How to Write a Research Paper in 5 Steps

How to Write a Research Paper in 5 Steps

Writing a research paper is a trial.

It is meant to take you out of your comfort zone as soon as you master essays and get you ready for the thesis. Unfortunately, there are no classes on the research paper writing, and even if there were, would you want to waste your time and money on them?

If the professor saddled you with a research paper and you don’t know where to move from there, it’s your lucky day! We have just finished compiling this guide that will let you in on the easiest way to write a research paper on any topic and for any class. To cover all bases, we’ve also attached a sample and answers to some frequently asked questions.

How to Write a Research Paper

Right now, the finished paper seems miles away, and you aren’t sure you can handle the task. You are tempted to put it off and let your future self take care of writing a research paper. Trust us; it won’t get any easier. Instead, you will be even more stressed than you are now because you won’t have enough time left. 

Don’t play ostrich and let us take you through the five steps of writing your research paper. Tackle them one at a time, and you won’t believe how easy and fun it can be.

Step 1. Find Your Research Paper Topic

Did your professor assign a topic for your research? If they did, congrats! You are already one step ahead! Skip this section and move on.

Did the professor leave the topic choice to you? If so, you have a little extra work, but don’t despair. You can find an exciting topic in under 10 minutes if you use our 3-step process:

  1. Go to your school library database (you can also use DeepDyve). Browse the scientific journals by subject areas and find the one that fits your class.
  2. Look through recently published articles and note the topics that seem exciting. Make a list of three to five options.
  3. Attend your professor’s office hours and ask them to help you choose the best topic on your list. 

This neat trick makes the professor do the job for you. However, we don’t recommend using it too often if you don’t want them to get suspicious.

Step 2. Research the Chosen Topic

If you followed our suggestion in Step 1, by now, you have your topic and the first reference you can use. Depending on your professor’s requirements, you might need up to ten more sources to support your research. To collect them quickly, you can:

  1. Use the reference section in the first article you’ve found. It will hold credible sources you can use.
  2. Find other papers by the authors of the article. Most scientists publish multiple papers on the same topic as their research progresses, so their previous works might come in handy as well.
  3. Use a good old-fashioned keyword search to locate more relevant sources. The same tools you’ve used to choose your topic will help with this as well.

To make your life easier and save time, take digital notes as you study the sources and paste citation information for every note you take. This is a useful habit to form if you want to protect yourself from unconscious plagiarism.

Step 3. Write an Outline

Research paper structure remains pretty much the same no matter what topic you want to discuss. You only need to create a first-level outline once and use it for all future assignments. Once again, you can use a scientific article as a guide. The basic structure usually involves background information, research methods and materials used, results, discussion, and a conclusion.

However, such an outline is too vague to be useful. To make it work for you, think of your work as a set of paragraphs. Decide how many you want each section to hold and create a one-sentence summary for every passage. List them under the section heading and shuffle around until you are happy with the flow of the paper. This outlining method is unorthodox, but we’ve found it works best if you want to write the paper quickly. One sentence is usually enough to prompt further ideas and get you from paragraph to paragraph without the need to agonize over what to write next.

Give this method a try and let us know whether it worked for you.

Step 4. Fill the Gaps

If you have followed our steps, you now have a set of topic sentences for your research paper and only need to fill in the gaps with more data. You don’t even need to go in order. Thanks to our outline trick, you can start at the end and move your way backward or pick which passages to expand at random.

We recommend writing the piece in short high-productivity bursts and without wasting time on making it perfect. At this stage, your job is to get everything on paper, no matter how many typos or errors you make. Numbers are the only exception to this rule. Always double-check your math and data to ensure you make no accidental mistakes. It will be more challenging to check the numbers after your whole paper is done.

Step 5. Edit, Proofread, and Format

Now is the time to rip into your research and make it shine. This step is mandatory if you follow our 5-step process. The time you’ve saved on finding the topic, researching, outlining, and writing will now come in handy. 

Start with editing. Ensure your reasoning is logical and easy to understand. Eliminate repetitions and redundancies. Move things around to keep the flow uninterrupted. If possible, get a second pair of eyes on your paper. Ask someone to read it and point out confusing transitions or illogical conclusions. Correct them before moving onto proofreading and formatting.

Use Grammarly or other professional proofreading software to check for typos and grammar errors. Even if your professor is lenient about your spelling mistakes, you don’t want to get used to sloppy work. Formatting should be the last thing on your to-do list, but it is no less important. You need to follow the guidelines to make your work presentable and secure the highest grade. 

Learn Research Paper Writing by Example

As we’ve mentioned, scientific articles are your best bet when you are new to research. However, we will attach a research paper sample to put everything we’ve talked about into perspective. It is a solid example of what an A-worthy piece looks like. Should you use it, always remember to adapt the sample to your professor’s requirements and the class you are taking.

Answers to Most Common Research Paper Questions

What Is a Research Paper?

It is a scientific piece that answers a research question. Unlike most academic papers, it requires hands-on research along with theoretical studies. If you want to follow the best practices, browse a couple of international peer-reviewed journals, and locate the best articles that cover a topic similar to yours.

If you can’t tell what sets the best scientific research papers from the rest, return to our tips for writing a research paper and go through the articles again. Once you see the pattern, you won’t have to go back and forth between our guide and your research again. 

How to Create a Title Page for Research Paper?

The secret formula to an unbeatable title is:

Result + Method = Consequence

Here are some examples of published scientific articles:

Impact of bargaining power on supply chain profit allocation: a game-theoretic study
Toxic stress in children: Impact over a lifetime
Obstructive sleep apnea: personal, societal, public health, and legal implications

You can also use the results and throw everything else away if your title gets too long. What you shouldn’t do is to formulate the title as a question. It might be suitable for high school essays, but your college research paper should be more professional.

Keywords are another great addition to your title, especially if you want to get your work published. Just type some of the most common phrases into a search bar of your school library or online database. If you find lots of relevant articles, it’s a jackpot. If not, try again with other keywords. One or two is enough to get your research noticed.

How to Start a Research Paper?

First, don’t get stuck if you have no idea how to write a research paper introduction. It might just be the most complicated part because you are at the beginning of your research and have only a vague notion of where your experimentation will lead you. Let it go and move onto the parts you can handle. It can be a review of your research methods or a table with your results.

Once you know exactly what question you want to answer in your paper, you are ready to write an introduction. Start at the end, and move backward from the question itself to the consequences of leaving it unanswered. Review the pre-existing research and find the gaps your work can fill. This approach will let you build an opening funnel that takes the reader from a broad overview of the issue to an in-depth understanding of why it matters and the impact of your research. 

This is the approach most professional scientists use when working on their papers and articles.

How to End a Research Paper?

The very last section of your work should include a list of references you have cited. If you submit the paper to a professor, ask them about the appropriate citation style and follow the guidelines. However, if you want to get published in a journal, research their author’s guide and look up the citation rules. You can format the list by hand or use handy automatic citation tools, such as Citethisforme. Mendeley is also an excellent solution for organizing your research library and referencing.

If you are more worried about what comes before the reference list and don’t know how to write a conclusion for a research paper, the answer is simple. Copy the highlights of your results and discussion sections and trim them until you have only the crucial points left. Format them as a bulleted or numbered list, and your conclusion is almost ready. Add a short passage on the relevance of your research before your list, and you are done.

A research paper is not your average essay, and it is nearly impossible to cut corners and still get a high grade. We hope our answers, tips, and advice helped you make sense of this complicated assignment. If you still need help, you know what to do. Our team is always on standby to help you get most out of college life and graduate with a respectable GPA.

Suggested Reading: