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- A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Write A Research Paper
A research paper is an academic paper where scientists, scholars, and even students present their research on a specific topic. It compromises analyzing the results of experimental evidence with citations. This is one of the most powerful ways to share the knowledge of researchers around the world.
The research paper shows the expertise of the researcher that also helps other researchers in the future. So, have you wondered how to write a research paper successfully? Well, this article will give you an ultimate guide on writing a research paper step-by-step. Let’s reveal the hacks.
The Steps to Writing a Research Paper
- Get familiar with the research paper
- Choose a suitable topic
- Do your research
- Form a thesis statement
- Construct an outline
- Write the draft
- Add proper citations and references
- Revise the copy and finalize it
After knowing the key steps of research paper writing, let’s discuss them in detail.
Step 1: Get Familiar With The Research Paper
The first thing you need to do it read several research papers that have been published by experts. This will get you familiarized with the style and format of the research paper. This will help you get an overall idea about the contents of the research paper. The more you read, the deeper your idea will be.
While reading different research papers, note down the important things like formatting, spacing, font, length of a paragraph, rules to adding figures or charts, word limit, essential points to cover, citations, and so on. If you have any doubts, clarify them with your teacher or professor.
Step 2: Choose A Suitable Topic
After getting an overall idea about the research paper, now figure out a good topic that you will work with. To do it, consult with your professor and experts in the field you are interested to research in. You can either work on a new topic or improve any preexisting research.
The previously peer reviewed and published research papers are found in the-
- Central library of your college or university
- Google Scholar
- Online publications like Zotero, Academic journals, Scientific Research Publications, Science and Education Publishing, etc.
- Your professor’s recommended research papers
Study a lot to find out a unique topic in your field to research. Your instructor may help you to pick a trendy topic for your research. But try to reveal it on your own.
Step 3: Do Your Research
When you get a topic, start your research sincerely. Read several related research papers and inspect how the researchers did these. You may work in the lab or software to get more precise results from the research. Also, consult with the experts on this topic to get more precise answers. Clarify your doubts by asking yourself why, how, what, … etc, in every step for deep research.
You’ll find lots of resources on your topic but not all of them are reliable to use in the research paper. For example, Wikipedia is an open source resource for any topic, but you can’t accredit them in your research paper. Find out worthwhile sources before using any scientific formula or theory in your research.
Learned advanced search functions on Google also assist you in refining your search results to find specilized resources in your area paper’s area of focus.
After the preliminary research, if you find this topic good for you proceed with it otherwise choose a new topic that suits you. Note down all the important analyses, and calculations of your research.
Step 4: Form A Thesis Statement
After doing primary research, it’s time to make a thesis statement (introduction) that summarizes succinctly what you’ll cover in your research paper. This statement is important and helps you to make a good research paper. It also states how other researchers will get benefitted from your research.
If you can’t make a good statement starts with a question like ‘Does the internet bad for your children’ and then answer it. But don’t put any fluff words there. Sometimes arguable topic makes the thesis statement interesting.
When your teacher or instructor will say the thesis statement is okay then plan how to prepare the other sections of the research paper.
Step 5: Construct An Outline
When you’ve completed your research, now form a format for your research paper. The necessary sections of the research paper include-
- Author Page
- Table of Contents
- List of Figures
- List of Tables
- Introduction (Thesis Statement)
- Main Points of the Body (like Forming a Formula, Analysis, Calculation, etc.)
Each main points or headings include paragraphs, figures, charts, data, and so on.
Step 6: Write The Draft
Now start writing a draft copy of your research paper that you’ve gotten from your research. Keep in mind, you may need to write several drafts to finalize the copy. While writing the research paper describe all the points and avoid jargon and unnecessary things.
Consider the right spacing, font, and style of writing the research paper after completing the writing. Include proper headings and subheadings so anyone can understand easily what you may discuss there.
Step 7: Add Proper Citations and References
After compiling the draft copy, add the necessary citations and references to the research paper from which sources you use the scientific formulas. While quoting any points or formulas, include the publication name, year of publication, research paper title, author, page number, etc.
Usually, an academic research paper has two formats for citing;
- APA (American Psychological Association)
- MLA (Modern Language Association)
Step 8: Revise The Copy And Finalize It
After making a draft copy, now recheck the whole writing several times to make it to the point and mistake-free. So, revise the formula, analysis, explanations, etc. If you find any wrong, edit it instantly. Also, check the following things-
- Review the format of the research paper. If any correction is needed, do it.
- Check the grammatical errors using Grammarly, or other similar tools.
- To make the copy unique and plagiarism free check it using plagiarism checker tools like Copyscape, Quetex, Grammerly, Smallseotools, or any other reliable tools.
To make the research paper better, take suggestions from your professor or mentor so you can submit an original academic research paper. If he/she gives some changes to improve its quality, do it. When you are confident everything is polished and okay, submit it for your instructor’s approval.
Congratulations on learning the hacks for writing the research paper step by step.
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How to Create a Strong Research Paper: A Guide for Middle School Students
When a middle school student first begins the research paper process, he or she has a lot of writing rules to remember. And if the child has to write an APA and a MLA paper at different times, then there are even more things to remember. Use this guide as this very important foundation is built.
Step to Remember
- Pick a good topic with lots of facts
- Have 2-4 main ideas
- Use academic and credible research
- Read the teacher instructions and follow the teacher instructions
- Bookmark an APA and a MLA website for easy reference
- Learn the difference between a reference page, a works cited, and a bibliography
- Go to any extra help given
- Learn how to do an in-text citation, know the APA and the MLA way
- Write in third person
There are different tips for different styles of papers. You have to know what style your teacher wants. For example, an informative essay is composed much differently than a cause and effect paper. Know your types and ask questions if you are not sure what to do. The layout of the paper matters, too. So follow these formatting tips:
- Use size 12 font
- Use a plain font such as Times New Roman or Arial
- Double space
- Write using a formal tone
- Use correct spelling
- Use correct grammar
- Do not use slang or contractions
- Have the length that the teacher required for the paper
- Use the right number and type of sources the teacher asked for such as magazines, interviews, videos, and studies
- Your teacher will want some or all of these items to be submitted
- A rough draft
- A final draft
- Some type of reference sheet
- A possible electronic submission
- A working outline
- Hard copies of all the sources you used and a link to them if they are online
- Supplemental hard copies of materials such as an interview transcript
One of the best ways to create a successful middle school paper is to pick a topic that you like if the teacher gives you the option of selecting your own topic. You will always write a better paper on a subject that you enjoy and have an interest in. Do yourself a favor and pick a topic you love.
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Ultimate guide on how to write a good Research Paper
It is often intimidating for students when they are given term paper or research paper tasks in their courses. No matter the subject, writing perfect papers that score high grades is a skill that we seek to help you achieve. This article is the ultimate step-by-step guide on how to successfully write a good research paper that rocks your teacher and earns you a grade A and respect from your peers.
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What is a research paper?
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that presents an author’s thesis and arguments based on the original research concerning a specific topic. The paper contains an introductory overview, a clear thesis of the research, body paragraphs that contain arguments to support the thesis, and a conclusive summary of the findings.
