The beginning of a research paper can seem like an overwhelming task, not to mention that they can vary from discipline to discipline. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
In the beginning….
1) …there was an idea. What is a problem you are interested in? What are current events affecting history, archaeology, or cultural heritage? Find a topic that genuinely interests you or the paper will be a VERY long and painful process.
2) After you have identified a problem or a research question, come up with 5-8 keywords that summarize the topic and that can act as a guide for reviewing the literature.
3) Jot down some of your thoughts or ideas related to the topic.
4) Come up with a possible thesis statement. Don’t discount this step! This is the most critical part of the paper as you will constantly refer back to what you are trying to accomplish!
5) Make an outline of how your paper could be structured.
6) Start with a title that illustrates your paper topic. It should not be so vague that the reader doesn’t understand what you are writing about. Think of it as an abbreviated thesis statement that you can keep coming back to as you write.
Then you read, and read, and read!
This is the longest part:
1) Find 3-5 peer reviewed and/or published sources that form the main body of literature on your topic.
2) Browse them to identify how they relate to your topic and summarize them in 2-3 sentences. Your “most critical” references will evolve as you go through readings and you may find some that are better than initially found.
3) If you find a specific reference useful, look at the references used in that source. These will lead you to even more (and possibly better!) information! Think of it as information sleuthing.
4) When you are reading, make a note of the idea or block of text that you are interested in. Also note what source and page number you are getting it from. Bibliography software can help you keep track of all of your references and notes and even generate a bibliography in the citation style of your choosing. Most are free! Check here for a list!
5) Insert supporting statements or idea references into your paper text.
Then you write, and write, and write!
1) Break your paper into sections and focus on a section at a time if you need to.
2) Create a more detailed outline of each section to help formulate your thoughts.
Idea: ISIS is using the sale of artifacts that they have stolen to fund weapons acquisitions and terrorist activities. Has this occurred in the past? Does armed conflict encourage looting? Why do people do this!? What laws are in place to prevent this from happening!? How does the sale of artifacts impact the local people?
Keywords: looting, illegal sale of artifacts, archaeology, ISIS, funding terrorism
- I can’t imagine that ISIS makes that much money off of artifacts.
- Who is buying the objects? Locals?
- Heard from Prof. Rawson today about the Red List, google it
- I wonder what they are finding or looting that is of value?
Possible Thesis Statement: Local populations experience increased poverty due to the loss of their cultural heritage through sale of artifacts by ISIS.
Title: The Role of Artifacts in Terrorism Activities
- 1.0 Introduction (2 pages)
- 1.1 Who is ISIS?
- 1.2 Problem of antiquities sales in the Middle East
- 2.0 Literature Review (1-2 pages)
- 3.0 Background (2 pages)
- 3.1 History of looting in Syria
- 3.2 Other terrorist groups that have sold artifacts
- 3.3 Outcome of previous looting
- 4.0 Discussion (3-4 pages)
- 4.1 ISIS sale of artifacts
- 4.2 How ISIS uses the money
- 4.3 Effect of artifact sales on locals
- 5.0 Conclusion (2 pages)
- 5.1 How this impacts the world
- 5.2 Future work
- Of the past, for the future : integrating archaeology and conservation : proceedings of the conservation theme at the 5th World Archaeological Congress, Washington, D.C., 22-26 June 2003
- All the King’s Horses: Essays on the Impact of Looting and the Illicit Antiquities Trade on Our Knowledge of the Past, edited by Paula K. Lazrus and Alex W. Barker. American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 2 (April 2014)
- Looting and Theft of Cultural Property: Are We Making Progress?: http://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/newsletters/15_1/feature1_6.html