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The Difficulties in Researching a Strong Academic Paper

Jun 06, 2012 | #1

Strong Academic Paper Research

Every student at the high school or college level has practice writing academic papers, and those who work in academic disciplines will continue to write these papers throughout their careers. In varying forms, academic research papers are assigned in nearly every discipline and by nearly every teacher or professor. Most student writers focus on the length of a paper when it is assigned, believing the actual writing of the paper to be the most difficult and time-consuming portion.

Strong Paper WriterIn reality, however, the researching portion is much more difficult and uses much more of a student's time. Many students get caught short when researching, not realizing the true amount of time it is going to take to research their paper. There are two main reasons researching is the most difficult part of writing an academic paper: the author must first locate relevant material for the paper, and then he or she has to determine if that material is valid. Both of these activities are much more difficult than they seem on the surface.

Finding relevant research materials in the Internet era requires two main skills. The first skill is the ability to use online search engines correctly and efficiently, since the majority of academic materials used in scholarly papers can be found on-line. Many students rely solely on websites such as Google to locate material, and do not know about discipline-specific scholarly databases such as PubMed (for medical and biological studies) or LexisNexis (for legal documents). Without using the right tools, a writer will spend much longer simply trying to locate material for a paper than is strictly necessary.

The second necessary skill in finding research material for an academic paper is the ability to weed out irrelevant information. This goes hand-in-hand with search engine skills, especially since using a specialized database will already significantly cut down on the amount of irrelevant information a writer will encounter. In this information-rich era, however, any research attempt on- or off-line is going to produce large amounts of data, much of which is of no use to the writer. As a simplistic example, a writer trying to do research for a paper on paintings of oranges, the fruit, would have to ignore color theory studies about the use of orange pigment., and is likely to encounter this problem while using an Internet search engine or while looking through a printed book about painting. Sorting through all of this makes researching for an academic paper much more difficult.

Once the information is located, the writer still must determine the validity of the research materials. While misleading and biased informational sources are primarily thought of as being on the Internet, invalid research materials can come in any form, including printed books and personal interviews. Researching for an academic paper requires the ability to analyze the source of a piece of information and determine its validity using that source. Based on the number of easily debunked urban legends and hoaxes passed around daily on social media, most people lack this skill! Figuring out whether a source is trustworthy takes time and effort, adding to the difficulty of researching for a paper.

While the actual writing of an academic paper may seem daunting, the research step is the part which can be truly overwhelming and will trip up many student writers. A writer must be able to sort through large amounts of information to find content which is both relevant and valid. This task is significantly harder than it seems and requires a special skill set which many people lack.

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