Research Papers

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Writing Research Papers (for "beginning writing" classes)

Compiled for the students of Michael Krigline, MA (2005);


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Use the buttons above to visit pages that present sample essays, or information on writing research papers, essays or notes.


Grading scale:    A perfect paper would get this at the top:  4  /  1+2+1  /  2  /  5 (that is, 15 points)
(4 pts) content & overall impression: (do you make an interesting and well-researched point; do you have a good command of English; does it flow well from point to point)
(4 pts) organization: (introduction 1, body 2, conclusion 1)
(2 pts) annotation: (footnotes and bibliography)
(5 pts) grammar (mechanics and the appropriate use of English)


General comment: You can put periods and commas INSIDE or OUTSIDE closing quotation marks, as long as you consistently use EITHER the American or British format (as shown below).


American: He called his mom “Oma,” and called his girlfriend “Tootsie.”* His sister said, “He had a special term for everyone.” *Note that a footnote reference would go here, after the closing quotation mark. See R15.


British: He called his mom “Oma”, and called his girlfriend “Tootsie”.* His sister said, “He had a special term for everyone.” *Note that a footnote reference would go here, after the period. In either the British or American format, there is a space after the reference number. See R15.

The following "codes" are used when I grade research papers in my beginning writing classes. If you avoid these problems, it will help you write better papers (including the thesis English-majors must write before graduation).

R1. Since there is a space between every line, there should be two spaces (or three, if you prefer) after the title.

R2. Bibliographic entries should contain the same information as footnotes—though the format is a bit different—except that Bibliographic entries do not have page numbers. See the examples below. Please follow the book’s examples for footnote and bibliography citations more clearly when you revise this paper. I DID NOT correct everything for you!! YOU need to figure out what you did incorrectly.


Here are examples of two footnote citations, followed by their Bibliography counterparts. Notice where commas are used, and where periods are used. Also notice where the spaces are. There is a space (or a period) before/after parentheses. There is ONE SPACE before “http”—Microsoft automatically pushes the website address to the next line if it is bigger than the space remaining on the previous line.


Yang Dongping 杨东平, Shēngcún Kōngjiā生存空间 (The Living Space) (Beijing: Xi Yuan Press, 2001) 111-112.

Yang Dongping 杨东平. Shēngcún Kōngjiān  生存空间 (The Living Space). Beijing: Xi Yuan Press, 2001.


(Author unknown) “China's west: much happened, more to expect,” People’s Daily Online (Beijing: Jinbao Electronics Publishing Center, February 06, 2005)

Author unknown. “China's west: much happened, more to expect,” People’s Daily Online. Beijing: Jinbao Electronics Publishing Center, February 06, 2005.

Yes, include “Author unknown” whenever no author is given by your source, but BE SURE there is no author mentioned.

Click on “About Us” on almost any reputable website (look on the bottom of their home page) will reveal publisher information. In this case, it says the address for People’s Daily Online is Jintaixi Road #2, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100733, People's Republic of China, and the publisher is Jinbao Electronics Publishing Center.

I won’t count off if you can’t find things like “Jinbao Electronics…” but you should be able to find the publisher’s name (e.g., People’s Daily Online) a date (if it is a news article), and a complete website address. I won’t count off if you don’t include the tone marks (声调) in your pinyin (DO NOT write them in by hand!). Notice that article titles are in quotes, publications (and book titles) are in italics, and that nothing is underlined.


R3. Pinyin should be separated into words: Shēngcún Kōngjiān 生存空间, not Shēngcúnkōngjiān

R4. Don’t forget that there is almost always a space after a period, comma or colon (except in numbers and Internet addresses)

R5. Watch verb tenses regarding things you report. If an event or survey took place in the past, you should probably use the past tense, perhaps with the past perfect tense to emphasize that a period of time was involved in creating the statistic. E.g., “A 1999 survey showed that divorce had increased to over 25% in Shanghai.” Policies initiated in the past with continuing results might also use past perfect. “Since 1949, the new leadership has established its authority, and new policies have introduced farmers to better ways to use natural resources.”

R6. Block quotes should have more than one sentence (our textbook says “more than four lines”). In general, block quotations should also be made up of complete sentences (but there are exceptions). Block quotations do not need extra blank lines before or after them.

