I've never enjoyed writing research papers, so I usually put it off as long as possible. Do you have any recommendations or tips that might make the process less painful?
A really vital thing that helps me no end is planning how I am going to respond to a paper. If I know I have 4 weeks to produce the paper, I will break it up as follows:
1) Week 1 - focus on working out what specifically I am going to base my paper on (topic, thesis statement etc) and initial brainstorming
2) Research and getting all the main ideas down followed by an essay plan
3) Write the paper
4) Review and revise as necessary. Then submit!
I find that having a real schedule like this is invaluable in helping me to complete it, and breaking it down into smaller jobs psychologically makes me think it is not so big a job. Try it!
Once you have the great topic, you need to take great notes. Fortunately, as a junior high student student I learned how to use notecards and to use them right. In high school I did great on my research papers, while others struggled with organization because they'd never mastered taking notes.
When you take notes, put things in your own words. The excuse students give of "accidentally" plagiarizing does not go well with teachers! Be diligent in putting the notes in your own words. As Amy Lepore said above, keep track of all the sources. If you do want to use word for word material, write down the quote exactly and make sure you put quotation marks in your notes so you remember those are someone else's exact words. And remember, you have to cite ALL of your sources - not just the ones you quote.
Another important aspect to remember is to use good sources. Your teacher will appreciate your efforts to take the time to find primary sources, periodicals, etc. Don't just rely on random websites. Make sure the material you use on the internet is published by reliable sources.
The most important thing I tell my students is to CHOOSE A TOPIC THAT EXCITES YOU. If it doesn't, your next few months will be equal to being drawn and quartered as William Wallace was in the movie Braveheart.Once you have chosen a topic you love and will not get bored with, you must come up with your thesis and the reasons you believe the thesis to be true or not. These must be your own original ideas. The research part is only to find experts in the field for you to quote, summarize, and paraphrase in order to prove your ideas to be true.Be sure to organize well. If you don't, it will be murder trying to find the quote you thought was perfect for the introduction and it's in this mess of papers somewhere. Also, be sure to get ALL the citation information for EVERY quote, etc. you write down or photocopy in the library from your sources. Even if you don't think you'll use the information, get the the citation info! You may end up using it, and then the book you found it in will be checked out, or someone pinched that particular magazine and you won't have access to the information you need. You can use sites like www.citationmachine.com to help you out.Get started early, work on it every other day or every two days, and don't procrastinate! Your paper will be better written, you'll have more time to do additional research or editing if you need to, and you won't be as stressed out as your friends. :)
The key to having success in writing research papers is GOOD PLANNING. Since I teach composition, I constantly stress to my students how they must plan in order to produce good writing. I am sure that there are very few students who enjoy writing essays or research papers, but since you have to do them, you might as well try to do them WELL, right? If you get to choose your own topics, be sure to choose a topic that you're interested in. I let my students choose their own topics. I tell them that if they aren't interested in their topic, I am not interested in reading about it. Make sure you start writing your essay several weeks in advance or as soon as you get the assignment. Work on it every other day to give yourself a break. Take good notes and organize them well. This will save time. Make sure your sources are in front of you before you being the essay, as well. Organize your notes in an outline, if applicable. I hope this helps!
The most important tip that I could give you is to look at the paper from a different perspective. I don't know why you put things off, but the result is that you have to write the entire paper at once. You have to do it all at the very last minute.
Try this. When you get an assignment, just try to write a few sentences of it as early as possible. Only start with either a few lines of the introduction, or if it is a short paper, the introduction itself. Then you can show it to your teacher for help and receive assistance on where to go from there.
The best things that you could do is to write an attention-getting statement, a background statement, and a thesis statement, and only those three things.
By limiting yourself to only the introduction,you should be able to improve your organization skills and your time-management skills.
Planning is definitely a good way of ensuring timely completion of any work. What I would like to talk about a special approach to planning any long written work that helps you to counter tendency for procrastination.
You start with a set target completion time for completing the essay. Then you divide the total available time in approximately three equal parts. Say if you have six days available to complete a paper than you will allocate two days to each of the following three task.
- Collecting all the available information and planning the structure of the essay. It is important that as soon as your set time limit is over you stop this exercise and move over to the next step.
- Writing the first draft. In this stage, which is also called "brain dump" you put down all the ideas you have about the subject in the essay, without bothering about the language, or grammar. It is important to complete this job in time. There is no alternative to sincere hard work, but you will find it easier to express your thoughts more easily when not bothered about finer points of language, grammar and spellings.
- The final stage is when you edit or rewrite the essay to improve language and correct all the grammatical and spelling errors. This stage can be divided in smaller sub steps such as improving language, checking grammar, checking spellings, and final presentation.