Writing a Social Work Research Paper
As the name suggests, the crucial aspect of a Research Paper is the element of your own research. This distinguishes it from a Term Paper, which can include research but is not defined by it. Usually a Research Paper will include designing a research project and demonstrating a critical awareness of research methodologies and analysis. Sometimes this can be analyzing transcriptions of interviews, or conducting an investigation into an element of Social Services provision such as establishing how well information is being communicated to the socially disadvantaged groups that most need it. Generally a Research Paper is conducted over a longer period of time than a normal essay and you will focus less on a general overview of the subject at hand and more on techniques, methodologies and analytical awareness. The following are elements of the Research Paper writing process that are much more important in this context than when writing other types of essays such as Term Papers or theses.
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First, you need to make sure you know your research techniques. Even if they have been covered in class, you should go over the information and make sure you reinforce your knowledge. This is particularly important with statistical analytical methodology and computer programs, as these often need reviewing if you don’t use them all the time.
Second, an awareness of ethical issues is much more important in Social Work research than in many other subjects and should be treated as an essential part of the Research Paper writing process. You are often dealing with the most vulnerable groups in society and how you approach your research must be handled very carefully. Often this section will carry a significant proportion of the final mark of your submission, so it deserves your close attention. Demonstrating that you have carefully considered and evaluated the ethical issues is a vital part of a successful Research Paper.
Thirdly, timing is extremely important. The type of research you are undertaking and the size of the project will of course affect the amount of time you will spend conducting the research itself. However, for all Research Papers, bear in mind that many unforeseen problems can arise during the course of the research and so it is important to get it underway sooner rather than later. Think of some potential contingency plans if you are doing original research that might not go as planned. Many great Research Papers have resulted from the researcher changing direction half way through from unanticipated aspects, so it is not uncommon. Be prepared!
Fourth, once research has been conducted, you need to analyze and summarize your results. This can prove a very time consuming process especially where computers are involved. Be sure to back up all your computer files, as any research lost through failing to do this is unlikely to garner much sympathy from your professors. Make sure you are up-to-date on how you are going to present the work. Make sure the analysis is relevant: when you have conducted a great deal of research it can be difficult to throw any away. You need a ruthless streak to make sure you keep your research to the point, even if you need to cut the results of hours of work. Make sure every sentence is important and makes sense. It is good to think of a Research Paper as a narrative, telling a story, so the reader comes from a position of no knowledge and by the end is much more informed.
Presentation and Referencing Styles
Fifth, obey the presentation and referencing style of your Research Paper. This is much more like a piece of original research and so you should present it more like an academic article than like an essay. Losing marks from a lack of dedication to small print is not a pleasant event, especially if the content of your Research Paper is good and the product of much hard work. Even the most eminent academics need to check their references and make sure they have gotten the style right, so you will be in good company.
Remember to plan your work and timetable enough time to complete all the sections. A Research Paper can be an exciting project, particularly if you get to plan it yourself, so make sure you leave enough time to complete it comfortably. Staying up all night does not a good Research Paper make! Preparation and effective execution of your research plan will result in a successfully researched and well-written Research Paper.
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