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EH -- Researching Short Stories: Strategies for Short Story Research

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Page Overview

This page addresses the research process -- the things that should be done before the actual writing of the paper -- and strategies for engaging in the process.  Although this LibGuide focuses on researching short stories, this particular page is more general in scope and is applicable to most lower-division college research assignments.

Before You Begin

Before beginning any research process, first be absolutely sure you know the requirements of the assignment.  Things such as  

  • the date the completed project is due 
  • the due dates of any intermediate assignments, like turning in a working bibliography or notes
  • the length requirement (minimum word count), if any 
  • the minimum number and types (for example, books or articles from scholarly, peer-reviewed journals) of sources required

These formal requirements are as much a part of the assignment as the paper itself.  They form the box into which you must fit your work.  Do not take them lightly.

When possible, it is helpful to subdivide the overall research process into phases, a tactic which

  • makes the idea of research less intimidating because you are dealing with sections at a time rather than the whole process
  • makes the process easier to manage
  • gives a sense of accomplishment as you move from one phase to the next

Characteristics of a Well-written Paper

Although there are many details that must be given attention in writing a research paper, there are three major criteria which must be met.  A well-written paper is

  • Unified:  the paper has only one major idea; or, if it seeks to address multiple points, one point is given priority and the others are subordinated to it.
  • Coherent: the body of the paper presents its contents in a logical order easy for readers to follow; use of transitional phrases (in addition, because of this, therefore, etc.) between paragraphs and sentences is important.
  • Complete:  the paper delivers on everything it promises and does not leave questions in the mind of the reader; everything mentioned in the introduction is discussed somewhere in the paper; the conclusion does not introduce new ideas or anything not already addressed in the paper.

Basic Research Strategy

  • How to Research From Pellissippi State Community College Libraries: discusses the principal components of a simple search strategy.
  • Basic Research Strategies From Nassau Community College: a start-up guide for college level research that supplements the information in the preceding link. Tabs two, three, and four plus the Web Evaluation tab are the most useful for JSU students. As with any LibGuide originating from another campus, care must be taken to recognize the information which is applicable generally from that which applies solely to the Guide's home campus. .
  • Information Literacy Tutorial From Nassau Community College: an elaboration on the material covered in the preceding link (also from NCC) which discusses that material in greater depth. The quizzes and surveys may be ignored.

Things to Keep in Mind

Although a research assignment can be daunting, there are things which can make the process less stressful, more manageable, and yield a better result.  And they are generally applicable across all types and levels of research.

1.  Be aware of the parameters of the assignment: topic selection options, due date, length requirement, source requirements.  These form the box into which you must fit your work.  

2. Treat the assignment as a series of components or stages rather than one undivided whole.

  • devise a schedule for each task in the process: topic selection and refinement (background/overview information), source material from books (JaxCat), source material from journals (databases/Discovery), other sources (internet, interviews, non-print materials); the note-taking, drafting, and editing processes.
  • stick to your timetable.  Time can be on your side as a researcher, but only if you keep to your schedule and do not delay or put everything off until just before the assignment deadline. 

3.  Leave enough time between your final draft and the submission date of your work that you can do one final proofread after the paper is no longer "fresh" to you.  You may find passages that need additional work because you see that what is on the page and what you meant to write are quite different.  Even better, have a friend or classmate read your final draft before you submit it.  A fresh pair of eyes sometimes has clearer vision. 

4.  If at any point in the process you encounter difficulties, consult a librarian.  Hunters use guides; fishermen use guides.  Explorers use guides.  When you are doing research, you are an explorer in the realm of ideas; your librarian is your guide. 

A Note on Sources

Research requires engagement with various types of sources.

  • Primary sources: the thing itself, such as letters, diaries, documents, a painting, a sculpture; in lower-division literary research, usually a play, poem, or short story.
  • Secondary sources: information about the primary source, such as books, essays, journal articles, although images and other media also might be included.  Companions, dictionaries, and encyclopedias are secondary sources.
  • Tertiary sources: things such as bibliographies, indexes, or electronic databases (minus the full text) which serve as guides to point researchers toward secondary sources.  A full text database would be a combination of a secondary and tertiary source; some books have a bibliography of additional sources in the back.

Accessing sources requires going through various "information portals," each designed to principally support a certain type of content.  Houston Cole Library provides four principal information portals:

  • JaxCat online catalog: books, although other items such as journals, newspapers, DVDs, and musical scores also may be searched for.
  • Electronic databases: journal articles, newspaper stories, interviews, reviews (and a few books; JaxCat still should be the "go-to" portal for books).  JaxCat indexes records for the complete item: the book, journal, newspaper, CD but has no records for parts of the complete item: the article in the journal, the editorial in the newspaper, the song off the CD.  Databases contain records for these things.
  • Discovery Search: mostly journal articles, but also (some) books and (some) random internet pages.  Discovery combines elements of the other three information portals and is especially useful for searches where one is researching a new or obscure topic about which little is likely to be written, or does not know where the desired information may be concentrated.  Discovery is the only portal which permits simul-searching across databases provided by multiple vendors.
  • Internet (Bing, Dogpile, DuckDuckGo, Google, etc.): primarily webpages, especially for businesses (.com), government divisions at all levels (.gov), or organizations (.org). as well as pages for primary source-type documents such as lesson plans and public-domain books.  While book content (Google Books) and journal articles (Google Scholar) are accessible, these are not the strengths of the internet and more successful searches for this type of content can be performed through JaxCat and the databases.  

NOTE: There is no predetermined hierarchy among these information portals as regards which one should be used most or gone to first.  These considerations depend on the task at hand and will vary from assignment o assignment.

The link below provides further information on the different source types.

  • Research Methods From Truckee Meadows Community College: a guide to basic research. The tab "What Type of Source?" presents an overview of the various types of information sources, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of each.
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  • Last Updated: Nov 8, 2023 1:49 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.jsu.edu/litresearchshortstories

How to Do a Research Paper on a Short Story

Daniel ketchum.

Researching a short story allows you to learn what critics think of it.

Whether you are writing a research paper on a short story for a high school or college level class, the process of researching the story is essentially the same, though an instructor in a college course will likely expect more. Read the short story thoroughly, making notes when necessary, before you begin researching it. Creating your research paper allows you to explore more about the short story and present that information to your reader.

Read any handout or notes that you have taken on the specific requirements for the research paper you will be writing. Take special note of the word/page count required as well as the type of works cited page required, both in terms of format as well as how many sources you must have. You should also note if your instructor asks for a particular number of primary sources in addition to secondary sources. Determine how many, if any, of your sources can be from websites.

Find a quiet place to read, and reread, the short story you have been assigned. Take detailed notes as you read.

Look for reviews of the story you will be writing about. You should be able to locate several different reviews on the story in your campus or local public library. While you can find reviews of many short stories online, make certain that any online resource you use to assist you in writing your research paper is a credible source. Generally, academic sources are credible. Reference libraries that provide access to sources like Proquest and MUSE are useful when conducting research, but you may need a university ID number to access these types of online resources.

Study the reviews carefully. Often times you will find annotations below the actual text where an authority will offer definitions as well as insight on what a particular line or passage means. Generally, a scholar on the author and work itself will also explain the text in a broader context, drawing conclusions as to where the author drew inspiration from others' works, or in developing a particular character or the overall theme of the story itself.

Write your paper using the references you selected to support the statements you want to make in your research paper. Also use your own notes to remind you of observations you made when reading the story.

  • 1 The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Literature

About the Author

Daniel Ketchum holds a Bachelor of Arts from East Carolina University where he also attended graduate school. Later, he taught history and humanities. Ketchum is experienced in 2D and 3D graphic programs, including Photoshop, Poser and Hexagon and primarily writes on these topics. He is a contributor to sites like Renderosity and Animotions.

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How to Write a Short Story Research Paper

Tips to write short story research paper

What Exactly Is A Story?

Our capacity for feeling and our ability to remember are both enhanced by the telling of stories, which are essentially built into our brains. But what is a story exactly? The more people you ask for definitions, the more you will obtain. The basic format of the majority of Hollywood dramas consists of one main character living her life until she meets a predicament. There will be ups and downs, culminating in a large event such as a fight or a party. The action begins when she seeks to resolve the issue. Things are ultimately resolved in some fashion. We observe how our protagonist’s life has changed as a result of the novel’s events.

best guidelines to write a short story research paper

Whether you are writing a research paper for a high school or college-level class, the process of researching a short story is generally the same, although a college instructor will likely want additional information. Before investigating the short story, thoroughly read it and make any necessary notes. Creating your research paper allows you to have a deeper understanding of the short story and share your discoveries with the reader.

Read any handouts or notes you’ve prepared on the particular requirements for the next research paper. Pay particular attention to the required word/page count and the type of works mentioned page in terms of both structure and quantity of sources. Additionally, you should keep track of whether your instructor requires a specified number of primary sources in addition to secondary sources. Determine which, if any, of your sources may be located online.

  • Find a quiet place to read and reread the required short story . Take notes carefully as you read.
  • Seek comments about the story you want to create. You should find a number of reviews on the subject at your institution’s library or at your community’s public library. Although various short story assessments are available online, be sure that any web resource you use to compose your research report is credible. In general, academic sources are reputable. Reference libraries that provide access to sources are useful while conducting research; however, you may need a university ID number to access these online resources.
  • Examine the testimonials in detail. Occasionally, annotations appear beneath the actual text when an authority provides definitions and explanations of what a certain word or paragraph means. In general, a scholar of the author and the work will read the text from a broader perspective, drawing judgments about where the author drew inspiration from other writers’ works or in creating a particular character or the narrative’s main theme.
  • Write your paper using the sources you’ve selected to support the assertions you intend to make in your research report. Utilize your own notes to recall what you observed while reading the tale.

If you have just been told that you need to write a research paper and are feeling apprehensive, we are confident that the following strategies will assist you. First and foremost, whether you are searching for or attempting to comprehend a topic, consult to your professor. Do not be concerned! You constantly undertake research. Consider the most recent time you made a significant purchase, selected a school, or went to the movies. You may have conversed with pals, read product or movie reviews, visited a college campus, or test-driven a car. Academic research is comparable; however, procedures and sources may vary.

A Guide to Writing a Short Story Research Paper

·â â â â â â â  select an engaging question.

Your instructor or professor will either allow you to select your own topic, provide you with a selection of topics to pick from or assign you one. In any case, select a topic or component of your topic that you find interesting. Approach your studies with a critical frame of mind. Critical does not mean “finding defects,” but rather a perceptive and discriminating attitude.

·        Be precise

Construct your question to extract information on the “who, what, where, why, and how” of your problem. Too general subjects should be avoided. An expansive topic will make it tough to limit your research. Consider your research question to be both an anchor and an umbrella: your “who” and “how” questions are your anchor, and it’s up to you to keep everything in control under the protection of your research umbrella.

·        Pay Close Attention to Your Thesis Statement

How has global warming harmed the earth is an example of a too-broad thesis statement. How has global warming impacted marine life in the Pacific Ocean? This is an example of a debatable thesis statement.

·        Make Your Question Challenging

Along with a specific question, your topic should be engaging enough to hold the reader’s interest. Individuals will only be compelled to continue reading if simply a yes or no response is required.

·        Primary and Secondary Data Collection

Begin your search for information that can assist you in answering your question. A research paper may need the utilization of both primary and secondary materials. Primary research requires working with genuine materials or obtaining data in the field. Secondary research is finding out what others have found out about a topic.

·        Support Your Question with a Choice of Sources

Secondary research materials can be acquired in a number of different methods. Utilize the databases within the library. Consider newspapers and periodicals. Visit websites with caution; be certain they are trustworthy. If the domain ends in “.org,” “.gov,” or “.edu,” this is a good (but not foolproof) indicator.

·        Conduct Refined Keyword Research

Although search engines vary, the following guidelines apply to the majority of them.

·        Take Notes While Reading

Using note cards to record pertinent quotations and paraphrases is an excellent method for organizing your thoughts. Make a note of the source’s title, author, and page number to avoid future citation problems!

·        Create a Draft

Create an outline and begin writing your first draught of the paper. The use of an outline might help you keep everything “under the umbrella.” Consider your introduction, the arguments you will make, the sequence in which you will make them, and your planned conclusion. Create a preliminary draught. Before beginning a rewrite, you should set the document aside for at least twenty-four hours and have someone else review it.

·        Finish With the Final Revision

Rewrite your paper in light of your reflection and comments. Remember to proofread carefully for spelling and punctuation errors. Check the correctness of your Works Cited (or References) page as well.

Purpose of Story Research Paper

Consequently, what is the objective of a story research paper ? This style of paper is meant to demonstrate the researcher’s capacity to comprehend, analyze, and interpret the subject matter. Here are some recommendations on how to begin preparing and writing an outstanding research paper on a story.

