2. Last-minute efforts usually read like last-minute efforts! Plan backward from the date the paper is due to allow plenty of time to get it done. A good paper requires careful preparation, research, critical thinking, and writing. These steps take time. Also, allow time for the unexpected. Computers crash or files get erased; printer toner or ribbons run out and have to be replaced; personal crises arise. You need to be able to cope with these and still get the paper done on time. "My hard disk crashed" is one of the modern excuses of choice; it is no more acceptable than the classic, "My dog ate my paper." Being late with reports in class or on the job is a very, very bad idea.
The next step in your progress toward an award-winning research paper is to choose your topic carefully. If you are responsible for choosing your own topic, put some thought into this decision. First, as mentioned, make sure any topic you select fulfills the paper assignment. Second, if possible pick a topic that interests you. The more interested you are in a topic, the easier it will be for you to devote time and energy to studying it and to writing about it. Third, ensure that you select a topic that fits the length of the paper that you intend to write, the research resources that are available to you, and your analytical tools.
Besides organization, the other hallmark of a good paper is clarity in writing. Remember that if a paper fails to communicate well, then its research-no matter how well done--will have little impact. There is an old piece of advice that says, "write like you speak." This is terrible advice, at least for formal papers. Good written communication is somewhat different from good spoken communication. When you speak to someone, especially face to face, you can convey meaning through voice inflection, gestures, and other methods in addition to your words. These methods are not available in written communications. Therefore, choice of words, punctuation, and other considerations are particularly vital when you write. Good writing can be divided into three parts: effort, style considerations, and technical matters.
A more analytic approach would be organized around a set of factors, or variables, that are important to the subject of the paper. Theoretical approaches can also be used to organize a paper. See Allison's (1971) for an illustration of such an analytic approach.
Approach: There are several ways to approach your paper. A common organizational approach is a chronological one. The advantage of this approach is that it uses the passage of time as its organizing mechanism. The disadvantage of a chronological approach is that it can easily become a "laundry list" of events, both important and unimportant. Students often list everything they find, leaving it to the reader to determine which factors are most important. Chronologies are also no substitute for analysis. There is nothing wrong with a chronological approach if it is done well; just be sure to put more emphasis throughout on things happened than on happened.
It is also important to realize that your report will be judged in part by such standards as neatness, grammar, and spelling, and other such technical criteria. It is not uncommon for university instructors to get papers that represent a good research and analytical effort but that are sloppy, contain numerous grammatical errors, are full of misspellings, or are burdened by other such technical deficiencies. Such shortcomings make you look bad. It is very difficult for an instructor (or, later on, your boss) to be dazzled by your intellectual acumen while being simultaneously appalled by your English usage. Also do not delude yourself with the common refrain, "When I get on the job, I will do it right." It takes practice to do things well. That is true for rollerblading, shooting baskets, and playing the guitar. It is also true for doing a research paper. Now, in college, is the time to practice and learn. Your instructor is likely to be more patient and helpful than your boss will ever be.
1. Your instructor will (or at least should) let you know what is expected. Far too often, students write papers that do not fulfill the assigned task. If you do not understand the assignment, discuss it with your instructor. It is not uncommon in class or on the job for a person to get instructions, to not understand them, but to be reluctant to ask for clarification for fear of seeming "dumb." This is a significant error. In the first place, your boss will probably not think less of you for asking for clarification. In the second place, asking for supplementary instructions is far, far better than doing a report that does not meet the needs of your boss and is not what he or she wanted. That makes you look dumb.
Length: If you attempt to write a 10-page paper entitled "The President and Congress Struggle for Power: Two Centuries of Constitutional Conflict," then your paper is destined to be "a mile wide and an inch deep," as they say. It is better to do something more narrowly focused and to do it well than to give a superficial treatment of a large subject.
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J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM) reduced its return expectations for U.S. equities in its 2018 long-term capital markets assumptions while increasing its expectations for U.S. bond performance. A significant theme was the cyclical factor of the current bull market and how equity markets, particularly U.S. equities, were nearing their mature stage.
Research Resources: Trying to write a paper on "Secret Military Operations in the Persian Gulf War" would also be a mistake because the government has not released the relevant information. You should take the holdings of your library into account. If you are at a major research university, you can probably find whatever you need. Even at large libraries, however, you may have trouble finding good sources to support a research paper on U.S.-Sri Lankan relations or U.S. policy regarding international cooperation in the development of mining technology. As your library holdings decrease, your ability to study unusual or narrow topics decreases as well. So be careful not to choose a topic that destines you to fail.
Students who use example term papers for surplus research information may ultimately have an edge on those who struggle with limited, localized libraries--finding only the same old books & articles.