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How to Start a Research Paper

hi I want to talk today about how to start a research paper research papers are different from most other kinds of papers because you’re trying to have an argument for yourself and really looking for something to say from your own point of view so you’re not trying to just describe something Oum or compare something you’re really trying to find something out and answer a certain question have an argument for yourself best place to start is starting with what you already know so if you’re given a certain topic say the Zapatista uprising in Mexico in 1994 that’s still a very broad topic and you’re going to need to narrow it down because otherwise you could end up with a 15 page paper just explaining the events that happened that’s not a research paper so start writing out what you already know maybe you know nothing and that’s okay but think about other things that you do know about other cases of rebellions maybe or if you’re viewing a if you’re talking about a certain book what are some other authors that have written things that might be similar starting with what you do know will kind of help get you thinking before you start reading things so think about other things that connect to your topic not just the topic itself the next thing you need to think about is what your sources will be now there’s two types of sources there is primary sources and they’re secondary sources there are other kinds but for our purposes today we just need to think about primary and secondary sources a primary source is something that was written at the time that something occurred or somebody with direct knowledge of the thing so this would be newspapers this would be journals letters anything that was written at the time of something happening or somebody with first-hand knowledge a secondary source is things like articles books journals magazines anything that was produced after something and somebody who’s looking at something and writing about it not just writing about themselves with their own experience but looking usually looking back and bringing in other research and talking about that as well secondary sources are great to help provide context for your own arguments and they’re also great to help give you some background knowledge before you start up looking at a topic so in that way secondary sources can actually be a really good place to start primary sources are usually what form the meat of your argument however so if you’re looking at an example would be school curriculums in the 1960s and what types of things were being taught in American or Canadian classrooms you might want to start with those direct sources themselves where do you find primary sources libraries almost always without fail libraries are the best place to go University Libraries invest a huge amount of time and money to build up great collections of things you can certainly search for things easily online you can look for stuff online my only warning would be is that you so wherever you’re looking for your source or wherever you find something you make sure that it is an actual academic source that you can use if you’re not sure ask your professor ask your instructor whatever make sure that you can use it because it might looks like something that’s real but unfortunately with the internet anonymity you can never be it’s you can never be too too sure so it’s good to just double check on those after you’ve looked at some primary sources start writing down what if you found out what are some things that are starting to come to your mind this is going back to the whole idea of writing down what you know starting with what you know and what you found out kind of leads you through this progression while where you’ll eventually end up having some questions which is the next part taking the questions that you have and starting to think about your topic in ways that maybe people haven’t thought about it before an example is I just wrote a paper about world war one war letters now people have definitely compiled a lot of collections of war letters but I was looking for how soldiers were constructing notions of time and specifically how they were thinking about the future to my knowledge no one’s done that that’s what makes research it’s something new a new way of approaching it especially in fields of Gender Studies and sexuality there is a ton of stuff to think about so when you’re looking at your sources think about not just the stories that they’re telling and the information that they’re giving you but what are they not giving you what are they not telling and maybe there is something there you can find out sometimes it leads to a dead end and there’s no more in way you could get more information that’s okay you still learn something about it now when you have all of these questions you want to take take a look at them and what is the most interesting one what is the thing that you’re most curious about that is going to be your research question research papers should always start with a question to answer having an argument means you have to find something out and I think some people try to write their papers by coming out with a really strong statement and then just trying to back up that statement and make connections well that’s certainly one way of writing a paper usually it’s a lot easier and more interesting for yourself if you’re starting with a question and as you’re writing your paper you’re answering that question then you can go back rework your thesis which will become the answer to the question what do you think the answer to the question is that’s your thesis your whole paper will back it up this is just the beginning good luck Godspeed and see you next time you

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