An Easy Way to Write a Research Paper
Research papers are among the most common assignments that students need to do in the course of studying in a university, college, or even high school. If you have not written one yet, be sure you will have to do it in the nearest future. Professors find the tasks to choose a topic, research it, and articulate findings in the form of an essay extremely beneficial to students' skills of critical thinking and academic writing. In other words, they will not lose a chance to give this kind of assignment. Therefore, you should be prepared for this challenge and know how to overcome it easily. Luckily, for you, we may help with this ordeal. So, check out tips and steps that you need to take in order to deal with a research essay successfully.
Step 1: Select a Topic
The process of choosing a topic should be completed in a very careful manner. First, you are advised to opt for a subject that interests you. In fact, the more interested you are the more enthusiasm and desire to go an extra mile you will have. If you discuss the topic passionately, your professor will notice it and take it into account while assessing. However, it is only possible if you find the topic exciting. Second, a topic should conform to the requirements and be neither too narrow nor too broad. If you choose a broad topic, try to make it more specific, for instance, "Literature" - "English Literature" - "English Literature of Victorian Era" - "English Poets of Victorian Era". Once you have made up your mind about the subject to discuss, get an approval from the professor. Otherwise, if the topic is wrong, you might be obliged to rewrite the paper from scratch.
Step 2: Gather Data
First, you should get acquainted with the topic and collect some background information about it. To do it, you are rarely required to look through complicated academic literature. In fact, a quick check of encyclopedia entries, almanacs, and general posts online would suffice in this case. Nevertheless, you still should pay attention to the quality of websites that you are about to use. Have a look at the URL, specifically at an extension. Websites with the extension such as .org (non-profit organizations), .edu (educational institutions), .gov (government and its departments) are generally considered credible and appropriate for academic papers. Still, they may be biased and propagate certain ideas, so critically evaluate each source.
There are websites with other extensions too. For instance, you probably know .com (commercial) websites. Although they are frequently of the high quality, they might be fully devoted to advertising instead of mere informing. Other extensions such as .net, .info, .cc, .tv., etc., are widely used by common Internet users to create personal home pages, and websites with such domain names can be easily registered with little control of the authorities over this process. Therefore, you are recommended to treat these pages with suspicion when completing an academic assignment and preferably avoid them completely. There is no guarantee that the information on such websites is verified, accurate, and not biased.
To find more specific data related to the topic, you should stick to academic and professional sources that might be searched for in a library, on a library's website, online databases and catalogs. The sources that you may profit from are books, journal articles, governmental reports and other publications, encyclopedias, dictionaries, newspapers, magazines, datasets, statistics reports, textbooks, etc. Online resources that you will not regret taking advantage of are:
- Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) of any library
- Google Scholar
- Project MUSE
- Wall Street Executive Library</>
- High-quality and reputable newspapers such as The New York Times
- Credible and unbiased magazines such as The Economist
- International Public Library
- Encyclopedias (e.g., Britannica, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, etc.)
- Other governmental libraries or those of universities.
Be sure to bookmark the best pages and sources detected not to lose them later on. Then, read and evaluate each source. While reading, note down, highlight or underline important information that may be used in the paper in a role of supporting evidence or as an example. In addition, you are strongly advised to write down relevant bibliography information in order to be able to cite the source properly in future. Pay attention to the name of the author(s), a title of the paper, container, publisher, as well as the date and place of publication. If the source was found online, copy an URL and jot down the date of access.
Step 3: Create a Thesis Statement
Normally, in any research paper, there should be a thesis statement. This is the presentation of the main idea of the paper or, in other words, your stance on the subject in question. It is crucial for the essay because the body - the major part of text - will have to revolve around the thesis statement. In fact, its main part will be devoted to arguing for and persuading a reader of the accuracy and reasonability of your claim made in the thesis statement.
This argument should be articulated in 1 or 2 sentences and presented at the end of the introduction. It should be informative, strong, and intriguing in order to grab a reader's attention and invoke a desire to read the paper until the end. Furthermore, the thesis statement should serve as a kind of outline for the essay. It means that upon reading it, a person should be able to predict or, better to say, guess the structure of the body. He/she should be able to see what aspects of the subject is to be discussed, what arguments will be used and in which order. Therefore, avoid writing too general thesis statement as it will result in the deduction of points. Moreover, you are strongly discouraged to use citations in it since the thesis statement should be the result of specifically your mental efforts.
