Collecting Information Use all resources at your disposal to locate relevant articles and books Google Scholar Actually going to the library (librarian or PsychLit, Social Sciences Index, etc.)! Research Port online from the library You are to focus on RESEARCH material, not popular literature Emphasize articles over books—articles are more recent, shorter Emphasize recent over older sources Keep searching, reading until you’ve exhausted your topic Modify the scope of your paper depending on what you find Consult with your instructor if this leads you to reshape/change your topic You should at minimum have 15-18 strong sources to do justice to a paper Be very cautious in using web-based sources Anybody can put anything on the web—it doesn’t make it valid, and it certainly does not qualify as RESEARCH. Consider the source! And use the library’s guidelines or ask the instructor whether to exclude inappropriate ones Consider sponsorship—if the candy company sponsored a study that shows chocolate is a health food, perhaps it wasn’t a good study! DO NOT use popular print or online magazines or books (Newsweek, Cosmo) or self-help or politically/ideologically motivated sources. This is a SCIENTIFIC research paper and its sources should meet standards of science. If you get stuck—ask your instructor for help, talk to reference librarians or to your peers who are also doing papers. 3. Developing an Outline/Organization If you know how to develop an outline, that is often useful in ordering, organizing your material you write. A basic outline could include major headings such as the following [please adapt this to YOUR own paper, as appropriate]: Introduction/Topic statement and why it is important Central Issues/Questions or Debates relating to the topic Research on this topic (what do we know?—LONGEST SECTION) You may organize this by the central issues you listed earlier Are there discrepancies or gaps in what we know? Can we draw clear conclusions? If not, why not? What don’t we know about this topic? Key unanswered questions/issues. Questions not yet asked? Emerging or new concerns? Implications for individuals, groups, society, policy? What is the importance of these findings? What are the implications for the groups most affected? Why does this matter? What else needs to be studied in the future? Conclusion/Summary What are the key points a reader should remember? 4. Writing and Citing Sources Paper Format: The paper may have a cover page with a title and your name (this page does not count in the page length requirement) and references at the end, in alphabetical order, with full information required per any established citation format. Pages in between should be numbered, have “normal” 1” margins, use a standard font size (around 11-12 points) and not leave a lot of “white space” to convince me that you’ve met the page requirement. I know all the tricks—I’ve done them all, so don’t try to get around the length requirement. If you have questions, ask them. Start from the outline you have developed (and possibly modified) Try to “plug in” and integrate what you have found in various sources relating to a particular topic Develop sub-headings for topics within the major headings. These help the reader follow the key points. Sub-headings might follow a consistent format, such as Bold/All Caps and Centered as the first level (title?), Bold/Left Justified as the second level, Underlined/Left Justified as a third level, and (if needed) Italics/Left Justified as the 4th level. Remember, these are guideposts and are a good habit to learn for writing for a career. Explain what you mean by statements. Don’t just say “The policy change was a success.” Why and how was it a success? For whom? How do we know? You will get familiar with the material, but the reader of your paper needs to know what YOU know, so it needs to be on the paper you turn in! Assume your reader knows nothing about the topic and you are their expert. Examine and think about the issues –don’t just parrot what others say. Use quotes sparingly—this should mostly be YOUR WORDS. Stringing quotes together is not writing a paper. A strong quote to make a point can be used if it’s not too long. Any quote must be cited appropriately (often including page #) Give yourself enough time to re-read and review and make corrections/changes. Most of the articles you’ll be reading as sources have been edited about 5 times before they are published. As you work on the paper, keep drafts of it in at least 2 places! Nobody has any sympathy any more for “my computer crashed” explanations. What is evaluated is the CONTENT of your paper, and not if it is 12 or 23 (or whatever number) pages long. People write differently. One person takes 1 page to write what another does in half a page You need to communicate clearly enough that the reader/instructor can determine what you know. You may have learned a lot, but if it is not clearly written, you can’t get credit for what’s not on the page If you need writing help, seek it from the Writing Center as soon as possible. No need for any fancy graphics, unless you enjoy that sort of thing. No credit for this and it won’t “make the page count” since I will disregard it. Keep a copy of the paper securely stored and turn one in, via the format required. Be aware (if you’re tempted) that programs easily can discover if your paper is lifted form other student papers in its database or from published material. Don’t even go there.
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