How to Write a Research Paper on a Story

1.â â â â  read the book twice.

Read the book attentively and have a dictionary and a notebook on hand, if required. Only take notes when something captures your attention or merits highlighting. Remember to record each note’s page number. Try to rest in between readings and record your initial impressions of the book when you’ve completed it. It might be useful in the future.

2.     Choose the Subjects You Will Emphasize In Your Paper

Ensure that your research piece concentrates on certain subjects. For instance, you may opt to emphasize the book’s characters or the plot’s content. This will make outlining your thoughts and writing your research report much simpler.

3.     Plan the Structure of Your Paper

It typically consists of an introductory paragraph, a body that highlights the book’s themes, and a conclusion that summarizes the last issues. Consider extending the main body to many paragraphs or chapters.

4.     Consider the Main Points of Each Paragraph

Before writing, choose a statement for each paragraph that emphasizes the key ideas and shows the approach you will emphasize in your own research paper.

In addition, include any citations or references you desire to emphasize while building paragraphs. Utilize headers and subheadings to simplify your work. Remember that these notes are intended just for your personal use, and organize your thoughts accordingly.

Now that we’ve discussed how to write a story-based research paper let’s examine the structure of your paper.

·        Introduction

The first paragraph explains the book and the major topics you uncovered throughout your research. In addition to a summary of the storyline and an introduction to the main characters, the introduction of a research paper should also include a brief synopsis of the plot and an overview of the main characters. In this section, you should introduce both your research topic and the essential concept of history.

·        The Report’s Primary Content

Make this the first paragraph in which you illustrate your thesis by focusing on one aspect or theme of the story. To illustrate the most crucial components of the story in relation to your plot, you may describe specific situations or include direct quotations. Include any relevant research you’ve conducted about the author, historical era, or gender to bolster your arguments.

Draw the major characters in the story and explain their origins and characteristics. Describe in a few sentences the tension that exists at the beginning of the tale. Discuss the character’s journey and the resolution of the dilemma. Focus on the significant events that shaped the story’s conclusion with little specifics. Consider any lessons or realizations the protagonist learned toward the end of the narrative.

·        Conclusions

Your book report should conclude with a summary of how your thorough method pertains to the entire plot. Three or four phrases that link the relevance of your detailed method to the overarching tale, conflict, and character stance should conclude your paper. Due to the fact that the broad viewpoint frequently involves analysis and critique, conclude the paper with a concluding statement that indicates what you gained from reading the book or a conclusive statement that reveals your ultimate opinion on the idea examined.

Bring the overview of the book to a close by discussing the conclusion and offering your comments or ideas about the text. You must demonstrate comprehension of the author’s message in three to five sentences. To explain the value of the book to you, describe a relationship between it and your personal experiences. The conclusion also affords you the chance to write a succinct evaluation of the book, indicating why you liked or hated it.

·        Go Over Your Paper Again

After you have completed your research paper , you should proofread it. Take a break and delegate your task to someone else. People who are reading the work for the first time typically discover errors that the authors should have made.

When asking a friend to critique your work, the question about his own impressions of the content. Ask direct inquiries and expect direct responses. Inquire as to whether the buddy liked or hated the work, whether reading the paper inspired them to read the book, whether the writing was flowing, etc.

The Bottom Line

We hope our suggestions were helpful. Internet searches for terms such as “ how to write a good research paper on a book ” might complement your understanding of writing a research paper on a story or a book.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to write a short paper research?

The format of a normal five-paragraph short paper is as follows: introduction (1 paragraph), thesis, major body (3 paragraphs), and conclusion (1 paragraph). This allows your work to be more extensively organised and simpler to understand. Even if you’re writing a brief essay, first impressions are important.

  • What should a short research paper include?

Typically, a complete APA-style research paper describing an experimental study would include a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References section. In addition to figures and tables, many will also include an appendix or appendices.

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ENG 102: Short Story Research

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This guide is designed to help you complete a research paper about a short story in English 102. Follow the steps below in order - each step builds on the one before it, guiding you through the research project. We offer research advice/tips, as well as recommended sources, citation help, etc.

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Literature Research

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Critical Analysis

  • Writing a Critical Analysis of a Short Story Guide to writing a critical analysis of a short story and a sample essay.
  • American Short Story Study Guides Study guides for select short stories plot summary, character analysis, genres & themes, historical context, quotes and more.

Short Stories at LibriVox

Follow the links below for just a couple of the short story offerings from LibriVox  audiobooks. Search the site for much much more!

  • Selected Short Stories from P.G. Wodehouse Listen to a collection of amusing and entertaining short stories mostly concerning love and romance.
  • Shoes and Stockings: A Collection of Short Stories Listen to tales of love and war, modesty and frivolity, laughter and tears.
  • Short Stories by Fyodor Dostoevsky Listen to short stories by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist and short story writer.

Short Stories by Individual Authors

how to write a short story research paper

Here you will find resources specifically related to short stories. They are meant to be consulted in addition to the sources found in other pages of this guide.

This is a list of links to the full text of selected short stories.  You can also visit the library's Literature Resource Center  database to find overviews, critical reviews and analysis of short stories. If you are off campus, you will need your RamCard activated at the library to be able to use your STCC Library bar code and password to log on. For more information, consult the Journals, Articles, and Databases page of this guide.

  • Classic Reader Read classic short stories from a wide range of authors spanning several centuries. You'll find authors such as Honore de Balzac, Anton Chekhov, Edgar Allan Poe, and many others.
  • Classic Short Stories Search short stories by author or title. Also includes related links to other sites with collected short stories or to individual short story writers.
  • Project Gutenberg Short Stories Bookshelf A collection of short stories from around the world with a focus on older works for which copyright has expired.
  • Short Stories at East of the Web You can browse the library by genre or search it for a title, author or keyword. Clicking on an author's name lists all their stories along with further information and links. Stories can be read online, printed or downloaded for reading offline or on handheld devices.
  • Short Stories Collections Short story collections with full-text in numerous categories such as 100 Great Short Stories, Short Short Stories, Great American, Christmas Stories and more.
  • Short Story Guide Stories are categorized by author, place subject / topic and theme.

Short Stories in the STCC Library

In addition to these collected sources, search the catalog for other collections of short stories.

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Academic writing can often be somewhat drab. Make no mistake – it isn’t supposed to entertain, it’s supposed to inform. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be engaging . Building your research paper around a narrative format can help the reader (from the editor who views your initial submission to the final reader) follow the ‘story’ of what you’re bringing across more easily, thus enabling them to absorb the information more readily. Here, we discuss the benefits of telling a story in your research paper and share some pointers for doing it well. 

Telling a story in your paper: Explained and exemplified

When we say ‘narrative’, we don’t necessarily mean ‘write in the style of your favourite author’. A narrative, in the context of academic writing, is a central thread that runs through each of your result pieces . The idea is to have a beginning, a middle and an end to your paper, thereby providing the reader with structure and a satisfying progression through the paper . 

Why is this important?

Consider the following example:

Western blot results suggested the presence of the protein of interest. Structural analysis confirmed the protein’s folded structure to include disulphide bonds. 

The above example is a matter-of-fact statement of results.

Now, consider this example:

To determine whether our protein of interest was present, a western blot was performed, suggesting its presence in the sample. Further structural analysis revealed the presence of disulphide bonds.

This example improves on the first statement by reframing it as a progression of events, giving the impression of a development occurring with every new piece of data generated , rather than a simple collection of data. By restructuring the information this way, the second example also ties the rationale into the sentence , giving the reader context for what they are about to read.

How to write your paper as a story: Basics

A complete illustration of writing your research paper as a story or narrative is beyond the scope of this article. So, here, we provide some basic tips.

What you need to do

You’ll need a beginning, a middle and an end . Oftentimes this can be a helpful way of structuring your paper when you are about to commence writing , as it can help you obtain an idea about the overall form that you think would be ideal for it.

Also, try not to simply retell your entire process chronologically, but rather in terms of rationale . For example…

One piece of data led you to another question, which would in turn have directed you towards interrogating yet another aspect, and so on.

This leads the reader through your process and will help them to understand why you progressed the way you did .

What you need to avoid

It is not uncommon to have to reappraise your data when the time comes to write your paper. However, be aware that using a narrative structure and voice could lead you to omit certain experiments because they might not fit with the ‘story’ . There are cases where this is fine, because perhaps a specific experiment or method isn’t particularly relevant. However, be aware that there can be a fine line between this and ‘cherry picking data’ , which can be regarded as misconduct and/or an unethical practice .

Also try to avoid using too many personal pronouns . There are instances, disciplines and journals in which this may be acceptable. Just ensure that your writing does not start coming across as too informal or even unprofessional, and that you still adhere to the overall tone of your chosen journal.

Integrating a narrative structure into your paper is a stylistic choice that can help your reader follow your thought processes and make sense of your overall progression, from forming the hypothesis through to testing that hypothesis. The more you are able to engage your audience using your writing and tools like this, the more they will engage with your work , which is the ultimate goal of publication .

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Interdisciplinarity

How to Tell a Story in Your Research Paper

How to Tell a Story in Your Research Paper

Why are stories so powerful? To answer this, we have to go back at least 100,000 years. This is when humans started to speak. For the following roughly 94,000 years, we could only use spoken words to communicate. Stories helped us survive, so our brains evolved to love them.

Paul Zak  of the Claremont Graduate University in California researches what stories do to our brain. He found that once hooked by a story, our brain releases oxytocin. The hormone affects our mood and social behaviour. You could say stories are a shortcut to our emotions.

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There’s more to it; stories also help us remember facts.  Gordon Bower and Michal Clark  from Stanford University in California let two groups of subjects remember random nouns. One group was instructed to create a narrative with the words, the other to rehearse them one by one. People in the story group recalled the nouns correctly about six to seven times more often than the other group.

What is a story?

So, humans are wired to love stories, they make us emotional and boost our memory. But what is a story? It seems the more people you ask, the more definitions you’ll get. Zak also performed some experiments to find out which stories have the most effect on us. His conclusion? The stories that get us curious, excited, and emotionally involved have an element of tension. This can be a conflict, an accident, a problem. Something that just isn’t quite right.

If we glance over to Hollywood, you’ll notice that most dramas follow one simple structure: there is one main character who goes on with her life until she encounters a problem. The action kicks in when she tries to solve the problem, there will be some ups and downs, which will conclude in a big event like a fight or a party. Afterwards things get resolved in some way. We see how things have panned out for our protagonist, how the events of the story have changed her life.

Plot spirals

If a plot consists of the six essential elements of main character, setting, tension, action, climax, and resolution, the film has a good chance to become a hit. I illustrated this plot structure in a spiral, see the left panel in Figure 1, below. The circular form visualises that the protagonist is back where she started after the story has taken place. Now, a new story can start to wrap around again – hello, season two.

How the plot elements in a dramatic story translate into the story of a scientific paper.

So, how do we utilise these story elements for our paper and write a scientific story? Have a look at the right panel in Figure 1 and let me explain.

A scientific story

Let’s start with the characters and setting. The  main character  in your paper is not Jessica Jones (too bad) but your object of study. Perhaps a certain disease, reaction mechanism, theory, or historic document? The  setting  translates to the background that you should provide to your study. That sounds like the introduction section of your paper, right? You cite previous work and give the reader a feeling about where the state of the art is.

But – just as with any Hollywood success in the box office – your paper will not become a page-turner, if you don’t introduce an element of  tension  now. Your readers want to know what problem you are solving here. So, tell them what gap in the literature needs to be filled, why method X isn’t good enough to solve Y, or what still isn’t known about mechanism Z. To introduce the tension, words such as “however”, “despite”, “nevertheless”, “but”, “although” are your best friends. But don’t fool your readers with general statements, phrase the problem precisely.

If you’ve covered the main character, setting and tension, the  action  can start. Now you can present your plots, schemes, interpretations; i.e. your findings. Throughout the results section you should gradually solve the problem you started out with. Eventually you’ll arrive at the  climax  of your scientific story: the conclusions that you draw from your results.

But that’s not all. As in a drama, your reader will be curious about the  resolution : What do your findings mean in the context of the literature? How do you explain trend X and Y? How can your results be useful for application Z? What is the big picture? What should be further investigated? Often, I find, the discussion and outlook parts of papers are too short.

Take the reader by the hand

There are three more aspects that successful stories have in common. They are based on  one main theme , the events are in  chronological order , and everything in the story has a  purpose . These three elements directly apply to scientific papers too. If you can’t summarise your paper in one simple sentence you might not have a clear motif in mind. The main theme weaves through your narrative like a thread, bringing all the different things you mention together.

