How To Improve The Research Paper Structure
Students who are new to university have a tough time with research papers when they begin. After all, we’ve had so many years of having the basic three part essay structure drilled into us, that writing a one paragraph introduction, a brief body section, and a one paragraph conclusion come as second nature. Of course, this isn’t possible with a research paper, but as students try to expand their ideas they often find themselves overwhelmed. Here are some ways to improve your research paper structuring skills:
- Consult your style guide.
- Don’t be afraid of sections.
- Consider each section to be more like an essay, rather than the entire paper.
- Read professional research papers.
- Stay organized.
This seems obvious, but too few students realize that the first and best way to structure their research paper better is to really know their formal style guide inside and out. Whether it’s MLA, APA, Harvard, or another type, most style guides offer more information than simply margin size and how to fill out your bibliography. Even if they don’t explicitly explain research paper structure, they frequently offer information on headings and general structure that can help.
Your paper is going to have sections, whether they’re obviously denoted by special headers or not. A research paper offers much more and varied information than an essay, so break yourself out of the mentality that every paragraph is its own section. You’ll have sections which are composed of many paragraphs, or even many pages.
It can help if you consider each section as an essay and outline it as such. Simply keep in mind you’ll need to do a bit of blending between them to transition well from one section to the next. Instead of thinking of your introduction as a simple paragraph, consider it as an introductory essay.
If you’re still having trouble, find research papers on similar topics and note how they’re structured. If you feel your introduction is too short or too sprawling, for example, examining one on a similar topic in a paper of similar scope can really help you out.
Finally, remain organized as you go. Keep your notes in separate files organized based on the sections they apply to—the same goes for sources. If you have things organized from the beginning, it’ll be easier to structure your paper as you write it.