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AP English Research Paper  

Last Updated: May 11, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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The Assignment

The Research Paper: Process and Philosophy:


  • Begin research paper from approved proposal
  • Conduct research for supporting inrformation
  • Search for credible academic sources
  • Create working bibliography 

"There should always be a good reason for the inclusion of any source, even if it is there because it represents an established argument with which you disagree or from which your analysis diverges."

"... [I]f ever you are having difficulty locating evidence that directly relates to your topic, you may have found the elusive “gap,” which all critics seek – an absence in critical theory that you might just be able to fill.  In such a case, though, you would still find plenty of use for sources – this time as starting points that would allow you to differentiate your argument and make a case for its significance."

Introduction section:

  • Be clear about paper's argument and the methodology that will be used to support it

Conclusion section:

  • Summation & reconsideration of thesis
  • Self questioning to generate a succesful conclusion:
  • - In light of my research, why do I remain firmly in support of my thesis? 
  • - Why does my argument matter?
  • - What is the broader significance of my argument in terms of this particular field, discourse, or audience? 
  • - Where does my argument fit within the context of broader debates? 
  • - So what? Who cares? 




"There is an art to using sources in your paper, and one can tell a lot about a writer based on his or her ability to use sources effectively.  Tendencies of beginning writers include: 

  • “laundry listing” of evidence or rapid-fire succession of quotes without much commentary in between,
  • overly rhythmic alternation between original ideas and evidence (i.e. point-evidence-point-evidence-point-evidence…),
  • overly long or overly short quotes,
  • failure to fully “deal with” sources (i.e. introduction of evidence/source and an analysis and contextualization of the evidence in light of your particularly point and/or your broader thesis). 

Skilled, experienced writers demonstrate that they have fully “dealt with” their sources; they are familiar with them, they know their context, and they have “wrestled with” them.  This is not to say that the “wrestling” always takes place within the paper itself.  Often, this is simply felt by the reader, who knows that the writer would not be able to parse the evidence and/or drill down to exactly that which bests supports his or her point, without having already “wrestled” with it. 

Good sources provide a wealth of evidence and opportunities for extended engagement throughout the paper (and even multiple quotes), rather than a single, remnant-like quote to be “tacked on.” 

Beyond this, skilled writers tend to weave evidence into their papers smoothly and seamlessly, so that it is never a jarring experience when the reader encounters it.  Your research should not interrupt the “flow” of your paper but instead enhance it so that it actually reads better and more fluidly and feels like a fuller argument and a better overall experience.  Reading a research paper should be a highly satisfying experience for your reader!  With this in mind, kindly give your reader what s/he needs!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -- Kelly McDowell, 2014


Databases (subscription)

Dictionaries: general or subject specific

Encyclopedias: general or subject specific

Magazine articles

Open/Free Web

Primary sources

Scholarly journals


Annotated Bibliography Information

Online Writing Lab - Purdue University - Annotated Bibliographies

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University provides writing resources and instructional materials for students, members of the community, and users worldwide to  find information assisting with many kinds of writing projects. 

How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography - Cornell University

One of Cornell's many online library guides.


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