Even if you never had to write a true research paper in high school, it is almost impossible to graduate with any type of college degree without writing a few essays. If you have difficulty writing, or just difficulty getting college research papers completed, here are a few tips to make the process a little easier to bear.
The most important thing to do when writing a college research paper is to pick a topic that has sufficient information. If you must submit a topic to your professor before beginning your college research paper, take the time to do some preliminary research before beginning. This means going to the library, and not just using the internet. If you decided to use some internet sites, make sure they are a reliable source. Wikipedia may give you a brief idea on a topic, but do not ever consider using it as a source for your college research paper.
As soon as you can, do some research at the college library. If you have never used a library before, see if your library offers tours of the library for beginning students. Once you know how to use the library, make a list of key words that relate to your topic and be sure to search under each keyword. If you find a topic that seems to have enough sources for the length of your college research paper, check out those books now. Chances are some other student may do a similar topic and a library return request will not help you the night before the paper is due.
If you are not sure how much research is sufficient to write your college research paper, consider the class and the requirements set by the professor. An upper division class will require far more sources than a freshman class. The teacher sometimes specifies requirements for the number and type of sources. If you have received no requirements for your bibliography, a simple rule of thumb is to use three sources per page of required text. This amount of sources should be sufficient to yield a quality paper that contains information and not an excess of quotes. If your paper is only a page, try to find at least five sources, so your paper can show a balanced view.
After this step, you should have a topic and a large stack of reading materials. Try to carry a research book with you to class and read it during your free time. You might be surprised as to the amount of reading you can get done during those minutes you are waiting outside a classroom.
After reading some of your sources, you should be able to develop a thesis. In a college research paper, it is not enough to simply report a collection of information. Instead, you must prove or disprove a statement of your own invention about the material in a college research paper. For example, if you were writing about A. S. Byatt, it would not be advisable to write solely about her life and success as an author. You might, however, decide to write about how her books create a world within themselves and how Byatt uses the novel form to create that world.
Once you have your thesis, write it down on an index card. Based on the reading you have done to this point, map out your argument and points you wish to cover in your college research paper. You should be able to recognize weakness in your argument, and how much more research you will have to do to create a strong paper. This process does not necessarily have to take the form of an outline, but it should be well thought out. Many students when they write their first college research paper use an outline to help them through the writing process.
Finally you are ready to begin to write your college research paper. State your thesis and supporting evidence as clearly as possible. Most professors look for the inherent merit in the thesis, not whether or not they agree, so be bold in stating your opinion. Be sure that your opinion is well supported by your research, and never use the first person.
Write your paper to exceed the length requirements. You will undoubtedly find that when you revise your paper you will cut out a lot of needless phrases. Also back up your work as many places as you can, and print out a paper copy of each new draft. Professors understand that many college students are very computer savvy and no longer except a computer malfunction as a reason to miss a deadline.
Revise your college research paper until it reads well and presents and supports a good thesis. In order to do this well, you cannot wait until the night before to start your paper. Make a personal deadline of two of three days before the actual deadline to allow revising without losing sleep. Revising your college research paper will be much quicker if you have had some sleep.
If you follow these steps you should have written a good college research paper that will earn you a fair grade. As you may have guessed from reading this article, writing a college research paper is a time consuming process, so start early so you can finish before deadline. Everyone knows that the best parties always seem to happen the night before your paper is due.