THE TOP 10 ENEMIES OF SUCCESSFUL RESEARCH PAPERS. 1. The BROAD THESIS. The broader your thesis, the more impossible your work will be. Your thesis needs to be narrow, focused, debatable, but supportable. BAD : Rap lyrics are sexist .
The broader your thesis, the more impossible your work will be. Your thesis needs to be narrow, focused, debatable, but supportable.
BAD: Rap lyrics are sexist.
BETTER: Rap lyrics are sexist in relation to the geographical region from which their writers hail.
BEST: The sexism of rappers’ lyrics diminishes in proportion to their engagement with other art forms.
Once you have established a workable thesis statement and begin gathering and reading research, BE PREPARED to subtly (and sometimes drastically) alter your thesis in accordance with YOUR LEARNING—which, after all, is the point. Regarding the “Best” thesis on the previous slide, the writer might discover that sales, as opposed to involvement in other art forms, most transforms rappers’ enlightenment regarding women. If she’s smart, she shifts.
A research paper’s organizational framework appears gradually, not immediately. To an extent, one has to organize the procession of support mentally; however, not until the last bit of support is gathered can one know the ORDER of support. Good research papers’ arguments are structured, not randomly, but with intent, whether the schema is case-by-case, least important to most important, or chronology. Also: you cannot organize a research paper without actually reading your articles!
No more than 10% of a research paper’s text should be DIRECTLY QUOTED MATERIAL. A paper larded with quotations is going to get the grader’s back up, for certain. Obviously, the remaining 90+% of the text will be in your own words—butmuch of that will be summaries of sources’ main points or paraphrases of key passages. Similarly, if one source is disproportionately used in the paper, the grader will ask herself, “Why don’t I just read THAT source and not waste my time on this paper?”
Quotes can never stand alone in a research paper; on the contrary, they MUST be integrated with your own writing. If done correctly, this practice can also save you citation work:
According to Utrecht, 93% students who used the Stephens Success Center on a weekly basis “experienced an upswing in grade-point average from the previous year if [those students] had not used it then” (12-14).
Strive for SMOOTH BLENDING!
Authoritative support is the GUTS of a good research paper. Evaluate your sources. Start simply: Academic journals and scholarly tomes, GOOD! Periodicals and Wikipedia, BAD (you can occasionally find useful links at the bottom of a Wikipedia entry)! Then, look into the credentials of the authors of the sources you’ve chosen, and the freshness of their vintage. Also, don’t forget to acknowledge opposing viewpoints!
Simply put, plagiarism is claiming others’ ideas as your own (intentionally or unintentionally). This can be avoided by properly citing each piece of research you integrate (excepting “common knowledge”)so the reader can attach it to a specific source and/or author. As plagiarism has become easier to commit, in some ways it has become easier to detect. The consequences can be very severe.
Even a mediocre research paper can read nicely when the writer knows how to cite research. Rather than look at examples of sloppy citation, let’s look at different smooth ways to cite the same information from this text. Here’s the bibliographical info for the source we’ll use:
Fahey, John. How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life. Chicago: Drag City Incorporated,
“The love of the cheap—bric a brac, art deco, modern kitsch—originated with an imagined imperative insistence upon identification with the poor….” (104)
One modern art critic has claimed that art forms such as “…bric a brac, art deco, modern kitsch…originated with an imagined imperative insistence upon identification with the poor…” (Fahey 104). *MLA style
Art critic John Fahey claimed in How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life that the affection U. S. consumers show for so-called “cheap” styles like kitsch has its roots in a false identification with poverty (104).
A research paper is definitively formal in style. Use of pronouns from the “I” (first person) and “You” (second person) families should be avoided at all costs. In accordance, slang and “lazy phrasing” should also be eschewed—precision and clarity are the bywords. You may need to fuss over syntax, diction, and structure far more than usual. In fact, you should.
Please don’t include a sentence like this in your research paper!
“Using EbscoHost, I found a lot of things that showed rap male stars are effected by other arts with regard to sexism, misogyny, tending to objectify women, etc.”
“There is no shortage of evidence to suggest that successful male rap performers’ perspectives, previously tainted by sexism and misogyny, are significantly and positively affected by involvement in non-musical art forms.”
All MLA and APA guides, as well as authenticated websites, include model papers. Nothing can be more helpful to the research paper writer than an hour spent perusing one of these—then printing or photocopying it and putting it in a safe place for consultation. As an instructor, I am considerably less understanding of sloppiness due to the availability of these models—and I am not alone.
Take the information you’ve extracted from your research, analyze it, strive to see how it all fits together, and weave YOUR OWN DEDUCTIONS into the paper. One way to make the research paper process more enjoyable is to pose your thesis statement in question form in the intro, and let the organization of your research lead the reader—and perhaps YOU—to the conclusion.
Purdue’s Writer’s Website, OWL (thanks to Margaret Campbell for enthusing about this!):
Also, stop by the Stephens Success Center to get help or simply to access our copies of various style manuals.
Secret: INDEX CARDS (cheap and manipulable)
Questions? Contact me!
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