Therefore, research paper writing is basically a writing task that proves a specific view based on the reviewed literature and arguments supported by research. This means that the analysis of the arguments presented should be accompanied by research findings. If you cannot pull this up, seek our help writing papers and you will have it sorted.
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7 steps How to write a good research paper
To write a good research paper, you must start with choosing the right topic, formulating a good thesis, writing a good introduction, develop good paragraphs, cite your sources, sum up with a conclusion and polish the final paper.
Let us explore each of these steps in comprehensive detail.
1. Choose the right Topic and Understand it
At the beginning of a research project, you need to choose and understand your topic well. This is the first and most important step when starting your research writing process. This step should be an obvious step for any researcher at any level because it is imperative to know exactly what you will be writing about.
Checklist for selecting a topic for your research paper
I. choose a topic that strongly interests you.
Students should select the topics that challenge and interest them the most.
This is especially applicable in situations where your instructor has offered you a wide range of topics to select from, or you have been given the freedom to come up with your topic.
You should be very careful when selecting your topic because how you feel about the topic will determine how much effort you will place into your research.
The better the attitude you have towards the topic, the more enthusiasm and effort you will place towards your topic.
For example, If I am given a task to write a research paper on sports, I would be more interested in a topic about soccer because I love watching football and I keenly follow the English Premier League.
ii. Select a specific and creative topic
When selecting a topic, do not be too broad. At the same time, do not be too narrow to the extent of limiting the scope of your research. To be specific enough, you have to be creative so that you come up with an exciting yet narrow topic.
For example, if you are interested in research on “the impact of technology on communication”, you might want to narrow down the topic to focus on let’s say “the impact of artificial intelligence on online communication”.
Here, you will have narrowed down your scope into something relevant to the current and future world. This is a topic that has a direct impact on millions of people globally.
On the other hand, if you narrow down the scope too much to let’s say “the impact of artificial intelligence on messaging applications”, you may find yourself struggling with finding secondary information on the topic.
However, this does not mean that it would be impossible to tackle such a narrowed-down topic. The issue is how comfortable you are with the topic, and how much information you can get. If it is too general, narrow it down. If it is too narrow, broaden it a little.
iii. Have the topic approved
Now that you have decided on the topic of your research, seek the approval for your thesis and theme idea from your instructor. This is an important step since you may write your paper and end up repeating after your TA informs you that you selected the wrong topic. The same can happen when your instructor tells you that you wrote a topic similar to your classmate.
This is preventable. You should always do this before commencing your research because the topic may not be at par with the guidelines or course descriptions provided by the curriculum or by your instructor.
If you have any questions concerning the topics, never be afraid of seeking guidance from your instructor. They would be happy to assist you. Devote your time and efforts to researching your paper to attain an excellent grade.
2. Research the topic thoroughly
This step gives you the chance to explore the content of your topic to understand it deeper and know the potential sources of your points. However, researching the content for the topic can be a delicate and demanding process for students who do not have much experience in research.
Coming up with the content for your topic means that you will put into consideration the sections of your research paper. Such sections include the research questions, methodology, data, analysis, discussions, and conclusions.
Tips for researching content for your paper
- Use the internet
The internet has a vast collection of topics for research papers that can act as inspiration for your own. If you find a topic that is more or less similar to the topic in which you are interested in, you will most likely find similar content to what you are going to write about.
However, be warned that copying something similar to another person has done is equal to plagiarism. Even if it will not be an exact copy, it is still technical plagiarism that should be avoided.
- Be unique to stand out with your content
As you proceed with your research on your topic through books, libraries, online sources, and other scholarly works, take note of the extent to which your topic has been explored by others. This is because your paper should stand out, rather than being part of an already saturated field or topic of research.
- Seek unexplored future topics
While in your initial process of research, think or take note of what has already been explored. Then consider the future topics, outlines, and questions that revolve around the topic you intend to research on.
- Seek multiple angles to your topic
Explore your topic from multiple angles through the lens of the resources at your disposal.
To get this done, you need to jog your mind with a number of questions. You can use these questions to find a gap to fill in the research content already available.
- What have other researchers found or done about your topic?
- How different could they have done your research?
- What makes the difference?
- Are there gaps they are yet to fill?
- Can I get findings that are yet to unfold?
By exploring your topic from such a perspective, you are most likely to find something about your topic that will make it stand out. Such a paper is worth publishing because it presents a new idea and adds academic value to the discipline(s) concerned.
Where to get credible sources for your paper
You should be very careful when selecting the sources of information for your paper’s outline. Use your search engine to find general information about your topic.
You will locate useful URLs. Domain name extensions such as .org (non-profit organization), .edu (educational institutions, and .gov (government) represent institutions that can provide credible information. Avoid biased sites.
You should carefully evaluate the credibility of your sites. Books for library research are available on the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). You can also carry out field research through interviews, or sampling depending on your topic and the information you require. Remember to always cite your sources.
3. Write a strong Thesis Statement
When tasked with writing a research paper, your instructor will most likely require you to include a thesis. It is required in both the outline and the draft stages. In case you are not sure about the inclusion of a thesis in your paper, ask your instructor if it is required and what their expectations for your thesis are.
What is a thesis statement and why it is important
By definition, a thesis statement is a sentence with the main central point or the main idea of your research paper. This statement is very important because all the arguments or the motives of your research paper revolves around the central idea.
Take some time to think about the thesis statement because it declares what your paper is all about – your belief concerning the topic or the problem, and the solution.
Tips for writing a strong thesis statement
- Write in one concise sentence
You should write your thesis statement in one complete sentence. A sizable amount of your research paper is dedicated to supporting and defending your thesis statement.
- Position your thesis statement well
The thesis statement is usually provided in the last sentence of the first paragraph of your paper. If your research paper is not that long, you should provide the thesis statement in the introduction part. However, your paper is to be longer than usual, then you should provide the thesis in the second paragraph.
- Avoid ambiguous statements
For your thesis statement to be meaningful, back it up with sensible sentences that are specific to the paper and introduces the problem of your research paper. Within the first parts of your paper, avoid ambiguous arguments and statements.
- Have it interesting
Ensure that it is new and interesting. Be straight to the point because you are introducing your paper to the reader.
- Avoid citations
Present personal ideas with your own words and avoid citations at this part of the paper.
Features of a strong thesis statement
To come up with a strong thesis statement, develop it after you have collected, organized, and analyzed your ideas. This is because a thesis statement that has been developed before this is prone to changes as you develop the ideas.
A strong thesis statement should:
- Answer the question asked.
- Be written in a single sentence.
- Provide the structure and explanation of your research subject to the reader.
- Demonstrate what is to be expected from your paper.
- Be written in the first paragraph
- Present the paper’s claim that you support in your arguments, but can also be disputed by other people.
Students should consult their instructors concerning their thesis statements so that their papers can have strong thesis ideas . Your instructor can guide and give you revisions that will help you come up with a better thesis statement.
Use the above four points as the checklist when constructing your thesis statement.
4. Make a detailed Outline for your Paper
The outline is the part of the paper helps you to organize your ideas. Some people tend to ignore this step unless if the lecturer requests it. However, you should always use it because it is easiest to order your ideas when you have an outline. Download this outline example of an outline and learn from it.
