Writing a Research Paper

Throughout high school you will be asked to write research papers. A research paper is actually an extended essay that presents your research findings to an audience. Unlike reports of information that you may have done previously in school, a research paper usually takes a position on the subject you have researched and argues for a particular view or interpretation.

As with the writing process, the research process has general stages that may or may not occur in a set sequence. Sometimes more than one stage may be happening simultaneously, or you may have to go back to an earlier stage to change your focus or gather more information. Research papers take many days to complete, so allow ample time for all of the steps.

Note: Word processors and online material have changed the ways that people do research. Consequently, the traditional system of using 3 x 5 or 4 x 6 note cards is presented here along with some computer management suggestions. In addition, the format given here is the one prescribed in The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers,* which is followed by a majority of university publishers and scholarly journals. Teachers in subject areas other than English may give you different formats or directions for presenting your research or for documenting, or giving credit to, your sources. Be sure to listen to your teacher's directions, ask appropriate questions, and do whatever your teacher tells you to do.

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