Very soon it’s going to happen: The Research Paper. “Writing Across the Curriculum” has become the mantra of most colleges and universities, which means that you are going to be writing a research paper in most of your classes—yep, even in your math, science and dance courses.
You may be new to the process, but don’t let inexperience create an unnecessary amount of anxiety. You’re purusing higher education to become a scholar, right? Exactly. So cut yourself some slack. If you knew everything already, there’d be no reason for you to be here.
It’s early in the semester and you have plenty of time and resources (your peers, professors and FREE writing tutors) to walk you through the process. And speaking of resources, here are what I consider to be five indispensable tips for writing a research paper.
1. Find a focused topic…from your couch
In many of your classes you’re going to be given the freedom to propose a research topic and one of the best ways for you to find one is by watching a documentary. Of course, you can’t stop there, but this is one way to feel out a topic before you fully invest in it.
Stop by Documentary Heaven where you can watch hundreds of FREE documentaries spanning across every genre out there: music, movies, philosophy, psychology, religion, science, space, war, technology—and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try Top Documentary Films and choose from another 2,265 (and counting) free documentaries.
2. Use Google Books
I guarantee that your professors are going to say the same thing as I’m about to say: Skip Wikipedia and shady .com/.net/.org websites and get real books (those things made out of paper and stuff). If you’d like to browse sources that have gone through the publishing process and prefer to review them electronically, try Google books.
Google books is bursting at the seams with millions (yes, MILLIONS) of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text and stored in its digital database just for you, dear reader. Although those tricky little guys at Google have wisely omitted several pages from the book to encourage you to purchase it, you can still view large sections of the book and use it as a source.
One more thing about this: Let’s say that the book you need doesn’t allow you to preview it or pages that you need have been omitted from it. No worries. Here’s what you do:
3. Take advantage of the FREE Interlibrary Loan system
You may not know it, but Marygrove has a partnership with hundreds of libraries across the country. If we don’t have a source you’re looking for, someone else will—and you can have that source mailed to the Marygrove library for free, without ever leaving your dorm room or changing out of your sweat pants. Here’s what you do:
- Go to WorldCat (You can find this on the Marygrove website by clicking on a) current students b) library c) books and media d) WorldCat: libraries worldwide
- Once you’re in WorldCat, type in the name of the book you are looking for
- After Worldcat finds the title, click on it
- Under “Availability,” you’ll see several hyperlinks; click on the one that says, “Borrow this item from another library (Interlibrary Loan)”
- Fill out your contact information
- Wait 2 weeks until your librarian contacts you and then pick up the book from the Marygrove library circulation desk
4. Cite your sources using EasyBib
Learning how to cite sources can feel tedious and intimidating—even for experienced writers. The rules are arbitrary and subject to frequent changes, which can be frustrating. EasyBib offers an intuitive, web-based interface designed for both automatic citation generation and manual entry. It may not replace the style manual, but by gosh, it’ll come close.
5. Go to Marygrove’s Geschke Writing Center for FREE writing assistance, the Geschke Writing Center (LA 028) offers writing assistance to all students and is located in the lower level of the Liberal Arts building. Writing assistants won’t edit your paper—in other words, they won’t just add missing commas and periods—but they will help you with the following:
- Developing manageable research topics for papers
- Developing a focus or thesis for a paper
- Organizing a paper and making sure it is unified and coherent
- Adequately developing a paper
- Controlling style in terms of the audience and purpose of the paper
- Gaining control over mechanical errors
You can stop by to sign up for an appointment or call 313.927.1278.
Writing assistance is available during these hours:
Mondays: 9 am - 7 pm
Tuesdays: 12 - 7 pm
Wednesdays:9 am - 7 pm
Thursdays:9 am - 7 pm
Saturdays: 10 am - 3 pm