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What Is a Research Paper and How to Write It?

19 Dec 2017

There are tons of assignments that students face at schools and higher education institutions. Among all the different academic written assignments’ types, research paper writing is often considered to be one of the most challenging and complex. Is it really that stressful and hard to handle? The answer depends not that much on the subject that you are studying but more on your personal abilities along with knowledge. What is goal for such a task, what is a research paper and how to write it? In this article, our expert writers are providing you with the answers.

what is a research paper

Defining the Term: What Is a Research Paper Exactly?

A research essay is a large scientific work assigned to students all over the world. The main goal of this project, regardless of subject, is to define a particular issue, find it, and provide new ways to solve it that can be used for further investigation of the problem. So, what is the accurate research paper definition? Unlike regular essays, such projects imply thinking out of the box. Here are the major features that distinguish research papers from other academic tasks.

  • More extensive in volume than other written assignments.
  • It needs extensive investigation on a particular problem.
  • Often requires conducting experiments along with further results’ analysis.
  • Insights should be based on your own thoughts, as well as experiments.
  • Purpose implies finding some novel solutions or approaches.
  • Everything should be supported by solid, verifiable evidence.
  • Findings should be good enough so could serve as a basis for further study.

Basically, if you want to define research paper, you would be speaking about academic work that one is doing completely independently. In such a project, you are supposed to present your own view on things you investigate. This is a major undertaking for anyone.

Read also: How to Write a Research Summary 

How Does a Research Paper Differ from a Research Proposal?

One should understand the difference between proposal and paper before actual writing process as these are different tasks. As its name implies, proposal is a rationale for conducting research to be approved by instructor. It should not only explain the purpose of future project but also what new aspects of knowledge it brings into the academic studies’ field. Research proposal’s specific structure should possess explanation of methodology that appears to be the most sufficient for its purposes and anticipated outcomes. Proposal, unlike a research paper, must have more extensive literature review section as it serves as the ground for rationale and ensures originality of suggested topic.

Structure of the Research Paper

General layout usually depends on the requested formatting style and specific instructions. Speaking about what to include in a research paper in terms of obligatory sections, one can observe the following parts in any project:

  • Introduction

It should include general background that is narrowed down to a specific problem under study and explanation of why you conduct the study. Purpose is embodied in a research question and main argument that are original. Key idea in this section is to provide a reader with proper road map and clear vision of topic that goes from broad perspective to narrow one.

  • Body

This is the longest part in your text that is essential for good research paper. Previously developed and presented narrow theme should be thoroughly discussed here following standard academic requirements for coherent papers. Each paragraph in this section is a research paper in miniature since you first develop a specific claim related to the certain aspect of main thesis statement, provide evidence gathered during literature search that prove the mentioned claim, present your own interpretation and ability to analyze facts, and, finally, wrap everything up with a concluding sentence that also brings a next point of discussion for subsequent paragraphs.

  • Conclusion

General description of all outcomes along with summary of all main points of discussion will help your reader to grasp the meaning of entire paper. This section presupposes careful writing for you not to omit anything important as such drawbacks undermine your hard work’s quality.

These are basic requirements for perfect academic paper irrespective of its specific type and content as readability and coherence of written paper represent that one honed his or her writing skills. Every instructor highly appreciates these abilities.

Read also: How to Format a Research Paper 

Main Types of Research Papers

What is the key to getting the highest assessment? Main things that can help writing a research paper include understanding the task, its objectives and in-depth knowledge of the chosen topic. There are several most common types of this kind of academic work. Each type is widely used in different educational institutions for different disciplines. Thus, understanding their peculiarities is important to grasp how to write a successful research paper:

