The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Writing an Educational Administration + Leadership Research Paper

Hello, Fellow Researcher!

So, you need to write an educational administration + leadership research paper. Maybe it’s your first research paper and you have no clue where to start. Or maybe you’ve written many research papers in the past, but you haven’t done so well or want to improve your research-writing game. I get it. I wrote this article as the ultimate guide to research paper writing, something that I wish I had in my first year of grad school. You might find this article helpful if you’re...

  • A graduate student completing a master’s or Ph.D. in educational administration and leadership who wants some tips and tricks for how to write their first research paper
  • An instructor who is teaching an educational administration course (maybe even your first!) and who wants to write a research paper on a new topic, brush up on their paper-writing skills
  • A professional educational administrator who wants to write a research paper in a course
  • A researcher outside the field of educational administration and leadership who wants to learn how to write a killer research paper in a field you may be unfamiliar with

Getting Started

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? As the ultimate beginner’s guide to writing an educational administration + leadership paper, this article will walk you through getting started (even if you have no clue where to start!), writing a clear and concise research question, collecting only the references that are going to be most helpful for you, tips on writing your paper and time management, some important reminders about APA style citation, and editing your paper.

Some important things to keep in mind as you get started:

  • Research papers can seem overwhelming or daunting but they are totally manageable and can even be fun to write
  • Writing a research paper is not a linear process. Be open to new ideas and don’t be afraid to change your direction or your research question. Your research can take you in unexpected directions - it doesn’t mean you’re starting all over again, it means you’re learning, and that’s a good thing!
  • And last, but not least...and this is an important one that I’m sure you’re well aware of (and yet we all still do it!): don’t procrastinate writing your research paper. The more you put it off, the more guilty and panic-y you will feel about it, and that’s not the kind of work you’re going to be proud of. So let’s just all agree to turn off Netflix, put yourself in a place you won’t be distracted, and get some work done.

Alright, ready to get started? Let’s do this.

Selecting a Topic You Feel Excited + Inspired About

There are so many interesting topics to write about in the field of educational administration and research. It might feel overwhelming to choose just one, but if you continue to write research articles, you'll have many opportunities in the future to write about a range of topics that you find interesting. For your first research article (at least, your first within this field), just think about one aspect of educational administration research that you're curious about. What topic is important to you? What issue would you like to know more about? What topic has not previously received enough attention? You might even have an idea on your mind right now that you've been thinking about. Could that idea make an interesting research paper? More often than not, the answer is a resounding yes!

Another misconception about writing

There are so many interesting topics to write about in the field of educational administration and research. It might feel overwhelming to choose just one, but if you continue to write research articles, you'll have many opportunities in the future to write about a range of topics that you find interesting. For your first research article (at least, your first within this field), just think about one aspect of educational administration research that you're curious about. What topic is important to you? What issue would you like to know more about? What topic has not previously received enough attention? You might even have an idea on your mind right now that you've been thinking about. Could that idea make an interesting research paper? More often than not, the answer is a resounding Y

There are so many interesting topics to write about in the field of educational administration and research. It might feel overwhelming to choose just one, but I assure you, iyouill have many opportunities in the future to write about other topics that you find interesting. For now, think about one aspect of educational administration research that you are curious about and decide to write on that topic. There might be something in your mind right now that you’ve been thinking about. What is it you want your research to do for otherpe

You might feel like you need to have all your references ready in order to get started writing your research paper, but you can get started with just an idea (even a vague idea) of what you want to write about. Selecting your research topic might be the hardest step for you - it may even be the reason you may be procrastinating on your work.

Research topics in the field of educational administration and leadership can vary. There is no “one thing” that is right or wrong to investigate. As a researcher, your job is to get curious about many different topics and to investigate them by seeking out sources that may or may not disagree with you. What would you like to discover? In some cases, your research topic may be given to you by your instructor, or you may be able to choose your own. Either way, there is room for creativity and to look at your topic from your own unique perspective. Here are a few questions to think about as you’re choosing your research topic:

  • What would I like to learn? What would I like to discover that I previously did not know about
  • What perspective can I take on an issue that has previously not been taken? What issues can I raise that haven’t had enough discussion in the current research?
  • What interests do I have that I want to explore in my research?
  • What do I want my research do for others?

In some cases, you may be given your research topic, and that’s okay. There’s still room to add your own perspective and infuse some creativity into your research paper.

Here are just a few examples of some of the topics I have chosen for research papers in the past:

  • A Uses and Gratifications Perspective on Administrators’ Use of Twitter to Improve Research and Practice within the Field of Educational Administration and Leadership
  • The All-Administrative University: Exploring the Disconnect between Academic Administrative Theory and Practice
  • The Adminibrary Project: An Interventionist Arts-Based Approach to Educational Administration and Leadership

Formulating a Clear + Concise Research Question

It’s important to think about your research question before you begin thinking about collecting research articles. If you already have some that you think will work, great. I know as a graduate student, you begin to collect an arsenal of journal articles that you can use over and over again for research papers. It may even be tempting to dive in to the library and start collecting all kinds of research articles, BUT this process will be so much easier if you take a moment to craft a clear and concise research question (in the next section I show you how to take this research question and use it to search your library database, so don’t worry, we’re getting there!).

Your research question is important because it helps to focus your research and give you a clear goal to work toward. For example, if your research question is whether Twitter has a positive effect on educational administrators’ professional learning, then that gives you a lot of ideas to use when it comes to selecting your research articles, and a specific question to try to answer in your essay.

Once you've written a clear and concise research statement, do this: on a hard copy piece of paper, physically write out the title (it can be a temporary title) of your research paper and write your research question at the top of the page. This guide will keep you focused on the question you are trying to answer in your research paper as you write. Research articles can take you in all kinds of exciting directions and you might feel totally overwhelmed reading them. That's totally normal. 

Collecting Research Articles

Am I the only one that thinks collecting research articles is the most fun a person can have writing a research paper? There’s nothing better than finding a perfect article that argues your points exactly and backs up your research question. But knowing where to look for research articles seems to be one of the most challenging things about writing your research paper. The good news is, now that you have your research question, collecting research articles is going to be so much easier. There are basically three steps you’re going to take to find research articles:

  1. Login to your university library’s website and search keywords from your research question
  2. Filter your results so that you only view peer-reviewed articles
  3. Further filter your results to find the most recent research on your topic

I’ll give you an example using one of my research questions that I used for a past research essay:

Hint: You might consider storing your research articles on a reference database such as Mendeley. I wrote a helpful guide to get you started to be able to build a starter educational administration and research library in just one weekend. Download it here!

Writing Your Research Paper

To start your research paper, 

Editing Your Paper

Perfect Your APA!