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Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong Baptist University Library

Government & International Studies Subject Guide: Write a paper

Research your topic

 Research your topic

After conducting some preliminary background reading, form your research question. This can guide you through the rest of the process.

Check out this great interactive tutorial on how to develop a research question
(Thanks to Arizona State Library for creating this tutorial and making it freely available!)

Once you have a good idea of what you are researching, use the resources described in this guide to find background information, books, and articles.

Work through the sources that you find systematically. You cannot include everything in your essay, so select only the most important sources for inclusion. Linear reading (i.e. reading a whole article/book from beginning to end) is not a good strategy. Instead, actively skim the sources you find using the following methodology:

  1. Analyze the title and subtitle
  2. For books, examine the table of contents. For articles, read the abstract
  3. Read the last section first
  4. Read the introduction
  5. Target the most important chapters of a book, or sections of an article

Make notes as you read. Good notes are essential to avoiding plagiarism when it comes time to write. Use online tools to help you make and organize notes.

Look for both quality and quantity in sources. Can you find enough sources to write about your proposed topic, or are there so many that the topic needs to be narrowed further?

When in doubt, ask a librarian!​

The above advice is adapted from Writing History and Grad School Essentials

Write your assignment

 Write your assignment

You will commonly be asked to respond to assignment questions in the form of a traditional essay. Check with your professor if you are not sure what form of academic writing you are expected to adopt for an assignment.

Before beginning your assignment, take some time to analyze the question:

  1. Write down in your own words what you think you are being asked to do
  2. What do you already know about the subject matter?
  3. What do you need to know to complete the assignment successfully?
  4. How are you going to choose your reading materials?

Try to plan your essay before starting to write. It is important that your writing is structured. Here are some common approaches:

  • Chronology writing - What happened?
  • Description writing - What is something like? What are its different characteristics?
  • Cause-effect writing - Why did something happen? What were the consequences?
  • Compare/contrast writing - How are two things different from and like eah other?
  • Summary writing - What does the writer say? What is this idea about?
  • Analysis writing - What is this all about? What does it mean?
  • Evaluating writing - What is the value of this? How is it important?

It is likely that you will need to employ more than one kind of writing structure in any one assignment.

The above advice is adapted from Writing at University: A Guide for Students



Turnitin is an online plagiarism prevention platform that can compare submitted academic assignments against an extensive database of published and unpublished information, and provide a report on the degree of similarity between the assignment and the material in that database.  

According to University policy, students should be able to submit their assignments to Turnitin and review the similarity report prior to final submission. To facilitate this, the Library maintains a practice Turnitin Assignment on a designated course site on HKBU Moodle. Students can self-enroll into this course to submit their assignments.

Click here for more information about Turnitin