  • Compare and contrast: Describes the same issue from two different perspectives.
  • Cause and effect: Should present a logical chain of causes and effects that relate to the chosen problem or subject.
  • Persuasive/Argumentative: Discusses particular issue’s several sides and provides arguments in favor of one chosen side.
  • Analytical essay writing demonstrates your best qualities, as such task asks you to create a piece with deep analysis of various opinions regarding the same issue.
  • Experiment: Students conduct an experiment and share their results.
  • Report: Outlines previously conducted studies.
  • Overview: Focuses on one, usually extensive scholarly study, so that the following tips on how to write a research summary would be extremely useful.
  • Survey: Student conducts a survey among chosen participants, analyzes findings, and develops conclusions.
  • Problem-solution: Presents a problem and ways to resolve it.
  • Communication research paper: Dedicated to developing one’s ability of producing reasonable argument.

Usually, all these projects are rather lengthy so that a 5 page research paper is a minimum requirement in most cases. It is a misconception that instructors demand long writing without a reason as it is impossible to cover complex study area, include all needed sections, and meet requirements in just a page or two.

Layouts, References, and Citations: Stages of Writing a Research Paper

Many first-year students feel quite at a loss about how to start a research paper. The first advice: divide your project into small clear stages so you will know how to write a research paper step by step.

Stage 1: Knowing How to Write an Outline for a Research Paper

Before starting your project, read your guidelines thoroughly. Have a clear understanding of required work’s volume. Remember that division on clear sections is representative feature of good paper. Each of research paper steps has a purpose.

A typical outline contains:

  • A separate title page (Your topic with all requested credentials);
  • Abstract (Short summary of your work, no new information here);
  • Introduction/Literature review (Presents what was written before in this area);
  • Methods section (Describes how exactly your study was conducted and instruments for analysis);
  • Results (Obtained during your experiment, analysis, etc.);
  • Discussion (Your interpretation of results);
  • Conclusion (Summarizing paper);
  • References (All used sources listed here);
  • Appendixes (Include tables or any other additional information that is needed for more complete understanding).

Above-mentioned parts are usually grouped into bigger sections – for example, methods, results, and discussion are referred to as the body of completed paper.

Read Also: Chemistry Research Topics That Will Knock You Off Your Feet

Stage 2: Developing the Perfect Topic

Choosing a perfect topic is crucial. Whether you need History, Physics or Biology research topics, instructors may provide a list of ready-made problems so you can choose or give freedom to develop your own topic. Idea’s originality and necessity to bring something new in study area is key element in definition of research paper. There is an opportunity to come across some knowledge gaps even among Chemistry research topics that were already discussed before by other scholars. In any case, you should think whether a question you want to research is interesting, allows gathering necessary information and develop structured argument.

Stage 3: Searching for Sources

Preliminary research is necessary as you need to have general understanding of topic under study before looking closely at your own specific aspect, so you know how to set up a research paper. Use information available online, especially on credible websites that are located on .edu, .gov, .org domains, to find more about background information.

The next step implies gathering good reliable sources to develop literature review. Rely only on online university libraries and digital databases of scholarly journals and other academic credible sources like JSTOR. Google Scholar search engine is helpful to find publications that are recent and relevant to your research.

Stage 4: Thesis Statement is Central Point of Structure

In a piece as huge and complex as a research essay, study focus’s choice is just a start. While reviewing literature you need to keep in mind the main claim and central idea of paper in progress as well as answer you expect to find. This claim is expected in a form of thesis statement and whole paper should aim at proving it.

Stage 5: Going on a Quest: Researching and Experimenting

That is the most time-consuming part of the project. During this step, you delve into gathered literature, conduct experiments, and analyze obtained results. Remember initial outline and general structure so that gathered information will be located in proper sections.

Stage 6: Compose and Write Paper like Scholars Do

Now you have to write it all down and produce a research paper. Transform your notes into a coherent, logical text that defends your point. Style of such papers is very formal with lots of specific terms. Make sure every statement made in your work is supported by facts from reliable sources.

