Research Papers

I have always hated research papers. Always. Throughout high school I bullshitted my way through every research paper I wrote, rarely ever concluding anything worthwhile or unique. Once I even wrote a 15 page research paper in one day and got an A. That’s either an insane skill or my teacher was just oblivious to how little effort I actually put into the assignment. Either way, research papers were, and still are, the enemy.

But you know what they say: keep your enemies close. So, I guess that means I’ll take a stab at a research paper for this experiment (Ha, get it? Stab the enemy?).

But, in all seriousness, for every high school research paper I wrote, I was missing a crucial component: research. Research for a topic, no matter how simple it is, cannot all be collected and analyzed in a day’s time. When I did this, I undoubtedly compiled a couple of worthwhile sources, but definitely did not find multiple perspectives in order to deduce anything significant. So, after my K-12 education plus my short time at college, I have decided that research is indeed important for a research paper. Who would’ve thought?

Research papers usually have a few more consistencies, regardless of topic, such as:

  • An abstract, or a summary of research project
  • An introduction, with a clear purpose
    • Including a thesis statement, usually at the end of the introduction
  • Body paragraphs, with a strong argument, a stronger argument, and a strongest argument, accompanied by in-text citations
    • Including a review of the literature and how it supports the claims
  • A conclusion and/or discussion, with a summary of the arguments and how they connect to deduce a significant claim
  • A call for further research, when there is a need to delve into a topic further
  • A bibliography, to cite the sources used

Looking at aspects other than formatting, research papers often have a professional, formal tone in order to appeal to the norms of academic works. Often, they work off of already existing research and are a stepping stone for research in the future.

The following examples, while differing in topics, all include the components of a research paper stated above, and I plan on using these as templates for my own work:


My research paper for experiment two will focus on the effects of heartbreak on mental and physical health. Many people think of a break up as something that you just have to get over, but, coupled with depression and other health effects, it isn’t as easy as it seems. I hope to call attention to this  phenomenon as a stressor for health, rather than a simple hiccup in one’s personal life. I hope to build on my diary entries from experiment one which tried to highlight this, but lacked the research to back-up my claims in any significant manner.

And, yes. I promise to put more effort into this research paper than the ones I wrote in high school.

History Paper Struggles

So I’m in the midst of writing my final paper for my History 202 class.  To give you a little background on the class, its called “Doing History” and it is required for all History Majors.  First of all, I don’t even know why I’m a history major, it just sort of happened.  Secondly, this class has probably been the busiest  I’ve taken at Michigan.  Its not that the content doesn’t interest me, in fact, that is the best part about it.  Its just that there is way too much work required for a 200 level course.  While the blogging for this class is all about reflection, the blogging for that class pretty much consists of writing mini-essays every night.  Nonetheless, I am now tasked with writing an 8-page paper on the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and how President George H.W. Bush managed to keep the U.S.-China diplomatic relationship strong despite strong opposition from Congress.  I’ve been searching through old primary documents for hours and to be honest, I’m sick of it.  My rough draft is due tomorrow, and I’ve already written five pages.  The biggest issue I’m having is that I think my thesis may be too broad for what the prompt is asking for.  I know no one reading this can actually help me with that, but I’ve been crammed in this 3rd floor stack for hours and I just needed to vent about this somehow without annoying everyone else crammed in the stacks next to me.  I’m probably going to submit what I have pretty soon so that I can get feedback as soon as possible.  Hopefully my professor is happy with what I have and tells me to just keep going.  If not, I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do but I don’t know how much longer I can stare at the same paper.

How Bradley Cooper Taught me to Write.

Last night, as per the grand Olkowski post-holiday tradition, my immediate family came home, exhausted and full of turkey and cousin-gossip, to gather around the television and find something on Netflix. This is probably the only time we all watch TV without eating anything. We’re all too full, and too tired to make popcorn or nachos or whatever. This year, we chose Limitless, a movie that came out earlier this year, starring Bradley Cooper and his enormous blue eyes.

LOOK AT THEM! (Credit to

Anyway, in the beginning, Bradley (Oh wow, I have no idea what his character’s name was, I just called him Bradley in my head the whole time) is an ugly (For Bradley Cooper), unkempt writer because in the world of movies, there are like three professions, and most people are just writers cause guess who made up this story? He is having a massive amount of trouble coming up with the first word of a novel he told all his friends he is writing. So for a whole day, he sits in his room and stares a the little blinking line on Microsoft Word.

Poor Bradley. This is my life. With a cleaner apartment and less facial hair. I believe I have whined about how hard it is to start writing a paper before this so I’ll stop now, but I would like to applaud the people who made Limitless, for this realistic portrayal of the writing process.

Of course Bradley’s ex-brother-in-law (wow that is a ton of dashes) gives him magical pills that unlock the rest of Bradley’s brain so he can do more things. And since Bradley is really a good writer deep down, he just lacks motivation and focus, he writes his landlord’s wife’s law paper in an afternoon and then writes his whole novel in four days.

This is what I look like when I finally manage to write something too! (Image from The New York Times)

Now, it’s obvious why Bradley starts off as a writer, rather than a lower level finance guy (he eventually uses his drug induced awesomeness to day trade). Besides the fact that all writers just love to write about writers (See: Stephen King novels, most chick flicks, YA books), Bradley gets to enact the primary fantasy of all writers, professional or student. The drug doesn’t make you superhuman. It doesn’t give you powers or make your brain bigger or whatever. It simply makes what is already there available, like Advanced Search Google for your brain. Bradley is already capable of writing this book, he just has not been able to access it before. The lesson of Limitless, besides “doing drugs doesn’t really have that many consequences if you’re smart about it,” is that everyone has the potential to do great things if they could only be clear-headed and focused.

The dream of the writer is that there is a book/poem/song/paper lurking somewhere beneath the surface, and that if we all just stare at the blinking line long enough, we’ll find it. The problem is that if we wait for our subsurface genius to magically show itself, we’ll never get anything done. Limitless was also about how achieving greatness is partially just taking the step to DO something. One of the first things Bradley does when he gets on the drug is clean his apartment, something he obviously could have handled normally, but never had the motivation to just start and finish. Writing is the same way.  You never gets done unless you gets started.

So for my next paper (my 5th in three weeks), I am not going to whine about it, or stare at Microsoft Word, willing it to appear. I’m going to just get started so I can get finished. I have every ability to write it, just an irritating lack of focus and motivation, which is really no excuse. Hopefully, by following the example of Bradley (with the motivation, not the drug taking, and the murdering, and the day trading), I can just write this without waiting until the last minute (literally) and without some of the melodrama that has been a big part of the last 4 papers.