Any college student eventually comes up against that academic kryptonite: the dreaded research paper. Most students consider it a necessary evil, but research papers are actually a very effective way to hone research and writing skills. These are important things to have in any profession, especially if you are into science, and it does help your personal development.
Editor’s note: Antonio helps you walk through each step of the research paper process – links to the 17 apps and web tools are highlighted within each step.
Helping You Write A Better Research Paper
However, there is no denying that academic research papers are fraught with technical difficulties for a neophyte. Where do you begin? How do you write it? How do you do the proper referencing?
Seven important ingredients make up a proper research paper. This article will guide you on how to go about making one, and enjoy it in the bargain.
1. Find an interesting topic
The first ingredient in any research paper is the topic. Choose one that you find interesting. It makes it easier to do the work when you are not yawning yourself to tears.
Once you find a topic that makes your heart speed up a bit, you will be eager to start doing the research. Finding source materials is easy enough, but organizing them can be a chore.
Make it a little easier on yourself by using sites like Mendeley to manage your research materials. You can even use the app to read and annotate on the go.
2. Conduct your research
Back in the day, doing research meant spending a lot of time in the library, chasing down elusive references, and taking down copious notes. That is no longer the case today.
Aside from the university library, you can subscribe to paid online research libraries such as Pubget to find what you need. If you are on a budget, you can try open access resources like Paperity. If your topic is trending, and you want to get real-time updates, you can subscribe to Sparrho and create a channel. Once you find what you need, it is simply a matter of downloading the material to your computer or mobile device.
If you are pressed for time, you can collaborate with professional researchers by going to sites like Edugeeksclub. You can hire them to get the source material, do the summary, and provide the correct citations. All you need to do is to write the actual paper. They will even edit and proofread it for you, if you want. These people make it their business to do excellent research, so you get great value for your money.
3. Make an outline
Most teachers would provide students with a general outline of the research paper, but it is up to you to refine and populate them based on your source materials. This can be a real challenge for anyone that does not have a structured way of thinking. You can use sites like Bubbl.us or MindMup to help you organize your materials into cohesive groups. These are mind-mapping apps that can guide you in making visual sense of what goes where.
Once you have made a map of your material, you can use Google Doc to make a detailed outline of what you will write that you can access anywhere at any time.
4. Organize all your information
Maps and outlines done, you are ready to get down to actual data. The easiest way to do this is going through each of your material and highlighting relevant passages, images, and tables that support your point. You can use a tool like Evernote, which acts like a filing cabinet to store these tidbits in an organized way. This makes it easier for you to find what you need once you start actually writing the paper.
You can also use Wunderlist to keep track of everything you need to do, to make sure that you are on schedule.
5. Begin writing
Now comes the fun part. After all that heavy lifting, you will experience a sense of relief that you are actually getting down to the real deal. Because you (presumably) chose a topic that interests you, writing it down makes up for all those hours doing the prep work.
However, distractions are a reality of college life. Extraneous sounds are especially problematic, and you may find yourself wasting time listening to the argument next door, the plot of the sit-com on TV, or the cursing of your roommate playing an online game. To handle these concentration killers, you can use OmmWriter to shut them all out. This free word processor combines a minimalist interface with concentration-enhancing audio.
You can also try WriteApp if you just want a simple, distraction-free word processor for research that requires a lot of collaboration.
6. Edit your paper
Once your paper is done, you need to go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Great research and impeccable organization is the meat of a research paper, but you still need to deal with the condiments. Your research paper must absolutely be free of grammatical and typographical errors. You would be amazed at how much this can affect your final grade. The reason is simple: readability.
Research papers are academic, so that is already one point against it. Combine that with spelling mistakes, misplaced punctuation, and run-on sentences and you make it hard to get your ideas across. Most word processors have basic grammar and spell checkers, but for a truly killer research paper you have to go a little deeper. You can use Grammarly online, or as an extension to your browser or word processor such as MS Word. Aside from checking your grammar and writing style, it is also on the lookout for plagiarized content, an unforgivable sin in research papers.
You can also use Hemingway App to improve your writing style. It is very hard use simple language when you are doing a research paper. This app helps you keep grounded by identifying problematic areas such as long, complex sentences, paragraphs that seem to be going nowhere, or unnecessarily long words.
7. Cite your sources
If the content of your paper is the meat and flavoring, your bibliography is the bowl. You need to provide support for your work by giving the source for each statement, claim, or fact that you write. Otherwise, your paper will not stand up to scrutiny. It will simply fall apart. Citations and references give your paper legitimacy, and so it is important to cite them, and cite them properly.
The formatting style you should use will depend on the requirements of the course. In most cases, you will spend a lot of time crafting and writing your citations. To make it easier for you, you can use tools such as Citation Machine, which is an easy-to-use free site where you can generate citations in popular formats such as APA, MLA, and Chicago. Easybib is another bibliography creation website you may want to check out.
Writing a killer research paper is not a walk in the park, but it does not have to be akin to Dante’s Inferno, either. If you followed the steps above, and you took advantage of one or more of the suggested tools and resources, then you know it is true.