Describe a Situation in Which You Had to Use Reference Materials to Write a Research Paper. What Was the Topic? What journals Did You Read?


As you get ready for your job interview- you need to consider types of questions that you will be asked. Though you will likely be asked several traditional interview questions such as those that seek to find out about your skills and personality- you should also expect to answer behavioral interview questions such as ‘Describe a situation in which you had to use reference materials to write a research paper. What was the topic? What journals did you read?’ This may also be asked as ‘How did you go about writing a research paper?’

With more traditional interview questions- your answers are mostly factual responses. Interviewers want to know about your GPA- why you left your previous position- and your educational history. Behavioral interview questions invite you to describe your personality and work ethic using examples from your past experiences. These are potentially tricky questions to answer- because you must provide a narrative from your previous experiences that is accurate and presents your strengths as the best person for the position for which you are interviewing.

When you are asked to describe how you referenced outside journals and source materials to write a research paper- interviewers are interested to discover more about your direct experience with research and writing. Hiring managers also want to know about your overall familiarity with reputable source materials in your industry. If these types of questions sound like they are difficult to answer if you are caught off-guard- you can prepare yourself with the STAR method and some thoughtful responses to be ready to have a successful interview.

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How to Answer the ‘Describe a Situation in Which You Had to Use Reference Materials to Write a Research Paper.’ Behavioral Interview Question

Increase Your Confidence By Preparing a Good Example. In anticipation of the interview- recall a paper that you have written that showcases your ability to do thorough research and adequately use reference materials such as trade journals and reviews. Choose an example that tells a compelling narrative of a problem you faced (the research topic and need for the paper)- definable steps to solve the problem (your thorough research and preparation)- and the final outcome (an organized research paper). Avoid mundane examples or talking about papers that did not require research.

Anchor Your Answer by Utilizing the STAR Method. The STAR method will help you organize your answer in a way that is easy to remember. STAR stands for the following:

  • ST– specific situation- task or problem
  • A– actions completed to resolve the issue
  • R– results that describe how the situation went from negative to positive

The beauty of the STAR method is that it will serve you in answering all behavioral interview questions and not just those pertaining to your writing and research skills. As you prepare job interview responses- try to frame them all in this format to show hiring managers that you are familiar with how to face tasks and problems in an organized way so that your efforts and actions lead to favorable results for you and for the company.

Choose an Example That Demonstrates Leadership. Relate an example of a research paper that had an impact in your previous position. Describe how your initiative to find the most up-to-date resources in the most reliable scientific or trade journals helped you craft a quality paper that really gave the company the relevant information upon which to base company decisions. Mention the obstacles you faced in determining the sources for your research report- meeting the deadlines or finding difficulties in the writing process- and how you overcame those difficulties to present a strong paper.

Sample ‘Describe a Situation in Which You Had to Use Reference Materials to Write a Research Paper’ STAR Interview Answer

At my previous job as a grant writer for a school district- I wrote a grant to assist with school climate transformation. The district had a bad reputation for negative school climate- so I was tasked with researching the existing school climate through accessing the data on file for student mental health- professional development- and evidence-based practices for behavioral improvement. I interviewed experts in the school climate field and reviewed rates of teacher turnover and teacher satisfaction from the district files. I consulted with neighboring school districts that were known for successful school climate transformations and read reports in the American Educational Research Journal. Armed with these reliable sources- I was able to compose a compelling report that highlighted our school district’s unique needs for the funding the grant could supply. We were awarded the grant and able to implement a successful school climate change program through the direct efforts of the research I compiled and the grant I wrote.

You will need to practice to get ready to answer behavioral interview questions successfully. Highlight your strengths and contributions to show how you are the best candidate for the position.