Please, mind that it is almost impossible to compose a perfect thesis statement at one sitting and at the first attempt. You may draft it, but be ready for multiple instances of editing and improving. As it was mentioned above, the thesis statement is closely connected with the body. In fact, it governs its development. However, when the body needs major changes, it is easier to refine a thesis than alter the structure of the major section of the paper. Besides, in order to write an appropriate thesis, you should rely on research, collect data, and subject the gathered materials to critical evaluation and analysis. It is the only way to get a thesis that is worth using. If you have doubts about the quality of this sentence, consult your professor. He/she will gladly give you a hand with this vital element of a research paper.
If you are too shy or hesitant of talking to the professor or, perhaps, it is too late to address him/her such kind of question, you may use the following checklist on thesis statements and verify whether the one that you have is good enough to submit. So, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Does my thesis statement allow a reader to envisage what the paper will be about?
- Does it show how I will interpret the subject under consideration?
- Does it present the main argument that I am about to argue in favor of in the body?
- Is it arguable, i.e., can the position expressed in it be contested? (Note: If the position may not be opposed, you have probably stated a fact or provided a summary. Such a thesis statement requires revising).
- Does the thesis statement have sufficient details? Should some more details be added to ensure the message is clearly conveyed?
- Is it likely to be interesting for a reader? Or does it just provide some generic data?
- Does it have a WHY-element? (Note: Without the answer to the question "why", the thesis statement is weak. Be sure to have "because", for example, "Smoking in public places should be banned because..."").
- Does the thesis statement allow to predict the structure of the body?
Step 4: Compose an Outline
In order to create the paper that is logically arranged and smoothly developed, you should write based on an outline, which also should be composed by you. The outline is a plan of the paper with main ideas to be discussed in an organized manner. It allows students to ensure that all points are covered and directly related to the subject in question as well as that there are connections between the ideas. An outline is a guarantee of a coherent and cohesive paper.
The principal ideas may be presented in either informal or formal formats. An informal outline is the one that you compose for your own use. It is aimed to help you with the writing process and elaboration on all claims. In it, the form does not matter. In fact, you may add, replace, delete, and overall alter the informal outline up to your needs since it exists only to assist you to cope with the writing challenge. As for a formal outline, it is submitted to a professor, and its form is as important as the content. Headings and subheading should be formulated in a masterful manner. Each number, letter, subheading, or heading should be uniformly formatted, look nice, and be placed directly under one another. The general format of an outline for a research paper is as follows:
A title page (with a student's name, professor's name, institutional affiliation, course title, title of the work, and the date of submission)
- Abstract (a short summary of the research paper of around 150-250 words)
- Introduction (background data on the subject and the thesis statement)
- Body, i.e., the main part of the paper that may be divided into smaller sections:
- Literature review
- Methodology and Materials
- Results obtained through the application of the methods described in Methodology
- Discussion/Analysis of the results
- Appendices with figures, tables, and graphs if any.
The major components of an outline are an introduction, body, and conclusion. Here is what you should know about them at this point:
- Introduction. This section should contain the topic and the thesis of the research paper. You should specifically mention the aspect of the topic that is to be addressed, why it must be done, i.e., clarify the significance of the research, provide background data to set the context for the discussion, and explain what will be done. The introduction should be written in an engaging manner to captivate a reader's attention.
- Body. This is the place to show all your critical thinking and analytical skills. There should be multiple paragraphs supporting the claim made in the thesis statement. Each paragraph should be directly tied to it. The arguments should be arranged logically, for instance, in a chronological, spatial order or from the least to the most important.
- Conclusion. Here, you should restate your thesis statement in different words to remind of it to a reader. Then, you must briefly summarize the major arguments that were used to prove its validity. Finally, the significance of a research is to be reemphasized.
Step 5: Arrange Your Materials and Notes
In the writing process, this step is one of the most crucial ones. At this point, you should make your ideas more down-to-earth and think of the way to present them. In order to do it, you should look through all your sources and notes, distinguish between high-quality information from worthless facts, determine similar and opposing arguments, synthesize evidence, eliminate the data that is no longer up-to-date, verify the accuracy of facts, etc. In other words, you are supposed to process and digest the huge amount of information to select the best pieces only. Then, you should include the chosen evidence and examples in your outline. Surely, this procedure might be tiring, but it is indeed very useful. With materials and notes sorted out, the research paper is basically half written already. Besides, it assists you in learning something new about the topic, finding out the ways to present the topic effectively, and selecting the words that will convey your message precisely and fully.
