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The goal of any research paper, whether it is advancing an argument or not, is to inform. Research papers are primarily vehicles for conveying information, so quality research and credible sources are essential.
It is important to keep in mind that papers of this length and complexity should be written as part of a process and as a series of drafts. In other words, the expectation that a research paper can simply be hammered out in a single session, even an early draft, is unrealistic. Effective research papers progress through a series of stages that include
- topic selection, which involves identifying a topic, testing the topic (initial, quick review of available information), revising or narrowing the topic, brainstorming potential sources and research strategies/tools, and selecting potential search terms;
- research, gathering information from different kinds of sources/media through different research tools, assessing the credibility of the sources, cross checking the information for accuracy, and keeping track of where the information comes from through effective, accurate works cited page entries, parenthetical citations;
- drafting, organizing your research into a structure that facilitates communicating that information to your reader, deciding what information to include and what to exclude, determining your thesis/claim if your assignment calls for it, grouping like research into sections organized around reasons (if you have a claim) or topic sentences, and integrating your quotes and paraphrases with accurate attributions and parenthetical citations;
- revision, gathering feedback on your work, editing for sentence level errors (punctuation, grammar, language, etc.), reviewing use of research for accuracy and MLA style, assessing the structure of the paper for effectiveness, determining if the requirements of the assignment have been met, and making changes as needed.