Few things are more dreaded by academics than the dreaded research paper, a name that conjures up thoughts of long days and arduous labour. Fortunately, there is a method to get beyond them. You’ll discover they’re not so horrible, or at least less agonizing if you know how to correctly write a research paper.
Here, we provide clear, step-by-step instructions on how to create an academic research paper. We’ll go over topics including how to begin a research paper, how to create a research paper outline, how to use references and supporting information, and how to write a research paper conclusion.
But first, let’s look at what a research paper is and how it differs from other types of writing before we get into the specifics.
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A research paper is what?
An academic article known as a research paper offers a thorough examination, assessment, or interpretation of a single subject supported by empirical data. Analytical essays and research papers are similar, but the former place more emphasis on the use of statistical data and previous studies while the latter adhere to a strict citation style.
The most efficient way to disseminate information over a large network is through research articles, which are the foundation of contemporary science. However, most people are already aware of research papers from school; they are frequently used in college courses to assess a student’s familiarity with a particular subject or their general research abilities.
Research papers tend to use professional, even boring language that eliminates any bias because of their importance. In order for other researchers to afterwards use the publication in their own research, researchers must clearly express their findings and provide supporting data.
Do not forget that a research proposal is not the same as a research article. The main goal of research proposals is to secure the funds required to gather the information needed to produce a research paper.
What length is ideal for a research paper?
The topic or assignment will determine the length of the research paper. Research papers typically include between 4,000 and 6,000 words, however, it’s not unusual to see shorter papers of around 2,000 words or longer ones of over 10,000 words.
The suggested length for a paper you are writing for school should be specified in the assignment. Otherwise, let the length be determined by your topic: Extensive research or complicated subjects will call for greater explanation.
Nine steps to writing a research paper
Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to write a research report that is targeted at students rather than academic researchers. Consider this more of a broad outline to keep you on track even though some of these procedures might not be applicable to your specific task.
1 Recognize the assignment.
Some of you may not need me to tell you this, but you’d be astonished at how many students begin a research paper without even looking over the instructions.
Therefore, you should evaluate the assignment and attentively read the writing question as your first step. Look for technical specifications like length, formatting specifications (single- vs. double-spacing, indentations, etc.), and citation style in particular. Pay attention to the specifics as well, such as whether or not an abstract or cover page are required.
The subsequent steps in how to write a research paper follow the regular writing process, more or less, once you have a basic understanding of the project. The general writing procedure is the same, but there are a few extra steps because research papers have different rules.
2 Decide on a subject
The student must select their own subject for assignments that are left open-ended. Although it may seem straightforward, picking a topic is actually the most crucial choice you’ll make when writing a research paper because it influences everything that comes after.
Your first concern when selecting a research paper topic is whether it will offer adequate information and substance for the full document. You should pick a subject that has ample information and intricacy to support a lively discussion. However, you should also steer clear of broad subjects and stick to those that are detailed enough to allow you to include all the relevant information without skipping too much ground.
Though it’s still best to choose a topic that interests you personally, try to avoid being rote about it. Finding a topic that meets both criteria—one that keeps you interested and offers an adequate amount of content—is ideal.
3 Compile preliminary analysis
The earlier you begin your research, the better; after all, a research paper is what it is called for a reason.
Find out as soon as possible what research is available on your issue in order to hone your topic and craft your thesis statement. Early research will help you clear up any misunderstandings you may have about the subject and show you the best avenues to take when looking for additional information.
Usually, you may discover sources in a library or online. Make sure to use reliable sources when conducting online research, such as academic papers or scientific journals. You can explore only reputable sources and academic databases on several search engines, which are included in the Tools and resources section below.
As you search, keep in mind the distinction between primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources are further distant and include things like critical reviews or secondhand biographies; primary sources include firsthand accounts like published articles or memoirs.
When acquiring information for your research, it is preferable to scan sources rather than fully read each potential source. Put a source aside to read it in its entirety later if it sounds beneficial. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck spending time reading over sources you ultimately won’t use when you could be spending that time locating a useful source.
