Cheat Sheet

Research Papers For Dummies

From Research Papers For Dummies by Geraldine Woods

Before starting a research paper, arrange the information and notes you’ve gathered. Pick one of the basic structures for organizing your research paper and start writing with a strong introduction. Before you turn in the final draft of your paper, go through a grammar checklist — and be sure to cite your sources.

When to Cite Sources on Research Papers

A huge faux-pas in the world of research papers is stealing someone else’s ideas. You need to give credit for your sources of information when you’re writing your research paper. Use these rules for citing your sources:

  • Provide a citation for all direct quotations from printed, electronic, or human sources.

  • Cite the source whenever you employ someone else’s ideas, even if you express them in your own words.

  • Cite the source when you use a train of logic or an organizational pattern created by someone else.

  • Don’t cite the source for information that is common knowledge.

Essentials for Research Paper Introductions

The introduction of your research paper should establish your topic and entice your readers. Include all of the following components in the introduction of your research paper:

  • Mention the subject and the topic you’re discussing.

  • If you’re writing about a work of art or literature, provide the title and the name of the author or artist.

  • If the paper has a thesis — an idea you’re proving — state the thesis.

  • You may also include the main supporting points or subtopics.

Note Taking Tips for Research Papers

While you’re working on your research paper, develop some savvy note-taking habits that will save you loads of time later. Use these tricks for taking notes and organizing your research:

  • Keep a master list of all sources, including title, author, date, publishing information, and page numbers.

  • Give each source a code number, and label each note with the code and page number. If the source doesn’t have page numbers, include any other location information.

  • If you write the exact words you found in the source, enclose the words in quotation marks.

  • If the source credits someone else, write that information in your notes also.

  • If you highlight information in a book or article, keep a “table of contents” listing the main idea of each highlight and the page on which it appears.

Useful Structures for Organizing Research Information

Selecting the structure for organizing all the information you’ve gathered is part of writing your research paper. Try one of these basic structures for your paper:

  • Chronological order

  • Comparison and contrast

  • Pro and con arguments

  • Cause and effect

  • Groups affected by the event or issue

Grammar Checklist for Your Research Paper

After countless hours of research and writing, you don’t want to turn in a final draft with grammatical errors. Use this handy grammar checklist to inspect your research paper for mistakes:

  • Be sure that the subject of the sentence agrees with the verb — singular subject with singular verb, plural subject with plural verb.

  • Write about literature in present tense.

  • Write about history in past tense. Use the had form of the verb to show an action occurring before another action.

  • Don’t change tenses unnecessarily.

  • Be sure that every pronoun replaces one (and only one) noun. Be especially careful with that, which, and this. Never use these pronouns to refer to a loose collection of ideas.

  • Be sure that the meaning of each pronoun is clear. Don’t place a pronoun where it may refer to more than one noun.

  • Place all descriptions near the word they describe.

  • End every sentence with an endmark (period, question mark, exclamation point).

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