Research Paper Tips #1

Contrary to popular belief, your research paper should not be just pages and pages of facts.  Otherwise, we could just get that information from the internet on our own.  What we actually need is for you to interpret those facts for us.

Research Papers-More Than Just Data: Imagine you’re an actual research scientist doing cutting-edge research and the sources you’re using are actually bits of information you just discovered that no one has ever seen before.  You’re not going to focus on the boring stuff we all know; you’re going to look at all the new and exciting stuff that you’ve discovered and connect it all together to tell us what it means.  Tell us what’s important about the issue.  Focus on what is special.  Don’t just explain how something works.  Tell us why it matters, or how it is different, or how it can change the world. If it helps, think of your paper as an article in a science magazine; you want your paper to be interesting to your readers or they won’t want to read it.

Make It Easy On Yourself: If you choose a topic that you are actually interested in, the paper will be more enjoyable to research and write.  Look at the research first, and then make a thesis out of what you find most interesting about your topic.  Chances are, if it interests you, it will interest your reader too.  Don’t try to come up with your main points first and then look for research to support your ideas second; this is much harder to do than going the other way around.

Keep It Focused And Specific: A word about the scope of your paper:  don’t try to tackle an issue that is too big.  If you only have a few pages to work with, you don’t want to try to explain the entire history of the world or talk about every dinosaur that ever existed. Maybe focus on one dinosaur and what made it special.  The wider your scope, the greater the number of pages you will need to cover it!

Quick Tips #3: More On Research Papers

This is a continuation of Quick Tips #2:

–As with most writing projects, starting early is usually the best policy.  Many of us like to write our essays the night before they’re due; often, we still get good grades and only lose a few hours of sleep in return (many of us in the Writing Lab are just as guilty of doing this as the students we help).  But you don’t really gain anything from this, other than cheating fate for one more day.  Writing a paper and not learning anything from it is a waste of your time.  That’s part of your life that you purposely threw away to write junk, my friend.  You don’t get that time back.

And more importantly, cramming just sucks.  It’s nerve-racking, and it’s not fun, and wouldn’t you rather be playing Xbox instead?  So what do you do?  Start early.  Work on the paper 20-30 minutes each day for several weeks, rather than 5-10 hours the night before.

Have you ever seen those super students who are always prepared, always do their work, always get good grades, and always look so rested and on top of things?  Don’t you just hate them?  But it’s not hard to be like that.  You just have to be consistent with it.  Start papers early, and you’ll be less stressed when the deadlines get closer.  Review class materials for 15-20 minutes each day and you won’t have to cram before tests; you’ll even remember more years later, when you’re trying to explain it to your kids or someone else’s kids or to survivors who are trying to rebuild humankind’s vast body of knowledge after some future apocalypse (hypothetically speaking, of course).  I did this daily review thing for two weeks in college; those were the best, least stressful two weeks of my college career, and I still remember information about 8th century British literature (it haunts my dreams!).  Too bad I didn’t keep up the routine for the other four years of college  : (   Otherwise, I could have been working on a PhD by now.