A literature review, which explains your sources and submits them to an authority for approval, may occasionally be requested of you. Even if a literature review is not necessary, creating an early list of relevant sources is still beneficial; you’ll be glad you did.
4 Construct a thesis assertion.
Write a thesis statement that briefly explains the topic of your research paper using the information you learned through your preliminary investigation. This is typically the opening paragraph of your essay, serving as the reader’s introduction to the subject.
The ideal way to begin a research paper is with a thesis statement. The thesis statement not only prepares your reader but also makes it simpler for other scholars to decide whether or not your article will be helpful to them for their own research. The same goes for other research articles; examine the thesis statements to determine their applicability to you.
A strong thesis statement covers all the key points of the argument without giving away too many specifics. If you’re having problems explaining anything, consider posing your subject as a question, and then responding to it.
For instance, if your research paper topic involves segregating students with ADHD from other pupils, you would first consider if doing so will enhance the learning of these students. Your thesis statement can be based on the response, which is supported by your preliminary study.
5 Choose a supporting argument.
It’s time to get serious and conduct the actual research at this point in the process of writing an academic research paper. Now is the time to search through all the sources you gathered previously to identify the precise data you want to include in your article.
Typically, you study each source and make notes to discover your supporting evidence. Only include details that are directly related to your issue; avoid including irrelevant or tangential details, even if they are entertaining. Additionally, always note page numbers because you’ll need them for your citations as well as for subsequent reference.
Other frequent strategies include underlining literature and making notes, as well as using bibliography cards. The bibliographical data (source citation, page numbers, subtopic category) is on one side of these straightforward index cards, which feature a fact or direct quotation. Although they are not required, bibliography cards might help some students keep organized, especially when it comes time to create an outline.
Write a research paper outline in six.
Many students are interested in learning how to create a research paper outline. Outlines are especially crucial for research papers because they demand a rigorous and systematic framework more than unstructured essays to ensure that all themes are covered.
Create an outline for your outline by first making a list of all the significant categories and subtopics you must cover. When assembling your supporting evidence, take into account all the data you gathered and consider the best approach to separate and organize everything.
Make a list of the topics you wish to cover, and then decide how to effectively convey the material. Which subtopics are connected and ought to be placed next to one another? Do any of the subtopics make sense if they are presented out of order? Take a chronological approach and convey the material in the order it occurred if your information is very simple.
Consider dividing your outline into paragraphs because research papers can get complex. The first benefit is that it keeps you organized if you have a lot of material to cover. Additionally, it allows you more control over the research paper’s direction and flow. Fixing structural issues early on is always preferable to doing it after everything has already been written.
Remember to add any supporting documentation to the outline as well. Everything’s likely that you’ll want to include a lot, so including it in your outline helps prevent some items from getting lost.
7 Produce the initial draft.
Once your outline is complete, you can begin drafting your research report. This is by far the most time-consuming and complicated step, but if your materials are properly organized and your outline is well-written, everything should go according to plan.
The beginning can be challenging if you don’t know how to create an introduction for a research paper. Because of this, it’s essential to write your thesis statement in advance. Start with your thesis statement and then use the secondary information to fill out the rest of your introduction. Save the specifics for the research paper’s body, which is what comes after.
The majority of your research paper is in the body. Unlike essays, research papers typically include different headings for each section of the body to make browsing and scanning easier. As a guide, refer to the sections of your outline.
Follow your outline and read each paragraph one after the other. Considering that this is only a first draft, don’t stress spelling and grammar. You’ll be able to edit and improve your writing at a later time, but for now, just concentrate on getting your point out. In other words, it’s acceptable to make errors because you’ll have a chance to fix them afterwards.
Connecting paragraphs to one another are one of the most prevalent issues in writing lengthy works like research papers. It gets tougher to make things flow together seamlessly as your writing gets lengthier. Use transitional words to help your writing flow better, especially between the opening and last sentences of each paragraph.