5. Write the Rough Draft
After researching the topic, completing your thesis statement and formulating an outline, it now time to get to work and write the real paper. To write the paper itself requires putting all that you learned during your research into a tangible paper.
The content of your paper contains the points that you seek to present in support of your thesis statement. You basically prove the thesis right by arguing your case out and getting supporting evidence from literature research.
Writing a paper is basically following the outline that you had written and expanded the points into real paragraph content. A simple example of this step would be skeleton vs flesh. The outline is the skeleton and the draft paper is the flesh you add tp the skeleton to form a whole real body.
How to start writing your research paper
To start a research paper, you will need to write a good introduction paragraph that follows your outline and sticks to your thesis statement. write a good rough draft for a research paper, you need to write a good introduction, well-thought paragraphs, and a concise summative conclusion. Below is a step by step guide on how to write your introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
How to write an introduction for a research paper
An introduction is very important in any form of academic work, especially when writing a research paper. This is because an introduction creates the context of the paper or the rationale behind your writing.
An introduction also gives interest to the reader to proceed reading your paper. At the same time, it signals to the examiner the main points of your term paper. Therefore, you should take some time to know exactly what to include in the introduction of a research paper.
An introduction enables your readers to be aware of what they are going to read and how the content will benefit them. Therefore, an effective introduction should be engaging and interesting to your target readers from the start.
You should always begin your introduction by doing an actual introduction to what your paper will be discussing, which is your topic. This is the part where you are supposed to announce your topic to the audience.
While announcing the topic, do not delve into details because your readers may not be familiar with what you are introducing. Stick to the general information and only provide details where necessary. Details are meant to be revealed within the body of your research paper.
After announcing or introducing your topic, create some background and context of your paper. This is more of an overview of the issue you are going to examine in your paper.
It indicates to your audience that the issue you will be tackling in your paper is something of societal concern and importance.
The introduction of your research paper should include a brief justification of why your research paper is important. Your introduction should persuade your readers why they should care about your paper.
After providing a valid justification, give a brief description of your research paper’s scope and the methods you are planning to use while examining the issue. Finally, write your thesis statement as the last sentence of your introduction.
How to write body paragraphs for a research paper
This section holds the most valuable content of your research paper because you present the arguments that support your thesis. Depending on your discipline or your instructor’s requirements, this section can have a few or many parts.
However, the body of most research papers is comprised of a literature review section, methodology, analysis, results, and discussions.
- Provide background information
Regarding the literature review section, you are supposed to provide background information about your topic. You should begin by providing theories, concepts, and constructs from credible sources that inform your paper’s issue.
- Describe theories behind your papers
You are expected to describe theories related to your topic and how they have been used by other researchers to solve a similar issue.
Do not forget to define the theoretical constructs for your readers. Then describe the relevance of such theoretical constructs.
- Relate with related empirical literature
When this is done, identify and describe the relevant empirical literature. This gives your paper a pragmatic touch because empirical literature represents primary sources of information.
Provide an overview of studies that have been done related to your topic and summarize their methodologies. Then provide the major findings of the empirical studies. Do not forget to include the limitations which the researchers faced while conducting their studies.
- Clarify definitions and concepts
Based on what you have learned from the secondary and primary researches, you should finally consider your pathway.
Determine the definitions and concepts that you are going to borrow for your research. After determining the unique aspect of your issue, describe the best methodology for your research.
How to write body paragraphs that involve research methodology
When it comes to methodology, start by stating the specific research questions you will be exploring. This gives your readers details of what your research is all about and what you intend to uncover after the research.
After the research questions statement, describe the research method you have selected. This translates to the process of collecting data and information for your research. Finally, provide a rationale or a justification why you have selected the method for your research.
After applying the methodology you have selected into your study, results or findings of your study should follow.
It is from your findings that you can determine whether your research questions have been answered, or your hypothesis statements have been rejected or accepted. Use graphs, tables, statistical figures, and other graphical representations to show the findings.
Analysis and discussion is the final section of the body. In the analysis, you are supposed to interpret the results to the readers. Demonstrate the significance of those findings, their contradiction to previous researches, and juxtapositions of your findings to other studies within your discipline.
The discussion involves providing the limitations of your study to readers. This is important because it helps other researchers build on your research by overcoming those limitations.
How to write a good conclusion
You are now in the summative stages of your paper and you should be happy you have reached this far. The conclusion is the last part of your research paper.
The conclusive paragraph offers an opportunity for the researcher to summarize everything systematically and understandably.
A good summary provides the reader with the main points of the study.
There is no need for details within a conclusion because the details have already been discussed in the body of your research paper.
Therefore, the main points should include the research questions, the methods of research used, the results of the study, and the findings. Doing this helps the readers to remember the essence of your study easily.
Again, a good conclusion can effectively communicate the essence of your study to readers who do not have enough time to go through the whole paper or those that are doing preliminary studies for their works.
In short, make your long story short. To do this, make sure that your conclusion has the following elements:
- A brief restatement of your thesis statement, the issue or research question.
- Summary of your arguments.
- Explanation of your conclusion to the readers.
- Importance of your research to your discipline or societal context.
- How the results of your research can be useful for future researches.
6. Cite your sources and make a reference page
You should always cite your sources of information within the text of your research paper. At the same time, you should create a reference page that cites the sources in full.
There are different methods of citing sources and creating a reference page depending on the writing format. The most common citation formats for research papers include APA, Chicago, and Harvard.
In all the formats, the reference page should list in full all the sources used in your paper in an alphabetical order starting from “A”. Remember to use an adequate number of sources for a research paper that will give you quality depth for your length of the paper.
Always give a hanging indentation to your reference page citations. Refer to the oxford referencing manual to learn how to structure the different formats on the reference page.
Examples of most common Citations and References
- APA Reference entry and Citation
Reference page entry:
Kahlenberg, R., & Potter, H. (2012). A better affirmative action . New York, NY: Century Foundation
In-text citation: (Kahlenberg & Potter, 2012).
- MLA Reference entry and Citation
Lee, Richard. Globalization, Language, and Culture. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006, Print
In-text citation: ( Lee 12).
Check our guide on how to format a paper in APA or MLA to know how to apply the formatting requirements. For Chicago and Harvard styles, the in-text citations are numbered and placed at the bottom of the page.
7. Revise your Draft into Final Paper
In academic writing, revising an essay or a research paper is important because gives you the rare opportunity to view your paper through clear eyes of self-reflection. It is like you are correcting your work by assuming the role of the teacher, your TYA and your professor.
In other words, you are now the examiner marking the paper and grading it while correcting it at the same time. Therefore, the revision process helps you to learn and become a better writer.
Students need to revise their drafts before submitting them as final papers. The following are the steps to follow while revising the final draft.
3 main steps of revising your research paper
- Review your key points
First, you should review the key points . This is important because it ensures that your paper has not deviated from the thesis and the topic.
The key points should support the title and the thesis of your paper.
- Verify your adherence to instructions
Secondly, verify whether the instructions were followed. This is very important because deviating from the instructions renders your paper worthless.
