Writing a Paper about an Environmental Issue?

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Are you a student tasked with writing a research paper on an environmental issue? These few tips, along with some hard and focused work, should get you most of the way there.

1. Find a topic

Look for a topic that speaks to you, that grabs your attention. Alternatively, choose a topic about which you are genuinely interested in learning more. It will be a lot easier to spend time working on something of interest to you.

Here are some places you can find ideas for a paper:

2. Conduct research

Are you using internet resources? Make sure you can assess the quality of the information you find. This article from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab is useful to help with assessing the quality of your sources.

Print resources are not to be neglected. Visit your school or city library, learn how to use their search engine, and talk to your librarian about accessing the resources available.

Are you expected to constrain your sources to primary literature? That body of knowledge consists of peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals. Consult your librarian for help with accessing the proper databases to reach those articles.

3. Follow instructions

Carefully read the handout or prompt given to you and which contains instructions about the assignment.

Early in the process, make sure you choose a topic that will satisfy the assigned requirements. Once half-way through the paper, and once when it’s done, check it against the instructions to make sure you didn’t drift away from what was required.

4. Start with a solid structure

First craft a paper outline with your main ideas organized, and a thesis statement. A logical outline will make it easy to gradually flesh out ideas and eventually produce complete paragraphs with good transitions between them. Make sure all the sections serve the purpose of the paper outlined in the thesis statement.

5. Edit

After you have a good draft produced, put the paper down, and don’t pick it up until the next day. It’s due tomorrow? Next time, start working on it earlier. This break will help you with the editing stage: you need fresh eyes to read, and re-read your draft for flow, typos, and a myriad other little problems.

6. Pay attention to formatting

Along the way, check that you are following your teacher’s formatting instructions: font size, line spacing, margins, length, page numbers, title page, etc. A poorly formatted paper will suggest to your teacher that not only the form, but the content is of low quality as well.

7. Avoid plagiarism

First, make sure you know what plagiarism is, you can then more easily avoid it. Pay especially close attention to properly attributing the work you cite.

For More Information

Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Writing a Research Paper.