Research papers are the bread and butter of the academia. From them new ideas spring forth, offering breakthroughs and innovations that could help shape the world for the better. . . or not. Even if you’re not an academic or a professional researcher, there will be times when research papers will be expected of you. This may be in a school (especially when you’re a student) or a work setting, where you will be required to put into formalized writing your thoughts, analysis, arguments, and perspectives about a particular subject. There is no universal or guideline for writing research papers. A professor might limit you to a certain number of pages and words or give you a certain format to follow, but in some cases, you might be given free rein on how you will present your research. The whole writing process can be a bit daunting, but fear not, even those who write papers for a living still have problems on how to go about the research paper writing process. Here are some of the things that you need to know about before starting:
1. Be Extremely Specific With Your Topic
Take on such a wide-ranging subject as “The Importance of Human Ecology” and there’s bound to be someone out there who had already written about the subject before you. Your research paper should add something new to the field- it should not be a collection of other people’s perspectives and arguments. What specific aspect of human ecology do you want to focus on? Instead of “The Importance of Human Ecology” you might want to narrow it down to “Human Ecology in the Victorian Era” or any other timeframe or location that you can think of. The more specific it is, the better.
2. Start With Your Thesis
Your thesis should be something that can be summarized in just one sentence alone. This is your belief, your “point,” that you will try to prove (using academic and scientific sources) in your research paper. It will also act as a guideline for your writing. When in doubt about a particular sentence, you could ask yourself- “Does this support the point that I’m making?” “Will this sentence prop up my thesis and make it clearer?” If it doesn’t and is merely fluff (as what usually happens with students trying to meet word counts), then cut it out.
3. Make Sure That Your Sources Are Legit
Your sources should not come from tabloids and random blog posts on the Internet. Even if you do cite online sources, make sure that these came from online reference databases (eLibrary, ProQuest, etcetera), government publications, trusted magazines and newspapers, and academic websites.
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4. Be Objective
A research paper is not an opinion piece. To get your point across, you need to be as impartial as you could possibly be. Here are some tips to avoid bias in your writing:
Always use credible sources.
Random blog posts is a no-no. Scholarly journals and articles are often you’re best bet, and websites with domains like .edu, .gov, and .org. Evaluation is the key here. READ your sources before you include them in your research.
Cut out first- and second-person pronouns.
It is understood that the research paper is written by you and everything that is not cited or attributed to another source is yours and yours alone. There’s no need to mention “I” or “me” or “mine” in there. Second-person pronouns (i.e. “you”) are too informal and have no place in a formal and academic research paper.
Explore every side of the argument.
A research paper should be balanced. If there exist thoughts and arguments that are counter to your own, put them in, explain them thoroughly and refute them using supporting evidence. This is where your logic skills come into play. You need to make the reader understand why your point is more logical and stronger than others.
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