Academic Research Paper: 11 Shortcuts to Get It Right
An academic research paper is a type of writing that involves conducting an extensive study on a specific topic to answer a question or solve a problem. Academic research papers are typically written by graduate and college students, but they’re also common in college and high school courses.
Why You Need to Write an Academic Research Paper
In most cases, you should be writing an academic paper when:
- You need to prove your knowledge to graduate from your program
- There’s a course requirement for your major (to get credit for the class)
- You want feedback on your writing skills
The following shortcuts will help you maximize your outcomes:
1. Formulate a research question
First, let’s take a moment to define what exactly a research question is. A research question is an open-ended statement that asks for information that you can answer through research. It’s not as simple as it sounds: researchers often ask too broad or vague questions to be answered in one paper. For example, “What are the causes of homelessness?” isn’t a good question because there are many different causes of homelessness, and they vary across time and place. Here’s another example: “How do we help homeless people find jobs?” This question still isn’t quite right; even if we knew how to help homeless people find jobs, this wouldn’t tell us anything about which method is best at getting them employed.
The point here is not just that you should formulate your questions but also why this step is so important: knowing what you need to answer will make it easier for you to narrow down your focus when coming up with topics and methods of analysis later on in the process (more on this later).
2. Use academic search engines
When looking for scholarly sources, it’s best to use academic search engines. Academic search engines are databases that collect and organize research articles to make them easier to find. There are many different kinds of academic search engines. Still, we’ll focus on the most popular ones: Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Pubmed, EBSCOhost (which includes Academic Search Complete), Scopus, and JSTOR.
- Google Scholar is used by more than 100 million people each year and is by far the most popular scholarly database globally. It provides access to more than 70 million full-text journal articles from over 4000 publishers worldwide as well as books from major publishers such as Elsevier and John Wiley & Sons Inc
3. Manage your data
One of the best ways to ensure that you’re doing everything right is to keep track of all sources. For example, when you find a source relevant to your topic, record it organized to find it later easily. This will also help you avoid plagiarism and improve the overall quality of your work.
Organizing data also helps avoid mistakes; for example, if there are multiple authors or editors on one document, it might be easy to mix up who wrote what part by mistake (this happened quite often when I was working on my degree). Having all this information saved in one place makes it easier for others (or yourself) to check whether something has been used without proper attribution – something which could result in getting expelled from school!
Data management tools like Zotero are great because they combine many different functions into one program: storing references from different websites; organizing them into groups called collections; creating citations automatically based on metadata found within each reference item (so no need for manual formatting); logging research activity using tags/labels, so you always know what stage has been completed etcetera…
4. Make the introduction convincing
The introduction is probably the most important section of your paper, so you need to make sure it’s convincing. The introduction should:
- Be short. You don’t want to spend too much time introducing the topic because you won’t have any space to discuss it in detail later on.
- Suggest a problem or question that needs answering or an issue that needs exploring (like whether there are more women than men studying psychology at university). This is called an ‘issue statement’ and will be used throughout your paper as a starting point for each paragraph.
- Suggest a possible solution/hypothesis which would answer this question – for example, if one of your research questions was ‘are men less likely than women to study psychology?’ then one tentative answer might be: “The reason why fewer men study psychology at university may be because they are more likely than women to choose subjects related more closely with their gender identity such as politics, economics etc..”
5. Plan your word count
You will be required to submit a research paper with a minimum of 5-10 pages, but how many words should you write for each page? This depends on the type of paper and whether it is to be printed or photocopied. The number can vary from 400 words per page to 500+ per page, depending on the number of references and citations. Suppose a reference is included every time you mention another author’s name or use their material. This will increase your word count by about 30% (i.e., if your paper has 100 references, it will require an additional 30 pages).
6. Understand the goals of different sections
The Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, and Discussion sections each serve a different purpose. You can’t just write about whatever you want without understanding how the parts of your paper come together to form an overall argument.
