How to Write a Research Paper Step by Step [2021 Upd.]

Only two words, but you already feel a chill down your spine. A research paper is no joke. It’s a super detailed piece of academic writing where you analyze a chosen issue in-depth. The main aim of such torture is to show how knowledgeable you are and that your opinion can be a valuable asset for the field. 

However, you should worry too much about it. The secret to a fabulous paper is to break it down into small tasks! Therefore, to successfully finish this task and stay sane, we only need to answer one question: What are the steps to writing a research paper? Continue reading this article by Custom-Writing.org experts, and soon you’ll get the answer!

Research papers can be kind of compared to essays since they both share a similar structure. However, the kind of paper we are talking about here is much longer and more detailed. 

A typical research paper is much longer & more detailed than an essay.

Moreover, unlike with essays that present your writing skills, the research paper is needed to check your scholarly abilities. It makes sense that you would also need to spend more time looking through various sources and picking only the most credible ones. You need more self-managing skills to finish this assignment on time and with no stressing. But you can find everything you need in this short guide, which explains every step from getting ready to proofreading and editing!

👣 How to Write a Research Paper Step by Step

STEP #1
Read your assignment
The first step to writing a research paper is, of course, reading your assignment. Make sure you understand the formatting requirement, when the deadline is, and what you are asked to do.
STEP #2
Choose your topic
Now, you can concentrate on choosing your topic. There are many ways to come up with ideas, so it depends on what is more comfortable for you.
STEP #3
Do preliminary research
It’s time to take some time doing preliminary research. On this stage, you need to go through all the sources related to the subject.
STEP #4
Make a thesis statement
If there is any focal point of your research paper, this is it. Your thesis should be as coherent and logical as possible.
STEP #5
Outline your paper
Don’t skip writing an outline. Even though you usually see it as a total waste of time, the rest of the process gets much more efficient with it!
STEP #6
Make a draft
Write a draft of your research paper. The first version is never perfect, so you shouldn’t aim for it. Also, there is no need to start with the introduction; you can always choose any other part if it’s easier for you.
STEP #7
Revise & format it
After you finish all three parts of your paper, it’s time for the final touches. Revision and proofreading are essential parts of the writing process. They ensure that your work meets all the requirements and looks neat.

You’ll find more details on how to write a research paper in the below sections and in another useful article from this blog.

🕵  Step 1. Choosing Your Research Paper Topic

The first step to writing a research paper is to choose a topic. It should be:

✔️UniqueThe problem you choose to investigate should be broad enough that you’ll find new theories and experiments recently published.
✔️InterestingThe research paper you’re writing shouldn’t be boring. Instead, you need to find something engaging for you and your audience.
✔️RelevantResearch writing should correlate with your subject. Moreover, the primary step to finding your topic—read materials on your subject.

How to title a research paper according to your subject? Try rereading – you will find many exciting things in your notes to turn into a research paper title.

It’s also useful to read some works written by previous students. Ask your professor where you can find examples, and investigate their topics. It will inspire you to write a paper on an important issue.

🔎 Step 2. Doing Preliminary Research

How to start a research paper? By doing research, of course! In the beginning, you should determine where to find information. We have some tips on how to use the sources most effectively.

🌐 Use Google search keywords Find materials only on trusted websites. You can do this by Googling according to the following formulas:
  • “keyword” + nurl:.edu
  • “keyword” + nurl:.gov
🌐 Don’t use Wikipedia In the majority of colleges and universities, there is a ban on using Wikipedia as a resource. Don’t believe the facts it offers. Instead, search for information from trusted sources.
🌐 Ask your professor Everything from your topic to paper style should be coordinated with your professor. Don’t be shy to verify what research sources to use. At a minimum, you will know a couple of useful links, books, and surveys.
🌐 Use scholarly databases There are databases developed to hold information that is often used for academic writing. They are perfect for college and university students. For example, you can use JSTOR, Google Scholar, or Academic Search.

❗  Step 3. Making a Thesis Statement

While analyzing the sources, try to take some notes and put down any questions that pop up in your head. For instance, if there is something you think is worth mentioning in your research paper, write it in the form of a question. This way, you prepare for the next step, which is creating a thesis statement. And if you already decided on a research question, this statement should be able to answer it.

