Those final projects and research papers have haunted you all semester, and now it’s time to face the music.
Actually getting started can be half the battle, but Questia, the premier online research tool for students, has some great tips to get your final research papers done so the summer can start!
- Brainstorm what interests you: Start jotting down the topics you may want your paper or project to be about, and then pick the one you feel you have the most interest in. Writing an impressive research paper is easier and comes more naturally when you have a genuine interest in the subject matter.
- Narrowing down a research topic: A broad topic tends to be as difficult for the reader to follow as it is for the writer to write. Once you begin developing a topic, narrow your focus and develop a clear, precise thesis statement that presents a strong argument. Remember that the subject of a research paper is different than the topic. Subjects are broad and general. The topic of a research paper, in contrast, is the specific issue being discussed. For example, if your subject is “environmental issues,” then your topic could be something like “Should national environmental policy focus on developing more oil resources or developing renewable energy sources?”
- Find quality source material: Make sure your professor knows that you researched your project thoroughly and have an understanding of your topic by using trustworthy, relevant sources. The Questia library is a great resource for researching and supporting claims within your paper. Remember to also integrate the citations into the text itself.
- Organize everything: Save all your notes in a special folder to house your materials, and always remember to back up your work just in case something happens to your computer. While going through your research, reexamine each source and determine how useful it really is and throw out any irrelevant research or sources that aren’t credible. After vetting your research, organizing your notes can help you generate connections and new questions you couldn’t see before. You may start noticing recurring keywords as you categorize your content.
- Create an outline: You’ll find no better way to stay on track than by outlining your thoughts on the direction and key content that need to be included. Your research paper outline can be broken down into smaller components consisting of an introduction, body and conclusion; in which the body lists three to five main arguments to support your thesis statement.
- Get an extra pair of eyeballs: In addition to reviewing your own paper throughout the writing process, have a friend or classmate read it over as well. They may catch spelling or grammatical errors you’ve missed and can give you honest feedback on how well you developed your argument. TAs and professors are also usually more than happy to review first and even second drafts of your paper. They are there to coach you through the process and want nothing more than for every student to earn an A+.
- Triple check: Writing a research paper can be a grueling process, and once you’re finished, the only thing on your mind is turning it in quickly. But, before you do, check if your professor provided specific format or presentation guidelines such as required binding or a cover page, and don’t forget to include the basics like your name, class, date and a staple!
Questia saves students valuable time on research papers and projects.
With Questia, students can accurately cite sources in seven different styles and organize their notes, research and sources all in one place.
Librarians have specially selected Questia’s 77,000 academic books and 4 million journal articles—many of which are peer-reviewed.
Since Questia is accessible 24/7, students can work on research papers any time of day from anywhere, with the confidence that they’re using credible content from trustworthy sources.
She teaches at California State University, East Bay and is known as America's Most Trusted Learning Expert. She helps children and adults solve learning problems with her Amazing Grades Study Skills System and is an expert in learning styles.
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