The research paper is one of the most important and the most difficult tasks college students will encounter. It’s the ultimate college class assignment. The research paper is loved by few, detested by most. The fact that professors want the thing is written in one of the two formats – Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA) – makes it even more dreaded. The two formats are changed and updated on a regular basis.
For folks who feel that writing the paper is going to earn them a bad grade, here are a few tips that may make it easier than they thought to pull an A or a B.
Start Early Organize For the Task
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the night before the paper is due to get started on a research paper, especially if research and writing is not your dream job or fondest hobby. Start assembling research early at the very least.
Most professors give you topics to choose from. When you’ve chosen your topic and you are aware of the type of paper it is: argumentative, expository, narrative, cause and effect, compare and contrast, analytical, make sure you understand the purpose of the paper.
Create an Outline
Unless you write for a living and you have words coming out of your eyelashes, it helps to sit down and organize the topic via outline. Ask yourself what are the points you want to make in the form of an introduction, body, and conclusion. Then write those points in an outline format, always focusing on the topic of your paper. Even if your paper is longer than 10 pages, this simple format can still work.
Retrieve and Assemble Your Research
Use the online library that the professor recommends and any other credible databases to find information on the research paper topic. Use keywords in the topic to search for journal articles, book excerpts, newspaper articles and so on that will have viable information for your paper. Stay away from Wikipedia, as the database articles are not always accurate. However, when wanting to learn some basic facts about the topic, by all means, read up on it in Wikipedia. Then use credible, peer-reviewed journal articles for research to use in the paper.
Pulling What You Need From Research and Writing
This part has made papers great on the one hand or got them a failing grade on the other. It’s easy to quote articles word for word when writing the college research paper. That is a big no-no called plagiarism. Many students have gotten failing grades for doing this. Instead, read and highlight the pertinent parts of the article for your paper and then restate these parts in your own words. Don’t forget to follow the outline while writing.
Cite Sources or References
This is also a biggie. Source citation is different from MLA to APA, but they both have one thing in common. If you don’t cite tightly and correctly, you will be plagiarizing. At the end of every paragraph should be a shortened version of a full citation. All citations should appear in full on their own page at the end of the paper. This page is titled “Works Cited” in MLA format and “References” in APA unless of course, your professor tells you otherwise. It doesn’t hurt to have a few more resources than the minimum number the professor requires.
Maintain the Format Throughout the Paper
Most college professors expect you to have the latest version of either the MLA or APA writing a handbook on hand. These handbooks contain every rule to follow in completing the perfect research paper. However, there are sample research papers online in both formats that you can mimic while you write your own. Remember, APA format has a title page, while MLA does not. Both formats have headers that run throughout every page of the research paper. Occasionally, a professor will expect a table of contents and an abstract. These two should be completed last but placed in the correct order in the paper. Usually, research papers are typed double-spaced in Microsoft Word with a first line paragraph indent in the body and a hanging indent in the reference section.
Get Help When You Need Help
Finally, if you are not the best at grammar, spelling, and punctuation, get help from someone who is. It’s not cheating to ask someone to edit your paper for typographical and other errors.
This may seem like a lot of information. When you take writing that research paper one step at a time, using these tips, you should be able to get a plausible grade.
Disclaimer: Using these tips does not guarantee the user a good grade on any research paper. Although there are APA and MLA sample papers online, they may be out of date. Writers should follow the APA or MLA handbook rules or the example paper given to them by the professor.