Make sure that your paper goes per the instructions provided.
- Proofread to remove errors
Thirdly, proofread your work and correct any errors . While writing, students can make grammatical errors.
Going through your work helps identify and correct the errors. You can also use programs like Grammarly or Turnitin to help check for any errors.
15 tips and checklists for revising your research paper
Revising your paper is perhaps the most important task that will show your TA and professor that you really took the time to do the assignment. It shows you were serious with the delivery of the assignment, and not just a formality to submit your paper.
To do this, make sure you have done the following;
- Confirm that you covered all the points you listed in the outline.
- Check if you are within the deadline of submission so that you can take more time revising the paper without any hurry.
- Give someone else to read your paper and suggests revision items and mistakes you may have done. It may be a teacher, a friend, a relative, a classmate or a colleague at work.
- Read your paper out loud and listen if it sounds right
- Research a little bit more on the topic to confirm your sources of getting new but more credible ones.
- Revise your outline if you added extra points that were not in the initial outline.
- Proofread the whole paper.
- Consider your paper as a presentation to a crowd. Ask if it will make the points.
- Have a second look at your adherence to the instructions, and that every prompt is answered.
- Revise your introduction and conclusion to fit the final paper, especially if you made changes in the paper.
- Confirm the relevance of the title for your paper. Rewrite the title if anything changed in your revision.
- Read the paper one more time, from the last word to the first word.
- Keep the final paper for a day or two, then come back again to have a final fresh look.
- Check for plagiarism through a plagiarism detection software like Turnitin scan and any other. But be careful to know how Turnitin works so that you do not self-plagiarize your work in its database. Read that article to guide you.
- Enter your personal details in the first page and submit your paper.
Watch this video to learn more about this.
How long should a research paper be?
Although the typical research paper should be between 5 and 7 pages in length, your instructor may require you to write a longer research paper. The topic of your research paper can also dictate the length of the paper.
Some topics require more content hence more pages. You can read our guide on the optimal research paper length , but this depends on the instructions from your teacher. That is something we discovered from our academic writers at Grade Bees when we asked them about paper length.
How to write a Research Report
The first part should be the introduction. Begin your introduction by providing a brief overview of the issue to be tackled in your paper. At this point, you can also include your thesis statement.
The second main part of your research report is the explanation of “issue.” This part should tackle the history of the issue, the impact it has on the society, critical factors affecting the issue, and possible solutions that can be explored through your research.
The third part is the “literature review.” This part tackles theories, constructs, and concepts from your sources; empirical literature from journal articles; and your pathway which should be based on what you have found from your literature review.
The fourth part is “methodology.” This includes the methods used to gather data and analyze it. You should explain the way you collected your raw data, including the samples you used and their sizes, and questionnaires if used. This will give provide validity to your data and the justification of the method used.
The fifth part is “results and discussion”. The sixth part of your report is “conclusion and recommendations”. Here, you should provide a brief review of the issue, methodology, and findings.
Secondly, remind the readers in brief about the goals and what you have accomplished within the report. Finally, describe how future researchers can build or expand on your research.
How to write a research paper fast
Sometimes, you may have forgotten to work on your paper or just got late. If you want to write your research paper fast, first decide on the topic you want to write about. Be decisive so that you can immediately delve into writing.
Look for topics that have sufficient information for your research paper. You can also look for similar papers, though this is not advisable.
Second, conduct research. This is done before creating an outline because you should have enough content about your topic.
Note the relevant sources and their authors for the sake of citing and referencing them later in your paper. Use credible sources such as books, journals, and other reliable sources. Do not use Wikipedia and blogs as sources.
Third, work on the thesis of your research paper. It should be short and clear. It should also provoke further questions instead of generating a conclusion. Then, create an outline for your paper.
This makes your writing process to be much easier because you have already structured your work. The only remaining thing will be filling out the outline with the necessary content.
Write your introduction to introduce your topic, its relevance, the justification of your work, and finally end with a conclusion. Create a body that follows the structure given to you by your instructor.
Finally write a conclusion that restates the thesis statement, the main points, and the recommendations. Do not forget to proofread and cite your sources.
Tools to help you write a research paper
There are various tools and software that can be used to help you write your research paper. This makes your writing process faster, accurate, and more efficient. There are writing tools, research tools, referencing tools, and grammar checking tools.
- Word Processor
Regarding the writing tools, it is important to select the most appropriate writing software for you. This is because it depends on your taste, experience in using the software, and the operating system of your writing device. Some writing software works on specific or multiple operating systems. The best writing tool for your research paper in Microsoft Word for windows OS.
- Referencing tools
The tools that will help you to create references while working on your research paper are several. You can use them in your Apple or Windows computer. They include EndNote, Citavi, Zotero, Papers, JabRef, PaperPile, Mendeley, RefWorks, and Docear.
- Research Tools
There are also research tools to help you with your research paper. This especially applies to students who are not fully competent with English. Such tools can help polish your written language. For those doing research, they can use statistical research tools to aid in their research papers.
- Plagiarism scanners
Since research involves using other people’s works, there is good plagiarism checking software to help prevent plagiarism.
- Data analysis tools
The most important research tools include REF-N-WRITE, Online Statistical testing tools, Microsoft Excel, Google Scholar (for sources), ResearchGate, Plagiarism Checker, and Project Management Tools (for time management).
- Proofreading tools
Sentence correction tools and grammar checkers include Grammarly, MS Word Spelling & Grammar checker, CorrectEnglish, ProWritingAid, StyleWriter, Ginger Software, and WhiteSmoke.
Lessons to learn from Writing a Research Paper
There are several reasons why students write research papers. We will explain the main ones here by highlighting why students write research papers in college and what benefits they get.
First, students can acquire complex reading skills because they are tasked with close readings of multiple complex sources. They have to comprehend those readings, as well as analyze, synthesize, and evaluate them.
Secondly, writing research papers creates a research mindset within the students. Research helps us find answers to complex questions because it is all about finding answers to questions.
It helps students develop investigative skills that help them unearth complex issues. This results in curiosity. Students can question different aspects of their disciplines.
Writing research papers develops the power of attribution. Before exposure to research papers, students often disregard the owners of sources of information. This is because the mainstream information from social media will not reference any source.
In the professional world, a person needs to develop the power of attribution to ask questions like, who said this, why, and where can I find more? This also teaches them that plagiarism is wrong and intellectual property rights matter.
How a research proposal is different from writing a research paper
The writing of a research proposal is different because it presents an outline of what is to be covered in a research project. A research proposal seeks to explain a problem or thesis using both secondary research (literature review) and real primary research with raw data.
On the other hand, a research paper just provides arguments presented in the method explained above and supported by a literature review.
The research proposal, therefore, consists of six main parts. They include the introduction, thesis statement, literature review, methodology, results and discussion, and finally conclusion and recommendations.
Those parts are titled in capital letters and arranged in Roman numerals.
You are required to use roman numerals, numbers, and letters to organize your topics, subtopics, and ideas.
The first part of your outline should be the introduction. However, the title of your research paper should appear at the top of your outline.
