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How to Write a Research Paper: Comprehensive Guide

How do I write a research paper that will earn me a good grade?

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What are the crucial steps to write a good research paper?

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As a student, you will often be required to write a well-founded research paper. However, challenging the task may be, writing the paper is easy when you have an understanding of your expectations and the amount of research you may need to carry out. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before writing a research paper.

A research paper is an academic paper that presents your analysis and interpretation of data, and also states your argument. It can be a term paper, a master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation. Unlike ordinary essays, a research paper is built around research rather than mere opinions.

This comprehensive guide will teach you how to write a well-founded research paper that will be able to earn you an A

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Part 1: Types of research papers

There are two major types of research papers.

  • Argumentative Research Paper
  • Analytical Research Paper
  • Argumentative Research Paper

    In this kind of research paper, you are required to state your position by presenting a thesis statement that is debatable. The paper intends to persuade the audience and gives points to support the view taken.

    Analytical Research Paper

    This type of paper starts with a question posed by the student. The student takes no stance at first but offers a critical evaluation of the subject matter. The writer, in this case, does not seek to persuade or present an argument, but provide an interpretation of the issue at hand. The analysis of the student does not negate other statements before but offers another opinion.

    Either way, learning how to write a research paper requires not only knowing the type of research paper but also dedication, time and strict adherence to, a proper guideline. Whether you need to write a term paper, a master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation the crucial steps in this paper will guide you towards writing a successful paper. If you use mails frequently, you should try its amazing.

    Part 2: Choosing a research paper topic

    The topic of your research paper is the first step on how to write a research paper.

    While general topics may be given, eventually, the student has to narrow the topic to a specific area.

    For example, if the research paper topic is the relationship between technology and terrorism

    You may decide to explain how technology helps reduce terrorist attacks or how it accelerates terrorism.

    When choosing a research paper topic, focus on areas that capture your interests, and are not too narrow or too broad to discuss.

    Remember that readers will also look at your topic to decide if your work is worth reading. The topic should spark curiosity among readers, but also allow ample research and discussion of the subject.

    For example, instead of writing about “Religion,” narrow it down to “Religion in America,” and even further to “Religion in California.” You can even narrow it further down to the specifics, i.e., “The Christian Religion in California.”

    Limiting yourself to the specifics allows you to reduce the volumes of information you have to read through and reduce the length of your research paper.

    Here is a list of research paper topics to get you started

    Curated List of Research Paper Topics to Get You Started

    Choosing a good research paper topic goes a long way to ensuring that you can score good grades. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best research paper topic.

    Part 3: Tips for choosing the best research paper topic

    Choose a Topic in Your Area of Interest

    First, consider linking the topic to your field of interest. It is easier to develop a research paper if you are interested. Writing a research paper requires dedication and taking interest in the topic creates necessary motivation.

    Choose an Innovative Topic

    Second, the research paper topic should be innovative. Instead of seeking the generic topics used by other students, give yourself an edge by developing a new discussion. This will not only captivate your readers but also earn you extra marks because your creativity will be evident. In addition, seek precision when choosing the topic. Precision creates a guideline for your research hence saving you time. Ensure that you stick to the topic to avoid ambiguity.

    Choose One with Enough Resources

    Also, make sure that you have enough resources for your topic before settling on it. Remember that you want your readers to see your mastery of the topic at hand. Carry out a quick computer search to ensure that your topic is not only discussed on blogs, but supported by facts in books, encyclopedias, and published sources.

    However, finding credible sources on your topic is not an assurance that writing your research paper will be easy.

    It is important to keep the research within your scope of understanding. If a topic is complex, a simple mistake could lead to disqualification of your research. Going for the toughest topics is not an assurance of being outstanding.

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    You can find information in books, encyclopedias, magazines, newspapers, publications, and on the internet. Ensure that all your sources are from certified publishers.

    As you surf the internet for information, focus on the domain extensions such as .edu(education), .org(organization) and .gov(government). Websites with such domains often provide researched facts.

    One of the key factors to learn when learning how to write a research paper is to avoid business websites that are often out there for advertisement, and may not give the sources of information. However, some sites may not have the standard domain extensions.

    You should, therefore, find out if they belong to established research organizations before you cite them on your paper. As you collect information, remember to write down the sources for citation purposes at the end of your paper.

    Part 4: Writing your research paper

    My celebrity crush is Daniel Gillies.

    I mean, have you seen that jaw?

    Have you seen him in a suit?

    If I was told that I am to meet the guy tomorrow, I would prepare, to the letter, the first words I would say to him. My facial expressions would probably also be tailored.

    Beginning a research paper is like the first words you say to someone you revere. You want to your words to be interesting, inviting and maybe even funny.

    This chapter will attempt to teach you how to start a research paper in such a way that you will arrest your reader’s attention.

