12 Steps in Writing a Research Paper

Writing a Research Paper

Being a college student will sooner or later make you face the assignment of writing research papers. Many students get panic-stricken when they have to write it for the first time. Sadly, you will not be able to avoid this task since it is a part of the education process. What to do if you don’t know how to write a winning research paper? Keep reading this article, and you will find out how.

The research paper is a written task where its author conducts personal research on the given topic, analyzes the findings and their interpretation.

The research paper is something that shows the level of your knowledge. Besides, the grade you get for the research paper will influence the overall grade in the subject. This guide will give you exhaustive inquiries on how to write a persuasive essay .

You will find that the procedure of writing a research paper is rather standard. And the guidelines below will seem very similar to other types of essays. However, it is better to pay attention to all the details. And peculiarities to make your work perfect or close to that.

We have singled out 12 steps that will approach you to your winning research paper. Read each of them carefully and try to use the tips when you proceed to write your essay.

How does a research paper differ from a research proposal?

A research paper is not the only outstanding written assignment students get. There are many of them. And you should keep in mind the peculiarities of each.

When you begin working on your research paper, it is essential to remember how it differs from the research proposal. Generally, the ones are quite similar. But there is one thing that unites them – the somewhat same writing process.

When you write a research paper, you aim at demonstrating your knowledge in the given subject – engineering, psychology, medicine, administration, anything. Writing the research proposal, you will try to convince your readers about the importance of conducting the research and the findings it may give.

How to Write a Research Paper

You need to prepare before you start writing it. If this is your first time, you should find a useful guide, like this one, that will lead you through every stage of the process. You may find several examples online, consult your teacher or a friend who has experience in writing research papers.

The most important is that you should take your time to this, dig into the topic, and carry out quality research. In this case, only you will be able to produce a winning paper.

Step 1: Get Familiar with the Assignment

Make sure you don’t rush and take a close look at every detail. Before you start doing something, you must be confident you know precisely what your teacher wants from you. You should not ignore this step; otherwise, you’ll be wondering why the paper which took a lot of our time and effort, was evaluated with a low grade.

When you receive the task, you should look through it carefully, and if there are questions or unclear issues or you need help with some interpretations, you should ask your teacher for an explanation.

Step 2. Choose a Topic

Usually, when you are given a written assignment, your teacher would give you a particular topic to cover. But there are also situations when students are free to choose the issues on their own.

How to choose a topic that will be interesting to work on and read? First of all, think of something that will be challenging to work with. Sure, it is easier to pick a boring common theme, but it will not bring you the satisfaction you may get once the paper is ready. It will also allow you are learning something new and make exciting findings in the process.

Try to choose a narrow topic. Why is the bread topic not too good for a research paper? Because your research paper will be generalized with no exact results. So, it is advisable to narrow down your topic to a specific aspect.

Example: if your topic is Global Warming , you can narrow it to 3 Top Reasons for Global Warming or How Global Warming Affects Human Health.

Step 3. Write a Working Thesis Statement

It is most likely that your paper will need to contain a thesis statement. If it is not indicated in your assignment, you should ask your teacher about it.

What is it? The thesis is the crucial point of your research. Why is it important? Because all the arguments that will prove your idea should be based on this head point.

The thesis is usually one sentence. It is placed at the beginning of your work. It is best to design this part after you check and analyze the materials you have found. Typically, you will formulate it in the end, once your paper is done because your ideas will develop and change in the writing process.

When you produce a thesis, be specific. Avoid general phrases and unclear ideas. It should reflect the primary sense of your research and its novelty, emphasize the key points. It is not the place for citations; you should express your own opinion.

Step 4. Do Research on Your Topic

It is the most significant part of your paper – doing research. There are no strict rules on how to carry out your research, and everyone will choose their approach to this process. However, there are several main aspects you should stick to:

Skim. You will probably find a lot of information on your topic, so you will not be able to read all of it. You need to look through materials quickly and define the main points you will use in your research paper.

Only work with reliable resources. Keep in mind that your paper must be based on reliable sources only. You may use such sources like Wikipedia as additional ones to know more about the topic, find keywords, etc. You should study and analyze the info you got from Google search and go deeper to find sources.

Consider all the materials you find. You will probably not be surprised to learn that you can find several different articles saying opposite things on the same topic. And all of them will have proves of the info correctness. You need to analyze and understand that different points of the same thing cannot be valid. Dig deeper and discover the truth information.

You will probably find different opinions of researchers on your theme. In this case, you should study all of them deeper and see which one is closer to you.

Step 5: Organize Your Research

Is your head spinning around from the information and the sources you found? It means that it is time to organize. Making a list of books and articles, you will be using is a good idea. It is called a bibliography.

If it is required to add a bibliography to your research paper, you should organize it by the requirements you were given. If you want to do it for your own good, you are free to arrange it any way comfortable for you.

