Help With Writing A College Research Paper
Before we start our discussion off about how to write an effective research paper, let us go over the basics.
What is a research paper?
A research paper is basically a type of academic writing that should have theoretical and significant data that has gone through proper in-depth research. Take the five-paragraph expository essays of your high school days and imagine them on a more detailed—more epic—scale! They may also contain arguments based on a thesis with vital evidence from various helpful and reliable sources.
Though writing a research paper may seem painstaking and difficult at first, it really isn’t all too complicated once you know what proper steps you can follow to make it easier. It may be challenging because of the intensive research that it needs, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating for anyone. Before starting the steps, be sure you have enough note paper, various colors of highlighters (for your research markings) and index cards. Also take note, that reading the checklist regarding research ethics could also be of big help for you and writing your research paper.
Start off by following these essential steps:
- Select a topic that inspires you
- Find reliable sources
- Organize your notes
- Brainstorm a substantial outline
- Write a first draft
- Read through first draft and re-write
A great place to do reliable (quiet!) research for your sources is the library. There are various potential references available there and countless books, published articles, journals, etc.—not to mention free Internet access—that you can go over to find exactly what you need. Try finding yourself a cozy place, away from distractions, where you can do research. Use notebooks or index cards to track information as you uncover it in your research. It is best to be familiar with the services available and where your potential sources are located. Try asking the librarians for their help conducting the most effective research as possible as well; that’s why they’re there! And you can take those lessons on with you as you continue researching at home. Remember: the Internet is a rich, invaluable resource, and there are many legitimate scholarly articles to be found, but always check your facts using alternative sites and reference books.
Select your research topic
If you have the freedom to choose what to write about, it is generally best to choose a topic you’ve always been curious about so that you have interest in it learning about it in depth. Choosing a topic that doesn’t interest you much might not give that motivation to do effective research. Also remember to be specific when selecting a topic. A common mistake is choosing a subject that is too general—a wealth of resources about a broad topic can quickly become overwhelming.
Taking down the proper notes
Be organized when taking notes and learn what information is essential and contributive to your research so you’re not bogged down with useless facts and statistics. Color code your notes by topic and highlight the essential details so you can find that specific topic easily.
You may also try photocopying an article or a page from a book if there is too much to jot down. Highlighters pay a big role in this because you can highlight only what you need to remember when writing your research paper.
Every time you make note of something, write down the bibliographical information, including the author, book title, page numbers used, volume number, publisher name, and dates. This is vital to use in your research paper.
Write an outline
After your in-depth research, you are now ready to write an outline. With the notes you took down, you can start brainstorming where the topics and supporting information best fit. They don’t necessary have to be structured in a sentence, as this is only the “brainstorming” part. Does that statistic belong in the beginning, middle, or end of the paper? Is that anecdote good introduction material? You can rearrange as needed. This is a crucial part and may take longer than the other steps, but it’s well worth the time and effort, because this is the foundation of your final research paper.
Work on your first draft
When you’re finished with your outline, you may start on your first draft. Since your outline is done, you may now structure it into sentence and paragraph form, putting more life and detail into the paper so that people can better understand the point you’re trying to make. You may do more necessary research along the way if you feel like your information is lacking. And relax—this is only the first draft, so you can still change things around.
Write and edit your final paper
Once your first draft feels right, with all the vital information and sources put in, you can proceed to editing and writing out your final paper. Check for grammatical and typographical errors and spelling. Also, make sure that every source used is in your bibliography page. Do your final adjustments and read over it as many times as you’d like to make sure that it meets your professor’s requirements.
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Writing a Research Paper
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.