How to write research papers

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Writing research papers is inevitable for university students. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a writer, you love writing or you dislike writing. For you to graduate, you must put together a research paper in the course of your study in school.

So, what comes to mind when you think of research papers? Maybe it’s long boring hours of studying and writing? Multiple books opened? Multiple tabs open on your system? Sleepless nights with cups of coffee? Well, it doesn’t have to be this way! Knowing how you properly construct a research paper, the sections involved, and the tools you can use to enhance your writing will save you all those long and boring hours you are likely to spend. And this is exactly why we’ve published this article! However, before we explore the nitty-gritty of constructing a research paper, subscribe to our newsletter for more updates. 

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A research paper, what is it?

Perhaps you’re new to the college setting or maybe you’ve not even gotten admission yet but you’ve been hearing about research papers and will want to know more about it. In simple terms, a research paper is an academic writing that aims to provide a thorough analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of a given topic grounded in verifiable evidence. Research papers and essays share some form of familiarity, However, research papers adopt statistical data and anteceding research used with proper citation. They are important as they help share information across a wide range of people and they provide better insight and understanding on the topic being discussed. Also, they differ from research proposals as proposals are initially written to acquire funding for the actual research. It is also important to note that the language is formal, simple, and easy to understand. Findings are communicated plainly to pass across the message directly.

Typically, the length of a research paper is generally between 4,000–6,000 words. However, it can be less or more than that. Also, if you’re writing it for a school, the expected length is sometimes provided in the question.

Step by Step process of writing a research paper

We have curated a step-by-step guide to help you write an excellent research paper as a student. They are listed below:

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1. Read the question.

It is often common to see students jump on the question without even understanding the idea. They only realize their mistake when they get stuck along the way. This is why the first step is reading the question carefully to understand it so that you are aware of the requirements before you start. Pay attention to the specific instructions included in the question to help mentally prepare you for the whole process. 

2. Pick a topic

Perhaps you’re given the liberty to pick your most preferred topic to work on. Make sure you do so carefully. You must choose a topic you understand and you can work on. If you’re having problems picking the most suitable topic you can work on, consider applying the tips below: 

  • Pick a topic you understand and you are interested in. It might be something you’re passionate about or something you’re curious about. You can list out the possible topic ideas you have before finally settling for one. 
  • Make sure your topic is streamlined and doesn’t cover a broad range of areas. It will be difficult to write on a topic that cuts across a broad range of areas and you can lose focus. 
  • Your topic should fit the question description. You can also reach out to your professor to ask for advice. 
  • Discussing about the question with like-minded friends will also provide ideas you can work with. 
  • Don’t forget to also consider the 5w’s and H questions.(Who, Where, What, When, Why and How) 

3. Source for useful materials.

As soon as you decide on a topic and it has been endorsed, the next step is to start sourcing useful materials. To better understand the topic, you should read about it. Examine previous research papers centered on your main idea of yours and identify the similarities and differences. You can either source materials in the library or you can use online sources. Whatever source you want to employ, ensure it is credible and you also give proper citations when due. 

Also, skimming through previous papers and work to see if they will be useful or not will go a long way in saving your time in the process of writing a research paper.

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4. Create a thesis statement

From the information obtained in your sourcing process, proceed to write the thesis statement. Your thesis statement simply means a summary of the ideas of your whole research. You can read the thesis statement from related research papers that you have seen to give you insight on what to write. The thesis statement helps your reader grasp the idea of what your research is about. Additionally, if anyone wants to use your research as a guide for theirs, they can determine its usefulness by reading your thesis statement. 

5 Decide your supporting evidence

This is the part where you examine your materials again. However, this time around you are not skimming through. You’re studying to determine the usefulness of the research papers to your work. You can take notes as you go on but ensure you have a keen eye for detail so that you can identify the important points that will be useful in the research. Importantly, you should also identify the page numbers to make citations easy at the end of your research. 

