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Writing Center

If you are thinking: I’m not really sure how to use my research

In a research paper, ideas and information from your research are used to support the claims that you make in your paper.


The best research papers are written when a student has genuine questions about a topic or issue.

The writer then searches for answers to those questions in online sources and print materials. The writer reads and considers all of the information gathered, and only after the research is complete formulates a final conclusion about the topic. This all happens in the Prewriting step of the writing process.

Once the writer has formulated a conclusion, she then can move to the organizing step. The conclusion (or answer to the research question) becomes the main idea of the paper, and the information from research becomes the support for that idea.

In making a case for a main idea, don’t throw away ideas that do not support your conclusion. Instead present “counter arguments” in your paper, and explain why these positions are not persuasive answers to your original questions.

The University of North Carolina Writing Center offers detailed information on using your research to support your argument and to offer counter arguments.

Quotation or Paraphrase?

Once you determine how you want to use the ideas from your research, you will need to decide whether to represent those ideas in your own words (paraphrase) or in the words of your source (quotation). This is an all or nothing question. If you choose paraphrase, ideas need to be 100% in your words. If you choose to quote, the quotation must be 100% accurate. Always use quotation marks to indicate when language is not your own.

Use quotation only if:

  1. The person is well-known or who said it is as important as what was said.

  2. OR

  3. The way it is said is particularly significant, clever, or succinct.

If you quote, make your quotation brief, and don’t let a quotation substitute for your own analysis or discussion.

A good guideline is to write twice as much about a quotation as the length of a quotation. (So if you are tempted to quote a whole paragraph, it should be a paragraph that is so important that you would need to write two similarly long paragraphs about the significance of that quotation to your argument or topic).

For more information on quoting and paraphrasing ideas from sources check out this page from the University of Wisconsin writing center.