10 Research Paper Writing Tips for Dummies
Writing a research paper can seem like a daunting task for even the most seasoned professionals. While it does take time, writing a great research paper can be achieved by following some proven techniques.
Here are 10 research paper writing tips to help you along the way:
- Have a Research Question in Mind.
- Research Your Topic One Step at a Time.
- Use a System to Collect Information.
- Get Help from a Librarian.
- Ask Your Professor or T.A. for Guidance.
- Brainstorm Your Content.
- Develop a Working Thesis.
- Develop an Outline.
- Edit and Revise Your Content.
- Cite Sources Accurately.
Usually, your thesis should develop from your research, but you want to have some idea about what it is you’re writing about to begin with. Create a short list of questions to guide your research. As you start reading some of your resources you’ll be able to narrow down to the one question you want to focus on.
Don’t tackle your research project all at once. Develop a rough outline and use it to guide your research of your topic’s major components. Take each component separately. You’ll be able to make connections later on when you begin to brainstorm your findings.
There are a number of ways to organize your ideas, but it’s best to know what works for you before starting your research. Some people use index cards, while others use single subject notebooks. Determine how you will store quotes, facts, and other research elements so that they are organized and can be retrieved quickly when you need them.
Reference librarians are great sources for getting started on one’s research. They will help you locate different places to look – both online and within the library – and can even provide you with a list of sources, such as those found in academic databases, you may not have even thought about.
Many professors and T.A.s hold office hours to help students in a number of different areas. Take advantage of these resources at any stage in your research. They can help point you in the right direction, answer any questions about the assignment, and may even provide feedback on your drafts.
There are several different brainstorming methods you may choose from, but the goal amongst all of them is to get your ideas written down so that you can cluster and group related ideas together. Brainstorming gives you a snapshot of what your research has amounted to and helps you organize your thoughts before creating a thesis and outline.
You may find yourself revising your thesis as you write your first draft, but it’s always a good idea to have a clear thesis statement to keep your writing on track. Everything sentence you write should directly relate to your central argument.
An outline of your main topic sentences and points of evidence will help guide you throughout your first and subsequent drafts. You may find that re-ordering sections in your outline will help you write a research paper that is more logical and clear.
Conducting a thorough edit and revision of your work can not be stressed enough. College and graduate students will tell you that this step is the difference between a passing grade and stellar grade. Look for ways to remove useless words and sentences, and always keep the purpose of your research paper in mind. Anything that strays from your purpose should be cut out.
The final step in any well-researched and written paper is citing your sources accurately. Follow your discipline’s guidelines exactly for any material you borrowed – quotes, facts, ideas. If you aren’t sure about how to cite a source – such as an online video or website – check with your T.A. for proper formatting.