My Step by Step Guide to Writing a Research Paper

hi everyone this is Laura hammock from

the marble jar Channel and in today's

video I'll go through the step-by-step

process that I use when I'm writing a

research paper

every person is different but I think

that there are some basic steps to

writing a good research paper and it

doesn't involve just typing out as many

words on a topic that you could possibly

think of now what I'm going to give you

our fairly generic steps but I think

that they would apply to the majority of

research papers give or take a couple

steps if your paper is eight pages or

longer I would strongly urge you to plan

out the steps for your paper at least

four weeks in advance

so you can watch my video on planning

out big projects or research papers on


I'll give you an idea of how long I

think most of these steps would take for

a 15 page paper and you can adjust

accordingly based on your assignment and

your general research and writing speed

here we go number one understand the

instructions so read through the

instructions for the assignment and make

notes it's obviously really important to

understand exactly what the assignment

is asking for and as early as possible

you don't want to find out that you

don't understand something when you are

down to the wire plus if you have

questions I guarantee you're not the

only one oh and if you want to get a

good grade you need to follow the

assignment instructions even if you

think it's a dumb assignment I have

learned that the hard way so take the 30

minutes that it takes to understand the

assignment completely number two choose

a topic so after you figured out what

the assignment is asking for you'll need

to pick a topic you can pick one out of

the air but I would suggest choosing a

couple of topics that seem interesting

to you and then doing some superficial

research just to make sure that there is

enough interesting information out there

to do a paper on if you don't do this

you may have to change your topic later

in the process after you've wasted

considerable mental and mental energy so

this step can take one to two hours

depending on how much research you do on

your possible topics number three build

a basic outline so now that you have a

topic you are going to build a basic

outline for your paper based on the

instructions given so I'm going to do a

video on some of the outline tools that

I use but there is really no need to be

fancy just make a list of the sections

and some bullets underneath to give them

more detail so at this point you haven't

researched fully yet so the outline is

not going to be very

detailed until you do for example I did

a paper recently that asked me to

explore a concept and gave several areas

that needed to be addressed

in the paper a definition two related

theoretical perspectives how the concept

has changed over time current practice

or policy issues and how these issues

might differ for two countries so based

on these instructions I put together the

following initial outline if your

teacher or your professor provides

exemplars or examples of exemplary

papers from previous classes I always

use these to help me build a good

outline so I try to ignore the content

since I don't want to be overly

influenced by somebody else's work but I

will not hesitate to completely rip off

a good structural design for a paper as

long as it flows with the way that I

thinks this should take you no more than

an hour

number four make a list of relevant

research studies so now you're going to

use all of your resources online and

otherwise to make a list of studies and

articles to read for your paper you can

use Google Scholar or if your learning

institution has a library portal you

will have even better access to research

journals and other scholarly resources

so I have a video that covers how I keep

and reference this information but for

this step you are just gathering a giant

list of things to read that might be

relevant to your research compiling this

list can take two to four hours number

five read research and make notes so

this is the step where you actually read

through the studies and the articles and

the papers on your list plan for this to

take a little while you need to read and

take notes as you read so I keep all of

my quotes from the literature and a

giant spreadsheet again you can see my

video on this I highlight and copy into

my spreadsheet any quotes that I might

need to reference important pieces of

data good arguments examples and

findings from studies I cut and I pasted

all of those quotes into a spreadsheet

that is referenced back to the original

article as a roll

I don't usually need to read the entire

Journal article if I'm mostly interested

in the results of the study I simply

quote the findings which can usually be

found in the abstract if I'm citing

liberally from a book I try to get that

book in Kindle format so that I can

export those highlights into my

spreadsheet you can see my video on that

as well

also many articles are in PDF format and

I have a video on exporting all the


PDF so you don't have to do it laborious

Li one passage at a time this step can

take a really long time I had almost 50

references for my last 17 page paper and

reading them took 8 plus hours or so

number 6 categorize highlights by

outline section or topic so once I have

a giant list of highlights I read back

through them all and as I do I try to

categorize each quote roughly mapping

back to my outline so in the case of my

paper does this quote have to do with

the differences between two countries or

does it have to do more with current US

policy sometimes it doesn't match well

in which case I put it into a

miscellaneous category inevitably I need

more granular categories so I can also

create a subcategory column for example

this quote has to do with a section of

the paper on theoretical perspectives

but it has specifically to do with

cognitive theory so I can mark that

differently than this quote about life

course perspective number 7 make

decisions by mind map so as you're

reading through the research that you

have gathered you might have to make

some decisions about what are the

strongest points to make in your paper

so how do you come to these decisions

sometimes I use a mind map to gather my

thoughts a mind map is a visual tool to

help you see how ideas are related to

each other so I make do a video just on

my maps but for now let's say you're

trying to determine the three strongest

arguments that you want to present you

write your main topic in the center and

then you write down all of the ideas

that have emerged from your research now

you're gonna move the idea those ideas

into clumps that are related and you

will start to see some patterns emerge

showing which arguments have the most

back up in literature it's not required

but if you are a tall visual mind maps

will help you to see relationships and

make decisions number eight fill an

outline with your research so sort your

reference spreadsheet based on paper

section and now beef up your outline

with the information from your research

if you have three arguments to make add

those statistics data findings and

quotes that support those arguments this

step is not required but it helps to

make the writing process much faster

number nine

write your draft so now you're gonna

work off of your detailed outline

or off of your basic outline and

reference spreadsheet if you would skip

the last step and start writing your

draft I usually estimate about one hour

per double-spaced page you can go twice

as fast if you have a detailed outline

at the drafting stage instead of filling

in full APA formatted references and

citations I use the reference numbers

from my spreadsheet otherwise I break

the flow of writing since for me writing

and fixing style issues are two really

different cognitive processes so my rule

of thumb is to write in shifts no longer

than six hours at a stretch after six

hours I'm just not as good a writer but

you may have really different parameters

number ten edit paper fix APA and fill

in your references so it's best to put a

little time between this step and the

last one just to clear your brain so I

aim for at least 24 hours but 48 is even

better so this is when you reread you

edit Grammer you look at sentence

structure etc I like to print out and

edit with a red pen this is also the

time to fix your APA or writing style

problems and format all of your

citations I format all of my citations

on my spreadsheet and then I sort them

alphabetically before pasting them into

my paper I find that this saves me the

hassle of alphabetizing as I go so I

just have to remember to italicize the

relevant bits once I've pasted them back

into the paper I give myself at least

four hours for this step I'm still

learning on APA format so I need the

extra time number 11 find a second

reader so my graduate program employs a

writing advisor I use him all of the

time I ask him a bunch of esoteric APA

questions and I always have him read my

papers so even if he doesn't provide

that much feedback I feel better having

another set of eyeballs read through it

and point out obvious issues if you

don't have access to a writing advisor

get a friend or a colleague who's pink

whose opinion you respect to read

through it and number 12 make final

edits and submit implement whatever

suggestions came from your second reader

provided that you agree with them give

it one last read through and submit and

that's it those are the steps that I

follow for decent length research papers

let me know what you think comments are

always appreciated

thanks for watching