Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Writing a Research Paper Efficiently

This is the method of writing papers that I used in college which saved me a lot of time. I have decided to just put it here so it can help as many people as possible. 

What’s the hardest part of writing a research paper? Is it taking the notes? Writing the body of the paper? This method combines these two parts and saves a lot of work. So come up with a thesis and let's begin!

1.     Gather your sources
Begin with the books or periodicals. Take your laptop to the library, or look at professional journal articles online and find sources that you want to use as references. Start a document titled “Bibliography” and, using standard MLA or whatever form your teacher requires, write out a complete bibliography reference for each source. Put these notations in alphabetical order, and list them A-Z, with a letter for however many sources you are using.

Your bibliography is done (except for removing the numbers when cleaning up your paper.) Save your document.

2.      Note taking
This is the most important part of my time-saving method. Follow this to the “T” and you will save so much time. You may have learned to take notes on index cards, by hand. Crazy! That is just making work for yourself. Instead, take notes on the computer using this format:
Start a new document and call it “Notes.”  Find an interesting fact that you want to include in your paper. Where did it come from? Your third source on your bibliography, perhaps? Write a C at the start of your note. Then, WRITE THE FACT IN YOUR OWN WORDS AND IN A COMPLETE SENTENCE. Don’t skip this part and figure you will re-write it later. That’s doing twice the work you need to do. Don't plagiarize (must I really say that?) Occasionally you may use a quote, but don't over-do quotations. If you use a quote, use quotation marks and add the source at the end, in the format you need to use for your final paper. Next, add a title to your note. Here is an example of a completed note using a quotation:

C  (referencing source #3) Giving Medication (title I have given to this note)
William Barnes felt strongly that “…pills should never be given when the patient is in a prone position.” * William H. Barnes, Swallowing Disorders, (New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 1991), 100-101.

Press Enter twice and continue writing your notes. Take at least one good notation for each source, leaving a space between each note. If you can’t find anything to take notes on in a particular source, remove the source from your bibliography. If you add a new source later, add it to your bibliography and label it, for example, D-1, if it is inserted after your D source. When you have gone through all your sources and have written your notes, congratulations! Your paper is essentially done.

3.     Outline
You will now write your outline. Start a new document, titled “Outline.” You have taken your notes and should now have a pretty good idea of how your paper should flow. Write your outline, using the titles from each of your notes as a guideline.
Here is a guide to helping to write your outline, that I did NOT come up with myself. A professor gave it to her students in class a few years ago and I include this to help with composing your outline.

General Statement about the Topic
Main Points


First Paragraph - Main Point
Supporting Details
Supporting Details
Concluding Sentence

Second Paragraph - Main Point
Supporting Details
Supporting Details
Concluding Sentence

Third Paragraph - Main Point
Supporting Details
Supporting Details
Concluding Sentence

For longer papers, continue adding paragraphs.

General statement about the Topic
Summary of the main points used to prove the thesis

4.      Rough Draft
This is where it gets fun. Start a new document titled “Rough Draft,” and save it. Now, copy your outline into this document. Open your “Notes” document and copy it all, then paste it into the bottom of your “Rough Draft” document. You now have an outline and notes in “Rough Draft.” Look at your first note. Where does it fit into your outline, according to the title of the note? Cut and paste it into the outline. Do the same for each note, putting it where it makes sense in the outline. Remove the “A”s, “B”s, “C”s, etc, and the titles and put the footnotes where they belong. Your rough draft is done! Save it.

5.      Finished Paper
Copy your rough draft into a new document. The paper is almost finished now. All that is left is to add connecting words. “Therefore,” “In addition,” etc. to make the sentences flow. Re-arrange sentence order if necessary. Copy your bibliography to the end of your paper, removing the “A”s, “B”s, “C”s, etc.

Make sure you retain your original documents of Notes, Outline, and Rough Draft, separate from your final paper—this is essential in case a teacher wants you at a later date to prove that you did your own work. 

That’s it! Hope this helps.