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How Do I Write a Research Paper?

Writing a research paper can be difficult and time-consuming, but here are some guides and tips on how to help manage your time efficiently.

Can there be anything more dreaded and feared in the college English curriculum as the first research paper? Almost everyone who has ever attended a college or university can attest to the fact that the research paper or term paper requires a considerable time commitment from the student, and instructors can attest to the difficult of grading such efforts. Once the first research paper has finally become a part of history, however, the process does become a little more streamline for most students. Resources for needed material become more familiar, and students soon develop the fine art of limiting their theses.

But for some students, the process of writing their first research paper for a college English course can be overwhelming. Professional tutors are commonly employed to guide a student through the entire procedure, from forming a workable thesis all the way to the polished final draft and source pages. Here are some tips for tutors on how to approach the research paper assignment with confidence.

1. All good papers started with a good LIMITED thesis. For the most part, the selection of an acceptable thesis is usually limited by the instructor. The student may be told to limit his thesis to certain authors or certain aspects of literature. The student's ideas for a thesis should be approved by the instructor even before you enter the picture as a tutor. You should assume that the thesis your student presents has already been approved by the instructor or has been assigned to the entire class. But occasionally you may find that the student's thesis is not limited enough to keep the final paper within reasonable bounds. Since this may seriously affect the tone and scope of the research paper, never change the thesis yourself without any outside approval. You'll be doing your student and yourself a huge disservice. If you have serious doubts concerning the suitability of a particular thesis, contact the instructor and present your argument. If the instructor agrees, go ahead with the desired changes. If the answer is 'no', learn to live with the consequences. A tutor needs to realize that the STUDENT is the one who is responsible for completing assigned work, not the tutor. If this is the thesis your student has been handed, then your job is to help prove that thesis as concisely as possible.

2. Form a plan of attack. Your student may feel that he or she is doomed to write millions of notecards, reference cards, outlines, rough drafts and so on. Instructors may also impose time limits on every element of the research paper process, which sometimes create even more anxiety. Your first job as a tutor is to calm your client down and point out an organized plan to achieve the goals within the time frame specified. Begin with the research materials and sources. Encourage your student to check out as much material as he or she possibly can, especially if he or she has a very popular thesis subject. The more materials your student has under his or her personal control, the easier the process is. Point out that notecards today will become body paragraphs later, so it is to their advantage to write as many as possible while they still have the source materials. Instructors often require a very high amount of notecards, which may intimidate a student at first, but you should point out that the more notecards they have at the beginning of the project, the easier it will be to assimilate them later. One thing to do early on is form a solid working outline, and then assign each notecard to a single point of that outline. For example, if an author makes a statement that proves Robert Frost was seen as cantankerous, you might put a notation on the card itself that says "II A". This will let you know that this particular card supports the second paragraph's (II) first subheading (A). Once your student starts thinking in terms of outlines and information, the notecard taking procedure should go smoother. They should become more eager to glean usable quotes from resource material, which is the point of a research paper after all.

3. Rough drafts are meant to be rough. Once your student has gathered more than enough useful information on the subject, it's time to start organizing the rough draft. Have your student arrange all of the notecards according to where they fit in the outline you created earlier. Get all the 'I A' cards in a pile, then 'I B' and so on. Once the notecards are in order, then make sure your student understands about plagiarism and the school's policy concerning it. As long as the source of an idea is properly credited, they should be okay. Instructors are more concerned with a student's original thoughts being their own. Some desperate students have been known to buy their papers from an outside source or will approach unscrupulous English tutors for even more 'assistance'. Do not jeopardize your future tutoring career with such offers. Simply encourage your student to connect the notecard information with some original insight. A rough draft is meant to be unfinished and unpolished, so assure your student that mistakes can be fixed at a later date. Resist the temptation to overcorrect a paper with your own thoughts. Concentrate on spelling errors and basic grammar mistakes. The rest of the content should be left up to the student. By 'helping' your student with a paper, you may only be setting him or her up for future disappointment when you are no longer available.

4. When the final paper is due, doublecheck everything. Does your student have everything that is required of them? Notecards and research cards intact? Rough drafts and outlines saved? Final paper printed out and saved on disk? Works Cited pages properly formatted? Are the papers bound in an acceptable way- folder, report cover, staples? Now is the time to catch any last-minute errors in style. Make sure the student has followed the assignment to the letter- line spacing is correct, title pages are formatted according to specifications, type size and font are acceptable. Most importantly, be there for your student even after the grading process is over. If they did well, encourage them to continue their good work. If their grade was less than acceptable, then explore the areas that need improvement and encourage them to take the course again or work harder on their next assignment.

Submitted by:

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

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