Research Papers For Dummies: How to Deal with Your Writing

Writing a research paper for the first time (or the fifth time!) can be one of the most stressful types of writing assignment you receive in school. Part of that is due to the size of the paper; most research papers are of considerable length and that is only more pronounced as you advance in your education. Another issue is the complexity. Many students don't know where to begin with a research paper. In earlier schooling, essay writing methods and structures are covered extensively, but at first glance a research paper appears to be far more complex. In truth, research papers, despite their length and apparent complexity, are no more difficult to write than essays. In fact, in many ways they're easier. Following these tips and tricks will help you get control of your research paper assignment.

  1. Choosing a Topic
    • The single most important aspect of having a good research paper writing experience is choosing a topic. Choosing a good topic simplifies everything else. What makes for a good topic?

    • Choose a topic you can research thoroughly. Choosing a topic with very little available information will leave you frustrated.
    • Choose a topic that interests you. Many research paper assignments take weeks or months to complete; if you choose a topic you hate, you won't be motivated to work on it.
  2. Organizing Your Research
  3. The second most important thing you can do to ease the process is to remain organized throughout. That means organizing your notes by topic and subtopic, and keeping good, detailed lists of sources. That way, when it's time to cite your sources, it's simple and painless.

  4. Outline
  5. Once you've done your research, creating detailed outline will help considerably. Consider each subtopic to be an essay in a series, and introduce it, support your ideas, and then conclude by offering a segue into the next section.

  6. Writing
  7. Cite as you write. Don't worry about the first draft being perfect; that's why they're called rough drafts. Just follow your outline and be sure to get each of your ideas mapped out in writing. Cite your sources as you go, according to the correct format. Then, when you've finished writing the rough draft, the only thing you'll have to do is go back and polish the actual writing. That's easy enough to do, especially with friends and fellow students to proofread and give feedback.