1. Introduction of the outline
Begin your introduction by providing a brief overview of the issue to be tackled in your paper. At this point, you can also include your thesis statement or the main argument of your paper.
Offer a brief justification of why readers should care about your paper. Finally, provide a short explanation of the methods you plan to utilize while exploring the issue and the scope of your paper.
2. Thesis statement
The second main part of your research paper should be the “issue”. This part should tackle the history of the issue, the impact it has on the society, critical factors affecting the issue, and possible solutions that can be explored through your research.
3. Literature Review
The third part is the “literature review”. This part should tackle theories, constructs, and concepts from your sources; empirical literature from journal articles; and your pathway which should be based on what you have found from your literature review.
Concerning theories, constructs, and concepts from your sources such as textbooks, articles, and credible publications, you should provide brief points on how such are defined and used to propose solutions an issue that is similar to yours.
Empirical literature should provide relevant examples of actual experiments that have been carried out to tackle an issue related to your topic.
Finally, the pathway should contain points that identify the best concepts that you will borrow to tackle your unique issue.
4. The methodology part
The fourth part should be the “method”. Three subtopics should be included in this part. The first subtopic should seek to state the specific research question that your paper is going to examine.
The second subtopic should describe the research method, which is the information and data collection process. Finally, you should provide a subtopic that seeks to justify your choice of method.
5. Results and discussion
The fifth part is “results and discussion”. At this point, you should provide five things in the form of subtopics. The first thing you should do is to list the major findings of your study. The second thing is to provide empirical evidence to explain your findings.
This is done through charts, tables, and graphs. Thirdly, discuss the relevance of the findings concerning previous studies. Fourthly, what is your reaction to the results? Finally, provide the limitations of the study you have carried.
6. Conclusion and recommendations
The sixth part of your outline should be “conclusion and recommendations”. Here, you should provide a brief review of the issue, methodology, and findings.
Secondly, remind the readers in brief about the goals and what you have accomplished within the study. Finally, describe how future researchers can build or expand on your research.
FAQs and tips on writing a research paper in college
What section of a research paper should contain the main idea.
The main idea or the thesis statement should be in the introduction section. It should specifically be placed in the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. This is because you are supposed to introduce your readers to the main idea as early as possible. You can ask our custom writing experts on further personalized guidance on how to place your main ideas on the paper.
Do research papers have a thesis?
Yes. All research papers should contain a thesis. A thesis is a very important statement because it holds the essence of the paper. It provides the structure of the argument and the anticipated results of the study.
How to write a 5-page research paper
To write a five-page research paper, it depends on the topic you are going to write about. The more complex a topic is the more the detail and the more the pages. Therefore, you should consider writing about less complex topics. Divide your work into introduction, body, and conclusion.
Can you say I in a research paper?
Students should not use “I” in their research papers. This is because it signals bias of research and findings to the readers. Using “I” makes the research paper subjective instead of objective. However, it can be used when the author wants to create a connection with the readers. You should use it rarely.
How many paragraphs should there be in a research paper?
It all depends on the length of your research paper. The longer the research paper, the more the paragraphs. Again. The size of the paragraph depends on the content it holds. Some may span almost a page while others may be shorter. However, they should not be less than 10.
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How to Teach Middle School Students to Write Research Papers
Related articles, step-by-step explanation of how to write a research paper for elementary students, the types of outlining for writing research papers, how to write a college critical thinking essay.
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Middle school students are in the unique position of transitioning from writing simple, elementary-level pieces to fully developed essays. That said, the research paper is the most complex form of academic writing, and you'll need to walk them through the entire writing process. You should also stress how important it is that they treat writing as a process, so they understand that prewriting and revision are just as crucial as writing their actual drafts.
The first thing you must do is explain the mode of the essay and all its accompanying rules and procedures. Each student will use evidence to support a specific claim, which is known as a thesis. Also detail the parameters of the assignment: the expected length of the paper, its due date -- including due dates for outlines, first drafts, etc. -- as well as how many outside sources each student will have to cite. Then, discuss the format for the essay, which will probably be MLA format. If possible, distribute printouts that contain all of this information in a neat and organized manner. You can even include a sample paper for later reference.
Spend at least half the time allotted for the paper on prewriting. Begin with lessons on brainstorming and determining whether students' theses will work for the assignment. Then, move on to conducting research. Explain the differences between primary resources and secondary resources, and how your students can use each to strengthen their essays. Teach them how to use note cards to organize and order their information to best present their arguments. Once their ideas are in place, walk them through the process of outlining. Stress to them that outlines are blueprints for essays, and that a strong outline can reduce stress while drafting and editing.
The Drafting Process
As soon as the students have solid outlines, have them begin their first drafts. Encourage them to stick strictly to their outlines, and to focus on transitioning smoothly from each topic of discussion to the next. Once they've completed first drafts, have students work in groups to read and critique the structure of each others' arguments. Have each student make notes about what was confusing about each essay, and also what he or she found compelling. Have them evaluate introductions, bodies and conclusions. Students can then compile feedback from their peers and see if there are any consistent difficulties with the readings.
Editing and Revision
This final stage provides opportunities for collaborative learning and group work. Once students have made any structural changes to their essays, you can place them again into groups and have them proofread each others' papers. This is also the time when you want to revisit the lesson on formatting: MLA headings, citations and bibliography pages. You can even incorporate a short citation exercise to give them a slight break from the assignment. Assign very short pieces about topics of their choosing. The only requirement is they must use an outside source for the information and cite it properly both in the text and at the end of the piece.
- Common Core State Standards Initiative: English Language Arts Standards: Writing: Grade 7
Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."
5 Step Writing Process for Kids
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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.
Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.
This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.
Table of contents
Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.
Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:
- Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
- Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
- Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.
Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.
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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.
You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.
You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.
Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:
- A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
- A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.
Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.
Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.
- Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
- Are there any heated debates you can address?
- Do you have a unique take on your topic?
- Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?
In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”
A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.
The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.
You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.
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A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.
A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.
Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:
- Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
- Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
- Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.
You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.
Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.
Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.
George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.
It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.
You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.
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The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.
What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.
Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?
How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.
The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.
One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:
- topic sentences against the thesis statement;
- topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
- and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.
Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.
The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.
Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.
You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.
You should not :
- Offer new arguments or essential information
- Take up any more space than necessary
- Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)
There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.
- Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
- Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
- Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
- If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.
The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible.
- Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
- Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
- Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.
Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:
- each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
- no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
- all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.
Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .
Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading or create an APA title page .
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Checklist: Research paper
I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.
My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.
My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .
My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .
Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .
Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.
I have used appropriate transitions to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.
My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.
My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.
My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.
I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.
I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .
I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).
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How to Write a Research Paper in 11 Easy Steps
It’s a beautiful sunny day, you had a big delicious breakfast, and you show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for your first class of the day. Just as you’re getting comfortable in your chair, your teacher hits you with it: A 5-page, size 12 font research paper… due in 2 weeks.
The sky goes black, your breakfast turns to a brick in your stomach. A research paper? FIVE pages long? Why???
Maybe we’re being a little over-dramatic here. But not all of us are born gifted writers. In fact, we think it’s safe to say that most of us struggle a little or a lot in writing common types of essays like informative , argumentative , and compare and contrast essays .
