Writing a Research Paper

  1. Topic   2. Purpose/Thesis   3. Sources   4. Outline
  5. Draft   6. Revision   7. Checklist   8. Final Copy
  9. Footnotes/Bibliography 10. Submitting Paper 11. Sample Footnote/Bibliography Entries


A research paper is similar to an essay with two exceptions: it is longer and the sources of information must be acknowledged. They are similar in that each has an introduction, a number of body paragraphs to develop the thesis statement, and a concluding paragraph. However, the research paper will require more research and more body paragraphs. Also, for the research paper you must document your sources of information in footnotes or endnotes and then compile a bibliography of these sources.

Writing a research paper will provide you with valuable skills that you can take with you into the work force. You will learn to take a topic about which you know very little and form an educated opinion on it. You will learn to articulate your views in such a way that your audience will be convinced that your view is the right one. In the process of writing your paper you will learn to find evidence from a variety of sources, collate it, and present it to verify your thesis. These skills will place you in good stead after you graduate and seek employment.

There are several pitfalls that you need to be aware of when you are writing a research paper. One of the worst is plagiarizing information, that is, using material you collected from others as though it were your own. You must acknowledge any information that you get from other sources, whether you summarize it or quote it. Usually, a student gets a grade of zero for plagiarizing.

Another pitfall is not having a focus or a thesis. Students often take a subject and tell everything they know about that subject without limiting their information to that which will prove their thesis. That is why it is so important to have a thesis and stick to that thesis. All other information is irrelevant unless it is used to prove your thesis.

The lack of focus is often caused by a student writing an information paper instead of a position paper. For example, an information paper on capital punishment will allow you to present all that you have learned about the subject. However, a position paper will confine your information to your thesis. If your thesis is that capital punishment should be reinstated in Canada, then you will use only the information that will help you prove that thesis. All the other information is irrelevant to your research paper. A position paper will force you to have a focus, and to collect and use only the information that will serve your purpose.

Your research paper will have the following components:

  • Cover page
  • Title page
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Endnotes or footnotes
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Each of these components will be discussed as you progress through this unit on writing a research paper.