Things to Think About Before You Begin
After you have determined the type of research design you will use, but before you sit down and begin to organize your paper, there are few things you should consider doing that will help make the process of writing go much smoother.
Make a Schedule
If your lecturer has not already created intermediary deadlines for completing the assignment, then drafting a schedule and noting deadlines on your personal calendar should be your first step. Drawing from key dates in your class syllabus as well as your own sense of how much time you need to think about, research, organize, and write a paper, note key dates in your calendar when tasks should be completed. A helpful strategy is to work backwards from when the final paper due.
Choose specific dates of important steps along the way but focus on setting realistic goals, and then stick to them! Make sure to give yourself enough time to find out what resources are available to you [including meeting with a librarian, if needed], to choose a research problem to investigate, to select and read relevant research literature, to outline your paper, to organize the information you are going to cite in your paper, and to write your first and final drafts [as well as any necessary drafts in between]. Developing a personal assignment calendar will also help you manage your time in relation to work assigned in other classes.
Analyze the Assignment
Carefully analyze the research to determine what you are specifically being asked to do. Look for key terms, topics, subject areas, and/or issues that can help you develop a research problem that interests you. Be sure that you understand the type of paper you are being asked to write. Research papers discuss a topic in depth and cite to credible sources that contain evidence that supports your your particular perspective. However, there are many different ways this process can be achieved.
The way in which your supervisor may ask you to frame your analysis can include any of the following approaches:
- Case study approach — an organization, behavior of doctors in an emergency room, a supreme court ruling, an event].
- Comparison approach — compare and contrast two ideas, constructs, or tangible things with one another.
- Definition approach — discuss in depth the cultural and associative meanings of, for example, a political theory, a policy proposal, or a controversial practice.
- Descriptive approach — choose a subject that you know well and help others to understand it.
- Evaluative approach — assess a theoretical concept, issue, person, place, or thing in a critical way.
- Exploratory approach — pursue a specific line of inquiry, often with the purpose of making recommendations for further research or to advocate and provide evidence for specific actions to be taken.
- Interpretive approach — apply the theoretical knowledge gained in your coursework to a particular research problem, such as, a business situation in a management course or a psychological case profile.
- Narrative approach — write from an experiential point of view, usually your own and written in the first person.
- Persuasive approach — take a position in a scholarly debate and give the reader reasons based on evidence why they should agree with your position.
- Policy memorandum approach — write short factual sentences devoid of emotion that summarize a situation to date, identify the main issue of concern, provide a breakdown of the elements of this main issue, and then recommend how to address the issue based on research about the topic.
NOTE: If for any reason you are unclear or confused about any aspect of the research, request clarification from your supervisor as soon as possible.
Ballenger, Bruce P. The Curious Researcher: A Guide to Writing Research Papers. 7th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2012. Composing Processes: Planning and Organizing. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Invention: Starting the Writing Process. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Invention: Overview of the Writing Process. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide. 15th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2015; Rosenblatt, Paul C. Restarting Stalled Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2016; Williams, Joseph M. and Lawrence McEnerney. Writing in College 2: Preparing to Write and Drafting the Paper, Writing Program, The University of Chicago; Prewriting Strategies. Writing Center. University of Kansas; Prewriting Techniques. Hawley Academic Resource and Advising Center. Simpson College.