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How to Write a Research Paper
Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write a research paper.
Start the Research Process
Before you begin writing the research paper, you must do your research. It is important that you understand the subject matter, formulate the ideas of your paper, create your thesis statement and learn how to speak about your given topic in an authoritative manner. You’ll be looking through online databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, periodicals, books, newspapers, government publications, reports, guides and scholarly resources. Take notes as you discover new information about your given topic. Also keep track of the references you use so you can build your bibliography later and cite your resources.
Develop Your Thesis Statement
When organizing your research paper, the thesis statement is where you explain to your readers what they can expect, present your claims, answer any questions that you were asked or explain your interpretation of the subject matter you’re researching. Therefore, the thesis statement must be strong and easy to understand. Your thesis statement must also be precise. It should answer the question you were assigned, and there should be an opportunity for your position to be opposed or disputed. The body of your manuscript should support your thesis, and it should be more than a generic fact.
Create an Outline
Many professors require outlines during the research paper writing process. You’ll find that they want outlines set up with a title page, abstract, introduction, research paper body and reference section. The title page is typically made up of the student’s name, the name of the college, the name of the class and the date of the paper. The abstract is a summary of the paper. An introduction typically consists of one or two pages and comments on the subject matter of the research paper. In the body of the research paper, you’ll be breaking it down into materials and methods, results and discussions. Your references are in your bibliography. Use a research paper example to help you with your outline if necessary.
Organize Your Notes
When writing your first draft, you’re going to have to work on organizing your notes first. During this process, you’ll be deciding which references you’ll be putting in your bibliography and which will work best as in-text citations. You’ll be working on this more as you develop your working drafts and look at more white paper examples to help guide you through the process.
Write Your Final Draft
After you’ve written a first and second draft and received corrections from your professor, it’s time to write your final copy. By now, you should have seen an example of a research paper layout and know how to put your paper together. You’ll have your title page, abstract, introduction, thesis statement, in-text citations, footnotes and bibliography complete. Be sure to check with your professor to ensure if you’re writing in APA style, or if you’re using another style guide.
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What Is a Research Paper?
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Olivia Valdes was the Associate Editorial Director for ThoughtCo. She worked with Dotdash Meredith from 2017 to 2021.
- B.A., American Studies, Yale University
A research paper is a common form of academic writing . Research papers require students and academics to locate information about a topic (that is, to conduct research ), take a stand on that topic, and provide support (or evidence) for that position in an organized report.
The term research paper may also refer to a scholarly article that contains the results of original research or an evaluation of research conducted by others. Most scholarly articles must undergo a process of peer review before they can be accepted for publication in an academic journal.
Define Your Research Question
The first step in writing a research paper is defining your research question . Has your instructor assigned a specific topic? If so, great—you've got this step covered. If not, review the guidelines of the assignment. Your instructor has likely provided several general subjects for your consideration. Your research paper should focus on a specific angle on one of these subjects. Spend some time mulling over your options before deciding which one you'd like to explore more deeply.
Try to choose a research question that interests you. The research process is time-consuming, and you'll be significantly more motivated if you have a genuine desire to learn more about the topic. You should also consider whether you have access to all of the resources necessary to conduct thorough research on your topic, such as primary and secondary sources .
Create a Research Strategy
Approach the research process systematically by creating a research strategy. First, review your library's website. What resources are available? Where will you find them? Do any resources require a special process to gain access? Start gathering those resources—especially those that may be difficult to access—as soon as possible.
Second, make an appointment with a reference librarian . A reference librarian is nothing short of a research superhero. He or she will listen to your research question, offer suggestions for how to focus your research, and direct you toward valuable sources that directly relate to your topic.
Now that you've gathered a wide array of sources, it's time to evaluate them. First, consider the reliability of the information. Where is the information coming from? What is the origin of the source? Second, assess the relevance of the information. How does this information relate to your research question? Does it support, refute, or add context to your position? How does it relate to the other sources you'll be using in your paper? Once you have determined that your sources are both reliable and relevant, you can proceed confidently to the writing phase.
