Writing a research paper can be a daunting task. Many students struggle organizing and expressing their thoughts coherently when writing a research paper. In addition to the difficulty of expressing yourself coherently, it can also be difficult to gather the actual research needed to write your research paper.
What can be most difficult about writing a research paper is deciding exactly where to start gathering the information that you need. There is usually a myriad of information available for nearly any given topic. From books, articles, and magazines to the internet, your primary difficulty when writing a research paper can be sifting through a large quantity of information on your topic.
Choosing correct information from the best resources can make or break the quality of your paper. Even if your written argument both flows smoothly and follows stylistic rules, if your content and supporting research is poor, then your entire paper will render insignificant. The pressure of researching properly may be enough to hinder you from writing a great paper — but do not be overwhelmed! Here is how to select the best resources for writing your next research paper.
1. Choose a narrow, specific topic to determine the amount of resources you need.
Choosing a narrow, specific topic accomplishes two things. First, this can eliminate content that is not relevant to what you are writing. Secondly, it allows you to begin searching for resources that also emphasize your chosen topic. You can always add more information later — a few, well-developed points are often more effective than a long list of underdeveloped points.
2. Find the highest-valued expert — the “Big Cheese” — on your topic.
Here is an analogy for finding expert research. Have you ever sat in a “round-table” meeting with a number of people to discuss a specific matter? Different individuals may take turns sharing information to move the discussion toward a certain decision. In most “round-table” settings, there is one authoritative person, usually a supervisor or trusted leader, that all anticipate hearing speak. Once that person rises, everyone holds their breath to listen intently. This person may be called the “big cheese” of your meeting — whose opinion carries more authority than that of anyone else speaking on the matter. For the remainder of the meeting, all that is discussed will reference back to and/or cohere with what the “big cheese” said.
Thus when researching specific resources for your paper, find out who the “big cheese” is on your topic! Who is quoted or referenced in the majority of works that you have researched? Who seems to be the final word on your topic? This person is the “big cheese” whom you are looking for. Make the “big cheese” your starting point for finding other references. Find all the relevant works by your “big cheese” that you can, and see which works that person acknowledges — consider using those as supporting references for your paper.
3. Choose relevant resources – but leave room to make your paper your own!
Choose resources relevant to your topic that you can incorporate smoothly into the flow of your paper. Do not see a research paper simply as proof of how many sources you have read — your scholarly references have already published their own writings!
Keep your specific topic in mind, so you can incorporate your various resources as aids to guide your paper in its direction. However, a research paper is not merely a long series of quotations about what others have already said — it is ineffective to assemble a conglomerate volume of various statements instead of creating your own argument. When writing a research paper, you are entering a conversation about your topic in which others have already contributed their opinion. Decide what your view is on the topic based on supporting evidence — but do not let anyone do all the speaking for you.
4. Research opposing views to address possible objections to your argument.
A superb research paper will not only contain information that supports your view of the topic, but also will include contrary views. Meet each contrary view with a strong rebuttal as to why yours is correct. Researching for writing a research paper is a laborious task — even those students who “enjoy” reading will admit this! However, by implementing these 4 steps, you will not only improve your research skills but also your writing skills as a whole.