This article is actually about research but I thought that might sound boring to my target audience, and I made up a clickbait title. This strategy is both dishonest and grossly immoral. Thanks for reading!!
How to Write a Research Paper
Step One: Choose a topic.
You spend minutes brainstorming topics. After doodling the Superman “S” symbol seventy times and scrolling through your Facebook feed (if you are 30+), liking eighty-six instagram posts in sixty-three seconds (if you are 20+), or updating your Snap story with a surreptitious photo of the snoring kid next to you + a puking rainbows lens (if you are 13+), you come up with a list of five possible topics: Abortion, Capital Punishment, Animal Testing, School Uniforms, and Capital Punishment. One million people have written middle school papers on these topics one million times, so you’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and a great cloud of things to Google. Now you have time to make sure that you continue your Snapstreak with Michael Denton, who moved to Vermont in second grade. You realize that you wrote down “capital punishment” twice, so you erase that one and choose “animal testing.”
Step Two: Choose a position.
You have a dog, but you hate cats. You would throw yourself in front of a train… no a steamroller…. You would rather be willingly steam-rolled slowly to death, toes first, than allow a dog to be the recipient of animal testing. You’d drive the steamroller yourself, though, if it were at the bottom of a recently-drained pool full of cats, and you feel like science would benefit. Then you remember that your ex LOVED dogs, probably more than he/she loved you, and you decide that you’re in favor of animal testing. JUST KIDDING. Only A-HOLES are “pro”-animal-testing. You are against it, despite the steamroller-cat thing.
Step Three: Do some research.
Your topic is “Animal Testing,” so you type “Animal Testing” into Google. You get a ton of results on both sides of the issue… so that can’t be right. You delete your original search and type in “Animal Testing BAD.” You click through every hit on the first three pages of results, copying and pasting all the URLs into a Google Document (because you are hip and savvy—this is the twenty-first century, suckaaas). There is one website that looks like it was made with Microsoft Paint, plus little flame gifs as a border. You delete that one because OBVIOUSLY it isn’t a reputable source and you’re not an IDIOT, which all your Snapchat friends already know because you’ve been snapping them UNDER the desk where nobody can SEE.
Step Four: Write an outline.
You make up a bunch of crap. This step is pointless and you’re only trying to make Mr. Vandeschulte happy. Who uses these, anyway?? Minkus from “Boy Meets World.” And maybe Hermione Granger. That’s. It.
Step Five: Write a paper.
You write a thesis statement and three main points. If you go to a Christian school, you throw in a few Bible verses, for guilting purposes (no one here can argue with the Bible), and if you don’t, you use inordinate amounts of statistics, to confuse the reader with an elaborate web of numbers that don’t even make sense to the Illuminati. You revise as you go, and you don’t use any of the websites you previously researched. Those are just for the bibliography. You add a few journal articles to the bibliography, for POSTERITY, and you remember to copy/paste the one sentence you sort of understand from “Misanthropic Redaction of Polymorphic Polyamorous Microbial Bipedal Sycophants” so that Professor Kramer can tell you used it. You add one more page than seems necessary, because that seems necessary.
Step Six: Write a second draft.
Step Seven: Turn it in.
If you’re in high school, you assume that your teacher has a printer and a stapler and a three-hole-punch and a page-binder and a laminator and Andes mints available for your use. After the bell rings and class begins, you use them. If your teacher doesn’t have the aforementioned items available for your use, you remember that, oh yes, your printer is broken, then you go home and shoot it, just to make sure. If you’re in college, you wake up six minutes before class, then longboard to the dodgy-as-hell printer in the pink-carpeted, dungeon room two dorms away, where you sift through seventeen pages of leftover lab reports and COME TO PAJAMA FRISBEE!!! FUN FOR EVERYONE! THERE’S NO REASON FOR IT!! flyers before you find your paper. You arrive to class five minutes late, sweating and wearing elephant pants.
Step Eight: Never think about it again.
You leave class with your paper safely in the hands of your teacher/professor/dad (shout out to the homeschooled!! Gender equity!!! LIT.) No one ever reads it, not even you, except for eight years later when you’re twenty-four and writing a snarky, insightful blog post that everyone you know will love and add to their favorites tab. Your teacher will read seventeen million of these sorts of papers and his friends won’t recognize his face anymore because he’s been peeing into bottles like The Aviator. After he descends into a brief madness, he will awake and burn B.F. Skinner effigies while vowing the next year to forever change the face of instructional pedagogy!!! He’ll come to school seeming a bit hungover for a few days, but you will be understanding and bring him pretzel chips and Nutella, because he really is a pretty nice guy and after all, he actually taught you a lot of things, and he noticed your Avenged Sevenfold shirt one time.
DISCLAIMER: Had Andrew Garfield ever convinced me to go to Law School, he would have run into me in an IKEA in Chicago and said, “You know, I may be a complete stranger, but it seems as though you’re a very intelligent person with a lot to give the world, and I can see you practicing law someday. Just a thought.” And I’d have replied, “Oh, really? That’s very thoughtful and I appreciate you for saying it, not because you’re a man and you have your face, but as one human being to another.” And he’d say, “Cool. Also, don’t buy the shelving unit. It isn’t worth it.”
Lauren (Boersma) Harris (’13) is a spontaneous, idealistic, independent, fierce, over-thinking, damaged, adventurous, ordinary megalomaniac with a healthy sense of self-worth and a high word count. She has been a teacher both indoors and outdoors; she loves improvised comedy, backpacking, and writing, even when it’s required.