The following outline suggests an effective way of organizing a paper (it's just a suggestion):
- Describe the problem;
- Discuss previous work in the field and any necessary background information
- Explain what you did, how you did it, and what obstacles you encountered; or
- Provide specific findings of fact that support your proposed solution or thesis;
- List the resulting benefits, both quantitative and qualitative; and
- If applicable, provide an appendix giving the particulars of any models used or data collected during the research.
In writing your paper, explain your work so readers outside the field can understand it. If you must use a specialized term, abbreviation, or acronym, make sure you define it; write out an acronym or abbreviation the first time it appears and enclose it in parentheses immediately afterwards. Use the active voice rather than the passive, the first person rather than the third. Don't hesitate to take credit or blame for your work.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown:
- Choose an area of interest to you to start your topic selection
- Search for publications—both in print and online—related to your topic
- Narrow your topic to refine your search results
- Formulate a thesis statement to guide your research
- Scan books to see if they are relevantUse the Table of Contents & index to quickly locate useful informationThe table of contents for many books is now available online at the publisher or on amazon.com
- If you find a book you need at Border's or Barnes & Nobles, go to our library and odds are that if they don't have it that they can get it on interlibrary loan.
- Make notes on, or photocopy, interesting passages as you encounter them
- Make notes as you read to capture thoughts, questions, and ideas
- Refine your research question and do further information gathering
- Compose and write down your working thesis or research question
- Review and reflect on work done in the field already
- Construct your argument, with the main points organized in an outline
- Write a rough draft, expanding the outline to fulfill paper length requirements
- Include quotes that support your points
- Revise your rough draft to ensure a strong, logical argument
- Document referenced works by creating a bibliography
- Revise your paper for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors
- Print out the final revision of your paper and bibliography or save as PDF or RTF file as necessary
Please submit your paper typed in 10, 11, or 12-point type (no larger than 12-point), double-spaced, with 1" margins on one side of 8½" by 11" paper. Quotations, figure captions, the list of references, and the abstract should all be double-spaced for ease in typesetting. Devote separate pages to each figure, each table, the list of references, and the abstract, and number all pages after the first. Attach a cover sheet listing the paper title and the name and email address of the author. If submitting electronically, please submit as a PDF file or in Rich Text Format. Most word processors can save as RTF. Your professor may prescribe required or acceptable electronic formats.
Make papers as concise as possible; 15 to 20 pages should be reasonable for a graduate student research paper. Note that your professor may prescribe a different length expectation. Please count only pages containing body text; figures, tables, the abstract, references and bibliography do not toward the page total.
Make your title short and specific. Instead of "Systems analysis and order processing in a multiechelon system," try "Systems analysis speeds telephone orders." When we are told we're going to read about a telephone company, we have a vivid image that includes the notion of a "multiechelon system." Preferably, titles should be five or six words long, never more than 10.
Please write a brief abstract (no more than 150 words) that functions as a miniature version of the paper, setting forth the main points of the paper. The abstract should not be an introduction nor should it be a prediction of what readers will find if they read on. Many people decide whether to read the paper on the basis of the abstract. Write the abstract in a clear and vigorous way in the active voice. Eliminate all unnecessary words. Instead of "This paper describes the application of a vertex coloring procedure to ..." say: "We applied vertex coloring to ....
Please use only one level of heading.
Figures and Tables
Please submit copies of any figures and tables on separate sheets of paper. They should have captions that are interesting, that are written in complete sentences, and that fully explain and interpret the exhibit without forcing the reader to refer to the text. Conversely, the reader should not have to refer back and forth from the text to the figures to understand the paper. You should refer to figures where appropriate with "(Figure 1)," but you should explain the meaning and implications of your data fully in the text. Do not require the reader to interpret the figure to understand what you have done, as in "Figure 1 shows the outcome of this survey." Tables should list information in some obvious logical order.
Cite references in the body of the text: "Thrump (1998) quibbled that ..." or if 1998 was a prolific year for Thrump, "(1998b)." If the author is not cited in the text, then use (Thrump 1998). Alphabetize the list of references according to the name of the first author.
