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Writing a Research Paper

Aug 30, 2022
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A research paper is an expansive essay in which you present your own interpretation, evaluation, or argument. The purpose of a research paper is to demonstrate a student’s academic knowledge of a subject. 

While writing an essay, you use everything you know and have thought about a subject. But while you write a research paper, you build on what you already know about the subject and make a concerted effort to learn what experts know. A research paper entails surveying a field of knowledge in order to find the best information available in that field.  

Let us take a look at the steps one should follow while drafting a research paper:

Select a subject and set a schedule

One of the most common issues students face when starting a research paper is a lack of understanding of the subject in hand. 

Select your subject with care, keeping in mind the amount of time you have to write the paper, the length of the paper, your intended audience, and the limitations of your resources. Check the library to see if there is sufficient amount of information on the topic you have chosen. 

It will be much easier to write the paper if you choose a topic that interests you and on which you can form an opinion or viewpoint. In fact, choosing a subject about which you already have some knowledge will make it easier to narrow the topic later on. Avoid controversial and sensational topics that are not scholarly, are too technical, or will simply restate the research material. 

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Last, but not the least, make a schedule according to the due dates and the amount of time it will take you to complete each task. 

Narrow the topic

The topic of the paper is what you want to say about the subject. To narrow your topic down, read background articles about the subject you have chosen in encyclopedias and other general references. Take no notes at this time except to jot down potential main ideas. 

Be sure not to be too self-indulgent; that is the keep in mind that as much the subject interests you, it should be as interesting to your readers too. 

You may also want to select a question to which your paper will respond organically. As a result, when you’re researching, you’ll be looking for something very specific. The answer to this question may eventually become your thesis statement. 

Developing a thesis

Before you begin researching for your paper, you must write a thesis statement that describes the point of view you will express and support in your paper. A thesis statement is a single statement that summarizes the main idea of an essay or a piece of writing. Because the rest of the paper’s purpose is to prove the validity of your thesis, your thesis statement provides a controlling idea that will help you choose the resource materials you will use and limit your note taking. 

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Writing a thesis statement as you begin to organize your research is a good idea. Writing the thesis statement first is beneficial because every argument or point you make in your paper should support this central idea. 

Spend time crafting your thesis statement— it’s the central idea of your paper, from which everything else flows. Without a well-thought-out thesis statement, your paper will be jumbled and have an unclear purpose. 

Construct an outline

Before you begin writing, create an outline to help you organize your thoughts. After you’ve created your thesis statement, consider the main points you’ll need to present to back it up. Your sub-headings will be based on those main points. Now, group your ideas and information under each sub-heading. 

Any information, no matter how interesting, that does not fit within the framework of your outline and does not directly support your thesis statement does not belong in your research paper. Maintain a narrow focus. 

Write the first draft

After you’ve finished your final outline, you can start writing your rough draft. It is critical to keep in mind that this rough draft will be revised. As a result, you don’t need to be concerned about spelling or punctuation at this time. Instead, focus on the paper’s content, following your outline and expanding on the ideas in it with information from your notes. 

Your paper should be divided into three sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should state the thesis, summarize the paper’s main ideas, and pique the reader’s interest. Each section of the outline should be developed in the body of the paper. Your findings should be summarized in the conclusion, and the thesis should be restated. 

Revising and editing

When you’ve completed the rough draft, go through it over and over again and revise it. Pay close attention to the paper’s content and organization. Is there a topic sentence in each paragraph that relates to the thesis? Is there evidence to back up each idea? Is there a clear transition from one section to the next, or from your words to quotations? Is there a clear transition to indicate to the reader when one idea ends and another begins? Revising frequently necessitates a large number of readings, each with its own purpose. 

While editing a research paper, any lopsided views and subjective ideas must be trimmed down to ensure that it is free of affectations, exaggerations, and prejudices. Remember that any ambiguity in style or substance is likely to diminish the overall impact of the presentation, so it must be side-stepped at all costs. 

