The research paper is an effective method of training qualitatively new specialists in higher education. It develops creative thinking, individual abilities, students’ research skills, allows for the training of initiative specialists, develops scientific intuition, an innovative approach to the perception of knowledge and practical application for solving problems and scientific problems.
Studying in high school and university, you will inevitably encounter the need to write a research paper – in fact, to conduct research on various scientific, technical or social aspects of a phenomenon. If you have never done this before, the task may seem complicated. However, it’s not so scary as seems!
Choose a Research Paper Topic
Ask yourself important questions about the work ahead. Perhaps you will have to act within the boundaries of a marked task, but even so, you need to choose the theme of the work. This is the very first and most important step. It does not matter if your topic is the one you dream about at night or something that is less interesting to you, then you should think about whether there is enough material on this topic. Maybe this topic is new and little-researched, what will allow you to state your own opinion in the research paper? Is it appropriate in the context of the assignment?
Choose a topic that you like. If you have such an opportunity, choose an interesting topic for you. If you research a topic that you are not indifferent, then this will more than positively affect the quality of the work.
Be original. If you write a study on the instructions of a teacher, think about other students. Maybe they will also write about the same topic as you? How can you make your work unique and outstanding?
Listen to advice. If you find it difficult to choose a “suitable” topic, then ask for advice from the teacher or classmates. They certainly have an idea, another, which you like! Well, if you do not like it – they can inspire you, give you food for thought, which is also useful. Of course, asking a teacher for help may not be very convenient, but, in fact, the successful fulfilment of your task is in their interests! In other words, teachers will help you.
Do not be afraid to change the subject. If you have chosen a topic, have started research and suddenly realized that “does not go” – do not despair! Even after beginning work on the study, oddly enough, you can change the subject. Yes, you will lose some time, and some of the work will be lost in vain, but still.
Conduct a Topic Research
Start the study of the chosen topic. So, the topic is already chosen. What’s next? Then we begin the research of the subject. Sites, magazines, books, encyclopedias, interviews, individual blog posts – all this will go down for research material. Be sure to check out the subject sites related to your topic. Use at least five sources, never rely on 1-2 sources!
Conduct an empirical study. If possible, refer to the old-good empirical studies. What is it? Imagine an article or book written by a recognized expert on the issue you are researching, which was read and approved by other experts on the problem you are researching. Such materials can be found in scientific journals or online.
Look in the library. The local scientific library is waiting for you, without jokes! This, of course, is the old school, but do not treat it with disdain – libraries full of useful materials! Do not be afraid to seek help from librarians, because, after all, their job is to help visitors.
Look for data on the Internet. Remember, moving on the first three links received in response to the first query is not a path of wisdom when writing a research paper. Assess the suitability of the materials found critically, do not rush, first read everything that the search engine finds for you, only then draw conclusions. Sites, blogs and forums are not the most reliable sources of information, after all:
- If in general, sites on the .edu, .gov or .org domains can be trusted, as these are sites of schools, government or organizations related to the topic you are researching.
- Change the search query to get different results. If nothing is found, then you need to change the query – it is quite possible that it does not overlap with the headings of articles that would be useful to you.
Use scientific databases. There are specialized search engines and scientific databases, in which thousands of scientific articles, journals and books are indexed. Yes, many of these resources are paid, but there are always ways to get free access:
- Look for those databases in which data related specifically to your topic is collected. For example, PsycInfo – a database dedicated only to psychological and sociological work. Searching for such databases will give you better and more reliable results.
- Most scientific databases allow you to set search parameters more than narrowly and, in particular, search only, say, books or magazines. Do not underestimate the power of carefully tuned search parameters!
- A list of scientific databases and passwords for access to them can be obtained at the library of your University.
Be creative! If you find a book that is perfect for you, do not be too lazy to strain your brain and open a list of literature where you can find dozens of wonderful books on your topic!
