The Dreaded Research Paper - Pointers for Success

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Everyone in graduate school has experienced it - the "dreaded" research paper assignment. The deadline is closing in like a freight train and you are procrastinating. What can you do to break the inertia?

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds. Has 16 years experience.

What can you do when you start procrastinating when research paper is due?

The Dreaded Research Paper - Pointers for Success

First of all, prepare the "shell" of your paper per whatever style your program requires (usually APA or MLA). My college, like most nursing programs, uses APA. Prepare your title page (page 1), abstract page (page 2), level one heading for page 3, and the title "References" for the reference page.

Remember, these are just "shells" - no content yet! The sample paper on page 306 of the current 5th edition APA manual is a helpful guide.

Another sample APA term paper can be found here: APA Sample Term Paper

APA Formatting and Style Guide is an excellent resource. It features a sample title page and abstract. A sample reference page can be found at APA Sample Reference Page.

Voila! With the task of creating your paper "shell" completed, you have passed a psychological milestone - you have actually started on your paper!

Now, on to the abstract... Most papers have three parts, so I use this "formula" in composing my abstract:

Quote
This paper compares and contrasts... and is divided into three sections. The first section examines... The second section reviews... The final section describes the similarities and differences in the two perspectives. Implications for practice and research are discussed.

To locate scholarly sources, I use Google Scholar. I then look up journal articles using the "Publications" feature on CINAHL. The search engine feature on CINAHL, by the way, is broken, so you do need to use another means, such as Google Scholar, for your search. Remember, also, that Wikipedia is not a scholarly source! (To distinguish scholarly from non-scholarly sources, refer to Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Sources.)

In graduate school, most professors prefer primary sources (as opposed to secondary or tertiary sources). To locate your primary sources, simply consult the reference list of your secondary source. One of my cherished "secrets" for locating books is Google Books Search. Whole sections of selected books can be easily found at this site - and at no cost!

Another resource is Questia. Of course, there is always the brick-and-mortar library. Expect to make at least one trip. My college library is searchable online, so I know ahead what books are in circulation and available for quick check-out.

Next, begin with the rough draft of your paper. Don't be too picky in this process. Your proof-reading will fine-tune whole sections as the paper develops. The point now is to get started! I have found these resources invaluable as I draft my research:

With these pointers in place, it's time to get started! No more excuses! For your reference, here is a link to My Latest Research Paper.

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18 Comment(s)

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

Having just graded 40 student papers, I would like to add one very important step. Read the directions! Review the expectations, grading criteria, etc. ahead of time and ask your professor if you don't understand the assignment.

I just had to give some very bad grades because simply did not follow the directions for the assignment. What a waste of everybody's time -- the students' time, especially.

VickyRN, MSN, DNP, RN

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds. Has 16 years experience.

Very, very true! I have now taught two writing-intensive courses at two colleges, and have found this to be the case! The students who made the poorest grades simply did not take the time (or care enough to take the time) to read and follow the directions. Consult your professor if you are not sure. Don't leave it to chance! Thanks for bringing up this very important point!

My hint:

I have one APA paper that was graded by my most strict research professor. I updated the word document to reflect all her corrections.

Whenever I do a paper, I simply write it in a new word document w/o any formatting. I then make a copy of the graded APA paper and copy and paste all new text from the unformatted document to the graded APA paper. So I have cover page (I just change the title, but spacing, font size... is correct), and all correct headers with page numbers, all in APA format, already built into the new document. It has saved me sooo much time.

Hope this makes sense.

melmarie23, MSN, RN

Specializes in L&D/Maternity nursing.

this will be very helpful for me as I am starting my MSN program here in a few weeks.

Thank you!

bema257

Specializes in Psych.

I DREAD research papers and I'm not a good typer.Research papers are why I procrastinated going back to school. Can you help me ,I work 12 hour shifts and have other obligated duties?

Edited by bema257
missed the word "to"

I didn't realize there would be a research paper. What was I thinking? Of course there will be a research paper! What kind of thing can I expect with regards to the types of papers professors are looking for? I can sling together some cohesive sentences, but where I get bogged down is choosing topics. Oh dear. I'm going to gain 5 pounds eating chocolate for that paper alone.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

jallen5 said:
Oh dear. I'm going to gain 5 pounds eating chocolate for that paper alone.

I eat when I write, too. That's a big problem for me as I have a PhD. That's a lot of papers to write ... and too many snacks along the way!

VickyRN, MSN, DNP, RN

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds. Has 16 years experience.

llg said:
I eat when I write, too. That's a big problem for me as I have a PhD. That's a lot of papers to write ... and too many snacks along the way!

LOL. Dark semi-sweet chocolate. Really seems to aid my writing prowess.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

VickyRN said:
LOL. Dark semi-sweet chocolate. Really seems to aid my writing prowess.

:yeah: I used to nibble on chocolate chips throughout my PhD program! Are you psychic? :bow:

I bought an APA program online. It was well worth the money. My first paper I typed using my English book, counting spaces, indents, etc.

That was too much. The program I bought is by Reference Point Software. It is excellent. Especially the reference page portion. It has a box that you pick what type of article, the info boxes change reflecting the type of article you pick. It alphabetizes(sp) them also.

I got a 100% on my research paper and Great APA format comments on my paper. I highly recommend this software to everyone who has to write a paper in APA and I think they have one for MLA. It wasnt that much... maybe $30.00. Customer service is great also.

Aneroo, LPN

Specializes in Cath Lab, OR, CPHN/SN, ER.

Forget chocolate- skittles. :)

Thanks for posting this. I'm in a class that isn't considered WI, but it should be. I have my second paper due this weekend. Let me tell you, I stress over these so much. I know proper english and writing is not my strong point. I have not had to write a "real" paper since 2000 when I was taking entry level english in college. I have more to say, but will withhold it.