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.
From the outset, keep in mind one important point: Writing a research paper is in part about learning how to teach yourself.
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You should begin by doing some general reading in the field.
If nothing else, begin with the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a wonderful but sadly neglected resource.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.Those are skills that you will use in any profession you might eventually pursue.To write first-rate research papers, follow the following simple ruleswell, simple to repeat, but too often ignored by most undergraduates.At the beginning of a course, you will probably not know enough about the major scholarly topics that are of most importance in the field, the topics that are most well-covered in the secondary literature or the topics that have already had the life beaten out of them by successive generations of writers.How has a social or political phenomenon changed from one period to another? Why have some countries been more successful in the transition from Communism than others?Why did the Labour Party win the last British general election?How have conceptions of race changed in the US since the 1960s?How do different electoral systems affect the behavior of political parties?After that, speak with the professor about some of your general ideas and the possible research directions you are thinking about pursuing.And you should do all this as early in the course as possible.