After you narrow down your subject, create a search strategy, and search for sources—in databases, the book catalog, and the open internet—you will ideally find good quality information (and enough of it!) to answer your research question(s). Here are the steps to take after you retrieve your sources.
Have you found enough information to answer all the questions you have about your subject? If not, you can:
Evaluate Information for Credibility, Timeliness, Objectivity, and Authority. After reading an article ask:
In general, these considerations will determine how (and if!) you present the materials you have found. For instance, if new research provides a new way of looking at an old problem, it is good to know the timeline. If the new research comes from a think tank funded by a political organization, it should be looked at carefully to determine possible biases. Old research, on the other hand, should not be held up as the state of the art, though it may be useful in describing the social or historical context of your paper.
The answers to the above questions help determine how you will present the articles in your paper. In general, you will do one of five things:
Put together a list of the sources for each quote, paraphrase, or summary you intend to use in your paper. In order to fully integrate a quote, summary, or paraphrase into your paper, you need to do four important things:
Using the articles you have found to answer your original research questions will provide a basic outline for your paper. For example, if you start with the research question, “What are the causes of binge drinking among college students?” and you find articles that point to three main reasons (say, academic stress, peer pressure, and a lack of coping skills) then your thesis might look like this:
The causes of binge drinking among students are academic stress, peer pressure, and a lack of coping skills.
Your thesis statement is the road map for your paper. You now know both the substance and the order of your paper. Take quotes, paraphrases and summaries from your sources in order support your thesis. All that remains is for you to write your introduction, present your thesis, arrange your reasons and evidence in a compelling order, and then write your conclusion.
A couple more things to help you go from articles to outlines to your final paper: