How to Write a Research Paper: Step By Step Beginner’s Guide

Picture this; It’s ten on a Saturday morning. You’re in the middle of your dorm room surrounded by a pile of books and past test papers. Despite the ton of resources at your disposal, you’ve been staring at the blank page on your laptop’s screen for nearly half an hour, with absolutely no idea what or how to write a research paper.

This scenario best describes what most students go through while trying to come up with a quality college research paper. If it also mirrors your current predicament, then you’re in great company. From the research paper guidelines, research paper structure, research paper thesis statements to research paper examples, this article discusses in detail how to write a research essay.

What Exactly is a Research Paper?

A university or college research paper is a form of an academic essay in which the student presents their original research, analysis, and interpretation of a particular topic based on detailed independent research.

The student is required to collect factual information from an array of scholarly articles, books and past interviews and come up with an independent interpretation. The point of research papers is to test a student’s academic knowledge on a particular topic, as well as their scholarly research skills.

While learning how to write a research essay, keep in mind that it’s different from a research proposal. A college or high school research paper tests a student’s knowledgeability on a topic, while the proposal, is written to convince the reader of the project’s value.  In other words, a proposal, also known as a prospectus serves as a pitch for the final research paper you submit.

Research Paper Structure

Learning how to write a research paper involves mastering the research paper structure. Why? College professors first check out the student’s research paper format before they even take a look at the content.

What this means is that you may have created stellar research content, but if you didn’t follow the required research paper format, chances are your hard work will go down the drain. But fret not because below are the sections, and tips on how to write a research paper structure.

–          The Title Page

Your title page tells the reader about what you are presenting. It also gives them details about you as the writer. The title page of your college research paper should be very concise. It should include the author’s name, institutional affiliation, name of the program, name and position of the mentor and date of completion.

–          The Abstract

The abstract gives a quick overview of the college research paper. It’s usually between 120 and 250 words. It should be clear and concise and interesting enough to capture the attention of your reader. In 250-300 words, your abstract should indicate the purpose of the study, methods, results and the interpretations of your research. Avoid acronyms and citations and observe the research paper guidelines pertaining to abstract writing.

–          The Introduction

Some students prefer to start with their introduction while others prefer to do it last. Whichever camp you are in, make sure you give your reader some background information on the topic. Give an overview of the research problem, discuss existing research on your argument and any discrepancies it may have, state your research thesis statement as well as the objectives of your study.

–          Method

This is often the easiest part of any university, college or high school research paper. Here you give a rundown of how you did your research. Describe the exact sources you used, the participants, the study variables, as well as any data collection instruments and the procedures employed. If you handle multiple experiments in your project, then your research paper format should include separate method sections for each one. 

–          Results

The result section of the research paper format seeks to explain the findings of your research. Depending on the type of project, the result section can be a discussion of either trends or a presentation of numerical data. If during your research, you generate a lot of results, it’s always a good idea to present your findings in tables and graphs, and then later include the raw data in the appendix section. However, avoid making definitive statements.

–          Discussion

In this section, you explain the significance of your findings or your interpretation of the topic. Discuss your main results and the implications on future work pertaining to the research topic. The key to nailing the discussion section is ensuring it’s directly linked to the research thesis statement.

–          Conclusion

The conclusion not only wraps things up but also serves as your last chance to convince your reader of your argument. Here is where you emphasize how all sections of the research paper connect to the research thesis statement too.

Describe the general implications of your argument, how your research impacts future work, and the limitations as well. Avoid introducing new ideas and arguments or bringing up essential information at this point. Use phrases that inform the reader you’re completing your project. In other words, ensure you give your reader a sense of closure

–          Reference List

No college research paper is ever complete without this section. List all the data sources you used in your research, and ensure that you’re citing them according to the required research paper guidelines.

Research Paper Writing Tips

Now that you know how to go about the formatting process, here is how to write a great research paper;  

–          Understand Your Professor’s Requirements

Learning how to write a great research paper means mastering not only the research paper structure but also completing it as per the specific research paper guidelines set out for you by your professor. For instance, does your instructor expect you to use a particular format? Do they need you to include an outline as part of the research paper format? What are the length specifications, project goals and submission date? Did they offer any research paper examples or arguments for you to select your topic from or do you have to come up with one? In a nutshell, ensure you clarify any concerns you may have regarding the paper before you begin.

