So, you have a great idea for a research paper. Now all you have to do is write it. If only that were as easily done as it was for you to say you’re going to do. Theses can spend years marinating in the brains of writers and researchers who are almost ready to testify to their knowledge. Working on a first draft can be painful, but remember that your research should be more afraid of you than you are of it. After all, who’s the one with the power of a delete button?
Next time you have an idea in mind, remember one of the following 7 methods. We’re sure you’ll find the right one to get you started and keep you going through to the closing statement.
7 Methods To Crush Your First Draft
1. Make sure the horse is in front of the cart
Go directly to the resources. Choose 10 credited sources that discuss your thesis, just like when you were doing your undergrad. Read them thoroughly before you detail your thesis. Not only will this give you a broad idea of the topics you’ll need to discuss in the paper, but it’ll help you define the thin line between proving a point and doing research.
2. Outline that paper like a detailed drawing
If you already know the points that you need to include in your paper, make them visual. Zig-zagging lines between topics are much more useful when you can see them, as opposed to keeping them cluttered up your brain. Having a map of where your research is going, and how your thesis will be proven is a useful tool. It’ll keep you from thinking later “now where was I going with that”. Outlining also helps prevent the pesky realization that you need to reorganize paragraphs and pages to keep the paper flowing clearly.
3. Wordsmith the whole draft
Ever feel like your research is sitting inside of you and you just need to let it out? As long as you’re prepared to kill your darlings later, this can be a useful method. Put everything that you already know into the doc, and write out the evidence that makes you so enthusiastic about your thesis. Maybe you’ll end up with 20 pages, maybe only 2, but in the end, you will certainly see where there are holes in your thesis, which supporting points are missing, and where you need more research to back up your claims.
4. Start where you disagree
Have you ever read a paper with which you fundamentally disagreed? I know you have. Start by thoroughly investigating the research which opposes your own thesis. Counter the points you disagree with by applying stronger research. You’ll feel that your research is “battling” the opposing ideas, but after the first draft, once it has been edited for fluidity, you’ll have an intelligible piece of original work which thoroughly proves your point. On the other hand, you may learn enough about the opposing view that you change your position. Then, you can write another paper about that!
5. Point Per Page
Maybe you’re not ready to write a whole paper right now, but surely you can write a page. If you were only going to write one page of your paper what would you say to prove your thesis? Write your supporting point at the top of one page, or, if you have several points in mind, give them each a designated, single page. Fill the page with outside research that supports the point, your own words on the topic, and how this point is important to your thesis. Take your time threading all your points together, trim the edges, and voila you’ll have your first draft.
6. Let the Skeleton Out of the Closet
Main point. Bullet point. Bullet point. Bullet point. Skeleton drafts are direct, lean, and anything but fancy. Yet, they get the job done, and if you’re trying to figure out how to tame 10,000 thoughts before they overtake your brain, this will keep them ordered, clear, and ready for stitching into full sentences.
7. Got Original Research?
Original can be a buzz word. While it is an astounding thing to stand on the shoulders of giants and prove a new thesis, it can also be useful to bring in fresh research. If you have a thesis in mind, ask yourself if exclusively using pre-published research will make your paper strong enough. Bring in original evidence where you can, and realize that maybe your little thesis needs to be a big research study first.
There’s no wrong way to etch your first draft. It’s hard to find a better place to start than at the beginning. Before you know it, your scrappy first draft will be ready for (gulp) peer review. Ultimately, you’ll never know how important that first idea for a paper is until it’s ready to be shared.