A research paper is a common form of academic writing. Research papers require students and academics to locate information about a topic (that is, to conduct research), take a stand on that topic, and provide support (or evidence) for that position in an organized report. The term research paper may also refer to a scholarly article that contains the results of original research or an evaluation of research conducted by others. Most scholarly articles must undergo a process of peer review before they can be accepted for publication in an academic journal. The common question that pops in mind after hearing about the subject is “how to write a research paper?”. Although the research paper format is standardized, writing guidelines may vary not only among academic institutions but also among individual professors. Pay attention to any how-to handouts you’ve received, and don’t forget to check your university’s writing lab for more resources. Furthermore, in this article, we will discuss all details about writing a research paper.

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What is a Research Paper

Any paper requiring the writer to research a particular topic is a research paper. Unlike essays, which are often based largely on opinion and are written from the author’s point of view, research papers are based on fact. A research paper requires you to form an opinion on a topic, research and gain expert knowledge on that topic, and then back up your own opinions and assertions with facts found through your thorough research.

The goal of a research paper is to bring together different views, evidence, and facts about a topic from books, articles, and interviews, then interpret the information into your writing. It’s about a relationship between you, other writers, and your teacher/audience.

A research paper will show two things: what you know or learned about a certain topic, and what other people know about the same topic. Often you make a judgment, or just explain complex ideas to the reader. The length of the research paper depends on your teacher’s guidelines. It’s always a good idea to keep your teacher in mind while writing your paper because the teacher is your audience.

Outline of a Research Paper

A major difference between a research paper and a thesis is that the former presents certain facts that have already been **researched and explained by others, whereas the latter starts with a certain scholarly question or statement, which then leads to further research and new findings. This means that a thesis requires the author to input original work and their findings in a certain field, whereas the research paper can be completed with extensive research only.

Another difference between a research paper and a thesis is that a research paper in a scholarly context is usually part of a subject or requirement for a class, and does not count as a separate subject, whereas the thesis is usually considered as a separate module, requiring supervision of a professor or other academic of the university, and being graded separately.

Expert Tips about how to write a Research Paper

In this section, we will discuss the process of writing research from thought initiation to completion. As we dig into it, we see that primarily there are three stages for doing a research paper. These stages are:

  • Prewriting
  • Writing
  • Revising

While most people start with prewriting, the three stages of the writing process overlap. Writing is not the kind of process where you must finish step one before moving on to step two, and so on. Your job is to make your ideas as clear as possible for the reader, and that means you might have to go back and forth between the prewriting, writing, and revising stages several times before submitting the paper.

1. Prewriting

Thinking about a topic

The first thing you should do when starting your research paper is to think of a topic. Try to pick a topic that interests you and your teacher — interesting topics are easier to write about than boring topics! Make sure that your topic is not too hard to research, and that there is enough material on the topic. Talk to as many people as possible about your topic, especially your teacher. You’ll be surprised at the ideas you’ll get from talking about your topic. Be sure to always discuss potential topics with your teacher. Places you can find a topic: newspapers, magazines, television news, the World Wide Web, and even in the index of a textbook!

Narrowing down your topic

As you think about your topic and start reading, you should begin thinking about a possible thesis statement (a sentence or two explaining your opinion about the topic). One technique is to ask yourself one important question about your topic, and as you find your answer, the thesis can develop from that. Some other techniques you may use to narrow your topic are jot lists; preliminary outlines; listing possible thesis statements; listing questions; and/or making a concept map. It also may be helpful to have a friend ask you questions about your topic.


After you’ve thought, read, and taken notes on your topic, you may want to revise your thesis because a good thesis will help you develop a plan for writing your paper. One way you can do this is to brainstorm — think about everything you know about your topic and put it down on paper. Once you have it all written down, you can look it over and decide if you should change your thesis statement or not. If you already developed a preliminary map or outline, now is the time to go back and revise it. If you haven’t developed a map or outline yet, now is the time to do it. The outline or concept map should help you organize how you want to present information to your readers. The clearer your outline or map, the easier it will be for you to write the paper. Be sure that each part of your outline supports your thesis. If it does not, you may want to change/revise your thesis statement again.

