How to Write a Research Paper

The research paper writing process

A young attractive woman sits at her computer writing a research paper.
Writing a research paper can be challenging.
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In our first article of this two part series, we discussed how to research a term paper. In this article, we will discuss how to write a term or research paper.

Write your thesis statement

After you have spent some time finding your sources and absorbing the information, you should then be able to come up with a thesis statement that tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter. This statement is a road map for the research paper, telling the reader what to expect. It usually consists of a single sentence somewhere in your first paragraph and makes a claim that others might later dispute!

For optimal organization, take the time to write an outline that indicates the main aspects to be discussed. This includes deciding on the order of your sub-topics and which key points you will use as evidence to support your position.

Keep the body of your research paper in good shape

The body is the largest part of a research paper; in it you collect and arrange evidence that will persuade the reader of your argument. It should, therefore, have a logical organization. If the paper is long, it is a good idea to partition the body into sections using headings and sub-headings. This includes using parenthetical citations when referencing another author's work in the body of your text.

Sometimes the beginning isn't the best place to start...

Write the introduction and conclusion of your research paper last in order to ensure accuracy. The introduction is the key to letting your readers know where you are headed and what you hope to accomplish. Remember that while the organization of your research paper may be clear to you, it may not necessarily be clear to your readers. Therefore, the introduction should acquaint them with the journey ahead, making it easier for them to understand what follows and helping to improve their evaluation of your work. Tell your readers in concise terms what the subject of the paper is, what it is that you hope to find out, and how you will go about doing so.

Encapsulating your findings in the conclusion is not the only place in the research paper where you make your voice heard. Your analysis should appear throughout. A common ESL mistake is reciting facts in the body of their essay and then waiting until the conclusion to say what they mean. Good research papers bring data, events, and other material together, interpreting the facts throughout. The conclusion should summarize what you have said in the body and should stress the evidence that supports your analysis.

Don't forget your references

Once your research paper is finished, compile your reference list. This is an alphabetical listing of all the sources you referenced in the body of your paper. If you made notes about your sources, this task should be straightforward. Be sure to follow whatever style guide your professor or school recommends. We have an example APA Reference page and an example MLA Works Cited for your reference.

Edit your research paper to ensure clarity

Once you have the pieces of your research paper in place, it's time to polish, polish, polish! Double-check everything. Ensure you have correctly cited your sources, checked your spelling and grammar, and re-read your paper several times, checking for sense, logical structure, and organization. Readers will judge your paper not only on the quality of research, but also on the quality of the writing. Worried that your editing skills aren't as sharp as they need to be? Then submit your paper to our essay editors for a professional opinion. To learn more about essay writing, get a copy of the e-book How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps.

Ta da! You've done it—your research paper is complete! Just think about what you've learned: not just about your subject, but about the whole investigative process.

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