Organizing Research

So, you’ve collected your research… now what? Well, before you sit down and start spitting out words, you will probably want to do a little bit of organization. There are several things you will want to take into consideration:

1. What kind of paper are you being asked to write? Some papers are argumentative, meaning that you will be asked to defend a particular position related to your topic. Others are analytical, meaning that you start with a research question which you will then answer by synthesizing the research that you have found.

2. As you are going through the information you have gathered, take some time to think about what you have learned. If you’re writing an analytical paper, were you able to answer your original research question? If you are writing an argumentative paper, does the research you have found support your original position? At this point, you still haven’t written your paper, so you may be able to modify your question or change your position on a particular topic based on the research that you have found.

3. It’s also good to consider the possible limitations of the research. Are there aspects of the topic that seemed to have gone unconsidered or unaddressed? Do the conclusions drawn by other researchers make sense? In order for you to effectively persuade and inform your audience, it is important that you understand your topic thoroughly.

4. Organize the information that you have gathered. By this point, you should have an idea of how you can structure your paper based on the research that you have done. As mentioned in a previous blog post, it is helpful to keep track of your sources by citing as you go and using notecards. You can then use your notecards to structure your paper by grouping them into sets. If you have taken notes on a computer, you might find your own way to synthesize the information under general topic headings. 

5. Once you have grouped your notecards (or organized the information on your computer), you can form an outline by ordering the cards in a way that makes sense. Depending on the type of paper you are writing, you might order the cards chronologically, by subtopic, or by argument/counter-argument. Professors and TAs (as well as the assignment rubric) are good resources for ideas on how to organize your outline. 

Happy writing!

Additional resources:
Research & Writing Center, 3322 HBLL

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