A research paper is an academic document written by students in higher learning levels, containing independent research conducted on a particular topic, a position taken on that topic (thesis), and an interpretation of those research findings.
Research papers vary widely, but there are two main types: an argumentative research paper and an analytical research paper. An argumentative research paper requires the author to favor one side of view in a contentious issue, while an analytical paper requires the author to provide an in-depth look into an issue. Writing a research paper can seem like a daunting task, but by following the right steps and a healthy dose of concentration, any student can write a successful research paper. In this guide, we explore how to write an excellent research paper.
How Do I Choose a Topic for my Research Paper? Research Paper Help
Your instructor may or may not give you a topic for the research paper. If it’s your responsibility to find a research topic, follow the following guidelines to help you choose a topic:
- Choose a topic about something you’re passionate about – you’re more likely to compose a successful research paper if you genuinely connect with the topic; choosing a topic you’re impartial about could drive you to stress and burnout during the lengthy process
- Choose a topic that has been sufficiently explored by other researchers before. You will need this information to build support for your thesis. Visit the local/school library to find out if there are enough resources. On the internet, check to see if there are acceptable resources (open web sources e.g. Wikipedia are an absolute no – the authenticity of their sources is not to be trusted)
- Ensure the research available supports your thesis. If the overwhelming majority of evidence refutes your position, you may want to find another topic with more support across the board.
- Choose a topic with current importance. While you may choose an obsolete topic, it’s more logical to choose a topic currently in public consciousness – hence more beneficial.
- Choose a topic whose length fits into your timeframe. As you have only a prescribed period to complete your paper, make sure your time can accommodate your chosen topic.
- Choose a topic that is relevant to your field of study/occupation.
NB: Choose a topic that is scholarly, not controversial or too technical. In addition, you want to choose a topic that you can inject fresh ideas into.
How do I Research for my Research Paper Topic? Research Paper Help
The next step is to dig into online and offline archives to research on your topic. There are many resources to look into: journals, web pages, books, interviews, documentaries, encyclopedias. Note some of these sources are more suitable for acquiring background knowledge about a topic. For valid research and insight into your topic, rely on books, journal articles, encyclopedias and online academic databases like Google Scholar and JSTOR. Do some preliminary reading which will enable you to form an opinion about the topic (this will enable you to formulate a thesis statement).
How Do I Research for Research Paper Topic on the Internet?
Typing keywords online and using the results that come up is not exactly the most suitable method for academic research. When it comes to online research, you should be skeptical about the source. Use these tips to perform an online research:
- The domain types: .org, .gov, .edu are reliable as they belong to academic institutions, the government, or organizations that specialize on that subject.
- Mix up your search keywords to obtain varied results – enter several variations of the same question. Also, if you are getting an overwhelming number of results, enter more specific keywords words in the search box. If you are getting too few results, try entering more search words in the search box.
- Use a variety of search engines to gain access to the innumerable web pages on the web, go beyond Google. Many students find these useful: AltaVista, Yahoo, Bing, and Galileo.
How Do I Research for Research Paper Topic on Academic Databases?
Search engines like Google Scholar and academic databases, e.g. Academic Journals Database contain thousands of peer-reviewed or published journals, magazines and books. Use your school’s membership to gain free access. Many databases cover a specific area of research, so look for the one(s) that covers your subject.
How Do I Research for Research Paper Topic in the Library?
In the library, ask the reference librarian about material regarding your subject and related sources.
- Use your library’s card catalog to locate books covering your topic.
- Where your find a useful source, look at adjacent books as these are likely to contain related information
- Check sources listed in the references section of a source that has useful information. These possibly will contain information that you might find valuable too.
How Do I Develop a Thesis Statement for my Research Paper?
A thesis statement is an assertion of your stance on the topic, a declaration of sorts about the position that you are taking on the issue.
It is the central idea of your research paper, and the body of your research will attempt to prove its validity. A thesis statement will normally be in the introduction part of your paper. Your thesis must make a strong and directional statement, as it guides the reader on the direction of your research paper. A thesis is like a lighthouse that guides the reader to the shore – signifying its importance in a research paper.
What are the attributes of a good Thesis Statement for a Research Paper?
A good Research Paper Thesis Statement should be Disputable
A good thesis statement must not be something that is irrefutable. It should present an idea that is subject to debate or agreement. It cannot be a fact.
e.g., Indisputable; Barack Obama was the first African American president of the United States.
(This statement is a fact, and therefore not a good thesis statement)
e.g., “Disputable: Population control is the only way to save our planet.
