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Writing 101: Your Alternative Guide for Research Paper Writing

October 01, 2015 - Posted to Writing

Content guide for research paperwriting x essays

Your Alternative Guide for Research Paper Writing

“I love writing research papers,” said no student ever. What’s not to love? You get to choose a topic, refine that topic, do all sorts of research, develop a thesis statement, consolidate all of that research into manageable sub-topics, make an outline, write a rough draft, review and edit, and then write the final draft. Oh, and don’t forget the formatting. And while you are in college, you can multiply this pleasant task by at least 30 – how’s that for really looking forward to something?

Defining the Research Paper

You have probably been writing research papers since high school. And there you learned the routine that was just described above, which has led to a pretty precise definition of a research paper. It is a piece of investigative writing in which a student conducts research to answer some question about a topic. Thus a research paper may have several possible purposes:

  1. It may be to provide the reader with information about a topic – a war, a religion, a political philosophy, a mental illness, a type of alternative energy, etc. This is an expository research paper – one that explains with factual information.
  2. It may be to persuade a reader. Is man-made climate change real? The answer to this question comprises the thesis of the paper, and it is then the student’s task to pile up the evidence in support of his/her view.
  3. It may be a comparison/contrast paper. How many theories of the creation of the Universe are there? Which one seems most plausible to scientists today?

You get the idea. The point of a research paper assignment is to make you more of an “expert” on a specific topic, through an investigation of what the big-time “experts” have to say.

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Your Alternative Guide to Research Paper Writing – Making it Easier

You have probably received a research paper writing guide in a lot of different courses. Most of them will take you through the same process, and many of those steps are also included here. But this guide will give you some tips and tricks that will ease the pain a bit.

  • Topic Selection. Never choose a topic just for the sake of getting something down on paper for approval. Find something that you have some real interest in. If you don’t, the pain will be really bad, because you won’t even enjoy reading about the topic, much doing everything else you have to do. More on finding a topic later.
  • Do some very basic research. This is when Wikipedia comes in handy. No, you are not going to use it as a resource, but you can get the very basic information about the topic that will allow you to develop a thesis statement. As you read, ask yourself questions about the topic? As you ask those questions, you may pretty easily come up with a thesis statement. For example, what are the differing opinions on this and which one do I agree with? Why is this important for people to know or understand? What impact can this information have on people or on society as a whole? What are the important things about this topic that everyone should understand?
  • Your Thesis Statement: Get your thesis statement by answering one of the questions in #2. Write it down. And get it approved by your instructor if required. Here’s a tip: If you are having difficulty narrowing a topic or getting a thesis statement, head straight for your instructor’s office. Present your issue. Let him/her take the ball. You’ll come out of there with a great topic and thesis statement – all provided by someone else!
  • Now, you’re ready for the serious research. And you are also ready for the most important tip of this alternative guide. Here’s how you go about this:
  1. When all of your research is completed, you know that you are going to have to consolidate it and figure out what your sub-topics are going to be. This is a really difficult process, because you are sifting through mountains of notecards, trying to categorize them and place each card in the right category. Instead of waiting until after the research is done, put your sub-topics together up front. So, how do you do this if you haven’t even conducted the research yet?
  2. You don’t re-invent the wheel. Get into those resources until you find one that already has established sub-topics on your topic. If those sub-topics look good to you, use them for your paper. Let’s say there are 5 sub-topics. Number each of them. Then, as you conduct your research from all of your sources, you can take your notes, and put each note card in the proper pile in the beginning – such a time saver!
  3. Your outline will almost write itself now that you have your sub-topics. And you can consolidate and eliminate those note cards even more as you look at the details under each sub-topic. Have two authors said the same thing? Do you need to include both of their statements/ideas, or will one do? If so, pitch the duplicate info.
  4. The rest, of course, is just like the standard process – write your rough draft, edit it and write your final draft. You should probably get help with research paper editing, because you will never catch all of your mistakes. If you are pretty good in English, pair up with someone else who is good and edit each other’s. If you can’t do this, maybe use an online writing service to do that edit for you. After all this work, you don’t want to have a grade lowered because of grammar and writing!

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Summary of the Most Important Tips

  • If you can’t narrow a topic and find a good thesis, ask your instructor for help. He will be flattered and will believe that you are really trying to do a good job – all of this helps when it comes time to read and grade it. S/he may also point you in the direction of some good resources which will also save buckets of time.
  • Find one resource that has the sub-topics identified just as you want, and use that resource as a model for how you will organize your paper. It will save you a lot of stress and time.
  • Don’t review and edit your own paper. Get a buddy or a pro from a writing service to polish it up.

The Takeaway

Following this research paper writing guide keeps all of the basic steps intact. But, if you use the tips that are contained in it, you will get through this process with far less anxiety and stress.

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