraph. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

Review Develop Your Thesis Statement tab.

Methodology

It is important to present and discuss your methodology. For example, did you employ qualitative or quantitative research methods? Did you create and administer a questionnaire or interview people? Any field research conducted? How did you collect data? Did you utilize other libraries or archives? And so on.

Review the Get Started tab for more information regarding basic vs. applied, and qualitative vs. quantitative research.

The Literature Review

The literature review captures and acknowledges important research that has contributed to the field in which you are researching. Major theories and findings and how how they have contributed to the field should be included and recognized. It should include relevant findings from credible sources. Within the literature review, you may consider the following:

  • Explain how the literature helps the researcher understand the topic.

  • Try to show connections and any disparities between the literature.

  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research.

  • Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.

Purdue Writing Center: Writing a Literature Review

The Discussion (The Body)


​Within the discussion or body of your paper, you will present arguments and information sources that support your thesis. You will provide clarification on your topic and present what you have learned from your research. You may present new learning and any insights you've identified.

Use transitioning sentences to develop a logical flow or connection between each paragraph. Remember each paragraph should connect back to your thesis statement and the information sources referenced.

A good research discussion demonstrates:

  • You are thinking critically about the information you locate and use in your research

  • Shows the reader the importance of the argument and any future implication

  • Always use credible information sources to support your arguments and claims.

Review Evaluate Your Research Materials tab.

​The Conclusion

Within your conclusion, you will provide a brief summary of your main ideas and restate your thesis.  No new information should be presented within the conclusion.  Within the conclusion, you may identify area for further research.

Appendices

An appendix contains material that helps the reader's understanding, but that does not necessarily need to be included in the body of your paper.

Examples include

  • tables, charts, summaries, questionnaires, interview questions, lengthy statistics, maps, pictures, photographs, lists of terms, glossaries, survey instruments, letters, copies of historical documents, and many other types of supplementary material.

Purdue Writing Center: Tables, Appendices, Footnotes and Endnotes

Reference List (Works Cited)

Your reference list documents all the information sources you have referenced or used in your research or paper.  The reference list allows your reader to identify and retrieve each information source used in your research. Compiling a reference list and correctly citing sources ensures honesty, integrity and completes the research paper.   It is very important to follow the specific citation style that your faculty required.  

Review Cite Your Sources tab.

What is Synthesis Writing?

Synthesis writing involves carefully reading several sources (journal articles, books, etc.) on a topic, and identifying similar as well as contradictory ideas in each source. New ideas on the topic are merged with your prior knowledge of the topic and presented in your research paper in your own voice. Each paragraph of your paper will contain multiple sources and citations, as well as your own ideas (Ashford University, n.d.).

What Synthesis Writing Is Not

When you synthesize, you do not rely on a single source of information; nor do you string together summaries of one article after another. You do not cut and paste segments of several articles together to form a paper. True synthesis writing is similar to making a fruit smoothie; individual pieces of fruit are blended together to form a new concoction (University of Illinois, 2008).

Strategies for Synthesizing Information

As you carefully read and analyze each of your sources, it is important to take notes and/or highlight the important points that each author is making. A chart or “synthesis matrix” (Ashford University, n.d.) is also useful for keeping you organized. You can record the main themes of each source as well as the information needed for your citations. As you read, ask yourself:

  • Do any authors disagree with another author?
  • Does one author extend the research of another author?
  • Do all the authors agree?
  • Does any author raise new questions or ideas about the topic?

Make sure that you record the information necessary to cite your sources.

Analyzing and Evaluating Information

  • Highlight the main facts, concepts and ideas in each of your sources. Read carefully through the article, and highlight only the words or ideas that are meaningful to you, and that you could explain or describe to someone else.
  • As you read more articles, you learn more about the subject; as you put information together from several articles, you begin to see the big picture.
  • For long academic articles, read the abstract, introduction, and conclusion. Then go back and re-read the article; read the heading and first paragraph of each section of the article. Once you understand the “general story of the article”, go back and read it again for details.
  • On post-it notes, write down the highlighted parts of each article. The highlighted parts allow you to review the key points of the article. Use a different color post-it for each article, or add a symbol or colored mark so that you will know which article the post-it note represents.

Organizing Information

  • Begin clustering the post-it notes. This is a visual way for you to determine which clusters contain a lot of information, and which contain a smaller amount of information. Name each cluster, ensuring that the name fits every post-it in the cluster.
  • If you have clusters containing a lot of post-it notes or information, you may need to narrow your original topic to one of the cluster topics. For those clusters with only one or two post-it notes, you may want to drop these minor aspects of the subject, or return to the library to find more information on these topics.
  • Now you are ready to write the paper in your own voice. Pull together all the information you have gathered in your readings and make them your own. Remember to give credit to the authors of the sources you used in your paper.

In the excerpt from a research paper (below), note that the author has incorporated three sources into the two paragraphs - the writings of Goldstein, Lapidoth and Falk.

Example of Synthesis Writing

As the demographics in Europe shift, problems may arise as the wealthy members of the European Union (EU) try to absorb poorer nations (Goldstein, 2005). Lapidoth (1992) writes that a backlash to these pressures and a resurgence of nationalism may cause a fragmentation of the European Union, and a return to the “classic connotation” (p. 345) of the nation state. Conversely, if the European Union is successful, other regions in Asia, Africa and Latin America may be tempted to emulate its example (Falk, 1999).

The European Union (EU) is still evolving and the verdict is out on whether it will ultimately prove successful. Since the formation of the EU, many poorer countries have clamored to join the union, and immigration to the west has increased as people look for a better life. As of 2004, the EU has expanded from 15 to 25 nations with several other countries expressing an interest in joining (Goldstein, 2005).

Taylor Memorial Library. (2020, November 4). Integrating sources into writing [Video]. https://youtu.be/N7qZ7ech7vY