- Introduction: This section aims to engage your reader in your topic by presenting it as an interesting problem or opportunity for further research. It also justifies why this research is important and what value it could bring if done successfully.
- Literature Review: This section summarizes the existing knowledge on your topic area before delving into new material that builds upon previous work or offers one way to improve upon existing frameworks in terms of theory development/application, methodologies used (e.g., survey design), etcetera…
- Methodology: This section describes how you collected data (for example, if you sent out surveys) and measures to ensure data quality (such as having participants take tests multiple times). It should also include any assumptions made during statistical analysis so that readers can make informed decisions about whether those assumptions are reasonable given their knowledge base around statistics/statistical modeling techniques used in their fields/institutions.”
- The Results section is where you describe your findings and present the results of your analysis. You should include tables, figures, and graphs that support your claims.
- The Discussion section is where you discuss the meaning of your results in terms of broader implications or limitations. This is also where you praise yourself for being such a great researcher!
- The Conclusion section summarizes everything that happened in the paper—you’re done now!
- Finally, the Abstract gives an overview of what’s going to happen in your paper: it says what problem was addressed, how it was addressed (methods), what were some important results, and why those results are important.
7. Do a literature review
Doing a literature review is very important in academic writing. It helps you define the problem, learn what has been done before, and think about new ideas for your research. A good literature review will help you understand the subject area and identify gaps in current knowledge.
8. Use clichés for different sections
You have the framework of your paper, and the next step is to fill it in with content. Do not hesitate to use clichés for different sections as you go through this process.
For instance, if you’re writing an introduction for a research paper on abstract algebraic groups (or whatever), you should probably say something like, “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you.” And then when people read your paper, they’ll think: Oh! That’s exactly what he said! It’s a very useful tool in any academic writer’s arsenal.
Similarly, if there are any literature reviews or results and discussions in your paper, consider using the phrase “this means that” when describing things; this will help clarify your points while also making them sound more interesting than they are. For example, This result implies that we can’t always prove anything by induction! Or: This result shows us that we don’t know everything about hyperbolic manifolds yet…
9. Cite your resources correctly
Citing your resources correctly is an important part of any academic paper. As such, you should be familiar with the different ways to cite a resource in the text and at the end of your document. The most common citation styles are the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Citations are vital to ensure that readers can locate where you got your information from (such as author names and year published). They also show transparency for research sources used in writing a piece and indicate whether or not plagiarism has been committed. While some teachers may allow for some flexibility when citing references and sources, it’s still best practice to stick to one particular style to maintain consistency throughout any given document or project.
10. Use free writing
Freewriting is the simplest and most effective writing tool that you can use. Freewriting is simply a way of getting all your ideas down on paper before editing them later. Freewriting helps you get unstuck when you’re stuck, helps with writer’s block, and can help you find your voice as a writer.
Freewriting can also be used as an alternative approach to brainstorming or mind-mapping for generating ideas as part of a research paper or thesis, especially if you are struggling with writer’s block. The idea is simple: write anything that comes into your head without worrying about grammar or spelling! Write until something interesting happens—an insight, an unexpected connection between two previously unrelated things—and then stop! You have now captured this thought in its purest form so that it doesn’t get lost among all the other things going on in your brain at any given moment.
11. Write drunk, edit sober
The first draft is the time to let your creativity flow. Don’t worry about editing yourself at this point; get down everything you can think of and create a rough outline of your paper. It’s best not to edit yourself at all during this stage! The more you edit and rewrite now, the less time you will have later when it comes time for revisions.
When you start editing, though, being sober is key — because if you aren’t careful, the temptation will be there to start revising instead of editing (revising means rewriting parts of the paper; editing means making small changes here and there).
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Writing an academic research paper is not easy. It requires you to produce quality work that can answer the question and get your professor’s approval. If you follow these shortcuts, you will find that it will become significantly less difficult for you to put together your academic research paper and make sure that it meets all of the requirements of a great piece of writing.
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