How to Research for an Essay

There are multiple factors that can either make essay writing simple or, on the contrary, complicate the process. Some of these factors include the topic, your writing skills, etc.

But, there is one factor that plays the biggest role. It doesn’t really matter if you are looking for the answer on how to write an expository essay, persuasive essay, or any other type of work. The key to success in each of these endeavors is effective research, and we are here to help you cope with it easily!

Getting Started: Qualitative vs Quantitative Data Research

As you may already know, there are plenty of different research techniques and methods, just like there are many different types of sources. But, eventually, it all gets down to what kind of data you are trying to find.

In terms of data, there are two core types of research – qualitative and quantitative. Let’s quickly compare qualitative vs quantitative data research to see which one you should focus on:

  • Qualitative research is useful when searching for word-based content such as books, articles, etc.
  • Quantitative research is used for finding numerical data such as statistics, measurements, etc.

As you can guess based on these definitions, as a rule, when writing an essay, you will be conducting qualitative research, so this is the type of research approach that we will keep at the core in our guide.

8 Tips for Researching Effectively

The tips provided below will help you conduct research effectively and ensure the best results.

1.   Start Early On

The first and main rule of effective research is to give yourself enough time for this stage of your work. When it comes to working on an essay, despite a common belief, it is not writing that takes most of the time because, in fact, research is a much more responsible and time-consuming stage of this process, so be sure to allow enough time for it.

2.   Study the Guidelines

As a rule, when tasked to write an essay for school or college, students are also provided with some sort of guidelines, prompts, or specific essay questions. The main reason why teachers do this is to help you find the right direction for your research and also test your ability to follow the guidelines. Thus, before you move on to searching for information for your paper, it’s vital that you carefully study all the provided guidelines and understand what exactly is expected from you.

3.   Pick a Suitable Topic

The topic you pick will directly affect your research and writing process – the better the topic, the less stressful it will be. Ideally, you should choose a subject that is interesting to you and also relevant to your readers and that is not too broad or too narrow. If you aren’t sure what topic to choose, feel free to look for ideas on the web – there are plenty of great options that can be discovered. For example, here, you can find some of the best cause and effect essay topics.

4.   Brainstorm

Once you’ve read the prompts and defined your perfect topic, you can finally move on to the research, and the first step is brainstorming. Before you start looking for information, take time to define what you already know and what gaps you have – this will help you save time as you will ensure that you won’t waste your time on studying the information you are already aware of.

5.   Do Preliminary Research

During the next stage of the process, you should focus on conducting preliminary research and achieving a basic understanding of the topic. Start by studying the key terms and facts, and once you grasp the general idea, you will be able to delve deeper into details as you research the topic further.

Pro Tip: Always think of your research as an upside-down pyramid – you need to start with the broad things and gradually move down to narrower concepts. This is the perfect approach to researching.

6.   Check With Your Reading List

This is an optional step because you may not always be provided with a reading list for your essay. But, if your teacher did give you such a list, the first thing you should do is check out what’s in there and see if you can use any of the suggested sources to find information for your essay.

7.   Go to the Library

Yes, we know that might sound a bit too old-fashioned but, in fact, a library is the best place to start your research. While using the Internet is definitely simpler and faster, at least, books available in your school’s library most likely contain only valid information, so you won’t need to bother about checking the validity of the facts you find.

8.   Look for More Sources Online

Although it’s recommended to use a library instead of doing online research, it doesn’t mean that the web can’t come in handy during your research. You only need to use it right. There are three key tips related to online research that we can share with you:

  • Make use of academic search engines to find trustworthy sources;
  • Use footnotes to find more helpful sources;
  • Always double-check facts.

The Bottom Line

Researching for an essay can get somewhat challenging; it takes lots of time and energy, not to mention that it requires having solid research skills. However, it doesn’t have to be such an unbearable task.

Hopefully, this guide will help you start researching effectively. Follow the tips mentioned above, and you will get the deserved A+.