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Secondary Students: Invention for Research Writing

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Invention For Research Writing

Writing a research paper is different than creative writing. Research involves looking beyond of what you already know in order to find answers to a question or questions. Therefore, the inventing process for a research paper will look different from the invention process for creative writing.

The First Steps of Research Invention

Identifying your research topic is usually the most difficult part of writing a research paper. The topic is the general idea that the research paper will focus on.

You can begin by reviewing the information contained in the Invention for Secondary Students: Introduction resource.

However, research invention strategies are different than more general writing invention strategies. As you work on your research writing, you should do the following things:

  • Use the work of other people to both support your point, contrast with your point, and add complexity to your ideas. Remember to cite your sources.
  • Look for a topic that other scholars have already researched at least to some extent. Use their ideas as a “springboard” for your own, but work to create your own ideas in your paper.
  • Know that your ideas will probably change as you find more research on your topic.
  • Plan to spend more time writing the research paper than you would if you wrote a reflection paper or an opinion piece. Welcome changing ideas and new ideas from different research sources, but begin early enough so you have time to revise and include the best and most convincing ideas.
  • (If you are writing a persuasive research paper) Include research discussing the opposing viewpoint. Identify the opposing views, and then be sure to spend time discussing why your viewpoint is stronger or makes more sense.

For more information on choosing a topic, please see the Choosing a Topic resource on the Purdue OWL.

When You Begin to Find Sources for Research

There are a lot of articles, encyclopedias, and books in existence. Where can you begin to find the material you need for your topic?

  • Talk with your librarian: Librarians aren’t at your school simply to put books away. They are trained to help you find sources and information, no matter what your topic is.
  • Search through potential books: Don’t worry; you don’t need to read the entire book to find information in it.Learn how to use the table of contents in books to find exactly what you are looking for. Also, with many books, reading the first sentence of each paragraph can give you an idea of what that paragraph is about. If the first sentence of the paragraph applies to your topic, then continue reading the rest of that paragraph.
  • Search online: The internet is filled with tons of information, some of which can be helpful for your research papers. For further information on how to get the most out of internet searches, see the OWL’s page “Searching with a Search Engine.”
  • Search online journals (if available): Online journals are collections of scholarly articles written by some of the top scholars in different academic fields. Although the language might be difficult at times, journal articles can be very credible and helpful. Ask your librarian if you have access to online journals.
  • Wikipedia (as a starting point only): Although Wikipedia has gained a bad reputation in recent years, much of the information on it is accurate and reliable. However, you should only use this information as a starting point. With most Wikipedia entries, writers share the sources used for the information. Try to find the actual sources used to create the Wikipedia article. Then, if that source is useful to you and it is credible, use it!

Tracing Backward to Find Sources

Once you find a source that works well for your topic, see if you can find a “Works Cited” page or information about what sources influenced the author of your particular source. Tracing backward like this can give you a wealth of information. Think of it as someone handing you a list of sources that might work very well with your paper topic.

Evaluating Sources

Be sure that the sources you use are credible. This means that you must find good sources with information you can trust. But how do you know if you can trust a source? Here are some things to look for:

  • Avoid sources with no author. If you find a source with no author, you often cannot know whether or not that writing can be trusted. This is especially true with online sources.
  • Look for authors who are experts in their fields. Find authors who have higher education or who have worked in their field for a while. Avoid choosing a source by a random author who has no credentials.
Date of Source
  • Check to see when the source was published. If you are writing on a topic in which the information has changed in recent years (especially scientific topics), the best sources might be the most recent sources.
  • Look for sources that use evidence or other experts to back up their claims. Avoid sources that simply say an opinion without proving it.
  • Find sources that have trustworthy publishers or organizations behind them. Do not use sources from sites like or Yahoo Answers, since there is no professional organization or publisher backing up the writers’ claims.

For more information about evaluating sources and finding credible sources, see the Purdue OWL’s resources on Evaluation During Reading and Using Research and Evidence.

Citing Your Sources

As you use other people’s writings, thoughts, and opinions in your writing, always remember to cite your sources. This means that every time you use a quotation, opinion, or though of another person, you must give credit to that person and the text that they wrote their thoughts in.

For information about citations according to MLA (Modern Language Association), see the MLA Formatting and Style Guide, or see the APA Formatting and Style Guide for APA’s (American Psychological Association) guidelines, available through the Purdue OWL.