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What Is a Research Paper and How to Write It?

19 Dec 2017

There are tons of assignments that people are facing at schools and higher institutions, each of which is difficult and responsible in its own way. Among all the different sorts of academic written assignments, research paper writing is often considered to be one of the most challenging and complex ones that students have troubles with. Is it really that stressful and hard to handle it? The answer is individual and depends not that much on the subject that you are studying but more on your personal abilities and knowledge. What is the goal of such task, what is a research paper and how to write it  – in this article, we will give you 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 of higher levels of schools, as well as in colleges and universities all over the world. The main goal of this project, regardless of the subject for which it was assigned, 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.

Research paper writing consists of several stages. The first stage consists of choosing relevant biology research topics and making a thesis statement that shows the objectives and goals of your investigation. It is followed by the experimental stage during which a student studies the matter, works with relevant literature, and collects data for the written part of this project. Then you have to write the essay itself. The last stage is less stressful as you already have all the necessary information and only need to analyze and present it in a proper manner, however, it requires knowing and following the basic principles of academic writing.

Delving into books is required for most school projects. So what it is about the research paper definition that makes such assignments especially difficult? Unlike regular essays, research projects require thinking out of the box. Also, they require experimentation together with a further analysis of the results. You must exert your brainpower at the highest level. Such projects have some major features that make them extremely difficult:

  • It is usually bigger in volume compared to other written assignments;
  • It needs extensive research devoted to a particular problem;
  • In a successful paper, the problem of your choice is analyzed extensively
  • You may use literature references, but your own insights should be based on your own thoughts, as well as experiments;
  • The purpose of your work usually implies finding some novel solution or approach;
  • Everything in your document – from the literature to the proposed solution – has to be supported by solid, verifiable evidence: samples, documents, and your own experimental studies;
  • Your report has to be good enough to be used as a basis for the study by other students.

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 the things you find. This is a major undertaking for anyone, of course. And before you get frightened by the scope of the work ahead - take a deep breath and go step by step through the writing stages. Taking it slowly can greatly help writing a research paper.

Read also: How to Write a Research Summary 

What Are the Main Types of Research Papers?

What is the key to getting the highest assessment? The main things that can help writing a research paper are understanding of the task and its objectives, and in-depth knowledge of the topic that you have chosen. There are a few most common types of research papers. Each kind is widely used in different educational institutions for different disciplines and thus, it is important to know how to start each of them. As a rule, the guide provided by your teacher will state which sort of work you are required to write and what are the main requirements but to give you a general idea of what to expect, here are the main ones:

  • Definition;
  • Cause and effect;
  • Interpretive;
  • Compare and contrast;
  • Argumentative;
  • Reports;
  • And analytical research paper.

Each of them has different requirements. An argumentative paper has to show a few sides of a particular issue and provide arguments in favor of one of them. If your teacher wants a definition project – think of how you can explain some specific matter clearly.

Undertaking cause and effect essay should present a logical chain of causes and effects that relate to the chosen problem or subject. Reports are relatively the simplest ones in this list – in a nutshell, they just outline the previously conducted studies. Interpretive articles are similar to definition ones – you just add your own thoughts on the issue. Compare and contrast ones, as a rule, describe the same issue from the two different perspectives. Analytical essay writing demonstrates your best qualities, as it requires you to create a piece with deep analysis of various opinions regarding the same issue.

Read also: How to Format a Research Paper 

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.

 

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 the volume of the work required. It is also good to remember that your paper should be divided into clear, concise sections. Each one has a purpose.

A typical research paper outline contains:

  • The separate title page with your topic;
  • Abstract - a short introduction to your work;
  • Introduction/literature review - present what was written before you;
  • Materials and methods;
  • Results (of your experiment, analysis, etc.);
  • Discussion;
  • Conclusion;
  • References;
  • Tables, appendix or any other additional information required.

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

The above parts are usually grouped into bigger sections – for example, materials, results, and discussions are referred to as the body of the paper. Each professor has some minor adjustments – like, they may want five sections instead of 7, for instance, and so on. Examples of what is required can be usually found on school sites.

Stage 2: Finding the Perfect Topic

Choosing a perfect topic is crucial. Whether your project has to do with History, Physics or Biology, it is the name of your work that defines everything. Some professors would provide some ready-made problems, so you can choose. But most of them leave you on your own. While choosing a topic, run through a questionnaire:

  • Is there enough information available in this particular field?
  • Can you find reliable, academic sources easily?
  • Will it be interesting for your colleagues;
  • Can some blank spots in otherwise extensive amount of studies be found?
  • Can you make an original impression of this angle?
  • Is it possible to organize an experiment or gather evidence that would help you find an answer?

In other words, your topic is a question. Your aim here consists in finding a proper answer. It is quite possible another person tried the same – but your answer or approach should be completely original. By putting this question properly, you will see an answer hidden within it. And that is where the second stage comes.

