There is a lot of research involved in writing a paper. Many people don’t know how to do research, whether they’re doing it for high school, college, or graduate school or writing a book report or a 20-page research paper.
You might find some of these steps redundant and even tedious. But don’t skip them. They will ensure that each point you make is supported with proof that can be located accurately and quickly in your bibliography.
When you find yourself with a due research paper, it can be tempting to start writing and hope that the answer will come to you. And while that might work for a shorter assignment, it will not get you far when there are days or weeks of research involved.
Think of your research project as an investigation—what do you need to find out? What questions do you want to be answered?
9 Easy Steps on How to Do Research
Before you begin your search for information (and before any actual writing takes place), follow these steps.
1. Narrow Down Your Idea
When choosing a topic, narrow it down to the most specific idea. The more narrow and more detailed an idea you choose, the easier it will be for you to find information about it.
For example, you might start with “I want to write about tigers” but then realize that there are several types of tigers: Siberian, Bengal, and Sumatran tigers, each having their own characteristics and habitats.
Therefore, writing about one kind of tiger would provide less information than writing about all three types together.
It’s also helpful if your topic relates directly to something in your life or interests so that you have something relevant to say when researching it (otherwise, everything will seem like “a bunch of facts”).
If possible, try looking at things from different points of view: a sports enthusiast might not realize how much money professional athletes make compared with other professions until he researches salaries in various fields.
When choosing topics for articles or reports, Select ideas with a broad appeal to reach as many people as possible.
2. Understand the Problem Statement
Most research projects fail because the goal and objective of the research become misaligned or lost. Don’t let that be a problem for you. If you have difficulty narrowing down what is essential to your research, contact your professor for help.
As a researcher, you will always want to know the goal of your research. Sometimes it’s indistinct and not entirely clear. However, you must be able to show intent so that your audience understands why they should listen to you.
It’s essential to have a goal when doing any research. It is even more critical if others publish or use your research somehow.
3. Use Library’s Databases
The library’s online catalog is an excellent place to start looking for information about a topic. It allows you to search for books, articles, or other materials available at your school or public library.
A database is a collection of full-text journals (often called “electronic journals”), dissertations, patents, and other online scholarly materials that anyone with an internet connection can access.
These resources can also include encyclopedias, reference works, and more. Electronic databases are another excellent resource for finding journal articles worldwide.
Searching through the catalog can take time because you must know what you’re looking for.
But searching through an electronic database is much faster because there are fewer restrictions on what kinds of searches will work well (which usually only apply if they’re relevant).
Make sure to concentrate on 3–5 key sources for your paper. You can also find relevant material on Google Scholar.
4. Broaden Your Topic
When you begin researching, you might discover that there are fewer sources than you anticipated – and that is okay. Try thinking of possible reasons for not finding enough sources and expand your topic to compensate.
Finding quality sources for your content can be a challenge at times. You may find yourself searching for hours and maybe even days on end.
If you’re faced with this problem, you know how frustrating it can be to find good sources which provide enough information to write good content.
All this being said, what then is the best way to go about narrowing down your topic? A fine line exists between too little and too much.
A general rule of thumb is that it’s too few if you have ten or fewer sources. If you have 100 or more sources, it’s probably too many.
5. Take Notes on Your Sources
Note-taking is an essential part of the research. To do that, you need to record information about the content and structure of the source.
You will likely have several different sources—books, journal articles, government documents, etc.; each type will require its approach for recording information about its contents.
When taking notes while researching, ensure you understand every word and sentence before moving on to another paragraph or section of the document.
This may mean reading through multiple times before you feel confident that everything has been processed correctly.
6. Prepare a Rough Outline
If you’re new to the research, then this probably sounds like an overwhelming task. But it doesn’t have to be. Outlining your paper will help you organize your ideas and ensure all of your points are placed correctly in your paper.
The research will help you identify the main points and organize your sources according to these points in your research paper.
You will also have an introduction, a conclusion, and three or four specific points that you use to answer your research question.
When you start typing, everything will flow more smoothly since you already know where every sentence needs to go and how it should be structured to fit perfectly into its paragraph.
7. Write Your Research Paper
Organize with an outline so that all sections flow logically from one another and create a compelling narrative arc throughout the entire piece (i.e., start with some background information before moving into deeper analysis).
Now, you’ll need to write your paper. This can be straightforward if you’ve followed the guidelines I’ve outlined above, but remember a few things when you begin.
First, make sure that all of your sources are correctly cited. If possible, use footnotes or parenthetical citations instead of endnotes at the bottom of each page.
Finally—and perhaps most importantly—be sure not to forget about the organization when writing your final draft.
The best way to ensure coherence is through careful planning ahead of time by breaking down each paragraph into its subheadings/subsections.
8. Write the Introduction Last
Writing the introduction and conclusion last allows you to revise the body of your research paper. Sections that aren’t working well can be reworked, or more information can be added to points that need it.
Furthermore, it allows you to proofread your research paper more carefully because you will be reading over it fresh in your mind.
The conclusion should be written last to maintain consistency throughout the research paper. The reader may not notice that one section is stronger than another during the reading process.
After you’ve collected and organized your research, it’s time to write the body of your paper. Start by writing a thesis statement that reflects your overall argument.
The thesis statement should summarize what you intend to prove in the following paragraphs.
If you are doing a case study, ensure that the topic coincides with focusing on one small part of the more significant subject (e.g., examining an event or phenomenon, then only focusing on specific details).
After writing your thesis statement, begin writing each paragraph using evidence from different sources (books and articles) as proof points for each point in your argument structure.
Every paragraph should use evidence from at least two different sources: one primary source and one secondary source; this is important because it shows how well-researched they were.
If possible, try using text and video citations so readers can watch these videos from their browser window. This will help them feel more connected with what they’re reading about, which will keep them interested in finishing their papers.
9. Use Index Cards for Citation
You’ll want to use index cards to write down your notes concisely and then keep track of the sources you used. Each card should be dedicated to one source, with a copy of the citation information.
This will save you time later when it comes time to write your paper because all of the details are in one place.
Once you’re done taking notes, put your index cards into a binder or folder with tabs, so they’re easy to access when writing papers or reports.
You can also use a tool like MyBib to track and generate your citations. MyBib is a free bibliography and citation generator that makes accurate citations for you to copy straight into your academic assignments and papers.
If you’re a student, academic, or teacher, and you’re tired of the other bibliography and citation tools, then you’ll love MyBib.
Researching and writing a paper can seem daunting, but if you break it down into smaller steps and follow our guide, you can make the process easier.
As you can see, completing a research paper is a process that takes time and effort. However, following the steps outlined in this blog post, from choosing a topic to recording citations, you may be able to easily deal with the question, “How to do research?”
You’ll be well on your way to writing a successful research paper. Wishing you success with your academic endeavors in the future, and thanks for reading.