A new semester is just around the corner. I am teaching one of my favorite courses, Introduction to the Fashion Industry. This semester I’m requiring my students, mostly freshmen, to write a research paper. I want them to look at the future of the fashion industry through the lens of some of the huge social changes we’ve experienced recently.
While I like to get together with my students “in person” via videoconference as often as possible, the nature of an online course means I need to put my expectations in writing. I spent this afternoon attempting to create a list of instructions for how to create a decent research paper. I'm sharing it here. Comment if you think I missed something!
10 Easy Steps to Writing a Good Research Paper
Select your topic. Do this first based on your interests in the larger social phenomena cited in the assignment or introduce your own to your instructor for approval. Do some top-level research online or at a library to make certain there is enough research material to support your thesis.
Create your thesis. A thesis statement is the idea you are trying to prove in your research paper. In a research paper, the author takes a point of view, such as, “I believe these factors, X, Y and Z, will influence the fashion industry in these ways.........” Your paper will then go on to examine the named factors and describe how they will cause change in one direction or another. If you have any questions about how a Research Paper differs from a Report, please communicate with your instructor.
Assemble your resources and begin your research. “Resources” means books, magazines, your computer, and it also means pens, highlighter markers, paper clips and post-it squares. You will be reading to acquire information, but you will also be thinking how this information impacts your thesis. Expect to synthesize ideas from different source material to arrive at your own conclusion. You will need to take notes along the way. You may find it helpful to use actual index cards or paper pages on which to write your notes. As you develop your understanding of your topic, your notes can be physically re-arranged to create a strong argument supporting your position. The highlighters and sticky-notes can help you mark ideas you think might be helpful so you can return to them later. Record your source material now, so you’ll have it when you write your Bibliography.
Create an outline, word web, or other graphic representation of your completed research to experiment with the best structure for your writing. This is another great use for good ol’ fashioned index cards.
Sit down and write your first draft. Take a break, then read it through. Are your points clear and simple? Are they presented in a sensible order? Do you need more material to support them completely? Do NOT plagiarize- your point of view must be written in your own words. Ask your roommate or an honest friend to read your draft. Ask what your paper is missing. Be open to hearing the answers.
At this stage, review your initial research material to fill in the blanks your reader has noted. Find additional resources if required to create stronger arguments or complete thoughts. Return to your draft. Insert the relevant new material where it belongs. Read carefully to eliminate clumsy sentence transitions.
Read your paper from start to finish, reading for complete thoughts and supported arguments. Assemble any graphic materials that make your argument complete- charts, graphs, any other images as appropriate.
Read your paper again, this time reading for grammar and flow. Run a spell check. Run a grammar check.
Write your Bibliography. Check carefully for errors. Insert at the end of your paper.
Assemble all materials and turn your Research Paper. Rejoice!
I love doing the Happy Dance after I finish something of value. I hope my students will, too!