Do You Know What to Look For? A Four Point Guide to Essay Writing

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When you have to write a research paper for school or a presentation, finding information and formatting it into an essay can sometimes seem like an overwhelming task, especially when your topic is very specific and requires in depth knowledge. Here is a four point guide for writing a successful paper that will showcase your writing and scholastic capabilities.

1. Pick a Topic you Know and Like

This sounds obvious, but is sometimes the reason people struggle with papers. Of course you will sometimes be given topics you have no interest in, but in most cases, you have leeway. In your free time, are you always discussing social media? See if you can relate your research topic to studies on modern communication.

2. Know What to Look For

For many years, I ran a popular blog about Disney, and I would get a lot of questions from people trying to write papers about Disney and media. Often, they had no idea how to find reference materials. You need to stop thinking that you will find a book or article that perfectly restates your thesis. Instead, you need to get creative. Are you writing about, for example, how communication among animated Disney characters illustrates sexism in media? You probably will not find an article about this exact topic. However, you will find reference materials about communication research, sexism in media, animation, and Disney, and you can draw from all these topics when forming your essay.

3. Do Not Just Google it

Google is a great tool, but some researchers get overly dependent on it. Use online encyclopedias, article database sites, and online lists of books available at your local library to help you find what you need. Make a list of references you encounter, and be careful to note page numbers or page urls as well. It is easy to forget, and will be frustrating if you have to try to pinpoint it days or weeks later.

4. Outline Your Paper

Are you wondering how to do a research paper outline? Although you probably know to structure essays into introduction, body, and concluding paragraphs, one thing I have found helpful beyond this is to start each paragraph with a question I attempt to answer. I do not always keep these questions in once I get to the final draft, but during the process, questions will help remind you to keep the essay engaging, and also make you realize if you are repeating yourself.

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