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Guide: How to Write a Research Paper

A research paper is often confused with a dissertation and thesis, although there are differences in size and scientific significance between these kinds of assignments. A research paper can be viewed as some kind of rehearsal before conducting more grounded scientific work. Research papers usually explore scientific, social, historical, and technical questions, and require the author to possess honed skills in writing and researching deep into a topic. Below are the instructions that will help you write a research paper properly.

What You Need to Know Before Writing a Research Paper

  • A research paper usually comprises the following sections: an abstract, an introduction, methodology, results, conclusions, and a list of used sources. Depending on the requirements of your educational institution, you might need to include a literature overview—a brief review of the sources dedicated to your chosen subject. Each section of your research paper should start with a new page.

  • It is important to keep all the visuals you use in your research paper neat and accurate. This means the following:

    1. format graphs and images you are going you use in such a way that they fit on one page of your research paper each;

    2. if you want to use two or more images per page, but the page cannot contain more than one whole image, do not break images into parts—it is better to leave some empty space on a page than cram 1.5 images on it;

    3. this rule does not apply to long tables that do not fit within one page.

Actual Steps for Writing a Research Paper

  1. Choose your topic. It is important that the topic is not too overused (like, “The Negative Effects of Smoking”). It is advised to look up some recent discoveries in different areas (social, scientific, and so on) and try to research them. Keep in mind that the subject should be scrutinized well enough so that you can find sources on it. After you pick a topic, you should narrow it down, meaning that it should clearly state the subject of your research, and your goal (for example, “The analysis of the outcomes of substituting fossil energy in Sweden with renewable sources”). Anyways, after you choose the topic, you should consult your instructor.

  2. Formulate your hypothesis and research questions. A hypothesis is an assumption you make in the beginning of your research, and research questions are your roadmap, following which (answering these questions) you prove or deny the hypothesis. Also, you should formulate a thesis statement: several sentences that express the main idea and the goal of your research paper.

  3. Conduct the actual research. This is the most important part of the work, and should take about 50% of the time you spend writing your paper. It is important you use only credible sources (which means no blogs, commercial websites, or even Wikipedia can be used as a source of information), and cite every concept, idea, statement, observation, etc. that is not your own. There is one trick that can make the research process easier for you, though: you can use Wikipedia as a database of sources. Every article has a list of references in the end; choose those of them which are credible, and retrieve the data you need from these sources. Peer-reviewed articles, specialized journals, and websites having .gov or .edu in their names are believed to be credible sources. Take detailed notes during your research.

  4. When you have gathered enough material and sorted it out, make an outline of the research paper. Think of what you will say in the introduction (most often it contains background information on the subject, your hypothesis, research questions, and a thesis statement), which of the arguments will support your hypothesis the best, and what the discussion section will contain. Writing an outline is generally a way to sort out all the information you have found, and allocate it between different sections of the research paper.

  5. Write the paper, following the outline and the general structure of a research paper described above. In the introduction, elaborate on the context and the rationale behind your work; the “Methodology” section should describe the methods, tools, equipment, and materials you used to gather and analyze information; list your findings and elaborate on their meaning and significance in the “Findings and Discussion” section, and briefly sum them up in the “Conclusion.” Finally, write an abstract—up to 250 words briefly explaining your topic, goal, and outcomes of the research. Additionally, create the list of references.

  6. Proofread and edit your research paper.

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