Writing Research Papers
For starters, no one ever talks about this stuff (not until your senior year, maybe). Professors slap down four page instructions on your desk and expect you to produce some magical research paper, but what they don’t realize is that you’re new in college and have no idea where to find the right resources. Even if you’re not new, no one has ever really explained to you where to find the best information. Being a senior in college, about to graduate with my degree in Psych, I've been down that road already—probably a million times. That’s why I’m here, about to share the basics with you.
So, you have an idea for your paper but you don’t know where to start. Keep in mind, your professor specified that he wants you to provide “scholarly sources” and “empirical evidence.” Well, you know the definition of those terms, but where do you find such things? You’re familiar with Google scholar (hopefully), but every time you run a search, it gives you the lamest options like half-baked book reviews and PDFs that won’t download. You edit your search and still nothing, nada, zilch.
Listed below, are only three steps that will transform your paper writing experience forever!
1. Your college’s website has all the hidden treasure!
As surprising as this may sound, the best place to find any research information is right from your own school’s website. You’re probably thinking this makes no sense. If your school had access to all the information, why didn't anyone ever mention it? Well, that’s because they don’t care most of the time. It’s up to you to do your own digging. Every college has their website set up differently, so I can’t tell you exactly where to go. However, the best place to look for first is a link to the college’s library. Usually, a college will have a separate URL for their library. Once you hit that page, you can search for any links leading to a “research databases list” or “research resources.” Basically, look for anything with the word research in it. TIP: You can always ask your librarian to help you navigate the library page and access the research databases list.
2. Once you've reached the research databases list, you’re on your way!
If you’re lost at this point and need to back up a little, here it is. What is a research database? A research database is a website where you will find a bunch of articles, scholarly sources, and empirical evidence that you need for your paper. Once you navigate from your college’s website to the research databases list, you will see a long list (usually in alphabetical order). From there, you can click on databases that are related to your topic.
For Psych majors, here are the best databases you can use for your papers: (1) PsycArticles, (2) Psychology Collection, and the most useful one, (3) PsycINFO.
3. Specify your search and you’re set!
Once you've reached the research database that you’re interested in, you can search for anything you want. At this point, you will want to go down to your search settings and specify what kind of sources you’re looking for. What am I talking about? Remember when your professor said he wanted you to use empirical evidence? Well, you would go to the section that allows you to choose what methodology you want, and you would click on “Empirical Study.” That is just one specific example, but I hope you get the gist. TIP: Always specify your search for articles that are “Peer Reviewed.” This basically means that the article was checked and approved by fellow scientists, etc.
Now that you’re filled with all this new-found knowledge, hopefully your paper writing experience will be much easier. If you are confused or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. Happy writing!
Studying Psychology and Education, I have a passion for people--knowing them, understanding them, and helping them. That is the goal. Altruism is rare but it does exist. Believe in that.