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.
Take a trip to your local library or university library. Although it may seem old fashioned, libraries are chock full of helpful research materials from books to newspapers and magazines to journals. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarian for help either - they are trained in research and know where everything about your topic is located.
All research essays must be documented in certain ways in order to avoid plagiarism. Depending on the topic of your research and your field of study, you will have to use different styles of formatting. MLA, APA, and Chicago are the three most common citation formats and determine the way in-text citations or footnotes should be used, as well as the order of information in your paper.
An easy way to develop your thesis is to make it into a question that your essay will answer. What is the primary question or hypothesis that you are going to go about proving in your paper? For example, your thesis question might be “how does cultural acceptance change the success of treatment for mental illness?” This can then determine what your thesis is - whatever your answer to the question is, is your thesis statement.