Writing research papers is a regular thing in college, especially if you’re one of those weird-STEM majors.
Kidding. I was one, and it was pretty darn cool. I loved while I was studying – ehm, Bachelor of Science in Psychology – but I couldn’t get the hang of the research part. Not at all. I kept trying to understand how to keep it organized, ordered, and effective, but there would always be something getting in the way. I never truly got it.
If you feel the same, welcome to the club. This is why I’m writing this article. I want to help you avoid the mistakes I made by showing you how to organize your research effectively and easily. Here are four smart tips to consider.
1. Organize your work by chunks
Once you’ve got a topic, it’s time to start reading. So read all the interesting articles that you can find and then, start organizing your paper and research. But don’t make the mistake to forget how you organized them in the first place – that would be a shame. I found that these systems actually work, so hear me out.
- Write down an outline for your work. What do you want to discuss in the first paragraph? What about the second, the third? What sources that you’ve read support each one of these paragraphs? Write down everything in a tidy way, this way you won’t mess up when writing time comes.
- If it’s interesting but not useful, let it go. You might find articles that talk about interesting experiments or awesome lab work. As interesting as they may be, if they’re not relevant, throw them away. They’ll only distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Use a color code. Each one of your subheadings must be assigned a color, so do that. Next, use post-its of that same color on the articles that support the points in that paragraphs. You really can’t go wrong with this.
2. Write your own notes and understand why each source is important
Your next job is to write down why your sources are important and in what way they’ll help you support the argument at hand. For this, you could:
- Use annotations that creates a summary for every article that you’ve read and highlights the most relevant information.
- Write your own notes in handwriting by understanding how your argument can support the thesis while linking to the research.
- Use cue cards to write down the most general ideas and then, sort what you need from all of those sources. Researchers at studyclerk.com have an impressive method of organizing such cards chronologically and helping students with their writing. College can be demanding, especially during your senior year, so reaching out for help is always good. Your research-paper is your most important essay in the entire four years of college, so make sure you’ve got that right. Your education success is based on it.
3. Save your research in a safe place
To continue staying organize, make sure you save your research in a safe place to avoid losing it – because that would be absolutely terrible. If you don’t save it in due time, you might not find it again, so make sure you’re taking precautions, some of which are:
- Emailing your professor your work and notes right after finishing a study session. Any successful student does that, so please apply this method.
- Creating your own bibliography and keeping it in a safe space (yes, again). Make sure you upload it on Google Drive to have access to it in case you lose the physical copy.
4. As soon as you’re ready to write, do this
Now that you’re ready to write your essay, do this.
- Write your ideas down in a less organized way. What I mean by that is, write whatever goes through your mind at the time (of course, research related).
- Then put ideas together to form a whole but don’t hurry to draw a conclusion. Writing a research paper might take weeks, if not months. So, make sure that you’re taking the time to do it right.
- Take notes as you go to remember every step of the process and stay organized. Make sure you remember what you did every step of the way. If you, you might have to start over.
Organize your work in chunks, write down your notes and make sure you understand why each step is important, save your research in a safe place to keep it, well, safe, and write according to the points above. Last but not least, don’t give up. This is a long, tough process, but you can do it!
Author Bio: Joshua Robinson
Joshua Robinson is a freelancer and a writing specialist. He helps students gain academic success and prepares them effectively for their future careers. Joshua is a blogger and a reporter in his free time.