One of the biggest changes going from high school into tertiary education is having to write essays and assignments, and a large part of this is learning to do your own research. It can be overwhelming at first, but once you understand the best process for you it becomes a lot smoother. Essays or other kinds of formal writing are a crucial part of most tertiary study programs, so getting proficient at them and being able to research without stress will improve your grades, as well as your overall education experience. The following tips are a good guide to writing an essay without suffering a breakdown.
- Choose your topic carefully. The last thing you want to do is get half way through writing your essay and realise you just don’t have enough to talk about, aren’t really that interested or can’t find enough relevant research. You’ll usually be given a number of different topics to choose from, so if there’s one in particular that captures your interest or you already have some familiarity with, go with that.
- Write out your thesis statement and stick to it. One of the most common mistakes is doing research and writing that slowly gets further and further away from the actual point of your essay. Write your thesis somewhere visible so you can keep reflecting back on it.
- Give yourself enough time. Not only do you need to give yourself plenty of time to write, you also need to make sure you have time to do the research. Your campus library will be a fantastic resource, but there will always be limited amounts of books available. The sooner you borrow or place a hold, the more likely you can get materials relevant to you.
- Take notes as you read, but don’t dwell too long. It’s better to get a deep understanding than it is to cite a number of shallower points. Once you’re done reading and have a good overview, then you can go back and pull out the parts that best support your argument.
- Keep track of page numbers and book information. Compiling the bibliography is a major part of your research paper. If you don’t cite your sources correctly you won’t have enough supporting evidence and at worst, can be penalised for plagiarism. Keep notes of where each quote or idea comes from.
Research papers can seem overwhelming at first, but keeping focused and giving yourself plenty of time is the best way to reduce stress. Get off to a good start by choosing the right topic and tailor your research to this the whole time.