Prepare the Draft Version of Essay
Write an annotation. After collecting all the research materials, print them (if they were obtained from online sources) and mark everything you need to write a paper. This step is critical: read the material found, make appropriate notes, emphasize the main facts and statements. You can write both on printouts and stickers:
- Work with diligence and passion at this stage, to facilitate yourself a task in the future, and already quite close. Collect all that you might need!
- Do not hesitate to add your comments to the selected fragments, so that you can not get confused later. Write down your thoughts on how you can use this or that fragment.
Put your data in order. The annotation process can take a lot of time, but it’s not the end either – you need to put an order in your materials so that later it’s easier to work. In this case, it will be appropriate to divide all by category-topics. For example, analyzing a well-known literary work, you can use the characters of the work, the list of references to certain aspects of the plot, the symbolism of the text, and so on, as themes:
- It will be good to write out everything on separate sheets or cards – so it will be easier for you to re-categorize them.
- It is also useful to work with flowers. If you assign a separate color to each category, it will be easier to work. For example, everything that is associated with the heroes of the work, emphasize green, and everything related to the plot – orange.
Prepare a preliminary list of literature. When working with materials, do not forget to write out the authors, the year of publication, the publisher, the number of pages and, most importantly, the very page on which you found the information you need. So you greatly simplify your life in the future.
Define the purpose of writing your work. Speaking generally, there are two types of the research paper. Each of them requires an individual approach, which should be taken into account even at the stage of preparation of the draft version:
- Discussion research takes as a basis any controversial question or argues in favor of one or another point of view. Of course, the problem must be initially controversial, but such that opponents can bring logical counterarguments.
- Analytic research suggests a fresh perspective on an important issue. The topic may not cause any controversy, but you should try to convince your listeners that your ideas deserve attention. In these works, it is appropriate to present your unique ideas based on the material examined.
Decide on what audience your work is created for. Who will read it? Will it be published? It is crucial that your readership, so to speak, be reflected in your work. If you write an article for a scientific journal, then there is no need to explain the basics and the basics – write about the new thing that you found. The converse is also true: if your article is intended for those who do not understand the subject well, then everything should be explained, giving examples and comments.
Write a preliminary thesis, based on the purpose of research. The thesis serves as a general thought of your work, making a statement about a particular issue, then arguments are presented in favor of this statement. At this stage, sketch out only the preliminary thesis of your work (for 1-2 sentences, no more), because in the process of research it can change. Remember that all your research paper should be connected with the thesis, and therefore it is essential to indicate the thesis quite clearly:
- The thesis reflects the search for an answer to which your work is devoted to. What is it? Which hypothesis do you want to confirm or deny? Let’s say the question is: “How does socio-cultural destigmatization increase the chances of successful treatment of mental illnesses?” “From here you can get a thesis – and they will have the answer you got to this question. That’s it – easy, simple and elegant.
- The thesis should express the main idea of the work, but do not include the arguments for or against it, as well as the retelling of all your work. A thesis is merely a statement, not a list of arguments.
Identify the central issues of the research. When working on the material, you will need to give answers to the questions that you consider the most important (in the context of the topic being researched, of course). Here you can advise only one thing – go back to all of your findings and rough drafts, and see what issues pass through them with a red thread. Think about what you can write a whole paragraph, or even more? What are your ideas confirmed by many objective facts? Write down your central questions on paper, and then write down under each of them all related materials:
- At this stage, the order of the material is essential. The most your “killer” conclusions or questions are placed at the beginning, and the more controversial ones – closer to the end.
- It is not necessary to limit yourself to the scheme “1 main point – one paragraph of the text,” especially if you write a serious study. The main ideas can be stated in such a volume of text as you consider necessary.
Do not forget the formatting requirements. Depending on what kind of paper you write, it can be applied to various requirements for registration. More on this, you can find out from the person who gave you the assignment. Remember that the formatting requirements can change the way that you will prepare the final version of the study.
Finish the work on the draft version. Taking into account everything we told you about, prepare a draft version of the paper. Do not forget about the alignment, about the indents and everything in this spirit. The draft version is a summary of your item in a list format. By the way, do not forget to add to this list all the relevant citations, so as not to waste time searching for them later.
