Some students find it helpful to think of a research paper as akin to a building: just as a house must have a solid foundation (e.g., a firm concrete base) and well-designed structure (e.g., support beams), so too must a research paper. To that end, this handout will explain the basics of creating a well-structured research paper.
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of how to write a research paper, let’s first discuss what a research paper is and what it isn’t. A research paper (often shortened to “paper”) is an academic document that presents the findings of a given author’s original research on a given topic. A research paper is not:
- A report of everything you’ve read on a topic (i.e., a summary)
- An opinion piece
- A personal essay or reflection
- A book review
While a research paper may incorporate elements of all four of these writing genres, it will primarily be focused on presenting the findings of the author’s research. In order to write a research paper, then, you will need to engage in the three fundamental stages of the writing process: pre-writing, drafting, and revising.
Pre-writing is the first stage of the writing process and includes all of the work you do before you are ready to draft your paper. This stage includes:
- Choosing a topic
- Narrowing your focus
- Finding sources
- Conducting preliminary research
- Outlining your paper
The drafting stage is the next step in the writing process and includes the actual writing of the paper. At this point, you should have a clear and concise outline of your paper that you can follow as you write. Some important things to keep in mind while drafting your paper include:
- Staying on topic
- Organizing your thoughts
- Making sure your evidence supports your thesis
- Using transitions between sections
Once you have finished drafting your paper, it is time for the final stage of the writing process: revision. Revision is the process of examining your paper as a whole and making changes to improve its overall clarity, coherence, and effectiveness. Revision includes:
- Re-reading your paper
- Evaluating the effectiveness of your argument
- Checking for grammatical errors
- Making sure your paper is properly formatted
By following these steps, you can be sure that you will end up with a well-written and well-organized research paper.
How to Choose Research Paper Topic
Choose a topic that interests you. This is probably the most important factor in choosing a research paper topic. You will be spending a lot of time working on this project, so it is important to select a topic that you find intriguing and challenging.
Do some preliminary research. Once you have selected a topic, take some time to do some preliminary research. This will help you to narrow your focus and determine what aspects of the topic you want to explore further.
Consider your audience. When selecting a research paper topic, it is also important to consider your audience. Who will be reading your paper? What are their interests and expectations? By considering your audience, you can choose a topic that will be both interesting and informative.
Think about your own interests. In addition to considering your audience, it is also important to think about your own interests. What aspects of the topic are you most interested in? By choosing a topic that you find intriguing, you can ensure that you will stay motivated throughout the research and writing process.
How to Get Help with Research Paper Writing
If you find yourself struggling to write a research paper, there are plenty of places where you can get help. Here are some of the most common:
A research paper writing service. A research paper writing service can provide you with all of the help you need to complete your paper, from researching and writing to editing and formatting.
Your professor or TA. These are the people who assigned your paper, so they are the best ones to ask for help. They can answer any questions you have about the assignment and give you feedback on your paper.
The writing center. Most colleges and universities have a writing center where you can get help with your paper. The staff at the writing center can help you with every stage of the writing process, from choosing a topic to revising and editing your paper.
Online resources. There are plenty of online resources that can help you with your research paper. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a great place to start, as it offers extensive resources on every aspect of the writing process.
When it comes to writing a research paper, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, by following the steps outlined above and seeking help when needed, you can be sure that you will end up with a well-written and effective research paper.