Step 6: Form a Thesis

Once you’ve got your topic and you understand your task, all the details are settled, the materials are processed, analyzed and arranged, it is time to formulate the main idea of your work – thesis. It is a sentence in which you have to put the key feature you are trying to explain/prove in your work. If your paper is not about arguing some accepted points of view on the subject, it is better to add the thesis anyway.

If you don’t know what to begin with, here is a tip. In your thesis statement, you should answer the following question: What is my paper about?

However, there is one thing you should remember. Answering this question is just the beginning. A working thesis should not be vague or general. You should be more specific. Do not be afraid that your argument might seem too strong.

Example. Not good: My paper if about friendships between humans and gods. Good: It is not only that dogs serve humans and are their best friends; this friendship has influenced the behavior and even anatomy of modern dogs.

If you still have doubts, or you need a professional opinion, you can show the thesis your teacher or another professional who will tell you if it is strong enough to serve the basis for the entire research paper.

Step 7. Make a Good Outline

If you think you don’t need an outline, you are wrong. It will help you manage the tons of materials you have studies and the ideas you came up with during writing.

Your outline will look like a plan that will be your roadmap when producing your paper. Single out the main points and make them subheadings for your article. Make sure each subtitle contains only relevant info. The structure of the outline should be as follows:

You can modify the composition according to the volume and content of your work.

Step 8. Create the First Draft

Indeed, you will begin writing your paper with a drat that will be changed in the writing process. First, you will need to formulate your title, choose and arrange citation and reference page.

Title, of course, is significant. It creates the impression of your paper, catches the attention of the reader. The title should be relevant to the content of your essay and contain several keywords.

It is recommended to write your paper in a scientific style. However, you may feel free to keep it less strict.

How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

Your writing process will begin with composing an introductory part. It is another crucial part of the work since it has to grab your reader’s interest. This part may not include too much science. To make it catchy, you can add a joke, a short story, interesting facts or statistics, etc.

Here you should also provide your audience with some background info, explain your aims and expectations from the research. The thesis should be also included in the introduction. You may end this part with it.

How to Write Body Paragraphs

When you write the body part, you should follow the outline and stick to your thesis. An overview can be modified in the process.

You should begin each paragraph with the sentence related to your topic. Proceed with presenting arguments and evidence that support your point.

How to Write a Conclusion for a Research Paper

The conclusion is the rewording of your thesis. But remember, that copying your thesis word for word is not acceptable. You can be making a general overview of the critical moments. You may mark your findings, and emphasize the practical significance, give advice on how to apply them.

How to Make Your Paper Perfect

Relax, this is just the first draft. It will need to be changed, added, and revised. If you want everything to be great and get a high grade, you should make a thorough revision of your paper. Sometimes, it takes more than once.

Step 9. Revise, Edit and Proofread for Content

You should begin with checking the content – if everything sounds good, if all the sentences are complete, all ideas are expressed clearly. You need to see whether the material coincides with the outlines if you have provided enough support for your thoughts.

Step 10. Revise, Edit and Proofread for Grammar

Then, you should pay attention to grammar – having grammatical errors in your paper is not acceptable. Also, see if there are no lexical or morphological mistakes. If formatting is correct, let your writing be perfect in all aspects.

Step 11: Re-read and Submit your Research Paper

Now, when you are at the final stage before submitting your paper, we recommend taking a short break and put it away for a day or two. Then, re-read it carefully with a fresh look. If, until now, you saw your paper only on a computer screen, a good idea would be printing its hard copy and read it. It will let you notice mistakes or incorrectness you could not see before.

Always give yourself some time and do not do anything last minute. You ever know whether everything goes smooth or thee are sudden obstacles that may prevent you from submitting in time.

If, in the process of writing, you need help, do not hesitate to turn to your teacher. It is normal. Besides, your teacher will see that you are working on your project.

Step 12. Rely on Our Academic Custom Writing Service

If there is no chance you can write your research paper yourself for any reason, you can always get expert help from a trustworthy writing service. You can entrust this vital assignment to professionals and let your mind rest from the stress connected in addition to that.

Checklist for Revising Your Research Paper Draft

Revising your first draft needs time, and it is much essential than correcting different types of mistakes. Use our checklist to see if your paper is going to be a winning one.

There are two kinds of edits: developmental and line one. Answer the question from each section to see if you are on the right path.


As you can see, paper writing does not seem that scary. You just need to organize yourself and your materials, carry out a proper research and make a winning presentation. If you still feel that required help, you can always get support from professional writing services.

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I was in need to get my paper completed within one day. I place my order at ESSAYUP. I was with hesitation what is going to happen. However, I was relieved of tension when I had got the final paper. They followed all of my instructions within this shorter period.


How to Write a Research Paper

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Chris Hadley, PhD . Chris Hadley, PhD is part of the wikiHow team and works on content strategy and data and analytics. Chris Hadley earned his PhD in Cognitive Psychology from UCLA in 2006. Chris' academic research has been published in numerous scientific journals. There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 45 testimonials and 80% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 4,108,888 times.

