So, you've been assigned a paper. Even though I'm a professor (perhaps you're in one of my classes), I know exactly how you may feel. "Gee, not another one! I don't want to do this! These are so boring. What do I do now? I don't have enough time!" But there is no escape; the assignment must be done. The alternatives are not really acceptable.
The important thing is that you are already doing the right thing by asking the right questions!
You have questions. How can I make the assignment bearable, perhaps even interesting and desirable? What does the professor want? How do I do a "research" paper? How can you fit it into your schedule? How can I get a good grade? How can I use it in another course?
You need answers, NOW! The following are some steps and guidelines that help me to deal with "another" paper. From noting down passing ideas to proofreading the final report, each involves writing and talking. Above all, research is about communicating clearly.
I hope you find these "steps" useful. If you do, please let me know.
What is doing research?
Research, at its simplest, is what we often do in daily life: finding out as much as we can about an interesting topic from others and forming our "own opinion."
But in daily life we usually do this with friends, that is, people who have the same opinion as we do. Out of politeness and love we rarely test their opinions by questioning their motives, their values, the correctness of their reasoning, or the accuracy of their information. It would be like questioning our own motives, values, reasoning, and information.
Similarly, we avoid asking those we don't like about the basis of their opinions. Often, we simply reject them out of hand for purely emotional, not rational, reasons.
In short, we rarely ask others, or ourselves, "Why should I believe you?"
But this is exactly what researchers do!
"Doing research" is putting your opinion to the test. This process can be exhilarating or uncomfortable, fascinating or boring. Consequently our minds play tricks on us. We magnify the importance of what we agree with. We minimize the significance of what we do not agree with. We forget inconvenient facts and unintentionally manufacture convenient ones. Researchers must discipline themselves to avoid these pitfalls to accurate understanding.
The discipline of good researchers is keeping copious notes about what they read and think. These notes remind us of what facts we have "forgotten," of our motives and values, and the validity of our reasoning. This process often requires researchers to change, clarify, or refine their opinions, sometimes radically, as they do their research.
Researchers believe that the discomfort of research is worthwhile because the best opinions to guide our actions are based on the most accurate information, logical thinking, and well-examined values and motives.
BTW, STUDYing for class is research, too!
What is "writing a report?"
A research paper is a refined report of the notes taken during the messy research process. Through it you do the following things:
In short, you convince your readers that they should believe you.
You may want to use the above list as a broad outline of your research paper. However, there are other ways of organizing a paper. Remember, though, that all the items on that list must be covered to show that you have a well-thought out opinion on any subject.
For a quick version of the importance of writing and kinds of writing, go here.
Holy Cow! ESSAY TESTS are reports on research!
Don't get sucked into the black hole of procrastination!
Some answers to your questions, NOW!
|how do I get ready?||why am I doing this project?|
|what is "research?"||how do I find an interesting topic?||where is my opinion?||what is the "product?"|
|how do I find sources of data and ideas||how do I record published data and ideas (secondary sources)?||how do I get new data and ideas (primary sources)?||when/where do I do the work?||how do I create the report?|
|how do I evaluate my own and others' work?|
Remember, this is the quick version! It leaves out a lot of good pointers. Go to any writing handbook for more detailed advice.
Such books cover much more than "boring" grammar,
word usage, and punctuation issues. The following list is a
sample of topics covered in The Scott, Foresman Handbook for
By the way, those "boring grammar, word usage, and punctuation issues" are actually very important; they help you clarify your ideas, put them in order, and express them clearly. It's just that you should not start out worrying about them while brainstorming and freewriting.
problems? comments? contact amarshal -- thank you!
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Research and Writing: the quick version
last updated: 01.04.16