(This statement would cause a divide in opinion; it is a good thesis statement)
A good Research Paper Thesis Statement should be confident and in absolute terms
A good thesis statement is expressed in confident and absolute terms. Anything less merely weakens your position. Avoid such phrases as “I think”, “I am of the opinion”, “I believe” etc.
e.g., Weak: In my opinion, language influences human behavior
Confident: Language is an influencing factor on how humans think and act.
A good Research Paper Thesis Statement should be Unambiguous/Specific
A good thesis must provide a definitive argument. Avoid vague language e.g. “bad’, “good”, “disgusting” etc.
e.g., Ambiguous: Corruption in Africa has resulted in bad things
Unambiguous: Corruption in Africa has resulted in poverty, poor health care, and general feelings of disillusionment.
A good Research Paper Thesis Statement should be Cohesive
A good thesis statement should be unified. Use connecting words where applicable to knit your sentence together e.g. although, actually, as a result of, etc.
E.g., Although many think of racism as an ill of the past, racism is actually still manifest today.
A good Research Paper Thesis Statement should be Non-Figurative
A thesis must be literal and explicit in meaning. It is not expressed in symbolic language.
Research Paper Note Taking and Preliminary Bibliography?
Things you will need: Your research sources and Plenty of multicolored index cards.
This is the stage where you gather information you will need to write the paper.
For online sources, print out the resources. You can also photocopy library sources to take them home with you. Write every single idea/quote on an individual note card – a different color for each subtopic.
Every time you take a note be sure to cite all information about the source. This helps you avoid plagiarism (very important), and saves you time from manually sifting through sources to look for bibliographical information at the citing stage.
Here are some suggestions for effective note taking and preliminary biography:
- As you read through your research i.e. printed online material, books, encyclopedia etc., make notes on what you think is important
- Write down your own interpretation of the information, ideas, and notes. Explain to yourself where exactly you will add them in the draft.
- Write copious and comprehensive notes in your own words. This will ease the process for you when you are finally drafting the paper.
- Highlight notable facts and phrases.
- If you like a direct quotation that you may use, write it down exactly as it is – including punctuation and capitalization. Note the page number.
- Because you will use the notes in the paper, as you take notes, (to avoid going back again) write down all bibliographical information for every idea, quote, just as it will appear in your bibliography.
For book sources, indicate:
Author: surname, first name, middle name/initial followed by Title of book, Publisher, Date of publication.
For article sources, indicate:
Author: surname, first name, middle name/initial followed by Title of Article, Title of Journal, Volume, Date of Publication, Page number.
How to Organize your notes in a Research Paper Writing?
For the sake of adding more clarity for the outlining process, you need to arrange your notes into categories according to topic. If you used color-coded notes, this process should be painless.
- Sort all the cards based on color(subtopic)
- Sort the notes in each color according to relevance – judge which ideas will be most pivotal to your argument and arrange them accordingly.
These will be your paragraphs. Note that it’s alright to have several paragraphs for each subtopic.
How do I Construct an Outline for my Research Paper Writing?
At this point, it is helpful to create an outline for your paper. This is an overview of your research paper. An outline helps you organize your thoughts logically and to smoothen the writing process. Write your outline based on how you sorted your cards i.e. from the weightiest to the least weighty ideas.
Where applicable, make sure to include in text citations at the end of each point to avoid constantly referring back to your research sources during the writing process. It’s possible to write your paper directly from your outline based on how organized it is, so you may want do a thorough job of it.
Below is an example of how an outline should look like:
a.) An opening sentence
b.) Sentences leading up to thesis statement
c.) Thesis statement
a.) Paragraph #1
-Supporting detail 1
-Supporting detail 2
-Supporting detail 3
b.) Paragraph #2
-Supporting detail 1
-Supporting detail 2
-Supporting detail 3
c.) Paragraph #3
-Supporting detail 1
-Supporting detail 2
-Supporting detail 3
- Opening sentence
- A reworking of your thesis
- Summary of key arguments
- Sentence(s) building up to the end (optional)
- Closing sentence
Your research paper is now beginning to take shape!
How Do I write a First Draft of my Research Paper? Research Paper Help
It is now time to write the first draft of your essay. Refer to your outline during your writing process. You can start by writing the introduction, although some people prefer to write the introduction last. Do what you feel is more convenient for you.
How to Write the Introduction of my Research Paper?
The stakes are high when writing an introduction. The introduction is the part that sets the tone for the rest of your essay, so you want to make a strong impression.
