If you’ve just been assigned a 10-20 page research paper, you may understandably feel pretty daunted at this task. But don’t despair! Here are a few tips and tricks to help you bang out that research paper like a pro.
Before You Start
This will really go against the grain for most college students, but planning ahead is really the key to reducing your stress and producing your best work. Take out your calendar and pencil in time for research, writing an outline and rough draft, and revising. Be realistic in your assessment of how long each of these tasks will take. Most importantly, choose a topic that will motivate you.
When choosing a topic, try to make it narrow enough to be meaningful. Check that you will be able to access adequate source materials for this topic. And finally, make sure you get an approval of your topic from your professor and that you thoroughly understand the assignment.
Writing Your Thesis
Your thesis statement is the question that you propose to answer in your paper. A good thesis statement is just one sentence, simple and specific. Choosing the right thesis statement now will save you lots of wasted time and dead ends later.
The availability of electronic materials definitely makes your research more convenient! But be careful: starting with a Google or Bing search may not be the best way to access quality materials. Try starting with your school library’s website and find those materials that your professor has listed for your course. After that, branch out into other academic sources, like OneFile, EBSCOHost, and the Periodical Contents Index.
As you scan these sources, jot down notes on index cards that include author names, dates and page numbers at the top of each.
Creating an Outline
A good outline provides direction and may be the most important element of creating a quality research paper with a minimum of stress. Start with an introduction that states why you are writing this paper and what approach you are going to take. Then explain the major points you will cover. The body will consist of the arguments that you will use to support your thesis statement. You will want to find three supporting arguments for each position that you take. Finally, you will need a conclusion that states your thesis in different words, summarizes your arguments, and explains why you have come to this particular conclusion.
Write Your Rough Draft
Write your rough draft using your outline as a guide. Include any information from your note cards that support your points, but try not to use too many quotes. Once you’ve finished, read it over and check your facts. Try to rework on any part of the paper that seems weak.
Revise to Create Final Draft
Go back and look at your assignment again, and confirm that you are clear on the expectations, and that your paper meets all the requirements. Proofread carefully for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Print your final paper with a good quality printer and make sure that it looks neat and attractive. Ask yourself if this paper is really your best work.
Don’t let that research paper get you down! With some careful planning and preparation, you can write a research paper you can be proud of without pulling any stressful all-nighters.