A research paper is probably the most challenging coursework given to students. It requires a mature thought process and the writer must present something original and unique. A research paper can feature a subject matter on which previous research does not exist or it can build on existing research. The second approach is more suitable as the writer will have a reference point.
There are many ways to go about composing it and therefore a stage wise approach is suggested.
Vet the topic
Before starting the actual writing, the writer must be clear and specific regarding the research paper topic. General topics should be avoided as the writer will find difficulty in presenting information and adhering to the page count. An example of a general topic could be ‘Sports in South Africa,’ while a specific topic would be the ‘The declining state of sports facilities in Rural South Africa.’
The topic and reference search should be carried simultaneously. There is no use carrying forth a good topic on which adequate references do not exist. The internet is obviously the first place to start research but the researcher should place value on quality of website. As a general rule information from websites like Wikipedia are totally useless and should be avoided at all costs. Develop a draft reference list and just gather good sources. The vetting of references will come later on.
Probably the best thing to do after getting a topic and references is to build a Research Proposal and get it approved from the Teacher/Professor. This will enable feedback from the instructor and avoid mistakes/errors by proceeding alone. Remember that prevention is better than cure.
When starting work on the rough draft, it is better to identify expected page count and tentative table of contents. This outline will simplify writing and presentation of information in organized fashion. While preparing the rough draft, formatting and grammar related issues are not critical. This can be done in review stage. At this stage the pen must flow without hindrance.
Working on content
Apart from internet, some resources can be found in the institution’s library. This includes original books, journals like Harvard Business review etc. The student should develop the content from these rich resources and keep track through a notebook. This tracking will enable smooth referencing at the end.
Adhering to outline
The basis presentation is always Beginning, body and conclusion. However, at this stage the writer must be clear regarding which headings are populating the Body. Throughout the writing phase, the outline must be foremost in mind to avoid excessive writing or irrelevant content.
The research paper must be completed 24 hours before the deadline at a minimum. This allows the opportunity to revise the paper including spelling/grammar mistakes, adhering to instructor’s criteria and improving sentence construction. Effective revision can be the difference between a ‘B’ and ‘A.’ Therefore this step must be taken seriously. Plagiarism must be avoided and quotes, definitions etc. must be referenced properly.