Some professors like to give out research paper writing assignments like they’re candy. Writing a research paper really does help you to bring what you’ve learned into focus. Now if you could just start dealing with stress that comes from that short deadline. I’ve picked up a few pointers that could help you out.
Pointer number one is to narrow your list of research paper topics to just the right topic to cover. Here are a few more ideas to help you on your next assignment.
1. Know the assignment
I can’t stress enough how important it is to fully understand what your professor wants. Read the instructions carefully and if you have any questions, be sure to ask them early. Yeah, some professors are not that great at giving out the details but try anyway. No sense putting in a lot of effort only to find out you worked hard on something that wasn’t what the prof was looking for.
Next, narrow your research paper topics down to one small topic that you can research the heck out of. Be sure that there is plenty of research to be found. If not, move on to something else. What you’re going to do is to dig into your library sources to see what is available on a few topics that look good to you. Pick the topic that a) interests you and b) has enough research sources to help you write a decent paper.
2. Find your friends
That brings me to another important item. Use the library and your friendly neighborhood librarian. These folks have made it their life’s work to know where to find information. The best part is that they love to help people do research. They are waiting to help you too.
3. Use research paper structure
Here’s what it takes to construct a research paper:
- Research credible books and articles: Only use sources that would be approved by our professor. These are typically found in your school’s online databases or at a service such as Questia.
- Find a topic: By now you should have done that (see above). Keep notes along the way because they will end up in your paper.
- Formulate a thesis statement: This is where you declare what you are going to prove, or argue in the rest of the paper. This is important because you will use it to keep yourself on track and avoid going off on pointless topics in your paper.
- Write an outline: An outline will help you to organize your thoughts, identify areas that need more research and identify areas that you don’t really need to include. It also makes writing the paper a snap.
- Write a draft: Start with the introduction where you present your thesis then move into the body where you develop your thesis and its supporting data and arguments, then conclude the paper and tie it all together. Refer to your outline to stay on track.
- Review and revise: Sorry, you’re not done yet. You have to look at the paper critically and make sure that the ideas and arguments all make sense and work together.
- Citations and bibliography: Always credit your sources. That means that whenever you quote someone or restate their ideas in your own words, you must include a citation giving them credit.
4. Other writing tips and tricks
When the going gets tough keep these simple tricks in mind.
- Start in the middle: If you just can’t get started try jumping into the topic full force. Then go back and work on the introduction.
- Be brave: Crank out that first draft even though it stinks. Just get it done and then go back and fix it later. You can’t fix what you never wrote.
- Use good sources: Another good source for help is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) where you’ll find lots of help and tutorials on how to write well and avoid plagiarism.