Research papers are among some of the first long writing assignments many young writers are exposed to. It can be a shock going from the three to five page assignments of high school to the ten to twenty page research papers of university. While initially daunting, research papers don’t have to be stressful. Here are some basics to guide you through writing a research paper.
A research paper in university is a bit more complex than one in grade school. You won’t simply be regurgitating information found in your own words; instead, you’ll be exploring an idea you have about the topic through research. This idea is called a thesis statement. The thesis statement should be an argument—that is, it should be an opinion which can be supported or refuted through research.
Your instructor will expect that certain types of sources be used in researching for your thesis. Make sure you have a good understanding of their expectations ahead of time. For many fields, academic journals are the preferred source. If you aren’t sure what your instructor expects, ask them or a teaching assistant for your course.
Being able to organize your paper effectively and cite the sources you’ve found will be absolutely essential when writing your paper. If you remain organized from the beginning, keep a file of sources and which of your notes apply to them, and categorize your notes into sections as you go, you’ll have a much easier time when writing.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to writing your outline. This is very important for papers of this length. Using your categorized notes, determine what sections you want your research paper to have. Create an outline for each paragraph of each individual section, noting the sources you’ll use and cross referencing with your notes for that category.
You’ll write faster, better, and more accurately if you schedule an hour or so of writing time a day for your rough draft. Try to schedule it in the morning if at all possible, and tackle one section at a time. Leave the introduction and conclusion until you’ve finished the body of the paper.
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