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How To Write A Good Research Paper

Updated on January 24, 2011

The wastebasket is a writer's best friend

Isaac Bashevis Singer

How to write a good research paper? Someone might say: It's easy! Just do the research and type your comments and findings. But, this is the answer usually given by people who never wrote a good paper.  Good paper needs planning, researching, a lot of hard work and practice. And, sometimes, even that is not enough. There are a few steps one must follow in order to write a good paper, whether it is a lab report, essay, research or any other type of paper. Excellent paper, the one that becomes criterion for the next generation of papers, is a result of good planning, careful choices and hard work.

 There are many different fields of research, and just as many ways to document findings and draw conclusions. There are books that can help, you can find them in libraries and book stores, and some are available in reading rooms in colleges and universities. Also, there are people who can help you with your research, if data is unavailable or not understandable for you. For example, if your paper is about the shoe market in France, and your French is not so good, you can always prepare a set of questions and find someone to do the basic research. 

 But, let’s start from the beginning.

 First of all, you need to choose a topic. Sometimes, the topic will be given to you, by your teacher, lab assistant or professor. You need to understand it, and if it is not clear to you, if you are not sure what your paper is supposed to be about, do not hesitate to ask, because, understanding your topic is the base for research.

 Second, find out the technical details like: font, font size, font style, line spacing, margins... Usually, there is a certain standard that applies for all the papers inside one educational facility.

 Third, find necessary information. Sometimes, you will have to find someone to help you, in order to get the latest information about your topic, especially if you are doing the research on something that is located abroad (like previously mentioned shoes in France).

 Fourth, write down your thesis. Write at least one thesis per four pages, and if you are supposed to write 20 pages, you need at least 5 theses, plus an introduction and conclusion.

Fifth, select and organize your data, notes and results. Create tables, charts and decide what kind of presentation your research needs.

 Next step is to write your first draft, and if possible, leave it or a day, or at least, a few hours. In meanwhile, read again all the data you have, and all your notes, and then read your draft: is there something important you forgot to mention? Or, did you mention something irrelevant? It usually takes three or four drafts.

 This is a general instruction, and, depending on your topic, you might have to modify it. Anyway, there are a few pieces of advice we can give you, applicable on every topic or field of research:

First of all, if you are a student, it is highly probable that many students before you wrote on the same topic. Try to find their papers and try not to repeat their mistakes.

 Try to find a new angle, maybe a new resource or a new idea for the same topic. For example, if your topic is WW II, try to write about something different than battles and armies. It must be so tiresome, for your professor, to read the same information about the same period, year after year. Try this: write about the number of emigrants who went back from USA and Australia to their homelands when the war began. Or, if your topic is "Spanish painters in 17 century", write a chapter about how they prepared their canvases, or their paints and pigments and brushes.

 In order to write an excellent paper, you need more than knowledge and good will. Just like a building contractor needs architectural plans, bricks, wood and plaster, a good writer needs plans, data, idea and imagination: and the success is within your reach!

Seminarski research paper
How to improve your seminarski-writing skills.


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