Strategy For Writing A Research Paper
(1) Read the assignment sheet carefully, highlighting requirements and paraphrasing the purpose. Reread the assignment sheet at each step of the writing process.
(2) Find a workable topic by consulting online indexes. Scan subheadings and article titles. Is there enough written on this topic? Do you have the background needed to write on this topic?
(3) Familiarize yourself with the topic by reading a few general online articles.
(4) Once you have some general knowledge about the topic, formulate a possible thesis . Think about questions that have come to your mind as you read about the topic. Think of problems that need solving. Decide whether you should focus on convincing us that there is a problem or, if researchers agree that the problem exists, whether you should focus on solutions. You might want to write two possible theses and ask your instructor for input on which one seems more workable and interesting.
(5) Develop a very broad outline with a number for each section. Indicate how many pages you plan to devote to each section. Visit the Writing Center with specific question on how to develop your thesis and outline.
(6) Research your thesis in depth . Using your outline as a guide, decide how much material you will need for each section, and evaluate which sources are the best. Print your sources and read them, highlighting facts and quotations that you might want to use. For books, take notes in a notebook, being careful to record proper citations and page numbers of each source.
(7) After your initial reading, go through your source material again, reevaluating everything you highlighted or notated. If a note or highlighted sentence still seems important, use red ink towrite a number in the margin to correspond with a section of your outline . Revise your outline if needed and continue revising even as you write the paper.
(8) Write the paper section by section , reading all appropriate sources just before writing a section. For example, before writing the third section your paper, scan through your sources, rereading any highlighted material that you have labeled as “section three.” Now, put your sources aside and write that section in your own words, looking back at a source only when you need to pull out a fact or quotation. If looking back at a source will get you off track, write XXX in the paper where a fact or quotation will be plugged in later. After you finish writing the section, go back to your sources to verify everything and/or plug in missing information. This method of not looking at your sources as you write, will help you avoid writing a “cut and paste” paper.
(9) Revise for clarity, accuracy, brevity, and relevance. Ask yourself the point of each paragraph and be able to express this in a single sentence. Check for plagiarism. Ask for feedback from the instructor, a fellow student, or a tutor at the Writing Center .
(10) Proofread for grammar, punctuation, and missing documentation.
A Word about Procrastination:
Be honest with yourself. If you have a tendency to put off writing a paper until the last possible minute, take steps to prevent that from happening again. The easiest method is to make an appointment with your professor or the Writing Center to review your rough draft. Set the appointment a few days before the actual due date for the paper. This will help you finish writing your paper early – in time for your appointment rather than ten minutes before the paper is due.
The UIC Writing Center:
You can make an appointment at the Writing Center at any step of the writing process – before or after you have written your first draft. Appointments begin during the third week of the semester and may be made a week in advance by calling 413-2206
Dr. Kathleen P. King
Many people struggle greatly with writing reports and essays. From developing topics, to conducting research, to formulating their non-fiction documents, the process of writing reports and essays can be such an unwelcome task that some people consider it a cruel punishment.
Here are five successful strategies I have used with many professionals and students that can serve as a stepping stone to transforming these experiences of dread into confidence:
Strategy 1: Research. Regardless if one is writing fiction or nonfiction, the author must do sufficient research to provide substantial background for the work ahead. This research can take many forms, depending on the type of writing, but it is absolutely necessary to have deep, broad information to provide full detail and accuracy in the account.
Strategy 2: Determine Your Angle. Once you, the author, have the information, it is critical to determine your unique perspective or angle to approach the topic. How will you introduce your reader to this portrayal in unique way which will sustain his attention through a compelling account? Developing such an approach is a vital starting point.
Strategy 3. Discovering Your Concept Maps. In order to determine your unique approach, it may be helpful to write key points of information on paper or digital note cards. Examine the information and look for trends, patterns, and groupings of themes or topics. See if you can envision ways the information can be arranged to present it clearly and fully to the readers. In this manner, you may discover your unique angle, and certainly a good start on Strategy 4.
Strategy 4. Organize Your Work; Outline is not a nasty word! Our fourth grade teachers taught us to use outlines for our writing, but we all try to find a shortcut. After about five books and over 100 published articles and papers, I finally gave in and realized my teachers were right. Before I start writing in earnest, I now create a tentative outline that will morph with my work. It provides indispensable guidance and framing of my many hours of work. Colleagues I have worked with have found this approach equally as beneficial, and I expect you will as well.
Strategy 5. Cyclical Writing. The strategy of cyclical writing is a surprise to many professionals and students. Many people believe they must write documents from beginning to end in their entirety. Instead, I have found it very successful and rewarding to work through the outline in a cyclical manner. The first time through, I do a few sentences for each outline point; then maybe the next time through, I write a paragraph on each point. Finally, I begin settling down to write in different areas. By approaching the writing process in his manner, it keeps me focused on the big picture, the entire flow of the piece. Otherwise, the sections might become disjointed if two months are spent on one chapter before finally moving to the next. By working through all of the chapters and points repeatedly (iteratively) authors can weave together the style, voice, and flow of the content, details, and the plot or message.
Dr. Kathleen P. King (EdD), Certified Coach, Author, Keynote Speaker, Professor of Education (http://www.facultyspeaker.com) is an award-winning author of 17 books (3 more in process at this time) and a dynamic, interactive keynoter, and author who invigorates audiences on a variety of professional topics.