Writing a Research Paper: An Ultimate Guide for Students

Written by

Katy Grace

11 mins read
research paper

One of the most common assignments college students receive is a research paper. It can seem intimidating, but it can be a piece of cake with the right guidance and some organization.

The research paper is a staple of academia. It provides the opportunity to present your ideas while at the same time learning about what others have said on the subject.

So are you struggling with your research paper? Do you know where to start and how to finish? Worry not!

All these questions and more are answered in this ultimate guide for students who want help with their written assignments!

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to write a great research paper. After reading this, you'll be ready to get started!

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is an in-depth analysis and interpretation of the argument. It also involves finding sources that offer up possible information for your conclusions. It can be useful to future writers looking at topics similar or related to those covered by yours!

A research paper can be defined as academic writing that is usually done as an assignment for classes. It requires writers to conduct independent research and write about their findings scientifically. It contains facts based on reliable sources rather than creative ideas or feelings just put together.

What is the Main Purpose of a Research Paper?

Research papers are written to bring together different views, evidence, and facts from books, articles, or interviews. They're used to interpret information into your own writing so that you can share these with other writers or an audience of readers

Types of Research

There are two main types of research.

  1. Qualitative research
  2. Quantitative research

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Research Paper Format

There are two standard paper formats for research papers: APA and MLA. You must be clear which one will work with your instructor, as they vary from school to school in their requirements of formatting guidelines.

These two formats have some similarities, like mentioning the page number, table of content, or an abstract, but they also differ in many ways to make them unique. Whatever format is assigned, make sure you draft your research paper accordingly!

The following is an overview of the basic elements in research paper format:

  • Margins - When formatting text, leave 1-inch margins on all sides and the top/bottom.
  • Text Format - Use Times New Roman font in size 12pt for the entire piece except for headings/subheadings. Double-space your content and add interesting quotes, notes, or citations.
  • Headings and Subheadings - It's important to use headings and subheadings for your text to be easily readable.
  • Running Head with Page Numbers - Add page numbers at the end of every paper. Furthermore, the author’s last name should always be given before the page number and a period.
  • Work Cited - Make sure to draft the last page of your reference list following the expected format.
  • Figures, Tables, and Illustrations - You must provide sources (books/journals) for all of your tables and figures to add more credibility and interest.

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Research Paper Outline

A research paper needs to have a well-structured outline. Each component should be drafted professionally to ensure that your overall work is effective and structured.

All research paper outlines should include the following basic elements. Ensure your outline follows the guidelines provided and has all of these required parts.

  1. Title/Cover Page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Limitations
  5. Methodology
  6. Main Body
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

No matter what type of format you use, these are the key components that every research paper must include.

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How to Start a Research Paper?

Here is a step-by-step process of writing a research paper.

  1. 1. Choose a Topic
  2. The first and foremost thing is to come up with a topic you're passionate about. This research paper can take any direction that interests you, so make sure it's something worth spending time on!

    The right topic can make all the difference in whether or not your readers want to keep reading. Make sure that you're passionate about the subject matter and have importance on a larger level.

    Writing a paper on your field and discipline is the safest option. Other topics that can be researched include current affairs, controversies, taboos, new developments, and technologies.

  3. 2. Consult Credible Sources of Information
  4. Once you have a topic, it is important to consider where and when the information will be taken. You need facts that are true and credible sources of those details for your paper.

  5. 3. Create a Thesis Statement
  6. A good thesis statement will be the backbone of your paper. It's important to have one that communicates what you are trying to say and how it relates specifically to all those key points in the paper.

  7. 4. Conduct Research
  8. Prove your point by collecting and organizing the best evidence possible. Make sure you are considering relevant information to be convincing for an audience.

  9. 5. Identify the Audience
  10. One of the most important things to do when writing your research paper is to identify who you are targeting. Knowing who you are writing for can differentiate between a brilliant research paper and an uninteresting one.

  11. 6. Understand the Purpose
  12. Everything you write for academics has a purpose. Know and understand the purposes of your research paper to help create an excellent one!

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How to Write a Research Paper?

The first step to writing a successful research paper is knowing the process and structure. You need to understand where your story goes, what its thesis statement will be about, and include evidence for readers to follow along.

A well-written research paper can win you good academic grades and help improve your practical life. It is an indication that shows how intellectual, ambitious, knowledgeable, or creative a person you really are.

What are the 10 parts of the research paper?

Here is a list of the ten most important parts of a research paper.

  1. 1. Title Page
  2. A title or a cover page of a research paper is the first thing that readers pay attention to, and it makes all the difference. This page contains information such as the writer’s name, instructor, institute, and submission date. Also, this paper includes a title to help readers get an idea of what your work is all about.

  3. 2. Abstract
  4. The abstract is the highlight reel for your research paper. It should answer many questions and provide enough context so that readers know exactly what they're getting themselves into before diving in headfirst!

    It is a summary that gives an overview of the topic. It doesn’t include explanations or details about what's being researched but stays focused on answering one research question: ‘In simpler terms, how could we summarize this research?’

    An abstract has the following information:

    • What steps were taken for the study of the topic?
    • What method is used to conduct the research?
    • What are the main outcomes of the research?