Whether you’re in a history, literature, or science class, you’ll probably have to write a research paper at some point. It may seem daunting when you’re just starting out, but staying organized and budgeting your time can make the process a breeze. Research your topic, find reliable sources, and come up with a working thesis. Then create an outline and start drafting your paper. Be sure to leave plenty of time to make revisions, as editing is essential if you want to hand in your best work!

Sample Research Papers and Outlines

12 steps writing research paper

Researching Your Topic

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Tip: If you need to analyze a piece of literature, your task is to pull the work apart into literary elements and explain how the author uses those parts to make their point.

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Drafting Your Essay

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Tip: Some people prefer to write the introduction first and use it to structure the rest of the paper. However, others like to write the body, then fill in the introduction. Do whichever seems natural to you. If you write the intro first, keep in mind you can tweak it later to reflect your finished paper’s layout.

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Revising Your Paper

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Tip: Try to give yourself at least 2 or 3 days to revise your paper. It may be tempting to simply give your paper a quick read and use the spell-checker to make edits. However, revising your paper properly is more in-depth.

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12 steps writing research paper

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Get Started With a Research Project

About This Article

Chris Hadley, PhD

To write a research paper, start by researching your topic at the library, online, or using an academic database. As you conduct your research and take notes, zero in on a specific topic that you want to write about and create a 1-2 sentence thesis to state the focus of your paper. Then, create an outline that includes an introduction, 3 to 5 body paragraphs to present your arguments, and a conclusion to sum up your main points. Once you have your paper's structure organized, draft your paragraphs, focusing on 1 argument per paragraph. Use the information you found through your research to back up your claims and prove your thesis statement. Finally, proofread and revise your content until it's polished and ready to submit. For more information on researching and citing sources, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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12 Steps to Writing a Research Proposal

A guideline on writing a research proposal. Follow 12 steps described in the article below to write a research proposal effectively.

There is a number of useful tips that can be used for writing an effective thesis proposal. First, remember that a thesis proposal is generally written in a present or future tense. When you write your actual master’s thesis, you will need to use past tense. Below you will find the main steps that will show you how to write a research proposal. Want to know more about what a research proposal is? Below is the article explaining what a research proposal is:


A Guideline on Writing a Research Proposal

Writing a Research Proposal

Step 1: Make a great introduction.  The part that is designed to capture your reader’s attention is the introduction to your master thesis proposal. It is a good idea to write it last, that way it is more likely to become interesting and you will sound like you know what to do. This recommendation might seem strange at first; however, it’s perfectly logical because once everything has been researched, written and checked, you will have a good picture of what the end product is like. With this picture in mind, it’s best to work on the introductory part of your paper last.

Step 2: State the problem.  Voice your research question. You might want to restate it in the form of the sentence so that your reader understands it better.

Step 3: Provide background.  Explain how the problem emerged. Give some background information on the issue you are going to research to substantiate the need for the problem resolution.

Step 4: Declare the purpose.  You should necessarily mention the purpose of your dissertation in the thesis proposal.

Step 5: State significance.  Mentioning the significance of the problem will add value to your research project.

Step 6:  Explain methods.  Your reader should be aware of the methods your research project is going to utilize.

Step 7: Review literature.  A master’s research proposal is unthinkable without reviewing literature that is relevant to the topic of research. A thorough analysis of the literature sources should be conducted and clearly explained in the proposal. Do not forget to mention any alternative viewpoints on the topic; they might be useful in researching your question.

Step 8: Formulate a clear hypothesis.  Hypothesis section sets the goal for the thesis. If it is clear and understandable, the entire research project will become clear and easy to carry out.

Step 9: Define your terms.  Your proposal will be read by people who might not fully understand your dissertation and the terms it uses. You will need to provide a definition for every term you are using in your master’s thesis.

Step 10: Tell your reader about your research assumptions.  The research proposal for your master’s thesis should contain the basic assumptions you are making while working on the essay.

Step 11: Define scope and limitations.  Any research has its scope and limitations; you just can’t cover everything with just one research project. Clearly, state the limitations and scope for your study and outline possibility for subsequent research.

Step 12: Explain the procedure.  Your reader should be aware of the procedure you are going to follow in the writing process. You will need to explain what and how will be done within the framework of your research.

These simple steps will allow you to come up with a research proposal that will high chances of getting approved either by your advisor or the board of advisors. Once the research proposal is completed and approved, we can move on to reviewing the basic thesis structure. Here is a great list of research proposal topics:


In case you want our writers to create a custom-written research proposal or argumentative essay for you, let us know. All the outlined steps have proven their efficiency for getting the research proposal approved. We are also open to revising your research proposal outline and format until it becomes truly effective. Our writers can also review, revise and proofread your essay in case you have completed it yourself and want to have it reviewed by a professional writer. Whatever the case please visit the order page and we will start working on your research proposal.

