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How to Write a Research Paper

How to Write a Research Paper

Research papers find their way into your curriculum around 12th grade. Some schools even have a designated research class, where the entire school year is dedicated to writing a single research paper.

So what is a research paper? This paper is based heavily on in-depth research and analysis; the ability to document information and proposing original, useful insights on the research matter.

In this entry, we will learn what is a research paper and how to write one. We will also present a list of interesting topics.

Remember to keep an open mind and a positive attitude!


Table Of Contents


Topics To Help You Get Started

In my 12th-grade research class, most people picked boring topics. As a result, they had a hard time finding the motivation to study.

How to write a good research paper rule number 1: Choose a fun topic! You will be treading through a daunting amount of research and statistics. If the topic is boring to you, you’re guaranteeing yourself a hard time.

Choosing a topic is all in the brainstorming. Typically, a professor will give you up to a week to explore all the possibilities of what you could write about.

It is entirely reasonable to change your topic. Most students go through about ten before settling on their favorite one.

Here is a list of interesting research paper topics which could be relevant today:

  • Life outside the solar system

  • Exploring exorcism in the modern church.

  • Article 13 and Article 11: the EU meme ban.

  • History of animal testing.

  • How cybersecurity works.

  • Is there life on Mars?

  • Explore a law which you would change.

  • Sports betting: is it gambling?

  • History of the computer.

  • History of slavery.

After picking a topic, share it with your instructor and classmates. See how they react, and whether they approve of your idea.

The most common topics are relevant social, political, cultural or technological issues. If you want to see more of those, we have a separate research paper topics post.

After you have chosen a topic, it’s time to turn your ideas into a well-written research paper! However, you must first do some critical research.

Research Process

Preparation is vital before writing a research paper.

Most of your analysis, your conclusions, your understanding, formulating your point will come during the research stage.

The research stage is divided into two main subcategories: Selecting Sources, and Documenting Information.

Selecting Sources

After you have chosen the topic, it is essential to find the information you can rely on. To do this, you will have access to a variety of academic sources.

  • The Library

    • Your instructor will point you towards the school library first thing. Libraries have catalogs of rare books from different fields of study. They could be an excellent place to find primary sources for your paper.
  • Primary and Secondary Sources

    • Primary sources are trusted sources like books or statistics from a .gov website. Real life surveys are also primary sources. In contrast, online articles or YouTube channels are secondary sources.
  • Academic Journals & Other Documents

    • Academic Journals like JSTOR and Google Scholar are advantageous sources. Just type your search (for example Life on Mars), and they give you every academic document that has ever mentioned this term. If your library lacks the primary sources you need for your paper - academic journals are the way to go.

primary and secondary sources for research paper

Once you have selected the bulk of your sources, skim through them and keep the useful ones. The next stage will be reading and documenting information.

Documenting Information

The next step is to group the primary and secondary sources. You may order them from most to least important. You may also place them in a logical order of arguments in your research paper.

Lots of papers focus on a few primary sources as the main point of inspiration. That works if the paper attempts to expand on a previously explored theory or concept.

Some excellent ways to group and keep track of information are Note and Bibliography cards.

  • Note Cards

Note Cards help you keep track of information from your sources. Take a note card, and write down relevant information on the front, with the source number on the back. This will help you with organizing your facts and writing your paper later.

  • Bibliography Cards

Bibliography cards help you keep track of your sources. Write down your source on them in MLA format and number them for reference. Put source numbers on your note cards, so you know which source every note is from.

  • Organizing System

Use these note cards to organize your paper. Place them in order of importance relative to your paper outline and the points you wish to make.

Don’t let sources organize your research paper for you. Organize your paper based on your arguments and research.

Research Paper Outline

Before writing a research paper, let’s refresh on some main points we covered.

  • The topic you have picked is interesting to you.

  • You have researched and found primary and secondary sources to support your topic.

  • The topic is significant; you are ready and full of knowledge to defend it.

  • You know what background information the audience needs to understand your essay fully.

If you’ve checked off every point on the list above, then you are confident and set to write. This means that it's time to create an outline for your research paper.

The outline consists of the following:

  • Title Page (the title of the paper, the name of the author, name of your school or college, and date of submission)

  • The Abstract (a summary of the paper in about 250 words)

  • Introduction (relevant background information, definition of technical terms. A research paper introduction tells the reader how the paper will be organized.)

