action plan, research papers

What's an action plan for research papers?

Dec 17, 2012
As the old saying goes, 'if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.' And with all the steps involved in moving from an ambiguous research question to a fully developed masterpiece; students as well as researchers are in need of a detailed but comprehensive plan to ensure that each element of their paper is sufficiently accomplished. And among the most important of these elements is developing a thorough and effectual research question.

Step #1 Fine tune your research question

Most research questions require several revisions and modifications before they are ready to be answered. This is because more successful research questions are those that can sufficiently be answered in the confines of a paper as well as provoke a clear but arguable point. Likewise, many changes may occur because the research question is considered one of the most vital components of the research writing process. The quality of your question will dictate the quality of your overall paper. A poorly conceived, unclear, and broad question will not only be hard to establish but also may result in a paper with little depth and clarity. The following are some essential ingredients to a well-crafted research question.

Ingredients of a successful question:

Time: You should definitely be spending a lot of time planning and wording your question-the ideas may come quite rapidly or they may come slowly. Sometimes ideas need time to marinate and develop-so don't be deterred by a day or two of pondering. Likewise, even with professor-selected topics, its still very important to think about how you will narrow down a personalize your research question.
Research: You have to do research to do research! You can gain a much better idea of where to focus your research if you set aside some time to learn what has already been done in your field as well as popular topics of interest. Extensive research is not necessary for most papers, but in general you should know where your topic stands as compared to others, and the main theories or concepts that address it. Also preliminary research allows you to better understand which methodology to use and any special techniques that can be implemented.
  • Undoubtedly, your research question should be uniquely interesting to you as a student and a writer. Due to the time spent researching a topic as well as the vigilance and enthusiasm needed to get through some painstaking deadlines, a topic that is boring or uninteresting to the writer will definitely be hard to satisfy.
  • When refining your topic a lot of consideration should also be put into the receiving audience. Usually 'hot' or current event issues are likable by most people and will sustain their interest in most cases. Also new developments in a particular area or unique and innovative concepts that add to an existing discussion or topic, can be engaging as well as entertaining.

Step #2 Develop a research strategy

What exactly is a research strategy? A comprehensive research strategy is priceless because it allows you to make the best use of your time, gather the most appropriate and efficient resources, and get through the whole process a lot quicker! Though different people may have different interpretations as to the best means of creating one as well as what it comprises, overall its simply how you plan to conduct your research, step by step.

Some important things to include when planning out your research route

Keywords: Before settling down to search for articles and books at the school library or online, you should generate a small list of keywords for your research. These keywords can be single or a combination of terms and should cover the essential components of your research question and topic.
For example, if your research question is 'What type of long term psychological problems may the children involved in the Connecticut shooting (December 2012) experience and why?' The keywords for this research question may be-trauma, psychological disorders, Connecticut shooting 27 dead, children and PTSD, and so on.
Selecting appropriate keywords may take a bit of trial and error but the most important thing is to give the best description of your topic in order to yield the most relevant articles and references.
Resources: You can identify your resources based on what is available to you as well as which collections will provide you with the most expansive articles on your topic. Some common places to locate references include;
  • Scholarly articles found in online databases (usually those that are paid for by the school such as Ebscohost and Jstor)
  • Trade publications (for example, journals and magazines related to the field of psychology for instance)
  • Books and reference titles, such as guides, dictionaries and directories
  • Newspaper archives
  • Government documents
  • Manuscripts and artifacts

Step #3 Conduct your research

Empirical Research

If you are conducting empirical research this stage would involve following through with your experiment or investigation. Though researching articles is important to all research papers, the main source of data for empirical research would be the results of a particular test or experiment. Therefore some means of collecting this type of data are detailed below.
  • surveys & questionnaires
  • interviews
  • formulating unique reports from database information
  • physical test using different variables

Theoretical Research

If constructing a more literature-based or theoretical essay (basically research that doesn't involve first-hand experience) then the majority of your research would be done exploring cases, theories, and a multitude of documents to aide you in coming to a reasonable conclusion for your research question. So after reading the material you collected and taking useful notes, you can then begin identifying an organizational method to follow.
The more you read the more you may notice several arguable points and ideas beginning to formulate in your mind. You may also start to observe various patterns and concepts in the articles that you've selected. At this point you should organize these ideas into distinct categories and organize them in a manner that is most suitable for your paper.
For example, using the previous research question; if you find a lot of information on PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and notice that it is often analyzed according to symptoms, you too may decide to organize your paper according to the symptoms of certain disorders.
And the final steps of the research paper action plan not noted above include polishing your outline and creating a first draft. The outline is such a crucial piece of information that it really should not be neglected for any type of paper. Knowing the specific sections to include in your paper as well as the unification of all ideas and topics will help produce a more sound and logical piece of writing overall. And polishing it includes making sure that your research question is sufficiently answered within the topics mentioned as well as adequately supported by subcategories. If this is effectively accomplished, outside of the introduction and conclusion, creating the first draft should be as simple as 'filling in the blanks.'
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