A research paper is a mandatory requirement in college. For so many years, I have witnessed how my students go through the difficult task of finishing a thesis paper. They usually complain about what topic to research, how to gather data, and how to write the paper. To motivate them, I tell them that they are lucky enough to have laptops and google search. They can easily search for references that can be used in finishing their thesis paper. Unfortunately, many of them still encounter some problems in starting the research because of some personal reasons.
Tips in starting a research paper
For this blog, I will share some tips in starting a research paper (thesis, dissertation, etc.). These tips have helped me a lot in completing my own research papers. I hope that they may also urge those who are hesitating to do so because of some personal reasons.
You must not do it for the sake of finishing a requirement. Forcing yourself to conduct research would only result in unpleasant outcomes such as invalid data, wrong conclusions, and much worse, plagiarism. Research because you want it and you believe that your topic is worth researching. As one famous saying goes,” No one researches physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before.” In other words, you should be happy in knowing something unknown before. So, ask yourself, “What topic in research will make you happy after finishing it?”
2. Intellectual Curiosity
You must research because you are curious about something and you want to know more about your topic. Let us take the advice of Socrates,” Wisest is he who knows he doesn’t know.” Be honest and accept the things that you don’t know, then, investigate things that you know nothing about. Your purpose is defeated if you choose a topic that you already know. Talk to yourself, meditate, or allow your subconscious mind to tell you what you want to know.
3. Believe in the purpose of your research
You must honestly believe that your research will contribute to humanity. ”After all, the ultimate goal of all research is not objectivity, but the truth,” As Helene Deutsch emphasized. So ask yourself, “Why do you want to research the topic?” How important it is to you, the community, or society at large? Can it help us stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus? Can it solve poverty in the Philippines? Will your research help us elect the right leaders? Can it help us increase the quality of education in the country? If you can reliably answer these questions through research, you might get lucky to be paid handsomely by some private or government entities (believe me on this).
4. Read a lot
It would be difficult for you to research if you don’t read a lot of reliable materials. Reading provides you many choices and aids you in exploring the unknown. It also widens your vocabulary and helps you find quotable quotes. However, you must read only reliable materials, not social media comments (which I always tell my students). Journals, studies, or articles from reliable websites are very useful to give you enough understanding that you need about a specific topic.
Dan Brown said, “Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research.” He is perfectly right because searching words through Google search is just one small step. The more important task is classifying the information provided by the search engines. The human mind is still the final decision maker. So, don’t mistake Google searching as a form of research. It is merely a tool in searching for more materials, which should require further scrutiny and validation.
5. You must possess an adequate level of people skills in interviewing
You have to talk to people. Widen your networks. You have to ask permission from authorities to interview the most credible respondents to answer your research questions. In doing so, you have to strictly comply with the fundamental ethical principles in interviewing such as respecting confidentiality and ensuring that the interview would be voluntary.
6. Knowledge in the technical aspect of the research paper
Although every university (locally and internationally) has its format of thesis or research paper, it is important to at least know the fundamental parts. Research proposals usually have Chapters 1 to 3 (Background of the Study, Related Literature, Methodology). If approved by the panel members of the defense, chapters 4 and 5 ( findings and interpretation of data, conclusion, and recommendation) are the next chapters.
7. You must be equipped with adequate writing skills to strictly avoid plagiarism
Since writing is a creative process, you must study the citation rules (APA, MLA, etc.) in borrowing ideas from other authors. A basic principle is that you can write something new coming from previously written material. You can also enhance the explanation of other writers in the same field by either supporting or rejecting it. It is also safe to use the ideas of others but write them based on your own understanding. To do this, you must learn how to paraphrase and quote some important statements that are related to your topic. Respect the works of others to avoid a serious penalty that may be given to you if you are caught copying the works of others. More importantly, you will feel very proud of yourself if you finish a research paper without plagiarizing another work. Don’t be afraid of committing grammatical errors especially if English is not your native language. There are editors, grammarians, or proofreaders who can check your grammar. The most important part of the writing process is that you have produced a research paper based on your writing style and sincere analysis of your chosen topic.
So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start your research. You might discover or invent something that may help your community and society. Always remember that research will help you to explore the unknown.