Writing Research Papers The Modern Way
Believe it or not, 25 years ago college students were still using compact typewriters or their school computer lab to write class papers. When you couldn’t get a rare seat in the lab to punch out a paper with a DOS-based version of Wordperfect and clunky IBM processor, you bent over a clackety typewriter and hoped you didn’t make any mistakes on each page produced.
Today, college paper-writing is light years ahead. Not only is the entire process automated with the personal computer and an almost-constant connection availability to the Internet, the amount of information available electronically is exponential as well. A quarter-century ago, it was quite common to have to weed through a stack of books for research. Today, a student can chew through five times more electronically with a folder of PDF files.
Given all the advantages above, has the writing approach to a college paper changed as well? In a word, yes.
The proliferation of papers and documents has made it extremely easy to find a paper on just about anything with the Internet in a few a minutes. Much to the disappointment of professors everywhere, that also means there is a big temptation to plagiarize and cheat. So copy filters are being used extensively as well. That said, the amount of previous examples are still quite useful to the smart class paper writer.
The first step is to find a handful of papers on a similar topic to be researched. This is useful for two reasons: reading through them gives a student a good idea how to approach a paper by example, and the papers have easily identified and often-linked sources that can be re-used. There’s no sin in using the same research if it’s valid.
With the above briefed and summarized, half the work is done. Creating the argument was previously the component that took the longest with a class paper. Now, college students just need to build on previous work with their own paper instead. For example, if a biology paper topic was supposed to be about Wolverines, a solitary predator mammal found in cold climates, one will find an abundance of reports on Wolverine population interaction with rural development. A student can take these papers and write a quick summary college paper debating the pros and cons of development with the sensitivity of Wolverine populations to encroachment and why. With all the information easily available in PDF format, a good writer can easily punch out a decent five-page paper in about four hours.
Of course, the key factor that still remains is that the writer needs to have the skill of knowing how to structure a college paper and how to write clearly and succinctly at the same time. That doesn’t come with automation or technology. It comes with practice. Fortunately, college is a great time to build this skill because in the real world the next topic or issue memo may only have an hour for preparation, not two weeks. That’s where the speed of the Internet then really comes into play.