Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How To: Survive a Research Paper

Similarly to our post on group projects here, Research papers are a fact of life. No one really likes to spend so much time writing a paper, but, you'll write many of them in high school and college. While they are dreadful, here are our tips on maximizing your time and effort.

  • Start with books first. We know it's really easy to just go on to Wikipedia or, but you'll be in a much better place if you start with books and supplement them with internet sources. Chances are, your instructor will want you to use books any way.
  • Use your school/public librarians in every way you can. Librarians typically love to help you find books about your topic and to help point you in the right direction. That's there job anyway!
  • Use your public/school library online data bases in any way you can. Honestly, getting a public library card is the best. I use mine all the time to find encyclopedia articles and book suggestions.
  • Allow your thesis to evolve as you write the paper. You'll totally limit yourself. If you start to research one thing, but end up finding better information from a different angle, go for it.
  • Keep a running Works Cited. We love Easy Bib, make an account and save your progress! The formatting of your sources is another bonus.
  • Outline. Outline. Outline. I didn't believe it at first, until I actually was required to for the paper. It saves so much time and keeps you on track and organized.
  • Back up your paper every time you change something. The last thing anyone needs is to lose a 30 page paper the day before it is due.
  • Get someone else to read it. Whether it be your mom, another professor, or a tutor: someone else should always read it and make sure they understand your point. If your room mate doesn't get it, chances are your professor won't either.
  • Lastly, these are the best for flagging. I use at least one package of them for every longer research paper.

And remember:
Do you have any tips for research papers? Let us know!


  1. This is so helpful! We are writing research papers in my ap english class, and it is so stressful but rewarding once it is over!

  2. Ah, just finished mine! I especially agree about delving into school databases; Gale is amazing for finding good print sources!