Most instructors and professors assume that students know exactly how to produce a scholarly research paper. This may not be the case If, in their highs schools, students were not required to craft good research works. They enter college only having a very basic idea of what a research paper is but none of the details that make a paper meet expectations at the college level. If you are in this situation, here are some key research paper guidelines that will get you through the research and writing process and get you a good grade.
Choosing a Topic
This is a bit more complex than you make think. When you are assigned a research paper, you will be given a length and a required minimum number of resources to use. Both of these will impact the topic you select. Use this process:
- Begin by selecting a broad area that interests you.
- Narrow that broad area down into smaller topic areas. You may find these as section headings in your text book – a good place to start.
- Now you need to find out if your topic is too broad or too narrow for the length requirements. One of the best ways to do this is to look online and pull up sample papers on the same topic. What are the lengths of these? If they “fit” then you know your topic is appropriate.
Part of the purpose of this research paper guide is to give students some tricks and short-cuts that will streamline the process. As you read through these steps, you will see that the whole production can be made a lot easier than you may have thought.
- The Research: Follow these simple steps
- Remember the sample papers you found online. Go back and get the one that you liked the best. Download and print it out. No, you are not going to plagiarize it! You are going to see how it is structured. What sections are included? You can use the same sub-topic sections as those in this paper, and your organization has already been done for you.
- Look at the resources used for the sample paper. Are they current? Are they appropriate for college level (no encyclopedias, etc.)? If so, then you might want to use those same resource materials. This save you a huge amount of time searching for source materials. If they are not, don’t use them, of course.
- Do the Research. Now that you have your sub-topic already identified, you will be able take notes on notecards and then place each notecard in a stack for the suitable sub-topic. Just make sure that you put the source and page number at the top of each notecard.
- The Outline: This has already been simplified for you. Each of your sub-topics will have a Roman numeral and the details that you will present under each topic are contained on your notecards. Your only decision is in what order you will present the information. Again, you may want to look at that sample as you make these decisions.
- Writing the Rough Draft: This should be a relatively easy process now. You simply follow your outline. One of the most important research paper writing tips is that you should not be overly concerned with your grammar and punctuation at this point. You want to get your ideas down on paper. And if you have grammar and spell check on your word processing program, most of them will be caught anyway. The one detail you must really be mindful of is to get your sources in for your citations – if you don’t do that now, you will be scrambling to find the source later on – not a pretty picture.
- The Revision: You have a couple of choices. If you are not a really skilled writer, then you don’t want to be editing and revising you own paper. There are some great apps out there right now that you could purchase very cheaply. You copy and paste your paper in and you will have any grammar, agreement, punctuation and other errors flagged, along with suggestions for fixing the mistake. What could be easier? Barring that, you can send you paper off to an online writing service for editing. This is pretty reasonable in cost too.
- Your Formatting: Again, technology is just wonderful! There are app for formatting too. So you can just enter your source information, select the style you need, and the bibliographical information will be created perfectly for you.
These research paper tips should really help you. Just remember, there is an old saying – “Don’t re-invent the wheel.” What this means is that if someone else has already developed a good plan, product, services, etc., there is no need for you to invent it all over again. If someone else has a great structure for a research paper on your topic, then use that structure as you create your own.