You rarely see films with a timeline jumping back and forth. Even if it does, the order in which the scenes have been arranged makes sense. So should your scientific story. Chronology doesn’t mean that you need to reiterate the thought process you went through when you performed the study. Just find the most logical arrangement of the different steps you took in order to come to your conclusion.

Purpose is linked to this. If you think in terms of a main theme and a logical order of arguments, you’ll quickly identify the bits of your research that either don’t quite fit in or provide additional detail. These may be better as part of the supporting information than the main text. Because your research is likely complicated stuff to anyone except you and your co-authors, take your reader by the hand and walk them through it.

That’s it. If you want to tell a story in your paper, think of the six plot elements (character, setting, tension, action, climax, resolution) and the other three story essentials (main theme, chronology, purpose). In no time you’ll have outlined the backbone of your narrative and be ready to create a paper that is concise, compelling, and easy to understand.

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Anna Clemens

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  • Impact metrics
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  • John Hattie on the Factors That Influence Learning In Schools
  • Can We Trust the World Health Organization with So Much Power?
  • Melissa Kearney on Marriage and Children

how to write a short story research paper

How to Write a Research Paper

Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:

Research Paper Fundamentals

How to choose a topic or question, how to create a working hypothesis or thesis, common research paper methodologies, how to gather and organize evidence , how to write an outline for your research paper, how to write a rough draft, how to revise your draft, how to produce a final draft, resources for teachers .

It is not fair to say that no one writes anymore. Just about everyone writes text messages, brief emails, or social media posts every single day. Yet, most people don't have a lot of practice with the formal, organized writing required for a good academic research paper. This guide contains links to a variety of resources that can help demystify the process. Some of these resources are intended for teachers; they contain exercises, activities, and teaching strategies. Other resources are intended for direct use by students who are struggling to write papers, or are looking for tips to make the process go more smoothly.

The resources in this section are designed to help students understand the different types of research papers, the general research process, and how to manage their time. Below, you'll find links from university writing centers, the trusted Purdue Online Writing Lab, and more.

What is an Academic Research Paper?

"Genre and the Research Paper" (Purdue OWL)

There are different types of research papers. Different types of scholarly questions will lend themselves to one format or another. This is a brief introduction to the two main genres of research paper: analytic and argumentative. 

"7 Most Popular Types of Research Papers" (Personal-writer.com)

This resource discusses formats that high school students commonly encounter, such as the compare and contrast essay and the definitional essay. Please note that the inclusion of this link is not an endorsement of this company's paid service.

How to Prepare and Plan Out Writing a Research Paper

Teachers can give their students a step-by-step guide like these to help them understand the different steps of the research paper process. These guides can be combined with the time management tools in the next subsection to help students come up with customized calendars for completing their papers.

"Ten Steps for Writing Research Papers" (American University)  

This resource from American University is a comprehensive guide to the research paper writing process, and includes examples of proper research questions and thesis topics.

"Steps in Writing a Research Paper" (SUNY Empire State College)

This guide breaks the research paper process into 11 steps. Each "step" links to a separate page, which describes the work entailed in completing it.

How to Manage Time Effectively

The links below will help students determine how much time is necessary to complete a paper. If your sources are not available online or at your local library, you'll need to leave extra time for the Interlibrary Loan process. Remember that, even if you do not need to consult secondary sources, you'll still need to leave yourself ample time to organize your thoughts.

"Research Paper Planner: Timeline" (Baylor University)

This interactive resource from Baylor University creates a suggested writing schedule based on how much time a student has to work on the assignment.

"Research Paper Planner" (UCLA)

UCLA's library offers this step-by-step guide to the research paper writing process, which also includes a suggested planning calendar.

There's a reason teachers spend a long time talking about choosing a good topic. Without a good topic and a well-formulated research question, it is almost impossible to write a clear and organized paper. The resources below will help you generate ideas and formulate precise questions.

"How to Select a Research Topic" (Univ. of Michigan-Flint)

This resource is designed for college students who are struggling to come up with an appropriate topic. A student who uses this resource and still feels unsure about his or her topic should consult the course instructor for further personalized assistance.

"25 Interesting Research Paper Topics to Get You Started" (Kibin)

This resource, which is probably most appropriate for high school students, provides a list of specific topics to help get students started. It is broken into subsections, such as "paper topics on local issues."

"Writing a Good Research Question" (Grand Canyon University)

This introduction to research questions includes some embedded videos, as well as links to scholarly articles on research questions. This resource would be most appropriate for teachers who are planning lessons on research paper fundamentals.

"How to Write a Research Question the Right Way" (Kibin)

This student-focused resource provides more detail on writing research questions. The language is accessible, and there are embedded videos and examples of good and bad questions.

It is important to have a rough hypothesis or thesis in mind at the beginning of the research process. People who have a sense of what they want to say will have an easier time sorting through scholarly sources and other information. The key, of course, is not to become too wedded to the draft hypothesis or thesis. Just about every working thesis gets changed during the research process.

CrashCourse Video: "Sociology Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is tailored to sociology students, it is applicable to students in a variety of social science disciplines. This video does a good job demonstrating the connection between the brainstorming that goes into selecting a research question and the formulation of a working hypothesis.

"How to Write a Thesis Statement for an Analytical Essay" (YouTube)

Students writing analytical essays will not develop the same type of working hypothesis as students who are writing research papers in other disciplines. For these students, developing the working thesis may happen as a part of the rough draft (see the relevant section below). 

"Research Hypothesis" (Oakland Univ.)

This resource provides some examples of hypotheses in social science disciplines like Political Science and Criminal Justice. These sample hypotheses may also be useful for students in other soft social sciences and humanities disciplines like History.

When grading a research paper, instructors look for a consistent methodology. This section will help you understand different methodological approaches used in research papers. Students will get the most out of these resources if they use them to help prepare for conversations with teachers or discussions in class.

"Types of Research Designs" (USC)

A "research design," used for complex papers, is related to the paper's method. This resource contains introductions to a variety of popular research designs in the social sciences. Although it is not the most intuitive site to read, the information here is very valuable. 

"Major Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is a bit on the dry side, it provides a comprehensive overview of the major research methodologies in a format that might be more accessible to students who have struggled with textbooks or other written resources.

"Humanities Research Strategies" (USC)

This is a portal where students can learn about four methodological approaches for humanities papers: Historical Methodologies, Textual Criticism, Conceptual Analysis, and the Synoptic method.

"Selected Major Social Science Research Methods: Overview" (National Academies Press)

This appendix from the book  Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy , printed by National Academies Press, introduces some methods used in social science papers.

"Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: 6. The Methodology" (USC)

This resource from the University of Southern California's library contains tips for writing a methodology section in a research paper.

How to Determine the Best Methodology for You

Anyone who is new to writing research papers should be sure to select a method in consultation with their instructor. These resources can be used to help prepare for that discussion. They may also be used on their own by more advanced students.

"Choosing Appropriate Research Methodologies" (Palgrave Study Skills)

This friendly and approachable resource from Palgrave Macmillan can be used by students who are just starting to think about appropriate methodologies.

"How to Choose Your Research Methods" (NFER (UK))

This is another approachable resource students can use to help narrow down the most appropriate methods for their research projects.

The resources in this section introduce the process of gathering scholarly sources and collecting evidence. You'll find a range of material here, from introductory guides to advanced explications best suited to college students. Please consult the LitCharts  How to Do Academic Research guide for a more comprehensive list of resources devoted to finding scholarly literature.

Google Scholar

Students who have access to library websites with detailed research guides should start there, but people who do not have access to those resources can begin their search for secondary literature here.

"Gathering Appropriate Information" (Texas Gateway)

This resource from the Texas Gateway for online resources introduces students to the research process, and contains interactive exercises. The level of complexity is suitable for middle school, high school, and introductory college classrooms.

"An Overview of Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection Methods" (NSF)

This PDF from the National Science Foundation goes into detail about best practices and pitfalls in data collection across multiple types of methodologies.

"Social Science Methods for Data Collection and Analysis" (Swiss FIT)

This resource is appropriate for advanced undergraduates or teachers looking to create lessons on research design and data collection. It covers techniques for gathering data via interviews, observations, and other methods.

"Collecting Data by In-depth Interviewing" (Leeds Univ.)

This resource contains enough information about conducting interviews to make it useful for teachers who want to create a lesson plan, but is also accessible enough for college juniors or seniors to make use of it on their own.

There is no "one size fits all" outlining technique. Some students might devote all their energy and attention to the outline in order to avoid the paper. Other students may benefit from being made to sit down and organize their thoughts into a lengthy sentence outline. The resources in this section include strategies and templates for multiple types of outlines. 

"Topic vs. Sentence Outlines" (UC Berkeley)

This resource introduces two basic approaches to outlining: the shorter topic-based approach, and the longer, more detailed sentence-based approach. This resource also contains videos on how to develop paper paragraphs from the sentence-based outline.

"Types of Outlines and Samples" (Purdue OWL)

The Purdue Online Writing Lab's guide is a slightly less detailed discussion of different types of outlines. It contains several sample outlines.

"Writing An Outline" (Austin C.C.)

This resource from a community college contains sample outlines from an American history class that students can use as models.

"How to Structure an Outline for a College Paper" (YouTube)

This brief (sub-2 minute) video from the ExpertVillage YouTube channel provides a model of outline writing for students who are struggling with the idea.

"Outlining" (Harvard)

This is a good resource to consult after completing a draft outline. It offers suggestions for making sure your outline avoids things like unnecessary repetition.

As with outlines, rough drafts can take on many different forms. These resources introduce teachers and students to the various approaches to writing a rough draft. This section also includes resources that will help you cite your sources appropriately according to the MLA, Chicago, and APA style manuals.

"Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

This resource is useful for teachers in particular, as it provides some suggested exercises to help students with writing a basic rough draft. 

Rough Draft Assignment (Duke of Definition)

This sample assignment, with a brief list of tips, was developed by a high school teacher who runs a very successful and well-reviewed page of educational resources.

"Creating the First Draft of Your Research Paper" (Concordia Univ.)

This resource will be helpful for perfectionists or procrastinators, as it opens by discussing the problem of avoiding writing. It also provides a short list of suggestions meant to get students writing.

Using Proper Citations

There is no such thing as a rough draft of a scholarly citation. These links to the three major citation guides will ensure that your citations follow the correct format. Please consult the LitCharts How to Cite Your Sources guide for more resources.

Chicago Manual of Style Citation Guide

Some call  The Chicago Manual of Style , which was first published in 1906, "the editors' Bible." The manual is now in its 17th edition, and is popular in the social sciences, historical journals, and some other fields in the humanities.

APA Citation Guide

According to the American Psychological Association, this guide was developed to aid reading comprehension, clarity of communication, and to reduce bias in language in the social and behavioral sciences. Its first full edition was published in 1952, and it is now in its sixth edition.

MLA Citation Guide

The Modern Language Association style is used most commonly within the liberal arts and humanities. The  MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing  was first published in 1985 and (as of 2008) is in its third edition.

Any professional scholar will tell you that the best research papers are made in the revision stage. No matter how strong your research question or working thesis, it is not possible to write a truly outstanding paper without devoting energy to revision. These resources provide examples of revision exercises for the classroom, as well as tips for students working independently.

"The Art of Revision" (Univ. of Arizona)

This resource provides a wealth of information and suggestions for both students and teachers. There is a list of suggested exercises that teachers might use in class, along with a revision checklist that is useful for teachers and students alike.

"Script for Workshop on Revision" (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt's guide for leading a 50-minute revision workshop can serve as a model for teachers who wish to guide students through the revision process during classtime. 

"Revising Your Paper" (Univ. of Washington)

This detailed handout was designed for students who are beginning the revision process. It discusses different approaches and methods for revision, and also includes a detailed list of things students should look for while they revise.

"Revising Drafts" (UNC Writing Center)

This resource is designed for students and suggests things to look for during the revision process. It provides steps for the process and has a FAQ for students who have questions about why it is important to revise.

Conferencing with Writing Tutors and Instructors

No writer is so good that he or she can't benefit from meeting with instructors or peer tutors. These resources from university writing, learning, and communication centers provide suggestions for how to get the most out of these one-on-one meetings.

"Getting Feedback" (UNC Writing Center)

This very helpful resource talks about how to ask for feedback during the entire writing process. It contains possible questions that students might ask when developing an outline, during the revision process, and after the final draft has been graded.

"Prepare for Your Tutoring Session" (Otis College of Art and Design)

This guide from a university's student learning center contains a lot of helpful tips for getting the most out of working with a writing tutor.

"The Importance of Asking Your Professor" (Univ. of Waterloo)

This article from the university's Writing and Communication Centre's blog contains some suggestions for how and when to get help from professors and Teaching Assistants.

