Academic writing might seem much more difficult than the one that you used to do in school. Moreover, it also might seem much more time consuming if you don’t know how to do it right.
However, you can change that and build a totally different approach to the whole academic writing process. The key here is to learn how to organize your research better.
Why should you organize your research in the first place?
The most obvious reason is that it allows you to find all the information needed to make your paper not simply good but amazing. However, it’s not only about that. Strong research skills and the ability to organize your research well could help you in the future too as you will learn how to find all the necessary information quickly and how to evaluate the quality of this information.
Moreover, the more skilled in organizing your research you’ll become, the less time it will take for you to find all the necessary information and to write a certain paper. Spending less time on your writing assignments seems like a nice thing, isn’t it?
Organizing your research is much easier than it seems. Basically, it’s all about learning how to structure information and how to keep everything important at hand. These 5 simple tips well help you quickly learn how to do so.
1. Think where you can find the necessary information.
Sometimes the whole research process is so time-consuming simply because you don’t have any proper plan. You visit the library to search for one book, then you look for another source of information online, then suddenly realize you have to go to the library again because you might need one more book, and so on.
To avoid this, define your research topic first. Then try to google a list of books and other informational sources you might need. Then try to divide them into the lists basing on where you can find them. Maybe most of your sources can be easily found online and you won’t even have to go to the library. Maybe some of them can be found only in your college library, so you will have to go there after all. Either way, this will allow you to understand how much time you will have to spend looking for information.
Moreover, try to schedule your trip to the library too (as well as your online research). If you need to spend a lot of time looking for sources, think about going to a library a couple of times instead of doing this at once. After all, you are able to concentrate effectively enough only during a limited amount of time.
2. Choose the right sources.
It’s not the number of sources that matters, it’s their quality. If you want to make your research great and reliable, pay attention to the sources you choose. When it comes to websites, the ones that represent various institutions (.org, .gov, and .edu) are definitely better and more reliable than the ones that are less official. Check out the OPAC (also known as Online Public Access Catalog) to see what books are available in the Library and choose the ones that seem the most reliable and informative to you.
This is especially important if you are limited by time: in this case, it’s always better to examine a lesser number of sources but to do it really well.
3. Take notes.
When you are working with many sources, it’s easy to forget where exactly did you find a certain information. In order to avoid that, take notes during your research. Write short summaries of each source, outline the most important points, and so on. If you don’t have much time, take pictures and make copies of the sources to come up with the notes later.
There are no certain limitations to how to write these notes. You can do it in the way that seems the most convenient to you and structure them the way you want. You can even add descriptions of the sources, mentioning why do you find them useful in the first place.
Notes are good not only because they help you structure information better, but also because they help you to remember things more effectively. Probably when you’ll finish taking notes of all your sources, you’ll already have a certain idea of what you are going to write about.
4. Save quotes.
All students know that it’s important to use quotes in their writing assignments; however, some start looking for the right quotes only when the paper is mostly finished, therefore prolonging the whole writing process greatly. You can simplify this a lot as well as save your time by simply saving the quotes during the research process.
If you think that a certain quote will be useful for your paper, write it down and be sure to do it properly, citing the source and the page. This way you won’t have any problems including it in your paper later and won’t have to search for it in a certain source.
5. Write an outline.
Do this only after you’ll finish your research to ensure that you won’t miss anything. An outline will help you to sum up all the information that you’ve gathered during the research process, to structure it, and to prepare yourself should you the main part – writing itself.
When writing an outline, make sure to not simply come up with a plan but also to divide information into the smaller chalks, using the subheadings. This will help you later a lot. However, don’t stop with that: you can break down all this information even further, going as far as outlining each paragraph. After doing this, all you will be left to do is to write the paper properly.
Don’t forget about the introduction along with the conclusion. Sometimes students tend to not include them in an outline at all or to write them last. However, it’s important to mention them and to put a lot of efforts into writing them as a strong introduction with conclusion are a must for a good research paper.
Also, make sure to tie everything in the outline to the main idea of your paper.
Don’t stop after an outline is finished: now you have to edit it properly. Be sure to do it not only once: the more you edit, the better it is. Moreover, this rule applies not only to an outline writing but also to the whole writing process in general.
These tips can help you organize your research better if you are writing a research paper or doing any other kind of research-heavy writing assignment. If you also know some tips that help you do your research quickly and more effectively, don’t hesitate to share them with us in the comment section below.