avoiding plagiarism, and integrating source material into the body of the paper (Hacker, 106). Each main challenge involves utilizing many steps, which combine to make a research paper a descriptive analysis of a writer's thesis. The steps involved include: finding a topic, researching the topic, finding sources that support the writer's main idea, outlining the paper, writing the paper, identifying the thesis, writing the thesis, and ensuring that all source materials are properly cited in order to avoid plagiarism.
In order to put a research paper together, the writer first has to find a topic and determine the general questions that he or she wants to answer in the paper. Having found a topic, the writer begins basic research so that they can further narrow the topic into one that can be addressed in appropriate detail in their particular paper. Research can be done in a variety of ways, the most common being research at the library and research on the Internet.
Most library research will take place at computer terminals with specific functions (Hacker, 95). The terminals chosen will depend upon a writer's specific topic and the scope of the proposed research. More general topics may be supported with citations to reference books, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, and similar general references works. More detailed topics will require citations to books, periodicals, and other library resources. The manner in which these resources are catalogued varies widely from library to library, but a writer can always enlist the help of a reference librarian if unable to understand a library's reference system (Hacker, 95). Futhermore, most catalogue systems enable a writer to search by subject, which involves the use of key words to find relevant source materials (Hacker, 96).
Searching on the Internet also involves the use of key words to find relevant source material. However, the Internet lacks quality control, which results in key word searches revealing far more possible sources than those uncovered in library searches, and requires a writer to evaluate online sources with special care (Hacker, 97). There are a variety of search engines available for a writer utilizing the Internet for research purposes, and the first step in doing Internet research is for the writer to determine the appropriate search engine. A writer also needs to know what categories and key words will help focus the search responses towards his or her chosen topic. One possible strategy is for the writer to engage in library research first, then use the results of that research to develop key words and categories for online research.
For many writers, the use of note cards is helpful in compiling research, whether that research is done in the library or online. Each note card concentrates on a specific factual area from a specific source, and can be used to help the writer compile his or her outline. Furthermore, note cards should contain all of the appropriate material for correctly citing a source, which will help the writer avoid plagiarizing when writing the paper.
After narrowing the topic of research, the next step is for the writer to compile an outline. Some writers begin with a sparse outline, which details the topic discovered, the questions asked by the researcher, and the answers to those questions. Other writers prefer to make a detailed outline, which contains all of the steps above, but also lists the supporting arguments that the writer will make for all of his or her proposed answers. While writing his or her paper, the writer will be able to refer back to the outline, ensuring that each element of the paper works to support the writer's central themes or ideas.
After doing much work researching and the paper, the writer should then be able to develop his or her thesis. A thesis is a statement of the writer's central idea (Hacker, 106). In order to formulate a thesis, a writer should keep in mind that a good thesis will answer the central question posed by the writer's paper.
The writer then uses the body of the paper to support the thesis. It is helpful for a writer to list the key points in support of a thesis (Hacker, 108), and then provide supporting information for each of those key points. Depending on the size and depth of the research, key points can be identified as the main sentence in a paragraph or the overriding theme in a section of a paper.