Skip to Main Content

Northwestern Health Sciences University

Writing & Citing

Use this guide to find tools and resources to help you write more clearly, easily and with confidence.

The Writing Process

Has it been a while since you've written a paper and you don't know where to begin?  This guide will remind you of the process of writing a paper and will direct you to further information on each step.  

Traditional Steps To Writing A Paper

  • Developing ideas for your paper/brainstorming
  • Choose a topic and develop a thesis statement
  • Research your paper
  • Outline your paper
  • Write your paper
  • Cite your paper
  • Revise and edit your paper

Some of these steps can be moved around.  For instance, an instructor might want your thesis statement after you've done your research.  You might create an outline, based on your instructor's required paper elements, before you begin your research.  These are the general steps for paper writing regardless if it's for a class or for submission to a journal.  




This might be a short process or a longer process depending on whether or not you have ideas for the paper you're going to write.  If you're struggling, check out these resources on the pre-writing process. 

Choosing A Topic

Choosing A Topic and Developing a Thesis

Choosing A Topic Suggestions

  • What interests you?
  • Look at journals that publish in the topic areas you're interested in.
  • Look topics you've covered in class.  Google them to see if there are interesting news items about them.  Check the databases to see what research is available on the topic.
  • Talk with your instructor or contact the library

Thesis Statements

Developing A Thesis Statement

  1. Choose a topic.  What question are you trying to answer about that topic? 
  2. Choose an answer or reason.
  3. Put them together  

This works well with PICO, by the way.  For example, let's say you would like to write a research paper on using St. John's Wort to treat depression in women entering menopause.  What would your PICO be?

P (problem or patient) Women experiencing menopausal symptoms  (You may find being more specific here will narrow your results.  We'll look at the psychological, psychosomatic and vasomotor symptoms related to menopause). 
I (Intervention) St. John's Wort
C (Comparison) We won't use a comparison here but you could compare it to other interventions
O (Outcomes) Fewer psychological, psychosomatic and vasomotor symptoms. 

Thesis Statement: The use of St. John's Wort effectively reduces psychological, psychosomatic, and vasomotor symptoms  associated with menopause in otherwise healthy women. 

Research Your Paper, Outline and Write

  1. Make sure you understand your assignment and have a focused topic.  Your topic may change as you research but if you start out too broad, you may be overwhelmed with results. Create an outline based on the paper's requirements and your topic. 
  2. Do the research.  Use the school's databases to find scholarly sources.  
  3. Print out articles or submit an interlibrary loan for articles or books we don't have. 
  4. Read the articles and highlight (or create note cards or put into your outline) information that will help support your thesis.  Make sure you note where you're getting information from as you put it into an outline for citing later. 
  5. As you write the paper, do not copy word-for-word the information.  You will want to paraphrase the knowledge. You are only putting it in an outline to help you organize your thoughts. 

Revising & Citing Your Paper

Use this guide to find tools and resources to help you write more clearly, easily and with confidence.

About the Writing Lab: Learn about the services we provide for help with writing skills.
Citations: Understand why citations are important and find guidance for formatting using popular styles.
Tips for Revision How do you edit a paper you've written?
Mendeley Organize your citations with Mendeley.