Why Write Research Papers?
The research process is one of the most taxing academic tasks you'll be asked to complete. Luckily, the value of writing a research paper goes beyond that A+ you hope to receive. Here are just some of the benefits of research papers.
- Learning Scholarly Conventions: Writing a research paper is a crash course in the stylistic conventions of scholarly writing. During the research and writing process, you'll learn how to document your research, cite sources appropriately, format an academic paper, maintain an academic tone, and more.
- Organizing Information: In a way, research is nothing more than a massive organizational project. The information available to you is near-infinite, and it's your job to review that information, narrow it down, categorize it, and present it in a clear, relevant format. This process requires attention to detail and major brainpower.
- Managing Time: Research papers put your time management skills to the test. Every step of the research and writing process takes time, and it's up to you to set aside the time you'll need to complete each step of the task. Maximize your efficiency by creating a research schedule and inserting blocks of "research time" into your calendar as soon as you receive the assignment.
- Exploring Your Chosen Subject: We couldn't forget the best part of research papers—learning about something that truly excites you. No matter what topic you choose, you're bound to come away from the research process with new ideas and countless nuggets of fascinating information.
The best research papers are the result of genuine interest and a thorough research process. With these ideas in mind, go forth and research. Welcome to the scholarly conversation!
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- How to Write a 10-Page Research Paper
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What is a Research Paper?
- Steps in Writing a Research Paper
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"Research paper." What image comes into mind as you hear those words: working with stacks of articles and books, hunting the "treasure" of others' thoughts? Whatever image you create, it's a sure bet that you're envisioning sources of information--articles, books, people, artworks. Yet a research paper is more than the sum of your sources, more than a collection of different pieces of information about a topic, and more than a review of the literature in a field. A research paper analyzes a perspective argues a point . Regardless of the type of research paper you are writing, your finished research paper should present your own thinking backed up by others' ideas and information.
To draw a parallel, a lawyer researches and reads about many cases and uses them to support his or her own case. A scientist reads many case studies to support an idea about a scientific principle. In the same way, a history student writing about the Vietnam War might read newspaper articles and books and interview veterans to develop and/or confirm a viewpoint and support it with evidence.
A research paper is an expanded essay that presents your own interpretation or evaluation or argument. When you write an essay, you use everything that you personally know and have thought about a subject. When you write a research paper you build upon what you know about the subject and make a deliberate attempt to find out what experts know. A research paper involves surveying a field of knowledge in order to find the best possible information in that field. And that survey can be orderly and focused, if you know how to approach it. Don't worry--you won't get lost in a sea of sources.
In fact, this guide is designed to help you navigate the research voyage, through developing a research question and thesis, doing the research, writing the paper, and correctly documenting your sources.
If you would like assistance with any type of writing assignment, learning coaches are available to assist you. Please contact Academic Support by emailing [email protected].
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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.
Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.
This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.
Table of contents
Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.
Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:
- Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
- Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
- Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.
Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.
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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.
You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.
You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.
Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:
- A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
- A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.
Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.
Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.
- Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
- Are there any heated debates you can address?
- Do you have a unique take on your topic?
- Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?
In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”
A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.
The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.
You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.
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A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.
A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.
Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:
- Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
- Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
- Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.
You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.
Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.
Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.
George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.
It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.
You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.
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The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.
What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.
Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?
How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.
The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.
One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:
- topic sentences against the thesis statement;
- topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
- and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.
Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.
The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.
Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.
You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.
You should not :
- Offer new arguments or essential information
- Take up any more space than necessary
- Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)
There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.
- Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
- Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
- Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
- If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.
The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible.
- Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
- Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
- Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.
Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:
- each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
- no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
- all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.
Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .
Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading or create an APA title page .
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Checklist: Research paper
I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.
My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.
My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .
My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .
Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .
Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.
I have used appropriate transitions to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.
My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.
My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.
My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.
I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.
I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .
I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).