Features of a good Research Paper Introduction
- Announces the topic to your reader
- Contains an opening sentence(s) that builds up to the thesis
- Communicates the central idea of your paper i.e. thesis statement
- Sets the scene for the arguments corroborating your thesis statement
- Does not delve into main points of your argument
- Finishes with the thesis statement (this is not arbitrary, as it depends on the length of your paper)
Useful Tips for Writing a Research Paper Introduction
- Refer to keywords – this lends a touch of emphasis to your introduction. You can utilize several keywords in your topic. For example if you were writing a paper about ‘The effect of 19th century slavery on today’s race relations”, you would mention the words “19th century slavery”, and “today’s relations” in the first few sentences.
- Define any unfamiliar term or concept. If you suspect a particular term/concept may be new to your audience, you’re probably right. For example if your topic is “The pros and cons of human cloning”, briefly enlighten the reader on the concept of human cloning.
- Stress on the rationale. Briefly and precisely, clarify the significance of your new approach. Explain to the reader why they should care to read your paper. Why is it relevant? What fresh ideas are you presenting? How will your paper fill gaps in current knowledge?
- Should be as concise as possible. Avoid rambling words – these may create a bad impression of your research paper before it even begins.
How to Write the Body Paragraph in a Research Paper
This is where you articulate your main ideas and supporting arguments/evidence. The paragraphs contain all your research, your explanation of the research and reasoning. Follow your outline – start with the strongest ideas and place your less weighty points in the middle or near the end of the paper. Remember every paragraph revolves around the central idea – thesis statement. The number of paragraphs depends on the length of the paper.
- Build the paper around your Let the research play a supportive role for your essay.
- Support every idea you make with evidence. Make sure every argument you make is backed by facts from your research. When incorporating evidence, integrate it smoothly, rather than bluntly, into the context. When introducing quotes, always identify the source.
- Explain your evidence. Even if your evidence is really strong, merely quoting it without explaining to the reader why it’s important will do no service to your argument.
- Give commentary or analysis on every idea. Although you are citing other sources, the key is to give your interpretation based on the research.
- Use relevant quotes or statistics that add weight to your argument. Avoid using too many direct quotes though, as you want to preserve your own voice. Again, only use quotes that will have the most argumentative impact on your paper.
- Provide a seamless, unified train of thought to the reader by using conjunctive verbs and transitions within paragraphs, between paragraphs and between sections of the paper. Examples of these are: accordingly, still, thus, furthermore, indeed, nonetheless etc.
How to Write the Conclusion in a Research Paper Writing
Now that you have worked your way through the evidence, provided supporting ideas for your thesis, backed your arguments with evidence, it’s time to wrap up your research paper. When you’re writing the conclusion, ask yourself “so what?” The reader should be able to feel like they learned something new, or feel persuaded to subscribe to a certain school of thought. You want to deliver your conclusion with conviction – so avoid passive phrases like “I think”, “I guess” or “I suppose” etc., as they are not only unconvincing, they weaken your credibility.
Start by delivering a rewrite of the thesis statement (do not merely repeat it).
- Briefly recap the main points you covered throughout the paper.
- Move from an in depth to a broader level of consideration. Indicate the general implications of the issue.
- Return the reader to the context provided in the introduction.
- Perhaps suggest what can be done to solve the issue, or where applicable, indicate what area of the issue needs further research.
Revising and Editing the First Draft of a Research Paper
Give yourself a couple days off before revisiting the paper. This enables you detach from the material and hence examine it from a fresh perspective.
- Grammar and Punctuation
Check and correct any spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors.
Check and undo any contractions e.g. “can’t”, “don’t” etc. Check and remove any 1st person references. Check and remove repetitious or needless words.
- Sentence Structure
Ensure sentences are complete and have good syntax. Make sure your sentences are not too short or too long. Edit down any longwinded sentences.
- Paragraph Structure
Check the following: Is there a logical sequence of ideas in paragraphs? Is every main idea supported by evidence and your own commentary? Is there a smooth transition between your own words and direct quotations, within and between paragraphs?
- Citations and Quoting
Check the following: Do all direct quotes match the source in spelling, punctuation and capitalization? Are all citations accurate, is every idea attributed to the right source?
Consider getting someone else to proofread your paper, a second set of eyes might spot mistakes you overlooked. Act on their observations.
Writing the Final Draft in a Research Paper
After proofreading an editing the draft, compose the final draft. Your final draft should have should have a logical, coherent flow, no spelling, typographical or punctuation errors, and formatted as per your instructor’s guidelines.
Your final copy should have:
- A cover page containing your name, the title of your paper, and information on your major
- Clear formatting i.e. page numbers, accurate use of footnotes etc.
- A reference page/works cited page containing accurate bibliographical information of all your sources.
