Specific Instructions for Preparation of a Good Research Paper:
BASICS: The length of the main body of text for an assigned research paper varies according to the course and is usually stated in the course's syllabus. Use wide margins (1" on all sides) and double space for all text except indented quotations, footnotes, references, and/or tables, all of which usually use single space. The paper must be typed on a word processor or personal computer, and on a legible font no larger than a 12 point and no smaller than 10. It should include, apart from the main body of text, the following sections: (a) a title page with the name of your paper, your name as author, the course name and number, the quarter and the date; (b) any appendices, and (c) your list of references or bibliography at the end. The title page, references, and appendices do NOT count in the page number requirement. Please number your pages and make sure your printing is well centered. A minimum of five or so scholarly references (library books & academic journals) is expected, though this figure varies from course to course. Web references and newspapers & popular magazines references may be added to your scholarly references, but not substitute for them. Your paper must reflect a well integrated combination of descriptive (the "what" of the topic) and analytical aspects (the "why" of it); it must be historically grounded and theoretically informed; it should read well - the narrative should be clear and fluid. Finally, it should abundantly display critical thinking and the ability to synthesize on your part.
RESEARCH PROCESS: First discuss your topic with the instructor (bring your top two or three candidate topics to choose from) and after the session, do a very rough outline, identifying the main parts (and sub topics) of your paper: an intro, where you identify your topic (what is your essential question or hypothesis) and any background historical or theoretical information to put your topic in context; a number of substantial sections organized following a certain logic (chronologically, topically, etc.); finally, a conclusion or summary part. Once you have an outline, go collect extensive data and analysis on your topic, guided by it. Don't be surprised you may find, unexpectedly, interesting things you "missed out" in your outline and might also wish to focus on (or instead). So, remake and adjust the outline to integrate these things into a final outline with clear sections and subsections. Once you know what and how much stuff goes where, and you read it all, begin to write, subsection by subsection.
WARNING: REMEMBER THAT PLAGIARISM LEADS TO FAILING. Your analysis should be "in your own words," YOUR UNDERSTANDING; otherwise, insert a quoted text and cite it! But do NOT abuse this with too many or too lengthy quotations.
A good paper is the product of many re-writes, not a single effort of writing all at once. Spell check your paper, there is absolutely no excuse for misspelled words. After you spell check, proof read your paper again for fluidity and logical sense (reading it aloud helps). Are your facts and points accurate? Did you cite all your sources? Are you making sense? Does the paper all comes together?
Obviously, the entire process requires you begin the early stages long before the paper is due. Rewriting requires ample time at the end as well. And do NOT wait to the last minute to print! Printers are inhabited by various sorts of gremlins!
SAVE OFTEN AS YOU WORK and MAKE A BACK-UP FILE OF YOUR PAPER. Computer lockouts happen! Diskettes do get damaged! Do NOT rely on a SINGLE copy of your file - NEVER!!
The following is a general guideline for citing references in the text and bibliography:
1. When an author's name is part of the text, set only the date in parentheses. For example: Beck et al.'s (1987) findings indicate. . . .
2. When an author's name is not part of the text, set both the name and date in parentheses. For example: Attitudes toward taxes are subject to cost-benefit calculations (Beck et al., 1987).
3. If page numbers are relevant to the citation, they follow the year of publication and a colon. For example: Attitudes toward taxes are subject to cost-benefit calculations, especially in terms of economic self-interest (Beck et al., 1987:240). Of course, this will always be the case with quoted text.
4. Quoted text should be indented and single-line if it is extensive; if it is short (a line or two), leave it within the body of the double-line text, but don't forget to insert the full citation as described in (3).
5. For more than three authors, use "et al." For institutional authorship, supply minimum identification from the beginning of the complete citation: (U.S. Bureau Census, 1992:134).
6. If there is more than one reference to an author in the same year, distinguish them by use of letters (a, b) attached to the year of publication: (1984a).
7. Enclose a series of references within a single pair of parentheses, separated by semicolons. For example: (Burris, 1983; Fried, 1988; Staggenbord, 1987).
If you have any questions about references, consult the ASA or MLA styles' manuals, but once you choose one, be consistent. I will be glad to offer any help that I can concerning questions related to your paper. The due date for your paper is a SERIOUS deadline. Do NOT miss it!
Good luck on your work.