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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Bios 262 Research Proposal: Writing Tips

Writing Tips

This guide focuses on finding library resources for writing papers. 

What follows are some pointers that have proved useful to me (Brian Simboli) and that you might want to consider.

See here for information about the writing center, should you need assistance with writing.


1. Before doing anything else, write a very brief abstract (summary) for your paper.  Put anything down that happens to occur to you. You'll revise it continually later, so don't be concerned about getting it "right".

2. Always "front end" your library research as the first step in writing a paper or developing a presentation. Spending lots of time at the very outset in finding quality background information, and then using that as background for focusing your searching of relevant library databases, will pay dividends.

Try to find an interesting scholarly debate. Doing so will enable you to write a really interesting, creative paper that does the following: shows that you know the arguments and counter-arguments within that debate, and then "stake" your own position within it. 

3.Now go back and rewrite or tweak your abstract as you read the literature you found in step 2. The abstract will become your guidepost as you develop your project. 

4. Start writing up an outline. When the outline is really well developed, use the topics in the outline as subject headers as you write your paper. 

5. Don't write your paper in one sitting. It will take lots of sittings over a period of many days to write a quality paper. 

6. As you write your paper, you can continually restructure the paper. See below for a Word template that you can use for this purpose. Make sure the navigation pane appears on the left of the Word document, after you have supplied headers. You can move sections of the paper by clicking and dragging the section headers. More details below in the box below about using Word in writing a paper.

7. Now supply in- text references and reference lists, following the appropriate reference style. For this class, see "citing sources" in this library guide.

Now see the box below for tips about using Word while writing.

Using Word in Writing Papers

Below are tips for using Word when writing papers that I have found useful .

First, download the above template. It has a structure that you might want to use in writing your own papers for this or other classes.

The sample text in the template is a totally manufactured and artificial sample of a paper that does not reflect any library research. In fact, it may be a bad topic for a paper. The point is just to provide an example of how Word helps you set upa paper. First, some notes about what you're seeing in the template. Then, some comments about the mechanics of using the Word template.

Make sure the navigation pane appears on the left. To open the navigation pane click on the "View" menu, and then check mark "Navigation Pane". In the navigation pane, you can see the structure of headers used in the Word document to the right.

To add new headers, open the "Home" menu. You should see various heading options, such as Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on. Type a new header in the paper and then highlight it with the cursir, and then select Heading 1 1 or Heading 2 etc., depending on how much you want the header to be indented. 

What do all these headers in the template mean? How can I use them?

  • Tasks This is where you can put notes to self about what to on the paper.
  • Background resources Record here the resources you used to provide background information, with some notes about why they were useful
  • Possible Titles It's an art to develop a good paper title. This is a place to brainstorm about possible titles.
  • Abstract Keep revising this abstract. It's a guidepost to where your research stands.
  • Outline Writing up an outline here in the first stage of your research. At some point move the outline headers down to the next section, "Text of article", and after doing so delete the "Outline header".
  • Text of article This is structured according to the outline of your paper. You can click and drag the headers here to move them around, if you want to reposition them. Also, you can indent the headers. 
  • Notes This is a sandbox in which to write material in the initial stages of your research, if you're unsure of where to put some ideas in the "Text of article" section
  • Reference List  This is the working list of articles you are using.
  • Slush Sometimes you may have an idea but are not sure whether it's valuable or not. This is a place to "park" ideas that may or may not come to fruition.
  • Acknowledgments If someone assisted you in writing, acknowledge them here.