Writing in Your Major

Tips From Tutors

Scholarly Papers Requiring Research

Getting Started

Research papers allow the writer to explore a specific topic in great detail. Once a topic is chosen, the next step is to do the initial research. Most Natural Resources research papers require journal articles as sources; you can start finding them through Google Scholar, JSTOR, ScienceDirect, and the UVM Libraries E-Resource Portal (Click “Browse by subject” and try Biology, Environment, Forestry, Plant & Soil Science, or Plant Biology). Be sure to check the unique requirements of your assignment—you may also need to cite books or web sites, or use sources from a given list. Once you’ve done some research on your topic, you can make a rough outline for your paper (see Headings and Organization, below).

Headings

The assignment may specify headings that you must use in your paper; for example, “Introduction” or “Methods.” If not, you’ll need to come up with your own. Generally, every time you bring up a new point or idea in your paper, you should use a new heading. Depending on your research, this could mean a new heading every 2-3 paragraphs, but it’s also okay to have only one paragraph under a heading, or to have more than a page. Headings should be concise and directly related to the paragraphs they include. It may be helpful to decide on headings before you start writing, just to get an idea of the organization of your paper, but don’t hesitate to change, add, or delete them as you write.

Example Headings from a WFB 161 (Fisheries Biology) term paper on hatchery salmonids:

Salmonids: Their History and Decline; Hatcheries; Genetic Hazards; Parasites, Diseases, and Contaminants; Ecological Hazards; Behavioral Problems; Hatchery Success; The Future; Conclusion

Organization
The paper should begin with an introduction to your topic
  • Start broad. For example, you may want to mention historical trends or the greater significance of your topic. This should be about one paragraph.
  • Next, narrow in on your topic. Write one or two paragraphs explaining the topic in more detail. You may want to briefly mention the points you will elaborate on later in the paper.
  • Be sure to cite sources in this section.
Choose headings that highlight the most important points from the research
  • The order of your sections can be rearranged as many times as you want.
  • Try to organize the sections so that if someone who was completely unfamiliar with your topic was reading your paper, he/she would find it logical and easy to understand.
  • There should be a conclusion at the end. This is usually one short paragraph that summarizes your topic and refers back to the research to make a point.
Format and Citation
  • Always read the assignment carefully for formatting instructions. Certain features, like cover pages and double spacing, are not expected for all assignments.
  • Citation requirements will also vary by assignment.
Sample Term Papers
  • Term Paper for WFB 161
    Kristen Rydziel reviews the scientific literature to examine “The Effects of Hatchery Raised Salmonids on Wild Salmonid Populations.”
  • Literature Review for WFB 1
    This assignment was to develop a species’ overview in the form of a literature review. Dylan Miles reviews the literature on the eastern red-spotted newt.
  • Policy Paper for NR 153
    This policy paper was written by Allison Carrier as a final project for NR 153. It is an example of writing that draws on the social dimensions of the environmental field, analyzing “The Salmon Stock’s Decline in the Northwestern United States.”
  • Lab Reflection for WFB 285
    TThis is an example of a reflection done before completing a lab. It required outside research, reflection on that research, and drawing connections related to the future lab.