    How to start a research paper

    Plan for Your Paper

    The reason most people get frustrated when writing introductory paragraphs for their research is the lack of planning. By planning, you give yourself a sense of direction, and this translates to an easier direction.

    Let me give you an example.

    Let us say that you are writing a research paper about abortion.

    Here, you are to break down the concept and handle the question of whether it is right or not.

    Since you are excited about it, you dive right into the paper.

    I mean, you are passionate about the subject of abortion, right?

    However, fifteen minutes after you have sat down to write the research paper paper, you are staring at a blank document.

    Use your school’s library both online and physically and look into as many journals and books as you can. Write down all the information that you deem both important and unimportant.

    On the topic of abortion, research its


    The reasons why people abort,

    Its legality in different countries and the risks accompanying it.

    You could even indicate the names of known personalities who have aborted. All information is important

    Methods to Use When Starting Your Research Paper

    Knowing how to start a research paper involves more than writing an outline or researching the topic. Depending on the information you have gotten, you can start your paper in either of the following ways:

    Using a Quote

    Have you read or heard a good quote that has impressed you and you feel will inspire your reader? You can begin your research paper using this quote. However, ensure that it is applicable to your topic. Don’t quote a line from one of Taylor Swift’s song in a research paper about business. Unless it applies.

    For example:

    “Laughter is the best medicine’ has to be one of the truest words that have ever been spoken.”

    Using an Anecdote

    Let us say you are writing a research paper on the biggest companies in Africa today. Maybe you have heard this cute little story about one of the CEOs of these companies and how he got to where he was. You can use this story to start your research paper.

    For example:

    “40 years ago, a little boy ran through the rough footpaths of his small village on his way to school. His stomach rumbled lowly as the hunger pangs seared through him. Breakfast in his house was a fantasy, lunch was a dream and dinner was somewhere between the dream and reality. His feet hurt as the shoes he was wearing could barely protect his legs from the harsh ground. Now, his feet probably lay on the table on the highest floor of the building that houses the headquarters of his company, the…”

    The story you give should lead you to the research paper that you are to write, and it should be relevant to the subject matter of your paper.

    Using a Startling Fact

    For a fact to qualify as startling, it has to be unique. Also, for you to use a startling fact when writing a research paper, this fact has to be about the topic of your paper.

    For example,

    “Did you know that female sharks can lay fertilized eggs without needing to mate with a male shark?”

    Note that these are referred to as “startling facts”, not “inspired illusions.” Therefore, ensure that the information you give is accurate.

    Start With a Question

    Do you think there is a better way to catch the attention of your reader than by beginning your paper with a question?

    Things to note when writing the Introduction of your Reseach Paper

    In the methods that I have indicated above on how to start a research paper, you can only use them to write the first maybe two or three sentences of the introduction.

    The Length

    Note the following:

    The Length

    An introduction should catch your reader’s attention, not bore them to death. Therefore, depending on the length and requirements of the paper, ensure that your introduction has a moderate length.

    It Should be the Last Part

    As indicated above, a good introduction should be well researched and should give your reader a sense of the whole article. By making it the last part, you get to write it with all the information at your fingertips.

    Knowing how to start a research paper is the basis for writing a good paper. Hopefully, you have understood how to do this in this section.

    Make Your Thesis Statement

    The thesis statement is the main idea in your research paper and should, therefore, be provided early, preferably in your introduction. When you write down your thesis statement, ensure that it meets the following:

  • Explains your interpretation of the subject matter
  • Informs the readers of your content
  • Answers the question posed by the lecturer
  • Presents your claim
  • Your thesis statement should be backed up by enough facts, and be disputable at the same time. It should also attempt to show new information, instead of sticking to general truths.

    Here is a list of thesis statement examples to get you started

    Examples of Thesis Statements to Guide you in your next essay

    Your introduction should be brief and also introduce the thesis statement. It should also explain the main points to be covered, methodology and tell the readers why they should be interested in your paper. The body, on the other hand, should have enough evidence to support the thesis statement. You should have at least three strong points, and remember to give a counter-argument at the end. Lastly, write a conclusion to summarize the key points and call for action among readers. To know more about the research paper outline, read the section below

    Part 5: Making an Outline

    Imagine going for an unexpected trip without planning for accommodation, food or even transport. Sadly, you arrive at your destination and realize you do not have enough money to cater for your own needs, and may also have to borrow some to go home. These are the dire consequences of having a weak planning culture.

    When writing your report, you can easily extend a poor plan into it as well. Poor planning mainly happens when you feel confident about your research and just want to put your ideas on paper.

    It is entirely okay to be excited about a well-researched essay, but you need a plan. The plan is what we call a research paper outline.

    Like all other activities in your life, before you put your ideas on paper, you need a guideline to keep you within a context and ensure that you include all the vital details.

    In this section, and the importance of your outline.

    What Is a Research Paper Outline?

    As stated earlier, a research paper outline is a plan or a map that you use when writing your paper.

    The outline will help you include all the critical details and stay within the context and word limits.

