I think most freshmen approach writing their first university research papers as a challenging experience, unless they are absolutely positive their research and writing skills are at the university level. However, over-confident students run the severe risk of underestimating expectations and doing poorly.
When the time came to write my first Political Science essay, I knew what my problem areas were: I didn’t do all the readings, didn’t have confidence in my research methods, didn’t like my research, and didn’t know how to cite in Chicago style. Not good.
Fast-forward to today. I did well on that essay; however, I could have done much better had I followed these tips I learned through my experience:
- Get to the point and use concise language. Nothing screams insecure writer like never getting to the point.
- Don’t repeat your lecture material. The point of a research paper is to do research!
- Ensure your citations are on point, or risk being accused of plagiarism.
- Don’t get tunnel vision while researching. Keep your thesis in mind by maintaining a simple outline to avoid getting overwhelmed by irrelevant research.
- Talk to your TA during office hours. My excuse for not going last semester was my commute, but I was really just too intimidated to go. I’ll change that this time around.
I am not naive. I’m aware I’m going through some new-semester hyper- motivation that may or may not burn out by the time midterms come around. Hopefully I can keep some of the tips I’ve given myself in mind, but sometimes Netflix gets in the way. Nonetheless, I take pride in what I’ve learned and the work I do in my program. I will always try my best to improve and do well on my papers.