A research essay is a common type of academic assignment you are likely to encounter at all levels, starting with middle school. Their topics and the strictness of demands applied to them will, of course, differ, but the general idea remains the same. You get a topic or choose it yourself and have to carry out independent research into it. The depth of research can, again, differ from simple compilation of information from a few secondary sources to carrying out first-hand experiments, surveys and using primary sources, but the scope is usually fairly limited. After all, an essay is a relatively short assignment that does not lend itself well to expansive topics – you simply do not have enough space to get deep into the subject matter or cover its multiple aspects.
Business studies provide a special perspective to the whole thing: they are mostly concerned with practical aspects and less with theory. If you study this discipline, be ready to build primarily on personal experience and real-world examples rather than on theoretical works by other authors.
- Choose a Topic
- Gather Sources of Information
- Evaluate the Sources
- Take Notes
- Determine Your Objective
- Clarify Things with Your Instructor
- Write an Outline
- Write a Thesis Statement
- Write an Introduction
- Write the Body Paragraphs
- Write the Conclusion
ADDING THE FINAL TOUCHES
- Check the Format
- Check Your Quotations
- Check the Logic of Your Text
- Try Improving the Title of Your Essay
- Check Spelling and Grammar
1. Choose a Topic
The degree of freedom you have when writing a research essay in business studies may vary. Sometimes your professor assigns you a topic, and you just have to follow it. Sometimes you get to choose it yourself – in this case, use this opportunity to make your job easier and more interesting.
- Choose a topic of personal interest. You are going to spend a significant amount of time researching it and writing about your findings. If you are genuinely interested in the subject matter, it will both improve the results and make the entire process more enjoyable;
- Study the guidelines. Even if you are free to write about whatever you want, you have probably received guidelines from your professor. Read and reread them multiple times and make sure you understand everything. If you have any doubts, clarify the matters with the instructor – you do not want to find out later that you labored under false assumptions;
- Choose a narrow topic. An essay is a small assignment (although its maximum size may differ from college to college). If you choose too broad a topic, you will not be able to cover all its aspects.
Here are a few examples of good topics so that you know what to aim for:
- Conflict as an Essential Part of Business Management;
- Outsourcing Core Business Activities: Pros and Cons;
- Growing Pains: Challenges Businesses Encounter as They Get Bigger;
- The Most Efficient Employee Training Methods for Small Businesses;
- Unique Challenges of Businesses Working in Private Sector.
2. Gather Sources of Information
Even if you carry out some direct practical experiments or surveys, writing a research essay always presupposes work with sources of information. At the very least, they should supplement your own findings, and most essays rely on them for the majority of their data. The best approach is to do some reading before you start planning your essay, then write an outline and continue gathering information based on the expected course of your research. The usual sources of information on business studies are:
- Textbooks. They are good because they are certain to cover your topic, but are usually insufficient for serious research. Check out their bibliography sections – they may contain references to other useful sources;
- Specialty books on the topic. You can find them in your local library or online, e.g., using Google Books. Again, their bibliography sections can help you find useful info;
- Academic journals. The best valued sources of information are peer-reviewed articles, and these are published in specialized academic journals. Use online databases like EBSCO or Google Scholar to locate new sources. When using an article, pay attention the H-index of its author – it indicates both how large are his/her contributions to the field and how active he/she is;
- Expert interviews. These are particularly important in business studies – an interview with a known specialist who has practical experience working in the field is usually more useful in this discipline than any amount of theory. It also has a benefit of being the result of your direct effort – if you have an opportunity to interview such an expert, do it.
3. Evaluate the Sources
To gather sources of information is not enough. If you want to produce a serious work, you have to make sure the info you use is sound and reliable. The most common way of evaluating sources is the so-called CRAAP test, which pays attention to:
- Currency – check the time of publication. Is the information up to date? Does it reflect the existing consensus on the subject matter?
- Relevance – is the information important for your research question? Is it important enough to be mentioned? Does it move your argument forward?
- Authority – check the source of information. Does the author have the right credentials to write about the subject matter? Is he/she qualified to pass judgment on it?
- Accuracy – does the author support his/her claims with evidence? Is it possible to verify this information using reliable sources? Does the information have any signs of bias?
- Purpose – why does the source exist? Why does the author express these opinions? Does he/she or organizations he/she is affiliated with have obvious or hidden agendas?
4. Take Notes
Single out the information important for your research. Copy/paste significant fragments and note where each fragment comes from for further reference. Organize the data you found by sub-topics from the very beginning – this will make it easier to locate what you need later on. If you use electronic versions of documents, add notes to them directly. If you prefer physical versions, try marking the pages where you found useful info with sticky tabs (in addition, you can assign numbers to them that would correspond to the numbers on your note sheet – again, to make finding what you need easier). When you make notes, write down only the most crucial facts – it will make it easier to navigate them. If you need additional info, you will always be able to refer to the original source of data.
