Skip to Main Content


Designed for art students, this guide takes you through the Library’s resources to improve your research.

How to write a research paper

How to write a research paper


This guide is designed to help you through the process of writing a research paper.

This is a general guide, so and may vary from your classroom assignments. As always, refer to your professor and syllabus for your project requirements. 

Major Components of a Research Paper

Major Components of a research paper


As you engage in the research process, you will encounter the following major components.  

Though the order may differ from what's listed below, these are vital pieces of conducting sound research. 

  • Select Topic
  • Ask Questions / Inquiry
  • Conduct Preliminary Research
  • Gather & Evaluate Sources
  • Freewrite
  • Build Works Cited page
  • Complete Draft
  • Workshop Draft for Structure & Voice
  • Revise & Refine Draft
  • Finalize Paper for Submission

Developing a Topic

Developing a Topic


Narrowing Your Topic

Narrowing your Topic


Consider these questions:

  • What subjects or ideas interest you?
  • What kinds of life experience do you have?
  • What kinds of issues have affected you or people you care about?
  • Do you have a passion about an idea, a question, a subject? How can you explain or describe it such that others might be passionate about it as well?
  • Does your subject have an edge? Does the topic have passionate supporters and opponents as well as being logical and reasonable. Is it debatable. Is it an unsolved problem?.

These questions may generate ideas. Next brainstorm. Which topics are most worthy of your time? Why is your topic significant? What angle might you take to fulfill the requirement: informative, persuasive, etc. Consider making your topic specific. For example:

What are the unique benefits of art therapy?

Avoid over-done topics. When you are narrowing your topic choices, try to choose something fresh and interesting.

Research Topic

Research Topic


Research Your Topic

Write out your research question or thesis statement. Underline words that you believe best represent the main ideas.

What are the benefits of art therapy?

Second, create a list of synonyms for each word you underlined and use these terms to search for resources.

help OR improvements
mental health
painting OR drawing

You can add additional terms as you survey what is available:

help OR improvements AND painting therapy
painting or sculpting or drawing

As you gather resources be sure to evaluate the resources!

Check out the Searching Strategies for Websites and Databases for more tips.
Check out the Evaluating Resources page to avoid choosing bad sources for your projects!

Using Resources

Using REsources


Once you have gathered a variety of sources, begin to synthesize what you have found.  Look them over and determine how they fit together and relate to your topic.

  1. What am I trying to say? Do my sources support my ideas?
  2. How does the information from your sources align with your claims? How well does the information tie together?
  3. What ideas seem most common within the information you have gathered?
  4. What pieces should be used as quotations? What should be paraphrased?
  5. How much statistical information do you want to give? How many examples? What are the best examples to use?
  6. How does this meet the requirements of the assignment? Does it support the purpose of the paper?

Citations & Bibliographies

Citations & Bibliographies


There are many reasons to provide references to the sources that you use:

Your audience may want to know how to investigate your topic further. By providing your resources you are helping others who are interested in the same topic. Also, you want to give proper credit and attribution to published researchers or writers. Plagiarism is a serious offense.  

Here is a definition of plagiarism:   Plagiarism is appropriating someone else's words or ideas without acknowledgment. To understand plagiarism we must consider two questions: (1) How is plagiarism like or unlike theft— (2) Why is plagiarism considered wrong; why should we acknowledge the originator of an idea. (Encyclopedia of Ethics. London: Routledge, 2001. Credo Reference. 17 April 2009 <>.)

College writing and oral presentations should provide your audience with verbal cues to the information you have used: the SOURCE where you found your information. (This might be an interview, scholarly article, book,or  website, etc.); the AUTHOR, when available, and the DATE when your source was published or accessed (for web sources and interviews).

  1. Use quotation marks to attribute words of another person on your note cards. You can express quotations in your speech in several ways.
  2. Provide credit or citation such that the audience can trace back to the original source.
  3. Paraphrasing the main ideas WITH correct attribution.  A paraphrase will replace some of the words while keeping the main idea of the original work. 

For helps in citing properly you may wish to visit OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab 

Page Bottom