An education research paper is a text including original research by the author and intended for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Its size may vary and largely depends on the requirements of the topic – there is no strictly assigned minimal word count. It is quite possible to publish a fairly short paper if your findings can be expressed in a short text.
A research paper is intended for review by other researchers in the field, which means that you have to be ready for opposition and counter-arguments to your ideas. Therefore, it pays to be prepared and includes references to potential opposing views and their reputation in the text of a paper.
Peer-reviewed papers are the main method of sharing one’s research and progressing science. If you are not going to become a teacher but intend to study the theory of education academically, you will have to learn how to write them – and it is better to begin early on. In this guide, we will try to help you with this education research paper tips from our experts.
Step 1: Topic
The main purpose of a research paper as an academic assignment is to evaluate your ability to do independent, unsupervised research in your field. As a result, usually, you are free to choose any topic within the confines of your discipline. However, even if your choice is rigidly limited by your instructor’s guidelines, usually you have enough leeway to pick something sufficiently convenient to write about.
- Choose something you are passionate about. Writing about something you yourself are interested in is easier and more pleasant than writing just because you’ve been assigned a task to write about it. The results are also going to be better than when you write something out of sheer necessity;
- Choose a topic with enough research to work with. There is nothing more frustrating than to discover too late that there is but a couple of information sources on your subject. Check the existing body of research beforehand;
- Make sure your topic is sufficiently new. Use academic indexing and search services like EBSCO, Google Scholar or Sweet Search and run a search using the main keywords from your intended topic. If you find existing works that cover the same or almost the same subject, at least read them before attempting to write about it – if you don’t have anything new to say, better pick another topic;
- Make sure your topic is pertinent to your class/course/guidelines. You will be amazed how many students make a mistake of picking an irrelevant research topic, to begin with. Consult your instructor if you are in doubt;
- Be original. Consider what your classmates are going to write about and avoid too obvious topics. If possible, ask what other people are writing about – you cannot write an original paper if you use the same topic as half of your class;
- Be ready to change the topic if necessary. If you choose a topic, start research and suddenly find that proceeding with it would be a pain (too little information, the topic is too boring or unoriginal, etc.), better cut your losses and change it before you do too much work. You may be unwilling to let the work you’ve already done go down the drain, but it is better to give up now and try something else than waste time working on a topic you may have to abandon anyway.
Here are some topics to give you an impression of what you should be aiming for:
Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
- Learning Methods for Blind Children: Existing Approaches, Challenges and Possibilities Opened up by Technology;
- Technology and Lesson Planning: Current and Potential Application;
- Anti-Bullying Measures in Educational Institutions;
- Recesses in Elementary Schools: Wasteful Loss of Time or a Necessary Part of Normal Development?
- The Influence of Start Time at School on the Efficiency of Learning;
- Year-Round Education: Potential Advantages and Drawbacks.
Step 2: Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is a concise statement of the purpose of your research: your opinion on the subject matter is based on the research you have carried out. It is different from the topic – a topic merely describes what your research paper is about, the thesis statement additionally declares your point of view. E.g., “Free College Tuition: Flaws and Benefits” is a topic. “Based on my research, free college tuition puts serious economic stress on the country while decreasing the quality of education” is a thesis statement.
A thesis statement is more or less your entire research paper confined in a single sentence. After reading it, anybody should get a good impression of what to expect in the rest of your paper. This is why you should take care to place it at the beginning of your text, preferably in the first or second paragraph. This way the reader won’t have to scan through your paper looking for it.
Make sure it is:
- Concise (no longer than 1-2 sentences);
- Clear (don’t use vague language);
- Relevant (you may need to modify it after you finish the paper);
- Contains the most important point of your paper.
Step 3: Sources
The value of your education research paper to a considerable extent will be evaluated based on the quality and number of sources you use for information. The most important type of sources that should constitute the bulk of your bibliography is peer-reviewed papers published in well-reputed academic journals and magazines. However, other sources are acceptable as well: books and other publications, newspapers, mass media, websites, blogs, videos and so on. They are, however, treated as sources of poorer quality, and you shouldn’t rely on them too much.
However, it doesn’t mean that you can use any peer-reviewed paper without reservations. You should carefully evaluate each source you are about to use. This is done primarily by following a checklist of questions to ask yourself:
- What do you know about the author? What are his credentials? Is he an expert on the issue? Is it possible to find out more about his relation to the topic? Can you contact him? Has he written other papers on the same or similar topic (run a search in academic databases)? Have other credible sources referred to this paper?