But fear not!! we can help you through it. If you follow these 11 steps we promise you will write a better essay, faster.
Oh… and before we get started, we HAVE to share with you the # 1 tool needed to write your research paper…
It is the same tool we used to write this blog article and make sure my grammar errors were caught without having to hire an expensive editor!
What is it you may ask?
Seriously it is a lifesaver and best part… it is FREE! 🙂
Click here to quickly get it set up so when you write your research paper you don’t have any spelling or grammar errors!
Table of Contents
11 Steps to Write a Research Paper
1. start early.
We all do it. We wait until the LAST day to start an assignment, and then something goes wrong at the LAST minute, and Woops! We get a bad grade.
ALWAYS start your essays early. This is what I recommend. Especially since writing a research paper requires more effort than a regular paper might.
We have a 3-week timeline you can follow when writing a research paper. YES, 3 weeks!! It may sound like waaay too early to start, but it gives you enough time to:
- Outline and write your paper
- Check for errors
All of this = a better grade on your assignment. You’re already going through all the effort — why not be positive that you’ll get the best results??
2. Read the Guidelines
Ever taken a shirt out of the dryer to find it has shrunk 10 sizes too small?
It’s because the shirt probably wasn’t meant to go in the dryer, and if you had read the tag, you’d have saved yourself one whole article of clothing!
Before you even START on writing a research paper, READ THE GUIDELINES.
- What is your teacher looking for in your essay?
- Are there any specific things you need to include?
This way, you don’t have to finish your essay only to find that it needs to be re-done!
3. Brainstorm research paper topics
Sometimes we’re assigned essays where we know exactly what we want to write about before we start.
Write an essay on my favorite place to travel?? I know what we are going to choose!
But there are probably more times where we DON’T know exactly what we want to write about, and we may even experience writer’s block.
To overcome that writer’s block , or simply avoid it happening in the first place, we can use a skill called mind-mapping (or brainstorming) to come up with a topic that is relevant and that we’re interested in writing about!
Here’s an example of a mind-map I just did for Influential People!
By writing whatever came to my mind and connecting those thoughts, I was able to come up with quite a few influential people to write about — I could come up with EVEN MORE if we kept writing!!
See here we can choose to write about Hillary Clinton and how she may have an influence on women and women’s rights in society.
Following this method, you can determine your own research paper topics to write about in a way that’s quick and painless.
4. Write out your questions
To get the BEST research, you have to ask questions. Questions on questions on questions. The idea is that you get to the root of whatever you are talking about so you can write a quality essay on it.
Let’s say you have the question: “How do I write a research paper?”
Can you answer this without more information?
Not so easy, right? That’s because when you “write a research paper”, you do a lot of smaller things that ADD UP to “writing a research paper”.
Break your questions down. Ask until you can’t ask anymore, or until it’s no longer relevant to your topic. This is how you can achieve quality research.
5. Do the research
It IS a research paper, after all. But you don’t want to just type all your questions into Google and pick the first source you see. Not every piece of information on the internet is true, or accurate.
Here’s a way you can easily check your sources for credibility: Look for the who, what, and when.
- Who is the author of the source?
- What are they known for?
- Do they have a background in the subject they wrote about?
- Does the author reference other sources?
- Are those sources credible too?
- What does the “Main” or “Home” page of a website look like?
- Is it professional looking?
- Is there an organization sponsoring the information, and do they seem legitimate
- Do they specialize in the subject?
- When was the source generated — today, last week, a month, a year ago?
- Has there been new or additional information provided since this information was published?
Double-check all your sources this way. Because this is a custom research paper , your writing is meaningless without other sources to back it up.
Keep track of your credible sources!
When you find useful information from a credible source, DON’T LET IT GO. You need to save the original place you found that information from so that you can cite it in your essay, and later on in the bibliography.
You don’t want to have to go back later and dig up the information a second time just to list the source you got it from!
To help with this, you may be familiar with the option to “Bookmark” your pages online — do this for online sources.
There IS another tool you can use to keep track of your sources. It’s called Diigo , and it’s what we use at Student-Tutor to build an online database of valuable educational resources!
You can create a Diigo account and one free group for your links. Check out this video on how to use Diigo to save all your sources in one convenient location.
Now, of course, there are other ways besides the Internet to get information, and there’s nothing wrong with cracking open a well-written book to enrich your essay’s content.
Ways to get information when writing a research paper
- The Internet
6. Create a Thesis Statement
How to write a thesis statement is something that a lot of people overlook. That’s a mistake.
The thesis statement is part of your research paper outline but deserves its own step. That’s because the thesis statement is SUPER important! It is what sets the stage for the entire essay.
How do you write a thesis statement?
Here’s a color-coded example:
7. Create an outline
Once you have constructed your thesis, the rest of the outline is pretty simple. It should mimic the structure of your thesis and feel like you are starting to write an essay !
Here’s a color-coded research paper outline you can follow:
8. Write your research paper
Here it is — the dreaded writing. But see how far we’ve already come?
We already know what we’re going to write about, and where we’re going to write it. That’s a lot easier than taking a pen straight to your paper and hoping for some magical, monk-like inspiration to come, are we correct?
As you write, be sure to pin-point the places where you are inserting sources. We’ll talk about in-text citations in just a moment!
Here are some basic tips for writing your essay from International Student :
- Generally, don’t use “I/My” unless it’s a personal narrative
- Use specific examples to support your statements
- Vary your language — don’t use the same adjective 5 times in a row
PRO TIP: Write is using a FREE app like Grammarly so it catches all your grammar and spelling mistakes! Click here to download it for FREE!
9. Cite your sources
This goes along with the second step — make sure to check your essay guidelines and find out BEFOREHAND what kind of citation style your teacher wants you to use.
Like we promised earlier, Purdue University has a great article that provides instructions on and examples of how to cite different types of sources WITHIN your text. Reference this when you’re not sure what to do.
As a general rule of thumb, in-text citations usually go AFTER the sentence drawing from the source, but BEFORE the period of that sentence, in parentheses. If more than one sentence is referencing the same source, try to place it at the last of those sentences.
However, no matter what you cite in your writing, all the sources you use for the paper need to be included in your bibliography.
This goes on a separate page, after your main essay and may be titled “Works Cited” or “Bibliography”. (Make sure to check the guidelines and ask your teacher!)
For this, we’re going to introduce you to an awesome, totally free citation tool called EasyBib .
Important Tip: Make sure that when you use EasyBib, you are filling in a template provided by EasyBib and NOT asking EasyBib to pull information directly from the source. EasyBib can’t always find information that is there, and your citation will be incomplete without it!n28
By selecting “Manual Cite”, EasyBib will provide you with a template for filling in the necessary information to create your citation.
You can then ask EasyBib to generate the source in the citation format you’ve selected. Copy and paste that source into your bibliography — easy!
10. Read your essay
Why do I need to read my essay if I wrote it?
You’d be surprised what you’ll catch the second, third, and bazillionth time around reading your own writing! Not that you have to read THIS a bazillion times… just once or twice over will do.
