Writing a long research paper is one of the biggest drudgeries of college life. So many pages. So much to research. Blek.
Yes, research papers can bring a lot of pain. But they don't have to--not if you know the smart way to write a research paper. Here are eight tricks you should use every time you get a research paper assignment:
Why it sucks: Long research papers are boring.
How to make it better: Pick a topic that truly interests you. You usually have a good amount of flexibility to choose your topic, so take advantage of it.
Why it sucks: There's too much information to research.
How to make it better: Find about two sources that are really comprehensive, and get the bulk of your information from them. Use additional sources to fill in missing facts and add supporting evidence.
Why it sucks: Drafting a long paper is overwhelming.
How to make it better: Outline your paper before drafting. Outlines help break up the paper into more manageable chunks. Draft one section, take a break if you'd like, and then draft another section.
Why it sucks: You don't know how to create an outline.
How to make it better: The most basic outline has three parts--an introduction, body, and conclusion. Think critically about your beliefor argument. That's the thesis. Brainstorm several ideas to support it and pull out the three strongest ideas. There's your body. Then summarize what all those supporting points mean. That's the conclusion.
Why it sucks: It's hard to keep track of what information came from which source.
How to make it better: Create a note-taking system, and stick to it. One approach is to create a code for each line in your outline (i.e., 1A, 1B, etc.). Take notes on index cards, and write the corresponding code in the top corner of each card.
Why it sucks: You don't have enough time to write it.
How to make it better: There's really only one cure for this--start early. What if you find out that there isn't enough information about your topic? You're going to need as much time as you can get to switch gears.
Why it sucks: You don't have all the bibliographicalinformation you need.
How to make it better: Before you start taking notes froma source, find all the bibliographical information required. Can't find it?Ditch the source--before you get in too deep.
Why it sucks: You think you're a bad writer.
How to make it better: Keep your sentences short and punchy--one idea per sentence. Don't force yourself to use big words that you don't understand. And stop telling yourself you're a bad writer.
Work on your paper a little bit each day. If you get frustrated, put it away and do something else. Return to it with a fresh mind. If you stay positive and put in the effort, research papers can actually be painless.
Word to your flocker.