Steps in Researching and Writing a Paper

I. Researching Your Paper

A. Developing Your Topic

  1. Choose a general area that interests you.
  2. Once you have an idea of what your topic will be, read some general information on the subject.
    • This is important to do because
      1. it provides you with a concise, overall view of the subject
      2. it helps you make up an outline &/or choose the aspect of the topic you want to write on
      3. it may provide you with an initial list of references.
    • Your best sources are
      1. a chapter or section in your text;
      2. a chapter in a relevant handbook;
      3. a chapter or section in a scholarly text from the library.
  3. Then, narrow your topic. It is difficult to explore a broad subject very deeply.

B. Obtaining Your List of References

  1. Start with the list of references in sources you have already read--at the end of the chapter or text.
  2. Search, using appropriate topic terms, in PsycInfo and other relevant databases.
  3. The list of references will refer to three main sources:
    • Books
    • Book chapters
    • Journal articles.
  4. Place each relevant reference on a separate 3 x 5 index card.
    • Record:
      1. Author(s) and editor(s)
      2. Date of publication
      3. Name of article/chapter/book
      4. Name of book/journal
      5. Place of publication (for books)
      6. Publisher (for books)
      7. Volume number (journals)
      8. Page numbers.
      9. Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
    • If you format now (according to APA guidelines), you'll save yourself time & energy later.
    • Number each reference.
  5. Using the Library of Congress Subject Headings, check for additional text references.
  6. Order materials through Interlibrary Loan that are not available in our library.

C. Reading Your References

  1. Read reference material, if you have any, first.
  2. Then read from the more general sources, to the more specific:
    • Books
    • Book chapters
    • Journal articles

D. Taking Notes

  1. Take all your notes on note cards (they may be the same or different size than the reference cards).
  2. Indicate the topic, the page number of the source, & the number of the reference you are reading.
  3. Just copy key information, one idea per note card.
  4. If you do record the author's ideas word for word, be sure to put quotation marks around the quote.
  5. If you're not sure you'll need a note, write the information down anyway.
  6. Only record new ideas.
  7. Write only one idea on each note card.

II. Writing Your Paper

A. Organizing Your Notes

  1. The first step in writing a successful paper is organizing your notes in an orderly manner. By putting them on index cards, you have enormous flexibility.
  • Place your cards in groups according to the subject at the top of the cards.
  • Set aside any notes that are duplications or that don't fit in.
  • Then organize the subjects the way you will write about them in your paper, keeping in mind that your paper should have:
    1. an Introduction--tell the reader what you are going to discuss
    2. a Body--discuss the topics you have decided to include
    3. a Conclusion or Discussion--summarize & draw conclusions about the topics presented.
  • Organize each card in the exact order that you plan to use them, & number them.

B. The Rough Draft

  1. Write your rough draft directly from your note cards.
  2. Decide which cards will serve as direct quotes & which will be paraphrased.
  3. Reference everything including the paraphrases. Unless you are expressing an original idea, one that you feel you have developed or a conclusion that you think you have drawn from your own research, give credit where credit is due. Otherwise you're plagiarizing.

C. The Final Draft

  1. The paper must be easy to read & understand.
    • Consider the situation in which your paper will be graded (1 of how many?; in how much time?)
    • Therefore, the following are very important:
      1. clarity, coherence, & logic
      2. proper and concise use of vocabulary & grammar
      3. legibility (neat, high contrast typing; unobtrusive corrections)
      4. appropriate voicing.
  2. Every paper must have
    • an Introduction, Body, and Conclusion(s)
    • a Title Page
    • an Abstract
    • a Reference List

D. Type Paper using APA Style Formatting

E. Proofread the Paper by Reading it Out Loud to Yourself