6 Research Tips to Level Up Your Essay (and Research) Game

Look At Sources

So let’s say I’m researching coffee and its religious conflicts (super fascinating btw) and keep finding the same source cited in various essays, especially in areas that are even more keyed in on what it is that I’m researching. I could do one of two things- I can take the facts that I’ve learned from the other sources OR I can take those facts as well as the source that they came from. I found a specific book cited in various different facts that were related to the exact thing I was looking into. I decided to get my hands on the book and got a much better understanding of the topic plus a lot of information that was not cited in the papers.

Make it Interesting

I have found myself typing the same sentence again, and again, and again, and again only to realize that I can’t write anything because I don’t care. Maybe for other people interest is not as crucial to the writing process but I can not work without it. I have written fifteen page papers in a day because I found it fascinating. And I have taken over a month to write a two page paper because I could not care less.

For me making something harder, but more interesting, is a good choice to encourage my writing, researching and production. Plus I’m less likely to procrastinate it.

Funnel It

One of the earliest tips I learned which I felt actually helped me with my writing (and that’s including those stupid ass hamburger essay/paragraph charts) was from my wonderful 6th grade teacher for social studies and English.

Search Within A Search

Sites such as JSTOR (oh my god, JSTOR my love) and other research databases (but none are as good as JSTOR) include a feature in the sidebar where, once you’ve searched for your overall topic, you can search so that the sources it pulls up include BOTH words you’d like it to be.

I once wrote a paper on the links between Coatlicue, Santa Muerte and La Virgen de Guadalupe and was having a super hard time finding essays which could help me connect certain ideas. For one Coatlicue is an Aztec goddess so nearly all the papers I found about her were written in a historical/archaeological context as opposed to a modern sociological one and Santa Muerte as a more modern figure was shown only in a sociological context. By searching within a paper I could search for Coatlicue and Modern Mexico in the same paper. Or, more helpful, Santa Muerte and Archaeology in the same paper. And I even found an essay which included an interview with a woman who worshipped Santa Muerte and La Virgen de Guadalupe in a syncretic context! (I did that by searching Santa Muerte and Virgen de Guadalupe in the same paper on JSTOR). 

Reverse Image Search

Who wants to hear more about Coatlicue, Santa Muerte and La Virgen de Guadalupe? Okay, no one.

But either way that was a helpful tool for finding images of a type I knew existed to show the widespread usage of Santa Muerte in the traditional dress of La Virgen de Guadalupe. By using the reverse image search I found graffiti, pillar candles, and art work which demonstrated the exact concept I was proposing in my paper.

Quote Notes

One of my favorite methods for essay note-taking, because to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of taking notes, is to not take notes on everything but instead take quotes which exemplify what is explained in that area/section which will be relevant. Make sure to have the link to your source (or where to find the book/article) with the quote.

(Taking notes on paper? Grab yourself a set of 3 100% recycled notebooks for $15 here)

This can be helpful for several reasons because 1. it will keep track of quotes to insert into your paper. Quotes really add credibility (and word count) when they’re relevant and from someone with expertise in the field. Secondly it will let you know what section you should look into for similar facts. Very rarely will a paper be so spread out that a great quote and all information pertaining to the niche of that quote will be seventy seven pages apart.

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