We recommend that you read your essay once-through, and the second time read it aloud. Reading your essay aloud reinforces your words and makes it easier to recognize when something is phrased strangely, or if you are using a word too often.
And if you use a tool like Grammarly it will even give you tips on using active vs. passive voice. Not sure what that means? It tells you!
Seriously… we know we keep talking about this app but it is a lifesaver!
Click here to get the app for FREE!
11. Have someone else read your essay
Lastly, it is always important that someone else besides you read your essay before you submit it. This is one of the secrets of writing a good essay .
Find a professional who can give you constructive feedback on how to improve your essay — this may be a tutor or a teacher. It can also be someone who specializes in the subject you are writing about.
The absolute BEST person to review your essay would be the teacher that assigned it to you.
And yes, many teachers WILL read the essay they assigned before it is due and give you pointers on how to make it better. They want you to succeed and they’re the ones grading it — we think it’s safe to say they know what they’re talking about!
Conclusion: How to Write a Research Paper
For most of us, writing a research paper is no walk in the park. Unfortunately, it’s important that you know how to do it!
Let’s review the steps to make this process as PAINLESS as possible:
- Start early — 3 weeks in advance!
- Read the guidelines
- Mind map/Brainstorm research paper topics
- Write out your questions
- Do the research (Remember to keep track of your sources!)
- Create a Thesis Statement
- Create an outline
- Write your essay
- Cite your sources (In-text and in your bibliography)
- Read your essay (twice and once aloud!)
- Have someone ELSE read your essay — try your teacher first.
Do you have experience writing a research paper? What process did you use, and was it effective? Tell us about it in the comments below!
In addition, if you haven’t already… please download Grammerly! We would hate for you to hand in your research paper and for it to have all these grammar and spelling errors that Microsoft Word doesn’t catch!
Bonus… it is FREE! Click here to download now!
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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper
Few things strike more fear in academics than the accursed research paper , a term synonymous with long hours and hard work. Luckily there’s a secret to help you get through them. As long as you know how to write a research paper properly, you’ll find they’re not so bad . . . or at least less painful.
In this guide we concisely explain how to write an academic research paper step by step. We’ll cover areas like how to start a research paper, how to write a research paper outline, how to use citations and evidence, and how to write a conclusion for a research paper.
But before we get into the details, let’s take a look at what a research paper is and how it’s different from other writing .
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What is a research paper?
A research paper is a type of academic writing that provides an in-depth analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a single topic, based on empirical evidence. Research papers are similar to analytical essays, except that research papers emphasize the use of statistical data and preexisting research, along with a strict code for citations.
Research papers are a bedrock of modern science and the most effective way to share information across a wide network. However, most people are familiar with research papers from school; college courses often use them to test a student’s knowledge of a particular area or their research skills in general.
Considering their gravity, research papers favor formal, even bland language that strips the writing of any bias. Researchers state their findings plainly and with corresponding evidence so that other researchers can consequently use the paper in their own research.
Keep in mind that writing a research paper is different from writing a research proposal . Essentially, research proposals are to acquire the funding needed to get the data to write a research paper.
How long should a research paper be?
The length of a research paper depends on the topic or assignment. Typically, research papers run around 4,000–6,000 words, but it’s common to see short papers around 2,000 words or long papers over 10,000 words.
If you’re writing a paper for school, the recommended length should be provided in the assignment. Otherwise, let your topic dictate the length: Complicated topics or extensive research will require more explanation.
How to write a research paper in 9 steps
Below is a step-by-step guide to writing a research paper, catered specifically for students rather than professional researchers. While some steps may not apply to your particular assignment, think of this as more of a general guideline to keep you on track.
1 Understand the assignment
For some of you this goes without saying, but you might be surprised at how many students start a research paper without even reading the assignment guidelines.
So your first step should be to review the assignment and carefully read the writing prompt. Specifically, look for technical requirements such as length , formatting requirements (single- vs. double-spacing, indentations, etc.) and citation style . Also pay attention to the particulars, such as whether or not you need to write an abstract or include a cover page.
Once you understand the assignment, the next steps in how to write a research paper follow the usual writing process , more or less. There are some extra steps involved because research papers have extra rules, but the gist of the writing process is the same.
2 Choose your topic
In open-ended assignments, the student must choose their own topic. While it may seem simple enough, choosing a topic is actually the most important decision you’ll make in writing a research paper, since it determines everything that follows.
Your top priority in how to choose a research paper topic is whether it will provide enough content and substance for an entire research paper. You’ll want to choose a topic with enough data and complexity to enable a rich discussion. However, you also want to avoid general topics and instead stick with topics specific enough that you can cover all the relevant information without cutting too much.
3 Gather preliminary research
The sooner you start researching, the better—after all, it’s called a research paper for a reason.
To refine your topic and prepare your thesis statement, find out what research is available for your topic as soon as possible. Early research can help dispel any misconceptions you have about the topic and reveal the best paths and approaches to find more material.
Typically, you can find sources either online or in a library. If you’re searching online, make sure you use credible sources like science journals or academic papers. Some search engines—mentioned below in the Tools and resources section—allow you to browse only accredited sources and academic databases.
Keep in mind the difference between primary and secondary sources as you search. Primary sources are firsthand accounts, like published articles or autobiographies; secondary sources are more removed, like critical reviews or secondhand biographies.
When gathering your research, it’s better to skim sources instead of reading each potential source fully. If a source seems useful, set it aside to give it a full read later. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck poring over sources that you ultimately won’t use, and that time could be better spent finding a worthwhile source.
Sometimes you’re required to submit a literature review , which explains your sources and presents them to an authority for confirmation. Even if no literature review is required, it’s still helpful to compile an early list of potential sources—you’ll be glad you did later.
4 Write a thesis statement
Using what you found in your preliminary research, write a thesis statement that succinctly summarizes what your research paper will be about. This is usually the first sentence in your paper, making it your reader’s introduction to the topic.
A thesis statement is the best answer for how to start a research paper. Aside from preparing your reader, the thesis statement also makes it easier for other researchers to assess whether or not your paper is useful to them for their own research. Likewise, you should read the thesis statements of other research papers to decide how useful they are to you.
A good thesis statement mentions all the important parts of the discussion without disclosing too many of the details. If you’re having trouble putting it into words, try to phrase your topic as a question and then answer it .
For example, if your research paper topic is about separating students with ADHD from other students, you’d first ask yourself, “Does separating students with ADHD improve their learning?” The answer—based on your preliminary research—is a good basis for your thesis statement.
5 Determine supporting evidence
At this stage of how to write an academic research paper, it’s time to knuckle down and do the actual research. Here’s when you go through all the sources you collected earlier and find the specific information you’d like to use in your paper.
Normally, you find your supporting evidence by reading each source and taking notes. Isolate only the information that’s directly relevant to your topic; don’t bog down your paper with tangents or unnecessary context, however interesting they may be. And always write down page numbers , not only for you to find the information later, but also because you’ll need them for your citations.
Aside from highlighting text and writing notes, another common tactic is to use bibliography cards . These are simple index cards with a fact or direct quotation on one side and the bibliographical information (source citation, page numbers, subtopic category) on the other. While bibliography cards are not necessary, some students find them useful for staying organized, especially when it’s time to write an outline.
