Tips and tricks on how to write a research paper

Student Research Paper Advice

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When my professor proposed a research project, I panicked. One student actually dropped the course, so great was her fear. We were told to utilize Chicago Manual. What was that! It is often used by historians and built into MSWord. (Make sure you have a version of MSWord the professor can read. Anything less than 2000 may need to be upgraded). I remember trying to precisely place footnotes with a manual typewriter. One tiny error and your whole paper was ruined. Now MSWord lets you create footnotes, and bibliographies using any style. Another feature I like is being able to cross-reference with a single keystroke.

First, thank goodness for Questia. Always start there. Next, choose your topic within the guidelines given. Most guidelines are more tightly focused. Choose a topic with the knowledge that you have adequate sources to site. If you cannot find enough sources, you may not have enough material. Make sure your topic is approved by the professor before you begin gathering resources. This will save you both time and money. Next, make sure you have the correct format. You can download a copy of the manual to your Kindle, but it is built into your computer when using MS Word. Chicago Manual is used for History research, while most English papers utilize MLA or APA.

Make sure you are using Times New Roman Size 12. More often than not, when copying and pasting, your font might not be consistent throughout your paper, so when I am complete, I use the shift button and the letter “A” to select the whole document, and then make sure the window reads Times New Roman, size 12. If you use any other font, and your professor does not have that font on his computer, your writing might appear as hieroglyphics. Everyone uses Times New Roman. It is standard issue. Margins are also standard. One inch is usually the rule of thumb. Another trick to use is this. If you have an author whose name is difficult to spell, add it to your computer dictionary, and if you misspell it as you type, you will know by the red line. If you do not add it to your dictionary, then it will have a red line under it everywhere and it will be very confusing.

If you are researching from various books, then keep the notes for each book stored right in the book to avoid inaccuracies. Highlight great quotes, and use the inside cover of my book to store the page numbers for future reference. Do not forget to cite everything, even illustrations. I once committed plagiarism unintentionally by mentioning someone’s college degree without mentioning where I found out they had such a degree. Things like that are not common knowledge. The question was simply did I think that this person was qualified to review this article. I said “yes,” because they had a certain degree, and then I was in so much trouble.

When finished with your report, keep it clean. A cover page is often required and can be added straight from MS Word. When using a cover page, it looks much better to use the MSWord feature that allows the first page (cover page) number to be hidden. It still counts it, but does to show it on the cover. When finished, my paper was professionally bound at Lulu Publishing.


My name is Patricia Syner. I have a BS Concord University and a MA in Literature, Language, and Learning from Marshall University. I have my MA+45 and I am currently taking English classes from Marshall to complete an English Certification outside of Elementary School I live in Fayette County, WV in the shadow of the famous New River Gorge Bridge.

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