Whether you are in high school, college, or graduate school, chances are that you will need at some point to write a research paper. Sometimes our jobs require us to do research. In this post, you will find the steps to successfully writing the research paper that will get you the grade you want.
1. Set up a time schedule. That’s right, the first thing you should do when you are assigned a research project is set up a schedule to complete your research. Even if you have all semester to finish a paper, you shouldn’t wait until the last month before starting. Work backward from the deadline. You should budget enough time to revise and then proofread your paper before turning it in. If you require help from your school’s writing center or a tutor, make sure you allow at least two weeks before the paper is due for editing. Give yourself a deadline for completing each of the following steps.
2. Choose a topic. The second thing you should do is choose a topic. Try to do this as soon as possible after the paper is assigned. If you wish, during your scheduling, set up a time to meet with your teacher or professor to discuss your topic. At this stage, a broad topic is okay.
3. Gather your references. If it’s a topic you know a lot about, you can simply dive into your library’s database. If it’s a topic you don’t know a lot about, start with the field’s encyclopedias. For example, if you are doing a research paper on Kant, start with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to get some background information. Note: This isn’t a source in itself. Instead, it will help you to narrow your focus and it will point you in the direction of key reference material for your topic. This is where you will construct a preliminary bibliography.
4. Once you have your reference material selected and in front of you, devise some system for taking notes. You can do this the traditional way or electronically. The important thing is that you take careful notes, and that you devise a way to distinguish between your personal notes and paraphrases and quotations taken from reference material.
5. Now you are ready to build an annotated outline to write from. At this stage it might be helpful again to take your outline to a meeting with your teacher or professor.
6. Write your rough draft. Remember that you are most likely the only one who is going to see this draft. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. This is why you want to start early – so that you can write a terrible rough draft.
7. Let your paper “cool” for at least a week before revising it. This way you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Fix any content issues and grammar errors you find.
8. Proofread your paper. Do this before turning it in. Even though you revised it, you will want to go through what you wrote with an eye to detail. Make sure there are no typos, grammar errors, fact errors, and spelling errors. Now is the time to meet with your professor once more in case you have any last minute questions or concerns.
9. Add the bibliography if you haven’t done so already. Make sure that your citations are accurate. Check every footnote, endnote, and parenthetical citation. Also make sure that you scan your document for any missed quotations and paraphrases. You do not want to get in trouble for plagiarism.
10. Hand your paper in according to the assignment guidelines. Did your professor want 1000 words? Don’t turn in a 1500 word paper. Edit it down. Likewise, don’t turn in a paper that is only 800 words. Don’t turn in a paper in MLA format when the professor asked for APA format.
There you have it. Ten steps to a completed research paper. If you need assistance with editing the paper once it is completed, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.