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Writing a Research Paper or Thesis

Two excellent comprehensive web sites on writing are Purdue University's Owl Writing Lab and the Writing Center at Colorado State University

You've been assigned to write a research paper. Now what? Here are some suggestions to help you through the process.

Define and refine your topic

Need an idea?  Take a look at the book 10,000 Ideas for Term Papers, Projects, Reports and Speeches (third edition, 1991) in the Stewart Library Reference LB 1047.3 .L35  or try these suggestions from Rivier College.

Another good source for ideas is CQ Researcher, available at the Reference desk and online to WSU students. This weekly magazine covers topics of current interest and often controversial issues.

Use our Research Tips and Techniques Guide to learn about search strategies

Get background information

Reference books such as encyclopedias and handbooks can provide good background information. Check the Stewart Library Catalog for information on your topic or ask Reference staff for assistance.

For argumentative papers or information on current, controversial issues use CQ Researcher for background on your topic.

For background information on an author, try Literature Resource Center.

Find periodical articles (newspapers, magazines, journals)

Use our guide for Finding articles to get started. Stewart Library subscribes to many databases, some with full text articles which may be read online. Most of our databases may be accessed at home by WSU students and staff.

Some professors will require that you use scholarly journals. Some databases, such as JSTOR and PsycInfo, include only scholarly sources. Some, like Academic Search Premier, allow you to limit your search to peer reviewed or refereed sources (which are generally considered scholarly). See our guide on scholarly vs. popular articles. Need help? Ask Reference staff for assistance.

Search the Internet

Google isn't the only search engine you can use to find information although it is probably the best known one. Be sure to take a look at their advanced search tips for more effective searching. Stewart Library's guide on search engines offers some additional options.

Read and Evaluate

Carefully evaluate the information you have found. Use these criteria.

Organize, Write and Cite

Documenting or citing the sources you have used is a critical part of the research process. Without properly citing your sources, you run the risk of plagiarism.

Writing a Thesis or Thesis Proposal

Some good online guides to writing a thesis proposal may be found using Google. Although written for specific schools, general guidelines in each may be helpful. WSU's botany department also has guidelines.

To find theses or master's projects written for Weber State University, search the Stewart Library Catalog using the general keyword option and the search terms <master's project weber state> or <thesis weber state>


Updated March 5, 2009 . Please send comments to Fran Zedney
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Stewart Library - Weber State University - Ogden, Utah 84408. (801) 626-6403 - Copyright © 2008 ALL Rights Reserved