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10 Steps toward a Perfect Research Paper
The birds are chirping, the sun is shining bright, you've had a nice breakfast, and you're ready to start the first class of the day. But the false sense of security vanishes when your professor breaks down the news - you have two weeks to write a 6-page long essay. The sky gets clouded, birds fall silent as dread slowly seeps into your system.
This might be a bit overdramatic, but academic writing does indeed give many of us a stomach turn. Not everyone is a born writer, and for many people, this sort of assignment is a real challenge. Luckily, there is always a number of tricks that can make writing go faster and easier. Here are our top 10 tips.
1. Begin Early
Even the best of us are guilty of postponing some assignments and procrastinating throughout the whole time that could have been used more productively. It rarely results in anything else but a bad grade. The problem is that many students see writing a research paper as a process that involves only one action - writing. However, there are a lot more steps you need to take if you want to achieve a good result.
First, you need to research your topic and write an outline. Then after composing your first draft, you need to shape it into a satisfactory text through editing and proofreading. Finally, you should get a feedback from your professor regarding what improvement could be made. All this is too much to do in one night before the deadline, isn't it?
2. Read the Instructions
Have you ever lost a sweater to a dryer accident? If you had read the instructions, you would have found out that it wasn't supposed to go in. Same can happen with a research paper. If you don't read the guidelines, you risk ending up with a paper that simply won't be accepted because that's not what the professor has requested. To avoid the pickle of rewriting the whole text, always start with reading the given instructions.
3. Brainstorm Your Ideas
Sometimes, you're lucky to receive an essay topic that you're already very familiar with. However, it's not always the case, and more often than not you need to come up with something that would be good enough to make a decent paper. This might cause a writer's block, but there is no need to panic.
The best thing you can do in this case is to research general information and brainstorm your possibilities. You don't need to be an expert on everything but you're still able to write a good essay on anything if you know how to prepare. Try to connect new information to the things you already know so that you don't feel completely oblivious as to what's going on.
4. Ask Questions
A research paper requires you to give an answer to a question, and this should be visibly present. It might be very intimidating, however, to have one difficult question and feel the pressure of giving a good answer. To make things easier for yourself, as well as the reader, break it down. Every question can be split into a number of smaller ones and those might also be narrowed down even more.
Having a list of smaller questions and tackling them one by one will help you to organize your research paper in a lot less confusing way. It will also seemingly reduce the workload because your brain will more willingly answer simpler questions instead of one that cannot be answered easily.
Since you're writing a research paper, this step is the one when exciting things finally begin to happen. Good research skills are obviously appreciated here, but one more thing you need to possess is good judgment. Remember that you can never take everything you find on the mighty web at face value. Credibility should always be checked, and you can do it the following ways.
- Analyze the author. Has this person written a lot in the field? Are they known for any strong stance that might express subjectivity? Do they have experience of working in the field? Does the author base his or her experience of other sources?
- Judge the website. Sometimes just the appearance of the source can give you a pretty strong impression. Can you navigate easily on the website? Does it look well-developed? Does it have a sponsor and what is its reputation?
- Pay attention to the time frame. Always try to use only those sources that are up to date. This especially concerns writing on a current topic in world affairs because the situation is changing continuously.
Always check every source before you use it because otherwise, you'll risk undermining your research paper result.
6. Thesis Statement
One of the pieces of advice that we think is very helpful is to start writing a thesis statement. At this point, you probably already know what a thesis statement is, but if not, its short definition is the main sentence of the paper. It explains to the readers what to expect and what the paper will be all about. You should already be capable of writing a thesis after you've brainstormed your ideas and afterward, you will be able to create the rest of the paper on its basis.
7. Get Down to Writing
And now the moment of truth - the actual writing begins. If you followed the first six tips, then you have already established a strong enough foundation to begin with. You already know your topic and you've brainstormed the direction it will take. You've accumulated enough information to back you up all the way through the research paper, and you have a thesis statement which you should develop. This is already a lot easier than just sitting down with a piece of paper and waiting for inspiration to strike.
To help you even more, there are some little hacks you might be interested in.
- don't use the pronoun "I" in a research paper;
- use synonyms even if you're talking about the exact same thing;
- make your examples as specific as possible and avoid being vague.
8. Cite Everything You Use
The importance of citing should be clear to you by now so we won't focus on it. One thing you might forget, though, is that there are different citing styles, and you should know exactly which one your professor expects you to apply. If it's not mentioned in the guidelines, you can stick to the general rules.
Usually, the citing is included in brackets before the full stop of the sentence that is being referred to. You usually have to include the way you identify your source (name or number reference from the list of references) and the page. Avoid citing the same source many times throughout the same page.
9. Read the Paper
You might already be sick and tired of your essay, but writing is not where it all ends. Proofreading speaks for itself because you need to read it in order to spot bad wordings, grammar mistakes, or typos. And there will be lots of them. Not that we're trying to doubt your writing skill here, but no one is able to produce a flawless piece of writing from one try. Even professional writers have editors who will read the original text a million times to polish it to perfection.
You don't need to reread your essay a million times, though - at least twice will already do the job. Two reads are necessary because the last one should always be aloud once you think you're already satisfied with what you've got. Reading aloud is good to notice mistakes that your eyes have missed.
10. Get Feedback
The tricky aspect here is that you need to find a person you not only trust but also the one who knows your field of work. So it can be a fellow student, but ideally, you should try to seek feedback from the person who has assigned the paper. In most cases, professors don't refuse it when students ask them to give an opinion on the final draft. You might have a stricter professor, but it still doesn't hurt to ask.
So here are 10 steps you need to take on the way to a perfect essay. If you follow them one by one, you won't have any problems.