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3 September 2023
A research paper is a product of seeking information, analysis, human thinking, and time. Basically, when scholars want to get answers to questions, they start to search for information to expand, use, approve, or deny findings. In simple words, research papers are results of processes by considering writing works and following specific requirements. Besides, scientists research and expand many theories, developing social or technological aspects of human science. However, in order to write relevant papers, they need to know a definition of the research, structure, characteristics, and types.
Definition of What Is a Research Paper and Its Meaning
A research paper is a common assignment. It comes to a situation when students, scholars, and scientists need to answer specific questions by using sources. Basically, a research paper is one of the types of papers where scholars analyze questions or topics , look for secondary sources , and write papers on defined themes. For example, if an assignment is to write a research paper on some causes of global warming or any other topic, a person must write a research proposal on it, analyzing important points and credible sources . Although essays focus on personal knowledge, writing a research paper means analyzing sources by following academic standards. Moreover, scientists must meet the structure of research papers. Therefore, writers need to analyze their research paper topics , start to research, cover key aspects, process credible articles, and organize final studies properly.
The Structure of a Research Work
The structure of research papers depends on assignment requirements. In fact, when students get their assignments and instructions, they need to analyze specific research questions or topics, find reliable sources , and write final works. Basically, the structure of research papers consists of the abstract , outline , introduction , literature review , methodology, results , discussion, recommendations, limitations, conclusion , acknowledgments , and references. However, students may not include some of these sections because of assigned instructions that they have and specific types of research papers. For instance, if instructions of papers do not suppose to conduct real experiments, the methodology section can be skipped because of the data’s absence. In turn, the structure of the final work consists of:
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🔸 The First Part of a Research Study
Abstract or an executive summary means the first section of a research paper that provides the study’s purpose, research questions or suggestions, main findings with conclusions. Moreover, this paragraph of about 150 words should be written when the whole work is finished already. Hence, abstract sections should describe key aspects of studies, including discussions about the relevance of findings.
Outline serves as a clear map of the structure of a research study.
Introduction provides the main information on problem statements, the indication of methodology, important findings, and principal conclusion. Basically, this section of a research paper covers rationales behind the work or background research, explanation of the importance, defending its relevance, a brief description of experimental designs, defined research questions, hypotheses, or key aspects.
🔸 Literature Review and Research or Experiment
Literature Review is needed for the analysis of past studies or scholarly articles to be familiar with research questions or topics. Hence, this section summarizes and synthesizes arguments and ideas from scholarly sources without adding new contributions. In turn, this part is organized around arguments or ideas, not sources.
Methodology or Materials and Methods covers explanations of research designs. Basically, techniques for gathering information and other aspects related to experiments must be described in a research paper. For instance, students and scholars document all specialized materials and general procedures. In this case, individuals may use some or all of the methods in further studies or judge the scientific merit of the work. Moreover, scientists should explain how they are going to conduct their experiments.
Results mean the gained information or data after the research or experiment. Basically, scholars should present and illustrate their findings. Moreover, this section may include tables or figures.
🔸 Analysis of Findings
Discussion is a section of a research paper where scientists review the information in the introduction part, evaluate gained results, or compare it with past studies. In particular, students and scholars interpret gained data or findings in appropriate depth. For example, if results differ from expectations at the beginning, scientists should explain why that may have happened. However, if results agree with rationales, scientists should describe theories that the evidence is supported.
Recommendations take its roots from a discussion section where scholars propose potential solutions or new ideas based on obtained results in a research paper. In this case, if scientists have any recommendations on how to improve this research so that other scholars can use evidence in further studies, they must write what they think in this section.
Limitations mean a consideration of research weaknesses and results to get new directions. For instance, if researchers found any limitations of studies that could affect experiments, scholars must not use such knowledge because of the same mistakes. Moreover, scientists should avoid contradicting results, and, even more, they must write it in this section.
🔸 The Final Part of a Conducted Research
Conclusion includes final claims of a research paper based on findings. Basically, this section covers final thoughts and the summary of the whole work. Moreover, this section may be used instead of limitations and recommendations that would be too small by themselves. In this case, scientists do not need to use headings for recommendations and limitations. Also, check out conclusion examples .
