Tips on Writing a Research Paper
You're barely back from vacation and your teacher asks you to do a report
or a research paper on a current issue. You believe strongly in the right
to life and so you’d like to do your paper on some aspect of the
abortion issue. But where do you start?
Of course, you'll still have the responsibility to write the paper,
watch your grammar, and turn in your paper in a timely fashion. But the
links on the right will provide you with the kind of accurate information
and arguments you need to prepare a top-notch paper. Here's some practical
advice and suggestions on how to think through assembling your paper.
Some Hints on Choosing a Topic
Deep or Wide? – Do you want to give your reader
a general background on the topic or do you want to write in-depth on
one aspect of the debate? If you choose to go general, you'll basically
just be introducing the topic and outlining some of its broad ramifications.
But you can still show why the issue is important and address some of
the most salient facts. For example:
- The number of abortions
- The significance of that number
- The reasons women have abortions
- Who has abortions
- The profits that drive the abortion industry
- A sense of the humanity of the unborn child
Life has many facets – If you decide you want
to look at one issue in depth, there are many possible topic areas.
- The humanity of the unborn child – fetal development photos
- Discuss a baby's first months in the womb
- Study stem cells
- Partial-birth abortion
- Discuss the history of the right-to-life movement
- Report on Missing Persons - Abortion's Economic Impact
- Describe Abortion's Impact on Minorities
Doing Your Research
Write it down – When you find some information
relevant to the topic you've chosen, write down exactly what your source
says and fully document the original source. That means saying no more
and no less than what the source says. Indicate the author, the name
of the article, the publication, the date, and any further publication
If you cite Roe v. Wade or any of the other High Court abortion cases,
make sure you characterize these correctly by checking Supreme Court
Assembling Your Information
- Assemble Your Sources – Get all your notes
and resources together. Take a look at what you've got. Are there any
gaps in your research? If you're looking at the history of abortion,
do you have the information on The History of National Right to Life,
and Wisconsin Right To Life, a key participant in the battle over abortion?
- Think through your arguments - What are the points
you need to emphasize to best make your case? What is the logical order
of your arguments? Do you have evidence for the arguments you intend
- Outline your Paper - Your teacher may be your best
guide here and he or she probably has a specific format in mind. It's
often as simple as identifying your thesis, lining up the main points
of your argument, supplying the evidence you need to make those points,
and then summing up your research in a conclusion.
- Factsheets – Factsheets such as the Teens & Abortion:
Why Parents Should Know and The Pain of the Unborn not only supply
you with the facts, but also provide good examples of how a topic can
be organized and can help you spotlight the strongest and most relevant
Writing Your Paper
- Pay attention to the basics - You may have a great
argument and possess the most compelling evidence. But if you can't
express it in a clear and concise way, you'll impress no one. Follow
standard rules of grammar so that subjects and verbs agree, sentences
don't run on, proper nouns are capitalized, etc. Check your spelling.
Have someone else read your paper or read it out loud to see if any
phrases or sentences are jarring or confusing.
- Know your audience - Quotes from Scripture, Pope
John Paul II's "Gospel of Life," etc. may fit in nicely to
your paper if you are encouraging people of faith to take up the right-to-life
cause. In a public school, however, it may be more effective to argue
the right-to-life cause from a human rights or civil rights perspective.
Not everyone recognizes the same religious authority, but your teachers
will take note of material from medical texts and journals about the
development of the unborn child or abortion's physical and psychological
effects on women. (Problems
- Stick to the Facts - If you don't have a source
for some statement you want to make, don't make it. If you have conflicting
sets of data, get the sources for each one and see which one holds
Know the difference between an "assertion" and
an "argument." "Abortion hurts women" is
an assertion. It may be true enough, but once you make this assertion,
you must back up your point with argument and evidence.
Resist the temptation to relate personal anecdotes unless they
are absolutely relevant and be careful about unwarranted extrapolations.
- Keep your cool - Never personally attack and avoid
hyperbole. Give opposing arguments their due both because that is being
intellectually honest and because it tells your teacher he or she does
not need to view your solid counter-evidence with suspicion.
Can we guarantee you'll get an A+ on your research paper? Sorry, no.
A great deal of that is still up to you.
But with links found here and at National
Right to Life Educational Trust Fund, you'll have the ideas and
information you need to address some of the hottest topics in America
today. You'll be better and smarter for it. And that's what education
is all about.
--BY Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. and Joe Landrum
Dr. O'Bannon is National Right to Life Education Trust Fund director
of education and research, and Joe Landrum is administrative assistant
for NRLC public information.