C. Munzenmaier Hamilton College Urbandale, IA

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Stages in Writing a Research Paper

You're probably familiar with the idea that writing is a process. Some people say it has five steps, others four or seven, but there's general agreement that you start by getting ideas, putting them into words, revising, and then sharing your final product.

The writing process is recursive, so you can do it in any order that works. For example, if you run out of ideas while drafting, you can always go back to the planning stage and generate more ideas.

Research is also a process. Although it looks neat on paper, it can be messy in practice. Carol Kuhlthau has identified six stages of the research process. Like the writing process, research is recursive. You might choose a topic and feel optimistic that you'll find lots of good sources. However, you may find too few sources—or too many. At that point, you might find yourself rethinking your topic. That's not going backwards: it's just the way research works.

Kuhlthau's Model of the Information Search Process (ISP)

Stage

Question/Task

Emotion

Initiation

What’s my topic?

Uncertainty

Selection

Narrowing a topic

Optimism

Exploration

Encountering all sides

Confusion

Formulation

Forming a perspective

Clarity

Collection

Gathering information

Confidence

Presentation

Connecting/extending

Satisfaction or disappointment

Figure 1: Kuhlthau's Model of the Information Search Process.
Source: Information search process: A search for meaning rather than answers. Available from Rutger's Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries: http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/Search%20Process.htm

For an alternative model that emphasizes the recursive nature of the process, see Jamie McKenzie's research cycle.

Internet Resources

Using Outside Sources in Your Writing (Colorado State)

Developing an Informed Opinion
Documenting Sources (including APA resources)
Introduction to Research (Taflinger)
Research Resources
Model of the research process (InfoWrite)
  Need more? Go to your favorite search engine and type in a keyword or phrase describing what you need, such as taking notes AND sources.

 









 

 

 

 

Copyright in these materials belongs to C. Munzenmaier © 2007
Teachers are free to reproduce or modify them for educational use. 

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