5. Determine Your Objective
The characteristic feature of a research essay is that you do not simply write your opinion about its subject matter, but start out with an end in mind. A research is not a haphazard investigation of the topic, but a determined inquest aimed at a particular outcome. Sometimes an objective is self-evident even before you start working on an essay. In other cases, you will have to do some reading before you can determine it. When you finally determine the objective, use it to better formulate your future search for additional information.
1. Clarify Things with Your Instructor
If you have an opportunity (i.e., if this practice is allowed in your school or college), discuss the major points of your essay with your instructor. Did you understand the instructions properly? Can he/she give you suggestions as to the direction in which to better take your essay, or perhaps offer you some additional sources of information you might have missed? Do not ask the instructor to outright assign you a topic or do some other part of work you are supposed to do yourself, but if you want to clarify something, do it before you start writing. If your essay has to contain some evidence of individual research work (like a survey or an interview with an experienced corporate executive), you should learn about it early on, while you still have time to implement it.
2. Write an Outline
The first order of business is to write an outline that would list all the major points of your essay, list all the places where you have to insert quotations, jot down how you intend to connect individual parts of the essay with each other and so on. There is no standardized way to write an outline – you can make it as detailed or as general as you need to clarify the structure of your research essay.
3. Write a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is a sentence-long statement clarifying the main idea of your essay. The good rule of the thumb is to write one in such a way that a reader unfamiliar with the topic can understand what you intend to find out or prove without reading the rest of the essay. For example, if you research the role of employee engagement in the general efficiency of a business, your thesis statement would be something like “Active employee engagement on the part of management significantly improves the business output”. The rest of the essay simply backs up this statement.
A thesis statement should be:
4. Write an Introduction
Introduction connects you to the audience and introduces the topic of the essay. The first sentence (‘hook’) should attract the audience’s attention and lead up to the main point of your research. Place the thesis statement you wrote earlier at the end of the introduction.
5. Write the Body Paragraphs
The body is the informative part of the essay. Here goes all the evidence, reasoning and references to the sources. It is divided into individual paragraphs, each of which is dedicated to a single point. E.g., if you discuss the advantages of a particular business practice, you should cover each of them in a single paragraph, accompanying your reasoning with viable evidence and quotations from relevant sources.
6. Write the Conclusion
The final part of the essay is dedicated solely to the declaration of conclusions you reached in the course of your research. Do not introduce any new information here – if you find yourself in need of doing it, look through the body and, if necessary, add an additional paragraph covering this extra info. Keep your conclusion short and to the point – one or, at most, two paragraphs are enough. Make sure your conclusions really follow from the research you covered in the essay – there should be no gaps in your logic or reasoning.
Adding the Final Touches
1. Check the Format
Whether you chose the format for your essay yourself or were assigned one by instructor, make sure you followed all its regulations. While it may seem like a pure formality to you, academic institutions treat formatting very seriously, and failure to comply with the requirements of your chosen format can decrease your grade. Use online manuals for general formatting and citation generators for bibliographies.
2. Check Your Quotations
A research essay by definition uses numerous sources of information and has to refer to them. Therefore, one of the most common and most serious mistakes students make in this sort of writing is failure to properly quote their sources. Again, forgetting to use quotation marks or to mention the author of the source may not look like much, but if somebody notices you did it, you can get into some serious trouble. Even if it is accidental, it is still treated as plagiarism, and in academic environment, it is an extremely serious offence. So dedicate at least one separate rereading to checking your quotations.
3. Check the Logic of Your Text
Even if individual parts of your essay work properly, they can add up to a jumbled mess when read as a whole. Spend some time analyzing the structure of your text and try to find potential gaps in your logic, inconsistencies or mistakes in reasoning. Work on transitions between paragraphs and sections of the essay – words and phrases like ‘consequently’, ‘therefore’, ‘thus’ etc. can make your writing look smoother and more logical even if it does contain some inconsistencies.
4. Try Improving the Title of Your Essay
It may seem like an odd thing to do at this stage, but in fact it is often the best time to work on it. You already know the contents of your essay and what constitutes its most important parts. This knowledge can help you think of a title that better suits your essay than the one you used up until this point.
5. Check Spelling and Grammar
You may think that using a word processor like Microsoft Word frees you from the responsibility of checking your spelling and grammar, but it is far from the truth. Word processors offer only the most basic functionality; online tools like Grammarly are marginally better, but are still very limited. They often miss mistakes and see them where everything is written correctly. The only way out is to proofread and edit your writing manually – or, better yet, hire a professional to do it for you.
Well, now you are ready to tackle your own research essay in business studies – make sure you use these recommendations well!