Sometimes assignments sneak up on you. You look up and realize you have less time to finish that research paper than you thought. Earlier this year, I published a short ebook on Writing Better Research Papers. It’s a quick read, but packed with tried-and-true strategies that will certainly help you raise your grades on written assignments.
1) Do Not Waste Time Choosing a Topic
If you are given multiple topics to choose from, do not spend too much time picking one. And certainly avoid starting with one topic and then switching topics an hour later.
I’ve done this in the past, and it was incredibly frustrating. Choose the topic you feel the most confident with and stick to it!
Some things to consider when choosing your topic are 1)your knowledge of the subject matter, 2) how easily you can find sources (if required), and 3)whether you can come up with enough content on the selected topic to complete the paper.
2) Just Start Writing
When we’re in a rush, we tend to procrastinate even more due to the stress of time pressure. You cannot afford to do that. Instead, do some focused brainstorming and get words on the page.
Start by making up an introductory sentence and 3 bullet points to support it.
Write for 20 minutes nonstop. Focus on getting a couple sentences under each bullet point.
Do not edit. Do not second guess yourself. Just get ideas on paper. You can clean it up later.
Blank pages are intimidating. So, the idea here is just to get some good ideas written down quickly so that you have something to work with.
At the end of the 20 minutes, look at what you have written, organize it into paragraphs, and keep on writing!
3)Use Your References to Find More References
Most college research papers require you to cite sources that support the argument you’re making in your paper. Sometimes you are required to have a certain number of sources.
Generally citations will come from academic journals or some other type of trustworthy content. Like you, the authors of these articles have to use citations to validate their work.
So, when you find a great article to cite, just take a look at their references page or their footnotes. You will likely find some articles there that you can look up and use as references in your own paper.
You still need to make sure those sources are relevant to your specific topic. But doing this will help you quickly identify useful sources more often than not.
4)Document Citations As You Go
It may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re rushing to finish a paper, it is important that you cite your sources as you go. Many students like to do this after they’ve finished the main body of the paper, however, in a rush, it is far too easy to “forget” (or skip) the citations.
Yes, they can be difficult to format. Yes, it may be time consuming.
But, as a former Conduct Committee member, I can’t tell you the number of students who received automatic failing grades simply because they inadvertently plagiarized due to rushing through their citations.
It’s an unfortunate mistake, but the consequences can be great. So, save yourself some headache and cite your sources immediately after you reference them in your paper.
Obviously, you should always give yourself ample time to complete research papers in college. But, hopefully these tips come in handy if you ever find yourself in a pinch. Good luck to you during finals season!
Stay Curious. Stay Motivated.