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7 Powerful Online Resources for Writing Research Papers

Updated By Staff Writer on April 10, 2020

As a college student, you will be required to write research papers. Beyond the course materials, there are many online tools available to you to help with spelling, grammar, and finding the best sources for research. Optimize the time you have available for homework by bookmarking these five tools and incorporate them into your study process. Finding strong resources for your papers and writing with proper sentence structure and spelling will be easier to accomplish in a timely manner. With these five tools and eight research paper tips, you can enhance your own learning process and set yourself up for success as an online college student.

1. Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine that draws from an expansive database of scholarly articles. You want to be sure the information you gather is as credible as possible. Scholarly resources are written by experts using the language of their profession, and as such they can be quite dense or difficult to understand. This also makes them an abundant source of in-depth information that can help give your research paper the authority it needs to back up your points. The articles may be from professional journals, postdoctoral research, or a graduate thesis, just to name a few.

2. Other Free Research Databases

Although many academic journals and databases require a paid subscription, there are several free-to-access research databases available to help you through your data gathering process. The Independence University Library maintains a list of several of these databases, including the Directory of Open Access Journals, Cite SeerX, and Microsoft Academic Search. If your research paper involves a particular area of study, the Independence University Library’s research guides are also a great resource for quick reference. From business to technology to graphic arts, the Independence University librarians have collaborated with faculty members to compile these reference tools to be a quick reference for students when they need them.

3. Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, and its content is written collaboratively by the general public. Because anyone is able to contribute to the information contained in each page (wiki), it is not considered to be credible as a primary source. Thousands of changes are made on wikis every day, and many errors go unnoticed, so you should never cite Wikipedia as a source for a research paper. Wikipedia, however, has a vast amount of information covering nearly any topic you can imagine, and it can be difficult for students to stay away from using all of the Wikipedia results that turn up in their online searches. The best way to use Wikipedia is as a jumping-off point. At the bottom of every wiki there is a detailed section where original sources are cited with hyperlinks. Having so many sources collected on a single topic is a valuable resource by itself. For more guidance on how to identify accurate and reliable sources, check out this infographic created by Independence University’s librarians.

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4. ProQuest Newsstand

ProQuest Newsstand is the best resource for full-text newspapers with hundreds having same-day publication access. This provides up-to-date information at your fingertips from over 2500 news sources. Independence University students have free access to this database through the university library.

5. Yammer Writing Tools

Yammer is a private and secure social networking platform used by businesses and other organizations as a collaboration tool. It is a powerful resource for college students to collaborate with their community of fellow students. Yammer allows you to ask questions and share drafts for peer review, among many other features. The more feedback you can receive on your work, the better.

6. Hemingway App

The final draft of the research paper that you submit to your professor needs to be a polished written work, and the Hemingway App can help you get there. It uses artificial intelligence to scan your writing to find possible errors and gives suggestions on how to make it more concise and easy to read.

7. Grammarly

Are spelling, punctuation, and grammar not your forte? Grammarly is an app widely used by writers and teachers that automatically finds errors in your writing as you write it. This is a very helpful app to use through every stage of drafting your research paper.

How to Write a Research Paper

There are some very basic steps to follow when writing a research paper, and the online resources introduced above can help you every step of the way. Defining those steps is important in understanding how using a few additional tools is so valuable.

  1. Choose a topic

What specifically is interesting to you about the subject assigned? It’s important to choose a topic that interests you because it will affect the level of enthusiasm and motivation you have through the process. Google Scholar and Wikipedia are excellent online resources with this step. Searching broad topics will generate results in a range of more narrow sub-topics.

  2. Gather information

Your instructor will likely have criteria for the type of resources to include in your research. Once your topic has been defined, carefully review the different sources generated in your online searches. Google Scholar is an excellent tool since all of its results will be credible academic resources.

   PRO TIP: LOOK AT URL EXTENSIONS: Pay attention to the URL extensions. A .com extension is typically used by for-profit businesses, and while it may have excellent information, their focus may solely be to sell a product, not educational expertise. Extensions such as .edu (typically used by educational organizations), .gov (government sites), and .org (for non-profit organizations) are the ones you’re looking for.

  3. Establish a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a belief or point of view on a topic. All of the research you do will be based on this thesis statement. The body of your research paper will be to support or defend your thesis. The writing for the statement should be concise—preferably only one sentence. This statement should introduce the topic in an interesting way to “hook” the reader, making them want to continue reading. The Hemingway app is an online resource that can help keep your writing concise and polished.

  4. Draft an outline

An outline gives you a framework to follow in the process of writing your paper. You will need to think critically and logically about the topic and thesis statement to figure out how the information should be organized sequentially. All of the information should fall into three main sections: Introduction: This will introduce your thesis statement and the supporting information the reader can expect to learn about. Body: The body is where you will present the information you have researched in support of your thesis statement. Conclusion: A conclusion is a restatement of your original thesis. You will describe how and why you have supported and proven your statement in the introduction. Your outline will give direction as you study the information you have gathered. Keep in mind that as you learn more about the topic the outline may need to change.

  5. Take notes

Critically evaluate your sources to be sure they are factual and credible. Read through the resources you have chosen and take notes. Organize your notes and find the most relevant information to include in your paper. When it comes to taking notes as an online college student, Yammer is a very effective tool. You can also ask your classmates questions you may have using Yammer’s messaging tool. A fellow student may be studying the same topic and could offer a helpful point of view.

  6. Write a first draft

Follow the key points in your outline as you write your first draft. The information in your notes should easily fall into order, thanks to the outline you have laid out. As you write, use Grammarly to help with proper spelling and sentence structure so you can focus on the content of your paper.

  7. Revisions

Evaluate your first draft. Ask yourself the following questions as you review your writing:

  • Is the thesis statement clear and interesting?
  • Does all of the information presented in the body support the thesis?
  • Is there enough information to support the thesis statement?
  • Does the writing flow well sequentially? Should anything be reorganized?
  • Is the conclusion clear? Has enough supporting information been presented to make the conclusion concrete? At this point, peer reviews are very helpful. Constructive criticism offers new perspectives that can help you refine your draft.

  8. Final draft

After thoroughly revising your first draft and soliciting feedback, make the necessary changes to your paper. Refine and polish your writing. Be sure everything is concise and that you have written with proper grammar. Grammarly and the Hemingway app will be helpful at this stage.

There are more resources available to college students than ever before. Take advantage of these online tools to help you overcome writer’s block and maintain motivation through the process of writing your paper. With a little practice, you will write high-quality research papers every time.