For many people, the word "famous" conjures images of celebrity actors, athletes or musicians. Other people may think about socialites, politicians or criminals. Regardless of the type, famous people capture the public's attention for a reason--because of their extravagant lifestyles, an emotional connection created by their films or songs, or by the admiration of their athletic prowess. Regardless, if you have been assigned to write an essay or research paper about a famous person, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure you write a comprehensive, organized and focused report.

Choose a person who matters to you. Do not simply pick a random subject. Focus on a person whose life has influenced you in some way. For instance, if you want to make movies for a living, maybe you want to research an actor you admire or a famous director. If you are thinking of a career in politics, perhaps you want to explore the life of an influential president or senator. If you are considering a sports career, you might want to focus on an athlete who inspires you to accomplish your goals. If you research a person you are interested in learning more about, you likely will be more committed to your topic, and this will show in your finished product.

Conduct Internet research. Today, most students use the Internet as their primary reference source. While this is perfectly acceptable, you need to be careful when it comes to the sources you use, especially when researching a celebrity. Be sure that the content you use is from a credible source, such as a reputable online newspaper, magazine or website. Do not simply access Google, type in the famous person's name and use the first five sources that pop up; instead, spend time researching the different listings to ensure you are using, reliable trustworthy sources. According to Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, students should never trust websites that rely on user-created content, as the content likely has not been validated by a reputable organization.

Conduct print research. Visit your local or school library. Ask the librarian to help you search the library database for autobiographies or biographies about the person you are researching. Many famous people have written comprehensive memoirs about their lives. Referencing these books can add a great deal of credibility to your writing.

Organize your research into an outline. Decide how to best structure your paper. For instance, you might be able to organize your research into sections about the person's early life, rise to fame and later years or you may want to analyze one specific component about his life. For instance, if you are interested in writing about Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps you would want to focus primarily about his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The organization of your paper will depend upon your teacher's requirements, as well as the amount and type of research you have collected.

Write your first draft. Be sure to include a compelling introduction and an easily identifiable thesis statement that succinctly states what you are going to prove about your chosen person. Work on incorporating your sources by adding quotes and paraphrased references, being careful not to plagiarize.

Proofread and revise. Revision is one of the most important components of the writing process. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to edit and revise your paper after you write your first draft. Look for mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation. Pay attention to diction or word choice. Look for passive verbs that can be replaced with active verbs. Look for simple adjectives that can be replaced with more sophisticated language: for instance, instead of "very big," perhaps you can use "huge," "immense," or "enormous."


Although many students do not like completing outlines, they can help you organize a large amount of data into a usable format. Even a simple outline, such as organizing your research into sections, can help. Do not skip this step!

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