A large research paper assignment can be scary and intimidating. As always, this large assignment becomes more manageable (and less scary) when we break it down into digestible bites.
The first key to writing a good research paper is starting early. There are a few good reasons to get an early start:
- The best sources might be taken or they might be located in a faraway library.
- It will take time to read the sources and write those note cards.
- You will find that every re-write of your paper makes it better!
- If you wait until the last minute, you could find that there is no information available to support your topic or thesis.
The timeline below should help you get to the number of pages you desire. The key to writing a long research paper is writing in stages: you will need to establish a general overview first, and then identify and write about several subtopics.
The second key to writing a lengthy research paper is to think of the writing process as a cycle. You will alternate researching, writing, reordering, and revising.
You will need to revisit each subtopic to insert your own analysis and arrange the proper order of your paragraphs in the final stages.
Develop your own timeline with the tool below. If possible start the process four weeks before the paper is due.
|Research Paper Timeline|
|Understand the assignment completely.|
|Obtain general knowledge about your topic reading reputable sources from the internet and from encyclopedias.|
|Find a good general book about your topic.|
|Take notes from the book using index cards. Write several cards containing paraphrased information and clearly-indicated quotes. Indicate page numbers for everything you record.|
|Write a two-page overview of your topic using the book as a source. Be sure to include page numbers for information you use. You don’t have to worry about format just yet – just type page numbers and author/book name for now.|
|Pick five interesting aspects that could serve as subtopics of your subject. Focus in on a few major points that you could write about. These could be influential people, historical background, an important event, geographical information, or anything relevant to your subject.|
|Find good sources that address your subtopics. These could be articles or books. Read or skim those to find the most relevant and useful information. Make more note cards. Be careful to indicate your source name and the page number for all information you record.|
|If you find these sources aren’t providing enough material, look at the bibliographies of those sources to see what sources they used. Do you need to obtain any of those?|
|Visit your library to order any articles or books (from the bibliographies) that are not available in your own library.|
|Write a page or two for every one of your subtopics. Save each page in a separate file according to subject. Print them out.|
|Arrange your printed pages (subtopics) in a logical order. When you find a sequence that makes sense, you can cut and past the pages together into one big file. Don’t delete your individual pages, though. You may need to come back to these.|
|You may find it necessary to break up your original two-page overview and insert parts of it into your subtopic paragraphs.|
|Write a few sentences or paragraphs of your analysis of each subtopic.|
|Now you should have a clear idea of the focus of your paper. Develop a preliminary thesis statement.|
|Fill in transitional paragraphs of your research paper.|
|Develop a draft of your paper.|