The Science of Writing a Research Paper


The terror that an upcoming writing assignment can bring to a stressed out student is quite understandable; especially when it’s the night before the paper is due and sleep (or other enjoyable activities) beckons. The harried student works late into the night, consuming one caffeinated beverage after another and forcing their brain to turn out something coherent while meeting the minimum requirements for a passing grade. The ultimate result is the student staggering half asleep to school the next day with a paper that may pass but still leaves much to be desired.

The solution to avoiding this scenario is simple: it’s all a matter of organization. Although important in their own right, I’m not referring to the usual study tips of finding a suitable place to study, getting plenty of sleep, making sure all your pencils are sharpened, etc. It’s the paper itself that can be organized in such a way as to reduce stress and frustration, while establishing a well-structured piece of writing.

For someone who is not a fan of writing, the success of the assignment may seem impossible or simply not worth the stress. Yet, stress-free success can be obtained provided that the student is willing to sit down on the day that the paper is assigned and to organize a plan of action. Sketch out an outline of what your paper will require. Below is a basic example:

(I originally had the information below as in an outline format. Apparently, that format doesn’t carry over onto the blog page.)

I. Title Page

A. This can be created last. Make sure that your title is catchy. It is the first hook that will draw your reader in.

II. Introduction

A. Attention-getter/Hook

1. Use such things as quotations, anecdotes, or a question to the reader. Again, you want to intrigue the reader to read on.

B. Transitional

1. Transitioning from the hook, present the topic from general ideas to specific, sort of like a reverse pyramid. The tip of your pyramid will be your thesis statement. Mention each of the points/arguments that you will address in the paper.

C. Thesis statement

1. This is the most important part of the paper. This is what your whole paper hopes to prove or illustrate. This will be the first thing you will develop in your paper.

III. Body

A. First point

B. Second point

C. Third point

IV. Conclusion

A. Summary of points

B. Concluding statement/Restate thesis

V. Bibliography/Works Sited

A. As you work on your paper, keep an informal list of sources used.

B. Which format to use

C. Primary sources

D. Secondary sources

Once you have everything organized and broken down, you can then decide on how much time to devote to each part. Space the writing/research over a period of time instead of trying to get it all done at once. Give yourself enough time to proofread and polish up your work.

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