How to Write a College Research Paper

Updated: Nov 7, 2016

College Research Papers aim to incorporate information into an extensive paper that evaluates and analyzes this information to broaden their reasoning and critical-thinking skills and overall familiarity of an issue, subject or topic.

In the event a college student is given the assignment to write a Research Paper, it is crucial they keep in mind that this particular kind of paper is a bit more advanced, analytical, academic and investigative in nature than the kind of papers involving research they probably had to write in high school; research papers assigned in secondary school aimed to develop the student’s writing skills and their familiarity with the concept of searching for and the gathering of research. Those kinds of papers have the student providing just a general view of a subject – the life of Winston Churchill, the Bill of Rights, a timeline of the European Union. 

Not to say that college Research Papers are not aimed at developing the writing skills of the student – they most certainly are – but they aim to incorporate information (found in library catalogues, periodical indexes, bibliographies, primary and secondary sources, journals, books and other published documents, etc.) into an extensive paper that evaluates and analyzes this information to broaden their reasoning and critical-thinking skills and overall familiarity of an issue, subject or topic. 

In college or at the university level a student may be assigned a Research Paper where they have to complete an argumentative research paper, one with a thesis and evidence to support the argument they are making; if they’re assigned an analytical research paper, they must evaluate and use their logical reasoning to further the reader’s understanding of something.  

The practice of researching and analyzing information will not only serve the student well in college, where, as they take on more advanced courses, they will be expected to be proficient in writing Research Papers; the knowledge and skills learned from writing Research Papers will benefit them long after their academic careers. Knowing how to conduct research and think critically about information will help them become more self-reliant as they will continue to educate themselves throughout their own life. 

Steps to Writing the College Research Paper

STEP 1. The student must choose a topic that is, first of all, interesting to them, and one that is also manageable – meaning that it is able to be controlled and/or accomplished without great difficulty. 

STEP 2. In the library (and elsewhere if necessary and possible), find sources that are pertinent to the topic, ones that may provide a general understanding of its implications, as well as ones that provide a more in-depth, specific focus of the topic. 

STEP 3. Read, evaluate and analyze a variety of sources, while taking notes of pertinent information to return to when writing the paper. 

STEP 4. Keep track of the sources read and consulted and where the information in each can be found again. 

STEP 5. Develop a thesis – the point to be made about the originally chosen topic – and brainstorm ideas gathered from the research that can be used to develop the paper. 

STEP 6. Take all gathered material and make an outline that surrounds, develops and defends the thesis. 

STEP 7. Write the first draft using the pertinent information found in the search that supports the main argument, or thesis, the Research Paper is making. 

STEP 8. Revise as necessary; if possible or if needed, narrow the thesis if the student discovers the research has lent a change in perspective or understanding of the topic, or even an entirely new argument. 

STEP 9.  Document all sources of information used in the Research Paper; this will be used later in the bibliography or work cited page. 

STEP 10. Using revisions from the first draft, write the final draft and proofread before submitting to one’s professor or instructor. 

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