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Writing A Research Paper

Begin By Asking the Right Questions

Understanding and Interpreting Your Assignment.   

Before choosing a topic and starting your research, make sure you understand the assignment. To understand the assignment adequately, it is important to: 

  1. Read the assignment carefully.
  2. Ask your professor about any aspects you do not understand. 
  3. Determine the purpose of your project. Is it informative, analytical, or persuasive?  

After understanding the assignment, it is time to interpret it. To do so ask yourself: 

  1. Why did your instructor ask the class to do this particular task? 
  2. Who is your audience? 
  3. What kind of evidence do you need to support your ideas? 

Look for style tips in your prompt such as: 

  1. Be concise 
  2. Write effectively 
  3. Argue your points well 

And lastly, look for format rules and guidelines in the prompt, for example: 

  1. The paper must be ten pages long. 
  2. The font must be Times New Roman with 12 point type. 
  3. Do you need to include or avoid particular sources? 
  4. Citations must be in Chicago-Style format.
  5. When is the assignment due? 
  6. How many sources will you need? 
  7. What type of sources do you need secondary, primary, or both?

Background Information

Starting research early is essential. Juggling researching and writing at the same time can cause stress and anxiety. Therefore, it is best to start research early and take small steps each day towards finding information. 

Background Information 

  • After identifying your topic, it is time to develop your topic. Background information is not the same as research. But, spending an hour searching for background information helps to narrow your topic and revise it if needed. 
  • Try looking through these resources for background information. 
    • Textbook and required class readings
    • A quick Google search
    • Encyclopedias 
    • Dictionaries 
    • Online Databases 

Choosing Your Topic

Choosing Your Topic 

Create a list of possible topics relevant to your assignment. Here are a few questions to consider while thinking of topics: 

  1. Did your professor provide a list of topics? 
  2. What material have you covered in your class? 
  3. What are your interests, and can you incorporate them into a topic?

Still having trouble figuring out a topic? Try using some of these resources: 

  1. Search for ideas in your textbook and class notes.
  2. Look at current events, newspapers, and magazines. 
  3. Search encyclopedias 
  4. Ask for advice from your professor or a librarian. 
  5. Search our Pepperdine Libraries InfoGuide page for assistance. 

After choosing a general topic, it is crucial to ensure your topic is researchable. You may have to refine it until you have a more concrete research topic. Try these tips and techniques:  ​

  • Brainstorming- is the process of going from a broad topic to a narrow topic then a narrower one. Here is an example: 

Topic: Climate Change 

Narrow topic: Environment

Narrower topic: Wildfires, rising sea levels, global temperature

  • Mind Map- Is a visual diagram that organizes a topic in order to identify relevant themes and connections.
  • Word Storm-  Start with a couple of words based on your project and begin writing down words that come to mind. Then group the words together according to how they are related to each other.