Writing a research paper requires you to use your information literacy skills. There are many points to consider before you write that first sentence. Getting started can often be the most difficult step, but when you look at each step of the process individually, it becomes more manageable.
On this page, we will examine the different steps in writing a research paper:
Choosing a Research Topic
Developing a Strong Research Question
Locating Academic Sources
Types of Sources
Reference Sources & Academic Databases
The Purdue Online Writing Lab from Purdue University also has an excellent guide to writing research papers.
Primary Source: In scholarship, a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic, used in preparing a derivative work. Primary sources include original manuscripts, periodical articles, reporting original research or thought, diaries, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, sheet music, songs, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, news clippings, etc.
Secondary Source: Any published or unpublished work that is one step removed from the original source, usually describing, summarizing, analyzing, evaluating, derived from, or based on primary source materials, for example, a review, critical analysis, second-person account, or biographical or historical study. Also refers to material other than primary sources used in the preparation of a written work.
Tertiary source: A written work, such as a chapter in a textbook or entry in a reference book, based entirely on secondary sources, rather than on original research involving primary documents. Whether a source is secondary or tertiary can be determined by examining the bibliography (if one is provided). Another clue is that secondary sources are almost always written by experts, but tertiary sources may be written by staff writers who have an interest in the topic but are not scholars on the subject.
One of the most important aspects of writing a research paper is evaluating the quality of your sources. The CRAAP test provides a list of questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not a source is reliable and credible enough to use in your academic research paper. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.