The Method to Research Madness
Ready to research but want to throw your hands in the air with frustration and yell, "Where on earth do I begin?" Check out our nifty guide to writing a research paper for tips on managing your paper-writing time. Once you have a handle on how long you think it will take, you can make a timetable of what you're going to be doing during the research process. So what are you doing, exactly? Here are the areas you should take on, in order:
Finding Your Topic
- Start large, then narrow it down. For your historical research paper assignment, you decide you want to write about Colonial America. Awesome. But that's a pretty broad topic, so how about focusing on one of the colonies, rather than all 13? Now that you've picked Massachusetts, you could perhaps zoom in on one of the time-defining events in that colonial state. Hmmm…like the Salem Witch trials of 1692. There! You have direction! Your paper will have substance! Hooray!
- Choose something that interests you. Okay, that whole Salem Witch Trial paper was a good idea, except you've started some background research and realized that magic that doesn't have to do with Harry Potter isn't your thing. You want something that's more patriotic…but still dealing with Colonial America. The Revolutionary War is still too broad of a topic and your best friend is writing about George Washington, so you're in a a pickle. Then, as you're doing some reading on Colonial America, Patrick Henry's impassioned speech at the 1775 Virginia Convention ending with the words "Give me liberty or give me death!" totally jumps out at you. You decide it's pretty inspiring — and a great event to research. You've found a specific topic that intrigues you.
- Make sure your topic relates to what the teacher assigned. Wait a second. Your teacher wants a research report on America after the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Why didn't you say so? Now we're dealing with the year 1776 to the present, so that scraps the Patrick Henry paper. Always make sure the topic goes with what the teacher assigned. Then start brainstorming.
Making an Outline
- Hook (interesting idea to draw reader in)
- Thesis (main idea of the paper)
Supporting Statement #1Evidence for Supporting Statement Evidence for Supporting Statement Evidence for Supporting Statement Supporting Statement #2:Evidence for Supporting Statement Evidence for Supporting Statement Evidence for Supporting Statement Opposing ViewpointEvidence for Opposing Viewpoint Evidence for Opposing Viewpoint Evidence for Opposing Viewpoint
Wrap Up (go over main points) Closing Line (say goodbye!)
As you can see, making an outline doesn't have to be hard. When you begin research, use the information you find to fill in the sections.
That's what this whole article is all about, silly! Keep reading…
Organizing Your Notes
Here's an example of what your outline might look like after you've found the necessary information to fill in the blanks. Remember to write your sources down, too; it'll make doing the bibliography easier.
Welcome to your research paper! This spot is reserved for the opening hook that will entice your teacher into reading your report. Give a bit of information on what you plan to address through the course of your paper. State your thesis. What are you going to prove? Example: Through organization and disciplined researching, writing a report can be easy and fun!
Supporting Statement #1: Research is easy because…Evidence for Supporting Statement: There are so many resources for information, like library books, Internet sites, and magazine articles. Evidence for Supporting Statement: Librarians know what they're doing and are willing to guide you when you ask them nicely. Evidence for Supporting Statement: When you use index cards to keep everything organized, references to sources are at your fingertips. Supporting Statement #2: Research is fun because…Evidence for Supporting Statement: There are so many cool places beyond the library to find information, like the zoo! Evidence for Supporting Statement: Using different colored pens to organize research is so satisfying. Evidence for Supporting Statement: Newspaper articles, first-person accounts, and fictional books can be considered resources too — which means you aren't stuck with just using an encyclopedia. Opposing Viewpoint: Some people think research is too hardEvidence for Opposing Viewpoint: Those people probably aren't well organized, like your classmate Ramona. Evidence for Opposing Viewpoint: Those people probably leave all their research until the very last minute, like your classmate Jake. Evidence for Opposing Viewpoint: Those kids can't handle the research!
Wrap up the Body of the paper. Quickly list the most important points. Closing line. This spot is reserved for a sentence or two that ties everything together.
Actually Writing the Thing
Now that you have a functional outline, writing the paper will be a piece of cake (figuratively speaking — don't eat your paper!) because everything is already in order.
Punch in all the information, add some style to the writing, make sure it makes sense, and start polishing.
Have a friend, classmate, or Mom edit it for spelling, grammar, flow, and style. Recognize that if she has suggestions, it's not because she doesn't think your paper is less than a masterpiece. Constructive criticism — positive tips on how to make your paper even better — can go a long way.
Building a Bibliography
Cite your sources. Unless your teacher tells you otherwise, make a page at the end with an alphabetical list of all the books, articles, Internet sites, or films that you used for information. You can find an example under the impressive terms.
Presenting Your Masterpiece
Are you ready to hand it all in? Do you have a title page that says something interesting about the report? Are your name and the date somewhere on it? If you are using graphs, photographs, drawings, or other photocopies, insert them into the pages of your report and then bind it all together.