Research paper? What image comes into mind as you hear those words: working with stacks of articles and books, hunting the "treasure" of others thoughts? Whatever image you create, it is a sure bet that you are envisioning sources of information--articles, books, people, artworks. Yet a research paper is more than the sum of your sources, more than a collection of different pieces of information about a topic, and more than a review of the literature in a field. A research paper analyzes a perspective or argues a point. Regardless of the type of research paper you are writing, your finished research paper should present your own thinking backed up by others ideas and information.
If you are struggling to come up with a topic that feels “just right,” ask your professor or coworkers/classmates for advice. They will likely have great ideas that, even if they aren’t options for you to choose, can inspire you with new ideas. Asking a professor for help may seem frightening, but if they are worth anything as a professor, they want you to be successful with your work, and will do what they can to make that happen.
Now that you have carefully worked through your evidence, write a conclusion that briefly summarizes your findings for the reader and provides a sense of closure. Start by briefly restating the thesis statement, then remind the reader of the points you covered over the course of the paper. Slowly zoom out of the topic as you write, ending on a broad note by emphasizing the larger implication of your findings.
The good news is, once you reach this point in the process you’re likely to feel energized by all the ideas and thoughts you’ve uncovered in your research, and you’ll have a clear direction because you’ve taken the time to create a thesis statement and organize your presentation with an outline.