Bring all your skills to bear on the topic. Use works in foreign languages. Use software packages to analyze statistical data. Or say you want to write about how conceptions of national identity have changed in Britain since the s. In this case, you might examine the speeches of British political leaders, editorials in major British newspapers, and voting support for the Scottish National Party or other regional parties. You might also arrange an interview with an expert in the field: a noted scholar, a British government representative, a prominent journalist.
There are, however, gradations of primary evidence. The best sources are those in original languages that are linked to persons directly involved in the event or development that you are researching. Next are the same sources translated into other languages. Then come sources that are studies of or otherwise refer to direct experience. In your research, you should endeavor to get as close as possible to the events or phenomena you are studying. But, of course, no one can speak every language and interview every participant in a political or social event.
Part of being a creative scholar is figuring out how to assemble enough evidence using the skills and resources that you possess in order to make a clear and sustainable argument based on powerful and credible sources.
How to Start Research Paper
Thou shalt make an argument. Unfortunately, many undergraduate research papers are really no more than glorified book reports. You know the drill: Check out ten books in English from the library, skim through three of them, note down a few facts or mark some pages, combine the information in your own words, and there you have it. This will not do. There are no once-and-for-all answers in any scholarly field, but there are better and worse arguments. The better ones have powerful evidence based on reliable sources, are ordered and logical in the presentation of evidence, and reach a clear and focused conclusion that answers the question posed at the beginning of the paper.
In addition, good arguments also consider competing claims: What other counter-arguments have been put forward or could be put forward to counter your points? How would you respond to them?
In fact, consideration of counter-arguments is often a good way to begin your paper. How have scholars normally accounted for a particular event or trend? What are the weaknesses of their accounts? What evidence might be marshaled to suggest an alternative explanation? How does your account differ from the conventional wisdom? Thou shalt write well.
Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic
Writing well means presenting your argument and evidence in a clear, logical, and creative way. An interesting argument cloaked in impenetrable prose is of no use to anyone. Sources must be accurately and adequately cited in footnotes, endnotes or in-text notes using a recognized citation style. The writing style must be formal and serious. Tables, graphs or other illustrations should be included if they support your overall thesis.
These are only a few guidelines on how to write research papers. When you ask, be courteous. This means you can begin with the end in mind, crafting the paper around what you know the prof wants to see. To begin with the end in mind, you need to follow three simple steps:.
Take a few moments to review the assignment and rubric with a pen and highlighter, making notes and underlining key elements the prof wants to see. Make a list of three strengths and weaknesses you have as a writer. Be mindful of the pitfalls and confident about your high points. All this should take you no more than 10 or 15 minutes. It may seem counter-intuitive, but using time to get organized saves you time later, and makes the writing process so much simpler.
So, here it is, step-by-step:. Say you have to write a paper for your Linguistics class.
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Take a look at this assignment from an actual college professor:. Go through and find the concepts the prof wants you to cover in the paper.
This prof is doing what profs do: pontificating. Take note, these macro concepts are often suggestions, not commands. They are the prof telling you how to be impressive, clear, or to raise your grade through a demonstration of your wits and knowledge. This is your prof letting you know that.
Second, go micro. Go through and underline actionable items. These are the items that must be included in the paper for you to get a good grade. Usually they are very specific:. Clearly, if your paper uses first-person pronouns, it will irk the person giving you the grade—probably best to stay away from that. Also, you should be using scholarly research, which means no random Googling and picking the first things you ping.
Take a look at the first section of the assignment sheet. See where the prof tells you exactly what your paper should be? This paper better be formatted in a particular way!
How to Write a Brilliant Research Paper - [51 Curated Resources]
Why would a prof do this? Well, the answer is simple. Imagine you have 75 papers to grade written by your 75 students. Imagine just how much variation and diversity would occur between those 75 people and their papers if the prof left it all to chance—all of these students like different fonts, would cite things differently based on their preferences, and would hand in widely varied papers, at least doubling the time it would take to read those papers.
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Make that prof love you by following these directions. If you follow the directions, this prof will direct their ire elsewhere. The rubric is a list of direct touch points that will be examined by the professor as they grade your work. In this case, you can see five discrete categories, each with its own stakes, and the number value that corresponds to your performance:. The prof will take the rubric and keep it within reach while grading.
Along with making notes on your paper, the prof will also check off your performance in each category—summarizing your performance in that category:. If you have a hundred-point paper, each one of these categories is worth 20 points. To get an A on this paper, you have to perform with excellence in 3 categories and above average in at least 2 of the other categories.
At least one of them—formatting—is a gimmie. All it takes is attention to detail—Microsoft Word has all the tools you need to score perfectly there. Focus on Development and Body Paragraphs for your other two. It might seem like a silly thing to do, but an anchor sentence is as vital as a thesis statement. Note that there is nothing about originality in this rubric. In this paper, I will demonstrate my understanding of a linguistic concept I learned this semester and how it relates to my field of study.
I will demonstrate this knowledge by staying organized, using relevant research, and sticking to my thesis statement. Yes, it seems a bit silly. But now you have an anchor. Now all you need to know is where it could all fall off the rails. In this step, you name your strengths and weakness so you know exactly where you stand walking in. Simple as that. Now all you need to do is play to those strengths and be cognizant of the weaknesses. Completing this second step immediately—before you go to bed on the day you get the assignment—is essential to acing this paper.
Set the plan and execute, execute, execute—this is the only way to achieve the results you want. If your time is nebulous, you will be more likely to drop the ball. Keep in mind that one of the crucial ingredients of successful writing is time. You need time to think, research, and create. If you fail to acknowledge this, you will write a crumby paper every time. Resist the impulse to think of the paper as a hurdle. Make an appointment with the writing center to get a semi-professional set of eyes, and had that paper to a friend for quick notes.
Your next step is to organize your time. Most of your sessions should be no more than an hour or two, but some activities—like research—might need to be a bit longer:. If you notice, most of your writing time will be spent on the front end—creating the first draft of the paper.
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