    An outline may be formal or informal.

    Informal outlines are a rough idea of the structure of the paper and are subject to changes once in a while.

    They are those few notes you roughly jolt down on a notebook and tick off as you write

    Formal outlines, on the other hand, are more concise and neater. Do not be surprised if a teacher asks you to hand in your outline for verification. It is evidence of a well-planned paper.

    Remember that it is not just enough to write an outline, the outline should be adequate. A disorganized research paper outline will lead to a chaotic paper.

    Try to write the topic sentences for each of your paragraphs when preparing the draft. This will help you determine if you have enough information to reach the required length or if you have too much unnecessary information.

    As you write the first draft, you may eliminate specific points, or combine others to support one idea, improve on ideas through finding better arguments, and reference all the cases to be used in your research paper.

    What Should Be Done Before Writing the Research Paper Outline?

    As pointed in the previous section, the following must be done before writing a research paper outline

    1. Topic selection

    2. Writing the thesis statement

    3. Define our audience

    4. Conduction of research

    Keep your References

    Ensure that you list down all the sources of your information, to avoid confusion, and claims of plagiarism when you hand in your research paper. State where each fact comes from for easy referencing when you are done writing.

    Part 6: Sections of a Research Paper Outline


    The introduction contains the thesis statement and the purpose of your paper. In this part, you have to explain the research problem at hand and the approach that you will use to solve the problem. While writing the introduction, keep in mind the fact that you are trying to capture the reader’s attention and convince them that your research paper is worth their time. Summarize the strong points of your paper to arouse curiosity among readers.


    This is the section where you present the facts that support your thesis statement. Remember to have at least three strong points to support your argument, with the strongest of them all being the last. Depending on the complexity of the research paper at hand, the body can be sub-divided into several sections for better organization. Each of the sections is better explained in the research paper format.

    Once you are done mentioning your arguments, remember to say the counter-arguments too. This will show the in-depth knowledge you have of the topic and earn you a higher score. It also reduces room for questions that could invalidate your research

    Maintain the same tone from the introduction onwards and give everything in detail. Even if your professor or lecturer knows everything related to the topic, you have to assume that your audience is reading your research paper for the first time. They are looking to you for new information and learning.


    This is a brief recap of the research paper that regurgitates the strongest points and call for action from the reader. The conclusion should be strong and evoke emotions and thoughts at the end of the paper.

    An Example of a Research Paper Outline

    Topic: The Use of Drugs Affecting the Student Study Habits at The University of California, Los Angeles

    1. Introduction

  • State The Research Problem
  • Thesis Statement
  • Define Terms
  • Brief Explanation of Methodology
  • Explain The Research
  • State The Hypothesis
  • Review of Literature
  • Explain The Scope and Limitation of the Research
  • Explain The Significate of the Study
  • 2. Body

  • Methodology
  • 1. Questionnaire

    2. Randomized Interviews

    3. Results

  • Common drugs Found in Campus
  • The Popularization of Drugs Used During Examinations
  • The Suppliers and Buyers
  • The University Policies with Regards to Drugs
  • 4. Discussion

  • The effects of drugs on the study habits
  • 5. Conclusion

    6. References and Citations

    7. Appendices

    Using your outline, write the first draft of your research paper. The first draft will probably be longer than the word limit allowed, but you will revisit this later on. Give detailed explanations of all your points, and list all your sources to avoid plagiarism.

    Include all the necessary graphs, pictures, and pie charts you found during your research and offer brief comparisons for each to keep readers interested.

    Part 7: Editing

    Once you are done with the first draft, you need to edit it to avoid unnecessary information and reduce wordiness. Editing will also help you fix errors in your grammar and sentence structure, and delete or rewrite any plagiarized information. Applications such as Grammarly can help you overcome these challenges.

    As you carry on with editing, keep your word limit in mind. Ensure that the abstract and introduction are as brief as possible, but still detailed.

    The abstract and introduction offer an overview of the paper and should, therefore, be captivating to the reader, and give an excellent first impression.

    When learning how to write a research paper, remember to include Table of Contents for longer papers, and number all your pages and images.

    All the diagrams used in your research paper should be neat and big enough for everyone to read. At the end of your tables and pie charts, give a brief comparison of the data gathered.

    Also, list all your citations in a correct and accurate format. Your instructor should confirm the citation format expected: APA, MLA or Chicago Manual Format.

    Part 8: General tips on how to write a research paper

    As stated earlier, writing a research paper is time-consuming, and postponing your work till the last minute will overwhelm you.

  • Start your research early to determine the topic that suits you best, and also find the best examples to support your thesis statement.
  • Ensure that you start your research and writing when you have maximum concentration.
  • Writing while tired, sleepy or sick will limit your thinking, and give you poor scores.
  • Eat and sleep well to boost your energy levels, and try to stay enthusiastic when writing. As you well know, your attitude towards the paper will influence the result.
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