    The structure in which this information will be provided should include a topic, key ideas, and results. It is important not to add additional details such as background or referencing procedures when writing an abstract.

  5. 3. Introduction
  6. The introduction should provide the reader with an informative overview of what they will be reading. It does this by discussing the major thesis statement and explaining any relevant research or theory supporting it.

    The introduction is divided into three parts.

    • A brief overview of the area you are researching
    • Add some background information on why it's important
    • And how your research will help contribute to that previous research

    To create an introduction that readers will enjoy and remember, include information relevant to the central idea.

    A good introduction to your research paper will have the following things:

    • Aims and objectives of the research
    • Technical details
    • Assumptions
    • Purpose
    • Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement is the main argument about your research paper that identifies what you think on a topic or subject. It also explains how well researched everything will be while giving an overview of key ideas and points when writing it up in detail later.

    Thesis statements are a great way to add structure and focus your paper. If you're not required to submit them separately, make sure that the introduction has an impactful thesis statement for extra strength!

    Gathering information is important for your thesis statement because it will naturally support the argument you're trying to prove.

  7. 4. Limitations
  8. You should always state what you will do in a research project before you start writing. In this section, the writer limits his research due to several factors. Anything that would have been gathered and researched is presented in this part of the paper.

  9. 5. Methodology
  10. One of the most important aspects of any research paper is organizing and presenting your data. This section discusses what methodologies you used to collect information and why it works best with your research.

    The most popular research methods are qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative data is used for subjects such as humanities or social sciences. On the other hand, quantitative is used for gathering data in concrete numbers and figures.

  11. 6. Literature Review
  12. A literature review is a form of critical analysis that offers an overview of the topic. It helps you understand what has been done before in relation to your research to be more useful for future work!

    In this section, the writer should present how research into its field has contributed and what was already known before.

  13. 7. Main Body
  14. The body of the research paper is where you summarize your findings and discuss them with a relevant introduction.

    To create a successful paper, all the information that you gather related to your topic should be organized in this section. The bodies of research papers organize and present data while making it understandable for readers. It provides an overview or summary of what has been done concerning their field study project idea/initiative's specific goals.

    This part of the research paper provides solid reasons to back up your thesis statement. These facts and evidence prove that you are right, which makes the main argument true too!

    A body is the soul of your research paper, as it's where you can lay out all the methods used to gather information and outcomes.

    In a nutshell, the body paragraphs contain these elements:

    • Information and facts obtained from research (including surveys, figures, etc.).
    • Points and arguments were organized and structured under headings and subheadings to keep a logical flow in the research paper.
    • Compelling arguments and evidence support real-life information.
    • The topic sentences are the sentences that explain what the paragraph is all about.
    • The research paper's central theme
    • The paper should be properly formatted and outlined.
  15. 8. Conclusion
  16. The conclusion of a research paper is just as important and often more opinionated than its introduction or body. It can be seen as the writer's stance on what they've learned from all their data collection!

    The conclusion of your paper should not restate any arguments already made. It can contain a rephrased thesis statement and whether or not the hypothesis put forward in earlier parts is proved out.

    The conclusion also starts a CTA (call to action) and makes the audience think about what they just read. If you believe further research should be taken, state its reasons with clear solutions for meeting any gaps in knowledge that may exist.

    The conclusion generally provides information in the structure like research objectives so that, key features, or ideas. And results are also included here!

  17. 9. Bibliography
  18. The work cited page is a list of citations and sources, which will provide more information about the research paper. Make sure you use credible material for this end-of-text segment since it is important to research objectives in ensuring accuracy.

    Plagiarism is a crime that no writer wants to commit, and by providing the source of your information, you avoid committing plagiarism. Providing citations with proper citation also improves credibility and authenticity in your writing.

    The citation styles and referencing formats will vary depending on the type of paper, like APA or MLA. Make sure you identify which format your paper is written in before drafting a bibliography for it!

  19. 10. Proofreading and Editing
  20. Make sure your research paper is flawless by proofreading it a couple of times and checking every minor detail. Before submitting anything, be sure to run it through a grammar checker and make any necessary corrections.

    To make your writing more engaging, try changing words and phrases that are difficult for the reader.

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Research Paper Examples

To write a successful, professional research paper, you should go through examples and works of others. The following are some easy-to-understand examples to help draft your own research paper.

Research Paper Outline Example (PDF)

Research Paper Outline Example

APA Research Paper Format (PDF)

APA Research Paper Format

MLA Research Paper Format (PDF)

MLA Research Paper Format

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Research Paper Topics

Struggling to come up with a topic for your research paper? Check out these great options from our list.

  • How does tobacco use affect the human body?
  • Tax cut as economic stimulation
  • How has the concept of feminism evolved over a decade?
  • Animal welfare in slaughterhouses.
  • Is donating organs in exchange for money ethical?
  • Children’s programming and advertising
  • The decline of communication due to technology.
  • Cultural expectations and practices
  • U.S. obligation to third world countries
  • Demand for beauty by society

Writing a research paper can be tough, but it's not as difficult once you know the proper techniques.

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