Research is an often-neglected step of research writing despite it saying it right on the tin! It’s easy to give precedence to the writing of the paper, focusing on formulating beautiful and intelligent sentences. These fancy sentences, however, won’t mean anything to whoever is reading your paper unless they have substance behind them, and that’s exactly where a purposeful and structured research plan should come into action.
Ample time should be put aside for research (perhaps even more time than delegated to writing,) as if done properly, it is a foolproof way to ensure a high-quality and worthy paper.
Understanding your essay question
First, you must understand exactly what your essay question entails. Don’t shoot your research arrow off in the completely wrong direction, wasting hours on fruitless reading and book hunting. Figure out your paper’s scope and then stick to it. A helpful way of enacting this if you don’t know where to start is to write a brief outline of your paper, perhaps even make an attempt at a title for your work. This works as an exercise in understanding exactly what topics you will need to query.
Now that you have an idea of what you need to be looking for, move onto the brainstorming step. You likely know more than you think about the topic at hand; writing down what you already know can not only build confidence but will also allow you to see the gaps in your knowledge that need to be filled. You’ll know exactly what keywords you need to look for when looking up papers or books, thus allowing you to ease yourself into what can be the daunting first step into traversing the academic writing world.
Even if you’ve written many research papers before, this first step is often the hardest.
Building up a reading list
Keep track of everything you plan on reading and then everything you have finished reading. This will not only save you time on having to look up a paper or book each time, but it will make the often-tedious task of referencing a lot less laborious. Taking notes as you read is also an effective method of cutting down on the amount of research needed to be done. You will not have to backtrack as you try to put names to citations and facts to faces. Your notes will also act as a web of knowledge that you scan over whenever you need inspiration or to refresh the research topic in your mind.
Use reputable academic journals or websites
Take a look at the academic journal ranking readily available online, to see if a paper is worth reading or citing. Nobody wants to spend half an hour thoroughly reading and studying a paper only to find out that it has been debunked numerous times. An easy way of checking for veracity is to look at the number of times a paper has been cited. The more the better.
So, don’t wait to take the first step. The sooner you start the more research you can do and the better your paper will be!