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Let's face it, a research paper can be a daunting challenge for anyone, but if you follow the tips and guidelines, it will make your world much easier! Look at the information below and compare it with your own writing. Making these changes can help you better understand writing and researching.


1. This is an example rubric. It tells you exactly how your paper will be graded. Before you hand in your research paper, go through each element and check them off.

Content
Advanced
Proficient
Practicing
Developing
Emerging
Non-assessable
Thesis statement
Thesis statement is:
*specific
*opinion-based
*provable
*significant
Thesis statement is:
*specific
*opinion-based
*provable
Thesis statement is:
*specific
*opinion-based
Main idea is clearly stated in a topic sentence
Main idea may be inferred but is not clearly stated
Piece is not clearly written about one topic
Support topics
Each support topic:
*develops the thesis
*is believable
*creatively examines and connects ideas
Each support topic:
*develops the thesis
*is believable
Each support topic:
*develops the thesis
At least three support topics are included
Author attempts to support the thesis or main idea
No support topics are included
Evidence
Evidence is provided to develop each support topic. Evidence is:
*relevant
*documented
*varied
*valid
*reliable
Evidence is provided to develop each support topic. Evidence is:
*relevant
*documented
*varied
*valid
Evidence is provided to develop each support topic. Evidence is:
*relevant
*documented
Evidence is provided to develop each support topic. Evidence is:
*relevant
Evidence is occasionally provided to develop the support topics
No evidence is provided to develop the support topics
Structure / Organization
Advanced
Proficient
Practicing
Developing
Emerging
Non-assessable
Introduction
Introduction contains:
*thesis statement
*supports topics
*hook
*transition
Introduction contains:
*thesis statement
*supports topics
*hook
Introduction contains:
*thesis statement
*supports topics
Introduction contains the main idea or thesis statement
Author somewhat provides an opening for the piece
Piece begins without introduction
Body
Body contains at least one similarity and one difference paragraph:
*clearly related to the thesis
*in logical order
*connected with smooth transitions
Body contains at least one similarity and one difference paragraph:
*clearly related to the thesis
*in logical order
Body contains at least one similarity and one difference paragraph:
*clearly related to the thesis
Body contains at least one similarity and one difference paragraph
Author attempts to develop the thesis or main idea
No support topics are included

Conclusion
Conclusion contains:
*reference to the thesis or main idea
*review of comparison
*closure techniques
*significance of message
Conclusion contains:
*reference to the thesis or main idea
*review of comparison
*closure techniques
Conclusion contains:
*reference to the thesis or main idea
*review of comparison
Conclusion contains:
*reference to the thesis or main idea
Author somewhat provides closure for the piece
Piece ends without conclusion
Assigned format (including bibliography)
Follows assigned format with enhanced presentation
All elements of assigned format were used
Most elements of assigned format were used
Several elements of assigned format were used
Piece remotely resembles assigned format
No format was used for this assignment
Language / Style
Advanced
Proficient
Practicing
Developing
Emerging
Non-assessable
Sentence structure
In general, sentences:
*are correctly structured
*begin in a variety of ways
*vary in length
*include compound & complex forms
In general, sentences:
*are correctly structured
*begin in a variety of ways
*vary in length
In general, sentences:
*are correctly structured
*begin in a variety of ways
In general, sentences:
*are correctly structured
Ideas are expressed in phrases which are easily understood
Ideas are expressed in words and labels only
Voice
Language used:
*is appropriate for purpose
*is specific & clear
*shows rather than tells
*reveals the message through a distinct personal voice
Language used:
*is appropriate for purpose
*is specific & clear
*shows rather than tells
Language used:
*is appropriate for purpose
*is specific & clear
Language used:
*is appropriate for purpose
Ideas seem to be expressed in the author’s own words
Wording seems to mimic outside sources

2. Because a research paper requires you to obtain information from other sources, you must use the MLA format to give credit to the authors of those sources.
citationmachine.net is a website dedicated to helping you format your sources correctly. Type in the information, and copy the citation given to you.
You can also use the MLA writing format page to help you.

