Characteristics of an Excellent Research Paper Handout


  • Topic is appropriate for the assignment
  • Topic is narrow enough to be thoroughly explored within the length of the assignment


  • Number of sources consulted meet or exceed the requirements of the assignment
  • Sources chosen are the best and most relevant for the topic and are credible and applicable
  • Most of available sources have been examined; no significant gaps in research
  • Includes examination of sources that are contradictory to the argument presented in the paper
  • Includes appropriate primary sources
  • Bibliography is accurate and complete


  • Volume of direct quotes is appropriate for the assignment; footnotes/endnotes are accurate and complete
  • Citations are primarily paraphrases
  • Paraphrases are your own wording completely
  • Paraphrases correctly interpret the source
  • Paper includes few quotations; material is appropriate for quotation; quotations are exact


  • Thesis is clearly articulated - the position taken is readily apparent to readers
  • The thesis is an argument that analyzes, interprets, or explains the topic in a new light, not just reports on it
  • The thesis is not a summary statement or announcement


  • Each paragraph makes a point which supports the thesis
  • Sources cited support the point of the paragraph and of the paper and contribute toward the overall development of the argument
  • Sources that disagree with or contradict the thesis are addressed appropriately
  • Paraphrases, not quotations, predominate
  • Source material is clearly distinguished from your own ideas
  • Quotations serve a purpose; you absolutely couldn’t have said it better yourself
  • Quotations are introduced and clearly contextualized
  • Long quotations are correctly set off with block indentation, according to style manual guidelines
  • Language is clear, concise, and scholarly



  • Are in correct and appropriate format for citations (Turabian for MALS courses), including correct punctuation (colons vs. periods,etc.)
  • All source material is documented; no plagiarism, either unintentional or otherwise
  • All references are accurate (source and page number)


  • Employs correct and appropriate style (such as Turabian) for bibliography
  • Includes all sources used in the paper, including primary sources
  • Includes complete and accurate information
  • Are alphabetized by author’s last name or appropriate substitute, according to style guidelines
  • Indents second and subsequent lines
  • Uses appropriate format for each type of source: books, periodicals, reference works, etc.
  • Provides stable URL or DOI for each electronic source (e.g., Websites, e-journals, listservs)