Essential Research Tips for Essay Writing
The biggest reason why essay writing seems so hard is because most students solely focus on external rewards like scoring high grades or to earn the professor’s approval. This fixation on rewards and validation is the problem. It makes writing less fun and significantly harder.
In this series of blog posts, we’re going to lay out a precise process which will help you write brilliant essays. We’ll walk you through how to plan and conduct research, how to organize information and determine your own stance, how to plan and structure your arguments, and finally how to write and revise your essay. Keep reading the PaperTrue blog to gain ground of the English language and improve your writing skills.
This post, the first in our series on essay writing, will focus primarily on planning and conducting research that meets the requirements of the essay topic. Let’s get going:
Understanding the assignment
Figure out what is it that you are tasked to do. Look out for information words like “Describe,” “Summarize,” “Illustrate.” These words ask you to explain what you know about the subject. For example, if your subject is the French Revolution, your essay topic could be, “Summarize the main events that happened during the French Revolution.”
Relation words, such as “Compare,” “Relate,” “Apply” mean that you must explain how different ideas or concepts are connected. An economics assignment could ask you to “Compare the Great Depression with the global financial crisis of 2008.”
And finally interpretation words such as “Assess,” “Analyze,” “Evaluate,” “Prove,” “Argue,” “Support,” “Justify” are asking for your opinion, which you should support with concrete evidence. If you’re asked to “Analyse the historical context of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace” you’ll have to read the source material, and also do some additional reading related to the subject matter so that you can put forth a thorough argument.
Talk to your professors
Aspects of the essay that are given special attention to during evaluation are the thesis statement, organization, support and development of ideas, your insights into the subject, and the clarity and style of your writing.
Once you understand the question, don’t set off straight to writing. There’s the all-essential research you must carry out before you put pen to paper. Before you start researching the question, consulting with your professor about the given topic will give you an insight into the subject that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
The internet can misguide you sometimes
The web is definitely a treasure trove of information. But you’ve got to be careful these days – there’s a lot of unverified, biased, and outright false information floating out there. So there’s a reasonably high chance you’ll end up sabotaging your own work if you don’t verify your sources.
Where do you find reliable resources?
Going to the college library, exploring archives, referring to academic journals, and talking to experts are some legit ways of conducting academic research. Trust us, you’ll be able to compile your resources faster this way, with all the pertinent information in one place. Relying on random online sources will probably get you faster results, but going through tons of unrelated and unreliable information will also end up prolonging your research process.
Now, let’s jump into the most reliable sources for academic research:
#1. Digital libraries
With digital libraries, you potentially have an infinite number of resources to access and cite in your essay. These make the best source for researching, as they are accessible anywhere, at any moment, even with the most basic smartphone. This means you can refer to online books, images, videos, and all other educational content without having to leave your desk.
Digital libraries have quick access features to the latest information and data collections, which allow you to perform sophisticated searches. And with intuitive search engine technologies, the level of sophistication is only growing enormously.
#2. School / College Libraries
Well, libraries remain the most sought-after place for academic research. With thousands of books available; well-cataloged by field and topic, and easy to find on an online catalog, these knowledge centers are the ideal place for collaborative research. You’ll also find the recommended reading lists for your course syllabus which also contain books vetted by your professors.
What’s more, once the class is given an assignment, you’ll have the sincere bunch of students huddled up in the school library. Now that provides you with an avenue to exchange ideas, thoughts, and opinions about the assigned topic and bolster your research with combined efforts.
Also, seek the librarian’s help. They can guide you to exactly what you need. One look at your essay topic, and they can bring out the most relevant academic journals you can apply in your essay, which otherwise you’d have no clue about.
#3. Expert Interviews
This one works for every topic under the sun. Interviewing field experts is not only a great way to add to your knowledge, but it’s also the smartest way to learn about professions and professionalism, to gain insight into career choices, and to network for your future.
Once you’ve determined the appropriate person you want to interview, you must have a clear idea of the purpose of your interview. Write it down in one or two sentences. Clearly define what you want from the exchange. Do your background reading and literature search first; then you’ll have a specific, concise list of questions to ask the expert.
Archives make for an interesting place for research because they include materials that can’t be found anywhere else, such as photographs, personal letters, diaries, artifacts, all of which could be explored to add depth to your essay. If you’re willing to walk an extra mile for the sake of research, these specialized and rare objects can add an edge to your essay.
How to evaluate a source for quality and accuracy
Conducting essay research is more than just collecting sources. In order to do proper research, you must also evaluate the quality of the sources you find.
#1. Trust library sources first
You can start your research with, say, Google or Wikipedia, but it should not end there. Be skeptical of sources you find outside of the school library. It’s always safer to rely on internal sources as they keep getting updated along with the school curriculum.
#2. Choose sources written by experts in the field
How do you know the source you’re referring to is legit? Check the writer’s credentials on the document you’re referring to. If the “expert work” you’re looking into is by someone who has a doctoral degree like a Ph.D., Ed.D., etc. you can safely say the source being referred to is legit.
#3. Look closely at the text
Source evaluation is a lot like detective work. Once you have verified the author credentials, check the date of publication (if it’s recent enough for the information to be current), and the writing style; poor spelling and grammar are an indication that the source may not be credible.
#4. Pay close attention to website URLs
For any research you’re carrying out on the web, check the domain address. Some domains such as .com, .org, and .net can be purchased and used by any individual. However, the domain .edu is reserved for colleges and universities, while .gov denotes a government website. These two are the most credible sources of information.
Passive reading or solely relying on memory can lead to a mental mess later on. Promptly note down any vital clues related to the subject topic you come across while researching.
An essential part of researching, note-taking allows you to organize facts and bits of collected information. The notes you prepare will prove immensely valuable in the next stages of essay writing. These help you collate the information you’ve picked from a diverse set of sources into a proper structure and avoid any information overload. You’ll also find the answers and opinions to the research question in the process. You’d realize as you go that notes usually form the framework of your final essay.
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