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Research Papers? You Got This! Part 2

by Mary Steffenhagen

Last week, I wrote about research techniques and tips that I've found useful for preliminary research for a paper. Now it's time to start writing!

You have sources and a direction in which to head but you won’t go anywhere without a strong thesis. A strong thesis states your idea concisely and directly. It should be very specific but also something that is not beyond argument – your paper will be proving a point and disproving others – so starting off with “I argue” is a good way to state your thesis confidently.

Quotations from your sources, especially your primary source, are the excellent additions to strengthen your arguments. Don’t let them overpower your own voice, though; if you’re quoting every other sentence, back off a bit. You can still include that information if it’s necessary but try paraphrasing it (with attribution, of course) and injecting your own viewpoint. Use quotations to point back to the thesis and, like the thesis, make sure they are strong and not just in there to bump up the word count (although quotes are great for that if you really need it).

Assuming you have the bulk of the paper down, write your conclusion and intro. The intro is incredibly obvious once you have the body of the paper done – after all, your ideas are concise and flow together in a real format. It goes without saying that the intro is crucial: It has to seize and hold your reader’s attention and present your thesis. Your conclusion is equally important and you shouldn’t just summarize what you’ve already said. Think of these sections as your answer to “So what?” Make your reader see why your argument (and all the work you’ve done) is worthwhile.

Next come the dreaded citations. Whether it’s APA, MLA or Turabian, I’ve never known anyone to enjoy citations but they are crucial to correctly attributing your sources. (Remember, inadvertent plagiarism is still plagiarism.) The Purdue Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource when you are unsure of how to cite something and I often use Calvin College’s Knight Cite to format the source information for me.

It should come as no surprise that your next step should be proofread, proofread, proofread. Get a friend to read your paper over, too, as new eyes catch mistakes better than eyes that are used to seeing them.

Lastly, print it off, smell the fresh ink and breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe there’s even time tonight for a few hours of sleep! I hope what I have learned from writing a plethora of research papers will make your process less daunting and more worthwhile.

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

This weekend is San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest event of the year for fans of comic books, graphic novels, online comics, and virtually anything else related to comics or the surrounding culture. While no one in the Scholarships.com office is making the trek to Comic-Con this year, we are looking at ways to help students who love comics pay for school. If you're looking for something to do while all your favorite webcomics are on hiatus, consider applying for some of these scholarship awards.

If you're interested in reading comics, you may also be interested in writing or drawing them, and creative writing and art scholarships are both widely available. Even if you're less interested in art and more interested in science fiction (comic conventions are nerd meccas, after all), there are scholarship opportunities for you. We encourage you to take a few moments to do a free college scholarship search and check out our information page on unusual scholarships, which features some interesting awards that may work for you. To give you an idea of some of the scholarship opportunities available for comics enthusiasts, here are a few examples.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: Aspiring artists and writers are asked to submit portfolios of three to eight pieces in this annual scholarship contest. Winners receive up to $10,000 in college scholarships.

L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests: Amateur illustrators and writers participating in the quarterly L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest can receive awards of up to $5,000 for creating an original illustration or short story with a science fiction theme.

Starfleet Academy Scholarships: Any active member of Starfleet, the official Star Trek fan club, is eligible for a Starfleet Scholarship. Members can be attending community colleges, four-year colleges, most technical schools, junior colleges and universities or graduate school.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is a scholarship essay contest that offers a $10,000 reward to students who are actively engaged in fighting poverty. The In The River They Swim essay competition asks participants to reflect upon an experience living or working in a poor country or a poor region of a developed nation and tell a story about a personal journey they've had doing enterprise solutions to poverty.

What makes this competition unique is that it asks for students to go beyond the traditional response elicited by community service scholarships and other essay scholarships and to reflect on both successes and failures, as well as people encountered and lessons learned along the way. Rather than simply recounting experiences in a matter-of-fact way, a winning essay will tell a story in an engaging and illuminating manner. Most importantly, the essay should teach the reader something, and presents an opportunity to think both critically and creatively about your work, your attitudes, and your assumptions for a chance at a substantial cash prize and possible publication.