  • Body Paragraphs (the build of your essay; summarizing, analyzing, explaining, evaluating sources)

  • Conclusion (a summary of your argument, explaining the significance of your research. Also return to the introduction, and plan for further research)

Research Paper Outline Template

A research paper outline looks like this:

research paper outline template

Writing Process

Now that we know the structure, let’s go into detail on how to write a research paper.

Introduction

The introduction is where you hook the reader and give them background information to help understand your topic. Also, explain the significance of your topic and why you chose it.

Big research papers like Darwin’s Origin of Species, outline every section of the paper with topic sentences in their introduction.

Find any famous research paper, and read the introductory paragraph. It will give you a good idea of how to start a research paper.

Thesis Statement

Before reading the rest of your paper, the audience needs to know the central argument, idea, or purpose.

In order words: the thesis statement. In a research paper, thesis statements can be up to a paragraph or a page long.

In a research paper, the thesis is a declaration of your arguments. It shows how you will about obtain information and select sources. It is essentially important that the audience knows why you have chosen a specific topic and point of view.

Frequently, students write the thesis statement last. It is a good practice because after writing the paper, the thesis comes to mind much more natural.

The Body

The next step to writing a research paper is unleashing your arguments and sources in the body paragraphs.

Body paragraphs are where you summarize, analyze, and evaluate published work. Body paragraphs follow this format:

  • Topic sentence. The main argument you will discuss in this section of the paper.

  • Source information. Explaining how primary and secondary sources give validity to your argument. Summarize each source if necessary.

  • Conclusion. Wrap the paragraph together, offer final thoughts, and move on to the next point of your essay.

If you have done the note cards correctly, body paragraphs will be super easy. A little preparation goes a long way!

Conclusion

The last step to writing a research paper is making a good conclusion paragraph. A conclusion is the “Say what you have said” section of your paper.

Here, you re-summarize main arguments and sources. Once again, you must explain the importance of your research; how it contributes fresh ideas to your area of study.

Finally, leave your audience with a sense of completion. Wrap your paper up, and offer final comments or thoughts. Leave the reader looking hopefully towards the future.

Writing The Draft

After collecting sources and writing an outline, the first draft should come easy.

Here are a few steps to help you write the first draft:

  • Refresh your memory by reading your note cards.

  • Write off the note cards. Paraphrase, quote, or expand on the notes you have taken. Write summaries and explanations; brainstorm using note cards. Remember: this is your first draft! It doesn’t have to be perfect.

  • At the end of each reference, quote, or statistic, write down the source. The source should already be written on your note card.

  • Repeat for every section of the essay. It is recommended that you write body paragraphs before the introduction or conclusion.

And voila! You have a first draft ready for editing.

As we have said before, you’ll spend most of the time doing research. Writing the first draft should be quick, as you will merely synthesize the information you’ve already learned.

When you’re writing, remember to offer your original ideas and insights into the topic. You don’t want to be paraphrasing other people’s work merely.

Research papers are all about fresh ideas.

Proofreading and Editing

The real magic of writing research papers lies in the editing process.

It is often best to write the first draft early so that you have several weeks left for editing. You are guaranteed to stumble on useful information and be inspired to add it to your paper.

The rule of thumb is to re-read your draft every few days and see if it reads naturally. Give it to your parents or peers, and ask them if the paper is interesting and straightforward.

Additionally, there are websites where you can check for grammar, clarity of writing and plagiarism.

Final Checklist

Revising your draft means checking for a logical flow of ideas, analyzing the coherence and in-depth examinations in body paragraphs, and seeing whether the conclusion is effective.

Research Paper Checklist

It also means checking for grammar, and seeing whether the essay is presented in simple, understandable language.

It’s time to go down the checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

  • Does my paper fully support the thesis statement?

  • Does my paper adhere to my original outline?

  • Did I present my arguments in the best possible logical sequence?

  • Did I cite all my sources in MLA format?

  • I gave personal insight on the information and statistics presented in my sources.

  • Did I make my intentions clear in the introduction of the essay?

  • Does the conclusion give the paper a sense of completeness?

We hope you have found this guide useful and you can now write a good research paper! With this knowledge, you can write a research paper and actually have fun doing it!

Examples

As in every one of our blogs, we offer free research paper examples to help you with your writing.

These examples were written by expert writers in the academic field. Feel free to download them and use them for reference.

Research Paper Example

Research Paper Example

Research Paper Example

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