You still need to know how to write a conclusion for a research paper after the body has been written. Similar to an essay conclusion, your research paper conclusion should restate your thesis, review your primary supporting evidence, and succinctly summarize your findings.
In your conclusion, don’t provide any new material; nevertheless, if it would help the reader see the big picture, feel free to express your own perspective or interpretation.
8 Properly credit your sources
Research papers differ from more informal writing like personal essays in part because of their citations. By citing your sources, you can link your research article to the larger scientific community while also having your findings validated. Citations must adhere to specific formatting guidelines because of their significance, yet there are multiple sets of guidelines!
To find out which formatting style is necessary, check the assignment. Academic research papers typically adhere to one of two formatting types when citing sources:
• MLA (Modern Language Association)
• APA (American Psychological Association)
The aforementioned links include detailed information on each style’s particular formatting requirements as well as automatic citation creation tools to get you started.
You may also encounter standards for CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style), AMA (American Medical Association), and IEEE on occasion in addition to MLA and APA styles (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).
With all of their requirements and particular information, citations can initially seem confusing. You’ll be able to properly credit your sources without even thinking about it once you get the feel of them, though, once you do. Remember that every citation format has unique rules for citing sources of all kinds, including images, websites, talks, and YouTube videos.
9 Edit and double-check
Last but not least, you should check your research paper to make sure there are no errors. We advise reading it twice: once for structure problems like adding or removing paragraphs, and again for word choice, grammar, and spelling errors. Instead of working on both at once, conducting two separate editing sessions allows you to concentrate on one subject at a time.
Here is a simple checklist to keep in mind as you edit, to help you catch everything:
• Does your thesis statement make sense and be brief?
• Is your paper well-structured and does it flow naturally from start to finish?
• Do your ideas flow logically from paragraph to paragraph?
• Have you avoided using generalizations and instead used specifics and facts?
• Do your points back up and demonstrate your thesis?
• Have you tried to limit repetition?
• Do you correctly cite your sources?
Have you done any unintentional plagiarism checks?
Editing for word choice, grammar, and spelling:
• Is your vocabulary precise and clear?
• Do your phrases make sense and flow well?
• Have you avoided using cliches and empty language?
• Have you double-checked your writing for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
Some people find it helpful to read their papers aloud in order to spot errors they may overlook when reading mentally. Another option is to have someone else review your essay and point out any flaws in the grammar or other technical aspects.
Being proficient at writing does not automatically translate into being proficient at revising. Read our self-editing guide, which includes a more thorough checklist and more knowledgeable revision advice, if you wish to enhance your revision abilities.
You may easily fix technical problems like grammatical errors and misspelt words if you use a spellchecker with your word processor or, better yet, a digital writing aid like Grammarly that also offers suggestions for word choice and tone (we explain more in the Tools and resources section below).
Resources and tools
Check out the tools and resources listed below if you want to learn more about how to create a research paper or if you need assistance with any phase.
Use Google Scholar
This is Google’s own search engine, which only focuses on scholarly literature. It’s a fantastic method to discover fresh sources and research. It is also cost-free to use.
A hybrid between a content management system (CMS) for organizations and a search engine for scholarly research, Zotero is a freemium, open-source research manager. You can use it to search the internet for research resources pertinent to your subject and quickly share them with peers. Additionally, it produces citations on its own.
Your attention span will always be tested when writing extensive research papers. FocusWriter may be able to assist you if you struggle to stay focused during those extended periods of time. FocusWriter is a simple word processor that concentrates solely on what you enter and does away with all the unnecessary icons. Along with additional unique features like timed alarms, daily goals, and optional typewriter sound effects, you are able to select your own unique backgrounds.
You may generate straightforward charts and graphs using this helpful and cost-free Google tool depending on the data you enter. If you need to communicate a complex evidential study, charts and graphs are the ideal complements. They are wonderful visual aids for explaining numerical data.
Grammarly is much more than just a grammar checker; it also offers assistance with word choice, plagiarism detection, tone detection, and other tasks. It can improve your English fluency if you’re learning a second language, and its recommendations are useful for people who speak English as their first language as well.
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