Every college student will have to write a research paper at least once during their time in college. Although some outsource it to a paper writing service, others write it themselves. Whichever group you fall in, you should know that writing a research paper can be difficult, but it’s not as difficult as many already paint it.
The purpose of this guide is to walk you through the steps you’ll follow and everything you need to know and do to write an excellent research paper.
What is a research paper?
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Firstly, you must know what a research paper is.
A research paper is a type of essay that presents your findings about a topic after investigating it thoroughly. You can conduct this investigation from primary and secondary sources. It requires critical thinking skills because you have to evaluate different relevant sources.
Purpose of writing a research paper
The purpose of a research paper is usually to interpret material and give a unique solution or perspective. In writing a research paper, you must:
- Suggest how a process or an issue can be improved.
- Highlight the weaknesses and strengths of the materials/resources.
- Evaluate other people’s work.
- Add to or expand on existing thoughts.
Step-by-step guide for writing a research paper
There are several important steps for writing an excellent research paper. This includes:
1. Know the assignment
This is the first step to writing a research paper. Even though it sounds obvious, it’s still worth mentioning because, without a proper understanding of what your lecturer asks of you, it’ll be impossible to write an excellent research paper. Even if you’re going to outsource it to a college paper writing service, you need a give instructions on how you want them to write the essay. So you still need to be familiar with what your professor asks you.
This seemingly unimportant step is why many students struggle to have good grades in their essays because even though they worked very hard, they weren’t familiar with the instructions they were given. So they couldn’t turn in what their lecturer was expecting from them.
In writing a research paper (and essays, generally), you must pay attention to details. Take your time to go over the assignment and the instructions. Make sure you understand it and are clear about everything in it. Study the grading rubric, the prompts, and other materials that may come with it. Highlight the most important details to help you do better in your essay writing or take notes. Before you start writing, you should know two things: what/how you’re asked to write and how your writing will be graded. Make sure you’re clear before picking a topic to write on (if you weren’t given one).
2. Choose a topic
You will not always be given a topic. Most times, you’ll have to choose one to write on by yourself. To choose the right topic, start by ensuring it interests you. You can also talk to your classmates and the course instructor about the topic. Write the topic like a problem that needs a solution or a question that needs an answer.
This may not be as easy as it sounds because choosing a topic can be daunting too. That’s why you should start by looking into things that interest you or are passionate about. Most times, it makes sense to go for a controversial topic. This will allow you to effectively prove that you can explain different positions objectively and defend a position if you have to.
Make sure you follow the instructor’s guidelines for choosing a topic. If a topic doesn’t fit into the guidelines, pick another one. It makes your assignment easier in the long run. The advantage of choosing a topic you have passion for is that the research paper writing process makes you far more knowledgeable about the topic when you’re done. So, you could informally become a subject matter expert on that topic.
3. Do your research
Research is the most important part of any essay writing process. But for a research paper, it’s more than just important.
Your research should include both primary and secondary sources. Here are a few tips for finding both sources online:
- Search for the website of organizations, institutions, and individuals that specialize in that field or are reputable knowledge sources. Examples are Encyclopaedia Americana and Encyclopaedia Britannica.
- Check online libraries, like the Wall Street Executive Library and International Public library.
- Search through databases such as Science Direct and Google Scholar for reports and research abstracts, scholarly articles, manuscripts, and journal articles that may be useful for you.
These websites will provide you with sources for the information you need for your research paper. Ensure to organize your research properly. You’re most likely going to add a bibliography to your paper, so you need to be very organized and know what source you’re getting each piece of information from.
4. Create an outline
Your outline is the structure you’re following for your essay. It makes your work more straightforward.
When creating your outline, ensure it follows the requirements you were given. This way, you can be sure your work is in line. Think of your outline as a structure that allows you to communicate the purpose of your research paper in the best possible way. Ideally, your outline will have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
5. Write your paper
This is where you need a strong outline. It allows you to determine the number of points you’re explaining in your body. It gives you an idea of what constitutes each paragraph, and you know the supporting information to use to support your claims.
Here you’re not summarizing your sources. Instead, you’re analyzing, deconstructing, comparing, and explaining your sources to give your paragraph more weight and your thesis statement.
The number of paragraphs in the body will depend on the topic and the depth of your research. Long projects require more headings and subheadings.
Your paper ends with a conclusion that summarizes the paper’s main points and rephrases your thesis statement. While you’re not adding any new information to the conclusion, you can suggest some parts of the topic that needs to be researched further after explaining your deductions.
6. Edit and revise
It’s a bad idea to submit your research paper without properly editing and revising it. You should have at least two drafts before you write your final draft. Your final draft is the perfect one you submit after ensuring the introduction flows logically, the body has depth and coherence, and your conclusion is effective.
While revising, check for sentence structures, punctuation, and spelling errors, and improve your choice of words. Also, look into your topic sentences, specific details supporting generalizations, transitions between and within paragraphs, and sequence of ideas in each paragraph. This increases the quality of your work and your chance of getting an excellent grade.
Writing a research paper isn’t an easy task, but it’s not an impossible one as well. These are the steps to an excellent research paper.