3. There are two kinds of sources that must be included in your essay. The first is a short citation in the body of the paper that includes the author's last name and the year it was published.
You must use the short citation when you:
  • quote directly from a source
  • paraphrase information from a source
  • summarize information from a source.
Remember: giving credit to a source is not just a requirement in a research paper, it is the law.
4. The following are step by step instructions for a typical research paper.
STEP A. CHOOSE A TOPIC
Choose a topic which interests and challenges you. Your attitude towards the topic may well determine the amount of effort and enthusiasm you put into your research.
Focus on a limited aspect, e.g. narrow it down from "Religion" to "World Religion" to "Buddhism". Obtain teacher approval for your topic before embarking on a full-scale research. If you are uncertain as to what is expected of you in completing the assignment or project, re-read your assignment sheet carefully or ASK your teacher.
Select a subject you can manage. Avoid subjects that are too technical, learned, or specialized. Avoid topics that have only a very narrow range of source materials.

STEP B. FIND INFORMATION

Surf the Net. For general or background information, check out useful URLs, general information online, almanacs or encyclopedias online such as Britannica. Use search engines and other search tools as a starting point.
Pay attention to domain name extensions, e.g., .edu (educational institution), .gov (government), or .org (non-profit organization). These sites represent institutions and tend to be more reliable, but be watchful of possible political bias in some government sites. Be selective of .com (commercial) sites. Learning how to evaluate websites critically and to search effectively on the Internet can help you eliminate irrelevant sites and waste less of your time.
Check out other print materials available in the Library
Read and evaluate. Bookmark your favorite Internet sites. Printout, photocopy, and take notes of relevant information.
As you gather your resources, jot down full bibliographical information (author, title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, page numbers, URLs, creation or modification dates on Web pages, and your date of access) on your work sheet, printout, or enter the information on your laptop or desktop computer for later retrieval. If printing from the Internet, it is wise to set up the browser to print the URL and date of access for every page. Remember that an article without bibliographical information is useless since you cannot cite its source.

STEP C. STATE YOUR THESIS

Do some critical thinking and write your thesis statement down in one sentence. Your thesis statement is like a declaration of your belief. The main portion of your essay will consist of arguments to support and defend this belief.

STEP D. MAKE A TENTATIVE OUTLINE

All points must relate to the same major topic that you first mentioned in your capital Roman numeral.
Example of an outline:

INTRODUCTION - State your thesis and the purpose of your research paper clearly. What is the chief reason you are writing the paper? State also how you plan to approach your topic. Is this a factual report, a book review, a comparison, or an analysis of a problem? Explain briefly the major points you plan to cover in your paper and why readers should be interested in your topic.
BODY - This is where you present your arguments to support your thesis statement.
Remember the Rule of 3, i.e. find 3 supporting arguments for each position you take. Begin with a strong argument, then use a stronger one, and end with the strongest argument for your final point.
CONCLUSION - Restate or reword your thesis. Summarize your arguments. Explain why you have come to this particular conclusion.

STEP E. ORGANIZE YOUR NOTES

Organize all the information you have gathered according to your outline. Critically analyze your research data. Using the best available sources, check for accuracy and verify that the information is factual, up-to-date, and correct. Opposing views should also be noted if they help to support your thesis. This is the most important stage in writing a research paper.
You must also be able to effectively communicate your thoughts, ideas, insights, and research findings to others through written words as in a report.
Do not include any information that is not relevant to your topic, and do not include information that you do not understand. Make sure the information that you have noted is carefully recorded and in your own words, if possible.
Plagiarism is definitely out of the question. Document all ideas borrowed or quotes used very accurately.

STEP F. WRITE YOUR FIRST DRAFT

Start with the first topic in your outline.
Summarize, paraphrase or quote directly for each idea you plan to use in your essay.

STEP G. REVISE YOUR OUTLINE AND DRAFT

Read your paper for any content errors. Double check the facts and figures. Arrange and rearrange ideas to follow your outline. Reorganize your outline if necessary, but always keep the purpose of your paper and your readers in mind.


This site: http://www.auhsd.k12.ca.us/pdf/research_paper_standards.pdf is also a good place to get general information about how to write a research paper.