Read more! Look at the nutrition essay example  and sample for the topic “ Production and Sale of Cigarettes Should Be Made Illegal ”


Persuasive Essay

The primary purpose of persuasive essay is to persuade or convince the reader that a certain claim or viewpoint is right. A persuasive essay can be written from either a subjective or an objective point of view simply because persuasion is found in a variety…

Multiple Choice Questions

Experts Illustrate More on Writing Multiple Choice Questions One of the most widely recognized types of tests is multiple-choice questions. Educators like them, as they are straightforward to make, simple to grade, and can show all the necessary information. If you are an undergraduate, you…


Jan 11, 2021

12 Steps To Writing Research Papers

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How to Write a Research Paper. Whether you’re in a history. literature. or science class. you’ll probably have to write a research paper at some point. It may seem daunting when you’re just starting out. but staying …

Step 2: Formulate an idea. determine the purpose and find sources of information for work. . Helpful info about: “How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper“ Step 3: Make an outline. You should not strive to create an ideal plan. as it can be edited during the process of writing. Making a plan during writing the research paper is not necessary at all. as well as sticking to an already . . .

12-Step Research Paper . Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous. . . . 12 Step Paper By Melissa Shaffer HUMS 113 April 23. 2009 Last Wednesday April 15. 2009 I attended an open AA meeting at the Church Of The Lakes in Nineveh. On my way to the meeting I was a little nervous. All of that disappeared the moment I walked into the door. where I was greeted by strangers who acted like they knew me there . . .

STEPS TO WRITING A RESEARCH PAPER 1. Determine the topic When designing a research project. we recommend preparing an initial list of ideas and topics. Such a list should be based on established guidelines and should make the research question and thesis clear. 2. Secure a Mentor It is time to secure a mentor/advisor/teacher to oversee your Extended Essay. Create an acceptable work …

How to Write a Research Paper Step by Step. Research comes from the French word rechercher. meaning “to seek out. ” Writing a research paper requires you to seek out information about a subject. take a stand on it. and back it up with the opinions. ideas. and views of others. What results is a printed paper variously known as a term paper or library paper. usually between five and fifteen . . .

A research paper is an academic writing that contains theoretical and substantial information that has undergone the process of in-depth research. The arguments in a research paper are based on a thesis statement that is supported by relevant evidence from …

A research paper is comma checker tool an elaborate and well-written bit of written composition that introduces your thoughts or arguments in support of or from a specific thesis or proposal. It typically takes several hours of investigation. i came paper writing. and rewriting. To effectively deal with a research paper. one needs to think of the next: What is the thesis?

Sometimes the most difficult part of writing a research paper is just getting it started. Contained in this packet. you will find a list of six steps that will aid you in the research paper writing process. You may develop your own steps or procedures as you progress in your writing career; these steps are just to help you begin. Step 1: Understand the Assignment and Set a Schedule One of the . . .

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12 Easy Steps to Write a Great Research Paper

The common form of academic writing is a research paper that requires students to find information about a topic give a point of view on that topic and provide support for that position in organized writing. So you are given the assignment to write a research paper and you are not pretty sure about the steps on how to write it. Don’t worry I am going to walk you through the 12 easy steps to write a great research paper.

1. Understand the Instructions

Read through the instructions for the assignment thoroughly and make notes! It’s obviously really important to understand exactly what the assignment is asking for and as early as possible. You don’t want to find that you don’t understand something when you are down to the wire.

2. Choose a Topic

If you don’t do this, you may have to change your topic later in the process after you’ve wasted considerable mental energy. This step can take 1-2 hours depending on how much research you do on your possible topics.

3. Build a Basic Outline

If your teacher or professor provides exemplars or examples of exemplary papers from previous classes, these always can help you build a good outline. Moreover, do not hesitate to completely rip off a good structural design for a paper! As long as it flows with the way you think. This should take you no more than an hour.

4. Make a list of Relevant Research Studies

5. read research and make notes.

This is the step where you actually read through the studies and the articles and the papers on your list. Plan for this to take a little while. Remember you need to read and take notes as you read.

Remember you don’t usually need to read the entire journal article if you are mostly interested in the results of the study, instead, you can simply quote the findings which can usually be found in the abstract. If you are citing liberally from a book, you can try to get that book in kindle format so that you can export those highlights into your spreadsheet. This step can take a really long time.

6. Categorize Highlights by Topic

7. make decisions by mind map.

As you are reading through the research that you have gathered, you might have to make some decisions about what are the strongest points to make in your paper, so how do you come to these decisions.

Sometimes you can use a mind map to gather your thoughts. A mind map is a visual tool to help you see how ideas are related to each other. Try to determine the three strongest arguments that you want to present. You write your main topic in the center and then you write down all the ideas that have emerged from your research then you are going to move those ideas that are related and you will start to see some patterns emerge showing which arguments have the most back up in literature.

Remember it’s not always required but if you are at all visual mind maps will help you to see relationships and make decisions.

