Writing Research Papers: Getting Started
Your first research paper will be one of your most ambitious writing assignments to date. It combines many of the different writing and research skills you’ve learned thus far in your academic career, and it can be a bit daunting.
Your first serious research paper is also likely to be one of the longest written assignments you’ve yet had, so getting started can be confusing. These simple tips will help:
- Get your instructor’s input on your topic
- Write a strong thesis first.
- Record everything as you go.
- Create an outline
- Get the rough draft finished early.
Even if it’s not required, seek approval from your instructor on your topic. Choosing a topic which lends itself well to a research paper is more difficult than it seems, especially if you’re inexperienced with writing them. Your instructor will undoubtedly have good advice for you.
Before you do anything else, write your thesis. Again, if possible, go to your instructor to discuss it. You’ll find that a good thesis makes the rest of the process far more easier and intuitive.
Keep a record of all of your notes and sources in one place, preferably digital, so that you can back it up. When you write down a source, don’t just guess what information is required for your reference list; write it out in the correct format to begin with. By the time you finish writing, you won’t be very motivated to go back and dig through your notes to find this info. It’ll be a relief to have your reference list finished and formatting correctly at the end!
By this point in your scholarly career, you may often skip the outline step. It’s not wise to do this when writing your first research paper, because organizing a research paper is much more of a challenge than organizing a two or three page essay. You’ll need to divide your supporting arguments into sections, each of which may be several paragraphs or even pages in length. AN outline will help you enormously when it comes to writing.
A rough draft is called that for a reason. Write it out as soon as you’ve done your outline. It’s far easier to look at a rough draft and correct it than to struggle with trying to write each page of a 10 or 20 page paper perfectly the first time around.