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What is a Research Paper?
When writing a research paper, it is important to remember that it is different from an essay. Primarily, it should include information and ideas from external sources, rather than the author’s creativity. Building your own conclusions based on data from various sources is vital, as well as being able to document the origin of information to avoid plagiarism.
Research Paper Types
Generally, regardless of the type of research paper, it should represent a particular viewpoint or an argument. A research paper can also be analytical or argumentative in nature.
Argumentative Research Paper
As mentioned previously, a research paper can be argumentative in its nature. This means that this type of paper is meant to support the author’s stance regarding a certain topic. All the arguments in this paper should be supported by various evidence, which can come from different sources. These sources include but are not limited to empirical data obtained from experiments, scientific journals, other credible research papers published in the past, books, articles, encyclopedias, etc.
Analytical Research Paper
In contrast to the argumentative research paper, an analytical research paper is focused primarily on analyzing the information about the topic of the author’s choice. It can also include information from various types of sources mentioned previously. However, its primary focus is on critical evaluation of the material and answering questions such as how and why a certain result was achieved.
How to Start a Research Paper
Choose a Topic
If your topic is not already given to you, then pick something that interests you. Research can be done on pretty much anything, depending on how far you are willing to go. The attitude you have towards a particular issue will be reflected in your research and overall writing. Make sure your topic is not too broad, as it can make it hard for you to formulate a thesis statement.
Some research paper topics could include:
- The effects of global warming in the animal kingdom
- Effective ways to reduce air pollution
- The effects of decriminalizing drugs
- The consequences of Brexit to the EU
- What threats do refugees have on a hosting country
- How do various religions oppress women
- The most popular new age religions
- How to prevent cancer effectively
- The importance of mental health
State Your Thesis
Try to write your thesis in just one or two sentences and think clearly about what needs to be proven. The thesis statement is the main focus of the writing and the research you will be doing.
An example of a thesis statement could look like:
“Marijuana has a number of medical applications, including the treatment of symptoms for epilepsy, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Legalizing the use of marijuana will greatly benefit the medical sector by giving doctors access to this life-saving drug.”
Notice that the second sentence of the thesis is a point the author is trying to make. In this example, the author’s job would be to answer how legalizing marijuana will benefit the medical sector. Conducting research on marijuana’s medical applications will enable the author to provide evidence that backs up the point he is trying to make.
Research as much as Possible
When you learn how to write a research paper, remember that a good way to start your research is by going to the library and taking a look at what has already been done before you. Review all the information you can find, including scientific journals and articles written by experts. This kind of information can provide a stable place to start from. It is generally considered reliable as it has been critiqued in the public domain already.
The Internet is by far the biggest possible source for any research paper, and surfing the net for information on your chosen topic may give you good results.
Online surfing tips:
- Thoughtful use of search engines is vital to gathering quality information. Therefore don’t just take the top three search results and assume you can trust them. Go through many different sites and get a look of what information can be useful.
- The website extension also can give clues to the reliability of the text; for example, “.com” and “.biz” are typically commercial websites trying to sell things. In this case, it may be harder to find the required articles. Although lots of “.com” sites are valuable sources of information and still can be used, narrowing the overall search process and bearing in mind the contents of the site can be beneficial.
- A good idea would be to browse online academic databases for more trustworthy source material. Some may require a paid membership, but a lot of universities grant free access to their databases. These are much more beneficial as you can search more precisely, and it will save you valuable time. A good example of such websites is Proquest. Searching for particular databases related to the topic is also possible, which can give you the most current search results - for example, using the APA website to search for a database related to psychology.
Create a Rough Bibliography
Note down all the sources that are used at first on a separate piece of paper or in a separate file. It will later be used to create your works cited page. Write down the author, quote, page number, and the title of the publication used. You can also use some note-taking methods.
A rough example of works cited page could look like this:
Author - Quote - Title of Pub. - Page number
Sigmund Freud “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved” Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873-1939 (1961) 10-12
Later on, it is possible to build upon this, but for now, just the essential details are needed to follow the outline of the research paper. Remember that depending on the format you follow, the works cited page will look a bit differently. When creating the works cited page, follow the format you choose for your paper.
Guidelines on Writing a Research Paper
Outline Your Work
Creating an outline is one of the essential steps in writing a research paper. It will ensure the correct research paper structure, and the writing will become easier as well as the research process you will go through. In addition, it will also let you know how to organize a research paper when you are done collecting your information. The best papers have a well-thought-out outline at their core to build upon later on.