Stage 2: Searching For Sources

All papers of this kind contain a relatively long literature review. Proper literature in science is something published in peer-reviewed journals or similar literature. Usually, university libraries have open access to such sources. Search engines such as Google Scholar are also a great help. In case you are stuck - your advisor may be aware of something relevant to your field of study.

Stage 3: Thesis Statement

In a piece as huge and complex as a research essay, the choice of topic is just a start. The first thing you do here is present some convincing explanation for your choice. It is also expected you already have some kind of answer in mind. This statement is presented in a formal written form. It is called a thesis statement. From here on, your paper starts in earnest.

Stage 4: Going On a Quest: Researching and Experimenting

That is the most time-consuming part of the project. During this step, you will delve into the literature, conduct experiments and analyze what you find as a result. Take notes of everything you do - this way it would be easier to put into the paper later.

Stage 5: Organization and Perspective

Before starting to write, visualize your finished work. Take your notes and place them in respective slots in your initial outline. It is also good to make a separate list of your references. This way, citations become easier.

Stage 6: Writing!

Now you have to write it all down to produce a research paper essay. You have to transform your notes into a coherent, logical text aimed to prove your point. The style of such papers is very formal with lots of specific terms. Again - every statement made in your work should always be supported by fact.

Stage 7: Formatting and Editing

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 accepted at your school. Only after that, you will have a finished project on your hands

Secrets of the Trade: Some Tips on Writing a Decent Research Paper

In academic writing, knowledge is not everything. Analysis and the ability to express oneself both logically and formally are also crucial. Thankfully, there are always ways to optimize the process. Here are some tips you can use to finish the task properly and on time:

  • Plan your work – even if you believe you can finish the task before the deadline expires, allocate your time the way that you have enough room for everything;
  • Set deadlines for each portion of work;
  • Divide and structure everything: one topic can be divided into several subtopics; literature review can be divided into smaller sections answering particular questions;
  • Come up with a decent thesis statement and get your professor to approve it – keep it clear, concise and to the point of what you are going to disclose in your piece;
  • Always take notes and keep them at hand;
  • Re-check your sources: the work of the highest level has to be supported by solid evidence.
  • You have to know how to structure a research paper beforehand. Create something like a checklist in your head and follow the steps faithfully.
  • It is better if your final outline is put into writing. It has to be detailed and contain everything important: main points, examples, and arguments;
  • Set up a research wall, like in detective movies. Pin the requirements in the center, together with the written layout. Build your write-up around it and check your progress with this wall constantly. This setup would help you catch formatting mistakes fast;
  • Do not work completely alone. Show your first draft to your professor. As for an example work from your peers.
  • Perform editing, proofreading, and formatting at the last stage. Leave enough time for it.

The Importance of Proper Formatting

Each specialization and college has its own view on formatting. There are several common formatting styles with their own guides and requirements. Here are some examples:

APA style - Usually used in psychological, social, natural, and life sciences;

MLA style - used in literature, as well as language study;

Harvard style - there is no particular preference for it, but usually, you may find it is required in social sciences/humanities;

Chicago/Turabian style citation generator - one can encounter it in Business and History.

There are several other formatting and referencing styles used. Mentioned above ones are the most common. Each style has its own comprehensive guide. The guides describe many aspects of writing: the required outlines, punctuation, referencing, etc. The best papers have to follow these requirements without fail. Formatting styles also help your piece look good and impressive and influence its overall design.

There is another thing you need to take note of. Some professors need a handwritten document. Others are satisfied with a Word or Open Office file. In some instances, creating a PDF file is necessary. It is better to inquire in advance to know such things.

Nitpicking: How to Proofread the Finished Paper

Proofreading seems basic after all the research and analytic work a person has to conduct. But it is no less important. Even if your arguments are impeccable, typos or bad grammar can seriously damage your chances. Do not trust your own judgment: ask a friend to help you catch the mistakes. Use proofreading software, too. Another good idea is to read your paper aloud. Hearing the words help you catch problems with readability and logic.

Is There a Way to Get Help?

Choosing a topic, researching, conducting experiments, using highly formal language to write - the whole setup is overwhelming and scary. Though there are rules and ways that simplify the process of academic paper writing, it is still difficult for many. For an inexperienced researcher, the deadlines may simply be completely unrealistic.

Many students, especially those in their first year of university or college, struggle with such complex tasks. Not everyone can be a great writer. Such young people need help. Where can I get help to write my paper? Although this question bothers lots of students, not all of them understand how and where they can get a helping hand. But there are a lot of ways one can settle this issue, for there are many professional writers who are ready to assist. And they surely know the secrets to help you get those desired high grades!

Quality custom research paper writing services are a great answer to the problems some students may have. They provide fast, high-quality assistance with academic essays at our site.

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Sometimes, it is also hard to find funding for one’s research, even if it is excellent. It is especially true for foreign researchers. The answer to this problem is to find a native-speaking writer with an MA or Ph.D. degree in your field by using professional grant writing service.

Our experts provide around-the-clock consultations and help with various issues related to academic writing. Contact us, and bring new perspectives into your work and studies.

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