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Hannah Myers

Major: English

Minor: Music & WGSX


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Writing a Research Paper

This guide to writing a research paper should be used as a general overview. Every instructor will have personal criteria that may influence the process through which you research and write your paper.

Getting Started

  1. Choose a subject that interests you
  2. Begin some background research on that subject.
  3. Narrow your subject and compose your thesis


  1. Decide on a system of recording bibliographical information (the use of 3 x 5 inch note cards is conventional)
  2. Use electronic library catalogues, periodical indexes and bibliographies to generate primary and secondary sources (journals, books and other documents)
  3. Decide on a system of note-taking for your paper
  4. Read and analyze your material, taking care not to plagiarize as you take notes
  5. Begin to develop an outline, list or brainstorm of what you would like to include

Writing the Paper

  • Think about your rhetorical situation. Who is your intended audience? What is the purpose of your paper? What tone and style should you use for this work?
  • Rework your original thesis if necessary or desired
  • Develop an outline for your paper if helpful
  • Sequence your notes and bibliographical information in the order you would like to include them in the essay.
  • Write a rough draft
  • Revise your draft
  • Check your documentation with the appropriate style guide. Visit MLA or APA websites if helpful. The Writing Center also has style guides available for your use.

Writing your paper will most likely be more complex than this simple progression of steps. You will have moments where you need to step back and reorganize your paper or readjust your topic. The process will probably move back and forth as you learn more about your topic and refine your thoughts and opinions. At any point in the process you can visit the Writing Center. Tutors will be happy to help you narrow your topic, compose a thesis, locate sources, revise your first draft, create an introduction, reorganize your paper, proofread the final draft, craft a conclusion or format your works cited page.

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