6 Write a research paper outline
A lot of students want to know how to write a research paper outline. More than informal essays, research papers require a methodical and systematic structure to make sure all issues are addressed, and that makes outlines especially important.
First make a list of all the important categories and subtopics you need to cover—an outline for your outline! Consider all the information you gathered when compiling your supporting evidence and ask yourself what the best way to separate and categorize everything is.
Once you have a list of what you want to talk about, consider the best order to present the information. Which subtopics are related and should go next to each other? Are there any subtopics that don’t make sense if they’re presented out of sequence? If your information is fairly straightforward, feel free to take a chronological approach and present the information in the order it happened.
Because research papers can get complicated, consider breaking your outline into paragraphs. For starters, this helps you stay organized if you have a lot of information to cover. Moreover, it gives you greater control over the flow and direction of the research paper. It’s always better to fix structural problems in the outline phase than later after everything’s already been written.
Don’t forget to include your supporting evidence in the outline as well. Chances are you’ll have a lot you want to include, so putting it in your outline helps prevent some things from falling through the cracks.
7 Write the first draft
Once your outline is finished, it’s time to start actually writing your research paper. This is by far the longest and most involved step, but if you’ve properly prepared your sources and written a thorough outline, everything should run smoothly.
If you don’t know how to write an introduction for a research paper, the beginning can be difficult. That’s why writing your thesis statement beforehand is crucial. Open with your thesis statement and then fill out the rest of your introduction with the secondary information—save the details for the body of your research paper, which comes next.
The body contains the bulk of your research paper. Unlike essays , research papers usually divide the body into sections with separate headers to facilitate browsing and scanning. Use the divisions in your outline as a guide.
Follow along your outline and go paragraph by paragraph. Because this is just the first draft, don’t worry about getting each word perfect . Later you’ll be able to revise and fine-tune your writing, but for now focus simply on saying everything that needs to be said. In other words, it’s OK to make mistakes since you’ll go back later to correct them.
One of the most common problems with writing long works like research papers is connecting paragraphs to each other. The longer your writing is, the harder it is to tie everything together smoothly. Use transition sentences to improve the flow of your paper, especially for the first and last sentences in a paragraph.
Even after the body is written, you still need to know how to write a conclusion for a research paper. Just like an essay conclusion , your research paper conclusion should restate your thesis , reiterate your main evidence , and summarize your findings in a way that’s easy to understand.
Don’t add any new information in your conclusion, but feel free to say your own personal perspective or interpretation if it helps the reader understand the big picture.
8 Cite your sources correctly
Citations are part of what sets research papers apart from more casual nonfiction like personal essays . Citing your sources both validates your data and also links your research paper to the greater scientific community. Because of their importance, citations must follow precise formatting rules . . . problem is, there’s more than one set of rules!
You need to check with the assignment to see which formatting style is required. Typically, academic research papers follow one of two formatting styles for citing sources:
- MLA (Modern Language Association)
- APA (American Psychological Association)
The links above explain the specific formatting guidelines for each style, along with an automatic citation generator to help you get started.
In addition to MLA and APA styles, you occasionally see requirements for CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style), AMA (American Medical Association) and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).
Citations may seem confusing at first with all their rules and specific information. However, once you get the hang of them, you’ll be able to properly cite your sources without even thinking about it. Keep in mind that each formatting style has specific guidelines for citing just about any kind of source, including photos , websites , speeches , and YouTube videos .
9 Edit and proofread
Last but not least, you want to go through your research paper to correct all the mistakes by proofreading . We recommend going over it twice: once for structural issues such as adding/deleting parts or rearranging paragraphs and once for word choice, grammatical, and spelling mistakes. Doing two different editing sessions helps you focus on one area at a time instead of doing them both at once.
To help you catch everything, here’s a quick checklist to keep in mind while you edit:
- Is your thesis statement clear and concise?
- Is your paper well-organized, and does it flow from beginning to end with logical transitions?
- Do your ideas follow a logical sequence in each paragraph?
- Have you used concrete details and facts and avoided generalizations?
- Do your arguments support and prove your thesis?
- Have you avoided repetition?
- Are your sources properly cited?
- Have you checked for accidental plagiarism?
Word choice, grammar, and spelling edit:
- Is your language clear and specific?
- Do your sentences flow smoothly and clearly?
- Have you avoided filler words and phrases ?
- Have you checked for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
Some people find it useful to read their paper out loud to catch problems they might miss when reading in their head. Another solution is to have someone else read your paper and point out areas for improvement and/or technical mistakes.
Revising is a separate skill from writing, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily make you good at the other. If you want to improve your revision skills, read our guide on self-editing , which includes a more complete checklist and advanced tips on improving your revisions.
Technical issues like grammatical mistakes and misspelled words can be handled effortlessly if you use a spellchecker with your word processor, or even better, a digital writing assistant that also suggests improvements for word choice and tone, like Grammarly (we explain more in the Tools and resources section below).
Tools and resources
If you want to know more about how to write a research paper, or if you want some help with each step, take a look at the tools and resources below.
This is Google’s own search engine, which is dedicated exclusively to academic papers. It’s a great way to find new research and sources. Plus, it’s free to use.
Zotero is a freemium, open-source research manager, a cross between an organizational CMS and a search engine for academic research. With it, you can browse the internet for research sources relevant to your topic and share them easily with colleagues. Also, it automatically generates citations.
Writing long research papers is always a strain on your attention span. If you have trouble avoiding distractions during those long stretches, FocusWriter might be able to help. FocusWriter is a minimalist word processor that removes all the distracting icons and sticks only to what you type. You’re also free to choose your own customized backgrounds, with other special features like timed alarms, daily goals, and optional typewriter sound effects.
This useful and free tool from Google lets you create simple charts and graphs based on whatever data you input. Charts and graphs are excellent visual aids for expressing numeric data, a perfect complement if you need to explain complicated evidential research.
Grammarly goes way beyond grammar, helping you hone word choice, checking your text for plagiarism, detecting your tone, and more. For foreign-language learners, it can make your English sound more fluent, and even those who speak English as their primary language benefit from Grammarly’s suggestions.
Research paper FAQs
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that analyzes, evaluates, or interprets a single topic with empirical evidence and statistical data.
When will I need to write a research paper in college?
Many college courses use research papers to test a student’s knowledge of a particular topic or their research skills in general. While research papers depend on the course or professor, you can expect to write at least a few before graduation.
How do I determine a topic for my research paper?
If the topic is not assigned, try to find a topic that’s general enough to provide ample evidence but specific enough that you’re able to cover all the basics. If possible, choose a topic you’re personally interested in—it makes the work easier.
Where can I conduct research for my paper?
Today most research is conducted either online or in libraries. Some topics might benefit from old periodicals like newspapers or magazines, as well as visual media like documentaries. Museums, parks, and historical monuments can also be useful.
How do I cite sources for a research paper?
The correct formatting for citations depends on which style you’re using, so check the assignment guidelines. Most school research reports use either MLA or APA styles, although there are others.
This article was originally written by Karen Hertzberg in 2017. It’s been updated to include new information.