Long ago, when you learned how to write a perfect research paper, that your first draft would never be your last. The same holds true for any piece...
How to Write a Research Paper
Students specializing in all possible majors have one thing in common. They often look for tips on how to write a research paper because that’s a task they are bound to face every year, up until their graduation. At first, it might not look like something that needs explanations: everything is clear from the name itself. Research essay requires you to investigate some topic and present information you collected. But as reality has it, crafting it is way more difficult than it seems, not to mention that lots of nuances should be taken into account before you do anything.
What is a research paper? It’s an academic piece of writing where the writer has to gather data from a variety of sources, use it for analysis of the topic, and make their own contribution by offering some new angle. It doesn’t mean that you must present something amazingly novel — simply making a point about your theme and including it into general analysis will be enough. This task differs from other assignments because it requires more thorough research and more analytical skills. Here’s everything students should know.
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Table of Contents
How to Do a Research Paper: 12 Essential Steps
No matter how creative students are, sometimes it is better to have a guiding template nearby. This could help get a clear idea of what you’re supposed to do and which steps to follow in your writing. We prepared a detailed guide that will take you from the initial stages of planning research essay, through outlines and drafts, and toward the final polished version. You’ll never feel stuck or confused if you keep it close!
Step 1: Understand Your Task
College students often hasten to start research papers writing without reading through their instructions attentively. It’s a mistake as the first thing they should do is figure out what their assignment is about. For example, is it okay to choose a topic by yourself or should it be taken from a list with predetermined options? How many sources should be used for analysis? Sometimes professors allow using older books or articles and at times only fresh sources must be present. Research itself could be qualitative, quantitative, or general. Learn which type you require. How many pages should this work have? Ask the professor all questions you have and make sure you understand every line of guidelines. The essay could be focused on literature review or revolve around your personal contributions; it could concentrate on the topic alone or on the viewpoints different people have on it. Clear comprehension of assignments will help you do everything correctly.
Step 2: Choose Your Topic
One of key answers to the question of how to write a good research paper is selecting a great research paper topic. This greatness is not determined by its complexity or value — it’s all about the writer. They must love their topic for creating something truly interesting. Sure, experienced people can write quality essays regardless of their personal feelings, but students must be invested at least partly if they want to succeed. So, consider your likes and dislikes. Do some online reading: topic-related questions are very common, so there are many special lists you could choose your theme from. What would you like to investigate? Are there any things you’d like to learn more about? If you have a vague idea but cannot narrow it down, look through similar research. You could draw some inspiration from it.
Step 3: Do Preliminary Research
Now that you’ve settled on a topic for your academic research paper, it’s time to delve into reading. This essay type is heavily reliant upon strong sources, so start searching for them. Look at the ones that support your view, check out those that contradict it; read abstracts from articles and summaries of books. There is a huge number of sources, and they could roughly be divided into library and online types. Here are the common types young writers could use.
- Encyclopedias and Dictionaries. Visit your college library, check out what your city has in store, or just go online. Sources such as Britannica, Canadian Encyclopedia, Oxford Dictionary, etc. are often helpful as they share core facts with no irrelevant details. This could help students understand their topic better.
- Journals, Magazines and Newspapers. Depending on a topic, you’ll definitely find much useful info in these mediums, whether you take their physical or online copies. Academic articles with assigned DOI, New York Times, luxury magazines, yellow pages — everything could come in handy. Sites akin to MagPortal.com or OnlineNewspapers.com are not always credible but they’ll supply you with a plethora of ideas you will be able to expand on.
- Online Collections. There are databases with great online materials you could use. They include ProQuest, eLibrary, Wall Street Executive Library, SIRS, International Public Library, etc. Students have access to these places.
- Google Scholar. This search engine is vast and free, and it could help writing a research paper. Just open it and type in your topic — you’ll be offered various sources with an option for sorting them based on their publication date.
- Government Publications, Guides, and Reports. Students could request the copies from their libraries or look for these sources themselves. Governmental sites publish relevant news; guides tend to be available freely; companies frequently disclose their data for staying transparent, so you could find lots of interesting things there.
- News Sites. Check out other news sites. Once again, they don’t have to be credible during preliminary research: find some inputs via Quora or Answers.com. If you like them, research them further by focusing on more trustworthy sources.
- Subject Specific Software. Are you wondering how to write a college research paper? Try using software that’s created for each subject in particular. This is a cool way for getting the materials you need and finding answers for any related questions. Download relevant apps and discover new authors, learn new facts, explore topics you’re interested in, etc.