Prize: $10,000

Eligibility: Anyone is eligible to participate, regardless of age, level of education, or area of study.

Deadline: September 1, 2009

Required Material: An essay of no more than 2000 words written in response to the contest prompt and submitted online. All essays must be accompanied by a 100-word abstract.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for thisscholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

The fall semester is just around the corner, and in addition to the start of classes, students are also beginning to gear up for scholarship application season, the time from late fall to late spring when the majority of scholarship applications are due. If you are just starting your scholarship search, there are a number of things to keep in mind when deciding which awards to apply for. The size of the award, the application deadline, the amount of work required, and your likelihood of winning are all criteria you likely use in evaluating awards. One other thing to think about before putting together an application, though, is whether there will be any costs associated with the scholarship contest.

Every scholarship application will have some degree of cost associated with it, whether it's postage, time, or the costs involved in creating your application materials (for example, printing an essay or filming and editing a video). However, some scholarship applications are going to be more costly than others, and when a scholarship charges an application fee on top of the time, energy, and money you're already putting into it, it should be cause for some careful thought.

Scholarship opportunities are generally seen as altruistic offers made by organizations that want to help students succeed in college. Sure, many scholarships have a promotional nature, as there are few better ways to attract interest in a company than by giving something away for free. However, some companies actually charge students to apply for scholarships. For example, we came across one scholarship essay contest that offered a $500 award and charged a $15 application fee. The scholarship provider boasted of receiving 10,000 applications in a year, meaning they hauled in $15,000 and only gave away $500. Unless they're spending over $14,000 promoting the contest and paying people to judge the essays, it's reasonable to believe they're profiting off the scholarship in more ways than just boosting traffic to their site. Not necessarily the most altruistic endeavor, huh?

This isn't the only example of a scholarship contest charging a seemingly unnecessary application fee. Offers like this aren't necessarily scholarship scams, as legitimate awards are offered to people who apply. However, why would you pay money for something when there are so many other ways to get it for free?


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Many scholarship essay contests have broad and open-ended questions, designed to allow applicants a great deal of leeway in crafting their responses and allowing their writing to shine. But sometimes it's nice to have more structure to a writing scholarship, too, especially if you're skilled at literary analysis and argumentative writing. Luckily for the English and composition nerds out there, there are scholarship providers who are happy to oblige with contests asking applicants to read a novel and write an essay response. One of these is this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest, sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute. Interested students just need to read the novel "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand and write an essay response to one of three prompts for a chance at up to $10,000 in scholarship money. There's one catch: The novel is nearly 1200 pages long, so you'd better really like reading.

Prize

  • 1 first prize: $10,000
  • 3 second prizes: $2,000
  • 5 third prizes: $1,000
  • 20 finalists: $100
  • 20 semifinalists: $50

Eligibility: High school seniors and current college students worldwide are eligible to apply. Applicants must be enrolled in high school or college at the time their applications are submitted.

Deadline: September 17, 2009

Required Material: Completed essay of 800 to 1,600 words written in response to one of the three prompts provided on the contest website. Essays will be judged on both style and content, with a particular emphasis on understanding of the philosophic themes of the novel. Essays may be submitted online or through the mail.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Unless you're lucky enough to happen across an extremely obscure and unusual scholarship with only one or two qualified applicants, you are going to have to face some competition to receive a scholarship award. In the case of essay scholarships that are easy to enter or that come with a substantial award, you may be facing quite a lot of competition. In fact, with many scholarship competitions, you may be up against so much competition that there's no guarantee a reviewer will even have time to completely read and digest each scholarship essay submitted. This makes your essay's introduction vitally important.

The first sentence of your scholarship application is your first, best and possibly only chance to capture your reader's attention. To have the best chance at winning scholarships, you need to know how to start your essay off right. The following are some tips to help you craft an eye-catching introduction that gets your foot in the door and gets your application the attention it deserves.

