Whether its your first research paper or the tenth one, it is an intimidating task. The mere thought of going through dozens of sources, piles of notes and several drafts awakens the monster of procrastination. You decide to start with easier tasks and push back the research paper writing. Suddenly, you have only a couple of days left, and you can hardly expect to get an A for your hurried substandard writing. If youve gone through this process a couple of times already, this guide will be a blessing for you. Once you know how to break the work into small, easily-manageable chunks, writing a research paper will be a breeze for you.
Weve divided the process into 7 steps. There is an interim result you should get by the time youve finished each step. Do not start the next stage until youve obtained this goal. Now lets roll!
A Perfect Topic
Of course, you can choose to write a boring old research paper on abortion or death sentence, but where is the fun in that? Instead, choose the topic that is:
- of great interest to you;
- an interesting reading for your instructor and classmates;
- not too broad to cover within the expected volume;
- reflects your understanding of the assignment.
It can be anything from the positive influence of chocolate and coffee on cognitive functions in teenagers to a comparative analysis of the cultural influence of South Park vs. Rick and Morty. Be creative, let your imagination run wild. Dont limit yourself to the well-worn topics that have been discussed a thousand times before.
An Actionable Thesis
Avoid the rookie mistake of delving into research without formulating your thesis statement first. You might think looking up the broader topic will help you complete the paper faster, but that is a common misconception. You will waste your time scouring the web without direction for days and weeks.
So instead, formulate a rough thesis BEFORE you go to the library. It will help you narrow down the list of sources and coordinate your search. This way, you will complete the preliminary steps faster, and your work wont be an uncoordinated mess of disconnected thoughts and ideas. Weve gone through the process of writing a good thesis statement already, dont forget to check it out.
A List Of Credible Sources
Pro Tip: a quick Google search wont provide you with any usable sources for your research paper. Instead, go to your schools online library, check out bibliography indexes, ask for your instructors suggestions. If you are dead set on looking online, use Google Scholar instead of the ordinary search engine.
Remember, that not every source can be used and cited in your research paper. There are several questions to ask yourself to determine, whether the source is good enough.
- When was the information updated? Look for the current information in the latest journal issues instead of using outdated research dating back to 1980s.
- How much data does the source provide? Some articles can be too short and vague to be of any use. Look for sources with enough relevant details.
- Can you trust the source? Choose the articles published in prominent peer-reviewed journals or written by experts in the field.
- Are there any other sources supporting this data? Do not blindly trust everything you read online, especially on Wikipedia. If the source isnt very reliable, check if there are any other mentions of the information you want to use. If you find none, search for other sources.
- Is the source biased? Sometimes websites do not provide balanced information, as they serve to promote certain products or behavior. Avoid using such sources and look for an unbiased opinion on the matter.
Learn more about the right ways to choose, use and balance the sources in your papers.
A Stack Of Careful Notes
Simply reading your sources is not enough, you should write down the most important information that might be useful. Use these tips:
- Concentrate on interesting and unique information, quotes, ideas.
- Write down statistics, facts, data to support your arguments.
- Summarize and paraphrase instead of copying whole passages.
- Always note the source from which youve taken the information.
- Organize your notes by argument or by source.
Note taking might seem like a waste of time, but it will save you a lot of trouble during the next couple of steps.
A Flexible Outline
Now is the time to organize all the data youve gathered and all the arguments you want to make into an outline. It doesnt have to be a formal outline unless your instructor wants you to provide one. A couple of sentences are often enough to describe each paragraph or section.
Link your notes to every point of the outline to help you quickly add necessary information to support your arguments and provide citations. As always, start with the introduction, go through the key points of the body and close with the conclusion. The outline you create will jumpstart your writing.
A First Draft
The actual writing of the research paper doesnt take much time if youve completed all previous steps. Now you just need to let your thoughts pour onto the paper according to the outline and your notes. Write down everything you can think of, and dont worry about small errors, this is just your first draft. Ignore your internal critic and let yourself enjoy writing.
You dont have to start at the beginning, since creating a good introduction can be tricky. Instead, start from any paragraph that seems easy to write and go from there. You might want to start with the conclusion or your third key point. Thats perfectly fine, no one will know about your writing sequence. It will be our little secret.
An Edited Research Paper
After you complete the paper, let it rest for a day or two. Then come back for some editing and proofreading. Always start with your edits, since you need to check, whether the paper is logical and streamlined. You might want to add new data or delete several sentences. Thats alright. You should get rid of anything that doesnt fit the paper.
After you are satisfied with the writing, its time to go through your research paper one last time to get all typos and mistakes. Reread each sentence carefully or, better yet, ask someone else to proofread the paper for you. This is also the right time to format the paper according to your professors requirements, add the title page, contents, bibliography, etc.
That wasnt so bad, was it? When you think about writing the research paper in small increments and aim for smaller interim goals, the task doesnt seem frightening at all. We hope you will find our advice useful and get the well-deserved A on your assignment. And we are always glad to help, if you are out of time and need to complete the research paper ASAP.