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5 basic steps to writing an undergraduate academic research project

  • Writing a research thesis is one of the basic requirements in completing an undergraduate degree. Usually, it is the first experience undergraduate students have in academic writing/research. Because it requires a lot of efforts and includes some technicalities, many students get scared and look out for unethical ways of getting their research projects.

    Academic writing is not a rocket science! And every serious-minded student can get a hold of it.

    This piece discusses some of the basic steps to take while planning to carry out an academic project. Whether it’s a research project in the arts/humanities, sciences or engineering, these steps are important guidelines for any student whose interest is to contribute to world repertoire of knowledge through his/her project and not just to copy and paste somebody else’s work.

    1. Brainstorm on your area of interest to determine your general topic

    As a student, you have to define your research focus/area of interest in your general field of study. For instance, if you are a student of linguistics, what aspect of linguistics do you want to focus? It is when you have satisfactorily chosen your area of specialization that you can begin to brainstorm on what to write about (i.e. your general topic).

    2. Put up a good literature review

    What is a Literature Review? The word literature, in this context, means a body of written works. Thus literature review simply means a review or an assessment of a body of written works on a particular area of study. To have a good literature review, you have to read voraciously. You must read journals, articles, books, etc. that have been published on your area of interest. This will give you a clearer understanding of the area you want to write about and also ensure that you don’t merely re-phrase what has been written in a particular field of study.

    3. Pinpoint gaps in the literature

    Apart from giving you a clearer understanding of your topic, the essence of doing literature review is to identify gaps in the present literature. From the works you have reviewed, find a gap you need to fill in your own project. Remember, if your project is not filling a gap (or addressing some errors, as the case might be) in the present literature, that means you are simply re-echoing what some scholars  have done and you are not necessarily contributing to knowledge in any form.

    4. Highlight your research purpose

    After identifying gaps in the present literature, your next step is to focus on which of the gaps you want to fill. This is where you get to know the purpose of your research and the questions your research seeks to answer.

    5. Draft an introduction to the study

    Do you know why your introduction is very important? Your introduction sets your research in motion and serves as a guide on how to proceed with the project. Here, you highlight the rationale for choosing your topic, frame your research questions and discuss their significance, determine your research method, and outline the structure of the research (from the first chapter to the last. 

    If you can painstakingly take the basic steps above, you will produce a unique research thesis you will ever be proud of.

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