Be a minimum of 2,800 words in length. The word count includes, cover-page, title, abstract, author information, running header, footnotes, endnotes, section titles and bibliography.
Write a paper as you would eat a 3 or 5-course meal (i.e. in sections). You do not eat the appetizers with the desserts. Your paper should have clearly identifiable sections (e.g. introduction, header (sections), conclusion, bibliography/works cited)
Your paper should be double line-spaced, have 1” margins, with a regular font, e.g. Times New Roman. I will count the words (Word Count, Microsoft Word).
Remember the (my) rule of thumb regarding research: i) if you weren’t there when it happened; ii) if you read about it (or heard about it) from somewhere/someone; iii) if it did not happen to you, or iv) if it is not in the public domain (for example, you don’t need to cite that Paris is the capital city of France, but you would cite that George W. Bush labelled North Korea, Iran and Iraq “the axis of evil”. If any of these four conditions are true, you must cite the information. Not doing so is plagiarism (Latin: kidnapping of ideas) and is absolute academic death. The citation style for the Department is Chicago (see: http://www.owl.purdue.edu).
Your research paper should have no more than 3 (maximum) electronic (that is, website, e.g. New York Times, or Fox News, or CNN) sources. This is research.. The least rigorous materials in your paper should be policy briefs or position papers (generally and often published by Think Tanks, such as Brookings, the Hoover Institution, CATO, or CSIS). Just because it is on the Internet doesn’t mean it is true.
Your paper makes an argument and/or advances a position. In other words, when someone reads a paper, they (and you) should be able to answer the question: so what? (Sometimes your arguments answer the question: why? E.g.: Why the US should intervene in Syria). At the end of the paper, the reader should have a clear idea of your position, the strengths of the same, and some of the down-sides of the position that you take on an issue. [Remember that some papers will also be simply informative].
Research is objective. You should always use the third-person voice. For example: “this research seeks to highlight the experiences of young African Americans who seek careers in international development…” rather than “I want to understand what I, as a young African American, will encounter in…”
Oftentimes referred to as the cover page, this section is where you indicate the title of your research, your name, institutional information and a few other relevant information prescribed by your instructor. I generally have no use for a cover page.
Topic & Identifying Information
Should you forgo a cover page, your paper should still have your topic clearly spelt out, and identifying information (your name, the course, the semester etc). For papers that then have a “running header”, ensure that it is a running header. Some students will insert a page break at the bottom of the page and force a “fake” header. (You can skip this by using the “Insert ? Header & Footer) Menu function in Microsoft Word.
Abstract: Some research papers will have an abstract. If you choose to have one, an abstract is a concise summary of your paper (<250 words). It includes: thee issue (e.g. the war in Syria), its importance, some current literature on the issue, the research design you will use to explore the issue (for pure research), the findings (after you explore the issue), the conclusions (after exploring the issue, what are the findings and what can you conclude). In short papers, you can omit it.
Introduce to your reader the “problem” by providing a brief background of your research. Include the basic reasons how and why you came-up with the problem, and why the issue is important (for example, who it affects, what is the magnitude, when the problem started, some of the work going on/done about the issue, etc.). You can also lay out how you intend to go about tackling the issue, that is, summarize the purpose of the research paper.
Body of your paper
Unless you are doing the kind of research that has a hypothesis that you are testing, this will be the meat of your paper. It will involve examining what the current state of the issue is – restate the importance, the origins, what has been done about the issue, the different complicating factors, the different theoretical and practical issues ongoing, the contending perspectives, the suggested remedies, stuff like that. For informative (rather than pure research, theory-testing, theory-making research), this part generally reads like a literature review (basically, what information exists on this subject?) Make sure that your research materials are from credible sources such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles, policy briefs, position papers. Make sure that your reading materials are directly relevant to the topic of your research paper. Always cite the authors whose work you use. Keep in mind that this is where you lay out your arguments (for example, if you are suggesting that the US should intervene in Syria, here, you lay out arguments for foreign intervention, the examples of where the US has intervened and succeeded, why intervening in Syria would look like those successes, the arguments against intervention etc). Although it is counter-intuitive, also highlight arguments that go against the position that you take on an issue.
Your (and their) Arguments
The body of the paper (some call it the literature review) will often examine certain arguments (for example, why the US should intervene). In more academic/ally serious papers, you might see a conceptual (theoretical) framework (i.e. what theory informs a specific position). You can choose to examine a theory, its application, and how it has succeeded (or not succeeded). Here, you can propose another theory (or another approach) to resolve an issue. So this would be a good place to articulate new information, approaches, theories and other related issues you are proposing.
provide a conclusion to your research paper. At the end of your research, what is the position you take, what ideas are you advancing, what should your audience know about the issue you highlighted? Between the introduction and the conclusion, a person should understand approximately 60% of the content of your paper. Be concise. If you think that there ought to be other things done to resolve the issue, here might be a place to say so, using the first-person voice.
References / Bibliography / Works Cited Page
This section is where you list down all the academic materials you have used as sources of information in your research paper. There are very specific reference / bibliographical styles and you should not mix them. References and citations must be properly written out. Some students will for example list a website with no other information. Refer to the citation charts for guidance as to the appropriate way to cite!
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