There's a ton of information available online about writing papers for college classes, mostly provided by college and university writing departments. But when your political science or biology or economics instructor assigns you a research paper, writing the paper is only half the battle. Before you can start writing, you have to explore the subject to find a topic, locate relevant information, analyze the issues and organize your arguments. These activities take more time and require different skills than the final step—writing the paper. And many students haven't had a lot of formal training in how to do research and prepare information for writing a "research paper."
Librarians provide a lot of help to students in the exploring, finding and organizing phases of their writing projects. They've done research on how students approach these tasks, how they feel while they're doing them, and what kinds of activities lead to a successful research paper (Kuhlthau, 1993 and 1994).
The paper is your final product, but a research paper involves an extensive process before you can generate the product. The Step by Step section will guide you through this process from getting the assignment to writing the paper.
A+ Research & Writing for high school and college students was created by Kathryn L. Schwartz