A research paper is a piece of academic writing that contains in-depth independent research analysis, interpretation, and argument.

Research papers are comparable to academic essays, but they are usually longer and more extensive assignments that are used to evaluate not just your writing abilities, but also your scholarly research abilities. A research paper needs you to exhibit a thorough understanding of your subject, engage with a number of sources, and contribute something unique to the discussion.

From understanding your assignment to editing your final document, this step-by-step tutorial will walk you through the whole writing process.

1. Recognize the assignment

Successfully completing a research paper entails completing the precise responsibilities assigned to you. Before you begin, make sure you understand the assignment task sheet completely:

• Carefully read it, looking for anything unclear that you may need to clarify with your lecturer.

• Determine the assignment’s goal, deadline, length requirements, formatting, and mode of submission.

• Make a bulleted list of the most important elements, then go back and cross them off as you write.

Consider your deadline and word count carefully: be realistic and provide adequate time to research, write, and edit.

2. Pick a topic for your research paper.

There are various ways to come up with a research paper topic, from brainstorming with a pen and paper to discussing it with a classmate or lecturer.

You may attempt free writing, which entails picking a broad topic and writing constantly for two or three minutes to find anything pertinent that might be interesting.

Other studies can also serve as a source of inspiration. Research papers frequently contain ideas for other specific issues that deserve further investigation in the discussion or recommendations sections.

Once you have a wide subject area in mind, focus it down to a topic that interests you, satisfies the requirements of your assignment, and is researchable. Attempt to come up with ideas that are both unique and specific:

• A paper that followed the timeline of World War II would be too generic and unoriginal.

• A paper about the experiences of Danish citizens living near the German border during WWII would be specific and possibly unique.

Get criticism on your writing, structure, and formatting.

Professional editors check and edit your document by concentrating on the following points:

• Academic writing style

• Imprecise phrases

• Grammar

• Consistency in style

Consider the following example.

3. Carry out some preliminary research

Take note of any debates that seem relevant to the topic, and try to come up with a problem to focus your article on. To ensure you don’t miss anything important, consult a variety of sources, including journals, books, and reputable websites.

Not only should you double-check your ideas, but you should also hunt for sources that contradict them.

• Is there anything in your sources that people seem to overlook?

• Can you address any contentious issues?

• Do you have a unique perspective on your subject?

• Has there been any recent research that builds on previous findings?

You might find it helpful to establish some research questions to guide you at this point. Try to complete the following statement when writing research questions: “I want to know how/what/why…”

4. Construct a thesis statement.

A thesis statement determines the goal and position of your article by stating your key point. The thesis statement should answer the research question if you started with one. It should also state what facts and logic you’ll use to back up your claim.

The thesis statement should be brief, controversial, and logical. That is, it should summarize your thesis in a phrase or two, make a claim that requires additional proof or analysis, and make a logical point that connects all sections of the work.

The thesis statement will most likely be revised and refined as you conduct more research, but it can act as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should work to support and deepen this main point.

5. Make an outline for your research article.

A research paper outline is essentially a list of the important themes, arguments, and evidence you want to include, separated into parts with headings so you can get a general idea of how the paper will look before you begin writing.

It’s worth taking the time to build a structure plan because it can make the writing process much more efficient.

6. Make a rough draft of your research article.

Your first draft will be imperfect, but you can improve it later. Your current priorities are as follows:

• Keeping the momentum going – write now, perfect later.

• Concentrating on good arrangement and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will aid in the second draft.

• Clearly expressing your ideas so that when you return to the text, you know what you were trying to say.

You do not have to begin with the introduction. Start where you feel most comfortable – some people prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others prefer to start with the easiest. Use your outline as a road map while you’re working.

Large portions of text should not be deleted. If you don’t like what you’ve written or it doesn’t seem to fit, move it to a new document, but don’t delete it entirely; you never know when it might come in handy later.

structure of paragraphs

The essential building elements of research papers are paragraphs. Each one should concentrate on a particular point or idea that contributes to the paper’s broader argument or objective.

A well-structured paragraph is seen below. To learn more, hover over the sentences.

Paragraph example

The 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell has had a lasting influence on how people think about politics and language.

This effect is especially noticeable in light of the several critical review pieces that have recently cited the essay.

Consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 piece “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited” in The National Review Online, in which he examines many common phrases (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more).

Falcoff’s thorough examination of the ambiguity built into political vocabulary is meant to resemble Orwell’s own point-by-point examination of the political jargon of the day.

Orwell’s essay is still cited by modern thinkers 63 years after its publication.

