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10 Steps to Writing a Research Paper

Step 1: Understanding the Assignment

Before you start any assignment, you need to know what your instructor is asking you to do. Understanding task words ​can help you figure out what you are expected to do in your assignment. However, always talk to your instructor if you don't understand the instructions.

If you're still struggling with how to start an assignment, make an appointment​ with the Learning Commons!

Step 2: Choosing a Topic

Come up with a research question to help you focus your topic.  To learn how to develop an interesting idea into a research question, watch the Library's tutorial Defining a Research Question and Doing Background Research.

Step 3: Research/Gathering Information

If you are just getting started, view the Library's Getting Started Searching tutorial. The tutorial Choosing​ Keywords and Brainstorming Synonyms will help you learn how to work with search terms.​

To go beyond basic searching, watch the Library's Advanced Searching tutorials.

The Library's Accessing Full Text tutorials will help you find the full text versions of different types of resources in the Library.​

It's also important that you keep track of the sou​rces you use and where you found specific pieces of information. Use this template to help you track your sources to make it easier when you have to reference your sources later.

Step 4: Reading/Evaluating Research

It is important to read research carefully and critically. Use the SQ5R method for reading journal articles​ to help you get the most from your reading. Understanding a journal article's format​ can also help you navigate your way through an article.

Before you use the information you have found in your research, you need to decide if the resources you use contain accurate information and are appropriate for use in an academic assignment. To help you decide if a resource is trustworthy, use the Library's CARS Evaluation Checkli​​st.

Step 5: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is an important part of the writing process. This step lets you get all your ideas down on paper to help you organize and develop your ideas further.

As you brainstorm, decide which type of thesis​ you need and develop your thesis statement.

Step 6: Outlining

An outline helps you organize the ideas from your brainstorm into a basic essay format​. This step is very important to make sure your essay is well organized and your paragraphs are focused. ​

Step 7: Drafting

Drafting is when you move from outline to full parag​raphs. If you did your brainstorming and outlining, drafting should be easy!

You can also use the APA @ Conestoga Paper Template​ when you start typing your essay. This template will ensure that your paper is formatted properly to APA @ Conestoga requirements when you start writing, which will save you time later.

Step 8: Documenting your Sources

It is very important to document your sources in order to avoid plagiarism and maintain academic integrity. Remember that all information that isn't common knowledge needs to be acknowledged. Check out our Plagiarism & Academic Integrity guide​ for more resources.

You need to be able to include research in your paper. Read about how to paraphrase​, and watch the tutorial Quoting & Paraphrasing to learn more about integrating research into your paper.

All sources also need to be cited and referenced. Many programs at Conestoga use APA @ Conestoga as a style for citing and referencing, so be sure to check out the APA @ Conestoga website​.

Step 9: Editing

The editing process is one of the most important stages of essay writing. At this stage, make sure that your ideas are clear and the organization makes sense.

Consider the flow of your writing. Use transitionn words to show connections between ideas. You can also learn more about sentence structure​ to combine similar ideas.

It is also a good idea to go back to your assignment instructions and marking rubric to make sure you have addressed everything your instructor wants you to. Of course, you can go back to any step in the writing process to improve your work

Step 10: Proofreading

Proofreading means finding all of the sentence-level errors. This can include sentence structure​, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.​ While many word processing programs can help identify errors, these programs aren't perfect, so it's up to you to proofread your assignment carefully before handing it in. Review our Writing Library Guide to help you understand common errors.

If you still need help identifying errors, book a writing appointment​ in the Learning Commons. A writing consultant can help you learn to identify errors and develop proofreading strategies.