For articles use the form
Smith, James Q. (1978) Title of article. Title of Journal or Periodical, 10(5) 45-50.
Toklas, Alice B. (1947) Book title. Publisher's name, City, State (or Country)
For collections of papers
Beedle, Albert A. (1979) Title of chapter. J.J. Fox, ed. Book title. City, Publisher's name, State (or Country), 556-572
For material online
Bly, Laura (2000) Upstart airfare site beats the big boys. USA Today.com, April 21, retrieved on October 23, 2000 from (www.usatoday.com/life/travel/leisure/2000/ltl227.htm)
Please note that the styles above are standards from the American Psychological Association (APA), very common styles in use for scholarly publications and academic papers. The one exception is that we are asking you to italicize the titles of books, journals, periodicals and web sites rather than underlining as the APA style would require. Note also that the APA style requires indentation of the second lines of citations, and that only the first word of a book title should be capitalized unless subsequent words would otherwise be capitalized (i.e. proper nouns, etc.). Also, if there is no author given for online resources, cite the title.
While Wikipedia is a good starting point for research to get an overview and point you to available resources, you cannot cite or quote Wikipedia in an assignment in IIT's Information Technology & Management curriculum. Wikipedia is a wonderful resource, but due to it's community-edited nature it is not acceptable as a source of material for use for academic writing.
Avoid references to your own publications; you may use your same ideas again without fear of plagiarism. Refer to your previous publications only if the current subject absolutely requires it.
Avoid footnotes. If what they contain is important, it deserves a place in the text. If not, don't distract the reader from what is important. If you really, really feel you have to have footnotes, we'll live with them.
Live, In-Person Help
The IIT Writing Center (web.iit.edu/cac/student-resources/writing-guides/one-one-help-writing-assignments) exists only to HELP YOU WRITE YOUR PAPER. Typically, you will take a project or paper assignment to the center, where a tutor will work one-on-one with you to assist with the writing process. There are tutors there who are especially trained to work with students for whom English is a second language but they certainly will work with anyone. The Writing Center is in Siegel Hall rooms 232 and 233. Students may use sign-up sheets on the doors of SH 232 and 233 to reserve a specific time with a tutor. When possible, the Writing Center also accepts students on a walk-in basis without an appointment.
Reference Librarians at IIT's Galvin Library are there specifically to assist you in your research and preparation of citations. If you have questions about preparation of citations, they are the experts and they are there to help. They also offer classes to help you learn how to prepare a research paper; one will be offered Friday, October 2, 2009 at 12:50pm. In this workshop, Preparing for your Research Paper, a humanities instructor and librarian will walk you through the pre-writing stages of a research paper. They'll show you how to craft a strong thesis statement, find the types of sources your professors require, and begin outlining your paper.
For a fine discussion of writing, read William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White's The Elements of Style, Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, MA.
For definitive guidance for preparation of a research paper in APA style, see the American Psychological Association's Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, Washington D.C.
For a more complete, formal treatment of the process of preparing a paper for publication, see The University of Chicago Press The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
For sound advice on figures, refer to the series of books by Edward R. Tufte: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information and Visual Explanations all by Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT.
Other very useful resources for preparing papers
IIT Writing Center: /cac/student-resources/writing-guides/one-one-help-writing-assignments
57 Tips for Writing Your Term Paper: www.collegeonline.org/library/online-assignments/termpaper-writing.html
50 Ways to Increase Your Chances for an “A” Research Paper: www.rasmussen.edu/articles/research-paper-strategies.asp
Writing Tutorial Services pamphlets, Indiana University: www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets.shtml
OWL at Purdue: The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University: owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/
LEO: Literacy Education Online, St. Cloud State University: leo.stcloudstate.edu/
APA Style (includes tutorials on APA citation styles and bibliography entries): www.apastyle.org/
ITM Research Paper Guidelines: /information-technology-and-management/current-students/resources