The College Research Paper: A Survivors Guide

Posted: January 31, 2017 To: Study
Content the college research paper a survivors guide

You’ve seen them on campus. They show up to morning classes, eyes glazed, hair disheveled, and wearing whatever they slept in. You see them in the library, late at night with empty cans of Redbull next to their laptops. They are the students who are in research paper purgatory, and soon you will become one of them…

...Or not!  You could check out this research paper survivors guide instead.

Put All Due Dates Into Your Calendar

When you get your assignment rubric, don’t waste any time. Enter all due dates into your calendar. If you don’t have a calendar, here is a great list of calendar apps for you to check out.. Remember that you’ll want to include due dates for any outlines, note cards, or first drafts that are due. You may also be asked to participate in one or more peer reviews. Don’t get off to a bad start by forgetting a due date and losing points.

Estimate The Time You Will Need to Get Your Essay Done

There’s no magical formula for this. You know how fast your write. You also know how familiar you are with the subject matter. Use this information to come up with a guestimate on the amount of time you will need to complete your research paper.

Create a Daily Work Schedule

Now that you know how much time you will need, go back to your calendar, and enter in your daily work schedule. Be detailed though. Don’t simply write in ‘work on research paper’. Enter in the specific tasks you plan on working on that day. Things might not work out completely according to schedule, but this will help you stay on track.

Give Yourself a Day Off if You Can

If time allows for it, try to schedule one evening every few days where you do not work on your research paper. Remember that if you spend too much time on a particular assignment, mental fatigue can set in. As a result, you could start making foolish mistakes. Take some time off and come back refreshed.

Keep Your Notes Organized

Trying to write with poorly organized notes can be a miserable experience. This is true with even the simplest of papers. If you are writing a complex research paper on an advanced subject, disorganized, or worse missing notes can be disastrous. The best way to organize your notes depends largely on your own personal preference and your thinking/learning style.

Some students use color coding. Others use the old fashioned method of note cards and cork board. Of course, there are apps like Evernote and Trello that you can use to keep everything accessible and in order. These work especially well, if your research paper is a team project.

Cite as You Go

If you do things the right way, your works cited page or bibliography should be the easiest part of your assignment. That is, it will be the easiest part, if you capture and organize your citations from the beginning. This includes both your inline citations as well as the information for your bibliography.

Here’s a pro tip. Annotate your citations as you go. Knowing why  you found a particular resource helpful is very handy as you are polishing  your final draft, and during peer review sessions.

Finally - Get Help if You Need it

If you get stuck on any aspect of your paper, don’t suffer in silence. Your instructor, student support staff, or study group can probably help you to understand whatever you are struggling with. Of course, we are always here to help as well. No student should ever worry about earning a poor grade, when some form of help is always available.

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