Tips for writing a research paper
Welcome back from break everyone! I hope everyone had a good spring break, or if you stayed in Wisconsin happy second winter break. haha! I had a nice, relaxing break visiting my family in the Madison area. It wasn’t anything crazy but it was nice to just have a week off to not really worry about anything. But of course it flew by and I got a sharp reality check as soon as classes started up again on Monday. I realized I had two Spanish papers due this and next week, and most importantly the rough draft of my large research paper for International Studies is due next week as well. It seemed over whelming but I have been working through all this writing and I thought I would share some of my tips for writing research papers with everyone here!
1. Start early
This is an obvious and it’s preached all the time but it’s probably the most important. It can be incredibly intimidating to write a longer research paper but it will be a lot less stressful in the end if you start more than a couple days before it’s due. Even if it means getting your topic and thesis nailed down right away and maybe making a rough outline as soon as you can it will elevate much of your stress I guarantee.
2. Take it in steps
Just as starting early will help you, so will breaking it down into steps. Sometimes professors will have deadlines along the way, but if they don’t create your own list of deadlines to meet. Start with a goal for having a topic chosen, research done, outline created, rough draft and final draft completed. When you break everything down it become a lot less stressful and may actually seem easy.
3. Look for help
At some point when writing your paper you are most likely going to want some help whether it be with research or just the writing process itself. A good place to start is the library and there you will find a couple resources that can help you. There is the reference desk on the first floor that’s filled with people and materials to help you write a research paper. There are librarians who work there and their purpose to help you with things just like this. They can maybe point you in the right direction for research, show you online databases, and show you materials that can help you with formatting to the style you need for the paper. Another place that is helpful in the library is the Tutoring-Learning Center located in the basement. They can help you with a variety of things, not just papers. However they do have a special writing lab that is meant to help students specially when writing papers. And hey maybe you’ll even see Amy Vida down there! (Check out her most recent blog post for even more details). Aside from all the resources on campus I always like to ask my peers for help. If you’re writing a paper for a class then you have at least a couple dozen other people writing a very similar paper and you probably see them at least once a week. Ask them if you have basic questions about the assignment or maybe if you can brainstorm ideas with each other. In addition to people in your class, don’t forget about your friends. Most college students have written a paper or two and wouldn’t mind helping you out a bit. And obviously don’t forget about your parents, who would probably love to proofread your paper and tell you their thoughts. I always try to have a friend or my mom proofread my papers for grammar errors before turning them it. Fresh eyes never hurt and might save you a couple points on some silly mistakes.
4. Be proud!
Finally, once your paper is all done and turned in, be proud of your hard work and realize your achievement. It can be easy to just turn in your assignment and forget about it but I think it’s important to take a minute and be proud. College can be hard and sometimes may seem like too much work but when you appreciate your work and effort you will see that it’s all worth it. One way to celebrate your paper is to submit to a presentation forum of some sort. I know this spring the College of Letters and Science has a symposium where you can present your research and they are currently accepting submissions. I think I am going to present my research at it this spring and I can’t wait.
So there you have it, a couple tips from me to you about writing papers. Of course there are a lot more but really you have to find what works best for you. I hope these tips help you all with any papers you might have coming up in the next couple of weeks! If you don’t have any papers just enjoy the weather (haha) and the last half of this semester!
Alexia Szabo is a senior majoring in economics, Spanish and international studies at UW-Stevens Point.