Prepare the Final Version of Research Paper
Start work on the content. You, of course, may find it strange that we do not advise you to start with the work on the introduction, but there is a reason – it is much easier to write a presentation based on an almost finished paper. Start by describing everything that stands in support of your thesis. You can slightly change ideas and comments, manipulate them:
- For each statement you make, you need to provide confirmation. Work at you research, but because of the facts, facts and only the facts – and no idle speculation.
- Add extensive, detailed comments. If you express opinions without supporting them with facts, it will be wrong. Nevertheless, if you cite facts, but do not explain why, then again this is not the path of wisdom. Of course, your desire to crush the reader’s facts is understandable but take care also to explain everything with the help of comments.
- Better not to use long and direct quotes. The meaning of your work, even if it is called research, is to show the world your thoughts on the topic under study. If the quotation is not necessary, it is better to dispense with indirect speech and its subsequent analysis.
- The transition from point to point should be smooth. Your research paper should be read, figuratively speaking, smoothly. Make sure that the passage from the paragraph to the paragraph is simply to understand.
Write a conclusion. Now, when you have carefully worked out your work, write a conclusion, in which all the information found will be briefly described, having the final character. Start with the initial thesis, then remind the reader of the points that you specified in the course of the work. Slowly open your topic and finish on a broad note, describing the results of your study:
- The purpose of the conclusion is to answer the question: “So what?” Make sure that the reader has learned something new for himself.
- It will be better if you write a conclusion before introduction. First of all, the conclusion is more comfortable to write, when all the information is still fresh in your memory. Moreover, it is desirable to use all of your vocabulary in the output, and then simply rephrase all the previously stated in the introduction. That’s right, not the other way around. This will leave a much better impression on the reader.
Write an introduction. The introduction, by and large, is the opposite of the conclusion. Start with a more significant thought, and then go directly to your topic. Avoid repeating those phrases that you used in conclusion.
Provide a reference list. Here you must specify all sources of information used in the writing of the work. Design your research according to the required style of design. So, from you, most likely, will demand conformity with styles MLA, APA or the Chicago style of registration:
- The MLA format, as a rule, is used in the analysis of works of art, it requires the citation of the section “Cited Materials” at the end of the work. Also here, quotations are needed in the text.
- The APA format, in turn, is used when working on topics related to social sciences. Quotations in the text are also needed here. At the end of the work, designed in this style, the “Links” page is provided, and the headings of sections between paragraphs are also allowed here.
- The Chicago style, in turn, is used to work on historical topics, it requires the use of notes at the bottom of the page, rather than citations in the text and not lists of used literature.
Edit your sketch. Of course, the temptation to “check everything with Word” will be strong, but do not give in to it. Carefully read your work, or even better – give it to one or two friends for verification. Let them check the grammar, spelling, and also appreciate the persuasiveness of your text and how easy it is to read:
- If you decided to edit your work, do this three days after finishing work on it. During this time your brain will rest, which will allow him to notice the mistakes, to which he is just accustomed, while you were writing it!
- Do not neglect the advice of others about editing a paper. If many people tell you that this or that section should be rewritten, then perhaps there is a weighty reason. In general, do not rush and edit your work most thoroughly.
Clean-up final version of your research paper. When your work is checked and rechecked, and the formatting meets all the relevant requirements, and in general everything that could be done has already been done – there is only one thing, namely, the preparation of a clean-up. Read your entire research paper again. If you need to make any changes – make them, even if it concerns the font, the distance between the lines and the margins. If necessary, prepare a title page, a list of used literature and so on. These are the steps that complete your work. And be sure to make a few copies of your work – both paper and electronic!
Research Paper Expert Advice
While conducting research, pay attention to relevant topics, questions and key problems. Try to concentrate your efforts in detail on a particular topic of interest, rather than trying to investigate several questions at once in general terms. Do not wait until the last minute, do everything in time!