Once you've revised your first draft, you're well on your way to handing in a polished paper. These resources—each of them produced by writing professionals at colleges and universities—outline the steps required in order to produce a final draft. You'll find proofreading tips and checklists in text and video form.

"Developing a Final Draft of a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

While this resource contains suggestions for revision, it also features a couple of helpful checklists for the last stages of completing a final draft.

Basic Final Draft Tips and Checklist (Univ. of Maryland-University College)

This short and accessible resource, part of UMUC's very thorough online guide to writing and research, contains a very basic checklist for students who are getting ready to turn in their final drafts.

Final Draft Checklist (Everett C.C.)

This is another accessible final draft checklist, appropriate for both high school and college students. It suggests reading your essay aloud at least once.

"How to Proofread Your Final Draft" (YouTube)

This video (approximately 5 minutes), produced by Eastern Washington University, gives students tips on proofreading final drafts.

"Proofreading Tips" (Georgia Southern-Armstrong)

This guide will help students learn how to spot common errors in their papers. It suggests focusing on content and editing for grammar and mechanics.

This final set of resources is intended specifically for high school and college instructors. It provides links to unit plans and classroom exercises that can help improve students' research and writing skills. You'll find resources that give an overview of the process, along with activities that focus on how to begin and how to carry out research. 

"Research Paper Complete Resources Pack" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, rubrics, and other resources is designed for high school students. The resources in this packet are aligned to Common Core standards.

"Research Paper—Complete Unit" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, notes, PowerPoints, and other resources has a 4/4 rating with over 700 ratings. It is designed for high school teachers, but might also be useful to college instructors who work with freshmen.

"Teaching Students to Write Good Papers" (Yale)

This resource from Yale's Center for Teaching and Learning is designed for college instructors, and it includes links to appropriate activities and exercises.

"Research Paper Writing: An Overview" (CUNY Brooklyn)

CUNY Brooklyn offers this complete lesson plan for introducing students to research papers. It includes an accompanying set of PowerPoint slides.

"Lesson Plan: How to Begin Writing a Research Paper" (San Jose State Univ.)

This lesson plan is designed for students in the health sciences, so teachers will have to modify it for their own needs. It includes a breakdown of the brainstorming, topic selection, and research question process. 

"Quantitative Techniques for Social Science Research" (Univ. of Pittsburgh)

This is a set of PowerPoint slides that can be used to introduce students to a variety of quantitative methods used in the social sciences.

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Short research papers: how to write academic essays.

Jerz > Writing > Academic > Research Papers [ Title | Thesis  | Blueprint  | Quoting | Citing |  MLA Format  ]

This document focuses on the kind of  short, narrowly-focused research papers that might be the final project in a freshman writing class or 200-level literature survey course.

In high school, you probably wrote a lot of personal essays (where your goal was to demonstrate you were engaged) and a lot of info-dump paragraphs (where your goal was to demonstrate you could remember and organize information your teacher told you to learn).

How is a college research essay different from the writing you did in high school?

This short video covers the same topic in a different way; I think the video and handout work together fairly well.

The assignment description your professor has already given you is your best source for understanding your specific writing task, but in general, a college research paper asks you to use evidence to defend some non-obvious, nuanced point about a complex topic.

Some professors may simply want you to explain a situation or describe a process; however, a more challenging task asks you to take a stand, demonstrating you can use credible sources to defend your original ideas.

Short Research Papers: How to Write Academic Essays

  • Choose a Narrow Topic
  • Use Sources Appropriately

Avoid Distractions

Outside the classroom, if I want to “research” which phone I should buy, I would start with Google.

I would watch some YouTube unboxing videos, and I might ask my friends on social media. I’d assume somebody already has written about or knows about the latest phones, and the goal of my “research” is to find what the people I trust think is the correct answer.

An entomologist might do “research” by going into the forest, and catching and observing hundreds or thousands of butterflies. If she had begun and ended her research by Googling for “butterflies of Pennsylvania” she would never have seen, with her own eyes, that unusual specimen that leads her to conclude she has discovered a new species.

Her goal as a field researcher is not to find the “correct answer” that someone else has already published. Instead, her goal is to add something new to the store of human knowledge — something that hasn’t been written down yet.

As an undergraduate with a few short months or weeks to write a research paper, you won’t be expected to discover a new species of butterfly, or convince everyone on the planet to accept what 99.9% of scientists say about vaccines or climate change, or to adopt your personal views on abortion, vaping, or tattoos.

But your professor will probably want you to read essays published by credentialed experts who are presenting their results to other experts, often in excruciating detail that most of us non-experts will probably find boring.

Your instructor probably won’t give the results of a random Google search the same weight as peer-reviewed scholarly articles from academic journals. (See “ Academic Journals: What Are They? “)

The best databases are not free, but your student ID will get you access to your school’s collection of databases, so you should never have to pay to access any source. (Your friendly school librarian will help you find out exactly how to access the databases at your school.)

1. Plan to Revise

Even a very short paper is the result of a process.

  • You start with one idea, you test it, and you hit on something better.
  • You might end up somewhere unexpected. If so, that’s good — it means you learned something.
  • If you’re only just starting your paper, and it’s due tomorrow, you have already robbed yourself of your most valuable resource — time.

Showcase your best insights at the beginning of your paper (rather than saving them for the end).

You won’t know what your best ideas are until you’ve written a full draft. Part of revision involves identifying strong ideas and making them more prominent, identifying filler and other weak material, and pruning it away to leave more room to develop your best ideas.

  • It’s normal, in a your very first “discovery draft,” to hit on a really good idea about two-thirds of the way through your paper.
  • But a polished academic paper is not a mystery novel. (A busy reader will not have the patience to hunt for clues.)
  • A thesis statement that includes a clear reasoning blueprint (see “ Blueprinting: Planning Your Essay “) will help your reader identify and follow your ideas.

Before you submit your draft, make sure  the title, the introduction, and the conclusion match . (I am amazed at how many students overlook this simple step.)

2. Choose a Narrow Topic

A short undergraduate research paper is not the proper occasion for you to tackle huge issues, such as, “Was  Hamlet Shakespeare’s Best Tragedy?” or “Women’s Struggle for Equality” or “How to Eliminate Racism.”  You won’t be graded down simply because you don’t have all the answers right away.  The trick is to  zoom in on one tiny little part of the argument .

Short Research Paper: Sample Topics

How would you improve each of these paper topics? (My responses are at the bottom of the page.)

  • Environmentalism in America
  • Immigration Trends in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley
  • Drinking and Driving
  • Local TV News
  • 10 Ways that Advertisers Lie to the Public
  • Athletes on College Campuses

3. Use Sources Appropriately

Unless you were asked to write an opinion paper or a reflection statement, your professor probably expects you to draw a topic from the assigned readings (if any).

  • Some students frequently get this  backwards — they write the paper first, then “look for quotes” from sources that agree with the opinions they’ve already committed to. (That’s not really doing research to learn anything new — that’s just looking for confirmation of what you already believe.)
  • Start with the readings, but don’t pad your paper with  summary .
  • Many students try doing most of their research using Google. Depending on your topic, the Internet may simply not have good sources available.
  • Go ahead and surf as you try to narrow your topic, but remember: you still need to cite whatever you find. (See: “ Researching Academic Papers .”)

When learning about the place of women in Victorian society, Sally is shocked to discover women couldn’t vote or own property.  She begins her paper by listing these and other restrictions, and adds personal commentary such as:

Women can be just as strong and capable as men are.  Why do men think they have the right to make all the laws and keep all the money, when women stay in the kitchen?  People should be judged by what they contribute to society, not by the kind of chromosomes they carry.

After reaching the required number of pages, she tacks on a conclusion about how women are still fighting for their rights today, and submits her paper.

  • during the Victorian period, female authors were being published and read like never before
  • the public praised Queen Victoria (a woman!) for making England a world empire
  • some women actually fought against the new feminists because they distrusted their motives
  • many wealthy women in England were downright nasty to their poorer sisters, especially the Irish.
  • Sally’s paper focused mainly on her general impression that sexism is unfair (something that she already believed before she started taking the course), but Sally has not engaged with the controversies or surprising details (such as, for instance, the fact that for the first time male writers were writing with female readers in mind; or that upperclass women contributed to the degradation of lower-class women).

On the advice of her professor, Sally revises her paper as follows:

Sally’s focused revision (right) makes  specific reference to a particular source , and uses a quote to introduce a point.  Sally still injects her own opinion, but she is offering specific comments on complex issues, not bumper-sticker slogans and sweeping generalizations, such as those given on the left.

Documenting Evidence

Back up your claims by  quoting reputable sources .  If you write”Recent research shows that…” or “Many scholars believe that…”, you are making a claim. You will have to back it up with authoritative evidence.  This means that the body of your paper must include references to the specific page numbers where you got your outside information. (If your document is an online source that does not provide page numbers, ask your instructor what you should do. There might be a section title or paragraph number that you could cite, or you might print out the article and count the pages in your printout.)

Avoid using words like “always” or “never,” since all it takes is a single example to the contrary to disprove your claim.  Likewise, be careful with words of causation and proof.  For example, consider the claim that television causes violence in kids.  The evidence might be that kids who commit crimes typically watch more television than kids who don’t.  But… maybe the reason kids watch more television is that they’ve dropped out of school, and are unsupervised at home. An unsupervised kid might watch more television, and also commit more crimes — but that doesn’t mean that the television is the cause of those crimes.

You don’t need to cite common facts or observations, such as “a circle has 360 degrees” or “8-tracks and vinyl records are out of date,” but you would need to cite claims such as “circles have religious and philosophical significance in many cultures” or “the sales of 8-track tapes never approached those of vinyl records.”

Don’t waste words referring directly to “quotes” and “sources.”

If you use words like “in the book  My Big Boring Academic Study , by Professor H. Pompous Windbag III, it says” or “the following quote by a government study shows that…” you are wasting words that would be better spent developing your ideas.

In the book  Gramophone, Film, Typewriter , by Fredrich A. Kittler, it talks about writing and gender, and says on page 186, “an omnipresent metaphor equated women with the white sheet of nature or virginity onto which a very male stylus could inscribe the glory of its authorship.”  As you can see from this quote, all this would change when women started working as professional typists.

The “it talks about” and “As you can see from this quote” are weak attempts to engage with the ideas presented by Kittler.  “In the book… it talks” is wordy and nonsensical (books don’t talk).

MLA style encourages you to  expend fewer words introducing your sources , and more words developing your own ideas.  MLA style involves just the author’s last name, a space ( not a comma), and then the page number.  Leave the author’s full name and the the title of the source for the Works Cited list at the end of your paper. Using about the same space as the original, see how MLA style helps an author devote more words to developing the idea more fully:

Before the invention of the typewriter, “an omnipresent metaphor” among professional writers concerned “a very male stylus” writing upon the passive, feminized “white sheet of nature or virginity” (Kittler 186).  By contrast, the word “typewriter” referred to the machine as well as the female typist who used it (183).

See “ Quotations: Integrating them in MLA-Style Papers. ”

Stay On Topic

It’s fairly normal to sit and stare at the computer screen for a while until you come up with a title, then pick your way through your topic, offering an extremely broad introduction (see  glittering generalities , below)..

  • You might also type in a few long quotations that you like.
  • After writing generalities and just poking and prodding for page or two,  you will eventually hit on a fairly good idea .
  • You will pursue it for a paragraph or two, perhaps throwing in another quotation.
  • By then, you’ll realize that you’ve got almost three pages written, so you will tack on a hasty conclusion.

Hooray, you’ve finished your paper! Well, not quite…

  • At the very least, you ought to  rewrite your title and introduction to match your conclusion , so it looks like the place you ended up was where you were intending to go all along.  You probably won’t get an A, because you’re still submitting two pages of fluff; but you will get credit for recognizing whatever you actually did accomplish.
  • To get an A, you should delete all that fluff,  use the “good idea” that you stumbled across as your new starting point , and keep going.   Even “good writers” have to work — beefing up their best ideas and shaving away the rest, in order to build a whole paper that serves the good idea, rather than tacking the good idea on at the end and calling it a day.

See:  Sally Slacker Writes a Paper , and  Sally’s Professor Responds

Avoid Glittering Generalities

Key: Research Paper Topics

15 thoughts on “ Short Research Papers: How to Write Academic Essays ”

Hi, I was searching for some information on how to write quality academic paper when I came across your awesome article on Short Research Papers: How to Writer Academic Essays ( https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/academic1/short-research-papers/ ) Great stuff!!! I especially like the way you recommend sticking to the 4 basics of writing academic essays. Very few students have mastered how to avoid distractions and focus on a single topic. Many students think that the broad, sweeping statements could give them better grades but they are wrong.

