How to Write a Graduate-Level Research paper

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Writing a graduate-level research paper takes a great deal of thought, time and resources, because of the sheer expectation placed upon graduate students. At this level in your education, you are not only expected to present existing ideas on a particular topic in a research paper, but you are also expected to take those ideas and based on what you learned, form new theories and ways of looking at a topic through critical thinking. And with other classes and just life getting in the way, the thought of writing a graduate-level research paper can be enough to induce a headache in the smartest student in class. Here are some tips to help you along in the process.

1 Organize Your Research Before Beginning to Write

2 Do your research

Do your research. Try to stick with educational/professional periodicals or publications. At the graduate level, you are expected to provide a well-rounded list of resources, including magazine/newspaper articles regarding your topic, scholarly/professional journals, educational books and more. Before you ever begin writing, do as much research as you can about the topic. Remember, too much information is definitely better than not enough, so print out/copy as much as you can about your topic.

3 Organize all

Organize all of your notes and materials. Highlight the important information and/or anything you think you might want to use in your paper. Otherwise, it may get lost in the pile, and your paper simply won’t be as informative as you would like it to be. So, take your time and scan through everything you have about your topic, notating the most important points of the info.

4 Create an outline—and stick to it

Create an outline—and stick to it. The outline is the foundation of your paper and the guide you will use to write. The outline will help you to organize your thoughts and be sure you are including the right types and amounts of information about your topic. Be as detailed on your outline as possible, right down to actual thoughts and ideas you want to include in your paper. Look over your outline and make sure it reads clearly and concisely; if it does, chances are your paper will as well.

5 When you begin writing

When you begin writing, be clear with your thoughts and don’t simply regurgitate information from your books. Form your own ideas about the material. For every statement you make, particularly if it is opinionated in nature, be sure you have facts to back it up. Cite material used from other authors or publications. Be critical and inquisitive in your writing and ask/answer the tough questions about your topic. This will show that not only do you have a good grasp on the background of your topic, but you also have thought about it and formed your own ideas regarding what you are writing about.

6 Take your time when writing

Take your time when writing. This is important and where many graduate students sabotage themselves. Trying to write a graduate-level research paper at the last minute is next to impossible if you want a good grade. Don’t try to cram a graduate-level paper writing session into two days before the paper is due. Try to write it at least two weeks before the due date to give yourself plenty of time to self- and peer-edit.

7 Edit yourself and get an editor

Edit yourself and get an editor. Do a spellcheck. Read it out loud. Mark any mistakes you see with a red pen. Make sure what you wrote actually makes sense. Then, ask a peer or professor to review your paper for you. Ask your reviewer to be very critical, because in the end, this will only make your paper better. Ask this person for his or her thoughts on your writing style as well as the content. Also, ask him or her to pay attention to spelling and grammar, organization, presentation and anything else he or she can point out.

8 Read it

Read it over one more time and submit it. Once you’ve made all of the changes, read it over one more time. Make any other small changes as you go. Then, submit it and let it go. Don’t obsess about the paper, and be content with the fact that you did the best job possible.

Lynda Moultry Belcher is a writer, editor and public relations professional. She worked for a daily newspaper for 10 years and has been a freelance writer for more than 15 years. She has contributed to Divorce360 and Revolution Health Group, among other publications. She is also the author of "101 Plus-Size Women's Clothing Tips" and writes "Style At Any Size," a bi-weekly newspaper column.