Academic Research Paper: 11 Shortcuts to Get It Right

Academic research papers are written following an in-depth investigation and analysis of findings. If you worry that a quality research report will require blood, sweat, and tears, we offer this guide to comfort you. If you use outdated tools and methods, you will need to spend hours reviewing relevant and not so relevant literature, sorting it out, writing, and rewriting a report.

Or you can optimize your research and writing efforts. The following shortcuts will help you maximize your outcomes:

1. Formulate a research question.

Yogi Berra, a famous baseball catcher, once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” This statement has a lot to do with the research process. If you don’t know what exactly you’re looking for, you may end up wasting time on interesting but irrelevant facts. Try to formulate a distinct research question early. Select a broad topic, and do only quick preliminary research before you formulate a catchy question.
A good research question should be:

  • Precise
    A bad choice: Why is healthy eating important?
    A revised question: Is there a relationship between adopting healthy eating habits and personal effectiveness?
  • Meaningful
    A bad choice: Who was the most influential author of all time?
    A revised question: How does the use of extended soliloquies in Melville’s Moby Dick reveal Shakespeare’s influence on the author?
  • Researchable
    A bad choice: Why is like father, like son?
    A revised question: What are the effects of an authoritative parenting style on a child’s self-esteem and creativity?

2. Use academic search engines

If you want to do online research, the following search engines will save you a lot of time:

If you want to go even further with your online research, this list of the top 100 open access libraries will help you.

3. Manage your data.

While you research, it’s important to avoid the trap of feeling lost. If you find an article you particularly like, save a link to it; otherwise, you may waste a lot of time later trying to find it again, thinking that it is the best resource you could find. With modern data management tools, however, you will easily save all the information you need and even sort it out:

4. Make the introduction convincing

Include an attention hook (interesting stats, shocking facts, or quotes of famous people). An important part of an academic research paper is discussing the significance of a certain study. Try to reach your readers’ hearts, playing with their fears or egoism.

5. Plan your word count

The common rule of thumb is to spend up to 10 percent of your total word count on the introduction and conclusion. So, if you know your recommended word count, you can make appropriate decisions as to the number of words to be included in different sections.

6. Understand the goals of different sections

An abstract is a brief, all-inclusive summary of your academic research paper. It should be completed after the rest of your project.

The Introduction should present background information, specify the importance of researching that topic, and formulate the main research questions.

The literature review should present existing opinions on a chosen topic.

Methodology presents specific methods and tools that were used in the study and includes an appropriate sample.

Results give only the findings (without any comments on them).

Discussion analyzes findings and establishes relationships between any different facts.

Limitations shed light on possible imperfections of study design and procedures.

The Conclusion briefly summarizes your main points and mirrors your introduction. Be sure to emphasize the value of your academic research paper, and mention directions for further research.

7. Do a literature review

Collecting resources and saying only a couple of words about each of them is the wrong procedure. Before writing your literature review, divide your resources into groups according to the authors’ positions. Make sure you include conflicting opinions, and highlight a gap in the existing literature. It will make your review look comprehensive.

8. Use clichés for different sections

You’ll forget writer’s block if you use the following list of academic clichés for different parts of your academic research papers:

  • Introduction:
    In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in X.
    Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in . . .
    Recently, X has been studied extensively.
    The primary goal of X in the past was to develop . . .
    X is an increasingly important area in . . .
    In the new computerized world, X has become a central issue for . . .
  • Literature Review:
    Researchers have studied the effect of . . .
    A considerable amount of literature has been published on . . .
    During the past decades, much more information on X has become available.
    A large body of literature has investigated . . .
    Previous research has shown that . . .
    A number of studies have found out that . . .
  • Results and Discussion:
    The findings revealed that . . .
    Among the plausible explanations of this phenomenon are . . .
    The results of the experiment suggest that . . .
    The most striking result arising from observation is that . . .
    The findings are consistent with (contradict) the results of previous studies.
  • Conclusion:
    This study has demonstrated that . . .
    The second major finding was that . . .
    The results of this study indicate that . . .
    These findings can enhance understanding of the problem . . .
    This study makes several important contributions to . . .

9. Cite your resources correctly

Citing resources by using citation style manuals is now a thing of the past. Instead, consider using free online citation generators:

10. Use free writing

If you cannot seem to make any progress with your academic research paper at a certain point, try free writing. Write as if you were explaining your main points to a friend. Doing this can improve your paper’s flow and logical argument.

11. “Write drunk, edit sober”

This quote is mistakenly attributed to Hemingway, but there is no official evidence that he ever said or wrote it. Yet, proofreading does make a lot of sense. Leave your paper for a while, and then return to it later with a fresh eye and eliminate all typos and errors in grammar and style.

Irene Fenswick
Irene Fenswick

Irene Fenswick is a freelance writer and blogger with a Master's degree in English Literature. She has been working as an academic advisor for undergraduate students for five years and she is willing to share her knowledge about writing. Irene has 15+ years of expertise in solving academic-related issues.

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Comments (2)

Tony
March 4th, 2018 - 1:05 pm

Good

Reply
Irene Fenswick
Irene Fenswick
March 9th, 2018 - 6:32 pm

Thank you, Tony!

Reply