Skip Nav

What is an Academic Paper?

Writing Courses

❶In other words, it's important to determine not only what you think about a topic, but also what your audience is likely to think.

Academic Papers

General Overview
This article is a part of the guide:
Points to Consider

Asking a professor for help may seem frightening, but if they are worth anything as a professor, they want you to be successful with your work, and will do what they can to make that happen.

Although it requires a bit more time, you have the ability to change your topic even after you begin researching others. With a topic selected, the next step is to begin research.

Research comes in numerous forms including web pages, journal articles, books, encyclopedias, interviews, and blog posts, among others. Take time to look for professional resources who offer valid research and insight into your topic. Try to use a minimum of five sources to vary your information; never rely on only sources. Look for empirical research. Whenever possible, look for peer-reviewed empirical research. These are articles or books written by experts in your field of interest, whose work has been read and vouched for by other experts in the same field.

These can be found in scientific journals or via an online search. Take a trip to your local library or university library. Although it may seem old fashioned, libraries are chock full of helpful research materials from books to newspapers and magazines to journals.

Typically, websites that end with. That is because these websites belong to schools, the government, or organizations dealing with your topic. Try changing your search query often to find different search results for your topic.

There are special search engines and academic databases available that search through thousands of peer-reviewed or scientifically published journals, magazines, and books. Look for databases that cover your subject only. For example, PsycINFO is an academic database that holds nothing but works done by authors in the field of psychology and sociology. This will help you to get more tailored results than a very general search would. Take advantage of this ability to ask for specific information by using as many of the query boxes as you can.

Visit your school library and ask the librarian for a full list of the academic databases they subscribe to, as well as the passwords for each. Get creative with your research.

This should contain many more books and journals that are about your topic as well. This step is very important: Make marks on anything that you think might be remotely important or that could be put to use in your paper. As you mark off important pieces in the research, add your own commentary and notes explaining to yourself where you might use it in your paper.

Writing down your ideas as you have them will make writing your paper much easier and give you something to refer back to. Annotating your research can take quite a bit of time, but needs to be taken one step further in order to add a bit more clarity for the outlining process. Organize your notes by collecting all of your highlighted phrases and ideas into categories based on topic. For example, if you are writing a paper analyzing a famous work of literature, you could organize your research into a list of notes on the characters, a list of references to certain points in the plot, a list of symbols the author presents, et cetera.

Try writing each quote or item that you marked onto an individual note card. That way, you can rearrange and lay out your cards however you would like. Color code your notes to make it easier. Write down a list of all the notes you are using from each individual resource, and then highlight each category of information in a different color. For example, write everything from a particular book or journal on a single sheet of paper in order to consolidate the notes, and then everything that is related to characters highlight in green, everything related to the plot mark in orange, et cetera.

As you go through your notes, mark down the author, page number, title, and publishing information for each resource. This will come in handy when you craft your bibliography or works cited page later in the game.

Identify the goal of the paper. Generally, speaking, there are two types of research paper: Each requires a slightly different focus and writing style which should be identified prior to starting a rough draft. An argumentative research paper takes a position on a contentious issue and argues for one point of view.

The issue should be debatable with a logical counter argument. An analytic research paper offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit. This is not simply a regurgitation of ideas from your research, but an offering of your own unique ideas based on what you have learned through research. Who would be reading this paper, should it be published?

Although you want to write for your professor or other superior, it is important that the tone and focus of your paper reflect the audience who will be reading it. The thesis statement is a sentence statement at the beginning of your paper that states the main goal or argument of your paper. Although you can alter the wording of your thesis statement for the final draft later, coming up with the main goal of your essay must be done in the beginning. All of your body paragraphs and information will revolve around your thesis, so make sure that you are clear on what your thesis is.

What is the primary question or hypothesis that you are going to go about proving in your paper? Your thesis should express the main idea of your paper without listing all of your reasons or outline your entire paper.

Determine your main points. The body of your essay will revolve around the ideas that you judge to be most important. Go through your research and annotations to determine what points are the most pivotal in your argument or presentation of information. What ideas can you write whole paragraphs about? Which ideas to you have plenty of firm facts and research to back with evidence? Write your main points down on paper, and then organize the related research under each.

When you outline your main ideas, putting them in a specific order is important. Place your strongest points at the beginning and end of your essay, with more mediocre points placed in the middle or near the end of your essay. Main ideas can be spread out over as many paragraphs as you deem necessary. Depending on your paper rubric, class guidelines, or formatting guidelines, you may have to organize your paper in a specific way. The quality of these personal homepages vary greatly.

