Researching and Writing a Research Paper

Submitted by Margaret R. Hunt on Thursday, 12/10/2009, at 10:44 AM


  1. Cast net relatively widely at first, but only so as to narrow the topic down.  Writers (especially undergraduates) almost always start off with too large a topic and underestimate the time it will take to explain and argue it.
  2. Researching a topic (see below)
  3. “Funnel with a lip and long spout” structure.
  • Draw in reader with your interesting first line and succinct statement of the topic/argument
  • Be narrow and focused in the topic and evidence your produce
  • Expand outward at the very end (last paragraph or last few sentences) to explain why your small topic has larger implications



  1. The internet and its discontents
  • go for Google Scholar rather than Google
  • read partisan sources with extreme caution
  • learn to evaluate Wikipedia (some articles are excellent; some are crap.  How do you tell?)
  • DON'T stop with the internet
  1. The FiveCollege Library 
  2. Books and periodicals on the shelfOnline periodicals (subscriptions) (JStor etc.)
  3. Special search engines/databases (Medical (e.g., Medline; Sociological; Legal (Lexis-Nexis)
  4. Journal or Newspapers that often feature stories on drugs
    • New Yorker
    • New York Review of Books (not to be confused with the New York Times Book Review Section),
    • LA Times
    • Atlantic Review
    • London Times
  1. Government Sources (read with care)