College Research Paper Strategies

High quality research is the deciding factor between top grades and mediocre scores that, ultimately, lead to higher paying jobs.

Good research skills also come across in casual conversation, job interviews, and in relationships, as you develop a discerning mind, share only what you know to be factually accurate, and increase your knowledge base.

Good research means using nothing less than verifiable, primary sources of information, citing those sources accurately, and using that information to build a strong argument about the subject. Interviews can also be used, but they require special care to create high-quality results.

Build a solid outline

Before research into a subject can begin, a strong outline is needed as a guide to what research is needed to support the paper’s argument. There is no sense in wasting time collecting research on tigers when the paper is about leopards.

Identify Specific Arguments

To keep research focused and effective, the specific arguments being used in the paper must be identified, challenged, and determined to be strong and succinct. This allows the writer to focus a laser beam of effort onto researching most effectively and with minimal effort.

Avoid Secondary Sources

As easy as the Internet has made learning about new things and collecting information, it is all too easy to get lazy and use gossip, hearsay, and advertising rhetoric.

Effective research uses only verifiable, primary sources to prove an argument or make a point. Secondary sources are those gleaned from analyses, discussion, and presentation of primary research by others. They are prone to over-generalizations and personal interpretations of factual data, making them unreliable and unacceptable.

Collect Primary Research

In spite of the glut of secondary and unverifiable information, the Internet can be used to collect primary research information. Generally, these are found through .org websites that provide citing information at the bottom of the page.

Public and school libraries are still solid sources of older information.

Trade journals are excellent sources of up to date primary research.

Teachers, tutors, and relevant professionals are also good sources of useful information.

The Problem With Interviews

As the saying goes, statistics can be used to prove whatever you like. The problem with conducting and using interviews as part of university research is the same problem faced by professional interviewing firms and scientific research: population.

All too often, the population available to university students is other students. This population is too small and skewed toward the student population’s experiences, knowledge, and opinions.

Unless the topic under discussion is university students, this would be a lopsided population, unable to provide reliable results.

A solid outline sets the stage for high-quality research.

Insisting on and tracking down verifiable primary sources of information adds quality and strength to any paper.

Finally, accurately and correctly citing those rich, accurate sources of information cements the likelihood of high scores, the respect and admiration of professors, and a successful career.


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