University life is a great experience, and most students are fond of attending classes and communicating with their fellow students. Hard times come with exams, but exams are an integral part of an academic process, and every student is ready for them. Higher education, however, brings another type of work for which students might not be prepared – research papers. Every university student writes at least one research paper during his/her degree program. What is a research paper? It is an elaborated piece of writing in which one presents one’s evaluation or argument about a subject. A research paper contains one’s discussion of the subject and reflects what one knows about this subject and what experts write about it. To write a successful research paper a student has to possess a number of research skills. These skills must be acquired by students, and sometimes it requires a lot of training and studying. What do we mean by research skills? These skills help a person do careful research in order to answer a specific question by looking at it from different angles. These skills include searching for information, analyzing it, and giving a critical evaluation.
Is it possible to acquire research skills through learning? The answer is yes. In fact, research consists of several steps. When a student knows these steps, he/she can divide his/her work into segments and to allot time to each segment.
- The first step is planning your research. When it comes to a research paper writing, students often do not know where to start. Having a plan is crucial because it determines the direction of your work. First, you need to decide what your subject is. If your professor chose the subject, then you need to think of resources you will use. In case you need to choose a subject, then it requires you to analyze literature and decide what you would like to talk about. As soon as your subject is ready, you need to identify your information sources and the format of the writing. Do not forget that every professor has different evaluation criteria. Make sure you know what they are and try to follow your instructor’s directions.
- The second step is collecting material. Since your writing is a research paper, you should keep in mind that only credible sources such as peer-reviewed articles and academic books will be acceptable. University libraries have large amounts of books, and you will be able to find both electronic and printed resources. Use Google Scholar and other search engines, but always be careful and double-check that the resource you found is credible.
- When you find the material, read it carefully and decide what is relevant for your project. See how information in these articles and books is linked and take notes. Every detail can be significant. Do not focus on one aspect of your subject. You need to look at it from different angles, and sometimes counterarguments help you prove your point of view and make your research paper more elaborated. When you cite authors, do not forget to mention who said it and in which paper/article/book you found this information. When you use citations, remember that your professor must have told about the citation style you need to use. Double-check that your paper and your citations are in the same style.
- After you have found all necessary links and connections, you need to present your findings. A research paper has to be well-structured: it must contain an introduction, a body (a part that contains counterargument, argument, and evidence), and a conclusion. Make sure that all parts are linked to each other and make your paper look like a whole. When the paper is ready, revise it. You want to find if you have made any grammatical mistakes or have misspelled some words. Maybe, you forgot to cite an author or you did not mention a year of the publication. In other words, look for details and double-check the format.
- The final step is evaluation. When you write a paper for a particular class, your instructor will evaluate your research and writing skills. But you will also have a chance to evaluate your paper and papers of your fellow students through peer and self-evaluation. It is very important not only to produce but also to analyze other people’s work. Only then you can proceed to another level. In class you will discuss various areas of research and try to determine your strengths and weaknesses. This is a very important part because it lets you improve your skills and become better at researching and writing. Writing a research paper is a difficult and time-consuming process, but many students make a mistake by thinking that this assignment can be done within a few days. A research paper is not just a piece of writing where you express your personal opinion which is never wrong. This writing shows your ability to find the right information, to read it and analyze it to prove your point. When you write about a subject, you should understand that you are not the first person who raises this question. Thus, you belong to a greater community of authors and you need to take their findings and their opinion into consideration too. In your paper you have to show respect to other authors and find a way to say your own word. We encourage you to start you research papers in advance and to find joy in writing them.