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The Research Paper

Because you don't need an M.A. to whip up a great research paper.

At some point in life, a teacher or employer will tell you to go out into the world, gather information, and come up with your own ideas in the form of a research paper. Rather than run, hide in a closet, and bawl your eyes out in fear of coming up with your own ideas, Shmoop's a fan of proudly researching information, interpreting it, and forging your own brilliant thoughts.

This course is meant to elevate you to new heights of research glory. Writing a good research paper isn't something that just magically comes naturally to anybody—no kid learns their first letters and says, "Hmm, I think I'll analyze the use of dialogue in The Count of Monte Cristo." Instead, writing research papers is a skill that has to be learned, like everything else in school (or life).

We've broken this process down into easy, bite-size chunks. We'll be brainstorming for ideas, learning how to use the power of Google more effectively, and then crafting the most clearest thesis statements the world has ever seen. And that's only the beginning. Shmoop will hold your hands every step of the way, and in the end—you'll have a short, sweet, real-live-bona-fide research paper. More importantly, you'll have the ability to write a research paper without panicking, for the rest of your (long, glorious) career.

This course is designed to be a general introduction to the process of researching and writing a research paper, asking students to choose their own topics and take them from brainstorming to finished product. If you're a teacher assigning a specific research paper to a class, this course is a also a great and flexible companion for guiding students through that process, especially if it's their first time delving into the depths of research. 

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Writing a Research Paper

Specific topics covered include:

  • Brainstorming and developing research questions
  • How to research
  • Evaluating sources
  • Developing a thesis
  • Organizing information
  • Citations and plagiarism
  • Outlining
  • The writing process
  • Editing and revising

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 1: Brainstorming and Research Questions

The first task in writing a good paper is to come up with a good idea—a stellar idea that will hold your interest for months, impress your teacher, and add to the sum of human knowledge. So, it's not like it's a big deal. Relax.

This is what we're going to make happen inside your brain. A brain-hurricane.

In this lesson, we're going to walk you through the tips, tricks, secrets, and mysteries of coming up with good research topics and questions. Because it definitely doesn't always work to sit yourself down and say, "Okay. Think of an awesome idea. Go. Now." Inspiration takes a little more work than that, usually. It takes some brainstorming. But if you think that brainstorming is just a silly way to waste time and doodle and write down a couple of keywords, then you've never met brainstorming Shmoop-style.

After you brainstorm, though, you've got to take some time to sift through your creative brain dump and develop some good, solid research questions. Mind maps like this one are pretty, but not so easy to turn into a paper. And also, we'd advise you to take the activity seriously here—the research questions you come up with are going to haunt you for the rest of this short course.