Irrespective of your study’s discipline, research papers will constitute a significant portion of the work you have to do throughout college. They are somewhat different from other types of academic assignments you may already be used to (e.g., essays) and require a specific, often unintuitive approach. This article will cover some of the most important tips and tricks you can use to make writing a research paper easier and the grade you receive for it better.
Research Before You Write
If you already possess certain background knowledge about the subject of your paper, you may be tempted to jump straight to the writing per se, hoping to pick up additional information as you need it. Do not do this – the data you currently have may be insufficient, outdated, or just plain wrong, and if you discover it after you have already written a part of your paper, you will have to redo a part of your work. Instead, better study the topic thoroughly before you start – it will help you plan and give you a better understanding of the scope of your project. You may even have to adjust the topic to better suit the information you find.
Differentiate the Sources by Quality
Sources of information are the basis of any research paper. No work of this type can exist in isolation – you have to prove that it is built on existing research by other specialists in the field and that others can back up your findings. However, not all sources are created equal. Some are more reliable; some are less. Some add credibility to your argument; others are best avoided altogether. The most trustworthy sources are peer-reviewed papers, the more cited, the better. If a source has been published in a well-reputed scientific magazine and has been cited by several authorities, it means that you do not have to prove that it can be trusted. The least reliable sources are Internet publications – virtually anybody can create them; they often do not pass any quality control whatsoever and can disappear without a trace just as easily as they crop up.
Take Copious Notes
Do not rely on your memory. Even for a relatively small research paper, you will have to track dozens of information sources and individual quotations. When you encounter a piece of data you will have to mention, write it down along with its source, publication info, page numbers, and other relevant facts. Clarify the required reference style with your instructor early on so that you can build your bibliography list using proper formatting from the very beginning.
Prepare a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is the primary idea of your paper, condensed into a single sentence. A research paper is typically located at the end of the introductory paragraph. It may not be a requirement, but even if you do not have to include it in your paper, it is always a good idea to formulate one for your own benefit. Having a thesis statement gives your paper focus and makes it easier for you to gather your thoughts. Throughout your paper, every point you mention should support your thesis statement, which is why it is important to decide what your primary research venue will be before you start writing.
Write an Outline
In an outline, you formulate the main points of your research paper, specify which sources you are going to use, your argument, how individual points are connected, and so on. Remember – everything you write here should support your thesis statement. The outline determines the general course your research will take. Anything that does not fit into this plan or does not directly support your thesis should not be included, no matter how interesting it is. Make sure your focus is narrow, and you include only relevant information, even if it forces you to throw out some extremely fascinating research you uncovered.
Write Your Introduction
The introduction sets the tone of your paper and provides the context necessary to understand your findings. Put a lot of thought into your first sentence – it should be interesting enough to glue the reader’s attention to the rest of your paper. Remember that although you write a research paper, it does not mean that it has to be boring. Mention a fascinating fact relevant to your research, make an unusual statement; in other words, do anything to attract the reader’s attention. Explain why this field of research in general and the particular issue under scrutiny are important, and finish the introduction with your thesis statement.
Flesh out the Body Paragraphs
This is where your outline is going to be particularly useful. In a way, body paragraphs are your outline entries, only fleshed out and supplemented with quotations, statistics, and supporting points. Each body paragraph should contain a topic sentence – the first sentence specifies what the paragraph is about. The rest of the paragraph is dedicated to the main point (there should be a single major point per paragraph) and supporting details. If a paragraph is long enough, you may have to end it with a conclusion where you sum up everything you covered in it.
Finish with a Conclusion
In your conclusion, you wrap up your paper and state what your findings are. You can sometimes hear a suggestion that you should reword your introduction or, specifically, the thesis statement. Still, it is not a very good idea – instead, you should show that you have learned something since the introduction. Point out what it is, what the significance of your findings is, what further research they suggest, how it falls within the context of existing research of other scientists.
Alternatively, there is always an option to pay for research papers and ask a qualified specialist to prepare such an assignment for you. If you find dealing with such a task on your own troublesome, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help.