Research papers are par for the course when you’re in college. Virtually every class requires you to write one at the end of a semester. These assignments come easy for some students, but others lose sleep and stress about having to write such a lengthy paper.
While intimidating, research papers aren’t all that complicated to write – if you know which elements to include and create a plan of attack. Here are four tips for writing an effective research paper.
1. Choose an Engaging Topic
The first step in the writing process is to choose a topic. Find one that’s engaging and that you’re interested in.
If you don’t choose a topic you’re interested in, you’ll get bored of your research work and may fail to finish the paper. Of course, the topic has to meet the assignment’s guidelines, but do your best to find something that fits the assignment’s parameters and your interests.
Because you’ll have to study different hypotheses, approaches and techniques, you’ll want to make sure that you choose a topic that other scholars have also investigated.
2. Find Reputable Sources
When writing any research paper, it’s important to use reputable sources. Your argument and research must be based on statistics and facts that should be cited in the body of your work. Using verified sources of information is crucial. As most instructors will tell you, sites like Wikipedia are not considered reputable sources.
If you’re not sure where to find sources, you can try Google Books, Google Scholar or Microsoft Academic. These services will allow you to find scientific articles, books, journals and other types of research material.
You can also find information at:
When creating your list of sources, be sure to include short notes next to each one that states exactly how you’d use the source.
3. Craft a Precise Thesis Statement
Once you’ve chosen a topic and gathered a list of resources, you can start working on your thesis statement. The purpose of a thesis statement is to explain your entire research paper in one sentence.
The statement should answer the following questions:
- What is the subject of your research?
- How will you reach your goal?
- Which methods will you use to prove your point?
- What do you expect to gain as a result?
Your instructor may have to approve your thesis statement, so take your time when crafting it. Use your instructor’s feedback to tweak your statement as needed.
Think of your thesis statement as a mini-guide that will help you create a rough outline for your paper.
4. Create a Rough Outline and First Draft
It may be tempting to skip the outline step and move straight to creating your first draft, but your outline is a crucial part of the writing process. It will serve as your guide, and make your life easier when you finally start writing.
If you want, you can include subheadings in your outline to make it even more precise.
Keep in mind that your first draft is just your rough draft. You should proofread and revise several times before turning in your paper.
Don’t forget to cite your sources properly and to format your bibliography appropriately.