Acknowledgments or Appendix may take different forms, from paragraphs to charts. In this section, scholars include additional information on a research paper.
References mean a section where students, scholars, or scientists provide all used sources by following the format and academic rules.
Any type of work must meet some standards. By considering a research paper, this work must be written accordingly. In this case, the main characteristics of research papers are the length, style, format, and sources. Firstly, the length of research work defines the number of needed sources to analyze. Then, the style must be formal and covers impersonal and inclusive language. In turn, the format means academic standards of how to organize final works, including its structure and norms. Finally, sources and their number define works as research papers because of the volume of analyzed information. Hence, these characteristics must be considered while writing research papers.
Types of Research Papers
In general, the length of assignments can be different because of instructions. For example, there are two main types of research papers, such as typical and serious works. Firstly, a typical research paper may include definitive, argumentative, interpretive, and other works. In this case, typical papers are from 2 to 10 pages, where students analyze research questions or specific topics. Then, a serious research study is the expanded version of typical works. In turn, the length of such a paper is more than 10 pages. Basically, such works cover a serious analysis with many sources. Therefore, typical and serious works are two types of research papers.
Typical Research Papers
Basically, typical research works depend on assignments, the number of sources, and the paper’s length. So, a typical research paper is usually a long essay with the analyzed evidence. For example, students in high school and colleges get such assignments to learn how to research and analyze topics. In this case, they do not need to conduct serious experiments with the analysis and calculation of data. Moreover, students must use the Internet or libraries in searching for credible secondary sources to find potential answers to specific questions. As a result, students gather information on topics and learn how to take defined sides, present unique positions, or explain new directions. Hence, typical research papers require an analysis of primary and secondary sources without serious experiments or data.
Serious Research Studies
Although long papers require a lot of time for finding and analyzing credible sources, real experiments are an integral part of research work. Firstly, scholars at universities need to analyze the information from past studies to expand or disapprove of researched topics. Then, if scholars want to prove specific positions or ideas, they must get real evidence. In this case, experiments can be surveys, calculations, or other types of data that scholars do personally. Moreover, a dissertation is a typical serious research paper that young scientists write based on the research analysis of topics, data from conducted experiments, and conclusions at the end of work. Thus, serious research papers are studies that take a lot of time, analysis of sources with gained data, and interpretation of results.
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Research and Writing Guides
Writing a paper? Don't get lost.
What is a research paper?
A research paper is a paper that makes an argument about a topic based on research and analysis.
Any paper requiring the writer to research a particular topic is a research paper. Unlike essays, which are often based largely on opinion and are written from the author's point of view, research papers are based in fact.
A research paper requires you to form an opinion on a topic, research and gain expert knowledge on that topic, and then back up your own opinions and assertions with facts found through your thorough research.
➡️ Read more about different types of research papers .
What is the difference between a research paper and a thesis?
A thesis is a large paper, or multi-chapter work, based on a topic relating to your field of study.
A thesis is a document students of higher education write to obtain an academic degree or qualification. Usually, it is longer than a research paper and takes multiple years to complete.
Generally associated with graduate/postgraduate studies, it is carried out under the supervision of a professor or other academic of the university.
A major difference between a research paper and a thesis is that:
- a research paper presents certain facts that have already been researched and explained by others
- a thesis starts with a certain scholarly question or statement, which then leads to further research and new findings
This means that a thesis requires the author to input original work and their own findings in a certain field, whereas the research paper can be completed with extensive research only.
➡️ Getting ready to start a research paper or thesis? Take a look at our guides on how to start a research paper or how to come up with a topic for your thesis .
Frequently Asked Questions about research papers
Take a look at this list of the top 21 Free Online Journal and Research Databases , such as ScienceOpen , Directory of Open Access Journals , ERIC , and many more.
Mason Porter, Professor at UCLA, explains in this forum post the main reasons to write a research paper:
- To create new knowledge and disseminate it.