- What do you know about the publisher? Does it have sponsors or affiliations? If it is an online source, who links to the page and are they credible? Does this publisher take responsibility for the content it publishes?
- Do you see any signs of bias? Emotional language? Does the personality of the author or the nature of the organization suggest the possibility of bias? Is the purpose of publication to inform or to persuade the reader? Is it logical for the author to have an agenda?
- Does the author cite his sources?
- Is the information provided by the source reliable? Does the author back up his claims with citations? Are the claims verifiable?
- When was the source published? Does it contain current information?
You should also know how to differentiate between primary and secondary sources.
Primary sources are factual first-hand accounts, such as documents, statistics, diaries, journals, mass media accounts, photographs and so on. They aren’t interpretive – they tell about facts without analyzing them.
Secondary sources are the ones that interpret and analyze primary ones. Research papers, biographies, book reviews, analytical evaluations of experiments all go in this category. Primary sources aren’t better or more valuable than the secondary ones – they simply follow a different goal and should be used when appropriate. A high-quality research paper maintains a healthy balance between the two.
Step 4: Outline
An outline is a short summary or plan of your paper where you mark down its structure and enumerate all the important points you have to make in particular places. It is done mainly to organize your thoughts and to make sure you don’t forget anything when writing. Some students forgo writing an outline believing that they know enough about the topic to write about it without notes, but we don’t recommend to do so – in the long run, ten minutes writing an outline can save you hours you would otherwise waste rewriting things after you remember to put something in the middle of an already finished segment.
There are two types of outlines:
- A topic outline marks points with short phrases a few words each. E.g., ‘Behavior of school bullies. Gender Differences’;
- A sentence outline relies on complete sentences, e.g., ‘Male and female bullies demonstrate differences in their behavior’. Use this in large research papers full of small points where a few words may not be enough to glean the meaning of a point.
Step 5: Writing & a Few Tricks from Our Writers
Writing the main part of an education paper, i.e., its body paragraphs can be done much easier if you follow these principles from the outset:
- Don’t expect to finish your paper in a single draft. As your research goes on, you may find it necessary to rewrite, reorganize or just cut parts of it, sometimes big parts. This means that you don’t have to get everything just right the first time around – make it your rule first to write, and revise later;
- Read the sources you cite. If you find a quote you like in one of your sources, either quote it by attaching “as cited in” to it or find the book in question and read it. It is embarrassingly easy to find out if you haven’t read this or that source, and you don’t want to risk your reputation because of a mere citation;
- Try to use mostly short sentences, about 20-25 words long, but don’t make them all of the uniform length – it reads unnaturally. Introduce longer and shorter sentences now and then to maintain a more natural rhythm;
- Organize your references according to your assigned formatting style. Most education papers are written in APA, but your college may have different preferences, so make sure to check it. If APA it is, don’t use foot- and endnotes. APA believes that anything worth quoting is also worth being put directly in the text because footnotes disrupt the text and force the reader to tear away from the place he deals with to go looking for them. What isn’t important enough to be put into the body of the text shouldn’t be quoted at all;
- Use a single point or idea per paragraph. Every paragraph should follow more or less the same structure: preliminary information – supporting evidence – potential counter-arguments – connection to the next paragraph.
Step 6: Revision
No matter how good you are at writing, your research paper needs revision, and you should consider it to be a legitimate part of the writing process. Therefore, set aside a specific amount of time to do it and don’t decide to proofread the text if there is some time left after writing. If you don’t decide in advance that you are going to proofread it and how much time you will need for it, there won’t be any time left. Ideally, you should finish your paper at least a few days before the official deadline – this will give you enough breathing room.
- Make cuts. Anything that can be expressed in fewer words should be. Any word or sentence that isn’t needed to draw a bigger picture should go. The more laconic your paper is, the better;
- See if all parts (chapter and paragraphs) are connected to each other and there are no leaps of logic;
- Check your style. If you find yourself using contractions, slang, jargon or colloquial words, eliminate them;
- Do you use overly long and complicated words to make your speech more impressive? If so, replace them with shorter, simpler words – but only if it is necessary, don’t oversimplify your language. You will learn how to see the difference in time;
- Ask yourself: if you were reading your paper for the first time, would you understand everything? If the answer is no, then you are doing something wrong.
Writing an education research paper doesn’t come to one easily, but this education research paper writing guide will lead you through writing your first education research paper – and after that, you can concentrate on developing a style of your own.