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| by Carrie Macfarlane

3 Tips from Librarians for Students Writing Research Papers

When you’re writing a paper, you may encounter a few research-related stumbling blocks. Here’s some advice to keep you moving forward.

Writing a Research Paper Can Be a Daunting Task

You’ve learned so much about your topic! How will you weave your own ideas together with the ideas of the scholars that you’ve read? How will you organize all of the content so that your audience agrees with your conclusions?

The Writing Center is hosting a Virtual Write-In

These questions and others are among the reasons why you should consider going to the Writing Center’s Virtual Write-In on Monday, December 7, from 7-11 pm. It’s definitely comforting to have a Writing Tutor by your side. Did you know that you can have a librarian by your side, too?

Even when you’re writing, you might need to do more research

Sometimes, you’ll uncover new questions, or you’ll realize you need more background information to provide context for an argument. Other times, you’ll find it difficult to figure out how best to cite an unusual source. Or, you might have misplaced the exact page numbers for a citation in your bibliography.

Get help from librarians

When you’re writing a paper, research-related challenges like these are commonplace. As librarians, we’ve encountered them ourselves! So, we’d like to offer three tips, based on our own hard-learned lessons, to keep you moving forward.

3 Tips for Students Writing Research Papers

1. Jump over the rabbit holes

As you write, you might notice gaps in your knowledge. Don’t stop to fill them right away! Just make a note of what you need to learn. Later on, you might realize that you didn’t need to go down that rabbit hole.

2. Keep your research questions in mind

If you need more information, record the need in the form of a question. Then, when you’re searching, remind yourself of the question. It’s easy to get distracted by interesting but irrelevant sources. Holding your question at the forefront of your mind will keep you on track. If a source that you find won’t answer your current question, set it aside and look for a better source. 

Save to folder for email
In databases like LibrarySearch, you can save a source to a folder, then send all sources to yourself with citations

3. Let a citation generator do the repetitive work

As you gather additional sources, make use of built-in citation generators. For example, if you ask LibrarySearch to send sources to your email address, you can tell it to include citations in APA, Chicago, MLA and other styles. Just be sure to double-check computer-generated citations against the examples in the library’s Citation and Style Guide.

One additional (favorite!) tip

Talk with a librarian! A librarian can help you find sources, develop a strategy, and formulate citations. We’re available for drop-in help during the Write-In and at other times.

How to Contact a Librarian

During the Write-In on December 7, find us from 7-9:30 pm at:

Other times:

  • go/hours/ - All Research Desk hours are listed here on the Library Hours page

Write with a Librarian by Your Side

Drop in and talk to a librarian on Zoom! Or, send us a chat or an email. Whenever you’re working on a research paper, remember that you can reach us at go/askus/.

Media Contact

Carrie Macfarlane is the Director of Research & Instruction at the Davis Family Library