–          Brainstorm Topic Ideas

Some professors will often offer you a set of research paper examples topics to select from, and others even give you a specific topic. If this is the case for you, then your writing process just got easier. However, if you have not been assigned any topic or a set of ideas, then you need to create your own.

You can come up with one by brainstorming with other students, asking your professor for guidance or brainstorming on your own. Whichever approach you choose to use, remember good ideas come from the most unexpected places. You can be eating a burger, and suddenly you get a remarkable high school research paper topic idea. So do not confine yourself to a particular setting.

Also, think of your research paper examples subjects in general before you narrow them down. If you are writing a historical research paper, think of a general topic and then tone it down. Take, for instance, The Space Race. It’s an excellent area to write on, but it’s way too broad and would be incredibly time-consuming to research. You could narrow it down by writing about the impact of the space race on modern-day technology. Here are five excellent research paper examples topics you could write on;

  1. How sexism is portrayed in the media
  2. Factors that contributed to the UK leaving EU
  3. How college debt affects the future of the students
  4. The implications of climate change on coral reefs
  5. Do frequent texting and social media use affect teen literacy?

Whichever topic you choose, just make sure it intrigues you. Handling a question you are interested in or passionate about makes you more inclined to finish it even when it becomes tough.

–          Conduct Research

Armed with the relevant topic, the next most crucial step in learning how to write a research essay is doing the research itself. Note, you do not have to go all in. Start by skimming through the available sources to get an idea of what your research topic entails. Try to write down any essential arguments or critical points you come across while skimming.

Next look for more information on any of the arguments you’ve highlighted. Make sure you use reliable sources. A great place to find such sources is your college’s library. While you can always browse through the library yourself, it’s a good idea to consult your school’s librarian. He/she is well-versed with the library’s organization, and once you explain what you need, will quickly direct you to incredibly reliable sources.

While conducting your research, look for sources that not only validate your key points but also help you see things from a different perspective. For instance, what are the limitations of the existing research on your topic? Are there any developments or recent changes that may help you build on your argument? Whatever you do, just ensure all the sources you use are up to par with your research paper guidelines. That is, they are relevant, factual and reliable.

–          Create a Thesis Statement

Now that you’ve gathered and evaluated your array of sources, your next step should be to form a research thesis statement. Your thesis statement sums up the central argument of your college or high school research paper. It is usually one or two sentences, and while short, it’s the most crucial part of your writing.

The research thesis statement tells the reader what’s your take on your research topic, establishes the purpose of your research, gives the reader an idea of what to expect, and keeps your writing from being cluttered. Given its essence, you cannot learn how to write a great research paper without mastering the art of thesis writing.

–          Create an Outline

Now that you’ve been through the typical college or high school research paper structure and tips that guide you on how to write a research essay, it’s time to create an outline. Most students often choose to skip this step and go straight to writing, but as with all the steps highlighted above, it’s equally as essential.

An outline serves as a sketch or a skeleton for your research paper. It is a very efficient tool to have as it helps you organize your key points from the strongest to the weakest or according to their relevance to the research statement thesis. It also helps ensure you don’t forget any crucial points you came across during your research. As a result, your research paper flows sensibly and flawlessly, enabling you to convince your reader of your argument. That being said, it’s always a good idea to create a research paper outline whether or not your instructor expects you to include one.

Since it’s more of a sketch, your outline should have an introduction with the hook, and thesis statement, a body with at least three main points supporting the thesis statement and a conclusion summarizing the main points concerning the thesis, and if need be, a call to action.

–          Time to Write

At this point, you now have what it takes and know how to write a research essay so, get to work. Don’t stress about the perfect thesis statement or the perfect grammar. You will have enough time to work on perfection when you proofread and edit your paper.

–          Proofread and Edit

Once you complete the step above, it’s time to proofread, edit and turn that paper into the most flawless research project your instructor has ever handled. While proofreading or editing, ensure you pay attention to the following;

  • The connection between subjects, verbs and pronouns
  • Verb tenses
  • Capitalization and punctuation
  • Reference citation

Take Your Research Paper to New Heights Today

With the tips above, we are confident you now know how to write a great research paper. Sure some of the steps above such as outlining might feel like extra work but rest assured they will be worth your while. Besides, you cannot become the best at how to write a great research paper if you’re not willing to run the mile.

Are you still having trouble with your research project? Our award-winning professional writers are always a click away and ready to help you learn how to write a research paper.

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