Write your research paper the right way with these tips

Editor’s Note: The author, Jennifer Mensik, does not endorse, recommend or promote any program, product or service advertised or referenced on this website, or that appears in links to or from this website.

Did you go back to school? Congratulations on making a great decision.

Either you go through the research paper writing part with flying colors, or you wonder why you are letting someone convince you to go back to school.

As you progress through your RN-to-BSN program or graduate school, you will write a lot. Writing isn’t easy for everyone, and honestly, after five books and many articles, I’m having a bad week writing too.

Some days I can write an essay or an article in a matter of hours. Other times I need two months of procrastination. There is no quick fix for me except maybe a deadline.

Outside of my professional writing, as a faculty member, I see the other side. I can tell you what bothers me and my fellow professors, and what makes us happy when it comes to grading research articles.

But you might not have weeks to hone your writing skills. You might need some help right away, so you can finish this document this week! Here are some tips that can help you.

Be sure to follow the topic

The first step to getting an “A” is to follow the rubric. A section serves as a guide you should use this when planning your research paper. Professors, like me, use the rubric to rate the quality of your written responses according to specific evaluation criteria.

The rubric is what you will be graded against. Do not stray from it. Read the section. Seriously, read it. Occasionally, I read an article and wondered one of two things:

  1. Has the student even looked at the rubric?
  2. Did anyone else write this research paper?

Don’t make us think that for a second. Once we think about it, we’ll read your research paper even more critically. At this point, I’m preparing for the worst-case scenario. If you were unable to keep up with the column, did you read the article or book or did you do the appropriate research to write this article? Are you trying to cover my face and pretend you know what you’re talking about?

Visualize your teacher sitting down to grade your article with one screen open on your article and another screen open on the topic. I scroll through my column while reading your article. But your article does not follow the topic.

Faculty members spent hours creating this column for one purpose: to make grading easier and to make it easier to understand what we wanted you to write about. Follow the topic and do not deviate from it without permission.

What is the difference between grammar and style?

Grammar is seen as the structural foundation of writing and the rules of language, or how to make sense of a sentence. Grammar are rules related to the structure of sentences such as: a singular subject needs a singular predicate and must express a complete thought.

Style is a gray area in grammar and its use. Style is more of a set of preferences that are not syntactic rules. An often cited style example is: Don’t use contractions, avoid a passive voice, and never end a sentence with a preposition.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but textual jargon is never appropriate for a professional journal. Also note that conversational English is different from written English. In other words, the way you can say something to someone isn’t always the way you would write it.

Also, when writing, be clear about the name. Often times I see “they” or “their” being used too frequently. You may know who “they” are, but it is better to say “the nurses”, for example, to communicate as clearly as possible. Use words that best tell the reader the most specific information possible, even if you say “nurses” five times in the same paragraph. Leave no room for questioning what you mean.

The formats facilitate the circulation of your research documents

Then there is the formatting, including APA or MLA. Nothing makes me cringe more than opening a research paper that‘s longer than two pages and not seeing any headers.

Headers are the first visual clue to me that you’ve followed the topic. The headers of your article should be pulled from the topic to make it clear to the faculty member who noted that you have followed it.

Headers also help me find where things should be in your paper. i always used APA format, so I talk about it in this blog. If your research paper has two pages, use at least a level one heading, and if it is three or more pages, consider using both level one and two headings. Of course, refer to the scoring topic for APA or other format. But use at least one level of headers!

Using headers also helps you describe your paper. If you get Writer’s Block, start by putting headers in your paper and “filling in” the blanks. I don’t always write from start to finish. Sometimes I start in the middle, then go to the end, then to the beginning.

If you know what you want to write, start with this piece and fill in the rest around. Always read it from start to finish to make sure it flows. Read it aloud. Microsoft Word has a new feature where it will read your document to you.

Another great tip: don’t delete anything permanently. In the longer documents, I create a second document where I put pieces that I cut out of what I’m working on. That way, if I really want to get it back into a document, I still have it. This is especially useful if it took 30 minutes to write that beautiful sentence which no longer has a place anywhere.

Read your APA book. This book also contains very useful information on grammar and style. Other resources to help with writing include Style elements and blogs and podcasts from Grammar Girl.

I keep the above resources on my desk to help me with my writing. Every time I have an effect and an effect, I stop and talk about it! Some things are not so easy for my brain to remember.

No one is perfect, but that doesn’t stop me from writing. Whether you want to become a professional writer or just want to finish your program, these tips will help you move forward.


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