Writing a research paper is one of the tasks you are likely to receive at least once while being a high-school or college student. Understandably, you might feel anxious: “research paper” has a certain no-nonsense scholarly ring to it. It sounds as if only experienced academics can do it. Don’t worry, there is nothing impossible about it – certainly nothing that couldn’t be improved with practice.
Since many students are at a loss with writing research papers, a complete guide on the writing process and tips on how to format the paper properly would be very handy. Alas, not every instructor is articulate about what exactly it takes to prepare a successful write-up. That is why we decided to fix this gap with this newbie guide on how to write a good research paper.
What Is A Research Paper
What does a research paper look like? As evident from the name, this is a form of academic writing representing your independent research. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will do field studies or work in the laboratory on some amazing discovery. It is possible to conduct research using only scholarly articles and books, yet the paper must also include your own conclusions, argue a point, or analyze a perspective. If all you do is compile data from various sources, you will end up with a simple literary review on your hands.
How long should a research paper be depends on the scope of your research. You might investigate a very specific issue. Then your research paper will be comparatively short – about 8 paragraphs, which is only a bit longer than a basic essay. On average, however, a college research paper is about 5 pages long.
As you can see, it’s not something insurmountable. Now let’s look closer at how do you write a research paper.
Easy Steps In Writing A Research Paper
The best way to handle a big project is to have a plan and follow it through. As they say, if you want to do something quickly, do it slowly every day. Here is how to write a research paper step by step:
- Understand the assignment: carefully read any research paper guidelines you’ve been given by your instructor, paying particular attention to the goal of the paper, the deadline, word count, submission method, and other key points.
- Choose a research topic: it must adhere to the assignment criteria while being interesting to you, and should be original, yet possible to research.
- Do literature review: look through the books, journals, and trustworthy web resources for anything that might be overlooked, not covered thoroughly enough, or not up to date.
- Come up with a working thesis statement: summarize in a sentence or two the purpose of your research and your position on the matter.
- Create an outline: jot down key ideas, arguments, and evidence you will use in your paper.
- Write first draft: put your ideas into words and shape them into arguments.
- Revise and write a second draft: rearrange your arguments if needed, cut out any ideas they don’t hold, check if anything needs more substantial proof.
- Proofread: do the finishing touches, spelling and grammar checks, formatting.
A good idea would be to look at the samples of research papers written by your peers on the same academic level. This will give you some understanding of the scope, length, and difficulty level your instructors might expect from your research.
Research Paper Structure
How to structure a research paper depends on its length and on the type of research, you’ve conducted. The best way to organize your write-up is to assess the scope of the research and any possible word count limits you’ve been given. Then construct a quick outline to see how to make a research paper concise, yet comprehensive.
For research that has a narrow focus and is small to moderate in scope, a set-up similar to an essay will suffice, with the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. However, the structure of a research paper with a larger scope and a more challenging topic may look a bit more complex:
- Title and Author(s).
- Abstract (about 150 words outlining the purpose of the research and main findings).
- Introduction with the problem statement and literature review of the relevant scholarly sources.
- Methods, materials, and equipment used (explain how you gathered information).
- Findings (present your results).
- Discussion (evaluate your findings, compare them with information from the past studies).
- Conclusions (your final thoughts, solutions, or new ideas based on the results of your research).
- References (cite all the sources you’ve used for the research).
- Appendices (if applicable).
How To Write A College Research Paper
Even if you already had a brush with research paper writing at high school, you might still feel uncertain about how to write a college-level research paper. True, it takes more than two sources and a lack of spelling mistakes to get an A+ in college. Still, the whole process is not that different. There are just some key points you should keep in mind:
- The guidelines for writing a research paper differ widely between schools, disciplines, and even particular instructors, so if you have any doubts, consult your professor and contact your school’s writing center for clarifications as to the citation format, lengths, and structure of your paper.
- Take your time choosing research topics to write about. A well-chosen topic is half of the successful paper. Look for something you either already know or are interested in learning more about. This will give you heads-up on the preliminary research stage.
- Avoid over-generalization and big unsupported claims. Of course, it is important to gain some new insight and add new knowledge to the field based on the material you’ve gathered. Yet the scope of your research is likely to be limited, so you are unlikely to make a breakthrough discovery that upends scientific consensus in the field. Concentrate on building an effective argument and proving your point.
Newbie Tips For Writing A Research Paper
If you are really anxious about your first research paper, here are some quick tips for dummies:
Do start early.
Beginners often ask how to write a research paper fast. They think there are some secret strategies or smart moves that will allow them to write a great paper in one day. However, if there is any secret about what makes a good research paper, it’s deep investigation of the subject. If anyone tells you that they’ve written their paper in one night, it means one of three possible things:
- They’ve written a sub-par paper.
- They’ve read about their subject, done their research beforehand, and only left the write-up stage for the last moment.
- They already had a thorough knowledge of the subject matter because they were interested in it for some time (for example, an athlete can argue about the effectiveness of various training schemes based on their experience – they don’t have to go through written sources).
Don’t try to write a perfect paper at once.
One of the key reasons people procrastinate and miss deadlines is perfectionism and fear of failure. Just start writing and let your ideas flow. You will end up with a decent draft on your hands, which you can tweak and polish later.
Seek assistance if things get tough.
There is no shame in asking for help! Don’t forget that you can always turn to your personal research paper helper, and get advice on academic writing in general or any formats in particular.
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