8. Fill in Outline With Research

9. write draft.

Now you are going to work off of your detailed outline or off of your basic outline and reference spreadsheet if you would skip the last step and start writing your draft. At the drafting stage instead of filling in full APA formatted references and citations, you can use the reference numbers from your spreadsheet otherwise you may break the flow of writing.

10. Edit Paper, Fix APA And Fill in References

You can print out your work and edit with a red pen meanwhile you can also fix your APA or writing style problems and format all of your citations. You can format all of your citations on a spreadsheet and then sort them alphabetically before pasting them into your paper. This way you can save the hassle of alphabetizing as you go. You can give yourself at least 4 hours for this step.

11. Find a Second Reader

12. make final edit and submit.

Implement whatever suggestions came from your second reader, provided that you agree with them and give it one last read through and submit.

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12 steps writing research paper

12 steps writing research paper

How to Write a Research Paper

Updated August 24, 2022

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If you’re a college student, you will probably have to write at least one college-level research paper before you graduate. Writing a good research paper can be daunting if you have never done it before. We’re here to help.

This guide walks you through everything you need to do to write an effective, impactful research paper . . . and get the good grade you’re after!

Here are the steps and resources you need to write a strong research paper, as well as a checklist to go over to be sure you wrote a good paper. Research writing can be a challenge, but with a little practice, it can become an important part of your academic and professional toolkit.

The Process

The following steps will help you write a research paper, starting with nothing but an assignment or prompt and ending up with a well-crafted essay. The steps are:

Step 3: Research

Step 7: Write

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Step 1: Get Familiar with the Assignment

This may sound obvious, but it’s very important to understand what your teacher or professor is asking for before you start writing your research paper. Many students skip this step, and then wonder why they receive a low grade on a paper they worked hard on or were excited about. It’s often because they didn’t read the instructions.

Spend time going over the assignment. Look at everything your instructor has provided you with. Carefully read the writing assignment, prompts, grading rubric, or any other materials you’ve received. It might even be helpful to highlight and take notes on the assignment. Take time to understand exactly what you are being asked to write and how you will be graded on it. And if you aren’t sure, ask! Ask your teacher for clarification before you even pick a topic. That way, you will be sure you are on the right track.

Step 2: Pick a Topic

Once you understand what you’re being asked to write in your research paper, it’s time to decide what to write about. This can be daunting, but don’t get too bent out of shape. It can be very helpful to write about something you’re interested in or passionate about, but don’t worry about choosing the perfect topic. In many cases, a controversial topic can be ideal, so that you can exercise your ability to objectively explain differing positions, and even defend one if the assignment calls for that.

Use the guidelines given by your instructor to help pick your paper topic. If you have a topic that you love, but you’re having trouble fitting it into the guidelines, choose another topic. It will be easier on you in the long run to write about a topic that fits the assignment. It’s important to be engaged in the topic you’re writing about it, but you don’t have to love it. It’s also good to realize that you can use this research writing assignment as an opportunity to learn about something new. You will be somewhat of an expert in the topic by the end of this process, but you don’t have to know everything right now.

The Savvy Student’s Guide to Study Skills

And now what you have been waiting for — research! This step is pretty flexible; different people will research for a paper in different ways. However, it’s important to stay focused and move pretty quickly. After all, you still have to write your research paper.

Several key things to remember as you research are: 1) skim, 2) find reliable resources, and 3) don’t ignore information.

First off, skimming. You don’t have to read in-full everything ever written about your topic. In fact, you probably can’t. Get comfortable reading through things quickly. Learn how to identify key points and arguments without getting bogged down and reading every word.

Next, find reliable resources. Although this may run contrary to what you’ve been told, you can use Wikipedia to write a research paper. But, you cannot use that as a final source. You can use general sources like Wikipedia to get familiar with a topic, find keywords that can further drive your research, and quickly understand large amounts of information. But, for the information you use in your paper, you have to find reliable resources.

Take what you have learned from a Google search or Wikipedia article and dig deeper. Check out the sources on the article, use keywords from your internet search to search an academic database, or ask an expert whether or not what you learned is valid and if it is, where you can find a reliable source stating the same thing. So, just to be clear: you can use Wikipedia as a starting point in your research, but you should not cite Wikipedia as one of the primary sources for your research paper.

Finally, don’t ignore information. You can find an article that says anything you want it to say. Did researchers recently discover that octopus DNA is made of alien DNA from outer space? Are the spires on the Cinderella Castle at Disney World removable in case of a hurricane? Did a cook attempt to assassinate George Washington by feeding him poisoned tomatoes? You can find articles testifying that all three of the previous claims are true; however, when you dig deeper, it’s clear that they’re not. Just because you find one article stating that something is true, that does not necessarily mean it is a proven fact that you can use in your research.

Work to understand all of the different viewpoints and schools of thought on your topic. This can be done by reading a variety of articles, reading a book or article that gives an overview of the topic and incorporates different points of view, or talking to an expert who can explain the topic in depth.