6 Work with an outline

Additionally, it’s a whole lot easier to write when you already have an outline. Having an outline structure your writing, makes it flow, and makes it easy to read and understand. A research paper outline helps you to methodically and systematically structure your work. Some of the tips to help you draft a proper and effective research outline include:

  • From the information gotten earlier, write down a list of the important areas you need to focus on. You can also modify them to firm categories and subtopics to make your work near. 
  • Now that you have a framework, examine it again to determine how best to present it. Look at the one that’s supposed to come first, and the one that’s supposed to end the research paper and arrange them in that order.
  • Once you have arranged them, try grouping them to give your research paper a more structured outlook. 
  • Once you’ve done that, you can include little paragraphs underneath each point so you don’t go out of line, also remember to include the evidence as this is going to make the writing process easy for you.

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7. Start writing!

By now you should have enough information together with the outline to help structure your work. This has made your writing easier. At this stage, you can now proceed to write your first draft. This is the lengthy part of the whole process but if you have followed the guide from the beginning, it wouldn’t be much of a problem for you. The thesis statement you constructed, in the beginning, will help you draft an introduction for your research paper. Afterward, you proceed to the body where you include the other contents of the outline. 

Structure of a research paper

Typically, a research paper consists of the following parts;

  • Title/cover page: where the writer’s name appears, the day’s date, address, and other requested details.
  • Abstract: ranges from 100 to 300 words and it’s a summary of the whole idea of the research paper. It is often written last and it contains the research question, the significance, the methodology, and the results obtained. Ensure to construct it well to attract the interest of the reader and this is the first page they will come across before reading the entire paper. 
  • The introduction/statement of the problem: here you include the reason why you saw the need to choose the topic and the question your research paper seeks to answer.
  • Limitations of the study: you indicate what your research paper aims to do and the areas it doesn’t cover. Your research paper may be limited by different factors like time, personnel, gender, age, geographic location, nationality, and so on.
  • Methodology: you include the research method you used in the study. Was it qualitative or quantitative? Did it include handing out questionnaires or interviewing people?
  • Literature review: you discuss previous works done and how they relate to your research paper.
  • Body: this is the longest and perhaps the most important part of your research paper. Here, you include support for the thesis and then build your argument. This is the part where you do the work. Ensure that your words are clear and meaningful. There should also be a clear argument with supporting evidence. Unlike essays, you can divide the body with separate headings to make it readable. 
  • Conclusion: this is the part where you tie the whole argument together and provide an answer to the question asked.
  • Citation/bibliography: here, you properly acknowledge the sources you used in your research paper.
  • Appendices: contains suggestions for further reading. 

8. Properly cite your sources

Additionally, one important thing you shouldn’t ignore is a proper citation in your research paper. Citation validates your work. However, the question may include the citation style to be used and you will have to follow it. Academic research papers often use one of these two citation styles:

  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • APA (American Psychological Association)

Others include:

  • CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style), 
  • AMA (American Medical Association) and 
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). 

It may be difficult to comprehend the styles and use them at first, but when you read about them, you’ll know how to use them. 

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9. Don’t forget to edit and proofread 

Finally, before submission, ensure that you properly edit and proofread your research paper to correct any form of mistake. Examine the grammar used and ensure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes. Also, you can correct the structure so it better fits the idea and the writing flows from one paragraph to another. Ensure your work is clear and easy to organize. You can read it out loud to notice mistakes and then correct them. Alternatively, you can also give it to someone trusted to help proofread and correct it. 

Tools and resources used in writing a research paper.

Below is a list of the tools and resources you can adopt to help you write an excellent research paper:

  1. Google Scholar: can help you find related research papers and sources. 
  2. FocusWriter: an application that removes directing icons allowing you to concentrate on your research work. 
  3. Grammarly: an AI editor that helps correct or sometimes reconstruct your sentences to ensure its readable. It also checks for plagiarism, can detect the tone of your work, and more. 
  4. Google Charts: allows you to create charts and graphs thereby providing a visual aid for your research. 
  5. Evernote: allows you to jot down ideas, sort through research materials, and organize your research. 

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