Tips for Making your Research Papers Stand out

Research Paper Season is upon us! As the semester draws to a close, writing research papers can often be a last minute effort or a mundane task, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are simple ways to help your research paper not only stand out, but get that A you’ve been working for the entire semester.

Basic steps for developing a stellar research paper:

1. Create a qualitative thesis statement. Students get into a habit of making boring thesis statements that achieve their purpose, but don’t really give the reader a point of view or an idea of the assertion the paper will be making. A thesis should be like a roadmap. As the writer of a research paper, you’re not trying to keep a secret from your reader, flat out tell them what you think and why, of course not in the first person, but show your reader where your research has brought you. Notice the difference between these two statements:

Feminism in the United States is different from feminism in developing countries.

OR

Feminism in the United States is different from feminism in developing countries due to their cultural, governmental, and most importantly their family differences.

The second thesis clearly tells the reader what the sections of your paper will be-most likely sections about culture, government, and family units. It also shows the reader what you as the author conclude about the topic; in this case what has most impacted the difference (family). The second is a more specific, direct, and effective thesis statement.

2. After developing your thesis, plan an outline. Your introduction should be broad, perhaps even a little creative. Begin with a story or a metaphor or even a joke; these are all great ways to draw your reader in. As you continue through the introduction, begin to get more specific, then very specific with the thesis. Then for each section or paragraph of your paper, write topic sentences. A topic sentence is like a mini thesis for the next section. Next plan out where you will insert your research. Instead of basing what you write off of your research, make your own unique assertions and use the research to back YOU up. It makes the paper immediately more interesting and more academically profound. Finally, the conclusion should perform the opposite of the introduction; begin specific, then end broadly.

3. After planning your outline, fill in the blanks. The outline should take up the largest chunk of your time, after that the paper works itself out. I promise you that mastering your topic sentences, thesis, introduction, and conclusion will greatly help the writing process.

4. After writing your paper, peer edit, proof read, and proof read again. You will miss something if you don’t have someone else look over your paper. Also, college campuses have writing centers, take advantage and use them!

Things to spice up your paper:

1. Add humor! Humor is refreshing for professors and it also brings the research to the reader on a personal level. Although it is an academic piece of work, humor gives the paper an added jolt of energy when you’re writing it last minute. It also may help you think critically about the topic.

2. Paraphrasing more than directly citing can make you seem more versed on the topic. But don’t forget to site the paraphrasing too; fewer quotations might help make the paper a little more scholarly. Be sure to site all information that is not yours, plagiarism is taken very seriously. There is no harm in using sources, but if the information isn’t yours do not claim it as your own.

3. Depending on the professor, you might be able to add artwork to your research paper. Think about adding photographs to support your topic or perhaps a colorful title page.

4. Professors can get really picky about the way you turn in a paper: font, number of pages, format, staples or paper clips, etc., can all be figured into your final draft. But if the professor gives you some freedom, put your paper in a nicely bound cover. You can buy these at Target or Walmart for very low cost, and it adds just a little something extra.

These are just a few ideas to help your research paper stand out. Organization is key to writing a great research paper. Having a variety of sources and a great understanding of your topic are both key, but the little things can also go a long way. Good luck on all of your finals and Happy Research Paper Season!