After you have determined the type of research design you will use, but before you sit down and begin to organize your paper, there are few things you should consider doing that will help make the actual writing process go much smoother.
Make a Schedule
If your professor has not already created intermediary deadlines for completing the assignment, then drafting a schedule and noting deadlines on your personal calendar should be your first step. Drawing from key dates in your class syllabus as well as your own sense of much time you need to think about, research, organize, and write a paper, note key dates in your calendar when tasks should be completed. A helpful strategy is to work backwards from when the final paper due.
Choose specific dates of important steps along the way but focus on setting realistic goals, and then stick to them! Make sure to give yourself enough time to find out what resources are available to you [including meeting with a librarian, if needed], to choose a research problem to investigate, to select and read relevant research literature, to outline your paper, to organize the information you are going to cite in your paper, and to write your first and final drafts [and any necessary drafts in between]. Developing a personal assignment calendar will also help you manage your time in relation to work assigned in other classes.
Analyze the Assignment
Carefully analyze the assignment to determine what you are specifically being asked to do. Look for key terms, topics, subject areas, and/or issues that can help you develop a research problem that interests you. Be sure that you understand the type of paper you are being asked to write. Research papers discuss a topic in depth and cite to credible sources that can back up the evidence that you present in offering a particular perspective. However, there are many different ways this process can be achieved.
The way in which your professor may ask you to frame your analysis can include any of the following approaches:
NOTE: If for any reason you are unclear or confused about any aspect of the assignment, request clarification from your professor as soon as possible. Few professors will accept the excuse that, "I didn't understand the assignment" if you end up being upset about the grade you receive.
Ballenger, Bruce P. The Curious Researcher: A Guide to Writing Research Papers. 7th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2012. Composing Processes: Planning and Organizing. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Invention: Starting the Writing Process. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Invention: Overview of the Writing Process. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide. 15th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2015; Williams, Joseph M. and Lawrence McEnerney. Writing in College 2: Preparing to Write and Drafting the Paper. Writing Program, The University of Chicago; Prewriting Strategies. Writing Center. University of Kansas; Prewriting Techniques. Hawley Academic Resource and Advising Center. Simpson College.
To make a paper readable:
General mistakes to avoid:
General stylistic and grammatical mistakes to avoid:
In all sections of your paper:
NOTE: These are general guidelines that apply to almost every paper you write in college. However, the specific format of your paper--how you arrange the title page, headings, subheadings, non-textual elements, citations, appendices, etc.--will be dictated by the writing style manual you are asked to use [e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA, or other].
The Guide to Grammar and Writing. Capital Community College Foundation; Grammar. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Tips. Writers Workshop. University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign; Handouts. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.