Research Paper Tips for the 21st Century

Research paper tipsThe words “research paper” usually conjure up images of students sitting at a desk surrounded by books, journals and copies of electronic materials pulling all-nighters and agonizing over the precise wording of the thesis statement. With so much advanced technology to aid you in the writing of research papers, you may be having mixed feelings of relief and dread. Where do you begin? How do you narrow all the information down into manageable chunks? What should be cited and what can be excluded? Have you utilized a variety of research materials to illustrate your understanding of how to research, organize and cite your sources?

If you are a student at Colorado Christian University, you know how important it is to learn how to research and write on a variety of topics. Whether you’re a music major or a future English teacher, all CCU students will be called upon to write a research paper at some point in their degree program. While each professor will have his/hew own style preferences and research requirements, the basics of writing a research paper are the same for all disciplines.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field takes a lot of practice, and even the most seasoned academics have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. With diligence, organization, practice, an eagerness to learn, and patience (an absolute must!), you will find that you can achieve great things through research and writing.  Here are some research paper tips to help you get started on the journey of producing a quality, thought-provoking research paper in any discipline.

  1. Know your objective. Spend some time thinking about what you want your paper to accomplish. Do you want it to prove your viewpoint? Explain something? You really must have a clear focus before you ever begin your research, or, you can begin reading about your topic and discover a topic as you read . You also need to know what kind of paper you are doing (e.g. literary analysis, historical, scientific). The type of paper determines its style and structure. Pay careful attention to the guidelines established by your instructor as these may vary.
  2. Choose a title. Write a clear, concise title to sum up your paper and keep the title focused on one specific, in-depth subject rather than covering a broad topic area superficially. Be sure your title is in sync with the type of paper you’re writing. For example, if you’re writing a literary analysis, your title should reflect what you discover in your analysis.
  3. Begin at the library. As tempting as the computer may be, you really should start your research by reading some good old fashioned books and journal articles on your subject. Read academic papers and take notes. Be sure to make copies of anything you will use in your paper and keep track of your sources meticulously as you don’t want to have to go find the source for your information after you start writing. Be sure to use reserved or reference sections as they usually carry the most popular information as well as restricted borrowing items.
  4. Use library indexes (indices, also): The library’s indexes will house periodicals like trade journals and magazines and contain the latest information on your topic. These are likely to be peer reviewed and reliable sources for a research paper. Ask the librarian to help you if you’re not familiar with these already.
  5. Research online (reputable sites, only): We have all heard the mantra, “Not everything on the Internet is accurate,” but how can one really know which sites are “reputable” and which are not. Your class instructors will give you very detailed guidelines about your online sources, but you should use good judgment and be able to tell an authoritative site from a not-so-authoritative site. Another way to research online: A lot of books, and portions of books, can be found online. When in doubt, ask your instructor about the site you’d like to use in your research paper.
  6. Don’t shy away from statistics. When possible, if your topic allows for it, find statistics to aid your research and prove your point. For economic majors, statistics are as natural as words are for English majors, but there are other areas that can incorporate statistics other than math and financial degree programs.
  7. Organize your research. It’s crucial that you have an outline of what you want to write and keep your information organized.
  8. Begin writing. Once you have started writing, you may find that you need different or additional research. Go back to the library if you need to, or ask your instructor for help.

Look online for more research paper tips or ask your instructor for some tips of his/her own.

No matter what CCU degree you pursue, you will have to write research papers on various subjects. Please don’t rely on the Internet for all of your information, and make sure any websites you use are accurate and reliable.