R7. Especially watch the verb tense of your Topic Sentence in each paragraph. What does your paragraph attempt to prove? If it is a general truth, use the simple present tense (but you better have facts to show that it is a general truth). “Costs (always) increase as…” If your facts point to a trend or measurable result, use present continuous or present perfect. “Costs are becoming higher…” “Costs have become higher…” Since it is very difficult to prove that something “always” happens in a certain way, avoid the simple present tense.

R8. The conclusion should be more substantial than it is in a normal essay. You have done some research, and that research should convince you (and hopefully the reader) of something. What is it? What did the research point to? Try to include more than one sentence that evaluates or explains your implication, instead of sentences that merely summarize.

R9. (ref?) means that I think this point needs documentation. However, if you think it is “common knowledge” then just leave it alone. In some cases, I have written this because the sentence does not flow logically with the rest of your paragraph. A unified paragraph should not have several sentences about one thing and then one sentence “tacked on” with a similar, undocumented thought. If you have two ideas that support your topic sentence (which is GOOD), then each idea needs at least two sentences, and you should use an appropriate transition (also, in addition, furthermore, etc.).

R10. Using the ellipsis (three periods) can be tricky. Never start a sentence or a quote with an ellipsis, even if you have left out the first part of a quote. Quotations rarely end with an ellipsis, unless you are trying to emphasize that the author continued talking about this subject (this would end with four periods, and never include a comma or other punctuation before the ellipsis). The reader will assume you are only quoting part of what the author said, and thus he said things before and after what you quote. The ellipsis is mainly used to show that something is left out WITHIN what you are quoting.

R11. The Bibliography can be single spaced, but keep it 12-point type like the rest of your paper. It also needs a hanging indent. Articles (magazine, newspaper, or Internet) should follow the format for One Section of a Book Written by Several Authors (combined with A Book by a Chinese Author if needed). Things from Chinese sources must have Chinese characters.

R12. Articles taken from websites come from somewhere and someone wrote them, at some time (a date or month—or at least a year). You may have to work a bit to find this information, by going up the website’s organization “tree” or looking at the home page. At the very least, you should be able to find out who put the information on the web—what company or person. If you can’t find this information, then perhaps the article should NOT be in a research paper (it doesn’t have the needed credibility—at least not to be a primary source). However, if a part of the information listed in our text (for notes) is not given, leave it out (this does NOT mean: “If you are too lazy to look for the information, leave it out”).

R13. Whatever you said here should be formatted as a direct quote. If this is used as a direct quote, remember that you need the source IN the text, not just in a footnote (if the source is a name, it is good to add the person’s title—it gives him/her more authority: e.g., “…in effective English classes,” according to Wang Chenxi, Professor of English at Peking University. or Lin Tao, writer for The People’s Daily, reports: “Students who…”)

R14. Strong statements (esp. those that a reader might not quickly agree with) need to be either proven (which is not easy) or presented as direct or indirect quotations.

R15. Footnote superscript notations are placed immediately after a word, phrase or sentence (following the comma, closing quotation mark, and/or period if there is one). There is ALWAYS a space after such numbers. See the examples in the “General Comment” section at the top of this handout: an asterisk (*) shows where the footnotes go.

R16. If you are translating Chinese into a direct quote, you should make the English perfect. If you are quoting “bad” English, add [sic] after every mistake in the original text, but don’t change it. E.g.: Lin Tao said, “They gets [sic] their wealth by accepting bribe [sic].” (The correct English would be “They got their wealth by accepting bribes.”)

R17. Just as there are no I/me/my’s in research papers, there should probably not be any we/our’s. This is an objective paper. (Of course, these are all OK in a direct quote.)

R18. When you give me your paper, I only require three photo-copied pages (the first page of three sources). I was therefore surprised when some students gave me eight or more copied pages. I’m sorry I didn't make my requirements clearer. WHEN YOU GIVE ME THE REVISION, please give me ONLY THREE photo-copied pages (one each from three articles; at least one in English; at most one from the Internet). Yes, they can be three of the same pages you already gave me if they meet those requirements!

R.P.=Research Paper
ts=topic sentence
TS=Thesis Statement
ital=italics (put this in italics)

This resource was created for our students under my understanding of "fair use" for educational resources.  

© 2007 Michael Krigline, all rights reserved. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use.

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