If you are currently attending school, it is only a matter of time before your first research paper will be due. This means that you will need to compile your research and delve into writing a paper that consistently flows while supporting your thesis. In considering the topic of research, the following are 5 important steps to constructing your research paper.
1. Choose a topic / Do some preliminary research. This is the prework that will give your paper a foundation. The most difficult task will probably be narrowing your ideas into a particular topic. Once this task is done, you can begin your research paying close attention to the areas that you are wanting to investigate further. During your research phase be sure to cover all bases. You may want to check out online libraries, scholarly journals and publications as well as simply “surfing the net”. Once you have a better idea of the direction you want to go in, you can move to Step 2.
Note***Make a “rough” reference list of the publications that you have found interesting in support of your topic. This can be used in creating the official reference list / bibliography for your Final Draft.
2. Develop a solid thesis. Your thesis (clearly defined statement and idea that you will be discussing in your paper) is the foundation of your research paper. If your thesis is not written clearly, it may be difficult to support your paper with research. With that being said, be sure to take your time in writing your thesis. Consider the overall topic and direction that you want your paper to go in. Consider all of the research that you have done in the process of writing, and write a few drafts. Once you have written a few drafts for your thesis try refining and developing the information that you have. After a couple of drafts of this process, you should be clear as to what you want your thesis to be.
3. Create an Outline. Creating an outline is one of those things that “goes without saying”. You may assume that everyone does this, but quite often students do not take the time to outline their work before writing. Outlining your work will give you the ability to “plan your thoughts” in an effort to have consistency throughout your writing. Start your writing process by creating an outline that compiles a list of all of your thoughts to be included in the paper. This can even be done prior to your actual research. It will help you to have direction in the type of research you will need to conduct. Your outline can begin by summarizing a short introduction and then proceed to list your thoughts.
Note***At the completion of this step, you should have an Introduction, thesis, and a thorough outline of your paper!
4. Expand your outline by finding research to support what you have planned. Begin to write the body of your paper. Take into consideration the proper way to “cite sources” as well as paraphrase, or give “credit” to the ideas you are using in your paper. When writing, be sure to keep in mind your thesis, and the overall topic of your paper. Try your best to stay true to the topic.
5. Create drafts. Create several drafts, as many as you feel are necessary to get to the final point. The way this works is that you are continuously building. After building out the content of your paper, you will go back and make changes. Try to keep several versions so you can see the evolution of your paper and just in case you decide to “roll back” some of the changes. In creating the final version of your paper, you will definitely want review your paper, proof read, and spell check. I also recommend having a “second pair of eyes” to look it over just in case you missed something. Try to keep your thesis in mind when you are proofreading your drafts. You want to make sure that you are staying on task and keeping the topic of your paper in mind.