Students (and some times teachers!) tend to dread “the research paper” that is often tacked on at the end of freshman composition classes. Maybe it will help if you think of research as the process of trying to find out information, and that process is a part of almost every writing project, even memoir. If you don’t use research, then you limit yourself as a writer to what you already know, the contents of your brain right this minute.

Research can mean going to libraries to find books, or doing a quick google search, but it can also mean watching a documentary about a historical event or making observations at a work site or talking to a homeless person. Research means educating yourself, learning about something you did not already know about. The best research, then, is motivated by real curiosity: first posing questions and then trying to find out the answers.

This section will walk you through the stages of the research process. Like the steps of the writing process, these are not rigidly ordered, but rather recursive: as you find out more information, you might loop back to ask different or more focused questions; as you realize the gaps in your rough draft, you might do more research.

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