- To teach science and how to write about it in an academic style.
- Some practical benefits: prestige, establishing credentials, requirements for grants or to help one get a future grant proposal, and so on.
Generally, people involved in the academia. Research papers are mostly written by higher education students and professional researchers.
Yes, a research paper is the same as a scientific paper. Both papers have the same purpose and format.
A major difference between a research paper and a thesis is that the former presents certain facts that have already been researched and explained by others, whereas the latter starts with a certain scholarly question or statement, which then leads to further research and new findings.
- Research Paper Basics
What is an Academic Journal or Research Paper?
From quantitative to qualitative, or from science and math to the social sciences, academic journals and research papers have come to be spaces for the presentation, discussion, critique, and scrutiny of both old and new scholarship, and valuable research. The academic journals and research papers we have access to are only published after strict vetting, to ensure that they meet standards that can be aspired towards by scholars and individuals in academia.
What is an Academic Journal or a Research Paper?
The terms "academic journal" and "scholarly journal" can be use synonymously. Published academic or scholarly journals contain research papers that have been written by experts or scholars from the field of study that the article is based in or about, making them distinct from your regular essays .
Thus, academic journals provide quality and reliable research papers. The papers and articles that are included in academic journals would usually have been peer-reviewed as well. This refers to the articles having been vetted and reviewed by other experts, and made sure to have met standards for publication. If not, they are revised. This peer-review process makes sure that all the articles that are published are of the best quality possible.
Academic journals and the papers in it are intended to be read or referred to by other experts and individuals pursuing a specific field of study, given that they are usually more technically nuanced and advanced compared to articles you find elsewhere like in magazines or on websites. The quality also makes articles from academic journals apt to be used as secondary research and supporting evidence in student essays or assignments.
The Purpose of Academic Journals or Research Papers
Academic journals are produced to consolidate, communicate, and explain the results gathered from recent research conducted in the field of study that the journal is based on and about. They forward and accelerate the dissemination of legitimate knowledge through the publication of high quality research papers and articles.
The scholarly articles that are found in journals present systematic and thorough findings from studies on a single topic. Apart from research papers, academic journals can also include review articles that offer a robust summary of the current findings and knowledge on a topic.
Elements of Research Papers
Upon first glance, the name or title of the journal would be clear, and academic and professional in nature. The journal would also be published through a professional organization or university press. Papers that are published in these academic journals include the following :
Papers from scholarly journals are to include abstracts; a summary of what the paper will be addressing and discussing. This short summary should cover the more important points of the paper, without the need to include background information. It could also briefly describe the results of the studies conducted for the paper's research, and a 2 to 3 lines on the importance of the results collected.
Articles in academic journals are put together by experts and researchers from the article's field of study. In this section, these authors' names would be found with academic credentials attached, such as Ph.D, M.D., etc, and their affiliations to particular or esteemed institutions.
Technical or Academic Language
Articles are written by professionals in the field of study, for other professionals and for individuals in academia. Technical jargon and academic language is the norm, and it is used with the expectation that it would be familiar to readers.
Unlike abstracts, the introductory sections in scholarly articles includes background information. This section would also introduce the paper's research question, and what and how the article would contributes to existing knowledge within the field accordingly. The introduction should successfully introduce and explicate the purpose, problems and limits of the topic of study.
Academic articles would require to systematically cite or state their sources of information. These resources can be presented in multiple ways; as references at the end of the paper, as endnotes or footnotes, or bibliography.
Methods and Results - Charts, Graphs, Statistics
In this section of an academic or research article, the results of the studies conducted and the means through which they were arrived at are accounted for. Charts, tables, graphs, diagrams, and other kinds of statistics are to be presented here if necessary. This section any descriptions and explanations should be as nuanced and thorough as possible, to ensure reliability and credibility.
A DOI number, or Digital Object Identifier number, is a very specific string or combination of numbers and letters that are used as identifiers for academic articles. This number is used to identify academic journal articles and research reports and link them on the web.
