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HCTC Library Orientation and Research Guide: Write Your Research Paper

This guide is meant to help HCTC library users locate and use library resources and aid them in their research.


Most research papers will follow a similar format:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited/References


A thesis statement is the main idea of your research paper. It is the point around which your entire argument will support/prove/return to. Here are some hints and tips for writing a thesis statement (and sticking to it!):

  • Ask a question!
    • Answer the question and take a stance on the issue presented.
  • Make sure the topic is interesting to you, if you are bored your readers will be bored.
  • Make sure the topic fits the length required of your research paper.
    • Can this topic be addressed in the assigned range of 3-5 pages? If not, you may need to change your topic.


The body of your research paper will include your main topics, typically one main topic per paragraph and supporting information and examples.

The body is where you will include your sources. There are a few ways to use sources in a paper.


Paraphrasing or summarizing a source quotations can be a good alternative to overusing direct quotations in a research assignment. It is also a useful skill when synthesizing information to demonstrate understanding of the material. Paraphrasing or summarizing a source means to explain the idea of the source quote without using the exact language of the source or to explain it in simpler terms.

Paraphrased or summarized sources still need to be cited. 

Direct Quotations:

Direct quotations of sources should be used sparingly, especially long, block quotations and only when they contribute to the scholarly aspect of your research paper in a greater way than summarizing the source can. Directly quoting a source means to use the exact language of a source.

  • In Paragraph

When using a short direct quote, less than four lines of text, the quote can be incorporated into the paragraph, bracketed by quotation marks followed by the in-text citation appropriate to the source. 

  • Block Quotes

For direct quotes longer than four lines of text the quote should be separated from the prior paragraph in the form of a block of text, formatted according to the citation style your instructor prefers and followed by the correct in-text citation.

Always, always, always attribute credit to the original author of a source used. Avoid plagiarism!


A conclusion should not repeat everything you wrote in the body of your essay.

Synthesize don't summarize the content of your essay for your conclusion. 

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary's (2018) English Language Learner definition, synthesize is a verb which means to combine (things) in order to make something new.

You can also use the conclusion to ask questions that you weren't able to answer or that need further consideration. This allows future researchers who read your essay to build on, respond to, or correct your thesis.


Outlining can help organize ideas/arguments for a research assignment.

Our assignment requires three MAIN TOPICS to support our research question: "What are the mental health effects of the collapse of the coal mining industry in southeastern Kentucky counties?"

I. Main Topic 1: Coal industry has significantly declined in southeastern Kentucky counties in recent decades.

II. Main Topic 2: As a result of the industry decline, unemployment has risen.

III. Main Topic 3: Unemployed coal miners, and the families they support, struggle with negative mental health effects.

Each main topic needs supporting information/examples (at least one source).

Try It!


  1. A thesis statement is the main idea of your research paper.
  2. When using information from another source:
    • summarize
    • paraphrase
    • directly quote
  3. Outline your research assignment by breaking down your main topics and corresponding supporting information, examples, quotes, and sources.

Research Flowchart

Tips for Outlining Your Paper

Creating an outline for research papers: three types of outline. An alphanumeric outline will be organized beginning with the main topic and then narrowing down that topic using supporting information, examples, and quotes. Students will continue this pattern until they have reached their conclusion. A full sentence outline is similar to the alphanumeric but instead of using keywords or subject terms you will write full sentences to outline your paper. You need to express supporting information in full sentences as well. Examples will be explained in full rather than noted in shorter terms. Type out the full quotation. A full-sentence outline may look like your first draft. Finally a decimal outline is a to the point outline using numbers like 1.0 and then 1.1 for supporting information, 1.1.1 for the first example., 1.1.2 for the second example and continuing that pattern.

Web Resources for Writing Your Paper