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From the outset, keep in mind one important point: Writing a research paper is in part about learning how to teach yourself.The process forces you to ask good questions, find the sources to answer them, present your answers to an audience, and defend your answers against detractors.If nothing else, begin with the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a wonderful but sadly neglected resource.
Obviously, you need to have a firm grasp of the facts of the case, but you must then move on to answer a serious and important why or how question in the paper itself.
Real research means something other than reading secondary sources in English or pulling information off the Internet. What counts as a primary source, though, depends on what kind of question you are trying to answer.
In your research, you should endeavor to get as close as possible to the events or phenomena you are studying.
But, of course, no one can speak every language and interview every participant in a political or social event.
Follow up the suggested reading on the course syllabus or the footnotes or bibliographies of the texts you are reading for the course.
After that, speak with the professor about some of your general ideas and the possible research directions you are thinking about pursuing.Think of it as a puzzle: Why did a particular political or social event turn out as it did and not some other way?Why does a particular pattern exist in social life?Say you want to write a paper on the causes of Communisms demise in eastern Europe. Or say you want to write about how conceptions of national identity have changed in Britain since the 1980s.You would begin by reading some general secondary sources on the collapse of Communism, from which you might surmise that two factors were predominant: economic problems of Communist central planning and Mikhail Gorbachevs reforms in the Soviet Union. In this case, you might examine the speeches of British political leaders, editorials in major British newspapers, and voting support for the Scottish National Party or other regional parties.Most university courses involve some sort of extended writing assignment, usually in the form of a research paper. Long after you leave college, you will continue learning about the world and its vast complexities.Papers normally require that a student identify a broad area of research related to the course, focus the topic through some general background reading, identify a clear research question, marshal primary and secondary resources to answer the question, and present the argument in a clear and creative manner, with proper citations. There is no better way to hone the skills of life-long learning than by writing individual research papers.How do different electoral systems affect the behavior of political parties?The point is that you should attempt to identify either: Professional social scientistshistorians, political scientists, sociologists, international affairs expertswork on both these kinds of questions.requires the author to do no more than list facts and datesa good encyclopedia entry, maybe, but not a good research paper.What and when questions are only the starting point for writing research papers.