However, I came across a few links that didn’t seem to be working for you. Want me to forward you the short list I jotted down? Cheers Elias

I see some broken links in the comments, but otherwise I’m not sure what you mean.

I found the part about not using my personal opinion or generalities to be very helpful. I am currently writing a 2 page paper and was having a hard time keeping it short. Now I know why. Thanks. Stick to the facts.

This seem to be old but very relevant. Most of what you have stated are things my professor has stated during class trying to prepare us to write a short thesis reading this information verses hearing it was very helpful. You have done an awesome job! I just hope I can take this and apply it to my papers!

Great Post! Thank u!

Thank you for all your effort and help. You´ve taught me a number of things, especially on what college professors´ look for in assigning students short research papers. I am bookmarking your page, and using it as a reference.

Thank you kindly. YOU´VE HELPED A LOST STUDENT FIND HER WAY!

I appreaciate all the help your web site has given to me. I have referred to it many times. I think there may be a typo under the headline of AVOID GLITTERING GENERALITIES: “Throughout the ages, mankind has found many uses for salt. Ancient tribes used it preserve meat;” This is in no way a slight – I thought you might want to know. Please forgive me if I am incorrect. Thank you again – you rock!

You are right — I’ll fix it the next time I’m at my desktop. Thank you!

i would like to say thank you for your detailed information even though it takes time to read as well as we’ve got learnings out from it . even though it’s holiday next week our teacher assigned us to make a short research paper in accordance of our selected topic ! I’m hoping that we can make it cause if we can’t make it, right away, for sure we will get a grade’s that can drop our jaws ! :) ♥ tnx ! keep it up ! ♪♪

Sorry I have not done this for years

Hello I am the mother of a high school student that needs help doing a paper proposal for her senior project. Her topic is Photography. To be honest I have done this for years and I am trying to help, but i am completely lost. What can you recommend since she told me a little late and the paper is due tomorrow 11/11/11.

This page is designed for college students, but I am sure your daughter’s teacher has assigned readings that will guide your daughter through her homework.

Any paper that your daughter writes herself, even if it is late, will be a valuable learning experience — showing her the value of managing her time better for the next time, and preparing her for the day when she will have to tackle grown-up problems on her own.

I am having a hard time with my government essay. I am 55 taking a college course for the first time, and I barely passed high school. Last year I took this course wrote the essay, and did many things wrong. It was all in the typing. I had good story line, excellent site words, and good points of arguments. It wasn’t right on paper. My format is off. Where can I find and print a format. also I need to learn site words.

Most teachers will provide a model to follow. If it’s not already part of the assignment instructions, you could ask your prof. Better yet, bring a near-complete draft to your prof’s office hours, a few days before the due date, and ask for feedback. Your school probably has a writing center or tutoring center, too.

I would like to thank you for such detailed information. I am not a native speaker and I am doing a research paper;so, as you may think, it is really a hard job for me. A friend of mine who saw my draft of Lit. Rev asked me what type of citation format i was using, MLA or APA and I was puzzeled; then I decided to check the net and came across to this! It is being such a help Elsa

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  • How to Write a Short Story - A Simplified Guide

How to Write a Short Story – A Simplified Guide

What is a short story – definition, how to start a short story.

  •  Sufficient time

Now let’s get into the steps to write short story

  • Put down your basic story
  • Identify your protagonist
  • Start with a catchy first line
  • Learn from the opening of a film which usually invites the audience to the scene
  • Start with a surprise
  • Make sure your first line is clear
  • Establish a voice for the story
  • Try to summarize your story in that first line
  • Split your story into scenes
  •    It gives the story a structure
  •    Enables you to understand the different parts of the story and the ones that need a lot of work
  •   Has a conflict and tension
  •  Has a crisis or climax
  •  Has a resolution

Standard short story structure

  • Rising action

Short Story Ideas You May Find Interesting

  • A story of an orphan who went through a hard childhood but later made it in life.
  • A story of a ghost – talk of a middle-aged woman who encounters a ghost.
  • What happens when a group of children discovers a dead body – many good writers tend to face death one on one. Tell your audience the experiences of these children.
  • Tells a story about your scar, this can be either an emotional or a physical scar. A good writer is one with the ability to remember each and every scar.
  • A story of a woman deeply in love with a man but ends up crushed after she goes through a break up with the fiancé.
  • A story about a long journey that ends up being a disaster. Many people go through journeys in which they wish to reach their destination but end up being delayed by some occurrences. Lord of the Rings is built on this.
  •  A story of a poor kid who runs into a big fortune that changes the trajectory of his life.
  • What happens when one gets into the path of a psychopath? How do they escape?
  • A poor boy meets a rich girl, parents don’t support such kind of relationship, and how does it end?
  • What is your deepest fear? This should be your main weapon. Instead of running from it, write about it.

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Readers' Corner

How to Write a Short Story

From idea generation to publication, learn every step of the short story writing process

Table of contents

What is a short story, developing ideas and premises, creating characters, plotting the story, structuring your story, refining your revision process, publishing and promoting your story, examples of classic short stories.

Writing a short story may seem like an easy or simple task, but crafting an engaging and compelling piece of short fiction takes skill and practice. In this guide, we will explore the key elements that go into writing an effective short story, including developing characters, crafting a plot, using narrative techniques, and revising and polishing your work. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of the short story writing process and be ready to draft your own tales.

Before diving into the how-tos of writing short fiction, it’s important to understand exactly what constitutes a short story. At its most basic, a short story is a brief work of prose fiction that is shorter in length than a novel. But there are some key distinguishing characteristics of short stories versus longer works of fiction:

  • Length  – Most short stories range from 1,000 to 7,500 words, though some can be shorter or a bit longer. Anything over 15,000 words is generally considered a novella or novel.
  • Single focused plot  – Short stories focus on one core conflict or storythread, without subplots. The narrative is more tightly-woven than a novel.
  • Few main characters  – There are usually only a handful of major characters rather than dozens or more. Background on characters is limited.
  • Swift pacing  – Events move at a brisker clip since there is less time/space. Exposition and backstory are kept to a minimum.
  • Condensed context  – Less emphasis is placed on extensive descriptions of setting or character backgrounds. Context is revealed through events.

Remember that these are guidelines rather than hard rules. Experimental or creative stories may play with conventions. The key point is that short stories aim to packs a narrative punch within a tighter, more focused scope than a novel.

When drafting a short story, one of the first steps is coming up with a core idea or premise to build the narrative around. Here are some effective techniques for generating initial story concepts:

Brainstorming Prompts  – Use writing prompts, either from online lists or ones you generate yourself, as a springboard. Things like “A woman finds $5,000 that isn’t hers” can spark ideas.

Personal Anecdotes  – Draw on interesting real-life experiences , people you know, odd things that happen to you and turn them into fictional tales.

Research Topics  – Browse news stories, history facts, current events for intriguing details or social issues to explore.

Reader Challenges  – Propose a narrative challenge, like “A story told through instant messages” to ignite creativity.

Mindmaps/Freewriting – Jot down any concepts, images, or questions without filtering, as these nonlinear methods stimulate new connections.

The premise should present a central conflict or character decision that neatly sets up the story’s focus and stakes. Keep tweaking ideas until you land on one with potential layers to unpack.

Short stories hinge upon vibrant, multilayered characters. Take time to craft appealing protagonists and supporting cast through character profiles addressing:

  • Basic Details – Describe appearance, mannerisms, and background details.
  • Motivations and Goals  – What drives this character? What do they want deep down?
  • Flaws and Contradictions  – No one is one-dimensional. Give characters nuanced weaknesses or inconsistencies.
  • Perspective and Voice  – How do they view themselves and others? What is their tone/speech patterns like?

Round out profiles by exploring each character’s dynamic with others, life experiences shaping them, and how they change through the story. Even side characters should feel authentic to avoid flat stock figures.

Short stories require tight, elevated storylining with a beginning, middle, and end. Develop the narrative arc by:

Identifying the Central Conflict  – What dramatic question or problem fuels the narrative drive?

Outlining Key Scenes  – Map the rising action, pivotal climax/turning point, and resolution of the central conflict.

Scheduling Reveals  – Parcel out contextual details and backstory judiciously, saving mysteries for climactic moments.

Foreshadowing Effectively  – Drop subtle hints that heighten foreboding, tie into later beats, and optimize surprises without logical leaps.

Crafting Satisfying Closures  – Resolve critical narrative strands while leaving room for interpretation or further questions. Avoid pat or simplistic endings.

Use this scheme to stay grounded, yet leave room for organic discoveries in the first draft. Continually assess if scenes refine character or propel plotting forward efficiently.

While short story structure is adaptable, many classics follow reliable models that help maintain pace and audience engagement. Consider opening with:

  • In Medias Res  – Throw readers directly into the action/conflict without extensive setup.
  • Character in Dilemma  – Pose a thought-provoking choice, want, or obstacle for protagonists up front.

Additional effective structural techniques include:

  • flashbacks  – Punctuate scenes with limited retrospectives that add nuance, not confusion.
  • dual timelines  – Layer two storylines, with climaxes aligning fruitfully versus disjointedly.
  • Frame narratives  – Bookend the central tale with another sequence setting context or posing implications.

The structure should unfold purposefully yet economically, without dragging or wasted space. Maintain suspense and curiosity right up through a resonant closure. Functional plots serve characters and themes over arbitrary story beats.

The initial draft gets the raw content on paper, but the real crafting happens in rewriting and refinement. Hone the story by:

  • Reading aloud  – Hear where language/pacing/tone feels awkward versus fluid and absorbing.
  • Getting feedback  – Consult critique partners to flag ambiguities, weak areas, emotional impacts, and logical gaps
  • Self-editing  – Cut excess flab while tightening prose, trimming redundant lines, sharpening dialogue/action, and finessing flow.
  • Replotting  – Restructure scenes, timelines, reveals, and conclusion as needed based on editorial insights and storytelling impact.
  • Polishing prose  – refine phrasing, vocabulary, sentence variation, vivid descriptions, evocative metaphor upon subsequent drafts.

Leave revisions to simmer, then revisit with fresh eyes later. The goal is a dynamic, cohesive end product where every element elevates the narrative and reader experience.

After polishing your story to a fine sheen, explore options for featuring your work:

  • Submit to literary journals – Research submission guidelines for print and online publications.
  • Self-publish eBooks /paperbacks – Easy-to-use platforms host and distribute your work digitally and in print.
  • Create a blog/website – Post stories and build an audience through promotion on social networking platforms.
  • Enter writing contests – Competitions offer exposure, potential awards, and craft feedback opportunities.
  • Pitch to anthologies/magazines – Inquire about one-off story reprint/syndication opportunities in specific publications or annual collections.

Always maintain professionalism with editors and respect revision/acceptance policies. View initial publications as a learning experience and resume builder toward higher impact placements. Networking widens your supporter base as well.

To help understand the range, depth and mastery possible within the short form, explore acclaimed works like:

  • “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – A chilling glimpse into blind social conformity and ritual with an unforgettably jarring climax.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – A feminist examination of postpartum depression and oppressive gender roles through a haunting first-person narrative.
  • “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates – A psychological thriller following the manipulation and downfall of a naive teenage girl.
  • “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs – A cautionary tale imbued with Gothic suspense sparked by a family’s fateful wishes upon a mystical talisman.
  • “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin – A poignant exploration of familial bonds, the ravages of addiction, and the universal language of jazz seen through two troubled brothers.

Studying classics like these spotlights concise yet immersive storytelling , economic character development, mastery of voice , and the heights short fiction can reach when approached with vision and skill.

That covers the essentials for crafting compelling short stories that entertain audiences and advance your writing practice. Keep experimenting and learning with each new story drafted. Above all, believe in your ability to meaningfully distill life’s complexities into vivid glimpses of truth through short fiction.

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The short story is a fiction writer’s laboratory: here is where you can experiment with characters, plots, and ideas without the heavy lifting of writing a novel. Learning how to write a short story is essential to mastering the art of storytelling . With far fewer words to worry about, storytellers can make many more mistakes—and strokes of genius!—through experimentation and the fun of fiction writing.

Nonetheless, the art of writing short stories is not easy to master. How do you tell a complete story in so few words? What does a story need to have in order to be successful? Whether you’re struggling with how to write a short story outline, or how to fully develop a character in so few words, this guide is your starting point.

Famous authors like Virginia Woolf, Haruki Murakami, and Agatha Christie have used the short story form to play with ideas before turning those stories into novels. Whether you want to master the elements of fiction, experiment with novel ideas, or simply have fun with storytelling, here’s everything you need on how to write a short story step by step.

