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My Step by Step Guide to Writing a Research Paper

hi everyone this is Laura hammock from the marble jar Channel and in today’s video I’ll go through the step-by-step process that I use when I’m writing a research paper every person is different but I think that there are some basic steps to writing a good research paper and it doesn’t involve just typing out as many words on a topic that you could possibly think of now what I’m going to give you our fairly generic steps but I think that they would apply to the majority of research papers give or take a couple steps if your paper is eight pages or longer I would strongly urge you to plan out the steps for your paper at least four weeks in advance so you can watch my video on planning out big projects or research papers on that I’ll give you an idea of how long I think most of these steps would take for a 15 page paper and you can adjust accordingly based on your assignment and your general research and writing speed here we go number one understand the instructions so read through the instructions for the assignment and make notes it’s obviously really important to understand exactly what the assignment is asking for and as early as possible you don’t want to find out that you don’t understand something when you are down to the wire plus if you have questions I guarantee you’re not the only one oh and if you want to get a good grade you need to follow the assignment instructions even if you think it’s a dumb assignment I have learned that the hard way so take the 30 minutes that it takes to understand the assignment completely number two choose a topic so after you figured out what the assignment is asking for you’ll need to pick a topic you can pick one out of the air but I would suggest choosing a couple of topics that seem interesting to you and then doing some superficial research just to make sure that there is enough interesting information out there to do a paper on if you don’t do this you may have to change your topic later in the process after you’ve wasted considerable mental and mental energy so this step can take one to two hours depending on how much research you do on your possible topics number three build a basic outline so now that you have a topic you are going to build a basic outline for your paper based on the instructions given so I’m going to do a video on some of the outline tools that I use but there is really no need to be fancy just make a list of the sections and some bullets underneath to give them more detail so at this point you haven’t researched fully yet so the outline is not going to be very detailed until you do for example I did a paper recently that asked me to explore a concept and gave several areas that needed to be addressed in the paper a definition two related theoretical perspectives how the concept has changed over time current practice or policy issues and how these issues might differ for two countries so based on these instructions I put together the following initial outline if your teacher or your professor provides exemplars or examples of exemplary papers from previous classes I always use these to help me build a good outline so I try to ignore the content since I don’t want to be overly influenced by somebody else’s work but I will not hesitate to completely rip off a good structural design for a paper as long as it flows with the way that I thinks this should take you no more than an hour number four make a list of relevant research studies so now you’re going to use all of your resources online and otherwise to make a list of studies and articles to read for your paper you can use Google Scholar or if your learning institution has a library portal you will have even better access to research journals and other scholarly resources so I have a video that covers how I keep and reference this information but for this step you are just gathering a giant list of things to read that might be relevant to your research compiling this list can take two to four hours number five read research and make notes so this is the step where you actually read through the studies and the articles and the papers on your list plan for this to take a little while you need to read and take notes as you read so I keep all of my quotes from the literature and a giant spreadsheet again you can see my video on this I highlight and copy into my spreadsheet any quotes that I might need to reference important pieces of data good arguments examples and findings from studies I cut and I pasted all of those quotes into a spreadsheet that is referenced back to the original article as a roll I don’t usually need to read the entire journal article if I’m mostly interested in the results of the study I simply quote the findings which can usually be found in the abstract if I’m citing liberally from a book I try to get that book in Kindle format so that I can export those highlights into my spreadsheet you can see my video on that as well also many articles are in PDF format and I have a video on exporting all the highlights PDF so you don’t have to do it laborious Li one passage at a time this step can take a really long time I had almost 50 references for my last 17 page paper and reading them took 8 plus hours or so number 6 categorize highlights by outline section or topic so once I have a giant list of highlights I read back through them all and as I do I try to categorize each quote roughly mapping back to my outline so in the case of my paper does this quote have to do with the differences between two countries or does it have to do more with current US policy sometimes it doesn’t match well in which case I put it into a miscellaneous category inevitably I need more granular categories so I can also create a subcategory column for example this quote has to do with a section of the paper on theoretical perspectives but it has specifically to do with cognitive theory so I can mark that differently than this quote about life course perspective number 7 make decisions by mind map so as you’re reading through the research that you have gathered you might have to make some decisions about what are the strongest points to make in your paper so how do you come to these decisions sometimes I use a mind map to gather my thoughts a mind map is a visual tool to help you see how ideas are related to each other so I make do a video just on my maps but for now let’s say you’re trying to determine the three strongest arguments that you want to present you write your main topic in the center and then you write down all of the ideas that have emerged from your research now you’re gonna move the idea those ideas into clumps that are related and you will start to see some patterns emerge showing which arguments have the most back up in literature it’s not required but if you are a tall visual mind maps will help you to see relationships and make decisions number eight fill an outline with your research so sort your reference spreadsheet based on paper section and now beef up your outline with the information from your research if you have three arguments to make add those statistics data findings and quotes that support those arguments this step is not required but it helps to make the writing process much faster number nine write your draft so now you’re gonna work off of your detailed outline or off of your basic outline and reference spreadsheet if you would skip the last step and start writing your draft I usually estimate about one hour per double-spaced page you can go twice as fast if you have a detailed outline at the drafting stage instead of filling in full APA formatted references and citations I use the reference numbers from my spreadsheet otherwise I break the flow of writing since for me writing and fixing style issues are two really different cognitive processes so my rule of thumb is to write in shifts no longer than six hours at a stretch after six hours I’m just not as good a writer but you may have really different parameters number ten edit paper fix APA and fill in your references so it’s best to put a little time between this step and the last one just to clear your brain so I aim for at least 24 hours but 48 is even better so this is when you reread you edit Grammer you look at sentence structure etc I like to print out and edit with a red pen this is also the time to fix your APA or writing style problems and format all of your citations I format all of my citations on my spreadsheet and then I sort them alphabetically before pasting them into my paper I find that this saves me the hassle of alphabetizing as I go so I just have to remember to italicize the relevant bits once I’ve pasted them back into the paper I give myself at least four hours for this step I’m still learning on APA format so I need the extra time number 11 find a second reader so my graduate program employs a writing advisor I use him all of the time I ask him a bunch of esoteric APA questions and I always have him read my papers so even if he doesn’t provide that much feedback I feel better having another set of eyeballs read through it and point out obvious issues if you don’t have access to a writing advisor get a friend or a colleague who’s pink whose opinion you respect to read through it and number 12 make final edits and submit implement whatever suggestions came from your second reader provided that you agree with them give it one last read through and submit and that’s it those are the steps that I follow for decent length research papers let me know what you think comments are always appreciated thanks for watching

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