So your teacher has just assigned you a research paper. You know how to write… but how do you do research? Having a well-researched paper will back up the points you’re making and give you credibility. Here are four simple steps to making your research successful!

Choose your topic

You want to choose a topic that’s not too broad, but also not too specific. If your topic is too broad, it will be hard to focus your research. If your topic is too specific, it will be hard to find a wide variety of sources to include in your research. Before you start, you need to make sure the topic you pick will have enough sources to back up your writing.

Know where to look

There are many different places to find information. Where are the best? To learn more about the topic you’ve chosen, you probably want to start with a quick internet search. Now that you have some background, consider the type of research you’re doing. If it’s a history paper or an English paper, you want to find primary sources – this includes original letters, diary entries, works of literature, newspaper articles, etc. If you’re writing a science paper, you want to try to find original research – scientific studies that researchers have published the results of. And with almost any piece of research, you’ll want expert quotes and statistics that back up your claims.

Write it down

If you come across something interesting or relevant, don’t tell yourself you’ll come back to it later – write it down! It’s also helpful to make categories for your research, and put every quote or statistic into a category. This way, the information will already be sorted when you go to write your paper.

Be sure to cite

Every single quote, statistic, or idea you use that’s not your own should have a citation attached to it. A citation is a cue to your reader to check your bibliography, where the full information on the source is located. Your bibliography should include every single source you cite in the paper. There are many different formats for citing your sources – two of the most popular are MLA and APA. Check with your teacher beforehand about which format they prefer.

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