What Is a Research Paper and How Should You Write One?

Students face tons of assignments 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 on the subject you are studying, but more on your personal abilities to comprehend your knowledge. What is the goal for such a task, what is a research paper, and how to write it? In this article, our expert writers provide you with the answers.

Defining the Term: What Is a Research Paper Exactly?

A research essay is a large scientific work. The main goal of this project, regardless of the subject, is defining a particular issue and providing new ways to solve it that can be used to further investigate 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.
  • 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 to serve as a basis for further study.

Basically, if you want to define a research paper, you would be speaking about academic work done completely independently. In such a project, you are supposed to present your own view on things you investigate. This is where students usually face difficulties, so many of them prefer seeking for alternative ways to get cheap custom research papers.

How Does a Research Paper Differ from a Research Proposal?

One should understand the difference between a proposal and a paper before the actual writing process begins, as these are different tasks. As its name implies, a proposal is a rationale for conducting research to be approved by an instructor. It should explain the purpose of future projects and what new aspects of knowledge it brings into the academic studies’ field. A research proposal’s specific structure should explain a methodology that appears to be the most sufficient for its purposes and anticipated outcomes. Unlike a research paper, a proposal must have a more extensive literature review section as it serves as the ground for rationale and ensures originality of suggested topic.

Structure of the Research Paper

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

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

  • Body

This is the longest part of your text that is essential for good research paper. A 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 mini-research paper since you first develop a specific claim related to the particular aspect of the main thesis statement, provide evidence gathered during literature search that proves the mentioned claim, present your own interpretation and ability to analyze facts, and, finally, wrap everything up with a concluding sentence that also brings the next point of discussion for subsequent paragraphs.

  • Conclusion

A general description of all outcomes and a summary of all main points of discussion will help your reader grasp the meaning of the 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 a perfect academic paper, irrespective of its specific type and content as the readability and coherence of a written paper represent that one honed his or her writing skills. Every instructor highly appreciates these abilities.

Main Types of Research Papers

What is the key to getting the highest assessment? The 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 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 related to the chosen problem or subject.
  • Persuasive/Argumentative: Discusses several sides of a particular issue and provides arguments in favor of one chosen side.
  • Analytical writing demonstrates your best qualities, as such a task asks you to create a piece with deep analysis of various opinions regarding the same issue.
  • Experiment: Students 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 to produce reasonable arguments.

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 areas, including all needed sections, and meeting requirements in just a page or two.

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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 piece of advice: divide your project into small clear stages to know how to write a research paper step by step.

Stage 1: 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 a representative feature of a good paper. Each of the research paper's 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).

The above-mentioned parts are usually grouped into bigger sections – for example, methods, results, and discussion are referred to as the body of the 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. An idea’s originality and necessity to bring something new in the study area is a key element in definition of research paper. There is an opportunity to come across some knowledge gaps even among research paper topics already discussed before by other scholars. In any case, you should think about whether a question you want to research is interesting, allows gathering necessary information, and developing a structured argument.

Stage 3: Searching for Sources

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

The next step implies gathering good reliable sources to develop a 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 the Central Point of Structure

In a piece as huge and complex as a research essay, the choice of a study focus is just a start. While reviewing literature you need to keep in mind the main claim and central idea of the paper in progress as well as the answer you expect to find. This claim is expected in the form of a thesis statement and the entire 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 the initial outline and general structure so that gathered information will be located in the proper sections.

Stage 6: Compose and Write a Paper as 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 facts from reliable sources support every statement made in your work.

Stage 7: Formatting, Editing, and Proofreading

What you have written in your first Word document is not a real paper yet – it is just a first draft. 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 the 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.

How to Write a Research Paper That Will Be Really Convincing

Analytical skills and the ability to logically expressing one’s thoughts in a formal manner are as crucial in academic writing as knowledge of the 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 the assignment. It is easier to focus on small, separate portions day by day than write a paper in a rush before your deadline.
  2. Discuss your thesis statement with the instructor. Together, you will make the thesis concise and focused on the point you are going to disclose in your writing.
  3. Think about the 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, the scope of work is immense, so a developing detailed written outline with all main arguments will be extremely helpful in the early writing stages as you keep the whole picture in mind.
  8. Think about the word count to be allocated to each part. Students often devote a large part of their papers to a 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 the instructor for useful feedback.
  10. Leave enough time for final proofreading and formatting of the completed task. Be warned that this process takes more time than you usually expect. Overlooking small mistakes while rushing is plausible.

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

  • Is my topic focused on discussing something new in my 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 answers to my research question and prove my claim?
  • Have I included all the requested components mentioned in the outline? Is the research paper structure clear?
  • Did I cite all facts and data 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 the research paper writing process depends not only on the general educational institution’s requirements or specific instructor’s guidelines but also on the chosen subject and field. 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.

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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 "do my research paper" services that provide around-the-clock assistance of native-speaking writers with graduate degrees who can help you solve all academic writing issues. Learning is easier if someone can provide experienced backup with the research and writing process itself.

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