There exist numerous ways to organize your notes, or you even may devise your own if you find it necessary. For example, you may mark different levels of ideas in distinctive colors and play with fonts a bit. However, among the most effective ones is "IA1a" method, where letters and numerals are used to signify the position of a piece of information in the hierarchy of ideas. For instance, if you discuss the works of Shakespeare, the part of the outline done by the "IA1a" method would look like in the following way:
- I. Shakespeare's poetry.
- A. Sonnets.
- 1. Sonnets about love.
- a. Sonnet 55.
This system looks complicated only at first. Once you try, you will realize how simple and helpful it is. For instance, imagine that you have found an excellent source and highlighted the necessary quote. In order to not to forget where you were going to put it in the text, you may add a shortcode on the top of the page, e.g., IA2b or IIB1a. This way, you know the section, subsection, and the exact claim that the citation should support, and any potential confusion is prevented.
Step 6: Compose the First Draft
With all materials being gathered and properly encoded, you may start working on the first draft. You should arrange notes in order as they will appear in the actual essay to ensure none of the pieces is lost or misplaced. If you are using mostly electronic sources, you may change names of files to be able to find the necessary data easily and quickly. At this point, the actual writing process should begin.
Start with developing the first claim that was numbered with the help of the Roman numeral, i.e., "I". Formulate the claim in a way that seems suitable and develop in the following sentence(s). Then, proceed to dealing with source again. Retrieve the information that you were going to introduce to the paper and prepare it for it. You may summarize the sources, paraphrase a specific excerpt, or insert an apt and preferably short direct quotation, which is to be signalized using quotation marks. Next, comment on the piece of evidence that you have included, i.e., provide own interpretation. Repeat the process as many times as needed to make your claim adequately supported and developed. Finally, create a concluding sentence with a transition to another paragraph.
You should do this procedure for all claims numbered with Roman numerals and use information marked will all other symbols, i.e., "a", "1", "A". Once you are done with body paragraphs, write an introduction with the thesis statement and a conclusion. Add in-text citations or footnotes to all pieces that were taken from source. Highlight the paragraphs or sentences that definitely should be refined in the course of revising. For instance, you may insert a symbol, i.e., → or #. It should be conspicuous to be easily found. Now, your first draft is ready!
Step 7: Revise the Draft
You should edit the content and format of the draft to prepare it for submission. Reread your paper multiple times in order to detect all the issues in structure, flow, development of ideas, their evidential support, articulation of examples, paragraph division, etc., and eliminate them all. If you need to rearrange the essay in a way that contradicts the initial outline, do not worry and do it. Just be sure that this alternation does not ruin the essence of the paper. Furthermore, pay attention to grammar mistakes while reading. Try to correct them all since even the perfect content presented with mistakes is not going to bring you a high grade. In other words, you should take care of the form of ideas too. Therefore, you are recommended to hire an editor, use Grammarly service, or at least, ask a family member to have a look at the paper.
To verify whether the revising process was successful, you may take advantage of the following checklist:
- Are all elements of the outline covered?
- Is the thesis statement clear and concisely formulated?
- Is the development of arguments logical and consistent?
- Are all excerpts from sources properly cited and correctly paraphrased?
- Is my message clear?
- Are there enough examples and pieces of evidence?
- Does each paragraph have a topic sentence?
- Is writing objective and free of emotional language that shows your attitude to the subject?
- Does the research paper look complete?
- Are all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes corrected?
- Are all contractions, i.e., "don't", "can't", "it's", eliminated?
- Are there no first-person pronouns?
- Are all in-text citations correctly correspond to excerpts?
- Is the flow of the text coherent and smooth?
- Are there transitional sentences?
- Are too long and too short sentences absent?
- Are all run-on sentences and fragments corrected?
- Are repetitive ideas and words eliminated?
- Is length requirement met?
- Is there no plagiarism in the research paper?
Step 8: Prepare the Final Copy
You have an excellent text now and need to get it ready for the professor to assess it finally. Primarily, look at the instructions again. Are you sure that all questions and subquestions are answered? Are all content and format related requirements met? Did you take into account all professor's preferences regarding the paper's appearance? Do sources meet the requirements? If all of these questions may be answered with "yes", you may proceed to final adjustments. If you were creating the research essay in handwriting, type it. Proofread it one last time. Print it out using a high-quality printer in order for a poor ink not to impede reading. Make sure the paper looks neat, clear, and tidy. Try to submit it at least a day before deadline expiration. It will help you to find the peace of mind and feel calm when everyone else is anxious.
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