We have finally arrived at the culmination of the last three steps of the research process: The Drafting Phase. The information presented below is meant to help lessen the stress of sitting down at a computer and staring at a blank screen.
Creating the First Draft
Sometimes, the key to working on a larger project like a research paper is to create smaller tasks to accomplish within the larger whole.
Dissecting the Document:
1. Thesis Post-it: The easiest way to remember what your paper is arguing is to have your thesis statement written down on a post-it that you can stick to the side of your computer or on your writing station for quick reference. The thesis is what drives the whole paper; it is the thing that will keep you on task and prevent you from sliding off topic. With each new paragraph, check in with your thesis. Does the new line of thought match up to what you're supposed to be arguing? Are you still trying to prove your ultimate claim or have you deviated? Check in with the thesis often, and you will help cut down on the need to remove pieces of your paper later.
2. Multiple Documents: Sometimes breaking the argument down across multiple documents can help (a.) maintain focus on the smaller topics as you develop them and (b.) trick your brain into thinking that you have done more work in a shorter window.
3. Don't Delete Anything: Technically, this falls into the above category, but it is more about maintaining your morale while you're writing. By not deleting anything, you are basically making a list of possible information that you might still need at some point while you're writing. The set aside information may ultimately be useless, but that's fine too. As long as you don't delete it, you don't feel like you are purposely shorting yourself in your own writing.
4. Change the Spacing: While it might seem counterproductive, changing the spacing of your document from double-space to single-space can help remove some of the anxiety regarding the ultimate length of the paper. How long does the document need to be? 5 pages? 10? 20? Well, if you start working on a single-spaced document and write ten pages, once you change the document to double-space, you have a twenty-page paper.
Not all students are going to have to contend with theory in their research papers. Theory and Theoretical Frameworks are traditionally part of the writing found within Major-level classes.
Literary Theory Resources:
• Literary Theory from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Writing Theory Resources:
• Understanding, Selecting, and Integrating a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the Blueprint for Your "House" (pdf) by Drs. Cynthia Grant and Azadeh Osanloo
Productive procrastination sounds like an oxymoron. How can you advance with an assignment when you're not actively working on it? Well, below is a list of things to do for the paper that are necessary but also a bit of a time-waster while putting off actually working on the writing portion.
List of Purposeful Yet Effective Distractions:
1. Research Notes: Open a new document and type up all of the research notes that you plan to incorporate into your paper.
2. Reference Page: Create a separate document and type up all of the references for the paper.
3. Copy-Editing: If you get stuck at any point, stop and read back through your work. You can correct your errors as you go while jump-starting your brain with new ideas.
By doing one or all of the above, you have successfully wasted time while still managing to get important things accomplished. Try to steer clear of doing laundry or cleaning during this phase of the assignment, but if you ever need a break, get up and take a walk or fix a beverage of some kind. Sometimes just stepping away from the computer for a moment can help recenter your thought process.
Resources on How to Structure a Research Paper
- Dr. Greg Frazier's Sample Paper (pdf): This sample paper walks students through how to write a research paper.