Don't Panic! ... and Carry a Towel
Writing anxiety? Have no fear! Librarians are here!
*coughcough* Ummmm.... yeah. That was pretty lame. However, we do have some tips to help you with those dreaded assignments known as research papers. Just hear us out, okay?
[Marvin]. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005).
Take a look at the notes on this page, and then follow these basic steps:
Choose a Topic
Start Your (Initial) Research
Narrow Your Topic
Research, Research, Research!
Write an Outline
Annotated Bibliography (Optional, sometimes)
Write a Rough Draft
Time & Deadlines.
Research papers come with different deadlines. Know when your paper is due. Put that date in your calendar or your phone. Write it on a post-it note and stick it on your computer. Whatever works for you.
Then, set up a schedule. We suggest 12 steps for writing a research paper, but some steps take more time than others. Does it take a while for you to brainstorm about a topic? Schedule more time for that. Do you need more time to format your citations? Ditto! Set aside more time for it. Create a system that helps YOU.
One good idea would be to finish your first rough draft at the halfway point. That gives you plenty of time to proofread, revise, and rewrite.
Plagiarism. DON'T DO IT!
While you're researching and writing, keep track of your sources. You'll need them for your citations. If you don't cite a source correctly, you're plagiarizing that source. And that's not good.
If you have any questions, please read through our Plagiarism LibGuide. If you still have questions, come talk to us. Use the reference chat. Stop us on the sidewalk. Whatever works best for you!
Remember Professors' Requirements!
Be sure to double-check your assignment guidelines. Your professors will usually provide you with a list of things that must be included.
Look for instructions about
- the number of pages,
- the type of citation and style guide, or
- research requirements.
It's usually okay to have more than a required amount (11 pages instead of 10). It's never okay to have less than a required amount (8 pages instead of 10). If you're confused about an assignment, talk to your prof!
If you're confused about citations or where to locate your sources (Hive Search, specific databases, brick-and-mortar library) ask a librarian!
Know Your Subject
Know More Than You Write!
It's always helpful to know more about a subject than what actually makes it into the paper or assignment.
Your professors read stuff all the time—students' papers, other professors' articles, journal articles, etc. They can tell if you've taken the time to do your own research. Plus, it's good to have some extra information if you suddenly find that you need to fill more pages with stuff. :)