Lesson 11


Research Papers Begin With Research!

The Goal:

In this lesson we’re going to transition into talking about the research paper, and what it means to fully revise an academic paper. So far, you’ve been coming up with your paper topic first and then doing research based on your idea.

For the research paper, we’re going to reverse that process. This time, you should simply pick a topic first. You will do research on that topic in order to see what other writers have already said about it. If you’re doing enough research, you will probably come across a perspective or idea that seems interesting to you. Only then should you begin writing. Sometimes we write about our own responses and use other writers to support our opinion, but at other times our job is to do the research and then understand our response to a topic based on the research.

So, in a nutshell, you will begin collecting and reading your own research on a particular topic; whether it’s a poem, a short story, or a dramatic work is up to you. Since most of you will begin with online sources, you should stay away from Google and look for actual academic papers that have been peer reviewed and published in journals.

You should further revise your research paper. You may want to do additional research, especially if your instructor has suggested you do so.

I think one of the best resources for understanding the research process can be found at this guide from the Cornell library.



What to Read:

  1. Walk, Talk, Cook, Eat: A Guide to Using Sources‘ by Cynthia R.  Haller in  Writing Spaces, Vol 2.
  2. *“Annoying Ways People Use Sources‘ by Kyle D. Stedman in  Writing Spaces, Vol
  3. Individual Student Research


 Writing Exercise:

Begin searching for articles about your topic. It’s best if you have an open mind about your topic rather than coming to the table with a fully formed idea. You should read as many as you can and then choose 3 to annotate. If you’re using reliable academic search engines, most of the articles you find will be in PDF format. You may find other formats, but if you do, the best idea is to convert the files into PDF. Use Adobe’s free PDF conversion service if you’d like. There are also many many other ways to convert things to a PDF. If you run into trouble, Google or YouTube the phrase “convert to PDF.’

Once you’ve annotated your articles, save them and upload to Blackboard (it’s okay to make multiple attempts/submissions when uploading so all three can be uploaded)

You may want to download Adobe Reader X if you haven’t already (it’s free) and then learn how to annotate and markup your research documents. For more video tutorials on how to use Adobe Reader X to makes notes in a PDF, try using the search term “Adobe Reader X’ in YouTube (don’t forget the quotation marks), and you should come up with a whole host of instructional videos.

If you are an advanced user of internet and computer tools, and you know that you’ll be doing a good deal of research as an undergraduate, you may want to learn how to use Mendeley.

You could also think about printing the article, annotating by hand, and then scanning the document back into your computer (although that seems complicated).


Submission Checklist:

  • Research Paper Topic Proposal (WA 5) (20 points):  A 100-200 word paragraph explaining what your research paper will be about, why you are doing that topic, what   background knowledge you have on it. (20 points)
  • Research Samples (WA 6) (20 points):Three  well-annotated research articles. Annotations can include highlighted passages, “sticky’ notes, inserted    comments, and any other means you find to annotate the text. Your notes and comments should show that you are reading and thinking about what the author says. Insubstantial annotations will be graded as such. Also, these must be scholarly academic articles that have been published in academic journals.  

with Megan Bush