Writing a Research Paper

Use this guide to help you write your paper.

Check Assignment Requirements First

Before you jump online to find sources for your assignment, make sure you know what kinds of sources your professor requires. Does she say that you need at least three peer-reviewed journal articles? Or maybe she says that you need to pull information from books written for an academic audience. You won't find those sources by casually Googling your topic

Choose Keywords for Your Search

Good search terms are essential to quality research, so generate a list of keywords before you start researching.

To do so, ask yourself two questions:

1. What do I know about my topic?

2. What do I want to know about my topic?

List the answers to those questions using single words or simple phrases. These will become your keywords. This brief video (0:59) from the libraries at UNC Greensboro explains how to turn your research question into useful keywords. For more practice with keywords, check out the rest of their tutorial.

Video transcript

PATH: Lighting Your Way From Research to Writing (UNCG Libraries) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Other Types of Sources

Sometimes you need sources other than books or articles. Here are a few examples that might appear in your assignment requirements: 

  • Newspaper articles
    • Contemporary
    • Historical
  • Visual material
    • Maps
    • Art images
  • Primary sources for Humanities
    • Diaries
    • Letters
    • Interviews
  • Government documents

A librarian can help you find these sources. Simply ask!