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Research & Writing: Liberal Arts Writing

Help with writing and conducting research, including resources for starting your research

Writing a Research Paper

Research papers are not simply summaries of all the information you have read about your topic. While you should include relevant information from your research, you also must provide your own independent analysis. This is articulated in a thesis statement which provides a summary of the argument you will make in your paper. A thesis statement:

  • Tells the reader your interpretation of the information
  • Tells the reader what to expect from the paper
  • Directly answers any questions posed in the assignment
  • Makes a claim that can be disputed
  • Is typically a single sentence towards the beginning of your paper

For the source of this and more information, see the Thesis Statements Handout from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Using Quotes

You should avoid using too many quotes in your paper - your professors want to see your thoughts and hear your voice. Quotations should only be used if they are very relevant to your argument. In general, most information can be summarized or paraphrased (remember to include citations for all of this information).

Information that does not need to be quoted includes factual information such as dates and numbers, as well as biographical data such as where someone went to school. For additional guidance on when to use quotes, see Using Quotations from the University of Toronto.


Writing a Research Paper - From Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, this helpful site walks you through the beginning stages of the writing process, including questions to ask yourself about your audience and definitions of the different types of research papers. Be sure to also see the links on the left hand side for more help with the writing process.

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources with your summaries of the content and how it fits into your paper. These annotations should be completed after you have read the source and figured out how it factors into your research and argument.

After selecting and reading your sources, create citations for each one and include an annotation (usually anywhere from 150-250 words - check your assignment). You should include the following information about each:

  1. The purpose of the work
  2. A summary of its content
  3. Who the work was written for (i.e. audience)
  4. Its relevance to your topic
  5. Anything unique about the work
  6. Any strengths, weaknesses, or biases in the work

For more information, see How to Write an Annotated Bibliography from the University of Maryland.

College for Creative Studies website