Using references

To minimize unintended plagiarism, it’s also crucial to maintain track of citations at this point. Make a note of where the information comes from every time you use a source.

You may keep your reference list and automatically create citations using our free citation generators.

Citation Maker for APA Citation Maker for MLA

7. Compose an introduction

What, why, and how should be addressed in the research paper introduction. After reading the introduction, the reader should understand what the paper is about, why it is important to read, and how you will support your claims.

What? Be explicit about the paper’s topic, provide background information, and describe significant terminology or concepts.

Why? This is the most crucial, but also the most challenging, portion of the introduction. Answer the following questions as briefly as possible: What new information or perspectives do you have to offer? What crucial concerns does your essay contribute to the definition or resolution of?

How? The beginning should provide a “map” of what will be presented, succinctly summarizing the important aspects of the work in chronological sequence to let the reader know what to expect from the body of the article.

8. Compose an engaging body of material

Most authors struggle with how to organize the information offered in their papers, which is why an outline is so helpful. However, keep in mind that the outline is merely a guide, and you can be creative with the sequence in which you present material and arguments when writing.

Using your thesis statement and subject phrases might help you stay on track. Check:

• subject sentences in opposition to the thesis;

• compare and contrast topic sentences for similarity and logical order;

• and each sentence against the paragraph’s topic sentence.

Keep an eye out for paragraphs that appear to cover the same topics. If two paragraphs cover the same topic, they must take various approaches to it. Make transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections as seamless as possible.

9. Write the final paragraph.

The purpose of the research paper conclusion is to guide the reader out of the document’s argument by providing a sense of closure.

Follow the flow of the paper, focusing on how it all comes together to prove your point. Make sure the reader understands how you’ve resolved the difficulties stated in the opening to give the article a feeling of closure.

You might also talk about the argument’s broader implications, highlight what the paper has to offer future students of the subject, and propose any problems the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not attempt to answer.

You must not:

• Provide new arguments or important facts

• Take up more space than is required

• Begin with stock terms that indicate the paper’s conclusion (e.g., “In conclusion”).

The second draft is number ten.

When it comes to the second draft, there are four major factors.

1. Make sure your vision for the paper matches the original draft and, more importantly, that it still answers the task.

2. Keep your reader’s perspective in mind when you identify any assumptions that may require (more substantial) justification. Remove these points if you can’t back them up with more evidence.

3. Be willing to rearrange your thoughts. Check to see if any sections are out of place or if your ideas may be better arranged.

4. If you discover that old concepts do not fit as well as you had hoped, eliminate or simplify them. You might also come up with new and well-suited ideas while writing the first draft; now is the time to include them into the paper.

The revision procedure

Ensure that you have performed all necessary activities and that the paper is as well-articulated as feasible during the editing and proofreading process.

Global issues

• Double-check that your paper completes all of the tasks listed on your assignment page.

• Examine the paragraphs for logical order and flow.

• Compare and contrast paragraphs with the introduction and thesis statement.

Detailed information

Check each paragraph’s content to ensure that:

• Each sentence contributes to the topic sentence’s support.

• There is no extraneous or useless data present.

• All technical terms that your audience might not be familiar with are defined.

Consider sentence structure, grammatical mistakes, and formatting next. Make sure you’ve utilized the right transition words and phrases to explain how your thoughts are connected. Look for mistakes, eliminate extraneous words, and double-check spellings and heading formatting for uniformity.

Finally, double-check that your document is formatted appropriately according to the guidelines of the citation style you’re using. You might need to include an MLA heading or make an APA title page, for example.

With our award-winning Proofreading & Editing, Clarity Check, and Structure Check services, Scribbr’s expert editors can assist with the revision process.

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Checklist for research papers

Research paper checklist

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• I followed the assignment sheet’s instructions to the letter.

• My introduction is entertaining and provides vital background information about my topic.

• A clear, targeted research challenge and/or thesis statement are presented in my introduction.

• My paper is organized logically with paragraphs and (if applicable) section headings.

• Each paragraph has a single key point that is stated in a crisp topic sentence.

• Every paragraph is related to my research question or thesis statement.

• To clarify the relationships between sections, paragraphs, and phrases, I employed appropriate transitions.

• My conclusion answers the research question succinctly or stresses how the thesis is supported.

• My conclusion demonstrates how my study has contributed to my topic’s knowledge or understanding.

• My conclusion contains no new information or points that are critical to my case.

• Every time I allude to ideas or material from a source, I have included an in-text citation.

• At the end of my article, I’ve included a reference list that is formatted consistently according to a specified citation style.

• I’ve gone over my paper again and answered any comments from my lecturer or supervisor.

• I followed all formatting instructions (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).