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How to Write a Good Paper / Report


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Writing term papers, reports or letters are among the important requirements inside the classroom or in the office. However, the problem with writing these papers and reports is that this threatens those who doubt their writing abilities. Don't fear! Although these tasks may seem intimidating at first, writing papers can be actually fulfilling because of the amount of information you get. Remember, your superiors want you to display the substance and the content, more than demonstrating your writing style. Although writing style does have a portion when it comes to papers and reports, superiors are more keen how you express the topics you are addressing, most especially the main point you are trying to convey. Hence, whether you are writing about Shakespeare or international trade agreements, the main point in writing papers and reports is to show your superior you took all the pain in understanding, analyzing, and expressing what you have just learned.

 

Here are some helpful tips when you write your papers and reports.


Understand the topic

When given a topic to research on, it is imperative for you to clearly understand what the topic is about. You have to be keen on the details of the assignment. If the instruction specifies that you can write any topic under one general issue, the tricky part here is you may lose your focus. This is why it is important to define and understand your topic, and from there, create a thesis. A thesis statement should be established in order to know the exact importance and direction of the research. A full comprehension of the topic is the first step to writing a cohesive research paper. Once the topic has been clearly defined, you can then proceed to researching relevant information that will make the thesis statement strong.

When the option to choose a topic has been given you, it is important to select one that is personally interesting and stimulating. It is also essential for the research paper to be relevant and applicable to the present time. It should be something that is not too easy yet not too difficult that it is almost impossible to be done. Remember that a simple topic can yield interesting results depending on the direction the paper takes. Choose something that you know you can do. For example, you need to develop a thesis after reading Shakespeare's Hamlet , it is better to concentrate on a topic or issue that strikes you most. Is it the ghost? Revenge? Betrayal? From there, by defining and understanding the topic according to your own selection, your term paper and report will be more focused. However, if you are given a specific set of instructions, read them carefully. If you want to clarify the topic, don't hesitate to ask.

Read!

To build on the topic and thesis of your paper or report, it is important to read on the topic. If it is a book report, it helps to read the entire book because you'll know the book enough to understand what you need to write about. If you can't get through a 300-page novel, there are a number of supplementary books and student guides available such as Cliffs Notes and Barron's Book Notes. It also helps to go to the Internet and see some relevant articles to your paper and report topic.

A preliminary research should always be done in order to fully map out the direction of the research paper. More often than not, the direction of the paper may change due to the available research material available. This should be done in order to gauge the amount of research material available to support the thesis statement.

Visit your library

Remember those orientations on how to use the book and subject catalogues? This time, with the technology available, searching for the right resources are a lot easier! Remember, a number of books are available on the topic you are looking for, hence, it helps to use helpful key words that will further specify your search. Also keep in mind that you are not limited to books as academic journals are also very helpful resources. Going back to the Internet, it also helps to check out other online libraries which you can subscribe to. Questia (www.questia.com) has a number of books on a number of topics that can strongly complement your library search. A number of free online libraries on literature can be also accessed such as the Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/) and Bartleby (www.bartleby.com). Google books also allow limited access to some books online.

There are many research methods that can be used depending on the topic one has chosen. You should choose the most appropriate research method in order to strengthen the thesis. Other topics may require intensive interviews of experts or people with firsthand experiences related to the topic, while some may require a case study analysis or just comprehensive research. Whatever the case, the research method must first be chosen before proceeding with the research paper. This is to prepare the timeline and gauge how much time is needed in order to complete the research. For instance, surveys usually require more time and preparation. (*this can be added: For a quick overview of the different research methods, click here.)

Filter your resources

Remember, not everything that you see on the Internet is valid! Make sure your resources are properly cited or they come from organisations or affiliations that do have the capacity to write about your topic. Since anyone can publish on the Internet, it is important to filter your resources in order to make sure that the information you put in to your paper and report is valid. This also applies to books and other articles, which is why the most preferred resources are published books and scholarly or academic journal articles because they are mostly peer-reviewed.

Write an outline

After a preliminary research has been done, the thesis statement has been solidified and a method of research has been chosen, a brief outline must be written. The presence of an outline as a guide gives the research paper a course to follow. This is important so that you do not go about the research work blindly and randomly. By establishing an outline, the research can be done in a more systematic way. In this way, you save time and energy on unnecessary research and leg work.

Outlines are very helpful that will this time guide you through the writing process. A helpful tip in effectively writing your outline and your paper and report is to integrate your resources. This means that when you write your outline, make a small note as to which resources you are going to use when it comes to this particular section of the report. This way, as you write your paper, you know which notes to check. This also helps you getting more organized. It is also therefore important to utilize an effective documentation process. An example is using note cards and writing down the proper bibliographic entry of your resources. Hence, also check out which style is applicable --- APA, MLA or Harvard?

Write and cite!

Don't be scared in writing your paper and report. With the sufficient information you have gathered and the “system” you have created, writing the paper and report can be easy as long as you manage your pace. Keep in mind that you do not have to write it in one sitting! It is actually helpful to write your paper and report under an efficiently managed time frame. This way, you are not stressed as you finish one goal each day. For example, you want to finish the section of the paper by today, and you can start on the next section the next day --- with the right time management, you have more time to do whatever you want! Another important factor is the citation process. As previously mentioned, your teacher may have preferences when it comes to the referencing style. The most commonly used styles are APA, MLA, and Harvard, although there are also other styles such as Chicago and Turabian. Check out whether your teacher has given you the resources on properly citing your paper or report, otherwise you can check out the Internet for guidelines on how to properly cite your paper and its corresponding reference list page. Helpful resources for APA and MLA is the Owl at Purdue website (follow this link for APA and MLA), and for Harvard, check out the Monash University Library Harvard Guide and the University of Queensland Harvard Page.

Once the research has been completed, it is best to organize it in a way that the source and its relevance to the topic are indicated. It is advisable to use post-its on the photocopied or printed material and group the ones with the same relevance together. Bookmarks can also be done on web browsers in order to save and organize the web pages. However, it is still recommended that you print these pages. In this way, when writing the paper itself, you can just go to a specific batch and get the necessary information than having to sift through all the research materials. This also makes writing the bibliography a lot easier. Again, this saves time and energy.

Edit and check

Always remember to proofread the finished paper so that minor details like typographical errors are not overlooked. If possible, have someone else read it in order to gauge the probable reactions and criticisms on the research paper. In this way, one can make minor changes to the paper in order to make it more cohesive, understandable and interesting.

Editing is another helpful process in writing your paper and report. Editing, in this case, steps outside the proofreading process where a third party checks your paper for grammar and structure. It can also mean that a third party reads your paper and gives an opinion as to whether the paper and report is understandable or not. Hence, this is the part where you can further polish your report and have someone help you identify if the paper and report needs to be improved or whether you are on the right track!

 
Although these steps seem to require a lot of work, remember, writing a paper and report does require a lot of work. This is why you can opt to get all the help you can need. Another very important reminded is plagiarism is a no-no! Teachers can automatically fail you once they see a portion of the paper directly copied from another source. Although referencing is a means to acknowledge where you got your resources, this does not mean you have the liberty to copy the whole text unless you need to quote very important passages.

Submitting a good paper and report is like submitting the whole package. You submit according to the substance and content, the writing style, and the guarantee that you originally built on your thesis by acknowledging all your resources. As a very important task, you can determine how these resources can further help you not only in terms of content but also in determining the overall strength of your paper and report.

Read Next Chapter: "How to Avoid Plagiarism : Citing Your Sources"