A research paper is where you write an essay based around a research question. It’s important to find and present relevant information and analyze it, which will require some serious research. Writing a research paper requires knowledge of formal essay writing, but with the right information, writing a good research paper is not difficult.
Writing Your Academic Research Paper
Writing a good research paper isn’t just about your writing ability. You should be able to take dry research and turn it into something that is interesting to read about. The ability to inform your readers and leave a lasting impact is what makes a great research paper. Look at a research paper sample or two and note what makes them stand out. Then implement those elements (without copying) into your own work.
Start out by doing some research on your topic. You will have a question that needs to be answered and all of your research should focus on providing answers for it. Focus on looking for high quality information that will answer the question and prove your point.
This will help you decide what your main points will be. All your research should come from highly reputable sources, as opposed to wikis or personal blogs. Scientific studies and well-known sites, universities, and organizations are all good places to find your information.
Write down each of the main points you come up with and make sure you take the time to keep track of the sources of information, as well. All this will be added to the Resources section of your essay. Anyone reading the research paper should be able to find exactly what you are talking about by looking at the links to your sources.
Finally, write an outline for your paper. It will help you organize the information and keep it readable. Fit your research into the outline, making sure that everything you plan to write about is based around a single main point and answers the big question you have decided on.
Research Paper Format
Writing well also requires you to follow the research paper format. The most common styling is to have an introduction, three to five body paragraphs and a conclusion. This is the simplest method and it is the easiest way to ensure that your essay is properly formatted. Look at any research paper example and you’ll see that they are all written in this manner.
Each part of the essay has a special role to play:
Introduction: This paragraph doesn’t need to be very long, but it does need to introduce the reader to your research paper topic. You’ll want to include the question you will be answering in your essay in this section.
The introduction also includes a hook to draw your reader in and keep them reading, as well as a thesis statement. The thesis statement should be your main topic, or the point you intend to prove in your essay. Make it clear in this section why your topic is important and necessary for the reader.
Body: The main section of the research paper will give the reader all the information they require in order to understand the topic. You can make this part of the essay as long as it needs to be, but keep in mind that each paragraph should focus on a single main point. These main points will support the thesis stated in the first paragraph and should all work toward answering the research question.
As you write, incorporate facts from reputable sources in your work. This will make it easier for the reader to understand and believe what you are writing about. Without any evidence, you are just writing a personal opinion essay, so be sure to add plenty of evidence. All the resources should be tracked and you can list your sources at the end of the essay.
A great online resource for citation is Easy Bib. EasyBib's citation generator will let you cite in popular formats such as APA, MLA etc.
Conclusion: The final paragraph in your research paper should address the research question and provide any final evidence to wrap up loose ends. The conclusion must give the reader a sense of why the issue is important. You can also recap the rest of the paper here.
While the concluding paragraph is fairly short, it contains a lot of information. Keep in mind that this is the final impression the reader has of your research paper. Make it a good final impression so that they’ll keep thinking of it long after they’ve finished reading.
Types of Research Papers
Research papers are bucketed into two main formats: Argumentative and Anlaytical.
Argumentative Research Paper: Taking one side of an issue or topic is the central point of an argumentative research paper. Your stance is built into the thesis statement, which makes the argument you feel is more logical for the given topic. The biggest goal of this type of paper is to convince your readers to agree with your point of view by backing up your position with a logical argument supported by facts and information from credible sources.
Analytical Research Paper: A research question forms the basis of an analytical research paper. The question is neutral and provides direction for you to evaluate and explore the topic as it relates to answering the question. Your thesis statement presents the research question, and the remainder of your paper supports your thesis. Unlinke an argumentative research paper, you do not need take or argue a position in an analytical research paper.
Choosing Research Paper Topics
The topic of your paper is essential to its success. Good research paper topics will be relatively simple to research and should have at least a couple of studies done on the topic. This will give you plenty of information to use in your writing.
You can get research paper ideas from just about anywhere. Basic topic ideas may come from a research paper example or a class that you’re taking. While it’s not necessary that you be familiar with the topic, it will certainly help if you know the basics or are at least very interested in the research topic.