Put it in your own words. While starting with a quote is a common technique in speaking and some writing, it may not work best in a scholarship application essay. Leading with a quote shows the reviewer that you know how to read, but it doesn't tell much else about you or your ideas. Use your own words to begin, and if a quote supports or enhances your argument, consider bringing it in later in the essay.

Avoid clichés and tired phrases. One of your essay's goals should be to distinguish you from the competition, and it won't do this if it rehashes the same overused expressions that everyone else employs. Keep in mind that the scholarship reviewer will be reading hundreds or even thousands of applications. What seems clever or cute the first time doesn't seem that way after the 50th or 100th iteration. A good rule to follow is that if a phrase belongs on a bumper sticker or in an e-mail from your mom, it likely does not belong in your scholarship essay.

Establish a personal connection. If your experience gives you a unique perspective on the essay's topic, show your reader this. Most people are suckers for personal anecdotes, provided the stories are interesting and well-told. Make sure the story you tell fits these criteria and actually enriches your essay and contributes to your overall message. Don't get melodramatic and don't bog down your introduction in an overly long, detailed or irrelevant narrative, but if you've got a good story to tell to frame your essay, use it.

Say something new. Are you arguing something that falls well outside the typical series of canned responses? Consider leading with your thesis, or at least some of the information or realizations that guided your essay towards its thesis. There's no better way to stand out from a pile of fairly standard responses than to have something fresh and thought-provoking to contribute with your scholarship application.

With a solid introduction and a thoughtful and well-written response, you'll be well on your way to writing a scholarship-worthy essay.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Often, scholarship opportunities also serve as opportunities for students to think about and respond to pressing issues of the day, and one of the problems weighing most heavily on society in the last year has been the global economic crisis.  While the recession has begun showing signs of abating, it is still creating serious problems in several areas of life, ranging from paying for school to owning a home.

Homeowners have been facing threats of foreclosure due to a combination of factors related to the recession, and this problem could still get worse before it gets better. The real estate website Foreclosure.com is sponsoring a scholarship essay contest that invites college students to propose solutions to the ongoing spike in foreclosures. With a $5,000 top prize for the scholarship essay that best explains "how to solve the foreclosure crisis," the Foreclosure.com Scholarship Program is this week's Scholarship of the Week.

Prize: Top prize is $5,000 and four runners-up will receive $1,000

Eligibility: Students who are currently enrolled in or have been accepted to an accredited college, university, law school or trade school in the United States.  U.S. citizenship is required.

Deadline: December 31, 2009

Required Material: A completed online scholarship application, along with an essay of 1,000 to 2,500 words addressing the essay topic. Scholarship applications will be judged on writing ability, creativity, originality, and overall excellence.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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The Morality of Profit Project

December 28, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

Still finding yourself with a lot of time on your hands this winter break? This week's Scholarship of the Week could help you with that. The Morality of Profit Project through the SEVEN Fund asks applicants to write an essay of up to 3,000 words on the morality of profit, and whether the pursuit of profit is moral in the current global economic crisis.

The SEVEN Fund, or the Social Equity Venture Fund, is an independent nonprofit organization that provides monetary, organizational and intellectual support for the study of enterprise-based solutions to poverty. The essay scholarship aims to get more young people thinking about profit motives, as the debate is currently fairly polarized. If you have opinions on the topic and enjoy writing a good essay, this could be the perfect contest to get your creative juices flowing. The organization is also all about diversity, so those from diverse cultural, religious, philosophical, and academic traditions are especially welcome to participate.

Prize: SEVEN will award top honors to three essays, with a grand prize of $20,000, a second prize of $10,000, and a third prize of $5,000. The best pieces will be collected into a manuscript, which is intended for publication, and the program will culminate with an international conference in 2010.

Eligibility: Everyone is welcome to apply, no matter your field, discipline, or profession. The competition is also a global one, so both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens are welcome to participate.

