BASIC GUIDE TO WRITING
A RESEARCH PAPER
HISTORY 109: Dominic Carrillo
Typed and double-spaced
12 point font
On any approved historical topic between 1865 and 2001
Title page and reference page
Have it officially signed/stamped by the Grossmont
I suggest doing an Internet search on topics of interest, and/or
review class notes and readings for areas of interest. Narrow down
your topic to a specific historical event/person that you think is
Once your topic is more specific, go to the library and begin
researching various different sources: both primary and secondary
historical documents. For instance, if you were doing a research
paper on Malcolm X, then use quotes from his autobiography, or
speeches of his, or newspaper articles from 1964 about him—all these
are considered primary documents. A secondary document would be a
scholarly article, text book, or a biography written about him, or
Zinn’s book, etc. Your research paper should refer to more primary
documents than secondary ones.
WRITING THE PAPER:
STATE YOUR THESIS- Do some critical thinking and write
your thesis statement down in one sentence. Your thesis statement is
like a declaration of your belief. The main portion of your essay
will consist of arguments to support and defend this belief.
ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FORM AN OUTLINE
INTRODUCTION - State your thesis and
the purpose of your research paper clearly. What is the chief reason
you are writing the paper? State also how you plan to approach your
topic. What is your argument, or your analysis? Explain briefly the
major points you plan to cover in your paper and why readers should
be interested in your topic.
BODY - This is where you present your
arguments to support your thesis statement. Begin each paragraph
with a proper topic sentence. Then support your topic sentence
statement/arguments with documented proof or examples. Remember the
Rule of 3,
i.e. find 3 supporting arguments—quotes, facts, refernces-- for each
position you take. Begin with a strong argument, then use a stronger
one, and end with the strongest argument for your final point.
CONCLUSION - Restate your thesis.
Summarize your arguments. Explain why you have come to this
Read your paper for any content errors. Read it out loud.
1. Is my thesis statement concise and clear?
2. Did I follow my outline? Did I miss anything?
3. Are my arguments presented in a logical sequence?
4. Are all sources properly cited to ensure that I am not
5. Have I proved my thesis with strong supporting arguments?
6. Have I made my intentions and points clear in the essay?
Re-read your paper for grammatical errors. Use a dictionary or a
thesaurus as needed. Do a spell check. Correct all errors that you
can spot and improve the overall quality of the paper to the best of
your ability. Get someone else to read it over.
1. Did I begin each paragraph with a proper topic sentence?
2. Have I supported my arguments with documented proof or examples?
3. Any run-on or unfinished sentences?
4. Any unnecessary or repetitious words?
5. Varying lengths of sentences?
6. Does one paragraph or idea flow smoothly into the next?
7. Any spelling or grammatical errors?
8. Quotes accurate in source, spelling, and punctuation?
9. Are all my citations accurate and in correct format?
10. Did I avoid using contractions? Use "cannot" instead of "can't",
"do not" instead of "don't"?
11. Did I use third person as much as possible? Avoid using phrases
such as "I think", "I guess", "I suppose"
12. Have I made my points clear and interesting but remained
13. Did I leave a sense of completion for my reader(s) at the end of
Parenthetical Citation/Footnote Examples
In traditional British East Africa, between the time of puberty
and marriage, a young Akamba girl must maintain an avoidance
relationship with her own father (Freud 17).
An encyclopedia of the occult points out that taboo is found
among many other cultures including the ancient Egyptians, Jews and
2 "Taboo," Occultopedia: Encyclopedia
of Occult Sciences and Knowledge, Site created and designed by
Marcus V. Gay, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.occultopedia.com/t/taboo.htm>.
THE LAST PAGE: Bibliography/Works Cited (Examples)
Douglas, Mary. "Taboo." Man, Myth & Magic. Ed. Richard
Cavendish. New ed.
21 vols. New York: Cavendish, 1994. 2546-2549.
Dundes, Alan. "Taboo." World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. New York: Random, 1918.
FOR A MORE COMPLETE REFERENCE TO WRITING PAPERS, CHECK OUT:
Also, for or an excellent source on English composition, check
out Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.