International Studies 492

Dr. Joan Serafin
Internship Seminar 103 Old Main
Summer 1997 687-4790

PREPARING THE RESEARCH PAPER--PAPERS DUE AUGUST 15, 1997

Purpose of the Assignment

The research paper is the culminating experience of the internship. It provides students with the opportunity to conduct and present the results of research integrating academic preparation with the field experience. The substance of the research was addressed in the earlier handout on research design. This handout deals with the "nuts and bolts" issues of preparing and presenting the paper.

Length

Papers should normally be between fifteen and twenty-five typed, double-spaced pages in length. Length will vary according to the nature of the topic, the data available, and other factors.

Format

Title Page

The title page must be the first page in the research paper. Follow the format in a style manual such as Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. Make sure that your title is specific enough to convey to the reader at a glance the nature of your topic.

Abstract

The abstract follows the title page. Its purpose is to give a brief summary of your paper. The abstract should be numbered as page ii in each copy of your paper; the twenty loose copies of the abstract will be circulated to the other interns, department faculty, and other interested individuals prior to the final seminar.

Even though the abstract comes right after the title page, you should probably write it last. It should contain a sentence or two on each of the major headings in the outline of your paper. In no case should the abstract exceed one single-spaced typewritten page in length.

Table of Contents

The table of contents follows the abstract. It shows the major headings and subheadings in the paper. The table of contents should read like a short outline of the paper.

Page Numbering

The preliminary pages are numbered in small Roman numerals beginning with p. ii for the abstract. The title page is considered page i, but is not numbered. The body of the paper is numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals placed in the upper right hand corner of each page. Pages containing notes and references continue the Arabic numbering of the body of the paper.

Body of the Paper

The body of the paper begins right after the table of contents. Center the title in upper and lowercase letters about two inches below the top of the page. It should not be underlined. In the upper right hand corner of this and the following pages should be a page number. Make this page 1. The body of the paper should be typed double-spaced. Long quotations (i.e., quotations of more than three lines) should be indented and single-spaced. Margins should be at least one inch on all sides.

Major Sections of the Paper

Normally, any major research paper contains at least the following major sections: Introduction, Literature Review, Procedures (or Methods), Findings, Analysis, and Conclusion. These major divisions should be reflected in both your outline of the paper and the paper itself. Write the paper section by section.

Introduction

The introduction includes a general description of the problem or issue you are addressing. A clear statement of the paper's topic is essential in every paper and should come early so that the reader knows what the paper discusses. This is a serious omission in many papers.

The introduction also explains why this topic is important or interesting. Explain your reasons for studying the topic. One way to approach this is to place the topic into a social, historical, or an academic context.

Finally, the introduction should contain a preview of the paper's sections and their sequence. A paragraph which serves as a "roadmap" to the paper can be extremely helpful to both the writer and the reader.

Literature Review

In the literature review, you must articulate carefully what is already known about your topic area. What has been done in this area by previous investigators? More ambitious literature reviews go beyond summarizing what has been said about a topic; you may wish to evaluate previous studies and say how your approach to the subject will be an improvement. The amount and complexity of the material presented in this section depends upon the topic and your goal.

Procedures

The section on research procedures explains your research in detail. What exactly are you looking at? How do you intend to proceed? What are the advantages and the limitations of the procedures you have selected? Make absolutely clear to the reader what it is you are trying to explain and what you think will help to explain it.

Findings and Discussion

The findings section is where you present the results of your research. It is in the discussion section that you make your major contribution to the paper. Evaluate your findings in light of the previous findings discussed in the literature review.

Summary and Conclusion

The summary and conclusion summarizes your findings and suggests implications for future research. This is also the appropriate place for recommendations or personal evaluations. As a general rule, it is best to keep opinions and advice out of your findings and discussion sections. However, they need not be eliminated from research altogether. If you believe that the personal touch adds to the paper, the conclusion is a good place to add this material.

Headings and Subheadings

One of the best ways to keep both yourself and the reader on track throughout the paper is to divide the major sections of the paper using headings. Label the literature review section, label the procedures section, label the findings section, etc.

In addition to dividing your paper with major headings for each section, you may also wish to subdivide sections with subheadings.

Notes and References

For your research paper, you can cite your sources in three ways: endnotes, footnotes, or with scientific notation. See a style manual such as Strunk and White's Elements of Style for the proper mechanics of each style. You should also include a bibliography at the conclusion of your paper. The bibliography should list all the references consulted for the paper in alphabetical order. Once again, refer to a style manual if you have questions about the proper way to complete a bibliography.

