Do not get stuck in an endless sea of sources, follow our guide to get the best grades possible for your paper.
- What is a research paper
- How to start a research paper
- How to outline your work
- Creating a bibliography
- Tips for the initial draft
- Editing your draft
What is a Research Paper
When writing a research paper, it is important to remember that it is different to an essay in that it includes information and ideas from other sources. Building on this information with your own conclusions is vital and being able to document the origin of information to avoid plagiarism.
Generally regardless of the type of research paper that is being written, it should represent a particular viewpoint or argument.
How to Start a Research Paper (Infographic)
Choose a topic
If your topic is not already given to you, then pick something that has meaning or interests you. The attitude you have towards the particular issue will be reflected in your research and overall writing. Make sure you pick an aspect to the topic as if it is generalized this can involve too much work and hard to focus on the 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
- Making prostitution legal having economic benefits
- 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
- Sexual abuse in the church
- 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 what is needed to be proved. The thesis statement is the whole belief you are trying to prove or disprove in the work.
An example of a thesis statement could look like:
“Marijuana has a number of medical applications, and this includes 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 lifesaving drug.”
Research as much as possible
A good way to start your research is by going to the library and also looking at already reviewed research including scientific journals and articles written by experts. This kind of information is more 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 your chosen topic will give good results.
Online surfing tips:
Thoughtful use of search engines is vital, therefore don’t only take the top three search results and trust these. Look through many different sites and get a feel to what information is correct and 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 so will be harder to find the required articles. Although lots of “.com” sites are valuable sources of information and still can be used, it can help with narrowing the overall search process to bear in mind what sites contain beforehand.
A good idea would be to browse online academic databases for more trustworthy source material. Some may require paid membership, but most universities have free access. These are much more beneficial as you can make your search more precise which will save you valuable time. Some good examples of websites to use are PsycINFO, Sirs and 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 file. This will be the basis for your works cited page. Write down the author, quote, page number and title of the publication used.
An example of a rough sources 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.
How to Outline Your Work
When creating an outline for a research paper, there are some key elements that need to be considered. This will make sure the work has the correct structure and the writing will become easier and also researching the topic. The best articles will have a well thought out outline to reference and build upon later on.
Here is a research paper outline template to use:
- I Introduction -
- A Brief history and background
- B Thesis Statement
- II Body -
- A. First point to argue (weakest)
- 1. Supporting findings
- 2. Any opposition
- B. Second point to argue
- 1. More Evidence
- 2. Opposing statement
- C Third point to argue (strongest)
- 1. Back up point
- 2. Contradictions
- III Conclusion -
- A Summarize the findings of each argument
- 1. First point
- 2. Second argument
- 3. Strongest Evidence
- B Restate the thesis
- C Concluding paragraph
When writing a research paper introduction, you should include a thesis statement which is the the belief or argument 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 can be included and also a brief description of how the thesis statement will be proven or disproven.
Although for some writers it might be easier to start with putting the arguments down first and then develop them into paragraphs. As you can always 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 commentary to the research as this will make it unique. Try to make the article flow well from one paragraph to another so that each paragraph doesn’t have an abrupt end.
When thinking how to write a research paper conclusion the key differences are that each of the arguments needs to be summarized. It is best to start with restating the thesis statement and then move onto the summarized points of the research. When writing the conclusion, it is important to tie up the results nicely of the research and give the reader a sense of completion. Also try to use the best choice words in the conclusion as this will leave more of an 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. 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 will also include a “works cited” page at the end of the document.
Chicago citation style was first adopted by Chicago University Press in 1906 and 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: 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.
Tips for the Initial Draft
Organise your material
Try to keep all the notes and evidence in order and perhaps employ some color coding system to keep track. Also order your notes and research to the outline that has been prepared this will help the writing stage.
Support each idea
It is crucial that every point made in the research paper has supporting evidence, otherwise it will not be valid and appear just as commentary.
Highlight areas that need more work later
If you go through the article and look for weak sections or points, you can mark these somehow maybe highlight them. After you continue 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 the personal touch.
Use paraphrase techniques or summarising
This 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
To make the paper seem like a continuous text rather than a list of paragraphs with evidence. Include good transitions between the paragraphs and utilize transition words and phrases like “all things considered” and “another.”
Editing your Draft
Wait two or three days to go back and check
Double check for any facts or figures that are wrong
Organise ideas to the outline, change outline if needed
Is the thesis proved well enough?
All supporting information cited correctly?
Check for grammatical errors and any repetition of words
Is there a sense of conclusion to the paper?
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Plagiarism - Take someone else's work or ideas, and passing them off as one's own. ↩︎