In higher education, a research paper is required. Why? As educated students and
In higher education, a research paper is required. Why? As educated students and for the rest of your lives, you want to learn about something of your choice (within guidelines: in this case, from something we read/saw/heard for class). A research paper is the result of your research on what you want to know. A research paper has documentation, which presents where you found your information. In a way it’s as if you say something and someone says, “Prove it” and you show the source. It’s that simple. You begin by having some idea what you want to research/find out about. Try being as specific as possible. The more narrow the topic, the more exact will be your research and presentation of it. You’ve already begun this with step one. Sometimes, however, what we are researching leads to other discoveries. Good. It’s like going for a walk: I’m heading there but take a side-street or different pathway that leads me elsewhere. An important factor is to consider your sources: from where are you getting your information? Some sources are better than others, so go for the best, most reliable or well-known. Example: If you want to know something about writing, ask an English teacher and not the basketball coach. Keep a file of what you collect, and be sure to keep the internet address, for you will also have to create a Work Cited sheet (we’ll get there later and it’s easy) to ‘prove’ where you got your information that someone else can go to for more information or to check what you wrote. You do not need to document or ‘prove’ generally accepted information: when someone was born/died, that Lincoln was the 16th president and was assassinated, that Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature. There are two ways to use your information: a direct quotation, and a paraphrase or ‘putting it in your own words.’ Both must be cited; you must give credit to what you learned and from where you learned it. With a quotation, be sure you get the quotation exactly right. A paraphrase, though in your own words, must also be accurate. When using a quotation, use only what is essential; you may not need all of it. When cutting out some of the quotation, use ellipses points, which are three periods in a row (…). Example: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” With ellipses points, we cut what is not essential: “To be or not…is the question.” If you end with ellipses points, it’s the three points followed by a period. Example: “To be or not….” To paraphrase: “To be or not to be, that is the question” becomes, in your own words, “Like Hamlet said, which is it, to live or die?” Use sources sparingly. Be sure the direct quotation has only what is essential to your topic. The paper is made of your words, not the words of others. The ‘other words’ are used only to support your ideas. What is crucial is that you avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious educational transgression and could lead to expulsion. This is from the required parts of all syllabi: “ if you cheat on an exam or plagiarize someone else’s work, you will immediately receive a failing grade for the course, in addition to any of the above penalties Berkeley College sees fit to impose.” During our term together only a few students have plagiarized. Plagiarism is easy to find. Often the writing is far better than the writing that comes before or after the passage plagiarized. Sometimes unusual or intricate words are used which the student would never use. All I need to do is copy and google a few lines and the source appears. Best is to document more than you need rather than less. Your assignment for this week is to begin research on your chosen topic. Eventually you will write a 5 paragraph paper on this topic. By the end of this week, send me rough drafts of the 3 points you researched. Each paragraph should be around 150 words. In this rough draft, use a direct quotation as well as paraphrasing. Create a proper header (there’s a worksheet on this and there is no reason you should get this wrong). No sentence fragment, no run-on sentences, correct use of capital letters and apostrophes. Proof-read!

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