I. Introduction to Writing Research Papers

The research paper is an essential part of college education. From it, you learn the basic research skills that you will need for gathering information and writing papers in a variety of courses as well as methods used for life-long learning, both on the job and off. In nearly every job, you will be asked to write reports and document your work. The research paper is an exercise that will help you develop these skills.

Research is a hands-on experience in locating and processing new information, a process that has become increasingly complex and involved with the explosion of electronic sources. The purpose of research is not to present a collection of quotations that show how you can report what others have said but rather to analyze, evaluate and synthesize the issues you research and take ownership of the newly-found knowledge which will inform and support your opinions. The latter is a mark of an educated person (Hacker 51).

A research paper requires extra time and energy, so plan accordingly. The process begins with your selection of a topic suitable for your purpose or course. The topic should lead you to new ideas which will enable you to formulate theories or find answers to questions. Your instructor will guide you in the topic selection and the style of documentation appropriate for a given discipline, subject, or field of study.

There are three basic documentation styles: the oldest, footnote or endnote; the parenthetical citation; and the scientific numbering system. Each requires a list of sources at the end of the researched work. This guide concentrates on the parenthetical citation as the most modern and commonly used style at the undergraduate level.

Except where this guide is showing specific examples, it will use Modern Language Association (MLA) style for in-text citation.

In writing your research paper, you will draw heavily on what you learned about writing essays. The paper will have to have a defined audience, clear purpose, and developed, well-supported thesis. As with other essays, you will write your first draft, which you will most likely revise more than once. Then you will proofread, edit, and prepare a final copy. The research paper probably will be longer than your other essays. It will have to be sufficiently and correctly documented, showing the reader the sources of support used in it.

Return to the Table of Contents

MCC Guide to Writing Research Papers.
Developed by: M. DiSano, A. Penwarden, S. Callan.
Revised version August 2006. Copyright Monroe Community College.