Write the final draft

The final draft of your paper should be typed and include citations and a bibliography; depending on the formatting style, some papers may require a title page. The title of the paper, your name, the name of the course, the instructor’s name, and the date the paper is due should all be included on the title page. 

Given below is a sample research paper on a literary piece; “Contemplation of Lives that Pass into Obscurity and Immortality in Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” 

Contemplation of Lives that Pass into Obscurity and Immortality in Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. 

Thesis statement: 

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard was written in memory of Gray’s late friend Edward King which deals with the lives of people who couldn’t make it big in life owing to the lack of material facilities. The poor people could have made some impact while living and would be remembered after their death had circumstances enabled them with opportunities. In the elegy, Gray uses some allusions in order to highlight the obscured lives of the people making an impression upon the readers. Examining these allusions, my paper will analyze the theme of obscurity and immortality in the poem. By studying the obscured lives that couldn’t carve an impression till eternity, the paper proposes to understand these lives more clearly. 

“Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth 

A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.” (Gray, 117-118)             

The epitaph which closes Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard asserts firmly what the remainder of the poem has been subtly telling. 

In the poem, the narrator, who spends an evening in a country churchyard, finds comfort in carefully contemplating the lives of the obscure rustics who are buried in the churchyard. The poem is commonly read with its central argument as the contrast between the poor and the rich. An element of obscurity that is associated with the lives of the poor and that of immortality which is associated with the great, is rightly touched upon in the poem by Gray. The churchyard in which the narrator spends his evening is the resting ground where the “rude forefathers of Hamlet sleep”. Just like the landscape in front of the narrator is “fading on the sight”, the lives of these people were also destined to fade away without making. Though they passed their lives into anonymity, they were able to make enough out of the small, beautiful lives they lived. These obscure lives of the village farmers prove to be an example of the inevitability of the social mobility of the English society during Gray’s time. Gray subtly reflects on the fact that “nobility” may not be a birth right, but a way of living and that talent does not exist only among the privileged. It is just that, unlike the poor, they have the luxury to find out their talents and have the means and situation to nurture their them. The poet himself won’t be able to name any of the poor farmers who had died recently and buried in the churchyard he is wandering because he/she wasn’t a “Milton” or a “Cromwell” and their talents went unnoticed. 

But this poverty, which denied the poor the immortality their unnoticed talents deserved and circumscribed their “growing virtues”, had a positive in it. Just like it limits their “growing virtues”, it also limits their “crimes”. Their situation doesn’t give them a chance to dream big, and in turn, they have zero ambition in their lives. People without any ambition to get into power will not have to shed other’s blood or slaughter their enemies. In fact, they don’t have any enemies in the first place. They always have mercy towards fellow human beings, unlike the ambitious privileged ones who never think twice to stab their dear ones from behind to ascend the “throne”. In this sense, one could say that they were lucky enough not to attain fame. Obscurity, in this case, is better than fame and is morally superior in it that it is better not to be remembered at all than to be remembered as a ruthless individual till eternity. And the poor be not pitied for their plight. If, in any case, they are pitied, it should be for the lack of opportunity for making it big in their lives.  

Though both the themes of obscurity and immortality are discussed in the poem, Gray seems to have emphasized more upon the lives and deaths of the farmers a bit more. Even the ending of the poem, which is an epitaph, is one that is written in the grave of a poor villager. Though the poor are remembered, he/she is remembered only infraction and at maximum, with a sigh. The maximum decoration in their graves is rhythms that are “uncouth” and the sculptures that are shapeless.  

Thus, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard written in the memory of Edward King, whom himself is remembered only because he was a friend of a celebrated poet like Gray, draws a comparison between the rich and the poor. 

Works Cited: 

Gray, Thomas. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. www.poetryfoundation.com. Accessed 20 March. 2020 

Weinbort, Howard D., “Gray’s Elegy” A Poem of Moral Choice and Resolution”. Studies in  English Literature, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 537-551 

Wright, George T., “Stillness and Argument of Gray’s Elegy”. Modern Philology, vol. 74. no. 4. pp. 381-389 

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