A Quick Tip for Research Papers

Sometimes, a student can get all the way through high school without ever having to write a research paper. Other times, they write one or two, but they still don’t have a good grasp for how to go through the steps of researching, planning, outlining, and writing a good research paper.

In our work with college students, we find that they often lack cohesiveness and fluidity between these different steps especially that first time they get asked to write a research paper. A common practice is writing an entire paper on a topic they know and then trying to fill in quotes or citations later. This leaves their paper feeling forced or a little disjointed. Other times, students will just throw in quotes that have no rhyme or reason with the passage they’ve been inserted into merely to reach a minimum citations requirement. 

Here’s a quick tip that will help students avoid the typical inefficient habits and bad writing techniques that they tend to use: Use a reference form. This is a one page document that students can create to compile information as they’re researching. Each source that they use should have it’s own 1 page document and contain the following information for each source:

Full Citation- As soon as a student reviews a source they’d like to use, they can immediately put it into the correctly formatted citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). This will make it easier for later use. If they decide to include this source in their paper, they can just copy and paste the formal citation from the template page straight into the works cited page of their paper.

Short Summary of the Work- This is a quick, one paragraph summary of the source. It will outline what it is, what information it contains, and can be a quick refresher for the student when they look back at the form in a week or two as the writing is taking place.

Quotes that can be used- This is pretty straightforward. Students should type out the quotes they intend to use. These should be in the correct citation form. “If they type them in this way, they will be easily able to add them into their paper later” (Lutostanski, 2020). Additionally, students can add a little note about where they feel this quote would be effectively used in their paper. Essentially, they’re queueing it up for themselves to provide excellent evidence and examples.

Additional Sources to Use- When reading one source, there’s the opportunity to find many more sources. Perhaps the article the student is reading cited another article that would be useful. By keeping track of additional sources that are discovered, students can make their research much more efficient and save time hunting down other sources.

The Reference Form is an easy addition for any student to add into their research repertoire. It will help research more efficiently and include sources into their paper much more effectively. 

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