This post is part of “The Cafe Scholar’s Guide to Writing a Research Paper”, which walks you through the process of writing awesome research papers step by step from start to finish.
But, Joy, it’s finals week and I’m just getting started! What now?
You should STILL read this post. Planning your paper will help you make the most of the last few days you have left. It will just go much better for you next time if you can start off on the right foot. If you start working on a paper at the last minute, you are going to do the same amount of work, but it won’t be nearly as effective. You will be stressed and tired…not a good way to study smarter. Instead, I’m going to show you how to schedule things out so that YOU decide how much work you have to do and when. There’s really no reason to be writing a paper during finals week. Have I done it? Of course. (heavy sigh). Was it my best work? Not so much. And it was crazy stressful.
I use four great tools as I write my research papers: Evernote, Zotero, Producteev, and Microsoft Word. You don’t have to use these exact tools – the process I will teach you will work regardless – but these tools will save you a lot of time and headache along the way. I will show you how I use these tools as we go.
#1 Create a Planning Notebook for your Project
Pens & Markers Smear or Bleed Through Your Notebook Pages?
#2 Create a Table of Contents in your Notebook.
Your Table of Contents will come in your free templates! The template set also includes instructions on how to link your other notes to the Table of Contents for quick navigation later. You'll be able to click an item in the Table of Contents and jump straight to it!
Label the first page of your notebook as the Table of Contents, and number your pages. Leave a few pages blank for your Table of Contents. As you continue with setting up your notebook and adding other things to your notebook, make sure to add them to your Table of Contents so you can find them later!
#3 Create an Assignment Instructions Page
Note: Sometimes the assignment instructions are found in multiple places, such as the course syllabus, a handout, and the course schedule in your school’s LMS (learning management system, such as Moodle, Blackboard, or Canvas). Sometimes professors make mistakes, and the dates/requirements don’t match up! It is very important to check all the places that might have instructions for this assignment, read them carefully, and ask your professor about any discrepancies or requirements that are not clear. Don’t wait until the last minute to do this. Talk to your professor right away, so you don’t spend a lot of time doing the wrong thing. Also, as you go through the paper-writing-process, refer back to the assignment instructions at each step and make sure you are doing what is asked. Last semester, I had two students turn papers that did not follow the instructions regarding topic choice. It was not fun grading papers that had missed the very first item in the instructions! It definitely wasn’t fun for them either.
#4 Create a Research Planner Page
Include 3 Columns:
- Step in the Writing Process
- Actual Due Date
- Goal Due Date
(If you are using my Evernote templates, this is already created for you).
#5 Schedule Goal Dates for Each Stage of the Writing Process.
#6 Add your Research Paper's Goal Dates to your Calendar, Planner, or Task Manager App
#7 Create a New Note and Title it “References.”
- Primary Source
- Secondary Source
- Tertiary Source
- Journal Article
- Personal Correspondence
- Needs Review – Source needs to be reviewed
- Annotated – Source has been reviewed
- Church Attendance
- Black Preachers
- Women Preachers
- Benevolent Empire
- Theological Crisis
- Biblical Interpretation
- Antislavery Movement
- Abraham Lincoln
#8 Create a New Note Called Topic Choices
#9 On your References Note, Create Topic Tags for this Project
#10 Set up Research Tools
How to Find Good Scholarly Sources This post is part of “The Cafe Scholar’s Guide to Writing a Research Paper” series, which walks you through the process of writing awesome research papers step by step from start to finish. When you are done finding great scholarly...
I use Evernote as an electronic version of the note card system. I can keep track of much more data, categorize the same quote multiple ways, organize in different ways until I find the best fit, and carry it with me wherever I go. No 3 x 5 cards required! The best part is that this data is fully searchable!
Does your professor require you to write a research paper proposal a few weeks into the semester? S If your professor doesn’t require a research paper proposal, you should write one anyways! Here’s why: The purpose of a research paper proposal is to help…