Deadline: February 28, 2010

Required Material: The essay must be submitted electronically in a Microsoft Word or PDF format only, using the submission form on the organization's website. Every essay must, in addition to the actual essay, include a 100 word abstract at the beginning of the document. Along with the submission, applicants are asked to include the following information in the submission form, as well as on the first page of your submitted essay: full name and mailing address, a contact telephone number, your email, and a brief paragraph biography. All information requested, including contact information, abstract, and the essay should be included in a single document.


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you've had classes since 2001, the year the (in)famous online, user-edited encyclopedia was launched, chances are you're guilty of using Wikipedia as a source of information while completing your coursework. A new report from First Monday, an online peer-reviewed journal, took a look at just how prevalent the site has become on college campuses in particular (although high school students are probably just as bad offenders), and how students have begun to rely on Wikipedia as a resource.

According to the study, more than half of all respondents use Wikipedia frequently or always for course-related research. Students in architecture, engineering, or the sciences were more likely to use the site in their courses than other majors. (This could have something to do with the fact that students in social sciences like psychology or history must provide reference lists more often for papers they turn in, and citing Wikipedia simply won't fly on a college level essay.) The study surveyed 2,318 students, and took qualitative data from 86 of those students who participated in focus groups.

Other major findings of the study include the following:

  • Most students said they used Wikipedia for a summary about a topic (82 percent), the meaning of related terms (67 percent), and to get started on research (76 percent).
  • About 52 percent of the respondents were frequent Wikipedia users, even if an instructor advised against it.
  • Only 22 percent reported that they rarely, if ever, used Wikipedia.
  • About 17 percent used Wikipedia because they thought it was more credible than other sites.
  • Only about 2 percent used Wikipedia toward the end of their research process.
  • Overall, the strongest predictor of using Wikipedia was being someone who also used Google for course–related research.
  • Those enrolled in two–year campuses were less likely than those in four–year institutions to report that they used Wikipedia.

Whether you're writing a college essay or applying for an essay scholarship, here's a good rule of thumb on citing Wikipedia as a reference—don't do it. While the site can be an excellent tool for you to kick off your search, as the study above suggests, it simply isn't reliable enough to be taken seriously by academia. Anyone can add to and edit entries on the site, so it's always best to do some fact-checking after you get your Wikipedia summary prior to the start of the rest of your research. (Stephen Colbert proved this point when he edited Wikipedia articles on his own show, George Washington, and elephants, all while viewers watched. He also coined the term "wikiality," which refers to the reality that exists if you make something up and enough people agree with you.)


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Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Deadline Approaching for Scholarship of the Week

August 23, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

With most fall semesters just beginning or yet to begin, now may be the perfect time to spend some time applying for scholarships that may require a bit more effort on your part. If you’re a stellar writer, spending some of your extra time on an essay scholarship may lead to a decent prize to help cover some of those college costs. This week’s Scholarship of the Week asks applicants to reflect on topics based on the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged. If you’ve already read the book, the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest may be a no-brainer for you. If you haven’t read it yet but have impressive speed-reading skills, you may still have enough time to submit an essay before the deadline.

This isn’t an award you can just recycle a previous essay for, unless you have the good luck of having studied the novel in your high school literature class. There are essay and writing scholarships out there though that have more general topics for you to reflect and compose narratives on. Make sure to keep copies of every essay you write, whether it’s for a scholarship or college application. Those personal statements and reflective essays may come in handy when you’re applying for internships, grants, fellowships, or future scholarships.

Prize:

  • 1 First Prize of $10,000
  • 2 Second Prizes of $2,000
  • 5 Third Prizes of $1,000
  • 20 Finalist Prizes of $100
  • 20 Semifinalist Prizes of $50

Eligibility:

Applicants must be high school seniors, college undergraduates, or graduate students.

Deadline:

September 17, 2010

Required Material:

Applicants are asked to write an essay of no fewer than 800 and no more than 1,600 words on one of three topics provided on the Ayn Rand Institute’s website. Essays will be judged on both style and content, including a writer’s grasp of the novel Atlas Shrugged, and may be mailed in or submitted online. Mailed essays should include a stapled cover sheet. The winning essay will be posted online, so applicants must be comfortable having their names posted on the Ayn Rand Institute’s site.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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