Guidelines For Writing Comprehensive Scientific Papers
Writing scientific papers is rarely a linear process. Researchers have to synthesize multifaceted ideas, sources, and arguments to present a comprehensive report. The main challenge in writing about complex topics is elucidating the arguments presented by secondary sources and developing a distinct thesis upon which the researcher can develop a meaningful discussion. Yet, for a difficult academic paper to fully communicate its central thesis, it must demonstrate intelligence, energy, clarity, and substance.
Research forms the basis for any academic work that is worth publishing. Students not only undertake research solely for the sake of collecting data; they do so to further their field of study and more importantly, to gain deeper insights in a certain area of interest. A student who is on a fact-finding mission will largely depend on secondary sources to familiarize himself with the basic concepts and the nuances of a topic. In exploring a difficult or technical academic paper, the researcher must adopt a highly organized study methodology to simplify complex concepts. Note taking and mind mapping are two of the most effective reading methods, as they help a researcher to form a clear outline of individual ideas, and how these ideas interrelate and contrast. Hyerle, observes that often, when students take study notes, they have difficulty understanding the co-relation between different concepts that evolve over the duration of the research period. Mind mapping allows students to visually create a web of ideas, so they can process information from different sources and understand how these pieces of information tie into the main topic of research.
Analysis is an innate aspect of the research process. To effectively write an academic paper, a researcher must be able to critically think about the arguments presented in secondary sources such as books, magazines, and journals. It is not enough to regurgitate what other authors have mentioned; analysis entails understanding different arguments, observing weak points and noting down any areas of agreement or disagreement. In analyzing arguments in technical subject areas, a researcher should expect to study diverse primary sources, to have a proper grasp of the main propositions around a topic. It is also through critical analysis that the researcher is able to develop a debatable thesis upon which he can build the main discussion of his or her academic report.
Identifying whether an academic paper requires an argumentative or an analytical approach is an essential aspect of the research and analysis phase. An argumentative report will require the researcher to ask different questions from what he would ask when writing an analytical report. While an argument-based academic paper entails supporting a specific viewpoint, an analytical paper comprises a non-persuasive explanation of primary and secondary sources.
Building into a thesis becomes more feasible when a student undertakes his research and analysis while bearing in mind the type of approach (analytical or argumentative) required. Development of a thesis is best done by writing down the main arguments around a topic, finding a common factor throughout the diverse arguments and then taking a distinctive stance. Given that academic papers are generally argumentative, the thesis ought to have an element of meaningful debate. The process entails critically examining the reasoning, the assumptions and the fallacies in the arguments presented in the secondary sources.
A major challenge students experience when researching and writing complex academic work is organization. Even with adequate research and a good thesis, a poorly organized paper will not convey the intended argument. Drawing an outline entails coming up with suitable topics and subtopics, and developing a linear transition from one paragraph to the next. Well-written study notes play an important role in drawing an outline that serves as a blueprint for writing an academic report.
In conclusion, it is widely acknowledged that complex academic writing requires being mindful of the target audience. The research and analysis phase forms the basis of developing clear ideas that lead into a viable central proposition, or a thesis that the target audience can easily understand. The ability to form an interrelated web of ideas is equally an indispensable aspect of the writing process.