How to write a research paper – MSU Reporter

What students should do when they don’t know where to start

Joshua Schuetz
Editor-in-chief

Research is unpleasant and stressful for many, if not most, students. Many of them tend to procrastinate until the last minute, having to quickly assemble an article (complete with sources) in a short period of time.

If you’re in a major that offers more intensive, research-based coursework and assignments, you might have multiple research papers over the same time period. Especially in the last two months of the semester, this situation can cause enormous amounts of stress.

Here are some ways to manage research papers.

First of all, make sure your subject is as narrow and specific as possible. It is tempting to choose a broad topic because it is more familiar or impressive, but it will make the document heavier and difficult to synthesize. Pick a narrow topic with plenty of sources to draw from. If you need to, try asking your teachers for advice on which topic to choose.

This brings me to my second point: using office hours. Professors are usually more than happy to provide help finding sources and topics, and many accept drafts as well. They can also clarify the requirements and suggest ways to go if you get stuck.

Third, gather your source collection before you start on a piece of paper. Also, try to have more than the minimum number of sources required, as you may find that you actually need more sources for the paper, or you may find that one of your sources is not what you have. need. Read your sources and write down what you want to learn from them as well as the page numbers. This way, you can easily navigate to the pages in your source that you want to cite in your article.

Fourth, be sure to write a rough draft first. Submit it to your teacher (if he accepts drafts) and edit it later. Although this may be a rough draft, make sure your paper is free of inconsistencies or glaring flaws. The worse your draft, the more intensive and difficult the editing process will be.

My fifth tip is to break down the tasks ahead of time. Suppose you have a twelve-page piece of paper to write on. Start early and write three or four pages a day, when all your sources and notes have been collected. This makes a longer paper a lot less intimidating, and you won’t be completely exhausted until you’ve done so.

Finally, for the love of all that is holy, do not delay. Over-procrastination leads to poorer quality papers and extreme stress. It’s much better to do a little bit every day for two months than to do a crippling amount of work in two days.

Header photo courtesy of Flickr.


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