College Research Paper Writing Tips

The end of each semester or the whole academic year usually requires writing at least one research paper. For many students, it means sleepless nights, stress and a lot of work. But does it have to be that way? Actually, it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first. The key to your success is to divide your work into many smaller easy-to-handle stages.

To write an excellent research paper and stay motivated throughout the process, you will also need some helpful advice, a well thought-out plan of action, and a set of useful tools. Read on to find out how to simplify your work!

Choose an engaging topic

Choosing a proper topic is crucial. Since each research paper entails studying different approaches, hypotheses, techniques, etc., you need to make sure the topic you think you’d like to write about has been investigated by other scholars too. Otherwise you will definitely have to spend twice as much time and effort to come up with some substantial research results. Still, if your instructor is ready to help you out and provide thorough guidelines on how to conduct it properly, just go for it and have no worries.

Another important thing is to choose an interesting topic so you don’t get bored of your research work and fail to carry it out. Write down a few questions (related to one particular subject such as the arts, history, marketing, etc.) that make you curious to find the answers and ask your instructor to help you formulate the topic based on them.

Start searching for reputable sources

To make a deep dive into the topic and ensure that your research is based on proven facts and statistics, it’s vital to use only verified sources of information. Make the most of such popular services as Google Scholar, Google Books or Microsoft Academic. They allow you to find scientific articles, journals, books or other kind of research material. Just enter a search query and look through the list of relevant links. Here’s a shortlist of other helpful websites:

  • Make use of numerous websites with .gov or .edu extensions.
  • Online libraries with detailed category lists are worth checking out too. With such resources as NSDL (National Science Digital Library) or NAP (The National Academies Press) you can find high quality material in no time. Select the category you want and press the Search button. It’s as simple as that!
  • If you decide to refer to some particular terminology and learn when and how it appeared, try the wonderful world of encyclopedias. By visiting encyclopedia.com or infoplease.com, you will also be able to know the most precise facts about scholars’ achievements, theories they developed, historical dates and more.

When making a list of sources, write a short note next to each of them saying what exactly you’d like to use it for. For example, a paragraph about immigration laws, a citation on the theories on the origin of life, etc.

Create a precise thesis statement

Once a list of sources is ready, it’s time to develop a thesis statement. There’s nothing to fear about this. Just look through the list once again and try to place the sources in a logical order. Add your ideas to the list. Try to be as precise as possible. If your sentences are too long, then divide them into smaller ones and omit unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, etc.

The purpose of a thesis statement is to explain what the entire research paper will be dedicated to. Basically, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What’s the subject of your research?
  • How are you going to reach your goal?
  • What methods will you use to prove your point?
  • What do you expect to obtain as a result?

The final step at this stage is to have your thesis statement approved by your instructor. He or she is sure to tell you what parts of your thesis need some tweaking. As a result, you will get a kind of mini-guide that will simplify writing a rough paper outline.

Develop a rough outline and write a draft

Creating a detailed outline for you paper is half the battle, and especially if your instructor has taken a look at it and suggested a number of valuable corrections. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing. The outline serves as a map for you to reach your final point of destination, but there are many other routes you can take to get there. Additionally, you can add subheadings to make the paper outline even more precise. This way you will avoid rewriting any drafts.

When starting to write a paper, make sure you keep your notes and sources separate. If you fail to do this, you put yourself at risk of committing plagiarism. Even if it is done unintentionally, you can still be found guilty. But there’s a way out. Check your paper for originality against web sources to avoid plagiarism with such tool as unplag.com. It also allows excluding citations and references from the search to ensure accuracy of checks.

Have your sources cited and bibliography formatted

If you fail to cite materials in your paper, it will be definitely considered as blatantly plagiarized. To avoid all possible unpleasant consequences, cite your sources accurately. With all the formatting rules of different styles such as APA, MLA or other popular academic writing styles, who can keep track of it all? No problem. There are a few online tools that can help.

One of them is mendeley.com. Apart from a free reference tool with thousands of journals you can cite, there are some extra add-ons you may find useful as well. Among them is a feature allowing you to highlight, annotate and put sticky notes to .pdf materials you’d like to mention in your paper.

Summing it all up and a bonus tool

By this time, you are done and ready to submit your paper. But wait! First make sure everything is correct. Check the text for grammar, stylistic and punctuation mistakes and ensure that your writing doesn’t contain typos.  Then, check your writing with an anti-plagiarism tool again and see if there’s anything left to be cited.

Make sure your text is well structured and easy-to-understand. Don’t forget to make paragraphs, headlines and subheadings. Keep the text coherent whenever you restructure your paper or add some more information.

If you pay attention to all these pieces of advice, your research paper will be sure to impress your instructor. Good luck!

Writing a Research Paper

Summary:

This handout provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

Contributors: Jack Raymond Baker, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez
Last Edited: 2018-02-14 03:36:12

The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

This handout will include the following sections related to the process of writing a research paper:

  • Genre- This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
  • Choosing a Topic- This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses himself.
  • Identifying an Audience- This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
  • Where Do I Begin- This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.

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