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Anatomy of a First-Ever Research Paper

Anatomy of a First-Ever Research Paper

By Jon_Skindzier

Today, I bring you a guest post from SparkLife blogger Jon Skindzier. Enjoy!

When it comes to research papers, students fall into one of three categories: Lucky kids, who wrote their first research papers in middle school (though at the time it probably felt more like a mix of jail time and English than it did luck), confident kids who aren't intimidated by anything, and then a third group, to whom the first paper is a lengthy enigma worth half a grade.

Often they wind up terrified and unprepared, blundering around at the last minute with a haphazard stack of cryptic, out-of-order index cards. They feel like they've just been robbed by the Riddler. You do not want to be in this group, but if you are, here's a list of vital research paper do's and don'ts:


If you've never written a research paper, you'll be surprised how much mileage you can get out of a really specific thesis. If you're familiar with research papers, then you may remember being told about eight times that your thesis wasn't specific enough.
Do keep reformulating your thesis until you have dreams about it and can't stand to look at it anymore.
Do interpret a concept in a creative way, like some kind of Literature Detective.
Do not just rephrase an existing concept, like a really lazy Literature Detective who is about to get fired.


This one's easy! Do all the research. That's it. Go through all the sources you're supposed to go through, despite how long it takes, because teachers have plenty of methods at their disposal to confirm that you're not just making this stuff up.
Do quote your sources accurately.
Do not quote your mom.
Do not hurriedly make up your sources on the day the paper is due.
Do not consult Yahoo! Answers.

Rough Drafts

Rough draft guidelines vary, of course, but one truism always applies: they are useful. A good rough draft means you're about half-done with your final paper. A careless rough draft may as well just be the printed-out text of your index cards with "and" between each one.
Do shuffle and reorder your note cards to see if the outline flows better that way.
Do not leave them like that and turn in a half-upside-down card pile with like ten corners sticking out of it.

In Summary

Do proofread, and if you're the type who reads so quickly that you skim over your own mistakes, well then proofread backwards, Mr. Smart Guy.
Do fantasize about setting your research paper on fire and running away to join the circus, as long as you come back to reality and finish the paper.
Do not get overwhelmed. Research papers can be burdensome, and they put you out of commission for so long they should be classified as a disease, but there's nothing hard about them. All you're doing is reading, then writing, then thinking about one of those things. Sometimes in a different order. For about a thousand hours.

Related Post: How to Write a Killer Term Paper

Topics: essays, research papers, papers

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