Skip to Main Content

*Research and Writing: Integrated Skills & Strategies*

Welcome! This guide will help you develop your research and writing skills by providing foundational knowledge of the iterative research and writing process as well as manageable steps for breaking down and navigating college research projects.

Still Struggling?

Conversing with someone else about your research and writing process can be incredibly helpful.  Contact staff at McKillop Library or the Writing Center using the links below.

Use the Assignment as a Tool

The assignment itself often outlines not only the requirements of the paper, but also the framework or organization that you may use. You should highlight important keywords or verbs in the prompt and also discuss the expectations with your professor or peers to ensure that you understand your objectives. Some points for you to consider: 

  • Who is the intended audience of the assignment? 
  • Will that audience affect your stance on the topic or the way in which you construct your argument? 
  • What are the key words and phrases in the assignment? 
  • Are there multiple parts to this assignment? How might I organize the paper to address all of these points? 

Rewriting the prompt in your own words or creating an outline based on the necessary components will also help to break down the expectations and ensure that you address all of the requirements. 

Decoding Assignment Expectations

The specific words used in a prompt tells the writer exactly how to shape the paper. Pay attention to the verbs which indicate how you will interact with the material. Below are some of the most commonly used verbs in writing prompts, along with the description of what they are asking you to do. 

Analyze→ Break something down into smaller pieces in order to bring out the essential elements or structure. Also, to identify parts and relationships and interpret this information to reach conclusions. 

Apply→ Use knowledge and understanding in response to a given situation or set of real circumstances. 

Argue → Challenge or debate an issue or idea with the purpose of persuading or committing someone else to a particular stance or action. 

Compare → Give an account of the similarities and differences between two or more items or situations, ultimately making an evaluation of the most fundamental connections or deviations.

Demonstrate → Prove or make clear by reasoning or evidence, illustrating with examples or practical application.

Describe → Give a detailed account or picture of a situation, event, pattern, or process.

Describe to What Extent → Consider the merits or otherwise of an argument or concept. Opinions and conclusions should be presented clearly and supported with appropriate evidence and sound judgment. 

Discuss →  Offer a balanced review that includes a range of arguments, factors, and/or hypotheses. Opinions or conclusions should be presented clearly and supported by appropriate evidence.

Evaluate → Assess the implications and limitations; to make judgments about the ideas, works, solutions, or methods in relation to selected criteria. 

Examine → Consider an argument or concept in a way that uncovers the assumptions and interrelationships of the issue. 

Identify → Provide an answer from a number of possibilities. Recognize and state briefly a distinguishing factor or feature. 

Infer → Deduce reason from premises to a conclusion. Listen or read beyond what has been literally expressed. 

Interpret → Use knowledge and understanding to recognize trends and draw conclusions from given information. 

Investigate → Observe, study, or make a detailed and systematic examination in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.  

Justify → Give valid reasons or evidence to support an answer or conclusion.

Prove → Use a sequence of logical steps to obtain the required result in a formal way.

Reflect → Think about deeply or consider. Often calls for inclusion of personal experience. 

Summarize → Abstract a general theme of major points. 

Use → Apply knowledge or rules to put theory into practice. 

Example Prompt

Argumentative Research Paper

Assignment: Write a 5-6 paged paper, supporting an assigned topic.

Topic choices: (Remember, you are arguing in support of the statement.)

  • Tattooing is a credible and enduring contemporary art form.
  • Body modification, in the form of tattooing or piercing, is self-destructive behavior.
  • Body art is a major element of youth culture today.
  • America’s rich culture is tarnished by the contemporary prevalence of piercing and tattooing.
  • Body art is a significant component of American identity and culture, from past to present.


  • Write a cohesive, scholarly paper based on research.
  • Develop a thesis that expands upon your chosen statement.
  • Demonstrate the ability to write well, with purposeful organization and logical flow.
  • Follow either MLA or APA formatting for paper, in-text citations, and a source page.
  • Demonstrate the ability to incorporate research into your writing, reflecting critical thought.
  • Demonstrate the ability to select quality sources for your writing, including at least two scholarly sources. You need at least 6 sources in your paper:
    • one magazine or newspaper source (print or web)
    • one primary source (interview or survey)
    • one database source
    • one book source
    • one website source
    • one additional source of your choosing

The above assignment first asks for topic selection. This step will come next. But before choosing that topic, it is helpful to outline and understand how the topic will be explored to fit the parameters of the assignment. First, highlight the key parts of the prompt: 

ARGUE→ the objective is to convince the reader of your chosen stance.

SUPPORT→ this has two meanings: 1. you will validate the stance 2. you will use evidence from sources to backup the stance.

SCHOLARLY→ this is not a reflection or personal opinion piece, it needs to be research-based.

THESIS DRIVEN→ your critical argument will be presented through the thesis and then connected throughout the entire paper.

CITATIONS→ MLA OR APA, you have a choice here, but there must be in-text citations and a bibliography.  

SOURCES→ you need six (magazine or newspaper, primary, database, book, web, one of your choosing).

6 to 8 PAGESincluding an intro and conclusion and considering how many sources will be used, you will need to be very specific and concise. The scope must be limited because the page requirement is not extensive.

These key elements of the assignment can now serve as a checklist to refer to throughout the research and writing process, including the final draft.