Parts/Components of a Research Paper
A research paper is one that presents the final product of an elaborate process of research, critical thinking, and evaluation of sources, organization, and composition. Such a paper changes as the writer explores, evaluates, and interprets sources that are relevant for a particular topic. It utilizes both primary and secondary sources, without whose evidence and support the paper would fail to present a logical and strong argument or analysis and instead transform into a purely encyclopedic article. The purpose of a research article is two-fold: to contribute to further knowledge in a particular field and to offer the student with the opportunity to expand individual knowledge on that field.
In terms of structure, a research paper needs organization to enable information to flow effectively from the general to the specific and back again to the general. In the context of this purpose of a research paper, several components or parts are important to include. The introduction and literature review sections serve to introduce the issue or problem of focus by offering general information. The methods and results sections offer detailed and particular information concerning the topic of study, while the discussion and conclusion sections deliberate on the findings in a broader context. Below is a more detailed analysis of these parts individually:
Components of a Research Paper: The Title
The title ought to be concise, indicating the issue or problem of focus in the paper. An ideal way to achieve this is to use keywords relating to the issue to design a heading that illustrates the paper’s focus and findings.
Components of a Research Paper: The Abstract
In constructing the abstract, it is essential to remember that the audience utilizes it to review the paper’s overall content quickly. In some cases, abstracts are subject to a strict limit on the number of words, thereby making them challenging to write. Abstracts ought to offer complete synopses of research papers. They should introduce the topic, identify the particular research question, provide a statement of applied methodology, and give a general statement of the results and findings. Since it is essentially a summary of the research paper, it is prudent to write the abstract last.
Components of a Research Paper: The Introduction
The introduction announces the overall topic from a broad perspective and offers basic background information. Towards the end of the introduction, the writer ought to narrow down to the particular issue or research question that he/she plans to explore in the paper. In essence, the introduction identifies the focus and purpose of the research paper and sets the rationale for the investigation.
Components of a Research Paper: The Literature Review
This section describes the previous relevant research and its findings, relating it directly to the research problem or issue of focus in the current paper. The review ought to be a synthesis of previous literature on the issue that the current paper focuses on as a way of building the context or background for the current investigation. Of particular importance in this section is an analysis of theoretical concepts and their application or relevance to the particular issue or topic under investigation in the research paper. It is also important for the student to ensure that the sources of information in this section (and indeed in the entire research paper) are credible, such as peer-reviewed articles in journals and academic books.
Components of a Research Paper: The Data Collection Methods
The methods section ought to describe the methodology and design that the student employs to complete the study. Generally, this section should offer adequate and specific detail to the audience, such that they could replicate the study. Some of the important details in this section of a research paper are the size and composition of the studied sample, the relevant variables (independent and dependent), the methods of measurement applied to data, and strategies to ensure the validity, representativeness, and generalizability of data.
Components of a Research Paper: The Results Analysis
In this section of the research paper, the student focuses on presenting the results of the analysis. The method or mode of presenting the results is dependent on whether the study was qualitative or quantitative. Some of the methods of presenting the results involve the use of tables, graphs, and statistical values. The focus of the results section is exclusively on outcomes directly related to the identified focus or issue of the research paper.
Components of a Research Paper: The Discussion of Results
The discussion section offers an analysis of the implications of the results presented in the previous section on the field of study and in relation to the research question. The focus of the discussion section should be on answering the research question or proving or disproving the hypothesis based on interpretation of the results of investigation. Other important things to include in the section include a statement of how the results relate to previous research findings (as analyzed in the literature review section), issuance of caution concerning the findings, a statement of potential areas for future research, and identified limitations of the study (issues that the student feels are likely to limit the credibility, accuracy, and validity of the study and its processes).
Components of a Research Paper: The Conclusion
The conclusion serves as a restatement of the salient points in the research paper. The student should focus on bringing everything together in a coherent statement of what the findings are and what they mean. The conclusion ought to be informative and stimulating to offer a forward outlook relating to the study and its findings.
Components of a Research Paper: The Reference Section
The references section is indispensable in a research paper to enable the student to give due credit to the sources of information in the work. Accurate referencing is important to prevent the charge of plagiarism (copying the ideas of other researchers). The format and style of references ought to match those applied in the main parts of the paper. Some of the common styles and formats of writing are APA, Chicago, Harvard, and MLA.
Components of a Research Paper: The Appendices
Research papers often contain one or more appendices. Appendices are extra materials relating to the content of a research paper to enable the audience to understand ideas, arguments, and other content in the paper more effectively. It is prudent to include these materials after the references when the materials do not fit well in the main body of the paper. Materials included in the appendices may include tables, summaries, documents, photographs, questionnaires, lists of terms, lengthy statistics, letters, maps, pictures, copies of historical documents, etc.
Congratulations for completing your research paper!
The following resources were consulted when writing this article: