Happy Tuesday BPSers!
As you’re probably aware, BPS offers a number of courses to help you develop your writing skills. But writing is hard. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) offers a number of tips and tools that will help you write A papers and give you the confidence you need to succeed on the job market.
Something you might be preparing to write is a research paper based on a specialized topic of your choosing. Where do you start?
Read your assignment prompt. First things first, find out what the professor wants to see in your paper. You’ll want to answer some of the following questions:
- What’s the general topic?
- How long does the paper have to be?
- When is the due date?
- Are there due dates for draft submissions?
- What reference style does the instructor want? (APA, Chicago, MLA, etc.) Will you need to use footnotes? Endnotes?
- How many sources are required? Minimum? Maximum?
- What kinds of sources? Peer-reviewed journal articles? Newspaper articles? Google searches?
Once you answer some of these questions, you can then start to work on your specialized topic, thesis, and research.
Develop a timeline. Plan ahead so you’re not writing your paper the night before it’s due. If you have three weeks until the due date, give yourself a week for researching, a week for writing, and a week for reviewing. You’ll write a great paper and have a good experience doing it.
Develop your thesis or research question. After you’ve chosen your topic, you can develop a thesis or a research question. Your thesis can change and grow as you’re doing your research, so don’t worry if you end up with a little different theory that what you started with.
Do your research. Start at a library. Yes, Google does have a lot of answers and you will be able to find a lot of articles by searching on Google. But, you might not know where to start with your research. Librarians can help you formulate your research question and find good sources to answer your question.
Do your reading. Once you’re done with your research be sure to read through it carefully, taking notes and highlighting phrases you might want to use in your paper. When you find something you’d like to use in your paper, make a note of the author, article (or book), page number, and publication information. This will make it easier for you to cite that quotation in your paper.
Make an outline. Your outline can be as simple as “Introduction, Body, Conclusion” or you can add as many details as you’d like. An outline will help you stay on course when you’re writing and avoid going off onto tangents.
Start writing. After you have an outline to guide you and all of your research notes in front of you, it’s time to start writing your paper. Not sure where to start? Writing your introduction first is not required, but it can help give you the jump start you need for the rest of the paper.
Review. You’ve written the paper, well done! Now, read through it. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your introduction map out the paper?
- Does the paper follow that map?
- Does each paragraph have a topic sentence and follow that topic?
- Does your conclusion wrap up the paper?
Another tip, have someone else read through the paper to make sure you’ve followed your map. Make notes as you’re reviewing your work so you know what to fix.
Revise. Once you’ve given it a read-through and/or had someone else read your paper. Follow your notes and the notes made by your reviewer.
Read your paper out loud. When you read your paper out loud, you’ll hear whether your sentences flow well together and if something doesn’t sound right. Again, make notes to come back to.
Revise, again. After reading your paper out loud, make those revisions you made notes on.
Read it one more time. There’s no such thing as overkill when you’re reviewing your work.
Remember, if you have any questions or concerns, give us a call. We’re happy to help!