The Core Elements of a Short Story

There’s no secret formula to writing a short story. However, a good short story will have most or all of the following elements:

  • A protagonist with a certain desire or need. It is essential for the protagonist to want something they don’t have, otherwise they will not drive the story forward.
  • A clear dilemma. We don’t need much backstory to see how the dilemma started; we’re primarily concerned with how the protagonist resolves it.
  • A decision. What does the protagonist do to resolve their dilemma?
  • A climax. In Freytag’s Pyramid , the climax of a story is when the tension reaches its peak, and the reader discovers the outcome of the protagonist’s decision(s).
  • An outcome. How does the climax change the protagonist? Are they a different person? Do they have a different philosophy or outlook on life?

Of course, short stories also utilize the elements of fiction , such as a setting , plot , and point of view . It helps to study these elements and to understand their intricacies. But, when it comes to laying down the skeleton of a short story, the above elements are what you need to get started.

Note: a short story rarely, if ever, has subplots. The focus should be entirely on a single, central storyline. Subplots will either pull focus away from the main story, or else push the story into the territory of novellas and novels.

The shorter the story is, the fewer of these elements are essentials. If you’re interested in writing short-short stories, check out our guide on how to write flash fiction .

How to Write a Short Story Outline

Some writers are “pantsers”—they “write by the seat of their pants,” making things up on the go with little more than an idea for a story. Other writers are “plotters,” meaning they decide the story’s structure in advance of writing it.

You don’t need a short story outline to write a good short story. But, if you’d like to give yourself some scaffolding before putting words on the page, this article answers the question of how to write a short story outline:

https://writers.com/how-to-write-a-story-outline

How to Write a Short Story Step by Step

There are many ways to approach the short story craft, but this method is tried-and-tested for writers of all levels. Here’s how to write a short story step by step.

1. Start With an Idea

Often, generating an idea is the hardest part. You want to write, but what will you write about?

What’s more, it’s easy to start coming up with ideas and then dismissing them. You want to tell an authentic, original story, but everything you come up with has already been written, it seems.

Here are a few tips:

  • Originality presents itself in your storytelling, not in your ideas. For example, the premise of both Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ostrovsky’s The Snow Maiden are very similar: two men and two women, in intertwining love triangles, sort out their feelings for each other amidst mischievous forest spirits, love potions, and friendship drama. The way each story is written makes them very distinct from one another, to the point where, unless it’s pointed out to you, you might not even notice the similarities.
  • An idea is not a final draft. You will find that exploring the possibilities of your story will generate something far different than the idea you started out with. This is a good thing—it means you made the story your own!
  • Experiment with genres and tropes. Even if you want to write literary fiction , pay attention to the narrative structures that drive genre stories, and practice your storytelling using those structures. Again, you will naturally make the story your own simply by playing with ideas.

If you’re struggling simply to find ideas, try out this prompt generator , or pull prompts from this Twitter .

2. Outline, OR Conceive Your Characters

If you plan to outline, do so once you’ve generated an idea. You can learn about how to write a short story outline earlier in this article.

If you don’t plan to outline, you should at least start with a character or characters. Certainly, you need a protagonist, but you should also think about any characters that aid or inhibit your protagonist’s journey.

When thinking about character development, ask the following questions:

  • What is my character’s background? Where do they come from, how did they get here, where do they want to be?
  • What does your character desire the most? This can be both material or conceptual, like “fitting in” or “being loved.”
  • What is your character’s fatal flaw? In other words, what limitation prevents the protagonist from achieving their desire? Often, this flaw is a blind spot that directly counters their desire. For example, self hatred stands in the way of a protagonist searching for love.
  • How does your character think and speak? Think of examples, both fictional and in the real world, who might resemble your character.

In short stories, there are rarely more characters than a protagonist, an antagonist (if relevant), and a small group of supporting characters. The more characters you include, the longer your story will be. Focus on making only one or two characters complex: it is absolutely okay to have the rest of the cast be flat characters that move the story along.

Learn more about character development here:

https://writers.com/character-development-definition

3. Write Scenes Around Conflict

Once you have an outline or some characters, start building scenes around conflict. Every part of your story, including the opening sentence, should in some way relate to the protagonist’s conflict.

Conflict is the lifeblood of storytelling: without it, the reader doesn’t have a clear reason to keep reading. Loveable characters are not enough, as the story has to give the reader something to root for.

Take, for example, Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Cask of Amontillado . We start at the conflict: the narrator has been slighted by Fortunato, and plans to exact revenge. Every scene in the story builds tension and follows the protagonist as he exacts this revenge.

In your story, start writing scenes around conflict, and make sure each paragraph and piece of dialogue relates, in some way, to your protagonist’s unmet desires.

4. Write Your First Draft

The scenes you build around conflict will eventually be stitched into a complete story. Make sure as the story progresses that each scene heightens the story’s tension, and that this tension remains unbroken until the climax resolves whether or not your protagonist meets their desires.

Don’t stress too hard on writing a perfect story. Rather, take Anne Lamott’s advice, and “write a shitty first draft.” The goal is not to pen a complete story at first draft; rather, it’s to set ideas down on paper. You are simply, as Shannon Hale suggests, “shoveling sand into a box so that later [you] can build castles.”

5. Step Away, Breathe, Revise

Whenever Stephen King finishes a novel, he puts it in a drawer and doesn’t think about it for 6 weeks. With short stories, you probably don’t need to take as long of a break. But, the idea itself is true: when you’ve finished your first draft, set it aside for a while. Let yourself come back to the story with fresh eyes, so that you can confidently revise, revise, revise .

In revision, you want to make sure each word has an essential place in the story, that each scene ramps up tension, and that each character is clearly defined. The culmination of these elements allows a story to explore complex themes and ideas, giving the reader something to think about after the story has ended.

6. Compare Against Our Short Story Checklist

Does your story have everything it needs to succeed? Compare it against this short story checklist, as written by our instructor Rosemary Tantra Bensko.

Below is a collection of practical short story writing tips by Writers.com instructor Rosemary Tantra Bensko . Each paragraph is its own checklist item: a core element of short story writing advice to follow unless you have clear reasons to the contrary. We hope it’s a helpful resource in your own writing.

Update 9/1/2020: We’ve now made a summary of Rosemary’s short story checklist available as a PDF download . Enjoy!

how to write a short story research paper

Click to download

How to Write a Short Story: Length and Setting

Your short story is 1000 to 7500 words in length.

The story takes place in one time period, not spread out or with gaps other than to drive someplace, sleep, etc. If there are those gaps, there is a space between the paragraphs, the new paragraph beginning flush left, to indicate a new scene.

Each scene takes place in one location, or in continual transit, such as driving a truck or flying in a plane.

How to Write a Short Story: Point of View

Unless it’s a very lengthy Romance story, in which there may be two Point of View (POV) characters, there is one POV character. If we are told what any character secretly thinks, it will only be the POV character. The degree to which we are privy to the unexpressed thoughts, memories and hopes of the POV character remains consistent throughout the story.

You avoid head-hopping by only having one POV character per scene, even in a Romance. You avoid straying into even brief moments of telling us what other characters think other than the POV character. You use words like “apparently,” “obviously,” or “supposedly” to suggest how non-POV-characters think rather than stating it.

How to Write a Short Story: Protagonist, Antagonist, Motivation

Your short story has one clear protagonist who is usually the character changing most.

Your story has a clear antagonist, who generally makes the protagonist change by thwarting his goals.

(Possible exception to the two short story writing tips above: In some types of Mystery and Action stories, particularly in a series, etc., the protagonist doesn’t necessarily grow personally, but instead his change relates to understanding the antagonist enough to arrest or kill him.)

The protagonist changes with an Arc arising out of how he is stuck in his Flaw at the beginning of the story, which makes the reader bond with him as a human, and feel the pain of his problems he causes himself. (Or if it’s the non-personal growth type plot: he’s presented at the beginning of the story with a high-stakes problem that requires him to prevent or punish a crime.)

The protagonist usually is shown to Want something, because that’s what people normally do, defining their personalities and behavior patterns, pushing them onward from day to day. This may be obvious from the beginning of the story, though it may not become heightened until the Inciting Incident , which happens near the beginning of Act 1. The Want is usually something the reader sort of wants the character to succeed in, while at the same time, knows the Want is not in his authentic best interests. This mixed feeling in the reader creates tension.

The protagonist is usually shown to Need something valid and beneficial, but at first, he doesn’t recognize it, admit it, honor it, integrate it with his Want, or let the Want go so he can achieve the Need instead. Ideally, the Want and Need can be combined in a satisfying way toward the end for the sake of continuity of forward momentum of victoriously achieving the goals set out from the beginning. It’s the encounters with the antagonist that forcibly teach the protagonist to prioritize his Needs correctly and overcome his Flaw so he can defeat the obstacles put in his path.

The protagonist in a personal growth plot needs to change his Flaw/Want but like most people, doesn’t automatically do that when faced with the problem. He tries the easy way, which doesn’t work. Only when the Crisis takes him to a low point does he boldly change enough to become victorious over himself and the external situation. What he learns becomes the Theme.

Each scene shows its main character’s goal at its beginning, which aligns in a significant way with the protagonist’s overall goal for the story. The scene has a “charge,” showing either progress toward the goal or regression away from the goal by the ending. Most scenes end with a negative charge, because a story is about not obtaining one’s goals easily, until the end, in which the scene/s end with a positive charge.

The protagonist’s goal of the story becomes triggered until the Inciting Incident near the beginning, when something happens to shake up his life. This is the only major thing in the story that is allowed to be a random event that occurs to him.

How to Write a Short Story: Characters

Your characters speak differently from one another, and their dialogue suggests subtext, what they are really thinking but not saying: subtle passive-aggressive jibes, their underlying emotions, etc.

Your characters are not illustrative of ideas and beliefs you are pushing for, but come across as real people.

How to Write a Short Story: Prose

Your language is succinct, fresh and exciting, specific, colorful, avoiding clichés and platitudes. Sentence structures vary. In Genre stories, the language is simple, the symbolism is direct, and words are well-known, and sentences are relatively short. In Literary stories, you are freer to use more sophisticated ideas, words, sentence structures and underlying metaphors and implied motifs.

How to Write a Short Story: Story Structure

Your plot elements occur in the proper places according to classical Act Structure so the reader feels he has vicariously gone through a harrowing trial with the protagonist and won, raising his sense of hope and possibility. Literary short stories may be more subtle, with lower stakes, experimenting beyond classical structures like the Hero’s Journey. They can be more like vignettes sometimes, or even slice-of-life, though these types are hard to place in publications.

In Genre stories, all the questions are answered, threads are tied up, problems are solved, though the results of carnage may be spread over the landscape. In Literary short stories, you are free to explore uncertainty, ambiguity, and inchoate, realistic endings that suggest multiple interpretations, and unresolved issues.

Some Literary stories may be nonrealistic, such as with Surrealism, Absurdism, New Wave Fabulism, Weird and Magical Realism . If this is what you write, they still need their own internal logic and they should not be bewildering as to the what the reader is meant to experience, whether it’s a nuanced, unnameable mood or a trip into the subconscious.

Literary stories may also go beyond any label other than Experimental. For example, a story could be a list of To Do items on a paper held by a magnet to a refrigerator for the housemate to read. The person writing the list may grow more passive-aggressive and manipulative as the list grows, and we learn about the relationship between the housemates through the implied threats and cajoling.

How to Write a Short Story: Capturing Reader Interest

Your short story is suspenseful, meaning readers hope the protagonist will achieve his best goal, his Need, by the Climax battle against the antagonist.

Your story entertains. This is especially necessary for Genre short stories.

The story captivates readers at the very beginning with a Hook, which can be a puzzling mystery to solve, an amazing character’s or narrator’s Voice, an astounding location, humor, a startling image, or a world the reader wants to become immersed in.

Expository prose (telling, like an essay) takes up very, very little space in your short story, and it does not appear near the beginning. The story is in Narrative format instead, in which one action follows the next. You’ve removed every unnecessary instance of Expository prose and replaced it with showing Narrative. Distancing words like “used to,” “he would often,” “over the years, he,” “each morning, he” indicate that you are reporting on a lengthy time period, summing it up, rather than sticking to Narrative format, in which immediacy makes the story engaging.

You’ve earned the right to include Expository Backstory by making the reader yearn for knowing what happened in the past to solve a mystery. This can’t possibly happen at the beginning, obviously. Expository Backstory does not take place in the first pages of your story.

Your reader cares what happens and there are high stakes (especially important in Genre stories). Your reader worries until the end, when the protagonist survives, succeeds in his quest to help the community, gets the girl, solves or prevents the crime, achieves new scientific developments, takes over rule of his realm, etc.