Academic papers can also include literature reviews, or a survey and summary of the current state of knowledge and scholarly sources on the very topic that the article is addressing. Literature reviews need to successfully allow readers to identify the topic's relevant theories, other methodologies that have been employed in other studies, and gaps that have not been addressed in existing research.
Academic or scholarly journals are out together with the primary purpose of distribute legitimate knowledge on the latest studies, research, and breakthroughs. They provide, and validate, specific and in-depth knowledge about multiple areas of study and interest for students and experts.
With such publications, newer and more current knowledge and information will continue to be discovered and consumed everywhere.
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- Step 1: Sections in a Research Paper
- Step 2: Order for Preparation
- Step 3: Conceptualizing an Attractive Title
- Step 4: Effectively Reviewing Literature
- Step 5: Drafting the Abstract
- Step 6: Drafting Introduction
- Step 7: Drafting Materials and Methods
- Step 8: Drafting Results
- Step 9: Drafting Discussion
- Step 10: Drafting the Conclusion
- Step 11: Citing and Referencing
- Step 12: Preparing Figures
- Step 13: Preparing Tables
- Step 14: Assigning Authorship
- Step 15: Acknowledgements Section
- Step 16: Checking the Author Guidelines
- Step 17: Proofreading and Editing
- Step 18: Pre-submission Peer-Review
- Step 1: How to Structure a Research Paper?
- Step 3: How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
- Step 4: How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
- Step 5: How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
- Step 6: How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
- Step 7: How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
- Step 8: How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
- Step 9: How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
- Step 10: How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
- Step 15: How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper
How to Write a Research Paper – A to Z of Academic Writing
Part of a scientist’s job is to publish research. In fact, some would argue that your experiment is only complete once you have published the results. This makes it available to the scientific community for authentication and the advancement of science. In addition, publishing is essential for a researcher’s career as it validates the research and opens doors for funding and employment. In this section, we give you a step-by-step guide to help you write an effective research paper. So, remember to set aside half an hour each day to write. This habit will make your writing manageable and keep you focused.
There are different types of research papers. The most common ones include:
Original research paper, rapid communication or letter, review article, meeting abstract, paper, and proceedings.
This is a full report written by researchers covering the analysis of their experimental study from start to finish. It is the most common type research manuscript that is published in academic journals. Original articles are expected to follow the IMRAD format.
These are usually written to publish results urgently in rapidly changing or highly competitive fields. They will be brief and may not be separated by headings.It consists of original preliminary results that are likely to have a significant impact in the respective field.
This is a comprehensive summary of a certain topic. It is usually requested by a journal editor and written by a leader in the field. It includes current assessment, latest findings, and future directions of the field. It is a massive undertaking in which approximately 100 research articles are cited. Uninvited reviews are published too, but it is best to send a pre-submission enquiry letter to the journal editor first.
This is mostly used in the medical field to report interesting occurrences such as previously unknown or emerging pathologies. It could be a report of a single case or multiple cases and will include a short introduction, methods, results, and discussion.
This is a brief report of research presented at an organized meeting such as a conference. These range from an abstract to a full report of the research. It needs to be focused and clear in explaining your topic and the main points of the study that will be shared with the audience.
- STEP 1: How to Structure a Research Paper?
- STEP 2: Order for Preparation of the Manuscript
- STEP 3: How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
- STEP 4: How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
- STEP 5: How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
- STEP 6: How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
- STEP 7: How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
- STEP 8: How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
- STEP 9: How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
- STEP 10: How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
- STEP 11: Effectively Citing and Referencing Your Sources
- STEP 12: Preparing Figures
- STEP 13: Preparing Tables
- STEP 14: Assigning Authorship
- STEP 15: How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper
- STEP 16: Checking the Author Guidelines Before Preparing the Manuscript
- STEP 17: Proofreading and Editing Your Manuscript
- STEP 18: Pre-submission Peer-Review
How to Structure a Research Paper?
