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How to write a research paper?

4. The first draft

Although you will never have the feeling that you have finished your note-taking to your satisfaction and you will never lose the feeling that you could do a much better job if you could examine "just one more source," the time for writing the first draft inevitably comes.

  1. Check your thesis statement, be sure that it states as specifically as possible in a simple declarative sentence exactly what the material you have gathered adds up to.
  2. Check your research paper outline for consistency.
  3. Do not begin by writing your introduction. Wait to write that when your paper is completed and you can see what you are introducing. Start now by putting on paper as quickly as possible the overall information you wish to convey about your major points and their subdivisions. Save the fun of polishing your style until later; first you must capture your ideas on paper so you can think about them.
  4. The complete thesis should appear early in the paper so that your reader knows where you are going. Topic sentences (usually a point on your outline) generally come at the beginning of paragraphs and then they are developed by giving examples, descriptions, and facts and figures taken from your research. Be sure that all the quoted or paraphrased material is carefully analyzed so that the reader knows how and why you are using the particular material to make your point.
  5. Try to use direct quotations very sparingly in your paper. Use them only when there is no other way the material can be stated and when the exact words of the author must be used to make your point. Copy the quotations very carefully, using identical punctuation and wording of the original. As you are writing, check carefully to see whether:
    • You are not merely "stringing quotes" together without enough of your own wording;
    • You have introduced each quoted passage with an appropriate transition;
    • You have analyzed your source material to make it work for you in your paper by showing your reader specifically how it applied to your argument. Don't just cite a quotation and run off. You have just stated that someone said something; now answer the question, "So what?" Why are you telling this to your reader?
  6. Develop each section of your outline considering each as a separate essay for the time being. Just as you could not expect to write five essays in one day, so you cannot hope to develop more than one section of a longer paper at a time.

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