Every sentence is compelling enough to urge the reader to read the next one—because he really, really wants to—instead of doing something else he could be doing. Your story is not going to be assigned to people to analyze in school like the ones you studied, so you have found a way from the beginning to intrigue strangers to want to spend their time with your words.

Where to Read and Submit Short Stories

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or want to publish your own stories, you’ll find great literary journals for writers of all backgrounds at this article:

https://writers.com/short-story-submissions

Learn How to Write a Short Story at Writers.com

The short story takes an hour to learn and a lifetime to master. Learn how to write a short story with Writers.com. Our upcoming fiction courses will give you the ropes to tell authentic, original short stories that captivate and entrance your readers.

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Rosemary – Is there any chance you could add a little something to your checklist? I’d love to know the best places to submit our short stories for publication. Thanks so much.

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Hi, Kim Hanson,

Some good places to find publications specific to your story are NewPages, Poets and Writers, Duotrope, and The Submission Grinder.

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“ In Genre stories, all the questions are answered, threads are tied up, problems are solved, though the results of carnage may be spread over the landscape.”

Not just no but NO.

See for example the work of MacArthur Fellow Kelly Link.

[…] How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist […]

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Thank you for these directions and tips. It’s very encouraging to someone like me, just NOW taking up writing.

[…] Writers.com. A great intro to writing. https://writers.com/how-to-write-a-short-story […]

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  • Knowledge Base
  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

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Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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how to write a short story research paper

The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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McCombes, S. (2023, August 15). How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 26, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/thesis-statement/

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how to write a short story research paper

  • Developing a Research Question

by acburton | Mar 22, 2024 | Resources for Students , Writing Resources

Selecting your research question and creating a clear goal and structure for your writing can be challenging – whether you are doing it for the first time or if you’ve done it many times before. It can be especially difficult when your research question starts to look and feel a little different somewhere between your first and final draft. Don’t panic! It’s normal for your research question to change a little (or even quite a bit) as you move through and engage with the writing process. Anticipating this can remind you to stay on track while you work and that it’ll be okay even if the literature takes you in a different direction.

What Makes an Effective Research Question?

The most effective research question will usually be a critical thinking question and should use “how” or “why” to ensure it can move beyond a yes/no or one-word type of answer. Consider how your research question can aim to reveal something new, fill in a gap, even if small, and contribute to the field in a meaningful way; How might the proposed project move knowledge forward about a particular place or process? This should be specific and achievable!

The CEWC’s Grad Writing Consultant Tariq says, “I definitely concentrated on those aspects of what I saw in the field where I believed there was an opportunity to move the discipline forward.”

General Tips

Do your research.

Utilize the librarians at your university and take the time to research your topic first. Try looking at very general sources to get an idea of what could be interesting to you before you move to more academic articles that support your rough idea of the topic. It is important that research is grounded in what you see or experience regarding the topic you have chosen and what is already known in the literature. Spend time researching articles, books, etc. that supports your thesis. Once you have a number of sources that you know support what you want to write about, formulate a research question that serves as the interrogative form of your thesis statement.

Grad Writing Consultant Deni advises, “Delineate your intervention in the literature (i.e., be strategic about the literature you discuss and clear about your contributions to it).”

Start Broadly…. then Narrow Your Topic Down to Something Manageable

When brainstorming your research question, let your mind veer toward connections or associations that you might have already considered or that seem to make sense and consider if new research terms, language or concepts come to mind that may be interesting or exciting for you as a researcher. Sometimes testing out a research question while doing some preliminary researching is also useful to see if the language you are using or the direction you are heading toward is fruitful when trying to search strategically in academic databases. Be prepared to focus on a specific area of a broad topic.

Writing Consultant Jessie recommends outlining: “I think some rough outlining with a research question in mind can be helpful for me. I’ll have a research question and maybe a working thesis that I feel may be my claim to the research question based on some preliminary materials, brainstorming, etc.” — Jessie, CEWC Writing Consultant

Try an Exercise

In the earliest phase of brainstorming, try an exercise suggested by CEWC Writing Specialist, Percival! While it is normally used in classroom or workshop settings, this exercise can easily be modified for someone working alone. The flow of the activity, if done within a group setting, is 1) someone starts with an idea, 2) three other people share their idea, and 3) the starting person picks two of these new ideas they like best and combines their original idea with those. The activity then begins again with the idea that was not chosen. The solo version of this exercise substitutes a ‘word bank,’ created using words, topics, or ideas similar to your broad, overarching theme. Pick two words or phrases from your word bank, combine it with your original idea or topic, and ‘start again’ with two different words. This serves as a replacement for different people’s suggestions. Ideas for your ‘word bank’ can range from vague prompts about mapping or webbing (e.g., where your topic falls within the discipline and others like it), to more specific concepts that come from tracing the history of an idea (its past, present, future) or mapping the idea’s related ideas, influences, etc. Care for a physics analogy? There is a particle (your topic) that you can describe, a wave that the particle traces, and a field that the particle is mapped on.

Get Feedback and Affirm Your Confidence!

Creating a few different versions of your research question (they may be the same topic/issue/theme or differ slightly) can be useful during this process. Sharing these with trusted friends, colleagues, mentors, (or tutors!) and having conversations about your questions and ideas with other people can help you decide which version you may feel most confident or interested in. Ask colleagues and mentors to share their research questions with you to get a lot of examples. Once you have done the work of developing an effective research question, do not forget to affirm your confidence! Based on your working thesis, think about how you might organize your chapters or paragraphs and what resources you have for supporting this structure and organization. This can help boost your confidence that the research question you have created is effective and fruitful.

Be Open to Change

Remember, your research question may change from your first to final draft. For questions along the way, make an appointment with the Writing Center. We are here to help you develop an effective and engaging research question and build the foundation for a solid research paper!

Example 1: In my field developing a research question involves navigating the relationship between 1) what one sees/experiences at their field site and 2) what is already known in the literature. During my preliminary research, I found that the financial value of land was often a matter of precisely these cultural factors. So, my research question ended up being: How do the social and material qualities of land entangle with processes of financialization in the city of Lahore. Regarding point #1, this question was absolutely informed by what I saw in the field. But regarding point #2, the question was also heavily shaped by the literature. – Tariq

Example 2: A research question should not be a yes/no question like “Is pollution bad?”; but an open-ended question where the answer has to be supported with reasons and explanation. The question also has to be narrowed down to a specific topic—using the same example as before—”Is pollution bad?” can be revised to “How does pollution affect people?” I would encourage students to be more specific then; e.g., what area of pollution do you want to talk about: water, air, plastic, climate change… what type of people or demographic can we focus on? …how does this affect marginalized communities, minorities, or specific areas in California? After researching and deciding on a focus, your question might sound something like: How does government policy affect water pollution and how does it affect the marginalized communities in the state of California? -Janella

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Creative Writing III: Short Story (Permanent Section)

“Reading for Wellness”

Taking inspiration from the in/of that joins Health and Humanities in this year’s conference theme, this panel seeks papers that broadly consider the relationship between the short story form and wellbeing.   

Individual and Collective Wellbeing

Claims made for the humanness of the short story form – its capacity to capture, condense, and convey essential elements if not the Truth of human experience – take on added urgency in an age increasingly characterized as inhuman.   

Submissions to this panel, then, might

  • interrogate the form’s ability to register and respond to individual, social, political, and cultural change and/or upheaval and to offer its writers and/or readers recognition and/or reassurance, consolation and/or compassion, cathartic confrontation and/or restful retreat
  • consider the extent to which the form’s appeal rests in its connective force – its ability to connect quickly, to connect widely, to connect the apparently disconnected
  • address the affective qualities of the form and/or its place within affect studies
  • examine the form’s capacity for restoration and/or renewal

The Wellbeing of the Discipline

Alternatively, panelists might address the interpretive demands works of short prose fiction make and their implications for the health of the humanities moving forward.   Papers might explore the extent to which the form  

  • models adaptability and/or ensures the survival and/or development of narrative modes of understanding the world and the critical frameworks that accompany them
  • invites cross-disciplinary practice and analysis
  • challenges readers to hone skills critical to navigating a storified age

Abstracts of 250 words with a short bio should be sent by email to Dr. Heather Joyce at [email protected] no later than April 15, 2024. 

how to write a short story research paper

Q&A: Archaeologist's fieldwork finds movement of crops, animals played a key role in domestication

A rchaeologist Xinyi Liu at Washington University in St. Louis teamed up with Martin Jones of the University of Cambridge to write a new paper for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that explains how recent research is connecting the science of biological domestication to early food globalization.

Liu, an associate professor of archaeology and associate chair of the Department of Anthropology in Arts & Sciences, proposes a new conceptual framework to understand domestication, which is relevant not only to anthropology but other fields such as biology and ecology.

In this Q&A, he also offers his perspective on how understanding the past conditions can help us to forge a vision for the future.

The domestication of plants and animals is among the most significant transitions in human history. How has our understanding of domestication changed recently?

Our new article focuses on how we conceptualize domestication. A considerable intellectual legacy has depicted domestication as a series of short-lived, localized and episodic events. Some of the literature, particularly those pieces dating back to the early 20th century, envisioned the process as a transition from humans within nature to humans controlling nature in a revolutionary fashion.

The metaphor there is "revolution." So, as people described it, there was a "Neolithic Revolution" that functioned in a similar way as the "Industrial Revolution" or the "scientific revolution"—a rapid technological shift followed by changes in societies, according to some narratives.

It is time to reconsider all this. Newly emergent evidence from the last 15 years challenges the idea of rapid domestication. This evidence shows unambiguously that plant and animal domestication in a range of species entailed a more gradual transition spanning a few thousand years across extensive geographies.

How has archaeology contributed to this line of inquiry?

Much of this evidence was brought to light by archaeological and scientific investigations . For example, it took about 5,000 years for the domestication traits of wheat to be fully developed from its wild morphology, according to archaeobotanical work in the Near East.

In the lower Yangtze Valley in China, research informed a similar process that ancient communities had cultivated rice for a few millennia before the plant reached domesticated states, in the biological sense.

So domestication has extended in time. But you also argue that it has extended in space. What does that mean?

Over the last 15 years we've also seen an improvement in the understanding of how people have moved domesticated plants and animals over continents. In some cases, people moved crops and stocks before the genetic changes associated with domestication were fully fixed within the species. This raises questions about the role translocations played in the domestication process.

Central to our inquiry is the relationship between domesticated crops and stocks and their free-living ancestors, or progenitors. Newer genetic evidence suggests that long-term gene flow between wild and domestic species was much more common than previously appreciated.

It makes sense: At the so-called domestication center, where ancestral varieties were dominant, such gene flow would have been very strong. No meaningful mechanism could have stopped the introgression.

But if farmers took their crops, or herders their stocks, and moved to a new environment beyond the natural distribution of the ancestors, then selection pressures would have changed dramatically. Eventually, you are domesticating in a single pathway, with no return. Such a process has been documented genetically and archaeologically in a number of domesticated species, such as maize and wheat.

How do human preferences or traditions factor in?

If crop or stock movements were entangled with the domestication process, the newly introduced species would have to adapt to the new physical environment encountered. But they would have also been adapted to align with new cultural habits . We envision both the physical and cultural adaptation played roles in the fixation of some domestication traits.

Does this research have any implications for modern agriculture?

Understanding the past conditions can help us to forge visions about the future. In that sense, archaeology plays a key role in establishing the historical and community roots of a range of contemporary challenges, such as food security, planetary health and sustainability, providing solutions drawing from humanity at the deepest level.

One such example is the positive impact that archaeogenetic research about millet made on the livelihoods of farmers across the globe. At its 75th session, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 the International Year of Millets to raise awareness of the crop's deep community roots and future potential.

There has been considerable recent momentum in understanding the biodiversity and historical geography of millets, which are a diverse group of cereals originating from several continents, including pearl, proso (or broomcorn), foxtail, barnyard, little, kodo, browntop, finger and fonio millets.

Millets can grow on arid lands with minimal inputs and are resilient to changes in climate. They are, therefore, an ideal solution for communities to increase self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported cereal grains.

These grains once sustained ancient populations by large. Archaeology played a key role in establishing the original biogeography, domestication and early dispersals of millets. The knowledge we have gained consequently has profoundly impacted food security and conservation in areas where millets are culturally relevant.

More information: Xinyi Liu et al, Needs for a conceptual bridge between biological domestication and early food globalization, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2024). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2219055121

Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

Foxtail millet field in Aohan, Inner Mongolia. The location is close to Xinglonggou, one of the archaeological localities providing evidence of millet cultivation 8,000 years ago. 2023 was the International Year of Millets, as declared by the United Nations. Credit: Xinyi Liu

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What the Data Says About Pandemic School Closures, Four Years Later

The more time students spent in remote instruction, the further they fell behind. And, experts say, extended closures did little to stop the spread of Covid.