You need a decent thesis statement because it serves as a central element of your writing. Essentially, it allows your readers to understand the purpose of the paper.

An effective thesis statement should be short but coherent and comprehensive. You need to describe your main arguments and briefly mention the evidence in only a couple of sentences. Typically, it is written at the end of the introduction.

It doesn’t have to be the final version since you can make changes throughout the whole writing process. As you conduct more research, you may find more ideas for the paper. However, even the version you create right now can serve as a guide later. While you’re working on the research paper’s main body, make sure every paragraph supports the thesis statement. It is vital that all of your arguments relate to it.

📑 Step 4. Making a Research Paper Outline

If it’s your first writing assignment of this type, perhaps, parts of a research paper aren’t familiar to you. Below all the categories that should be present in a research paper outline.

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References

✒️ Step 5. Drafting Your Research Paper

Now it’s the time to start writing your paper. We collected several techniques and tricks that will help you write all of the outline components listed above.

Research Paper Title

Many students face this problem: you have a research paper topic and even some written material but don’t know how to title your work. If you don’t develop a good research title, the pages don’t make any sense. What are you creating? Why is this important? The audience will ask many questions. But it is you who actually should ask yourself first.

What am I investigating?
What strategies and techniques do I use?
What are the results of my work?

Then combine the answers you get into a clear, informative title for a research paper.

Research Paper Abstract

The abstract isn’t a typical section for students who only write essays. So it may be a challenging task. Let’s look at the main characteristics of a good abstract:

✔️InformativeWrite about your investigation. What results do you plan to get? What subject do you describe?
✔️BriefThe abstract for a research paper should be compact and precise. Try to avoid vague explanations and wordiness.
✔️CriticalDon’t overestimate your work. Don’t sell your ideas. Stick to a critical approach—tell about the advantages and flaws of your research.

Research Paper Introduction

The introduction to a research paper is your first chance to make a great impression on the audience.

For success writing an introduction to a research paper, make it perfect with the help of:

✔️OrganizationThe introduction is a reflection of your whole work. Structure this section by paraphrasing the main ideas of the paper.
✔️FocusA research paper writer builds all the text around the fundamental idea. Focus on your topic and decisions about the problem.
✔️BrevityConcise use of words is a standard feature of a great introduction. Make sure every sentence you include in this section has importance and can’t be deleted.
✔️HonestyDon’t be shy to mention the weaknesses of your academic writing. Everyone understands that a regular student can’t develop a perfect investigation because of certain limitations.

Methods Part of a Research Paper

Some call the methods section of a research paper the core of the writing. Its importance relates to the fact that all the tools of your investigation are listed here.

What can you include in the methodology of a research paper?

✔️InterviewA discussion with a specialist is a professional way to make your paper valuable. Plan all the questions, details, and location before meeting the person who gives you an interview.
✔️Documentary analysisWhat is a research paper without the investigation of documented resources? Be careful when choosing the materials—they must be relevant to the topic and trusted.
✔️SurveyWhat does a research paper look like? It’s a combination of investigation, statistics, and experiments. That’s why you should add some surveys to show facts, not only theory.
✔️ObservationObservation is a real experiment. It makes your research more valuable, and also—it’s a lot of fun. Put all your results in a special table you create that shows the data.

Research Paper Results

The results of a research paper show the outcome of your work. To develop an excellent scientific research paper, you should prepare your surveys and investigations so the results will be effortless to formulate.

Here are the main tips on how to do it:

✔️Show the factsInclude all the results of statistics and surveys to show the audience the scientific facts.
✔️Don’t avoidnegative resultsNever avoid negative results. They aren’t mistakes in your academic writing. They’re an outcome of your research work.
✔️Check the hypothesesLook carefully at what hypotheses you applied. Comment on each of them, was it proven or not, and by what methods.

Discussion Section of a Research Paper

To write the discussion section of a research paper, find some points that will state your ideas. You should talk about:

  • Findings
  • Results
  • Explanations
  • Limitations
  • New ideas
  • Future directions

This is a section where self-criticism takes place—you can’t draw a good conclusion if you don’t evaluate your work with all its advantages and flaws. It would help if you also showed in this paragraph whether your research proved the results of other specialists or not.

