advantage of handbooks.
about writing (put out by such publishers as Prentice-Hall, St. Martins, and
Random House) usually have good chapters about research papers: note-taking
strategies, citing sources, formulating a thesis, etc. The Loudoun Campus
Writing Center has several handbooks you can use, and you should own one if
you have taken English 111.
your topic wisely.
choosing a topic, ask yourself the following questions: Am I genuinely
interested in this topic? (There is no reason to make the project boring for
yourself.) Are sources about the topic readily available? (No reason to make
it too difficult.) Can I cut the topic down to manageable size? (The more
specific, the better.)
be painstaking about your accuracy in quoting from outside sources. In using
sources, you can either quote directly (use the exact words and mark them
with ,.quotation marks"), paraphrase (say the exact same thing but in your
own words), or summarize (briefly give the high points from a bulk of
information). In all these cases, the original author must be acknowledged,
and your writing should make it absolutely clear if you are quoting,
paraphrasing, or summarizing. Also, use direct quotations sparingly--only if
the author's exact wording is essential or especially eloquent and
enlightening. A research paper is more than a bunch of quotations strung
together; you must comment on sources, show relationships between them, etc.
Plagiarism is using a source in any way without acknowledging it. You
plagiarize when you borrow someone's words without using quotation marks and
giving the author's name--BUT you also plagiarize when you simply borrow an
idea or a train of thought without citing the author. When in doubt, ALWAYS
cite the author. Plagiarism is a very serious offense.
a good thesis statement.
thesis statement is a concise statement of EXACTLY what your paper is
showing, arguing, enlightening, exposing, etc. Make sure some form of this
statement appears in both your introductory and concluding paragraphs. (If
you ca not state your paper's purpose in one or two sentences, you lack
direction and need to give it some more thought!)
the campus writing center for any help you need.