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. The recent arrival of a variety of domain name extensions such as.

Many of the new extensions have no registration restrictions and are available to anyone who wishes to register a distinct domain name that has not already been taken.

For instance, if Books. Check out online resources, Web based information services, or special resource materials on CDs:. Check out public and university libraries, businesses, government agencies, as well as contact knowledgeable people in your community.

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.

Most research papers normally require a thesis statement. If you are not sure, ask your teacher whether your paper requires it. A thesis statement is a main idea, a central point of your research paper. The arguments you provide in your paper should be based on this cenral idea, that is why it is so important. Do some critical thinking and write your thesis statement down in one sentence. Your research paper 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. It is impossible to create a thesis statement immediately when you have just started fulfilling your assignment. Before you write a thesis statement, you should collect, organize and analyze materials and your ideas.

You cannot make a finally formulated statement before you have completed your reseach paper. It will naturally change while you develop your ideas. Stay away from generic and too fuzzy statements and arguments. Use a particular subject. The paper should present something new to the audience to make it interesting and educative to read. Avoid citing other authors in this section.

Present your own ideas in your own words instead of simply copying from other writers. If you have time and opportunity, show it to your instructor to revise. Otherwise, you may estimate it yourself. A well-prepared thesis means well-shaped ideas. It increases credibility of the paper and makes good impression about its author. More helpful hints about Writing a Research Paper. An informal outline working outline is a tool helping an author put down and organize their ideas.

It is subject to revision, addition and canceling, without paying much attention to form. In a formal outline, numbers and letters are used to arrange topics and subtopics. The letters and numbers of the same kind should be placed directly under one another. The topics denoted by their headings and subheadings should be grouped in a logical order. All points of a research paper outline must relate to the same major topic that you first mentioned in your capital Roman numeral.

The purpose of an outline is to help you think through your topic carefully and organize it logically before you start writing. A good outline is the most important step in writing a good paper. Check your outline to make sure that the points covered flow logically from one to the other.

Make the first outline tentative. 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. Begin with a strong argument, then use a stronger one, and end with the strongest argument for your final point.

Consider once again the Hitchcock film. In analyzing this film, you might come up with elements that seem initially disparate. You may have some observations that at first don't seem to gel.

Or you may have read various critical perspectives on the film, all of them in disagreement with one another. Now would be the time to consider whether these disparate elements or observations might be reconciled, or synthesized. This intellectual exercise requires that you create an umbrella argument - some larger argument under which several observations and perspectives might stand.

Many students writing in college have trouble figuring out what constitutes an appropriate topic. Sometimes the professor will provide you with a prompt. She will give you a question to explore, or a problem to resolve. When you are given a prompt by your professor, be sure to read it carefully. Your professor is setting the parameters of the assignment for you. She is telling you what sort of paper will be appropriate.

In many cases, however, the professor won't provide you with a prompt. She might not even give you a topic. For example, in a psychology course you might be asked to write a paper on any theory or theories of self. Your professor has given you a subject, but she has not given you a topic. Nor has she told you what the paper should look like.

Should it summarize one of the theories of self? Should it compare two or more theories? Should it place these theories into some historical context? Should it take issue with these theories, pointing out their limitations? At this juncture, you have two options: It's always a good idea to talk with the professor.

At the very least, you'll want to find out if the professor wants a report or a paper. In other words, is your professor looking for information or argument? Chances are she'll want you to make an argument.

It will be up to you to narrow your topic and to make sure that it's appropriately academic. As you think about a topic, ask yourself the following questions:. When writing an academic paper, you must not only consider what you want to say, you must also consider to whom you are saying it.

In other words, it's important to determine not only what you think about a topic, but also what your audience is likely to think. What are your audience's biases?

To whom are you writing, and for what purpose? When you begin to answer all of these questions, you have started to reckon with what has been called "the rhetorical stance. Let's first consider your relationship to your topic. When you write a paper, you take a stand on a topic. You determine whether you are for or against, passionate or cool-headed.

You determine whether you are going to view this topic through a particular perspective feminist, for example , or whether you are going to make a more general response.

You also determine whether you are going to analyze your topic through the lens of a particular discipline - history, for example. Your stance on the topic depends on the many decisions you have made in the reading and thinking processes.

In order to make sure that your stance on a topic is appropriately analytical, you might want to ask yourself some questions. Begin by asking why you've taken this particular stance.