Some Comments on Effective Writing

The clear expression of ideas is the key to effective writing. It is up to you to convince the reader that you have a contribution of substance to offer.

Organization

The first step toward effective writing is organization. The essential issue in organizing the research paper is arranging the topical sections and subsections, i.e., deciding what goes where. It is imperative that you develop a detailed outline of your paper and work from it. The final paper should contain a table of contents which reflects the major elements of the outline, an introduction which includes a "roadmap" to the paper which alerts readers to the nature and arrangement of the specific sections that follow, and headings and subheadings in the paper which reflect the framework set forth in the table of contents.

Style

Although every author must develop his or her own unique style, social science typically rewards authors for being logical, precise, and concise. The basic unit of writing is the paragraph. The progression of paragraphs in a paper should flow logically one to the next. Just as a good paper needs a strong introduction, a good paragraph needs a strong topic sentence. The sentences which follow in the paragraph must all be related to the same topic. (Note: It is rare that a sentence can stand alone as a paragraph. When an idea is introduced, it needs to be developed.) Furthermore, the sentences within a paragraph should flow naturally. That is , the ideas presented in any given sentence should be related to the ideas contained in the sentences which come before and after it.

The Process of Writing

Assume that you will have to write more than one draft of your paper. Good writing requires revision. Your first draft should be devoted principally to filling in the spaces on your detailed outline. Allow yourself to put words down on paper the first time without trying to make them perfect. You can always edit yesterday's awkward writing -- if you wrote the first draft yesterday.

Also, do not expect to write the whole paper at one sitting. Even veteran authors have difficulty composing more than a few good pages a day. Efforts to push it when you are tired or cannot concentrate are likely to result in poor quality work which requires extensive revision.

Once you have a first draft, you can edit for logical flow, precision, and conciseness. Do the major sections flow logically? What about the paragraphs? The sentences? Precision involves careful concern for accuracy. Take each word, phrase, clause, sentence, and paragraph and ask: "Does this say what I mean to say? Could I say it in better words?" Conciseness is achieved by pruning: "Is this really necessary to my discussion? Could I say it in fewer words?"

Try to get someone else to read the paper in both draft and final form. By the time you have completed a draft, you are so familiar with the material that you may have difficulty spotting unclear sentences, confusing paragraphs, faulty arguments, or even misspellings or typographical errors. (Do not, however, expect the volunteer reader to rewrite the paper!)

 

Some Final Hints on Writing Good Papers

Spend time and effort (and perhaps some money) on making the final paper look good. Almost no one likes to read a poorly typed manuscript submitted on cheap paper. The final paper must be carefully typed and proofread. You must write in complete sentences. Spell words correctly. It is difficult to remove all errors, but the final draft should contain very few. Please secure papers with a single staple in the upper left hand corner. Do not use paper clips! I prefer that you not use binders.

I prefer that you write in the first person, active voice. Feel free to use the personal pronoun "I". Although many of you have been taught otherwise, I find referring to oneself in the third person to be stilted. Similarly, the once popular passive voice is (in my opinion) archaic.

There is one pronoun which you should avoid using in formal writing: you. "You" is appropriate in this handout because the handout is informal in tone, and is directed toward a small and specific group of individuals. In formal writing (such as an essay or research paper), the potential audience is unspecified and (possibly) large. Substitute words like "one" for "you" in formal writing.

Do not use contractions (e.g., don't, can't, won't, it's, etc.) in formal writing. Do be alert to using apostrophes to form the possessive form of words other that "its" (e.g., the legislator's staff, citizens' lobby, etc.)

 

The Oral Presentation

The oral presentation is for sharing the results of your research with your fellow interns, the faculty, and any other interested persons who may attend. Presentations must be brief (in the neighborhood of ten to fifteen minutes). I plan to allocate a total of approximately twenty minutes to each person, and this must allow time for discussion.

In preparing your presentation, remember that each person has a copy of your written abstract to refer to, and no one wants to hear you read your paper. Approach the presentation in a conversational manner, as if you had run into a friend on the street and you wished to fill him or her in on what you have been doing. Any notes that you use should be very brief and designed primarily to keep you on track; the point is that no one wants to hear you read your note cards either. By the end of the semester, you should be so familiar with your paper topic that detailed notes will be unnecessary.

The oral presentation, then, should provide us all with a briefing on what you did, why you did it, how you did it, what you found, and an assessment of significance. I will ask each of you to address the link between your academic preparation at Frostburg, your research, and your internship experience.