Tips For Writing Long Research Papers

The end of each semester or the whole academic year usually requires writing at least one research paper. For many students, it means sleepless nights, stress and a lot of work. But does it have to be that way? Actually, it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first. The key to your success is to divide your work into many smaller easy-to-handle stages.

To write an excellent research paper and stay motivated throughout the process, you will also need some helpful advice, a well thought-out plan of action, and a set of useful tools. Read on to find out how to simplify your work!

Choose an engaging topic

Choosing a proper topic is crucial. Since each research paper entails studying different approaches, hypotheses, techniques, etc., you need to make sure the topic you think you’d like to write about has been investigated by other scholars too. Otherwise you will definitely have to spend twice as much time and effort to come up with some substantial research results. Still, if your instructor is ready to help you out and provide thorough guidelines on how to conduct it properly, just go for it and have no worries.

Another important thing is to choose an interesting topic so you don’t get bored of your research work and fail to carry it out. Write down a few questions (related to one particular subject such as the arts, history, marketing, etc.) that make you curious to find the answers and ask your instructor to help you formulate the topic based on them.

Start searching for reputable sources

To make a deep dive into the topic and ensure that your research is based on proven facts and statistics, it’s vital to use only verified sources of information. Make the most of such popular services as Google Scholar, Google Books or Microsoft Academic. They allow you to find scientific articles, journals, books or other kind of research material. Just enter a search query and look through the list of relevant links. Here’s a shortlist of other helpful websites:

  • Make use of numerous websites with .gov or .edu extensions.
  • Online libraries with detailed category lists are worth checking out too. With such resources as NSDL (National Science Digital Library) or NAP (The National Academies Press) you can find high quality material in no time. Select the category you want and press the Search button. It’s as simple as that!
  • If you decide to refer to some particular terminology and learn when and how it appeared, try the wonderful world of encyclopedias. By visiting encyclopedia.com or infoplease.com, you will also be able to know the most precise facts about scholars’ achievements, theories they developed, historical dates and more.

When making a list of sources, write a short note next to each of them saying what exactly you’d like to use it for. For example, a paragraph about immigration laws, a citation on the theories on the origin of life, etc.

Create a precise thesis statement

Once a list of sources is ready, it’s time to develop a thesis statement. There’s nothing to fear about this. Just look through the list once again and try to place the sources in a logical order. Add your ideas to the list. Try to be as precise as possible. If your sentences are too long, then divide them into smaller ones and omit unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, etc.

The purpose of a thesis statement is to explain what the entire research paper will be dedicated to. Basically, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What’s the subject of your research?
  • How are you going to reach your goal?
  • What methods will you use to prove your point?
  • What do you expect to obtain as a result?

The final step at this stage is to have your thesis statement approved by your instructor. He or she is sure to tell you what parts of your thesis need some tweaking. As a result, you will get a kind of mini-guide that will simplify writing a rough paper outline.

Develop a rough outline and write a draft

Creating a detailed outline for you paper is half the battle, and especially if your instructor has taken a look at it and suggested a number of valuable corrections. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing. The outline serves as a map for you to reach your final point of destination, but there are many other routes you can take to get there. Additionally, you can add subheadings to make the paper outline even more precise. This way you will avoid rewriting any drafts.

When starting to write a paper, make sure you keep your notes and sources separate. If you fail to do this, you put yourself at risk of committing plagiarism. Even if it is done unintentionally, you can still be found guilty. But there’s a way out. Check your paper for originality against web sources to avoid plagiarism with such tool as unplag.com. It also allows excluding citations and references from the search to ensure accuracy of checks.

Have your sources cited and bibliography formatted

If you fail to cite materials in your paper, it will be definitely considered as blatantly plagiarized. To avoid all possible unpleasant consequences, cite your sources accurately. With all the formatting rules of different styles such as APA, MLA or other popular academic writing styles, who can keep track of it all? No problem. There are a few online tools that can help.

One of them is mendeley.com. Apart from a free reference tool with thousands of journals you can cite, there are some extra add-ons you may find useful as well. Among them is a feature allowing you to highlight, annotate and put sticky notes to .pdf materials you’d like to mention in your paper.

Summing it all up and a bonus tool

By this time, you are done and ready to submit your paper. But wait! First make sure everything is correct. Check the text for grammar, stylistic and punctuation mistakes and ensure that your writing doesn’t contain typos.  Then, check your writing with an anti-plagiarism tool again and see if there’s anything left to be cited.

Make sure your text is well structured and easy-to-understand. Don’t forget to make paragraphs, headlines and subheadings. Keep the text coherent whenever you restructure your paper or add some more information.

If you pay attention to all these pieces of advice, your research paper will be sure to impress your instructor. Good luck!

Writing a Research Paper

This page lists some of the stages involved in writing a library-based research paper.

Although this list suggests that there is a simple, linear process to writing such a paper, the actual process of writing a research paper is often a messy and recursive one, so please use this outline as a flexible guide.

  1. Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic
  2. Finding, Selecting, and Reading Sources
  3. Grouping, Sequencing, and Documenting Information
  4. Writing an Outline and a Prospectus for Yourself
  5. Writing the Introduction
  6. Writing the Body
  7. Writing the Conclusion
  8. Revising the Final Draft

 

Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic

  • Try to find a topic that truly interests you
  • Try writing your way to a topic
  • Talk with your course instructor and classmates about your topic
  • Pose your topic as a question to be answered or a problem to be solved

Finding, Selecting, and Reading Sources

You will need to look at the following types of sources:

  • library catalog, periodical indexes, bibliographies, suggestions from your instructor
  • primary vs. secondary sources
  • journals, books, other documents

Grouping, Sequencing, and Documenting Information

The following systems will help keep you organized:

  • a system for noting sources on bibliography cards
  • a system for organizing material according to its relative importance
  • a system for taking notes

Writing an Outline and a Prospectus for Yourself

Consider the following questions:

  • What is the topic?
  • Why is it significant?
  • What background material is relevant?
  • What is my thesis or purpose statement?
  • What organizational plan will best support my purpose?

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Writing the Introduction

In the introduction you will need to do the following things:

  • present relevant background or contextual material
  • define terms or concepts when necessary
  • explain the focus of the paper and your specific purpose
  • reveal your plan of organization

Writing the Body

  • Use your outline and prospectus as flexible guides
  • Build your essay around points you want to make (i.e., don't let your sources organize your paper)
  • Integrate your sources into your discussion
  • Summarize, analyze, explain, and evaluate published work rather than merely reporting it
  • Move up and down the "ladder of abstraction" from generalization to varying levels of detail back to generalization

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Writing the Conclusion

  • If the argument or point of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize the argument for your reader.
  • If prior to your conclusion you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the end of your paper to add your points up, to explain their significance.
  • Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction.
  • Perhaps suggest what about this topic needs further research.

Revising the Final Draft

  • Check overall organization: logical flow of introduction, coherence and depth of discussion in body, effectiveness of conclusion.
  • Paragraph level concerns: topic sentences, sequence of ideas within paragraphs, use of details to support generalizations, summary sentences where necessary, use of transitions within and between paragraphs.
  • Sentence level concerns: sentence structure, word choices, punctuation, spelling.
  • Documentation: consistent use of one system, citation of all material not considered common knowledge, appropriate use of endnotes or footnotes, accuracy of list of works cited.

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