For this research paper, you will need to follow these steps:
1)Find a topic. This is harder than it looks. Most of you are going to freak out at the prospect of writing a six-page essay, and will therefore try to pick the broadest possible topic. This is a mistakeultimately, its easier to write about a focused and specific subject. To find a topic, start with something that interests you. (It should go without saying that you cant choose any of the banned topicsabortion, marijuana legalization, etc.) Then try to narrow that topic until you have something that you can discuss completely in eight pages. This will take a while. To find your topic, you may need to engage in the next step
2)The pre-research stage. Before you start collecting sources, you should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the shape of your subject. Go to the library, or go online, and start reading. Dont take notes at this stage. Read until you get bored, then move on to another source. If youre looking at books, read the table of contents and leaf through the index. This should take you two or three hours. The point of this exercise is to allow you to figure out what other people talk about when they talk about your subject. That way, youll be able to narrow your topic to something specific. Once youve figured out your topic, move on to the next stage.
3)Develop a research question. This is a question that is meant to focus and guide your research. Specifically, you want to articulate what, precisely, youre trying to figure out about your subject. Your research question should change and develop as you go through the research stage. DO NOT ask a research question that has a simple answer (e.g., What is the chemical composition of water? Is genocide wrong? Is it unhealthy to drink bleach?). Instead, try to ask a question that will lead to a complex and interesting answer. Then start step number four.
4)The research stage. Start looking for reputable, scholarly texts that address your research question directly. Think about where youll find the most useful sources. Books? Peer-reviewed journals? Government statistics? DO NOT simply collect sources that you will never read, and which youve gathered simply to be able to insert intelligent-sounding quotes into your essay. You need to READ these texts, learn from them, and then form your own conclusions about what youve learned, which brings us to step number five.
5)Develop your thesis. Your essay needs to have an arguable thesisthat is, a proposition of some sort that requires the support of evidence. You cant hope to develop an intelligent and meaningful thesis if you havent done your research first, since your thesis will be the answer to your research question.
6)Start writing. Remember that you should state your thesis in clear and precise terms. Remember to SUPPORT all of your assertions with evidence from the text.
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