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Do you know of any tips for writing college level research papers, specifically in the science fields?

I'm a college student who is going to pursue a science career and I have recently been assigned many research papers for my various courses, particularly in my science classes. I'm looking for some tips to writing a well rounded research paper. #science #teaching #research

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Vernon’s Answer

A good research project should be FOCUSED, not necessarily "well-rounded". Begin with a succinct summary of the intent and methods of research leading to some conclusion. Ask the question. Define the parameters of your experiments or research activities. State the thesis or hypothesis. Present all the research and data in tabular form, if possible, otherwise, organize it with bullet points. Draw conclusions from the data. The final statement should define whether or not they hypothesis was valid or invalid. Either case is fine and valuable. Include how your project contributes to the body of knowledge in the subject area.

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Debra’s Answer

Hi Sharlene, First - the phrase "research paper" can mean different things to students than it means to research faculty...so let's make sure we're talking about the same thing :) "Research" means that you have systematically investigated some specific topic by collecting and analyzing some data. So this would mean you conducted research where you asked a specific research question and then collected data by doing things like interviewing participants, administering a survey, etc. That kind of "research" paper follows a pretty specific format that starts with a literature review essay (that serves as an introduction and provides readers context), and then is followed by subsections such as "methodology/research design", "research question & hypothesis (if applicable), participants, data collection, data analysis, results/findings, etc. Many students use the phrase "research paper" when they aren't really talking about "research" as I have described above, but rather where they are referring to a paper they have been assigned and are required to "report on" a specific topic using scholarly sources and writing an essay critically analyzing some perspective, arguing a point and coming to a conclusion using sources to support that conclusion. So this type of " research paper" uses the term "research" in more of an "every-day" sort of way. Undergraduate students are typically referring to this when they say "research paper". If you have conducted research as described above, then the info Vernon gave you above is absolutely correct. The research study paper should be quite focused where your data is presented in a very particular way and where you make conclusions specific to the research question(s) you asked . I have provided a link below that gives you a sort of template for a research study paper. However, if you are referring to the more relaxed version of a research paper, where you are basically arguing a specific point or "side" and where you are critically analyzing what others have to say on your subject, then your paper may be more discussion and "essay-like". This type of paper should be organized well using subheadings too - but the subheadings may be very different from the ones in the research study paper. So instead of subheadings like "methodology" and "research design" where you would discuss perhaps a quantitative experimental design with a control group and an experimental group - you would instead have subheadings that represented the content or main points you were focusing on in that section of your essay. A good essay has an introduction, subheadings to focus the reader on specific content and often uses scholarly sources to support ideas and analysis, and includes a "conclusionary" section. You should write clearly. This is something many students mistakenly don't do. Don't try to make your paper sound more "academic". Instead, write clearly and make your point using your sources to support your writing and your ideas. I often see what I refer to as "gobbledygook" when students try to write what they think sounds "smarter" or more "academic". Don't fall into that trap. Many teachers/professors will want you to use direct quotes from your sources or at least paraphrase and cite your sources. Make sure you follow whatever format your professor asks you to use whether it be MLA, APA, Chicago, etc. There's more info about that below as well. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it - from your college's writing center, from your professor, from your Library, etc. And always proofread your work very carefully - and ask someone else to proof it as well. Best of luck in your writing. Writing well is a wonderful skill to have and it can take time and practice to develop your own wonderful writing style!

Debra recommends the following next steps:

The Purdue OWL website is a staple for college students - helping millions with formatting - whether is be APA, MLA, etc. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/
Review different templates to help you decide what works best for YOU. https://writewellapp.com/how-to-write-a-research-paper
Outlines are VERY important. Nothing beats a well organized paper. Here's a nice, simple, clear outline style to help you prepare to write a well organized paper: http://www.crestmont.edu/pdf/candidates-reserarch-papers.pdf
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