This project description was provided by your teachers. The library staff had added resources to each step to help you build a powerful, research-based argument.

Your Research Paper Steps:

1. Ask a question. This question should form the crux of your research.
For example: “How did the Great Migration shape American cities today?”

Resources to help you with this step:

If you still need to turn your research topic from a vague notion into a specific research question, follow this link to learn how to narrow your research topic.

2. Read widely about the question. In this step, you enter into your research with as open mind as possible. Do your best to enter into each resource as opinion-free as possible, so you don't simply look for information that reinforces what you already think, but are more able to examine information thoughtfully. This stage is when you do the bulk of your research. During this stage, you want to read both primary and secondary sources. You also need to keep track of your information. 

Resources to help you with this step: (Remember, if you're off campus, you'll need to sign in here for passwords to our databases.)

What's a primary source? What's a secondary source?

Issues and Controversies in American History is an excellent source to use to look at events in American history from multiple angles. We recommend this as a starting point for your research.

SIRS is a good source to be able to look at both sides of contemporary debates.

US History in Context will be helpful for contextual information about your topic.

The National Archives is full of primary sources. You'll need to sift through information, but you will be able to find valuable primary sources here. DocsTeach is a project of the National Archives. It's easier to navigate and may have what you need, but it is limited compared to the depth of the National Archives. is a deep resource of academic research. If you have chosen a more obscure topic, we suggest using this database as a research tool.

3. Attempt to answer said question. Come up with a “first date thesis”--this is a thesis that you’re working from, but you’re not totally married to.

For example: “The Great Migration created unique architectural, social and political institutions in American cities, such as an expansion of shotgun-style architecture, the rise of mutual aid societies and clubs, and a diversification of the urban voting base.”

Resources to help you with this step:

How to write a thesis statement for a history paper.

4. Outline, revise thesis, and refine resources. Create a map of your argument and sources. This should be a clear narrative of how you’ll write our paper. You may find in this stage that you'll need to revise your thesis--that's okay. The introduction should be complete with an opener, context, and a thesis. The body of the outline should include complete topic sentences and both evidence and analysis in bullet points. The conclusion also should be in bullet points, and should restate your thesis, summarize your evidence used, and should address outside information, or historical legacy. Include citations, and a Works Cited page with this step.

Resources to help you with this step:

Here's a very handy Works Cited guide from our friends at Regis Jesuit High School.

How to create a Works Cited page.

5. Rough draft and revisions. Work to convert your outline into essay format. Make sure to contextualize your evidence and focus on how that evidence answers the question that started this whole process. Make sure to use in-sentence citations for any ideas or information not your own. Although far from perfect, your rough draft will allow you to flesh out ideas and the general flow of your paper.

Resources to help you with this step:

When to quote and when to paraphrase.

How to create parenthetical citations (first form of in-sentence citations).

How to create PATt sentences (second form of in-sentence citations).

6. Final draft. Typed, double-spaced, 1" margins. Make sure the paper is free from plagiarism and submit it to Canvas as a pdf.

Resources to help you with this step:

How to MLA format a paper

Did I plagiarize?


Length: College Prep: 5-7 pages, Honors: 8-10 pages

Sources: College Prep: 5 sources (2 primary), Honors: 7 (3 primary) 

St. Ignatius College Preparatory

Courage to Lead; Passion to Serve

2001 37th Avenue San Francisco, CA 94116
(415) 731-7500
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