Research paper project

Step 1: Choosing your Topic


In this ongoing research paper project, students will:

  • Select and narrow an essay topic.
  • Identify audience and purpose before beginning the process of writing an essay.
  • Formulate a strong, effective thesis statement.
  • Structure an essay using a strong beginning, middle, and end.
  • Develop and organize the topic sentences, the supporting details and specific evidence that support the thesis and essay.
  • Show appropriate development of the essay and the thesis using paragraphs that contain sentence variety and specific, coherent, relevant, and interesting details.
  • Make good use of topic sentences, transitions, and concluding statements within the paragraphs, which better links paragraphs in the essay.
  • Write an essay, approximately 6 double-spaced and typed pages (1,250 words), using proper research techniques and following proper standard MLA guidelines.
  • Include 4 to 7 relevant, quality sources in your works cited page.
  • Revise to ensure appropriate development with specific attention to cohesion, support, and organization.
  • Revise to include varied, interesting, and accurate sentences and word choices.
  • Identify the common grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors in an essay and apply the rules of correction to effectively edit.

OWL Online Writing Lab Resources

Research Paper Project – Step 1: Choosing a Topic

For this lesson, you need to choose a topic for your research paper. As discussed in the lesson presentation, choose a specific topic.

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Thinking about the broad topics that you’re interested in is a great way to choose a specific topic, as we’ve seen with this example. To brainstorm specific topics, choose one or more of the pre-writing activities discussed in the lesson. For example, if you’re interested in computers, start brainstorming ways that computers are used like in this cluster:A diagram with one central circle, representing the main idea, and three smaller circles, representing relevant topics,  stemming from it. The large circle is the main idea, which says "Computers," The first circle stemming from Computers states, "computer-assisted teaching in K-12 social studies classrooms." The next circle branching from Computers says "computer programming for video games." The third and final circle stemming from Computers states "web-based advertising and marketing."

Most likely, it is going to be one of the smaller topics that branch off from the main idea that will make a good topic for your essay. It’s impossible to write just one research paper on “computers” but a student could write a very effective research paper on “online advertising techniques” or “computer-assisted teaching in K-12 Social Studies classrooms.”

Choose a topic that you are interested in learning more about, as you’ll be working with this topic throughout the duration of the course.

If, after reading this lesson and the Topic 3 OWL resources, you have questions about choosing a topic or would like to brainstorm ideas with a tutor in real time, please attend one of Smarthinking’s live (real-time) sessions.

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