Step 4: Organize Your Research

So you have all of this information, now what to do with it? Step four is all about getting organized. Like research, different people have different preferences here. It can also depend on your assignment. Some sort of bibliography (literally “book writing,” this is a list of the books, articles, and other sources you have used in your research) is helpful when it comes to organizing your research.

If your teacher requires you to turn in a bibliography with your research paper (think back to step #1; you ought to already know exactly what the assignment is by now!), create a bibliography that meets the requirements for the paper. If you are just making one just for yourself, think about how you would like to organize your research. It might make sense to bookmark resources on your web browser or make a digital bibliography that allows you to link the resources you found. You might prefer a printed list of your resources or you might want to write down all you have learned that is relevant to your project on notecards or sticky notes and organize your research paper on a table or the floor.

Step 5: Form a Thesis

Now that you understand what you’ve been asked to do, have chosen a topic that fits the assignment, and have researched and organized that research, you’re ready to articulate your own opinion, argument, or assertion. Even if you aren’t arguing for or against anything, your paper needs a thesis. A thesis is a short statement that you — as researcher and author — put forward for the readers of your paper as what you are trying to explain or prove.

A starting point when writing a thesis might be to write a one-sentence answer to the question: what is your paper about? The answer might be something like the following examples:

See, that wasn’t so hard. But, what is important to remember, is that this is just a starting point. Many students stop right there, and then don’t understand why their instructor graded them poorly on their thesis statement. A thesis needs to be definitive, and should not be about you. So, you might change the above answers to statements like:

The relationship between dogs and humans goes both ways; not only are dogs man’s best friend, but human interactions have influenced the way that modern dogs’ behavior and anatomy.

Many universities require freshmen students to live on campus for their first year, which keeps students out of trouble, helps students get better grades, and increases their likelihood of staying in school.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, marriage is seen as a number of things, including as a social mobility tool, as a mistake, and as a beneficial partnership .

Can you see the differences between the first set of sentences and the second set of thesis statements? It might take a few tries, but work to eliminate words and phrases like “I think,” or “My paper is about.”

It is also very important not to be too vague. Don’t be afraid to make a strong statement. If you look at the above examples, each of them makes a specific point about the topic. Another key to crafting a strong thesis statement is making sure that your thesis is arguable. That doesn’t mean it’s controversial or particularly opinionated, but it does mean that someone could disagree.

For example, someone might argue that humans haven’t influenced dogs all that much, that requiring freshman students to live on campus isn’t a good thing, or that marriage in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is all about romance. (Another way to check whether or not your statement is arguable: Is Pride and Prejudice a book? Yes. So the statement, “Pride and Prejudice is a book written by Jane Austen,” doesn’t work as a thesis because no one could disagree. There is no point in writing an entire essay about that obvious fact.) Checking whether or not someone could argue with your thesis statement is a good way to make sure you have written a strong, specific thesis statement that will guide you as you write your paper and earn a good grade for your efforts.

After you have worked to create a specific, arguable, definitive thesis statement, this is another place that it could be helpful to check in with your professor, a writing center tutor, or another trusted educator or mentor. Show them your thesis statement and ask them if they think itis a powerful thesis that you will guide you as you build your essay.

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Step 6: Create an Outline

Like a bibliography, the way that you create your outline may depend on your assignment. If your teacher asked you to turn in an outline, be sure to make an outline that follows the example, guidelines, or requirements you have been given. If you aren’t required to write an outline, it can still be a helpful tool as you build your research paper.

Creating an outline is really about structuring your paper. Don’t be too formulaic, but it can be helpful to follow patterns and guides. In high school you might have written three- or five-paragraph essays, and it’s okay to use those same patterns for a college research paper, but be sure that whatever format you choose makes sense for your paper. If you have two main points in your thesis, three or five main sections might not work for your research paper. If the assignment asks you to introduce a topic, explain different opinions on the topic, and then choose and explain your opinion, then your paper probably needs three main sections, one for each of those objectives.

As you create an outline, think critically about what you are trying to explain or communicate in your research paper and what structure allows you to do that in a clear, organized way. It usually makes sense to have an introduction and conclusion, but what goes between will vary based on the contents of your essay.

The outlining stage of producing your argument is a great time to think about bad forms of argumentation you should avoid. If you aren’t familiar with logical fallacies, take some time to review the most common fallacies ; your grade could depend on it!

The Savvy Student’s Study Skills: Writing

And then, finally, it’s time to actually write your paper. You might feel like you should have started writing sooner, but, rest assured: the work you have done up to this point is important. It will help you create a strong, clear, interesting research paper.

As you write, don’t be a perfectionist. Don’t worry about finding the perfect words, using the perfect grammar, or crafting the perfect title. There is time to perfect your research paper as you edit. Right now, you just need to write.

