How to Craft a College Research Paper
Choose An Interesting Topic
Few college students look at informational papers as the learning experience that they are. When you are in college, there are good odds that the area you are researching is relevant to your degree path. As you write your paper, choose a topic that you are slightly familiar with, but where you could learn more. Choose an area that interests you, so finding learning about your topic isn’t so tedious and stressful. You may even find yourself eager to get started.
Know Your Professor’s Expectations
It is not uncommon for a professor to pass out a grading rubric with the assignment of the paper, so students know exactly what they are being graded on. Many lose this somewhere and forget about it. Instead, stick the rubric with your other course materials and use it to guide you as you compose your paper.
Find Information in the Right Places
When you are conducting research for your college paper, it is important that you rely on credible sources with accurate information. The most reliable are considered those with ‘.org’ (organization), ‘.gov’ (government), or ‘.edu’ (education). If you are writing on a controversial topic, be careful about the information you find on .org sites because they sometimes present a biased viewpoint or provide selective information.
Set Your Own Deadlines
Instead of looking at your project deadline as being weeks away, break it up into smaller parts to keep yourself on track. For example, imagine that your teacher gives you 2 weeks to complete a project. You could break it up into the following schedule:
- Day 1: Find information on the topic to get ideas
- Day 2: Choose a topic
- Days 3-5: Collect information
- Days 6-7: Create an outline
- Days 8-9: Complete the rough draft
- Days 10-11: Proofread twice
- Day 12: Write the final copy
- Day 13: (Extra day in case of setbacks!)
- Day 14: Turn in the paper
Keep Information on Your Sources
One of the hardest things to do after taking down a point is to go back and find the source that it came from. This makes citing your paper a challenge. As you look up information on your topic, create an entry for each source that you use and assign it a number. Then, label all information from this source with the same number. This will make compiling your reference page much easier.
Always Proofread at Least Twice
Ideally, you will have another person available to look over your work and check it for conciseness, as well as spelling and grammar errors. If this is not an option, read it through twice yourself. Check for accuracy and organization the first time that you read through, making sure your thoughts make sense. The second time, keep your eye out for errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.