Research Paper Conclusion

The question of how to end a research paper is an important one. You may think: We’ve already had a results section; why do we need a conclusion? A conclusion for a research paper doesn’t only show your achievements. The main function of this section is to leave the reader with a final impression. For example, you can invoke in people the desire to be more conscious of nature by sharing the facts about global warming.

Research Paper References

It’s always essential to write a bibliography, noting every article, book, or lecture that helped develop your project. When writing a reference page for a research paper, make sure you’re following the chosen format, such as APA or MLA style. Incorrect formatting can lead to a lower grade and less value to your paper.

The reference section is a challenging part. Each type of source should be written according to its specific rules. If you have any doubts on how to make the references, take a look at our APA and MLA research paper samples in the corresponding section. And the next one contains useful links that will help you format your research paper.

🔤 Step 6. Revising and Formatting Your Research Paper

The format of a research paper varies depending on the college or university you’re writing for. Be careful to follow the instructions your professor gives. You’ll know what length you should make your writing, what style to use for quotations and references, how to make a title page, and so on.

If you want to learn more about paper editing and revising, feel free to read this article. We also developed detailed guides on MLA and APA styles. You can use them for your research paper. The examples of how to properly cite books can be downloaded on your computer to use whenever it’s needed:

How to Cite Books in MLA

How to Cite Books in APA

😸 Research Paper Examples

Below you’ll find two research paper examples. The first one is APA, and the second is MLA. Note that the full versions of the texts are downloadable for free!

Example #1: Child Abuse in Low-Income Families in the US (APA)

Example:

Child abuse is more prevalent in low-income families when compared to other populations in the United States. The global prevalence of this issue is at 22.3%, and the people living in poverty experience abuse as children more often when compared to others (Levely et al., 2017). Among the effects of child abuse on a person’s wellbeing, there are mental health problems, including trauma and low resilience to suicidal behavior. Additionally, physical health problems, for instance, chronic inflammation, are also associated with child abuse. However, there is no single intervention strategy that would target child abuse mitigation, which was tested and proven effective by multiple studies because this issue requires more research to define the exact causes. This study examines the different causes of child abuse in low-income families in the United States.

Business Ethics: The Discipline's Significance in the Current Socioeconomic Climat
Download the free sample

Example #2: Business Ethics (MLA)

Example:

Business ethics is a rapidly developing and promising academic field. Although some of its forms can be traced back to the earliest trading practiced in prehistoric human society, as a full-fledged discipline, it emerged in the second half of the last century (Wood 627). The discipline’s main objective is to equip entrepreneurs and managers with instruments allowing them to make more responsible decisions. The notion appeared to replace business philosophy in which the “greed is good” mantra dominated till the 1990s (Wood 632). The discipline will be investigated in the context of its relevance and applicability in the modern business. Business ethics is an indispensable academic field and instrument that prompts a company to reach the desired growth without employing morally dubious methods.

Child Abuse in Low-Income Families
Download the free sample

✏️ Research Paper FAQ

❓ Can you use personal experience in a research paper?

It could be useful to describe your personal experience in a research paper if you are considered a recognized expert in the field. Otherwise, you shouldn’t do it since the evidence and facts you use to support the arguments need to be strong. Therefore, it would only be wise to use trustworthy and respectable outside sources.

❓ How do you write a criminal justice research paper?

Writing a criminal justice research paper is easy if you follow our step-by-step guidelines. You only need to concentrate on the chosen field of study to pick the topic, and the rest of the process is explained!

❓ What is the first step in developing a research paper?

Before you start picking up a topic for your research paper, it would be wise to spend an extra minute and reread the requirements. It could help you set the right objectives and prevent any future mistakes if you misunderstood the task.

❓ What section of a research paper should contain the main idea?

The basic structure of any paper consists of an introduction, main body, and conclusion. You should always put your thesis statement, which describes your research paper’s main idea, at the end of the first part.

🔗 References

Comments (2)

Swati Rapotra
Swati Rapotra

You have discussed all the topics which I need. Thanks for sharing it

Custom Writing
Custom Writing

You’re welcome, Swati! Thanks for stopping by.