Chris Liu, Feb 11

The only purpose of this blog post is to help you ace your research paper in your Writing 2. So before getting started, I have to claim that I will not answer the question “how to write a research paper,” which you should learn in the class, in this post. Instead, I am going to talk about what your professor won’t teach in the lectures. Also, grab a pen or pencil and a piece of paper to take notes while reading (research shows that actual writing works better than typing or merely reading).

Start Early and Never Procrastinate ⏳

Please start whatever you can do once the project is assigned. By “whatever you can do,” I am referring to reading the instruction CAREFULLY, or thinking about what you want to write about, or anything else related. My professor usually required us to finish our draft and bring it to class almost every week so that we couldn’t procrastinate. The quality of the research paper is never guaranteed if you waited until the last few days to start.

Choose A Topic You Are Familiar With And Not Difficult to Write 🤔

After you started your research, you found it meaningful and exciting, but did not know how to write because of the complexity of the topic. Things like this always happen. When I was taking Writing 2, the topic was the urban landscape, and I chose to write about the school district housing problem. I was not sure if it was a good topic, so I did some research, searching for its popularity, reading previous research, and consulting the professor. Having a “bad” topic doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do well on it, just don’t take the risk. However, try not to select the topic everybody is familiar with. This can be boring and lack of point unless you are pretty sure you have some “secret weapon.”

Making A Project Plan (IMPORTANT) 📄

I always consider this as the most important part of every writing project. For me, making a project plan includes:

  • Divide the project into small pieces (researching, annotated bibliography, reading sources, writing the thesis and the outline, picking useful citations, writing the actual paper, proofreading, etc.) and assign a due date for every single piece
  • Start your plan
  • Research your topic (reading articles, watching videos)
  • Make well-organized and high-quality annotated bibliographies (you will definitely thank yourself while writing the paper if you did so)
  • Get familiar with all of your sources (books, peer-reviewed journals, articles, etc.) by quick reading
  • Know your thesis and make an outline of your paper, and gradually fill the outline with detailed content
  • Pick citations you consider useful to support your thesis/argument from the sources
  • Start writing the paper
  • Careful revising (office hour with your professor as frequently as possible)

Feel free to make yours, and complete each one by the deadline.

Be Specific, Be Specific, and Be Specific 📍

Your professor will also emphasize this a lot during the lecture, but in case of you not remembering it, I will define what is “specific” here. When I was writing the school district housing problem, I picked a particular school and its school district to write about. If you are writing about technology, you can choose a real event or even a practical application in the event. Being vague is not a good thing when it comes to the research paper.

Make Good Use of Your Sources ⛓

I used to do poorly on this because I use the source not for supporting my argument. Remember the real purpose of citing other people’s work is to connect your point and the sentence you quote. In other words, you can’t just put the quote in your paragraph; instead, you need to talk about it. The quote itself is the chain connecting your point and your reasoning, without the chain the logic will not establish. Following your sources is good, but try not to let the source take the lead. You are writing your paper instead of sources. The paper is the point while the source is your support.

Use Grammarly Wisely 🖋

You need to be aware that Grammarly can only improve your grammar but not your content, and having proper grammar is the basic requirement of a qualified search paper. Try to correct your grammar and use different vocabularies, and always have your own judgment because Grammarly is not as smart as you are. Do this only after you finished your research paper.

So What ❓❓❓

When you are revising your paper, make sure to ask yourself the “so what” question. A research paper without answering “so what” is not qualified in Writing 2. Read this link to understand the details of “so what” question and ask yourself frequently as you write the paper.


You are always more than welcomed to ask me about points you don’t understand well or consult me in terms of specfic question you have, and I will be glad to answer them.