I’ve probably written over 70 research papers over the last 7 years of school.
And I’ve gotten to the point where writing research papers is like second nature for me.
It’s not that I’m a better writer than anyone else, it’s just that I know how to organize information quickly.
So here is my basic process on how I write my papers step-by-step:
Research Phase: Hunting and Gathering
This is probably the most time-consuming part of the research paper. I’m a research hound, so I like to spend as much time as possible finding all the research possible. It’s during this phase that I’m doing the following:
- Refining my research subject
- Developing research questions
- Consulting librarians for their insight on my research area
- Reading journal article abstracts on the topic I’m interested in
Organizing Phase: Reading and Writing
As I’m reviewing journal articles, I’m jotting down everything I need from the article before moving on; including: citation info, potential quotes, summaries, and any referenced journal articles that look interesting. I’m also:
- Developing a potential thesis statement
- Creating a meaty bibliography
- Outlining my paper
- Inserting notes within my outline – and adding references
Drafting Phase: Writing
Once I’ve written my thesis statement and completed my outline, it’s time to begin working on my first draft. Here are the steps that I take:
- Just start writing something (I typically start in the middle somewhere)
- Make sure to cite everything (I go overboard just to be safe)
- Keep refining the thesis
- Keeping modifying the outline
- Pretend the paper is due the next day and just finish it
- Take a day off after the first draft is done – don’t look at it
Revision Phase: Editing Never Ends
Revising — as you know — means removing and adding content to make the paper better – which means nobody is ever really done. We just turn in our last and best draft. Here are my editing steps:
- Read it aloud and mark any areas that don’t sound right
- Look at all the punctuation marks – especially apostrophes
- Make sure every paragraph moves the paper along
- Eliminate passive verbs whenever possible
So that’s my strategy on how to write a research paper. I never feel completely done writing, but those steps help me get a paper finished that I’m at least happy with.
What steps do you take when writing a research paper?