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Guide to Writing a Research Paper That Shines

Guide to Writing a Research Paper That Shines

Sometimes being tasked with writing a research paper can seem intimidating, but the reality is that when approached in the correct manner, writing a paper is quite simple. This guide tells you the steps that are needed to write a research paper that will come together with ease and impress your teacher or professor.

Choose the Topic

The topic should be one that both captures your interest and challenges you. The attitude you have toward the topic can determine the level of effort and enthusiasm that is put into the research. The topic should be narrowed down from something broad to something specific. The teacher should approve the topic before you start research. If you are not sure what is expected in the assignment, read the assignment sheet again or ask the teacher. Stay away from topics that are too specialized or have a narrow range of source materials.

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Finding the Information

Using a search engine is a good starting point for research. When checking out websites, pay careful attention to the domain name extensions, these will tell you who owns the domain such as the government with .gov, a nonprofit organization with .org, or an educational institution with .edu. Many commercial sites are pretty good, but a large number contain only advertisements for products. Aside from websites, use magazines, newspapers, government publications, encyclopedias, almanacs, and regular books.

Thesis and Outline

In a nutshell, a thesis is a declaration of your beliefs. The body of the essay will contain arguments that support and defend this. All of the points in the outline should relate back to the thesis. The purpose of the outline is to think through the topic carefully and organize your paper in a logical manner before beginning to write it. All of the points that are covered should logically flow from one to the other. Included in the outline should be an introduction, the body, and conclusion.

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Organize Notes and Write the First Draft

Gather all of the information according to the outline, and use the best sources available. Check for accuracy in the data that is collected. If available, opposing views should be noted to help support the thesis. This is possibly the most important part of writing a paper because you analyze, combine, sort, and digest information that has been gathered to learn more about the topic.

Arrange the outline into workable sentences in the ideas. Each idea should be summarized, paraphrased, or directly quoted to make up the first draft.

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Revising the Outline and Draft

Read the paper and correct any content errors. Double check any facts that have been included. Rearrange ideas so that they follow the outline. Edit the outline if needed, but always keep the purpose of the paper in mind. Also, run the paper through a grammar and proofreading checker.

The Final Draft

The final draft should be typed and printed in good quality. Refer back to the assignment sheet to ensure that the essay meets the requirements. Proofread the final paper for any spelling or grammar mistakes. Plan to have the final paper done at least two days before the deadline, giving you the chance to check the paper over and have peace of mind that the assignment is finished on time.

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Conclusion

Writing a research paper is a combination of gathering credible information, and then arranging this information into a way that makes sense. When you follow this approach, it will become clear what is needed to do this. Above all, follow the instructions that are given by the teacher or professor. This will be the best bet in presenting the information that is required for a good grade.

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Sasha Brown

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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