Why did you find some elements of the text more important than others? Does this prioritizing reflect some bias or preconception on your part? If you dismissed part of a text as boring or unimportant, why did you do so? Do you have personal issues or experiences that lead you to be impatient with certain claims? Is there any part of your response to the text that might cause your reader to discount your paper as biased or un-critical?

If so, you might want to reconsider your position on your topic. Your position on a topic does not by itself determine your rhetorical stance. You must also consider your reader. In the college classroom, the audience is usually the professor or your classmates - although occasionally your professor will instruct you to write for a more particular or more general audience. No matter who your reader is, you will want to consider him carefully before you start to write. What do you know about your reader and his stance towards your topic?

What is he likely to know about the topic? What biases is he likely to have? Moreover, what effect do you hope to have on the reader?

Is your aim to be controversial? Will the reader appreciate or resent your intention? Once you have determined who your reader is, you will want to consider how you might best reach him. If, for example, you are an authority on a subject and you are writing to readers who know little or nothing about it, then you'll want to take an informative stance.

If you aren't yet confident about a topic, and you have more questions than answers, you might want to take an inquisitive stance. In any case, when you are deciding on a rhetorical stance, choose one that allows you to be sincere. You don't want to take an authoritative stance on a subject if you aren't confident about what you are saying.

On the other hand, you can't avoid taking a position on a subject: What if you are of two minds on a subject? Declare that to the reader. Make ambivalence your clear rhetorical stance. Finally, don't write simply to please your professor. Though some professors find it flattering to discover that all of their students share their positions on a subject, most of us are hoping that your argument will engage us by telling us something new about your topic - even if that "something new" is simply a fresh emphasis on a minor detail.

Moreover, it is impossible for you to replicate the "ideal paper" that exists in your professor's head. When you try, you risk having your analysis compared to your professor's.

Do you really want that to happen? In high school you might have been taught various strategies for structuring your papers. Some of you might have been raised on the five paragraph theme, in which you introduce your topic, come up with three supporting points, and then conclude by repeating what you've already said.

Others of you might have been told that the best structure for a paper is the hour-glass model, in which you begin with a general statement, make observations that are increasingly specific, and then conclude with a statement that is once again general. When you are writing papers in college, you will require structures that will support ideas that are more complex than the ones you considered in high school. Your professors might offer you several models for structuring your paper.

They might tell you to order your information chronologically or spatially, depending on whether you are writing a paper for a history class or a course in art history. Or they may provide you with different models for argument: No prefab model exists that will provide adequate structure for the academic argument.

For more detailed advice on various ways to structure your paper, see Writing: Considering Structure and Organization. When creating an informed argument, you will want to rely on several organizational strategies, but you will want to keep some general advice in mind. Your introduction should accomplish two things: Often writers will do the latter before they do the former. That is, they will begin by summarizing what other scholars have said about their topic, and then they will declare what they are adding to the conversation.

Even when your paper is not a research paper you will be expected to introduce your argument as if into a larger conversation. For more specific advice on writing a good introduction, see Introductions and Conclusions.

Probably you were taught in high school that every paper must have a declared thesis, and that this sentence should appear at the end of the introduction. While this advice is sound, a thesis is sometimes implied rather than declared in a text, and it can appear almost anywhere - if the writer is skillful.

Speech Courses

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

This page lists some of the stages involved in writing a library-based research paper. Although this list suggests that there is a simple, linear process to writing such a paper, the actual process of writing a research paper is often a messy and recursive one, so please use this outline as a flexible guide.

Privacy FAQs

Academic writing is devoted to topics and questions that are of interest to the academic community. When you write an academic paper, you must first try to find a topic or a question that is relevant and appropriate - not only to you, but to the academic community of which you are now a part.

About Our Ads

Usually, the purpose of a research paper is known before writing it. It can be formulated as a research paper question, a thesis statement or a hypothesis statement. If you do not know what to write about, you will have to look for ideas for research paper topics. Academic Papers. Academic papers also known as, research papers or refers to those papers which reach a particular objective or analysis through arguments and analysis, provided by past inferences or factual data.. Methods of study for conducting academic research and writing an academic paper might differ according to the subject and level of study but the basic structure of academic papers.

Cookie Info

HOW TO WRITE AN EFFECTIVE RESEARCH PAPER • Getting ready with data • First draft • Structure of a scientific paper • Selecting a journal • Submission Note good and bad writing styles in the literature. Some are simple and easy to follow, some are just too complex. How to Write and Publish an Academic Research Paper Tips from maden.ga Planning your Manuscript 1. The research paper topic should be unique and there should be a .