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How to Write a Research Paper

A general process for writing a research paper at the college level.

Step 2

Brainstorm card from Magic: The Gathering. Artwork by William Mura
[Brainstorm by William Murai. Magic: The Gathering]. Retrieved from

Start Brainstorming

Before you start doing any kind of research you need to do a little brainstorming.

What do you think your search terms would be to find information about your topic? You may discover that you’re actually looking for something else, or that your search terminology is different from what the databases use.

For example: if you’re looking for women’s rights you might also look for women’s suffrage, women’s liberation, gender equality, etc. This is when things like encyclopedias come in handy, even the dreaded Wikipedia. So long as you don’t cite the wiki as a source it’s great for coming up with ideas, clicking on links, traveling around, etc.

Write all of those ideas down. Maybe come up with a question or two for things you’re curious about. Those questions will help you focus your paper.

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