Planning a Paper
1. Select a Topic
- Select a topic that interests you.
- Search to see if there is enough information about your topic (textbooks, material found through the library catalogues, scholarly articles, newspaper articles, reputable internet sites etc.).
Thinking of topic ideas is the easy part. Narrowing your topic to create your thesis statement takes a little bit of research and thought. Here are some sites that can help you to select your topic and narrow down its focus:
- Selecting a Topic from the State University of New York, Binghamton, New York.
- Boolean Operators to Narrow or Broaden Your Search from Reynolds University.
2. Create an Outline
Now that you have a topic selected, there are many aspects of it that you can talk about. However, you need to determine what areas you are going to deal with specifically. Concept Mapping is a great way of organizing ideas to show relationships between things. Many people use this method for taking class notes as well as organizing their papers.
- Concept / Mind Mapping: A step-by-step guide on creating a mind map.
3. Types of Resources
There are many types of resources available to you as a researcher – not all are equally good for all topics. For every topic there is a key resource. Make sure you are consulting the best resources for your topic.
- Primary Versus Secondary Resources – What is the Difference? A description of what primary and secondary resources are from Bowling Green State University.
- Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Content (or Journals vs. magazines) from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
4. Organizing Your Research
Write down every possible search term for your topic and make sure that you understand all aspects of it.
You may want to:
- Look it up in a generally reputable encyclopedia (check the Library).
- Read a major article on the topic.
- Use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (in the Library) to find possible subjects to search for books.
- Determine the information requirements for your topic. For example:
- Do you require very current material (e.g. material published within the last five years)?
- Do you need information from a particular type of publication (e.g. scholarly publications or popular magazines)?
- Do you need to use primary sources? (e.g. diaries, interviews, letters or raw data) ?
- Is the point of view an issue?
- How much information do you need?
- Use Boolean Logic to combine your terms into search statements (e.g. “cigarette smoking” AND asthma).
- Record your research.
- Make a research plan.
- Keep track of the resources that you have found. Record all the bibliographic information as well as the source. This will save you a lot of time later on.
5. Writing Essays and Research Papers
- Writing Essays
A series of short handouts on writing different types of essays.
- General Advice on academic essay writing from the University of Toronto