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When the time came to write up a new chapter, I’d open up a new Word document and call it something like “Primary Sources, black Loyalists in Sierra Leone chapter.” Then, I’d go through my folders and open each document that seemed like it would contain a relevant collection.I’d copy and paste each document into the new Word document, alphabetizing by collection name.
To get started with this you will need note cards as well as a note card or recipe box and dividers for the box.
By using note cards while you are researching and formulating your thoughts on your research paper you will be able to write it faster when you do start writing it because all of the information you need is right in front of you and in order.
As an undergrad, I could print out my fifteen or so pages of primary source quotes to write a 10-to-12-page research paper.
That method wasn’t going to work for the dissertation.
Once I was done adding in every potential collection, I formatted the document to 4 by 6 inches, shrunk the font (to save paper), and added page numbers.
Then, I bought extra print cartridges, resigned myself to killing some trees, and printed everything out on index cards (each chapter usually ended up producing 200-500 cards).
I should say that this method does not produce a beautiful first draft.
To be honest, it produces a pretty mediocre piece of writing.
But I’m the sort of writer who needs to produce a “here’s what happened chronologically” chapter before I can edit it into a “here’s why it matters” chapter.
And I found that getting the chronology down was half the battle to writing the damn thing in the first place.