It might be helpful to look over your research before you start writing, but don’t write directly from your research. If you’re looking back and forth between your resources and your paper as you begin writing, it’s easy to copy ideas without really creating your own work. You have done a lot of work already, so trust that and work from memory as you write your research paper. It’s okay to look up a specific quote or statistic, but in general your ideas should be your own at this point.

Working from your own ideas will help you avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is the uncredited use of someone else’s words or ideas, whether you meant to use them without credit or not. This sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow the steps outlined in this guide, you can be confident that you’ve created your own essay that builds on the ideas, writing, and work of others, without stealing, copying, or plagiarising.

If you quote something word-for-word, you need to cite your source. Use quotation marks and mention the source of the quote. You will also need to include more information about the quote on a Works Cited or References page. If you paraphrase, that is, you don’t use the exact words, but do use someone’s idea, it’s still important to give credit. You don’t need quotation marks here, but it is important to mention where the idea comes from.

If something is a common fact (generally accepted if you can find the fact stated, without credit, in three or more credible sources), you don’t need to mention where the idea comes from. For example, Bill Gates is a billionaire who founded Microsoft. That is a common fact; you can find it stated in numerous trustworthy sources. But if your paper is about the why behind Bill Gates’ wealth, fame, and success, then you’re going to need to credit and cite specific quotes and statistics, as well as theories about why the Microsoft billionaire is so successful.

Step 8: Edit for Content

Now that you’ve got a paper written, take a moment to congratulate yourself. You have done a lot of work to get to this point! And then, get back to work. You still need to edit your paper before it’s ready to turn in. Remember how you weren’t supposed to worry about being perfect? You still don’t need to worry, but it is time to make your paper as perfect as you possibly can.

Start by editing for content. This means thinking about structure, organization, wording, and length. You carefully organized your paper when you created an outline. Now that you have written your paper, does that organization still make sense? If so, great. If not, what do you need to move around? Look carefully at how you’ve worded your sentences. Did you communicate what you meant to get across? Can you make your paper clearer or easier to understand? This is also a good point to think back to Step 1. Does your paper include everything the assignment asked for? If not, where can you include the missing pieces?

If your paper is too long or too short, now is the time to cut it down or build it up to an acceptable length. Don’t just delete your conclusion because your paper is too long. Don’t waste your time playing with the font size and margins to try to make your essay longer. Be careful and thoughtful about these edits. If you need to take something out, what makes sense to cut and how can you re-organize your paper so that it maintains a strong structure? If you need to lengthen your paper, don’t just randomly add words or repeat things you have already said. Think about where you could expand or what you can add that fits in with the rest of your paper, further develops the ideas you are presenting, or adds valuable information to your research paper.

Once you have made all the changes you think necessary, read back through your paper again to be sure it all makes sense. Especially when working on a computer, it is easy to leave or delete a word, sentence, or paragraph that you didn’t mean to. If you are tired of looking at your research paper, give it to a friend, mentor, or teacher and ask them to take a look at your paper and let you know what they think of the content.

Step 9: Edit for Grammar

It is also important to edit for grammar. This might seem daunting, but there are lots of tools and resources that can help. Check out resources like Grammarly or Strunk and White’s Elements of Style if you’re unsure of what to do with commas, semicolons, or run-on sentences.

Like editing for content, editing for grammar might take a few run-throughs. If you need to take a break, that’s fine. It can even help you come back to your paper feeling more focused, which is key to catching and fixing mistakes.

Step 10: Re-read and Submit your Research Paper

Once you’ve finished Steps 1–9, it’s definitely time to take a break. Give your paper a day or two (or an hour or two, if you are running short on time) and give it a final read-through. It can be helpful to print a copy of your paper and read a hard-copy if you have only read through it on a screen thus far. You might notice mistakes or formatting issues that your eyes missed while reading on your computer. Once you have read your research paper for a final time and double checked that your paper does everything the assignment is asking for, it is time to submit.

Be sure to follow any instructions you have been given about turning in your research paper. Also give yourself time to troubleshoot if things go wrong. If you try to print your paper five minutes before class starts, what are you going to do if your printer is out of toner? If you are supposed to submit your paper online at midnight and the wifi is down when you login to submit your assignment at 11:58 PM, even though that is unfortunate, it is still something you could have avoided by logging on with enough time to solve any problems that arise before the deadline. Your teacher will appreciate and respect your preparedness, and it will likely impact your grades positively.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructor for help, but be reasonable and responsible about it. If you log on the day before and see that the place where you are supposed to turn in your assignment is locked or unavailable, send your teacher an email so that they can help you submit your paper before it is due. Just don’t expect them to help you in the middle of the night, on a weekend, or minutes before an assignment is due. Some instructors might, but you are just lucky at that point. If you prepare and give yourself time to turn in an assignment, you don’t have to count on getting lucky about whether or not your professor is sitting at their computer and available to help you at the very moment you email them.

