Argosy University Blog

7 Tips for Writing a Top-Notch Research Paper


Argosy University prides itself on giving students the support and guidance they need to succeed in and out of the classroom. As a student, your responsibilities will include writing multiple research papers, so today we present you to the following simple tips that can help you achieve success.

1. Plan Your Schedule – Create a timeline, and keep track of smaller goals. Sticking to this schedule is the first step in scoring high on your next paper.

2. Write About One Idea – Most research paper assignments allow students to choose their topic. To stay focused, pick a singular idea to write about. Just make sure that you can still find enough resources to write a full paper. For instance, if “Soda Pop’s Effect on Toddler Teeth” doesn’t have enough research to support 28 pages of writing, “Soda Pop and Your Health” might be a better choice.

3. Fine-Tune Your Thesis Statement – Think of your thesis statement like a movie pitch. It should succinctly sum up the point of your paper. Say upfront what you will prove, and make it sound interesting. Enthusiasm won’t prove your point, but it will make your paper easier to read (and write).

4. Use Reputable Resources – Trustworthy resources are the foundation of your paper. Consider whether something had to be fact-checked before being published. Sites backed by a good reputation – major news outlets, government websites, study abstracts and the like – are strongly preferred.

5. Organize Your Notes – Taking notes isn’t just for keeping track of direct quotes. You’ll be expected to say where general ideas come from as well. If a study finds that soda pop leads to increased addictive behaviors, for instance, you need to be prepared to reference it.

You'll also want to be able to separate important bits of information during the outline phase of writing. An effective way to do this is to use a word-processing software to list a source and compile your notes, so that you can later reorganize the information and highlight important pieces as needed.

6. Create Your Outline – Organize your research findings and your thoughts in a way that not only states your thesis, but supports it as well. If soda pop is bad for your health, you might discuss the amount that people drink, its contents and, finally, how it’s linked to medical problems. Your instructor may have certain rules for your outline or may not even require you to make one. Regardless of whether it’s part of your assignment, an outline is a great way to stay focused and keep your paper on track.

7. Write, Edit, Repeat – Expect to write or review at least three drafts of your paper. The first should be reviewed for continuity. The second should be evaluated for grammar and spelling. By the third draft, your research paper should be free from mistakes and should fully support your thesis statement.

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Writing a Scholarship Essay? Check out These Helpful Tips.

Writing an essay

The deadline for the Perseverance Scholarship--available exclusively to fully online undergraduate and graduate students at Argosy University, Online Programs--is July 12, 2013 (read all about it here). If you plan to apply, don't put it off any longer! For this scholarship and any others you come across, let your essay be the place where your story and your personality shine. Read on for tips on crafting an essay that helps you to stand out from the competition.

Consider Your Audience.

Before you put pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard), think about the organization sponsoring the scholarship. What purpose does the organization serve? What characteristics do most members share? The group you're writing for should determine your word choice, tone and theme. If you select a tone inappropriate for your audience, you might be unfairly disqualified—even if you're a great candidate for the scholarship itself.

Create an Outline.

Before you start your essay, create an outline that includes all of the points you want to make and that takes the word limit into account. Listing your main points will help you to stay organized and ensure that you don't accidentally omit any of your central arguments.

Craft a Compelling Introduction.

The people reviewing scholarship applications will read dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of essays; after a while, those essays can blend together. How can you ensure that your piece is memorable? By writing a compelling introduction. Start with something interesting and intriguing, and then introduce the main topic of your essay by the end of the first paragraph. Give your readers a reason to keep reading: Hook them with your introduction.

Be Concise

Concise writing is often the best writing. Many students believe that longer sentences are better, but this isn't the case. Communicate your point using only as many words as you need.

Avoid the Thesaurus.

This is a good rule for now and the future: If you don't already know the definition of that word, don't use it. Your readers will sense your discomfort, and you'll seem less trustworthy as an author.

Edit, Edit, Edit.

Before you submit your essays, edit them thoroughly. Don't run spellcheck and think you're finished. Re-read your essay (possibly even aloud) to identify awkward sentences, subject/verb disagreements, sections that require clarification and other trouble spots. Don't let a misspelling or a grammar error prevent you from getting funding.

Enlist Help.

If you're unsure of your editorial skills, ask a friend, parent or teacher to help you look over your essays. When others review your work, they can point out passages that may have seemed logical to you but might need additional clarification.

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Do Plot Spoilers Make Stories Better?

open book

If you’re like many people, when a new movie or book is released, you don’t want to know what surprises it contains. You go out of your way to avoid talking about the story in fear of accidentally discovering the ending and steer clear of anything that says “spoiler alert,” convinced that knowing the secret would ruin the story. But, is that actually true?

According to a study published in Psychological Science, spoilers may not spoil anything. In fact, the study found that knowing in advance a story’s outcome or an unexpected plot surprise may actually allow you to enjoy the story more.

Researchers Christenfeld and Leavitt ran three experiments using 12 classic short stories, including ironic-twist, mystery and literary stories by famous authors such as Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie and John Updike.

The researchers presented the stories to the subjects in one of three ways:
(1) as was originally written and without a spoiler,
(2) with a spoiler paragraph before the start of the story, and
(3) with a spoiler paragraph incorporated into the text as if it was part of the original story.

Each version of each story was read by at least 30 participants, and for each type of story, participants most preferred the version that was prefaced by a spoiler. Why and how could this be?

One researcher explained this surprising result by suggesting that perhaps we enjoy the good writing more than the actual plot. Another interesting idea proposed by the researchers is that a spoiled story may simply be easier to read.

"It could be that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier – you’re more comfortable processing the information – and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story," Leavitt explained in a press release on the study.

So, what do you think? Many of us enjoy re-watching our favorite movies and television shows and re-reading our favorite stories. Is this the same? When you read a book for the first time, do you enjoy knowing which one of the suspects committed the crime at the beginning, or do you prefer figuring it out yourself along the way?

Read the full press release here: Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by 'Spoilers'.

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  • 2018

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