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Paper Writing Panic

Don't panic with these easy-to-follow tips.

Making It Count

April 21, 2009

Paper Writing Panic

So, you have three papers to write and they’re all due in two weeks. Stay calm! Writing a research paper does not have to be a stressful exercise. Just follow the tips below and those papers will practically write themselves!

Choose a Topic

Often, the most difficult part of writing a paper is choosing a topic. Here are some ideas if you get stuck:

  • Think about what interests you. Was something discussed in class that really grabbed your attention? Do you have a personal interest that would make a good paper topic?
  • Look at the news. There are plenty of issues and topics in the news that could give you ideas for your paper.
  • Listen in class. A teacher will usually drop hints for possible research paper topics in class. If not, you can always talk to the teacher, and together you may discover a topic that you never thought of before.

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Do some initial research. Try typing a few ideas in the library search engine and see what happens, or browse some books or journals. This way you not only find a topic, you also get a head start on your research.

Gather Information

After you have found a topic that interests you, the next step is to gather information.

Before you start your research, you need to make sure that your topic is specific enough to make a good paper. This will focus your research, so you spend your time locating good, relevant information that you will really use.

A good way to focus your paper is to create a research question. For example, if your topic is the Cold War, here are some possible research questions: What is the origin of the Cold War? What impact did the Cuban Missile Crisis have on the Cold War? How and why did the Cold War end?

Once you have your research question, it's time to gather your information. A good place to start is an online library. This is a fast way to find a lot of quality research material. But be careful if you're using general web search engines – you’ll find some good information mixed with quite a bit of junk. Your teacher wants you to use credible, academic content.

Detailed Notes

After you have gathered mounds of information, you may take one look at it all and think to yourself, "Now what?" How are you going to take all these resources and organize the information you need for your paper?

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Here are some time-saving tips for putting together your notes and information:

  • Be honest in your writing. Use your own words when taking notes and put exact quotes in question marks.
  • Use different color highlighters to easily identify different points within your own notes.
  • Make note cards to organize quotes and specific facts that you may want to include within your paper.
  • Be sure to note the sources you got your information from - you need this information for your notes and bibliography.

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When you stick to the topic and create clear and accurate notes for yourself, you'll be surprised at the amount of time you save.

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