Here is a good research paper structure outline template to use:
I Introduction -
- Brief history and background
- Thesis Statement
II Body -
- A. First point to argue (weakest)
- Supporting findings
- Any opposition
B. Second point to argue
- More evidence
- Opposing statement
C. Third point to argue (strongest)
- Back up point
III Conclusion -
A. Summarize the findings of each argument
- First point
- Second argument
- Strongest evidence
B. Restate the thesis
- Concluding paragraph
In some cases, you will have an abstract, which goes before the body of a paper. It shares a lot of similarities with the introduction, but it is presented on a separate page. Abstract gives the reader an idea of what the paper is about. It is mostly a requirement for publications in scientific databases; however, some educators may also require it. The papers tend to be long, and the reader may not have the time to go through each paper to find what they need. This is where an abstract can help identify what the paper is about.
When working on a research paper introduction, you should include a thesis statement. It should be your argument or an issue that is being explored in the article. Try to make it around one or two sentences long and think carefully about it as all the work that is done is based around this. With a research paper, details of the topic should be included as well as a brief description of how the thesis statement will be proven or disproven.
For some students, it might be easier to start with putting the arguments down first and then develop them into paragraphs. It is always possible to go back and adjust the thesis statement according to the research findings as unpredictable results can always turn up. It is best to present the supporting evidence with the strongest point last. Remember to write down the commentary to the research to make it unique. Try to follow all the research paper guidelines and make the article flow well from one paragraph to another so that each paragraph doesn’t end abruptly. The same goes for the sections of the paper, with some exceptions.
When writing a research paper conclusion, the key is to summarize the arguments provided in the body. A great place to start is to restate your thesis statement and then move onto the summarized points of the research. When writing the conclusion, it is important to tie the research results to your thesis and show how they support it. It will give the reader a sense of completion. Also, pay extra attention to the words you use in your conclusion, as this will leave a strong impression on the reader.
Creating a Bibliography
To avoid any possibilities of plagiarism, it is vital to list all the sources that have been used in the process of creating all the elements of a research paper. The best way to record all documentation is with a bibliography and can be done in different styles depending on the type of research paper.
Typically APA (American Psychology Association) will include a “references list” or “Bibliography” at the end of the paper. In-text citations need to be utilized, which includes the author’s last name, date of publication for the work, and a page number.
MLA (Modern Language Association), used widely in humanities, also adopts in-text citations and includes a “works cited” page at the end of the document.
Chicago citation style was first adopted by Chicago University Press in 1906, and it takes the form of two documentation systems.
Author & date style, mostly used by social and natural sciences, includes a brief in-text citation, which is expanded upon in the Bibliography section.
Notes & bibliography style is more commonly utilized by those in humanities, in particular literature and the arts. A note will be recorded in the footer usually and also an entry in the bibliography.
Regardless of what format you choose, make sure to style your paper in that format from start to finish. Consistency is the name of the game here when it comes to formatting your paper.
Tips for the Initial Draft
You are not expected to create a perfectly done research paper from the first try. That is why you will go through a phase of creating a draft of the paper. Firstly, it will give you an idea of what the end result will look like. Secondly, a draft will give you the opportunity to correct any mistakes and inconsistencies throughout the paper should you encounter them. When learning how to write a research paper and creating your first draft, keep the following things in mind:
- Organize your material
Try to keep all the notes and evidence in order. Moderate usage of color coding can help you keep track of all the information. Also, place your notes and research findings in accordance with the research paper structure outline that you prepared earlier; this will help during the writing stage.
- Support each idea
It is absolutely crucial that every point made in the research paper has supporting evidence. Without evidence, your statements will not be valid and appear as a simple commentary.
- Highlight areas that need more work later
You need to go through the article and look for weak sections or points that you can improve. Mark these somehow so you don’t miss them out later. Highlighting usually does the job. After you finish with the rest of the paper, it is possible to go back and further develop these ideas.
- Add commentary where possible
To make your paper stand out from the rest, add in additional commentary, possibly in the footnotes, to give your article a personal touch.
- Use paraphrasing techniques or summarising
It is a great way to avoid too long sentences that might start to distract the attention of the reader.
- Make sure the paragraphs flow well into each other
Make your paper look like a continuous text rather than a list of choppy paragraphs with evidence. Include good transitions between the paragraphs and utilize transition words and phrases like “all things considered,” “as well as,” “additionally,” “another,” etc.
Editing your Draft
Ideally, you want to have time to properly edit your draft. If you have not been procrastinating until the last minute, you will have sufficient time to complete all the steps listed below:
- Wait a day or two to go back and check your paper.
- Double-check for any facts or figures that are inaccurate.
- Organize the ideas in accordance with the outline and change the outline if needed.
- Do all your arguments lead back to your thesis? Is it supported well enough?
- Is all supporting information cited correctly?
- Check for grammar and punctuation errors as well as any repetition of words.
- Does the paper look finished? Is your conclusion done?
What Does a Research Paper Look Like
To get the idea of how a research paper should look like, you can visit the link. An example on the website will be a compact version of a research paper. It is by no means a paper ready for submission. However, this example should give you an idea of how to present your findings in your paper. Keep in mind that research papers tend to be much greater in size, and the requirements may vary depending on the assignment. Also, note that the example does not have the works cited page or abstract.
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