There are also almanacs, catalogs, atlases, and other great options. Learn info from any of them. Better yet, combine several of them for getting a complete picture of your topic!
Step 4: Craft Strong Thesis
Thesis is the last sentence of introduction, but it is better to create it in advance. It must be a specific claim that expresses the idea and the goal you’re following. Look at it as a one-sentence essay description: the audience should realize what they’re going to get by reading it. At the same time, don’t include descriptive phrases similar to “in this paper,” “this research is going to be,” it is important to investigate,” etc. Make a direct statement. Let’s use a specific example of research paper about chocolate. Thesis here could express something like, “Eating chocolate is harmful because its content is dangerous and because it is created via human slavery practices.”
Step 5: Create an Outline
Outline comes next. Forming it won’t take you a long time, but it’ll guide you through all the writing steps. Instead of introduction, mention the thesis. You could also omit the conclusion, but indicate how many body paragraphs there will be as well as what points and sub-points they’ll present. It is easy to get confused otherwise because you might lose your sense of direction and start exploring something that isn’t directly related to your topic. How to properly write a research paper? You must have a plan in place! So, brainstorm, write the results down, and polish them until you have a specific picture before you. Follow each point you’ve mentioned during the writing process. With an outline, you’ll be able to see how smooth your content and the links between its points are going to be.
Step 6: Write the First Draft
Note that this step is mostly optional: not everyone needs to write a draft, especially if we’re talking about an experienced author who finds writing as easy as breathing. But for many students, this is a new process, so making a draft is a good starting point. It means they could write an idea of an essay without caring about smaller details. For example, once they have a thesis, they don’t need to write an introduction right away — it could be better to focus on the body for now. At this stage, writers are just trying out their ideas. They write a couple of sentences for each paragraph, checking if what they’ve planned works. They use only core sources and don’t bother with developing every point in a believable way — it’s called a draft for a reason.
Step 7: Craft Alluring Introduction
How to make a research paper impress the audience? Start with an interesting introduction! It should have a hook as its first sentence, something that intrigues people and encourages them to read further. A catchy quote, funny joke, rhetorical question, piece of shocking statistics, an astounding fact or bold claim — it could be anything. Give some topic background to your readers, too, as they should know what this essay is going to focus on. Don’t go overboard with explanations and details. Your task is to introduce things here, not discuss them. Stir people’s appetite by getting them hooked and eager for more. End intro with thesis. There are some other rules to follow, too: for example, introduction should have an appropriate length. Don’t make it longer than 10% from paper content overall. Ascertain that your block of text is readable.
Step 8: Build Well-Researched Body
Any research papers guidelines will tell you that body is the most crucial aspect of essay writing. Professors pay specific attention to it, and it could score students the biggest number of points. Due to this, there are many nuances you should keep in mind. For one thing, avoid making each paragraph exceed 200 words. This length is maximal – anything longer than that starts looking unreadable. People generally hate blocks of text, so their attention starts slipping. Begin each paragraph with an opening sentence where you outline the main idea for it. State a fact, cite a source for supporting it, elaborate and explain. End it with a closing sentence: it should be a paragraph summary or serve as transition toward the next paper part. Make sure that each paragraph explores something from the thesis — it is even better when each thesis part is researched separately and in sequence. For instance, if thesis mentioned that “Pets in shelters need more food, toys, and meds,” your body could explore “pets in shelters” in one paragraph, “food” in another one, and “toys” and “meds” in the following parts. Professors appreciate such a clear logical structure.
Step 9: Develop Paper Conclusion
It’s great if you know how to write a research essay at the beginning, but knowing how to end is equally crucial. Many students start relaxing at this point, satisfied with the fact that the most complex part is over and they can finally take a brief break. But conclusion receives its own number of points, so it’s too early to stop your efforts! Like introduction, it shouldn’t exceed 10% from total word count. If students hope to learn how to write a paper, this is something they shouldn’t forget. You cannot discuss any new info in this section, but you could present implications and give suggestions for future research. Most importantly, restate major points from the body. Never copy them word by word, professors are almost guaranteed to catch it. Express these points in new ways. Restate your thesis, too, for showing that you achieved your goal and proved what you set out to prove. Sources shouldn’t be included here in the majority of cases since writers aren’t dealing with any new stuff in conclusion, but occasionally they might need it if they are restating some more obscure points.
