Get an A: Ten Resources for Successful Research Papers

Published: January 9, 2015

The process of writing a research paper may seem overwhelming, but with the right tools under your belt and a bit of hard work, success is possible. Here are ten resources that will help you find what you need and gain the skills to write a paper that will get you an A. 

  1. Your Assignment

    The most important resource for success on a research paper is the assignment itself. No matter how hard you work or how well you write, if you don't follow the assignment, you won't get an A. 
    First, read through the assignment several times. Identify key directives and limitations imposed. If you have any concerns or confusion, ask your instructor immediately for clarification. 
    Once you are familiar with what is required, create a list of important details. What is the expected word count or page requirement? What topics are appropriate, inappropriate, or required? What citation style will you be using? How many sources should you use? What types of sources are acceptable? When is the assignment due? Is there anything that must be turned in other than the paper, like an outline or brainstorming diagram?
    If you must include certain elements, create a checklist now so you can be mindful throughout your writing and eventually check it against your final paper.  

  2. Brainstorming and Organization Tools

    Once you have analyzed your assignment and used it to find an appropriate topic, the next thing to do is get organized. Use brainstorming techniques, like mind mapping, to discern what it is you want to discuss in your research paper. You can't possibly write everything about your topic, so use this process to help narrow down your focus. If you write too broadly, you won't get the A you are working for. 
    Coggle is just one tool available to help you brainstorm and organize your research paper, but it is one of the best free tools available. The interface is easy to navigate which lets you spend more time thinking and less time pressing buttons or scrolling through menus. It saves to Google Drive so you can access your mind map from home, school, or the library.


  3. Purdue Online Writing Lab

    Purdue University's Online Writing Lab includes a great deal of quality information to help you get an A. Resources on general writing techniques and methods are included, as well as information on writing in specific subject areas. Information for ESL students is also available. 
    By far the most helpful resources for writing a research paper are in the section Research and Citation. Here you can gain access to methods for conducting and using research in your paper. Ways to avoid plagiarism are also addressed. The three most common citation styles (APA, MLA, CMS) are extensively covered. One of the most important aspects of a research paper is citing the research found and included in the paper; these citation resources allow you to do so accurately and professionally. 
    OWL Mail Tutors are also available to answer specific questions on a variety of writing topics.

  4. Library Databases

    Through your school or local library system, you are granted access to databases which compile vast amounts of information on every topic imaginable. These databases are very expensive, but are offered to patrons free of charge as an educational service. A single article from a journal could cost fifty dollars to access, but by downloading it through a library database it is available without cost.
    Once you have the login information, scan the names of databases to find the ones that seem most appropriate for your topic. Some databases are general in scope and will be useful for short or general research papers. Others are very specialized and will have resources for very specific types of research, like Women's History or Middle School Education. Use a variety of keywords to find the best information possible.
    Keep track of all the sources you find through the databases and save any articles you use by downloading or printing them.

  5. Google Scholar and Google Books

    If you don't have any library databases available to you, it is a little more difficult to make sure you are doing quality research with accurate information. Google Scholar and Google Books are both free services available to make that a little easier. Because they are limited to academic articles and published books, you are less likely to get unreliable information than in an open Google search. 
    It is useful to search phrases and names in quotation marks if you find that the search results are not relevant to your research topic. 
    Unlike library databases where the information is available without cost, some sources you find on Google Books and Google Scholar will require payment for access. Before you pay, see if you can find the book or article from another source or if you can find similar information elsewhere.

  6. Your Library's Reference Librarian

    Sometimes it is necessary to step away from the computer to complete research. When you are stuck in the research process or can't seem to find the information you need, the best place to turn is a reference librarian. He or she will be able to refer you to the books, documents, or other sources you need to be successful. In addition, you can ask questions about how to organize and present the information you are finding in your research paper and confirm that you have not inadvertently plagiarized. If you are courteous, your research librarian is a wonderful resource to help you get an A.

  7. "How to Write a Paper"

    This comprehensive guide outlines exactly how to turn your thoughts and research into an essay. Much of this information you will already know from your language arts classes, but this is an invaluable resources regardless.

  8. WorldCat

    When conducting research, it is likely you will find reference to valuable information unavailable on the Internet. WorldCat enables you to search for physical and digital texts available at more than 10,000 libraries.
    By entering your location, WorldCat will identify the libraries nearest to you where the text is available. Unlike websites for local libraries, WorldCat can search across branches at public and university libraries throughout your area. If a text isn't available near you, it may be available through an interlibrary loan program. Links to purchase books are also available.
    When you've identified a text that was helpful in completing your research, the WorldCat page for that text serves as a springboard for continuing your research. In the Related Subjects section, topical hyperlinks are available. Each link will lead you to a comprehensive list of other texts on that subject. 
    Outside of helping you gain access to texts, WorldCat can assist in compiling citations for books and journal articles. By searching the title, you gain access to all relevant bibliographic information in a convenient format.

  9. A Proofreader

    Once you've compiled your resources into an essay, the last step to getting an A is ensuring your writing is clear, concise, and correct. Enlist the help of a proofreader. Having a second pair of eyes reduces the chance that a mistake will slip through when you finally submit the assignment to your teacher. 
    Use this as an opportunity to revise your writing, rephrase sections for clarity, add important information, and remove extraneous information. Be sure to revisit with a proofreader each time you revise. 
    By diligently focusing on making your research paper readable and error free, you help ensure you get the A you are working for. 

  10. EasyBib

    When finishing a research paper at the last minute, incomplete citations cause stress and frustration; more importantly, incomplete citations will cause you to miss the A you are striving for. EasyBib can help save your grade.
    This website will generate citations in the three most popular citation styles (MLA, APA, CMS). Luckily, the site has the capability to search their database to automatically include necessary information. This means you may only need to enter the URL, ISBN, or article title to have a completed citation. 
    Beware, the easy solution is not always the best solution, and EasyBib should only be used in extreme circumstances. The service is not perfect and errors are common; it is important to proofread and check the citation for adherence to the prescribed style guide. 
    Ultimately, however, an imperfect citation is better than not including any citation, and EasyBib can help rescue your grade.

Ultimately, the most important factor in success of your research paper is you. A research paper will not write itself and the writing process is extensive. The above resources are available to help propel you to success so you can earn an A.