2. Writing

A research paper follows a standard compositional (essay) format. It has a title, introduction, body, and conclusion. Some people like to start their research papers with a title and introduction, while others wait until they’ve already started the body of the paper before developing a title and introduction.
Some techniques that may help you with writing your paper are:

  • Start by writing the thesis statement
  • Use a free writing technique
  • Follow the outline or map
  • Pretend you are writing a letter to a friend, and tell them what you know about your topic
  • Follow the topic notecards
  • If one is having difficulties thinking of what to write about next, you can look back at the notes that you have from when you were brainstorming for your topic.
3. Revising

The last (but not least) step is revising. When one is revising, look over your paper and make changes in weak areas. The different areas to look for mistakes include content– too much detail, or too little detail; organization/structure (which is the order in which you write information about your topic); grammar; punctuation; capitalization; word choice; and citations.

Revision Guidelines

  • The audience understands your paper.
  • The sentences are clear and complete.
  • All paragraphs relate to the thesis.
  • Each paragraph explains its purpose clearly.
  • You do not repeat large blocks of information in two or more different paragraphs.
  • The information in your paper is accurate.
  • A friend or classmate has read through your paper and offered suggestions.

After you are satisfied with the content and structure of the paper, you then can focus on common errors like grammar, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, typos, and word choice.

FAQs about writing a Research Paper

Frequently Asked Questions

How to write an introduction for a Research Paper?

In a research paper—an introduction does three things:

  • Introduces your topic
  • Reviews the literature of your topic
  • States your hypotheses or research questions

How to write a conclusion for a Research Paper?

How to write an abstract for a Research Paper?

How to write a Research Paper outline?

 How to write a thesis for a Research Paper?

How to write a literature review for a Research Paper?

How to write the methods section of a Research Paper?

How to write a proposal for a Research Paper?

How long does it take to write a Research Paper?

How to write a Research Paper Fast?

How to write a problem statement for a Research Paper?

How to write references for a Research Paper?

How to write a bibliography for a Research paper?

Additional Resources for writing a Research Paper

We have already discussed the process and steps required to write a research paper. In this section we look at the environment required to write a good research paper.

Find a Good Writing Environment

Before sitting down to get started on your last-minute task, make sure you set up an environment that is conducive to getting your work done. Things you want to consider:

  1. Distraction-free: Choose somewhere quiet and distraction-free. You will have to stay focused for a few hours, so you’ll want to choose a comfortable setting.
  2. Good lighting: Along with comfort, make sure you have adequate lighting to read and write.
  3. Go somewhere studious: Perhaps, if time permits, you can choose to work somewhere like a library or a study lounge.
  4. Bring just your supplies needed: Even if you work at home, make sure you set up a table with only the supplies you need, to limit distractions. This could include a computer, tablet, pen, paper, highlighter, books, and sticky notes. Plus, don’t forget water!
Tips to Avoid Procrastination

Writing a last-minute paper, especially one that involves research, is stressful and less than optimal. Instead of finding yourself in this position, you can follow this advice to avoid such a situation.

  1. Start early: Once you’re given the prompt, start thinking about what you want to write about. You can write down ideas on paper and investigate the research that supports each point.
  2. Outline first and take breaks: Begin outlining your paper so that when you sit to write, you already have the bulk of it prepared. If you start early, you will have the advantage and ability to take breaks. This helps to revisit your argument with a clear head and potentially see things that you may have otherwise missed.
  3. Ask for help if you need it: Starting early means that you are not crunched for time. So, you have the added benefit of asking for help. You can solicit advice from friends, peers, familiar professors, teacher assistants, the online community, and more. Plus, when you finish writing your paper, you have time to ask for help from someone other than you to read it over and edit it.
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