Step 10: Finalize Your Second Draft
Don’t worry, it does not mean you need to do some tough work for an even longer amount of time. Your work is almost done, but first, you should re-read what you wrote and think carefully about it. Is everything satisfactory?Writing research papers is exciting because they are rather fluid. If you feel like you’ve deviated from your initial course a bit, it’s not a problem: edit these bits. Tweak thesis a little, change sequence of body paragraphs, add several sentences and/or remove a few others. Feel free to act on your opinion about your work and change stuff if you feel it’ll be better this way because it could improve your final grade. This editing process is what is basically called a second draft. Once you are confident that everything looks perfect content-wise, consider this step overcome. Now you can move on toward the concluding ones.
Step 11: Check Citations and Paper Formatting
Every work has a certain research paper format. Academic style ranges from MLA, Chicago, APA, to Harvard and many more. Each of them has its rules of formatting, and students should follow them if they want to get a satisfying grade. Find out what formatting is required for your paper and look at the related template. How should quotes and paraphrases be formatted? Do they need just an author’s name and date or a page number, too? When should italics and quotation marks be used? Find all these answers by checking the available examples. You could format your paper from the start, just as you’re writing it, or you might do it later, after the text is completed. It’s up to you. Remember to find info about margins, specifics of references list, and so on. Yes, at first it could look overwhelming, but after you format essay several times, you’ll become an expert capable of doing it automatically. Practice is everything. Locate some research paper example for seeing how your assigned style must look like.
Step 12: Revise, Proofread, Edit
The final stage is all about nit-picking and correcting any technical issues you manage to catch. This could be grammar mistakes, tense inconsistencies, repeated words, problems with semantics, etc. Take a break for several hours. It might be better to wait for several days if your deadline is far away — this gives writers a chance to distance themselves from their paper and see it in a more objective light. Reading an essay aloud is a great decision: mistakes stand out more in this instance. Same goes for printing it and looking through it on paper. After this process is done, your essay is ready for being submitted and assessed!
Extra Tip For Writing a Research Paper
Here’s another tip college students might want to know about: paper requirements are not as universal as they might seem at the first glance. Sure, some things stay the same no matter what, so you’ll need introduction, thesis, body, conclusion, credible sources, and so on. But professors usually have unique sets of demands that other universities might not even recognize. Some of them like it when students write more than required; others get pissed off at this and refuse to even evaluate such papers. Some welcome the usage of older sources, others cannot stand it. Some accept Wikipedia as a source while the rest are skeptical. So, pay very close attention to how your professor reacts to things. Ask them questions if needed, learn their ticks, and this will help you ace your assignment!
Quick Checklist on How to Start a Research Paper
Are you still in doubt over your results? No problem, we have something else to offer you. Go through the following checklist. Make sure you can put “yes” across every point.
✅ I understood my instructions well and I know what’s expected of me.
✅ I researched my topic and have a lot to say about it.
✅ I found various credible sources, such as articles with DOI, academic books, official reports, etc.
✅ My introduction is interesting and capable of grabbing my audience’s attention.
✅ My thesis is a strong claim that reflects the essence of my entire paper.
✅ Each of my body paragraphs is no longer than 200 words (2/3 of the page).
✅ Every body paragraph starts with a definite opening and ends with a closing sentence. They all explore one specific idea that is related to the thesis.
✅ I cite claims that aren’t general knowledge, pointing out where I took this information from.
✅ When completing a research paper, I restated all my major points without copying anything directly.
✅ No new information or quotes is present in my conclusion.
✅ The number of direct quotes in my work does not exceed 10% from the word count.
✅ I watched out for formatting rules and formatted everything in accordance with requested academic style.
✅ Each source I used in the text is cited at the end of my paper and each cited source is present in the text.
✅ I haven’t engaged in fake referencing: every citation corresponds to information I found within the source.
✅ I followed all steps to writing a research paper and edited it thoroughly after re-reading it several times with fresh eyes.
Create a Fantastic Research Paper
What you see above is all writing rules you need to know for crafting an effective paper and getting your desired grade for it. Sure, some students will find the best research paper writing service and order a paper. Because they think there is too much to remember, but trust us, this is not the case. Once you start, finish, and repeat this process a few times, everything is going to go smoothly. Soon enough, you won’t be asking, “How do I write a research paper?” — the answer will be ingrained in your mind. Find a cool topic, clarify anything you are unsure about, go through the guidelines and checklist, and you’re all set! Your writing will definitely become more natural and inspiring.
Posted by Diana B., January 20, 2021