Your research paper should tell a story of how you began your research, what you found, and how it advances your research field. It is important to structure your research paper so that editors and readers can easily find information. The widely adopted structure that research papers mostly follow is the IMRaD format . IMRaD stands for Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Additional requirements from journals include an abstract, keywords, acknowledgements, and references. This format helps scientists to tell their story in an organized manner. Authors often find it easier to write the IMRaD sections in a different order. However, the final paper should be collated in the IMRaD format as follows:
Case studies follow a slightly different format to the traditional IMRAD format. They include the following extra sections:
- History and physical examination: Details of the patient’s history. It provides the story of when a patient first sought medical care.
- Diagnostic focus and assessment : Describe the steps taken that lead to a diagnosis and any test results.
- Therapeutic focus and assessment: Explain therapies tried and any other recommendations from consultants. Assess the efficacy of the treatments given.
- Follow-up and outcome: Provide results and state the patient adhered to treatment. Include any side effects.
- Patient perspective: Describe the patient’s experience.
- Patient consent: State that informed consent was obtained from the patient.
Order for Preparation of the Manuscript
As mentioned above, most research publications follow the IMRAD format. However, it is often easier to write each section in a different order than that of the final paper.
Authors recommend you organize the data first and then write the sections as follows:
- Figures and tables: Decide how your data should be presented. You can use graphics, tables or describe it in the text.
- Methods: It is important that anyone can use your methods to reproduce your experiments.
- Results: Here you write only what the results of your experiments were. You do not discuss them here.
- Discussion: This section requires analysis, thought, and a thorough understanding of the literature. You need to discuss your results without repeating the results section.
- Conclusion: This section can either be under a sub-heading or the last paragraph of the discussion. It should inform the reader how your results advance the field.
- Introduction: Now that you have thought about your results in the context of the literature, you can write your introduction.
- Abstract: This is an overview of your paper. Give a concise background of the problem and how you tried to solve it. Next state your main findings.
- Title: As discussed above, this needs to be concise as well as informative. Ensure that it makes sense.
- Keywords: These are used for indexing. Keywords need to be specific. Often you are not allowed to use words that appear in the journal name. Use abbreviations with care and only well-established ones.
- Acknowledgements: This section is to thank anyone involved in the research that does not qualify as an author.
- References: Check the “Guide for authors” for the formatting style. Be accurate and do not include unnecessary references.
How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
Your research title is the first impression of your paper. A good research paper title is a brief description of the topic, method, sample, and results of your study. A useful formula you could use is:
There are different ways to write a research paper title :
State the main conclusions. Example: Mixed strains of probiotics improve antibiotic associated diarrhea.
Describe the subject. Example: Effects of mixed strains of probiotics on antibiotic associated diarrhea.
Use a question for the subject. Example: Do mixed strains of probiotics improve antibiotic associated diarrhea?
We recommend the following five top tips to conceptualize an attractive research title:
- Be descriptive
- Use a low word count (5-15 words)
- Check journal guidelines
- Avoid jargon and symbols
How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
The process of conducting a literature review can be overwhelming. However, if you start with a clear research question, you can stay focused.
- Literature search: Search for articles related to your research question. Keep notes of the search terms and keywords you use. A list of databases to search and notes of the ones you have searched will prevent duplicate searches.
- What is their research question?
- Are there potential conflicts of interest such as funders who may want a particular result?
- Are their methods sufficient to test the objectives?
- Can you identify any flaws in the research?
- Do their results make sense, or could there be other reasons for their conclusion?
- Are the authors respected in the field?
- Has the research been cited?
- Introduction: Here you introduce the topic. The introduction describes the problem and identifies gaps in knowledge. It also rationalizes your research.
- Discussion: Here you support and compare your results. Use the literature to put your research in context with the current state of knowledge. Furthermore, show how your research has advanced the field.
How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
The importance of research paper abstracts cannot be emphasized enough.
- They are used by online databases to index large research works. Therefore, critical keywords must be used.
- Editors and reviewers read an abstract to decide whether an article is worth considering for publication.
