Making the Grade: 7 Tips to Write an Awesome Research Paper
Happy Thursday! If you’re anything like me, then your latest term for your online degree program started up again yesterday (and now I’ve got that scene from “Billy Madison” stuck in my head… awesome).
As always, a new term means that you’ll be facing a new assortment of final projects, including the dreaded research paper. To help you survive writing one of these without a panic attack, here are seven tips that will help you write an 'A' paper:
1. Narrow down your topic
Your instructor has notified the class that your research paper can be on any topic you want; sweet! But then you realize what that actually means: the success of your paper relies entirely on the topic you select and the research you conduct. That can be a little nerve wracking. When selecting your topic there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Don’t pick a topic that is too broad or too narrow. This will more often than not cause writer’s block, which can lead to a delay in your project.
- Pick a topic that’s interesting and easy to explain. If you feel excited about the topic, you will have an easier time writing the paper.
- To narrow down your list of possibilities, jot them down on a piece of paper and do some preliminary research. The topic you can find the most current information on is probably the best choice.
2. Develop a thesis
Now that you have a topic, develop your thesis around it. (In case you didn’t know, the thesis is the main argument of your paper.) Developing your argument will help you organize and create your paper.
Big tip on researching – DON’T PROCRASTINATE! Chances are that you’ve known about the assignment for a while, so do yourself a favor: Don’t wait to burn the midnight oil. To begin your research, use search engines, articles and Web sites. (When using sources on the Internet, remember, a Web site URL that ends in .gov, .edu or .org will be more reliable than info found at a .com.) Another helpful source is your local library. It’s full of journals, periodicals and books that your professor will be thrilled to see cited in your paper.
4. Make an outline
Creating an outline for your paper is important. Why? Because it can serve as your road map when you get down into the nitty gritty details of writing. After all, you want to make sure you don’t miss any important points. All you have to do to create one is: list all of the important points you want to cover, group similar ideas together and then put them in a logical order. Easy!
5. Create a rough draft
This should be the easiest part of the entire process. Sit down at your computer and let your thoughts flow. Seriously, don’t worry about formatting or revising at this point.
6. Make revisions
Since you planned ahead (you did, right?), don’t look at your rough draft for a few days. That way, when it’s time to tackle revisions, you can look at it with fresh eyes. This will enable you to spot sections where your research, content or arguments could be stronger. Ask yourself if your thesis statement is clear; if there’s a clear introduction, body and conclusion; if your paragraph order makes sense; if all your sources are cited properly; and most importantly, if your paper says what you want it to say.
This is a crucial step. You don’t want to miss points due to grammatical mistakes. If grammar isn’t your strength, ask a friend or colleague to review your paper. A helpful hint: convert your paper to the Courier font and read it out loud. Why? Courier uses equal spacing for all characters, so it forces you to pay closer attention to the text.
Breathe a sigh of relief - you’re done! Now that you have a step-by-step process, writing your paper should be much easier from here on out. If you still find yourself struggling, though, do yourself a favor and comb through some of our older blogs. Chances are you’ll be able to find tips to overcome your challenges. Happy writing!
About the author: Lindsey Leesmann, Communications Specialist at Grantham University, received her Bachelor of Science – Print Journalism from Missouri State University, Springfield. Prior to her current role, she served as a Student Advisor in the Multidisciplinary Studies and Masters Degree programs.