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How to Organize a Research Paper

June 24, 2015 - Posted to Writing

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Sooner or later in your college life you will be asked to write a research paper. Some of the students find it to be one of the most difficult writing assignments, because it requires a lot of work and knowledge. Also staying organized is absolutely essential when it comes to the writing of a research paper. If at any point your notes, outline, paragraph structure, or even your thoughts get “out of whack”, it can be a time-consuming nightmare to get everything back on track. This is why it is very important to take a methodical approach to writing research papers from the very beginning. You will stay organized as you step through the process of writing your paper, and you won’t have any panicky moments where you are scrambling to get things together. Also a proper organization will make your paper far more interesting and persuasive for the readers, so don’t underestimate it.

Step 1: Organizing Topic Ideas

Sometimes teachers will give students the topic that they want to be researched. But if you have been given the freedom to select your own research paper topic, your first step will be to list and organize your potential ideas in order to choose one topic that you will be the most happy with. It is usually best to write down your topic ideas in a Word Document in a numbered list. At this point, you’ll obviously want to narrow your list of research paper ideas until you’ve found the best possible topic. Remember that the best ideas are interesting to you, easy to research, and topics with which you are at least somewhat familiar. Choose the one that you are passionate about and the whole writing process will be very pleasant and interesting for you. Pay attention to the availability of sources, because even if you find a topic, which is very up-to-date and exciting it might not be researched yet. Thus you will get a lot of trouble searching for appropriate sources. As you explore each topic, insert notes about the viability of each under each numbered topic as an indented line. Eventually you will have an outline of all of your topic ideas along with a list of reasons why each topic is or is not a good idea. This will really help you keep your thoughts straight as you select the best idea. It will also help you later in the process of writing research paper.

The other way of organizing your topic ideas is mind mapping. Use it along with brainstorming to find the best ideas for your research paper. It will also be useful for you in the further work with the paper. Don’t be too critical at this point. You should write down all the thoughts that come to your mind as it will help you to produce better ideas in the end.

Step 2: Organizing your Notes

Now that you have your topic idea ready, it is time to research and take notes. This is when organization must really be the focus. First, as you research and take notes remember that this is a good time to begin considering the research paper citation requirements for your assignment. When you find a source that is relevant to your subject, collect the citation information immediately and put it into your works cited page. You’ll have to do some editing later for sure, but that’s much easier than having to go back and dig up citation information for your sources after you’ve already finished your research paper. There are a variety of ways to keep your notes organized, but you may want to consider using a paperless option. It is much more convenient and easier, because you can add notes or make changes instantly and without extra efforts. You can even use your phone for it. In fact, there are many free and low-cost apps that you can use to take and organize your notes, like Evernote, for example. Even better, when it is time to go back through these notes, you will be able to find what you need quickly and easily. Second, you should pay attention to the logic in your paper. Work on the organization of your text even at the stage of taking notes. Divide them into parts that will be your future paragraphs. Make a little plan if it’s possible and follow it.

Step 3: Organizing the Structure of your Paper

Many students don’t realize that the way that they organize their research papers has an impact on whether or not readers will feel as if they have properly supported their thesis statement. Because of this, students frequently put the arguments in the body of their paper in a random order. This causes them at least two problems. The first is that the transitions from paragraph to paragraph are often awkward. The logic in narration will be strongly affected by poor organization and it will not help you to deliver your message. You should also always remember to follow each argument by examples and proven facts just after giving the statement. The second is that they miss the opportunity to have one point build off of the next point. This is especially problematic if there is an element of persuasion in the assignment. Such structure will make each argument stronger and will make the paper overall more professionally written. With a research paper, it is often best to save the strongest or most recent facts for the last paragraph. Thus the reader will be left with the most exciting fact to think about. Such strategy will be useful if you want to make your research paper interesting and at the same time really persuasive.

If things Fall Apart – don’t Panic

Remember that no matter how messy your notes or structure are, everything can be fixed. There are always ways to recover if you become disorganized. You can regroup during the next phase of the research writing process. You can seek help at your school’s writing or someone who has done it before. You can also look into writing services for research papers such as We will help you with writing a research paper or its proofreading and editing if you need one. Our writers will perform a perfect paper for you that will be both informative and interesting as quickly as you need it. Get in contact with our support team for further information.

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