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Preliminary Outline Research Paper

As part of your coursework in English 10, you will be writing a research paper similar to the research papers you will be completing in your junior and senior year of high school. To prepare you for this, we will be spending four to five weeks in class on the steps a writer takes in completing the process.

Over this course of time, you will discover that writing a research paper is a step-by-step process. It will make you frustrated and stressed out, but it will not be impossible. And when you are finished? The final product will be something you are proud of. After all, good writing takes time. By the end of this five-week period, you will need to submit the following items in the order they are presented below:

  1. A finished paper
  2. A completed outline
  3. All rough drafts (in the order in which they were created)
  4. All Noodle Tools note cards

General Reminders:

  1. Be willing to participate, work, and ask questions.
  2. Be flexible and patient—surprises DO come up. Just go with the flow.
  3. Take copious amounts of notes.
  4. Bring ALL materials with you EVERY DAY.

Please keep in mind that the majority of this research paper will be paperless and will be submitted via Moodle, Noodle Tools, and Google Docs. Please plan your time accordingly to submit all materials before class begins.


  • Determine what kinds of sources you’ll need.
  • Determine how you will find those sources.
  • Get a sense for how much information is out there on your topic.

A bit of preliminary research will help you plan out, draft, and ultimately write your paper.

First, determine what kinds of sources you’ll need for your paper. The type of sources you need depend on the kind of paper you’re writing.

Primary sources

are first-hand accounts of something that happened. They include things like research studies, diaries, and letters.

Secondary sources

are commentary or analysis. They are normally written by an expert on the topic. Some examples of secondary sources are textbooks, magazines, and academic journals.

Your paper may contain a mixture of primary and secondary sources. Good papers typically have a variety:

  • If you’re writing about the transformation of Renaissance art over time, your sources will probably include paintings (primary) and articles written by art experts (secondary).
  • If you’re writing about differences in the military strategy between the Allied and Axis forces in World War II, your sources will probably be a mix of diaries (primary), newspapers (secondary), government documents (secondary), and expert commentary (secondary).

Once you have an idea of what kind of sources you need, think about the best way to find those sources.

SourceWay(s) of finding
General informationSearch engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo), Wikipedia
BooksGoogle Books
Scholarly articlesGoogle Scholar
Academic websitesSweet Search, Google

Perform a quick search to assess how much volume is available on your topic. Is there enough? Are you able to find credible sources? If not, you may have to refine your topic.

Tip: If you’re writing an English paper, you might just use a single text–the book, play, or poem you’re reading in class