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Step 1: Select a subject
Choose your subject carefully, keeping in mind the amount of time you have to write the
paper, the length of the paper, your intended audience and the limits of the
resources. Check in the library to make sure a reasonable amount of information is
available on the subject you choose.
Step 2: Narrow the topic
The topic of the paper is what you want to say about the subject. To narrow the topic, you
need to read background articles about your subject in encyclopedias and other general
references. Do not take notes at this time other than to jot down possible main ideas.
Step 3: State your objective or thesis
Before you begin your research for your paper, you need to compose a thesis statement
that describes the viewpoint you are going to express and support in your paper. Since
your purpose in the rest of the paper is to prove the validity of your thesis, your thesis
statement provides a controlling idea which will help you choose the resource materials
you will use and will limit your note taking.
Step 4: Form a Preliminary Bibliography
A preliminary bibliography is a list of potential sources of information. In addition to the
card catalog and the guides to reference books already mentioned in Step 2, there are
other sources which will help you locate articles and books relevant to your topic
Step 5: Prepare a Working Outline
A working outline is important because it gives order to your notetaking. As you do your
research, you may find that you need to review your plan if you lack information about a
topic or have conflicting information. Nevertheless, it provides a good starting point and
is essential before you start to take notes.
Step 6: Start Taking Notes
After you have gathered your materials and prepare a working outline, you can start to
take notes. Write your notes on index cards (either 3x5" or 4x6") being sure to include
only one note on each card. Each note should relate in some way to one of the topics on
your working outline. Label each card with the appropriate topic; then you can easily
organize your note cards later when you begin to prepare the final outline of your paper.
Step 7: Outline the Paper
The final outline is similar to the working outline, but is more complex, with each topic
being further divided into several subtopics. To accomplish this, sort your note cards into
separate piles according to the topics at the top of each them. Then, sort each pile into
Step 8: Write the Rough Draft
After you have completed your final outline, you can begin to write your rough draft. It
is important to remember that this rough draft will be revised
Step 9: Edit Your Paper
When you have finished the rough draft, read through it again and revise it. Pay particular
attention to the content and organization of the paper.
Step 10: Write the Final Draft
The final draft of your paper should be typed and must include citations and a
bibliography; some paper might require a title page, depending on the formatting style
and/or the professor
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