Your Teacher or Professor

When writing a research paper for a teacher or professor, it is important to step back and think about why they asked you to write this essay in the first place. More than likely, they are giving you an opportunity to learn something. Learning often involves trial-and-error, making mistakes, and asking lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask a question; in fact, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor lots of questions! However, do remember to be respectful of them, their time, and efforts. It is important to follow any directions that you have been given by your teacher or professor, to take responsibility and not expect them to do your work for you, and to listen to the answers and advice they share with you. Working with your teacher and asking them for help is an often overlooked resource when it comes to writing research papers. Be sure to take advantage of this help; your paper will be all the better for it.

Research Librarians

Another often-overlooked resource is the research librarian. Did you know that, in addition to tons of books and online materials, college and university libraries often have staff whose job it is to help answer your questions? Research librarians specialize in research (it might sound obvious, but take a second to get excited about how much this could help you and your research paper!). These librarians usually specialize in particular fields and subjects, so you can get specific, expert help that pertains to your topic. They can help you search for resources, connect you with experts in the field your researching, or give you suggestions about the direction of your research and writing.

Writing Centers

In addition to research librarians, many college and university libraries often house writing centers. While research librarians can help you more with your research, writing center staff can help you actually write your research paper. You can usually schedule an online or in-person appointment with a tutor or instructor that will help you through any step of the writing process. You might want to visit a writing center early on as you develop the concept for your paper, in the middle as you struggle to think of how to discuss one of your key points, or right before you turn in your paper to be sure it’s in near-perfect shape before it goes to your professor for a grade. Many professors even give you extra credit for taking advantage of writing center services. Win-win!

As mentioned earlier in this guide, you can use Wikipedia for introductory research. But, because Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone and therefore aren’t 100% credible, your professor will likely frown on citing it as a source for your research paper. So, do not use Wikipedia as a primary source for your research paper. When it comes to writing research papers, the references section of a Wikipedia page is one of your best friends. Just like you should be citing your sources at the end of your research paper, Wikipedia articles link to their primary sources. You can use the list of references to find books, articles, and other material that can help you find reliable, relevant primary sources for use in your research.

Academic Databases

Your instructor may require you to use peer-reviewed academic articles as some or all of the sources for your research paper. As a college student, you probably have access to a number of academic databases that you can use to find scholarly articles. If you are unsure of how to search for articles in an academic database, it’s worth asking your professor or a research librarian to help you learn. This skill will be a useful one to have, and you will be easily finding trustworthy, interesting sources in no time.

OWL at Purdue

This is not a nocturnal bird that lives at a university in Indiana, but rather the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University. This online resource offers a number of helpful writing materials, including information on how to cite sources, grammar rules, choosing a topic, and even how to write a research paper. You can search for specific help, or browse resources by category. This free website is a must-visit online resource when writing a college research paper.

Grammarly is like a super-powered spell checker. It’s a free Chrome extension that allows you to edit your writing. You can copy and paste your paper into the Grammarly editor and get spelling and grammar advice that is easy to implement. If you’re looking for additional help or want to use the software without leaving Microsoft Office, check out Grammarly Premium or Grammarly for Microsoft Office. However, it’s important to remember when using this software (or any spelling or grammar checker!) that it is a computer and therefore doesn’t always understand your writing. You need to go over each suggestion made by the software and make sure that it is indeed correcting an error or improving a sentence and not changing something that you meant to say. That being said, Grammarly is great at catching errors and provides easy-to-understand explanations of spelling and grammar suggestions so you can knowledgeably make changes to your research paper.

The Elements of Style — William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Style guides may be mostly a thing of the past. You have probably used a spell checker or Googled where to put a comma, but you may never have opened a style guide. However, this book, The Elements of Style, has helpful advice and information about writing. If you are looking for guidance when it comes to editing your paper, picking up a copy of this book may be just what you need. The book consists of different sections, some with specific grammar and writing rules and definitions and others with general writing advice. One rule that is worth knowing, even if you don’t read The Elements of Style is Rule #17: “Omit needless words.” Keep that in mind as you edit your paper; it will help you craft a clear, strong, concise research paper that your teacher will enjoy reading (and even grading!).

Style Guides (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)

You might feel like we keep saying this (we do . . . ), but it’s for a good reason: know what your research paper assignment is asking for. That is especially important when it comes to formatting your paper. There are several different formatting styles and each has specific rules and guidelines. The main three are MLA, APA, and Chicago. Your instructor likely gave you instructions on which style to use, and if not you can ask which they prefer. Each style has a different name for the list of sources you attach at the end of your paper, different rules about headers and page numbers, etc. Many teachers will deduct points from your grade if you don’t adhere to the style they have asked you to for your research paper; some teachers may not accept the paper at all. You can find more information about whatever style you are working with in a style guide or from OWL at Purdue.

If you are crafting a paper from scratch, start by reading through the above steps to learn how to write a strong research paper. If you have already written a paper, go over this checklist to ensure that it is ready to turn in.

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