One of the most intimidating assignments for any new college student is the prospect of doing a long research paper requiring extensive outside research. Few high school students are faced with the daunting task of completing a 15-20 page paper requiring a unique thesis and independent thought. However, there are a number of helpful tips to keep in mind to make the task easier, if not easy. First, allocate enough time for the project. This is not an assignment that you can complete overnight fueled by a few extra cups of coffee. Second, take advantage of the library staff at your school and ask them questions about how to more effectively use an academic library and library databases to conduct research for peer-reviewed sources. Thirdly, have a working thesis and outline. Even if you change both over the course of your research (and you probably will), having a sense of focus can make the process less overwhelming.
Try to work a little bit on your major research paper every day: remember that you are likely to have several papers and tests due at the same time as your assignment, so it is important not to fall behind. Take notes as you read: make sure to note where you found your data and on what page because it might be almost impossible to find it again. Even if things are going well, go to your professor’s office hours to ask questions and make sure you are on the right track. Consult the style guide of the format your professor would like you to use so your bibliography and citations are in the proper format.
Although the research process for every term paper will be slightly different, following these basic guidelines are a great starting point for virtually every subject area from the humanities to the social sciences to the natural sciences.