Sarah Mervosh

By Sarah Mervosh ,  Claire Cain Miller and Francesca Paris

Four years ago this month, schools nationwide began to shut down, igniting one of the most polarizing and partisan debates of the pandemic.

Some schools, often in Republican-led states and rural areas, reopened by fall 2020. Others, typically in large cities and states led by Democrats, would not fully reopen for another year.

A variety of data — about children’s academic outcomes and about the spread of Covid-19 — has accumulated in the time since. Today, there is broad acknowledgment among many public health and education experts that extended school closures did not significantly stop the spread of Covid, while the academic harms for children have been large and long-lasting.

While poverty and other factors also played a role, remote learning was a key driver of academic declines during the pandemic, research shows — a finding that held true across income levels.

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the COVID-19 Pandemic .” Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. In-person means a district offered traditional in-person learning, even if not all students were in-person.

“There’s fairly good consensus that, in general, as a society, we probably kept kids out of school longer than we should have,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who helped write guidance for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommended in June 2020 that schools reopen with safety measures in place.

There were no easy decisions at the time. Officials had to weigh the risks of an emerging virus against the academic and mental health consequences of closing schools. And even schools that reopened quickly, by the fall of 2020, have seen lasting effects.

But as experts plan for the next public health emergency, whatever it may be, a growing body of research shows that pandemic school closures came at a steep cost to students.

The longer schools were closed, the more students fell behind.

At the state level, more time spent in remote or hybrid instruction in the 2020-21 school year was associated with larger drops in test scores, according to a New York Times analysis of school closure data and results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress , an authoritative exam administered to a national sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students.

At the school district level, that finding also holds, according to an analysis of test scores from third through eighth grade in thousands of U.S. districts, led by researchers at Stanford and Harvard. In districts where students spent most of the 2020-21 school year learning remotely, they fell more than half a grade behind in math on average, while in districts that spent most of the year in person they lost just over a third of a grade.

( A separate study of nearly 10,000 schools found similar results.)

Such losses can be hard to overcome, without significant interventions. The most recent test scores, from spring 2023, show that students, overall, are not caught up from their pandemic losses , with larger gaps remaining among students that lost the most ground to begin with. Students in districts that were remote or hybrid the longest — at least 90 percent of the 2020-21 school year — still had almost double the ground to make up compared with students in districts that allowed students back for most of the year.

Some time in person was better than no time.

As districts shifted toward in-person learning as the year went on, students that were offered a hybrid schedule (a few hours or days a week in person, with the rest online) did better, on average, than those in places where school was fully remote, but worse than those in places that had school fully in person.

Students in hybrid or remote learning, 2020-21

80% of students

Some schools return online, as Covid-19 cases surge. Vaccinations start for high-priority groups.

Teachers are eligible for the Covid vaccine in more than half of states.

Most districts end the year in-person or hybrid.

Source: Burbio audit of more than 1,200 school districts representing 47 percent of U.S. K-12 enrollment. Note: Learning mode was defined based on the most in-person option available to students.

Income and family background also made a big difference.

A second factor associated with academic declines during the pandemic was a community’s poverty level. Comparing districts with similar remote learning policies, poorer districts had steeper losses.

But in-person learning still mattered: Looking at districts with similar poverty levels, remote learning was associated with greater declines.

A community’s poverty rate and the length of school closures had a “roughly equal” effect on student outcomes, said Sean F. Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford, who led a district-level analysis with Thomas J. Kane, an economist at Harvard.

Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. Poorest and richest are the top and bottom 20% of districts by percent of students on free/reduced lunch. Mostly in-person and mostly remote are districts that offered traditional in-person learning for more than 90 percent or less than 10 percent of the 2020-21 year.

But the combination — poverty and remote learning — was particularly harmful. For each week spent remote, students in poor districts experienced steeper losses in math than peers in richer districts.

That is notable, because poor districts were also more likely to stay remote for longer .

Some of the country’s largest poor districts are in Democratic-leaning cities that took a more cautious approach to the virus. Poor areas, and Black and Hispanic communities , also suffered higher Covid death rates, making many families and teachers in those districts hesitant to return.

“We wanted to survive,” said Sarah Carpenter, the executive director of Memphis Lift, a parent advocacy group in Memphis, where schools were closed until spring 2021 .

“But I also think, man, looking back, I wish our kids could have gone back to school much quicker,” she added, citing the academic effects.

Other things were also associated with worse student outcomes, including increased anxiety and depression among adults in children’s lives, and the overall restriction of social activity in a community, according to the Stanford and Harvard research .

Even short closures had long-term consequences for children.

While being in school was on average better for academic outcomes, it wasn’t a guarantee. Some districts that opened early, like those in Cherokee County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, and Hanover County, Va., lost significant learning and remain behind.

At the same time, many schools are seeing more anxiety and behavioral outbursts among students. And chronic absenteeism from school has surged across demographic groups .

These are signs, experts say, that even short-term closures, and the pandemic more broadly, had lasting effects on the culture of education.

“There was almost, in the Covid era, a sense of, ‘We give up, we’re just trying to keep body and soul together,’ and I think that was corrosive to the higher expectations of schools,” said Margaret Spellings, an education secretary under President George W. Bush who is now chief executive of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Closing schools did not appear to significantly slow Covid’s spread.

Perhaps the biggest question that hung over school reopenings: Was it safe?

That was largely unknown in the spring of 2020, when schools first shut down. But several experts said that had changed by the fall of 2020, when there were initial signs that children were less likely to become seriously ill, and growing evidence from Europe and parts of the United States that opening schools, with safety measures, did not lead to significantly more transmission.

“Infectious disease leaders have generally agreed that school closures were not an important strategy in stemming the spread of Covid,” said Dr. Jeanne Noble, who directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department.

Politically, though, there remains some disagreement about when, exactly, it was safe to reopen school.

Republican governors who pushed to open schools sooner have claimed credit for their approach, while Democrats and teachers’ unions have emphasized their commitment to safety and their investment in helping students recover.

“I do believe it was the right decision,” said Jerry T. Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which resisted returning to school in person over concerns about the availability of vaccines and poor ventilation in school buildings. Philadelphia schools waited to partially reopen until the spring of 2021 , a decision Mr. Jordan believes saved lives.

“It doesn’t matter what is going on in the building and how much people are learning if people are getting the virus and running the potential of dying,” he said.

Pandemic school closures offer lessons for the future.

Though the next health crisis may have different particulars, with different risk calculations, the consequences of closing schools are now well established, experts say.

In the future, infectious disease experts said, they hoped decisions would be guided more by epidemiological data as it emerged, taking into account the trade-offs.

“Could we have used data to better guide our decision making? Yes,” said Dr. Uzma N. Hasan, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at RWJBarnabas Health in Livingston, N.J. “Fear should not guide our decision making.”

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the Covid-19 Pandemic. ”

The study used estimates of learning loss from the Stanford Education Data Archive . For closure lengths, the study averaged district-level estimates of time spent in remote and hybrid learning compiled by the Covid-19 School Data Hub (C.S.D.H.) and American Enterprise Institute (A.E.I.) . The A.E.I. data defines remote status by whether there was an in-person or hybrid option, even if some students chose to remain virtual. In the C.S.D.H. data set, districts are defined as remote if “all or most” students were virtual.

An earlier version of this article misstated a job description of Dr. Jeanne Noble. She directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department. She did not direct the Covid response for the University of California, San Francisco health system.

How we handle corrections

Sarah Mervosh covers education for The Times, focusing on K-12 schools. More about Sarah Mervosh

Claire Cain Miller writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot. She joined The Times in 2008 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. More about Claire Cain Miller

Francesca Paris is a Times reporter working with data and graphics for The Upshot. More about Francesca Paris

March 19, 2024

Evidence Does Not Support the Use of the Death Penalty

Capital punishment must come to an end. It does not deter crime, is not humane and has no moral or medical basis

By The Editors

A woman protesting, holding a sign showing the Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A death penalty vigil, held in 2021 outside an Indiana penitentiary.

Bryan Woolston/Reuters/Redux

It is long past time to abolish the death penalty in the U.S.

Capital punishment was halted in the U.S. in 1972 but reinstated in 1976, and since then, nearly 1,600 people have been executed. To whose gain? Study after study shows that the death penalty does not deter crime, puts innocent people to death , is racially biased , and is cruel and inhumane. It is state-sanctioned homicide, wholly ineffective, often botched, and a much more expensive punishment than life imprisonment. There is no ethical, scientifically supported, medically acceptable or morally justifiable way to carry it out.

The recent execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith demonstrates this barbarity. After a failed attempt at lethal injection by prison officials seemingly inexperienced in the placement of an IV, the state of Alabama killed Smith in January using nitrogen gas . The Alabama attorney general claimed that this method of execution was fast and humane , despite no supporting evidence. Eyewitnesses recounted that Smith thrashed during the nitrogen administration and took more than 20 minutes to die.

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Opposition to the death penalty is growing among the American public , and the Biden administration must follow through on its promise to end this horror. The Department of Justice must heed its own admission that the death penalty doesn’t stop crime, and our legislators must continue to take up the issue on the congressional floor. The few states that still condemn people to death must follow the lead of states that have considered the evidence and rejected capital punishment.

Programs such as the Innocence Project have shown, over and over, that innocent people have been sentenced to death. Since 1973 nearly 200 people on death row have been exonerated, based on appeals, the reopening of cases, and the entrance of new and sometimes previously suppressed evidence. People have recanted testimony, and supposedly airtight cases have been poked full of evidentiary holes.

Through the death penalty, the criminal justice system has killed at least 20 people now believed to have been innocent and uncounted others whose cases have not been reexamined . Too many of these victims have been Black or Hispanic. This is not justice. These are state-sanctioned hate crimes.

Using rigorous statistical and experimental control methods, both economics and criminal justice studies have consistently found that there is no evidence for deterrence of violent crimes in states that allow capital punishment. One such study, a 2009 paper by criminology researchers at the University of Dallas, outlines experimental and statistical flaws in econometrics-based death penalty studies that claim to find a correlated reduction in violent crime. The death penalty does not stop people from killing. Executions don’t make us safer.

The methods used to kill prisoners are inhumane. Electrocution fails , causing significant pain and suffering. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist who criticizes the use of medicines in carrying out the death penalty, has found (at the request of lawyers of death row inmates) that the lungs of prisoners who were killed by lethal injection were often heavy with fluid and froth that suggested they were struggling to breathe and felt like they were drowning. Nitrogen gas is used in some veterinary euthanasia, but based in part on the behavior of rats in its presence, it is “unacceptable” for mammals , according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This means that Smith, as his lawyers claimed in efforts to stop his execution, became a human subject in an immoral experiment.

Courts have often decided, against the abundant evidence, that these killings are constitutional and do not fall under the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the 8th Amendment or, in Smith’s appeal , both the 8th Amendment and the due process protection clause of the 14th amendment.

A small number of prosecutors and judges in a few states, mostly in the South, are responsible for most of the death sentences being handed down in the U.S. today. It’s a power they should not be able to wield. Smith was sentenced to life in prison by a jury before the judge in his case overruled the jury and gave him the death sentence.

A furious urge for vengeance against those who have done wrong—or those we think have done wrong—is the biggest motivation for the death penalty. But this desire for violent retribution is the very impulse that our criminal justice system is made to check, not abet. Elected officials need to reform this aspect of our justice system at both the state and federal levels. Capital punishment does not stop crime and mocks both justice and humanity. The death penalty in the U.S. must come to an end.

This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American .

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  1. Strategies for Short Story Research

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    2.    Choose the Subjects You Will Emphasize In Your Paper. Ensure that your research piece concentrates on certain subjects. For instance, you may opt to emphasize the book's characters or the plot's content. This will make outlining your thoughts and writing your research report much simpler.

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    Assignment Description: For this essay, you will choose a short story and write an analysis that offers an interpretation of the text. You should identify some debatable aspect of the text and argue for your interpretation using your analysis of the story supported by textual evidence. Content: The essay should have a clear argumentative thesis ...

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    Creative Writing III: Short Story (Permanent Section) deadline for submissions: April 15, 2024. full name / name of organization: ... Taking inspiration from the in/of that joins Health and Humanities in this year's conference theme, this panel seeks papers that broadly consider the relationship between the short story form and wellbeing. ...

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  26. What the Data Says About Pandemic School Closures, Four Years Later

    The more time students spent in remote instruction, the further they fell behind. And, experts say, extended closures did little to stop the spread of Covid.

  27. Evidence Does Not Support the Use of the Death Penalty

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