Prewrite

Writing a good research paper depends on the quality of your research. The quality of your research depends on the quality of your resources.

Review your essential question and topic. Knowing the reason for your research is the most important hurdle you must jump before you begin to gather resources. Here are some resources you might use:

  • Books:
  • Be sure to check for more recent publication dates to insure up-to-date information.
  • Newspapers and Magazines:
  • Many libraries carry past editions of newspapers on microfilm and many newspapers offer searchable databases online. Your librarian can also help you use indexes to magazine articles by topic in print and online.
  • People:
  • Personal interviews are often overlooked as a source of information, yet can sometimes yield some of the best material for your report.
  • The Internet:
  • Learn proper methods for searching and choose a search engine that is reputable. Carefully evaluate any information found online.
  • Encyclopedias:
  • Print versions are sometimes dated. Look for CD versions or online versions of the printed counterparts— these are constantly updated and thus contain current information.
  • Atlases, Almanacs, and Yearbooks:
  • These resources are great for locating statistical information and background data.

As you evaluate each resource, ask yourself if it contains information essential to your topic or if it helps you solve the stated problem. Remember, not all information is important, relevant, or reliable. This is especially true with information found on the World Wide Web.

Ask yourself the following questions as you decide what resources you will use:

  • Is the information well researched?
  • Is the author an expert on the subject?
  • Is the information relevant to my topic? Just because you find an amazing story or fact doesn't mean it needs to be included in your paper. All information and sources must be related directly to your topic.