Research Paper

Updated: Nov 7, 2016

A research (or term) paper is an extensive research which is a culmination of a significant study or a body or work a student necessarily faces in his/her academic career. Usually carried out at post-secondary level, this kind of writing requires a more abstract, critical, and thoughtful level of inquiry than one can be used to. By writing a research/term paper you actually show your mastery over the subject, your ability to incorporate theory into practice, to analyze, compare, think critically and go beyond the obvious.

What Is a Research Paper?

A research paper is the culmination product of an involved process of critical thinking, research, organization, composition and source evaluation. In other words, it is an extended essay that presents your own interpretation or argument or evaluation of the information you discover with absolute documentation of the sources. When writing a research paper, you build upon your thought about the question and making a purposeful attempt to find out what experts write or know.

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Research Paper: Its Basic Structure and Outline

Most courses in the university involve some extended writing assignments, often in the form of a research paper. The papers always require a student to identify a broad area of research related to the course. Becoming an experienced researcher in any field takes a great deal of practice. Remember, even the most seasoned academic writers had to learn how to write a research paper at a given time of their career. Here is the basic structure and the outline of a research paper:

  • The title page

The title should tell the reader what to expect in your research paper, addressing keywords that will be used in the literature review. It must include the author (s): full name and affiliation for persons who might have questions about the research.


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  • Abstract

The abstract is used by readers to quickly review the overall content of your research paper. It should provide a complete synopsis of the research paper, introduce the topics and specific research questions. It must provide a statement regarding the methodology and the general statement about the finding and results. It is often written last because it is the summary of the whole research paper.

  • Introduction

It introduces the overall topic and provides the basic background information. Introduction narrows down the research questions relating to your study. It either gives the focus and purpose for the rest of your research paper or sets up the entire justification for the research paper.

  • Methods

This section describes the methodology and research design used to complete the study. For instance, you should provide the context and setting of the study, population if applicable, specify the study design, identify the main study variables, sampling strategy, outline analysis methods and data collection procedures and instruments.

  • Results

What did you find? This section focuses only on results that are related to your research question, and not their significance. However, the results presented will depend on whether the study was qualitative or quantitative. Tables and graphs should only be used when you have too much data that cannot be efficiently included within the text.

  • Discussion

Give information that interprets your results like the main finding of the study, strengths, and limitation of the results, practice and policy implications of the results. The hypothesis should be to give the answers as validated by your interpretation of the results. It should also discuss how your findings relate to the previous research.

  • Conclusions

Do not mention the discussion or the data. State inferences, hunches or speculation and offer the perceptions of future work.

  • References/Bibliography

Here, you ensure you cite all the references made in your paper to other sources of information and research studies. This should be laid out according to the specified format, including APA, MLA, Chicago, Oxford and other formats as directed by your professor.

How to Write a Successful Research Paper

A research paper is your thought on a given topic, informed by the research you have done. It is a daunting process for both new and experienced writers alike. Here is our step by step guide to help you keep focused down to the path of a successful research paper.

  • Getting started

Sit down with your computer and identify tasks and build a schedule. Identify the milestone for all steps involved in research and writing process. Check your final due date, and take some time to scheme the task ahead of you before you get started. Ensure you understand your assignment: type, format, and length.

  • Select a topic

The topic of the research paper is what you want to write about. Narrow the topic by reading the background articles on general references, the internet, magazine, encyclopedia or talk to your professor and peers, while jotting down main ideas.

  • Set your objective

Before you start your research, you need to compose a thesis statement, which describes your viewpoint concerning the research. Because your aim is to prove the validity of your thesis, your thesis statement offers a controlling idea that will enable you to choose the resource materials and limit your note taking.

  • Research and note taking

List the potential sources of information. Apart from the card catalog and guides for reference books, there are other important sources that can help you locate books and articles relevant to your topic. Often look for unique sources that can distinguish and strengthen your paper.

  • Create an outline

Your outline should reflect the organization format you have selected for your paper, depending on the topic and the thesis statement. It is a process of organizing your thoughts to help you write your research paper. Consider what points you will include, the introduction, the order of the points and how you plan to conclude.

  • Write the draft

After you have completed creating the outline, you can begin to write your draft. At this point, you need not to worry about the grammar, spelling, typos, and style. Instead, you should concentrate on content based on your outline. It only consists of three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

  • Edit your paper

When you are through with the draft, edit it, paying close attention to the organization and content of the paper. Is each idea supported by evidence? Do the paragraphs have topic sentences that relate to your thesis? Are there clear transitions IN one paragraph to the other? Let your paper ideas or arguments support the research and structure.

  • Bibliography and citations

Give credit to the sources of ideas, facts, and quotations that have included in your research paper to avoid plagiarism. In fact, documenting your sources of information, allow your leaders to follow your thought process and see how you creatively built upon the thoughts.

  • Formatting

Depending on the formatting style your professor instructed you to use (APA/MLA/Chicago/Oxford/ more, the title page should be part of the title of the research paper, the instructor’s name, your name, the name of the course and the date the paper is due.

  • Proofread and submit

A professional proofreading is the last step that enables you to submit your paper in the best light possible. Don’t skip this step! Correct the grammar, spelling and punctuation errors, and mistakes that your system could not catch. Double check the formatting, plus bibliography and citations. If everything is right, submit!

How to Start a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is a challenge to many college and university students. One of the biggest problems for many students is how to get started. Choosing the topic and doing the research might be half the battle, but starting an introduction always proves to be a daunting task. If done effectively, starting a research paper would be simple and can help you write the whole paper quickly. Here is how to start a research paper:

  • Choose a topic and research it thoroughly

One problem most students run into when starting a research paper is failing to do proper research on the chosen topic. Research is not all about gathering resources; it involves reading and digesting the source material. Make sure you understand the topic.

  • Create an outline of your research paper

You must understand the direction of your research paper before you write an effective introduction. Your main aim should be to summarize the research in one or more paragraphs, without giving away the conclusion.

  • Draft the opening paragraph

Write several opening paragraphs, completing each independently. Write the introduction without directly relying on the structure, but it doesn’t mean you ignore your paper outline. You must look at the resource material when writing the introduction.

  • Choose the best draft of your introduction

Choose one of the best versions of your draft and revise it. Make sure you have the introduction ready before moving to the body of your research. The introduction should indicate its importance of the future research of your paper, summarize and describe the extent of your research.

  • Critique the introduction

Ask your friends, teacher or professor read the introduction: it must conform to the requirements of the assignment. Remember, a well-written introduction will automatically flow.

How to Write a Conclusion for a Research Paper

When you reach the conclusion of your research paper, you probably think there is hardly anything left to include, right! However, writing a conclusion for a research paper is crucial for anyone doing research papers. Here is how to write a research paper conclusion:

Research Paper Topics

Finding a research paper topic is one of the most challenging steps in writing a research paper. Focus on a broad topic, find topic ideas and be creative in the process. Here is a list of research topics you can use:
Business, crime and law, drugs and drug abuse, education, environment, family issues, media and communication, health, psychology, political issues, social issues, religion, women and gender and terrorism among others.

Generally, students have higher expectations of themselves when writing a research paper because they believe the paper has to be perfect. The paper should be clear and thoughtful, written to the point and say things that make sense. Research about what other scholars have written about the topic and the formulating your own theories and ideas based on the existing knowledge and data.

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