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Step 5 - Preparing to Write

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Goal: Analyzing and organizing your information and forming a thesis statement.

Step 1 - Getting Started

Step 2 - Discovering and Choosing a Topic

Step 3 - Looking for and Forming a Focus

Step 4 - Gathering Information

Step 5 - Preparing to Write

Step 6 - Writing the Paper

Feelings: You may feel uncertain where to start or overwhelmed by information, but you also probably see a glimmer of "light at the end of the tunnel" that encourages you.

Thoughts and Actions: Follow the steps below to get an idea of things you should be thinking about and doing, and some of the strategies which will help. Note the type of information search you should be doing at this stage.

Info Search

Info Search iconDon't turn in your library card yet. Be prepared to go back to your information sources to fill in any gaps you find as you analyze and organize your information prior to writing.

5.1 Analyze and organize your information

The word "analyze" means to break something down into its parts. A meaningful analysis identifies the parts and demonstrates how they relate to each other. You may have information from different sources which examines different aspects of your topic. By breaking down the information, you may be able to see relationships between the different sources and form them into a whole concept.

When you're trying to make sense of the information coming out of your research process, you often have to look at it from different perspectives and sometimes have to step back and try to get a "big picture" view. Some ways to do this are to try out different organization patterns: compare and contrast, advantages and disadvantages, starting from a narrow premise and building on it, cause and effect, logical sequence. There are many tools to use in analyzing and organizing research findings, such as webbing, outlining, cubing, mapping—see the linked articles on Organizing Information.

5.2 Construct a thesis statement and try it on for "size"

Before beginning to write the paper, write the thesis statement. Boil down the main point of your paper to a single statement. Hamilton College (Williams & Reidy) gives this explanation of the thesis statement:

A well-written thesis statement, usually expressed in one sentence, is the most important sentence in your entire paper. It should both summarize for your reader the position you will be arguing and set up the pattern of organization you will use in your discussion. A thesis sentence is not a statement of accepted fact; it is the position that needs the proof you will provide in your argument. Your thesis should reflect the full scope of your argument—no more and no less; beware of writing a thesis statement that is too broad to be defended within the scope of your paper.

The article from which this quote is taken also gives some excellent examples of thesis statements for papers in various disciplines. See the Hamilton College article and others in the Links section for Thesis statement.

Another way to summarize the nature and function of the thesis statement is that it is a single sentence, usually in the first paragraph of the paper, which:

  • declares the position you are taking in your paper,

  • sets up the way you will organize your discussion, and

  • points to the conclusion you will draw.

5.3 Weed out irrelevant information

Guess what. Now that you have all those wonderful notes and citations from your research, you're going to have to get rid of some of them! No matter how profound and interesting the information is, if it doesn't relate to and support the thesis you've chosen, don't try to cram it into the paper—just sigh deeply and set it aside. You'll have an easier time writing if you do this weeding before you start.

5.4 Info Search - fill in the gaps

Once you've identified which of your research notes you'll use, you may see some gaps where you need an additional support for a point you want to make. Leave enough time in your writing plan for an extra trip to the library, just in case.

Ready to go on? This way to Step 6

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A+ Research & Writing for high school and college students was created by Kathryn L. Schwartz