research paper tips

An Effective Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations

College and graduate level writing demands a lot of hard work, concentration and time. Research papers, theses, and dissertations cannot be approached in the same way as one once did with 5-paragraph essay papers or even those slightly longer term papers. Here is a quick but effective manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations.

Choosing a Topic

The first step is choosing a topic that you find interesting as well as one that isn’t too large in scope or to small that you can’t find enough resources. Generally, writing about something you enjoy will make for a better paper, and will be much more enjoyable to your audience.

Making a List of Resources

Before starting your research you should take this vital preliminary step and check several bibliographies, related research abstracts, and other types of related works so that you have a good list to start from. Try searching databases using several different keywords so that you get a broad list to choose from, then narrow down your resources to a focused sub-topic.

Brainstorming Your Research

Now that you have plenty of content to base your long paper on, you should take a few hours to organize and brainstorm your ideas. You have all the background information but you need to come up with some structure in order to form a clear thesis and an outline to guide you through the rest of your project.

Developing Your Thesis

Once you have some organization – whether it’s a mind map or a collection of ideas written on note cards – you should have enough to work on developing a thesis. Your thesis statement can be a draft and doesn’t need to be well-developed. It does however need to express your thoughts and opinion in a clear way so you can use it structure your outline and supporting evidence.

Developing an Outline

The next step just before you start with the nitty-gritty of writing your paper is creating an outline. Some students will want to skip this stage but the best writers know that an outline is essential. You should keep your outline in front of you and refer to it after each paragraph. You may decide later on in your revision that you need to reorganize your paper, but at the very least use your outline while writing your first rough draft.

Drafting and Revising

Your first draft should be written as quickly as possible so that you can get down all of your ideas without hesitation. Don’t worry about or stop to fix instances of redundancy or for mistakes in grammar or spelling. You’ll have time to fix these items later on when you start your revision. Your revision should be an exercise in re-thinking the content of your paper and finding ways to improve by editing, reorganizing and removing pieces altogether.

Proofing and Editing

The final step should be a thorough and complete proofing and editing of your entire work. The best approach is to do this in several levels: at a whole paper level, at the paragraph level, and finally at the sentence level. Be careful for all grammar and spelling mistakes. If you are unsure of something consider rewriting it so there is absolutely no confusion.

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