A research paper… sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? Many students dread this academic assignment for years on end and do all they can to avoid writing it on their own. However, crafting a regular research paper is not that difficult at all if you know some secrets.
Surely, it’s better to learn them early on – preferably, in high school. Still, it’s always possible to catch up if you really want to. If you’re reading this – you’re already on your way!
In this article, you’ll find some of the best-proven tips that will help you write your research papers better – and get higher marks!
Determine the Type of Paper
Students often wonder if a research paper is also an essay or not. The answer is – yes, basically, it is. However, research papers are usually more complex than school essays. Thus, they require more time, dedication, and knowledge.
Still, many research papers are structured in exactly the same manner as regular five-paragraph essays. And they answer the same questions. So, it’s essential to determine what type of essay you need to write and then check if you know how exactly this type should be written.
For example, if you see that your topic (given that you already have it) calls for a cause and effect essay, it makes the writing process much easier as it means you already know what it should be like. There are also some other common research paper types that include such papers as:
- compare and contrast;
If you’re not sure what type of paper your assignment implies, clarify the details with your professor before you start working on the task.
Study the Sources
Regardless of the topic and the type of paper, your research process should always start from studying the sources. These can be primary or secondary, and you’ll need to find both types. However, it’s usually better to start with the secondary, and then, when you’re already acquainted with the topic, move on to the primary ones.
The difference between the two of them is, in essence, that primary sources are “raw materials” without any layers of interpretation and/or analysis. Some examples are:
- Interview recordings/transcriptions;
- Original texts of laws or any other legal documents;
- Firsthand news reports;
- Letters, diaries, speeches, etc.
Secondary sources are usually interpretative or analytical, though related to the same topic. These are:
- Documentaries, and the like.
Studying the sources can often be tiresome and time-consuming – but it’s an essential part of the process. So, don’t treat it lightly and spend enough time searching and reading before proceeding to work on your essay.
Choose the Right Research Method
Studying sources is crucial, but so is conducting your original research. And there are plenty of methods that can help you do it if you know how to use them.
Basically, there are just three main research methods used both in the academic and professional fields.
- Qualitative research;
- Quantitative research;
- Mixed methods.
This, too, may look intimidating. However, it’s not that difficult once you break these methods down to concrete tools, or techniques. Then, there are the good old interviews, surveys, case studies, document analysis, observations, etc. Nothing overwhelming!
However, sometimes original research is not required, and it’s quite possible to get away with only using and citing the right sources. So, yet again, you need to consult with your professor.
Write an Outline
There’s just no way you can write such a complex work without having a detailed outline. So, get to this task as soon as you decide on your topic and essay type, and conduct preliminary research.
Here, it’s critical to stress that knowing your essay type before starting to develop an outline is a must, so, if you’ve missed the first tip, return to the first step.
But if you have all the information needed, creating an outline is not a difficult task at all. First of all, all essay outlines are pretty much the same. So, if you’ve ever written one, you might already know how to do it.
In case you’ve forgotten, a typical research paper outline looks like this:
- Body paragraph 1
- Body paragraph 2
- Body paragraph 3
It can differ in specific cases and can get more complicated. But the basic structure remains the same, and you should adhere to it unless otherwise required.
Write the First Draft
There are multiple ways to approach the writing process once you have researched the topic, made notes, and put together an outline. Some advise starting from a thesis statement, others prefer a step-by-step process or any other scheme they feel comfortable with. But one thing is for sure: everyone needs a first draft.
So, make sure to manage your time wisely to be able to re-write the text – possibly, more than once. When you have all your ideas written down, it becomes much easier to find any flaws, logical errors, and other mistakes – and chances are, there will be more than enough of those. Then, when you detect them, you’ll be able to make changes and write the final draft.
Never Neglect Editing
Finally, when your final draft is almost ready, don’t forget to edit it thoroughly. Read through the text several times, use automatic tools to fix any grammatical and spelling errors, then – read again.
Also, pay special attention to how your paper looks: whether it contains all the necessary elements like bibliography, if it’s formatted in the right manner, with all citations in place. Remember that even the best ideas won’t win you an excellent mark without the proper formatting!
Writing a research paper is a complex, time-consuming task. However, knowing some useful tips like those listed above can make it much easier. Also, remember that practice is key to success. So, don’t be lazy, and never forget to use our tips!