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Before Writing a Research Paper Learn How to Write

Updated on April 8, 2015

Many students have not the slightest clue how to write a research paper or essay.  Just the mention of performing research or writing a research paper brings about that chill in the air that hints of mutiny.  Students also cannot understand why writing a research paper is included in the curriculum of many courses.

My students often ask why I assign a research paper as part of every class I teach.  The simple truth is that writing is quickly becoming a lost art.  Casual texting is replacing writing for the younger generation and this lack of formal writing experience shines through all the LoLs.  I teach in a career college and we prepare learners to enter the work force; as opposed to filling their heads with material of questionable benefit.

Why Learn How to Write a Research Paper

The number one complaint of employers regarding new college grads is that they do not know how to write.  This statement is not entirely true; most grads know how to write.  They simply cannot write well. 

In my years as an infrastructure analyst and network technician, I enjoyed the hands on activities the most.  However, there are few technical jobs available in this age that permits an individual the freedom to only work on equipment.  Interaction with people and communication are outweighing the technical aspects of many technical positions.  Communicating technical concepts to non-technical people often mandates writing proposals or reports.  This type of communication often includes a research component to develop the arguments necessary to persuade a superior or manager.

As a network analyst or technician, I would often discover deficiencies in the network design or areas where the network lacked necessary controls.  One would think that to correct these issues would be to inform a superior what the problem was and the cost to repair or upgrade.  Nothing could be further from reality.  I had to write reports and project proposals to influence the decisions of upper management. 

Normally, a business case would be a necessary component and developing a business case on other than technological righteousness requires research.  I wrote many research papers in those days and the early ones were painful to develop, although I certainly improved my writing technique with practice.  

How to Learn How to Write

Learning how to write is not difficult, all that is necessary is to practice writing, then practice writing some more, and finally practice writing.  Writing practice must, after all, be accompanied by proof reading.  All too many times, a student applies much effort in doing research and writing a research paper then does not read what he wrote.

Proof reading a research paper helps the author locate writing omissions, improper grammar usage, poor word choices, and of course spelling errors.  Sometimes the author proof reads while he is writing.  This practice helps the author discover writing errors early and correct them.  Many times, however, the author waits until after completing the essay to proof read the paper.  Spelling and grammar checkers are not substitutes for proof reading, though.  Spelling checkers will check for correct spelling but will not check for proper word selection.  The only method to locate improper word use is to proof read the paper.

Research Paper or Essay?

What is the difference between a research paper and an essay? For the purpose of this hub, an essay would generally be of shorter length than a research paper and writing an essay may be accomplished from memory.

The most typical form for an essay is the five paragraph form. This form of essay includes a one paragraph introduction, a three-paragraph body, and finally a one paragraph conclusion. As a mentor once said, first you tell them what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, finally you tell them what you told them.

Research papers, on the other hand, provide much more room to develop the topic. In-text citations are a typical requirement to lend credibility to the text, and these citations should match up with a reference sheet at the end.

Many students experience difficulty citing sources and formatting the final reference sheet. Omitting the citations and reference sheet may in some cases lead to a claim of plagiarism, which is the act of an author claiming the work of another as his own.

The Mechanics of Writing

To seriously pursue writing, certain reference materials are a must. A dictionary and thesaurus help with word choice and spelling. Inexperienced writers should also invest in a reputable grammar reference. One of the best known grammar references is the Greg Manual. This manual covers most topics of interest to a writer using the English language.

Almost any grammar question may be answered by checking an appropriate reference, including sentence structure. I am sometimes confounded when posed with sentences that simply do not make sense. Reading a sentence over and over to discover what the author meant to say yields no results.

One final note is the use of headings.  This short hub, for instance, includes four headings.  Headings provide breaks in the material that help the reader follow the meaning.  There is no material more difficult to read than that which is simply developed as one long paragraph with no breaks in the material.  Separating the writing into smaller paragraphs helps the reader to follow the material without getting lost.  Adding headings also helps make the material easier to read and also provides the reader a method to go back later and quickly locate points of interest. 


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    • profile image

      BasuDip 5 years ago

      good work

    • Dumbledore profile image

      This Old Guy 5 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio

      Thanks for the comment Xris, however, I meant research paper. I assign a topic and require students to perform research. An essay does not necessarily include such requirements.

    • profile image

      Xris 5 years ago

      "Research Paper or Essay?" 2nd paragraph error... from instead of form

    • Dumbledore profile image

      This Old Guy 6 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio

      YellowOC1, do not hesitate to ask if I can be of any help.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • YellowOC1 profile image

      YellowOC1 6 years ago

      I'm supposed to be submitting a Research Paper (for my undergraduate studies) next semester, so this advice will come in handy - thanks!

    • Dumbledore profile image

      This Old Guy 7 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio

      There are valid reasons for colleges to require a specific format for writing. APA is simply one o them. The APA has simplified the format somewhat in the 6th edition.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 7 years ago from USA

      Good Hub! I find it shocking that so many people who write in their business and for websites write so poorly. How much more credible and effective their writing would be if they used proper sentence structure, good grammar and, above all, perfect spelling! Mistakes such as writing "ware" instead of "wear"; "your" instead of "you're"; "tale" instead of "tail" are so common. Misusing words seems to be one of the worst offenses.

      I agree with you that knowing how to write research papers is more important now than ever. It's also important to know the difference between research and opinion.

    • Bridget30 profile image

      Bridget30 7 years ago from West Virginia

      Ahhh, the dreaded APA, why is that format always changing? Great hub!