Girl concentrating and studying on how to finish her final year project

Things I’ve Learned After Finishing My Research Paper

Research writing has not always been my forte. During the final year of my bachelor’s degree, I was so overwhelmed having to conduct research alone for the first time and had no idea where to even start. It came as no surprise to me when I got an unsatisfactory result for that research paper. Nonetheless, my battle with research writing did not end there.


When I was writing my master’s thesis, I had to write 3 different proposals before my supervisor gave me the approval to proceed to data collection. The third proposal was written when I had only 3 months left before the final submission date (keep in mind I was supposed to write it in 3 semesters!). Having to face so many rejections and redirections, I was seriously praying to just graduate on time. When I found out that I managed to score an A for my master’s thesis, I was in tears.


Girl writing and planning her final university research


Hopefully, through this article, my experience (read: suffering) could be used for the benefit of others and not just for my academic validation. So here are some of the tips and tricks I have learned while completing my thesis:



1. Don’t sweat overwriting the literature review for your research proposal.

Of course, you have to read up on past literature before selecting your topic, but you don’t have to worry about writing an extensive literature review just yet. Your research proposal could be rejected so do not spend too much time writing it early in your process.


Girl trying to complete research paper with data


Instead, start with showing your supervisor a brief outline of your theoretical framework first and ask them if you are on the right track. For the first consultation session, what would be more important than a literature review is to have a strong introduction and research methodology (i.e: Chapter 1 & 3) as they provide evidence that your research is needed and feasible to be conducted.



2. Speed reading.

You do not have to read every single word of the articles you find related to your research topic in order to understand it. The best way to quickly digest an academic article is to read the abstract, research objectives, the instruments and just skip to findings.


If you are looking at the literature review content, you could save time by skimming and scanning the text and highlighting only the significant theories and findings of past research. Then, organised these relevant findings and theories in accordance with your research questions or variables. After that, you got yourself an outline for Chapter 2.



3. Stay organised.

Do not put all of your articles in just one folder! Trust me, your articles will pile up to hundreds and you will not be able to remember which one is which just by looking at the title.


Man looking at the wall of material to learn and finish research paper


I chose to organise my articles by the chapters of my dissertation, and in the folder of each chapter, I create more folders to divide the articles according to the subtopics (e.g in Chapter 1: Background of the study, Statement of the problem, Operational definitions). So when you’re writing a subtopic, you know exactly where to find the articles you need.



4. Track your time when working.

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of reading more articles and over-correcting your sentences. However, you will find that these two things will hold you back from progressing to the next subtopic or chapter for days! So to keep yourself in check when writing, track your progress in a block of time you find appropriate.


I personally find the Pomodoro ‘study with me’ videos to be effective in tracking the time I have used to write roughly one paragraph or a passage. You could always go back and edit, so worry about the nitty-gritty details later.


5. Learn the art of negotiation.

Although writing a research is an independent task, the success of your research is dependent on your ability to communicate successfully with your research supervisor. It’s easy to go into defensive mode when your work is being criticised by your supervisor. However, remember to respond and not react to any negative feedback.


Woman staring at papers on her floor to prepare for work


Keep an open mind and take your time in responding to the suggestions given. Even if you disagree or are unwilling to make changes. If you are certain with the direction you are taking, back up your points with solid references or plans. Maybe even try to politely negotiate with your supervisor. There are times where you might know more about a concept or a topic than your supervisor so don’t feel intimidated to communicate your views with them.


6. Reach out to experts.

Although your supervisor might be able to guide you, there are times when you need a certain level of expertise in which your supervisor might not be able to help. These experts could be the other lecturers in your faculty. Moreover, it could also be people who are working in the industry or even the writers of the articles you’re reading.


Whoever they are, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. E-mail, DM or text them, introduce yourself, explain your research, and politely request help. If they have the time and the means, they would be more than happy to help.


An outline on crafting your university message

7. Find extra respondents (if possible).

Whether you’re doing quantitative or qualitative research; it’s always good to have extra respondents as your backup plan. Try to approach as many people as possible within your research sample to ensure that you will be able to collect your data ASAP. There’s always a potential for your respondents to provide inaccurate data or late responses which could negatively impact your research.


Girl concentrating and studying on how to finish her project


So, the best way is to make sure you have a backup plan. I personally used the ‘snowball sampling method’. In which I asked for recommendations and contact numbers of extra respondents from the current respondents that I have. If you’re using an online survey, reach out personally to individuals within your sample. This is so you could encourage them to respond to your survey. But remember that you are requesting and not demanding their help.



Overall, though writing a research paper could be an intimidating process, the challenges are minimised. This can be done once you learn how to break it into a series of small tasks. By learning the strategies to successfully conduct each small task, you will slowly remove the burden of completing your research paper. As Tony Robbins says “the only impossible journey is the one you never begin”. To those out there who are currently struggling to complete your research paper, I wish you the best of luck! But remember, luck favours the prepared. 😉


If you’re looking to learn more about research writing, check out this article on Simple Tips To Start Including Research And Facts In Your Writing.

A servant to Him. A TESL graduate and sometimes I teach. Most of the time I learn.

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