You might cringe at the thought of research papers, but teachers often assign them as a way to encourage critical thinking and a deeper exploration of a topic. Try to avoid waiting until the last minute to work on your paper since this might set you up for a low score. Instead, break down the process into small chunks over a period of time. As well, follow a few important rules, and this will help you write an effective paper.
Effective research papers require a well-thought thesis, and many students have a difficult time forming a good thesis. However, you can begin by filling in a few blanks to a standard statement. For example, you might have: “This paper is about (insert your topic), and I plan to prove/argue (the focus of your paper).” Essentially, this will make up your thesis, but you need to revise and refine the statement to make it fit seamlessly into your introduction.
Make sure you use quality sources during your research process. This will give credibility and accuracy to your paper. You do not want to cloud your paper with information that may not stem from reputable references. Some teachers will give you a list of unacceptable sources, but you should evaluate all of your sources as well. You will need to consider the author of the book, journal, website or other material. What qualifications does the writer have? Does she have affiliations with a political or social group that might lead her to have a biased viewpoint? As well, you will need to evaluate if the information is outdated.
Your research paper should have a structure that makes sense for the topic. After you introduce your topic, the body of your paper should start with the most important idea or research that backs up your thesis. Then, move on to the next most important concept you need to share, and so on. You will need to stay with one idea at a time, sharing your data and discoveries with the reader before moving on to the other ideas. A well-organized, in depth discussion of the topic will give a logic and clarity to your work, and this will help your score on the paper.
When you complete a draft of your paper, you might think you can call that good enough, but turning in an effective research paper takes a little more effort. You need to go through your paper to look for grammar and punctuation mistakes. Look at each sentence individually to ensure they make sense, and then look at the surrounding sentences to ensure they go together. As well, when you move to new paragraphs and ideas within your paper, make sure you have good transition words that give your paper a seamless flow. During a revision, also make sure that you transcribed any data accurately and that you cite your sources.
- The University of Wisconsin-Madison: Writing a Research Paper
- The University of Kansas: Research Papers
- The Bedford Guide to the Research Process; Jean Johnson
Kate Beck started writing for online publications in 2005. She worked as a certified ophthalmic technician for 10 years before returning to school to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing. Beck is currently putting the finishing touches on a novel.