Stage 7: Formatting, Editing, and Proofreading

What you have put at your first Word document is not a real paper yet – it is just a first draft. And then you would have to sit down, re-read it multiple times, edit typos and style and format it according to the style requested by instructor. Remember that typos and formatting mistakes are unacceptable as they undermine even perfectly researched and structured papers. Follow these three steps to ensure effective polishing: read your paper aloud, ask someone else to read it to have a fresh perspective, and use spell check software.

Secrets of the Trade: How to Write a Research Essay That Will Be Really Convincing

Analytical skills and ability of logical expressing one’s thoughts in formal manner are as crucial in academic writing as knowledge of study area. Thankfully, there are many ways to optimize the process and finish task properly and on time:

1) Plan your work and set deadlines for each part of assignment. It is easier to focus on small separate portions day by day than write paper in rush before your deadline.

2) Discuss thesis statement with instructor. Together you will make the thesis concise and focused on the point you are going to disclose in your writing.

3) Think about intended audience of your research essay before starting to write it: whether it is a general audience that does not know much about the topic or community of scholars. Both writing style and structure of writing differ significantly depending on the audience.

4) Always take notes so that all important details are included and nothing is omitted.

5) Be careful with sources as all of them must be reliable to give solid evidence.

6) Add proper citations with page numbers for all facts that you collect during research. This will help you to avoid wasting time looking over all sources again while formatting the paper.

7) You don’t know how to type a research paper? Indeed, scope of work is immense, so developing detailed written outline with all main arguments will be extremely helpful in early writing stages as you keep the whole picture in mind.

8) Think about wordcount to be allocated to each part. Students often devote large part of their papers to background leaving not enough space for their own analysis, which affects the quality of their argument.

9) Do not work completely alone. Work together with your peers and show your first draft to instructor for useful feedback.

10) Leave enough time for final proofreading and formatting of completed task. Be warned that this process takes more time than you usually expect. Overlooking small mistakes while in rush is plausible.

Checklist: Have I met all requirements of what is a research essay?

  • Is my topic focused on discussing something new in chosen field of study?
  • Is there enough information available in this particular field?
  • Have I utilized only reliable and academic sources?
  • Is it possible to gather evidence and find proper answer to my research question and prove claim?
  • Have I included all requested components mentioned in outline? Is research paper structure clear?
  • Did I cite all facts and data that were taken from outside sources so that any plagiarism issues are effectively prevented?
  • Did I summarize all my findings in a concise conclusion?
  • Have I polished the paper before submission?

The Importance of Proper Formatting

This aspect of research paper writing process depends not only on general educational institution’s requirements or specific instructor’s guidelines but on chosen subject and field as well. Details about formatting demands are the last among research paper tips. The main demand for a student who wants to know how to format a research paper is to follow all features of the chosen style attentively. Do not mix different styles in one paper:

APA: Usually used in Medicine, Psychological and Social sciences;

MLA: Widely used in the Humanities;

Harvard: There is no particular study area that uses only this style, but it occurs more often in Social sciences and the Humanities;

Chicago/Turabian style citation generator is useful for formatting research papers in Business and History studies’ fields;

IEEE: Became standard for specialists in Engineering, Computer, and Information science;

ASA: Required for publications in the field of Sociology;

AMA: Prevalent in Healthcare, Nursing, and Medicine fields of study;

CSE: This style is obligatory for those who study Life sciences, especially Biology;

APSA: Students majoring in Political Science should know all details of this style.

Is There a Way to Get Help?

Choosing a topic, researching, conducting experiments, using formal language, checking if all formatting requirements are met - the whole process of writing a research paper may appear overwhelming, sometimes even scary. One might think: “How can I write my paper perfectly if it takes years to become a great writer?” And the answer is positive since there are quality custom research paper writing services that provide around-the-clock assistance of native-speaking writers with graduate degrees who can help you to solve all issues related to academic writing. Learning is easier if someone can provide experienced backup with the research and writing process itself.

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