Research Paper Steps

The research and writing process at Sunapee Middle High School is guided by the following steps.

1. Know the Characteristics of a Research Paper
The Sunapee Middle School sample research paper can be used to learn about the basic characteristics of a research paper.

2. Create a Workable Topic with Research Questions
An easy way to shape your topic is to develop a topic in the form of a question. Once you’ve established your primary research question, your next task is to develop two or three secondary focus questions, as illustrated in these slides, in order to guide your research.

3. Use Different Types of Information Sources for Your Research
You should use a variety of sources when researching, spending most of your time in the library’s databases looking at books, magazine articles, and perhaps some professional journal articles. If you use websites, they should be checked for credibility.

4. Use Keywords and Boolean Operators for Database Searching
Unlike Google, databases don’t work well with natural language searching. In order to find database sources on your topic, you’ll therefore need to develop a list of keywords (search terms) that describe what you’re looking for, and then combine them with Boolean operators. Here are two slides that show how to create search terms. You can also use advanced-level searching, available within most databases, to further refine your search results.

5. Search Appropriate Databases and Keep Track of Your Sources
Some of the library’s databases are useful for advanced high school research, while others are more appropriate for middle school. The targeted grade levels for each database, which appear on the Databases page of this website, should be used when beginning the search process. As you find helpful information in your search, it’s important to keep track of your sources! You should keep a Google Doc with a list of each source’s permalink.

6. Enter Your Sources into NoodleTools before Taking Notes
Before starting to take notes, enter your information sources into a project in your NoodleTools account. See the NoodleTools page to get started.

7. Create Notes and Align them with Your Sources
All writers must cite their sources in order to give original authors credit for their ideas and phrasing. If you were to portray their ideas or phrasing as your own, you’d be committing plagiarism. Thus, as you create notes during your research, be sure to associate each piece of information with its correct source. You can accomplish this by using the Notecard feature in NoodleTools. Or, if you prefer, you can take notes with pen and paper.

8. Establish Your Thesis and Outline Your Paper
Establishing a thesis statement should occur before outlining your paper. Your thesis, or the main argument around which your paper will stay focused, is a one- or two-sentence answer to your primary research question. After settling on a thesis, organize your supporting evidence by outlining your paper using the Outline feature within NoodleTools. Printed outlines can be very helpful when you write your paper. See a sample.

9. Begin Writing Your Research Paper
Once your thesis has been established and your outline has been completed, it’s time to begin writing your paper. All papers should start with a quality introductory paragraph.

10. Finish Writing and Properly Format Your Research Paper
Following the introductory paragraph, you’ll want to write informative body paragraphs that begin with clear topic sentences. All topic sentences and body paragraph information must support your thesis. As you write you’ll also want to properly format your paper to comply with MLA style guidelines.

11. Evaluate Your Work
Unless you’re out of time and your due date is upon you, consider addressing any shortcomings in your work. You can review your work by using the SMHS Research Paper Rubric.