As a student, you knew it was inevitable. The day has come where you have to write a research paper, but you’ve put it off until the last minute. Now the pressure is sinking in to get it done quickly and you want to know how to write a research paper fast.
The good news is that it’s doable. The better news is that there are ways to avoid waiting until the last minute. We will tackle those after we give you everything you need to know to get it done.
A research paper is what it sounds like — a paper that requires a thesis (or argument) along with the research to back it up. Research papers involve citing a variety of sources, analyzing arguments, and pulling different academic pieces together to prove a point.
1. Understand the Assignment:
The first thing you have to make sure you do before you get to outlining and writing is to understand the assignment. You will need to organize different pieces of information, from books, essays, interviews, articles and more.
2. Choose a Topic:
Depending on the assignment provided, you will either have a topic in front of you or you will have to decide on one yourself. If your professor did not provide you with a topic, here are some helpful ways to choose one that will work for your needs:
- Choose something you understand enough so that you will be able to interpret the research about it
- Before you get started, check that there is a lot of content about that topic by performing a simple online search to see what turns up
- Write out your topic as a research question that you plan to answer
- Research more about your topic and find evidence to back up what you want to answer
- Make a list of keywords that you continue to see pop up about the topic
- Create your thesis
3. Perform Research:
While performing research is as easy as conducting an online search for sources, the more important element is evaluating the validity of a source. Don’t use Wikipedia as a source, because it is crowdsourced and can be edited by anyone. Instead, rely on digital encyclopedias, scholarly databases, trustworthy publications like TIME magazine and the New York Times, and the like. Since you’re writing this research paper at the last minute, the library may not be a possible option. However, for the next time you write a research paper and plan in advance, definitely utilize books from the library.
4. Write Your Thesis:
A thesis statement is the gist of your entire paper. It is what you will spend your writing proving; therefore, it has to be strong and to the point. A thesis statement appears in the introduction of your research paper, following the strong hook statement that draws your readers in. There is a formulaic way to write a strong thesis statement, and it looks something like this:
“By examining (argument 1), (argument 2), and (argument 3), it is clear that (statement you will prove).”
A thesis statement is typically one sentence and it is clearly written so that the reader knows exactly what they will read about in your paper.
To check that you’ve written a strong thesis statement, ask yourself if it achieves the following:
- Is it in the introduction?
- Does it answer the question from the prompt?
- Can others argue against my thesis?
- Is it going to prove a single claim?
- Does it answer something meaningful?
5. Outline Your Paper:
Now that you have the main ingredients for your research paper, namely your thesis and supporting research, you can start outlining. Everyone has their own way they like to create an outline for papers. Here’s one good example of how it can be done — this is called a flat outline:
- List the topics you will discuss
- Under each topic, write your sources
- If you are lacking sources, revisit and research more to give more meat to your paper
- Move your topics and their information onto your paper in an organized flow
- Write your thesis at the top so you can ensure that you are answering/proving your thesis throughout the paper’s argument
6. The Body/Intro and Conclusion:
So, do you start with your introduction and conclusion and then fill in the body? Or, do you do it the other way around? Really, there is no right or wrong way. It ultimately depends on your preference. Some people like to write their introduction and use it to serve as an outline of their paper and then flow from there. Others like to write their points in the body of their paper and then extrapolate the introduction and conclusion from what they wrote.
Regardless of how you perform your work, there is a structure that the paper must follow, which looks like this:
- Introduction – includes a hook sentence (grabs the reader), your thesis and a menu sentence (a list of what you will discuss).
- Body paragraphs – each body paragraph comes from what you mentioned in your introduction’s menu sentence. Each body paragraph has a topic sentence, or a first sentence that clearly states what it will be about. Each body paragraph includes support and sources that prove the topic sentence or argument.
- Conclusion – here, you restate your introduction and thesis in different words. You want to end with a strong and memorable sentence. Just like your introduction began with a hook statement, your conclusion should end with something that will be remembered.
7. Cite Sources:
One of the major differences between a research paper and any other academic paper is that you must cite your sources. The end of your paper will have a list of sources, or a bibliography. Depending on your professor’s preferences, they will either be listed in APA format, MLA, Chicago, etc. This is an imperative step because your entire research paper’s evidence is based on and backed up by these sources, so you must give them credit where credit is due.
While this is not in the cards for all paper writing, it is very important for a last minute research paper. You’ve likely spent hours crunching the information and regurgitating it in your own words to fill up the once blank pages. As such, it’s a good idea to step away from your paper, get some sleep, and then revisit it with fresh eyes in the morning.
9. Proofread Revise and Editing:
As with any paper, you want to make sure you read it over to catch any mistakes. Not only should you use the Word processing tool that checks spelling and grammar for you, but you must also read it out loud to find any mistakes.
If there is time to ask a friend or peer to read over your paper one time, that will be a good idea, too.
Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash
How to Write a Research Paper in a Day?!
Granted, all the steps above can help you write a research paper fast. Here’s a brief look at how you can do this in a day:
1. Brainstorm Quickly
- Use the prompt
- Outline possible options
- Perform a simple Google search and find what has the most information
- Choose your topic
- Create an outline
- Find research to support each point in your outline
3. Write Quickly
- Put it all on paper as you think of it
- Take time to edit, condense, and rewrite
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash
Find a Good Writing Environment
Before sitting down to get started on your last-minute task, make sure you set up an environment that is conducive to getting your work done. Things you want to consider:
Choose somewhere quiet and distraction-free. You will have to stay focused for a few hours, so you’ll want to choose a comfortable setting.
2. Good lighting:
Along with comfort, make sure you have adequate lighting to read and write.
3. Go somewhere studious:
Perhaps, if time permits, you can choose to work in somewhere like a library or a study lounge.
4. Bring just your supplies needed:
Even if you work at home, make sure you set up a table with only the supplies you need, as to limit distractions. This could include: a computer, tablet, pen, paper, highlighter, books, and sticky notes. Plus, don’t forget water!
Tips to Avoid Procrastination
Writing a last-minute paper, especially that involves research, is stressful and less than optimal. Instead of finding yourself in this position, you can follow this advice to avoid such a situation.
1. Start early:
Once you’re given the prompt, start thinking about what you want to write about. You can write down ideas on paper and look into the research that supports each point.
2. Outline first and take breaks:
Begin outlining your paper so that when you sit to write, you already have the bulk of it prepared. If you start early, you will have the advantage and ability to take breaks. This helps to revisit your argument with a clear head and potentially see things that you may have otherwise missed.
3. Ask for help if you need it:
Starting early means that you are not crunched for time. So, you have the added benefit of asking for help. You can solicit advice from friends, peers, family, your professors, teacher assistants, the online community, and more. Plus, when you finish writing your paper, you have time to ask for help from someone other than you to read it over and edit it.
The Bottom Line
While knowing how to write a paper fast is useful and at times necessary, it is not the optimal way to approach assignments. However, sometimes being in a bind is out of your control. Therefore, the best way to write a research paper fast is to follow the aforementioned steps and remember to stay calm.
While a research paper involves a lot of work, from creating a strong thesis to finding supporting research, it can be made into an enjoyable activity when you choose to write about something you are interested in. It gives you a chance to digest other people’s findings and make your own inferences about what they mean.
By following the typical structure of a research paper, creating an outline and finding good sources, you can get your research paper done in a night. Good luck!