*For a more detailed discussion of any part of the format discussed in this section refer to: Gibaldi, Joseph, ed. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1995.
6. Read about and take notes on your subject. You may use note cards or a another system. Document your sources on your notes as you go. See Preparing Notes.
7. Sort your notes.
• Group the notes into subtopics or categories of information that go together. Look for gaps in information; do further research if it is needed.
• Find relationships among the topics and arrange them in a sequence that answers your question and develops your main idea.
• Next, sort your notes within each category so that they are in a meaningful sequence.
8. Make a "working outline." This step may actually be repeated several times with your research question or your outline being revised as you accumulate your research. You may have a sense of what you will cover and the divisions of your paper from your first preview of the materials available, or this stage may occur simultaneously with your note-taking and sorting. Since the outline and your thesis statement will continue to evolve as you gather and sort information, they are referred to as "working" guides. See Outlining.
9. Formulate a "working thesis" statement. Your thesis should be a single sentence that states the subject and gives the answer to the question you have posed throughout your research. Think about the purpose of your paper—to convince, to explain, to present a particular argument? Also consider the attitudes and the needs of the audience for your paper—are they experts? Do they oppose your view? What will they need to stimulate their interest or to understand you? These considerations will help you frame a clear and concise thesis statement to start your rough draft.
10. Write your first draft, including your thesis statement at the end of your introduction and incorporating and "documenting," or giving appropriate credit to your sources as you go. See Documenting Sources and Quotations for how to incorporate your sources and your quotes into your paper.
11. Revise your first draft. First, look back at your working outline to check your organization. Then check your thesis statement by asking yourself, "Have I fully supported my thesis?" The outline or the thesis may have to be rewritten in light of what you have actually discovered while writing the draft. Perhaps you need to cut a section, or you may need to look back at your notes to add information. Finally, check for the overall effectiveness of the paper and revise the elements of the paper just as you would for any essay. See Revision Check List.
12. Edit your draft for spelling, usage, and mechanics. Use this handbook!
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