When writing a research paper, it can be rather difficult if you have no interest in the topic at hand. Choose something that you would like to know more about or are already familiar with and you’ll find it far simpler to write on a subject that you find interesting and you’ll need less research paper help.
The right research topic is the first and most important part of writing a good research paper. There are plenty of options for research topics. The most popular ones are:
Any topic you select should be one that you will be able to write about well. Obviously, you can’t always choose what to write about, if you are given a specific assignment, but in cases where you can, select something that you will enjoy writing about.
Finishing Up Your Research Paper
Once you’ve completed your research paper, it’s a good idea to let it sit for a day or two before revising. This allows you to come back with fresh eyes and you’ll be able to read over it and catch mistakes.
Another option is to have someone else you trust read over it. They can pick out any discrepancies and errors that need to be fixed before you send it off to your professor. In the end, you don’t want simple spelling or grammatical errors distracting readers from the actual content of your research paper.
The Basic Format for a Research Paper Proposal
If you thought you would be able to get through college without much writing, you may find yourself asking, “Isn’t writing a research paper enough?” No. In many cases, you will need to write a research paper proposal before you write your actual paper. Ultimately, your professors will grade your final paper on your ability to interpret and intelligently discuss your topic and be able backup your findings with solid evidence. To be able to achieve this goal, you need to provide evidence that you are on the right path with a well thought out research paper proposal.
Below is a research paper proposal template for you to use. You will need to fill your information into the [ ] brackets where I have instructions and tips for you. Keep in mind that your professor may have some different requirements based upon their preferences. However, the following fields should suffice for most of your needs.
Date: [Add in the date you submit the proposal.]
To: [Add in your professor’s name.]
From: [Add in your name and your email address.]
Subject of my paper: [Provide the broad topic for your paper.]
My Major and why writing about this topic will be beneficial to me: Write why you are specifically interested in this topic and how it will benefit advancing your education. As I state in another post, “Steps to Writing a Winning Term Paper Using Reference Software” you must have an active interest in your subject (amongst other things) otherwise you will struggle writing your paper and your statements will lack conviction.
My thesis: Keep in mind that your thesis should only be a sentence or two long and it is an answer to a specific relevant question; it isn’t a question. Often your thesis will be more effective if it answers a how or why question instead of a who, what, when or where query.
Approach to the subject of my paper: There are several ways you can present material in your paper in support of your thesis statement. Will you have to define certain terms? Will you include anecdotal evidence? Will you include opposing views and comparing and contrasting them to your views? You want to think of a logical, orderly fashion in which you will lay out your research paper so it transitions well from thesis to conclusion. Your choice of target audience should influence your approach.
Intended audience: Selecting a specific intended audience will define the level of education and biases of your readers. It will alter the information you include in your research paper and how you present your viewpoints. When selecting an audience, target a demographic that has your level of education, but doesn’t necessarily have your background or major. While organizing your thoughts, think to yourself, “What do I need to explain to this audience to help them understand this topic?”
Graphs or charts: Graphs and charts are a way to visually support your written analysis and data. They are not intended to be filler to help you reach your page count requirement. Most professors do not count them towards meeting that goal. Make sure you cite your charts and graphs from other sources using the proper formatting style.
Documentation Style: Your professor will usually assign the APA, MLA or other formatting style to you. If you are unsure what style you should be using, ask them. If they don’t assign a style, the type of class you are preparing your research paper for usually will. Don’t forget; when it’s time to write your paper, there are MLA and APA format software products that can greatly diminish your time formatting the document.
Kinds of sources I will use and why they will benefit my paper: Professors like to see a balanced approach to selecting types of sources for your paper. If you are struggling finding good sources for your research paper while creating your proposal, it’s a good indication you should pick another topic. When you state the types of sources you will be using, include how these sources will strengthen your paper.
Tentative List of References: Your professor will often give you a minimum number of references for you to include as a tentative list of references for your research paper proposal. This will be higher than the actual number of references you include in your final paper since you likely will not use all of those on your tentative list. Your professor wants to see if you know how to select appropriate sources within your field. Check with your professor if you need to get their approval to use sources in your final paper that you did not include on your tentative list.
David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com
Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).