- Readers use an abstract to decide whether the research is relevant to them.
A good research paper abstract is a concise and appealing synopsis of your research. There are two ways to write an abstract: structured and unstructured research abstracts . The author guidelines of the journal you are submitting your research to will tell you the format they require.
- The structured abstract has distinct sections with headings. This style enables a reader to easily find the relevant information under clear headings (objective, methods, results, and conclusion). Think of each section as a question and provide a concise but detailed answer under each heading.
- The unstructured abstract is a narrative paragraph of your research. It is similar to the structured abstract but does not contain headings. It gives the context, findings, conclusion, and implications of your paper.
How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
The Introduction section of your research paper introduces your research in the context of the knowledge in the field. First introduce the topic including the problem you are addressing, the importance of solving this problem, and known research and gaps in the knowledge. Then narrow it down to your research questions and hypothesis.
Tips to write an effective introduction for your research paper :
- Give broad background information about the problem.
- Write it in a logical manner so that the reader can follow your thought process.
- Focus on the problem you intend to solve with your research
- Note any solutions in the literature thus far.
- Propose your solution to the problem with reasons.
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How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
When writing the Materials and Methods section of a research paper, you need to give enough detail in your methods so that others can reproduce your experiments. However, there is no need to detail established experiments. Readers can find these details in the previously published references you refer to in the methods. Follow these tips to write the Materials and Methods section of your research paper: :
- Write in the past tense because you are reporting on procedures you carried out.
- Avoid unnecessary details that disrupts the flow.
- Materials and equipments should be mentioned throughout the procedure, rather than listed at the beginning of a section.
- Detail any ethics or consent requirements if your study included humans or animal subjects.
- Use standard nomenclature and numbers.
- Ensure you have the correct control experiments.
- Methods should be listed logically.
- Detail statistical methods used to analyze your data.
Here is a checklist of things that should be in your Materials and Methods:
- References of previously published methods.
- Study settings : If the research involves studying a population, give location and context of the site.
- Cell lines : Give their source and detail any contamination tests performed.
- Antibodies : Give details such as catalogue numbers, citations, dilutions used, and batch numbers.
- Animal models : Species, age, and sex of animals as well as ethical compliance information.
- Human subjects : Ethics committee requirements and a statement confirming you received informed consent. If relevant, clinical trial registration numbers and selection criteria.
- Data accession codes for data you deposited in a repository.
- Software : Where you obtained the programs and their version numbers.
- Statistics : Criteria for including or excluding samples or subjects, randomisation methods, details of investigator blinding to avoid bias, appropriateness of statistical tests used for your study.
- Timeframes if relevant.
How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
Some journals combine the results and discussion section, whereas others have separate headings for each section. If the two sections are combined, you state the results of your research and discuss them immediately afterwards, before presenting your next set of results. The challenge is to present your data in a way that is logical and accurate. Set out your results in the same order as you set out your methods.
When writing the Results section of your research paper remember to include:
- Control group data.
- Relevant statistical values such as p-values.
- Visual illustrations of your results such as figures and tables.
Things that do not belong in the results section:
- Speculation or commentary about the results.
- References – you are reporting your own data.
- Do not repeat data in text if it has been presented in a table or graph.
Keep the discussion section separate . Keep explanations, interpretations, limitations, and comparisons to the literature for the discussion.
How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
The discussion section of your research paper answers several questions such as: did you achieve your objectives? How do your results compare to other studies? Were there any limitations to your research? Start discussing your data specifically and then broaden out to how it furthers your field of interest.
Questions to get you started:
- How do your results answer your objectives?
- Why do you think your results are different to published data?
- Do you think further research would help clarify any issues with your data?
The aim is to tell the reader what your results mean. Structure the discussion section of your research paper in a logical manner. Start with an introductory paragraph where you set out the context and main aims of the study. Do this without repeating the introduction. Some authors prefer starting with the major findings first to keep the readers interested.
The next paragraph should discuss what you found, how it compares to other studies, any limitations, your opinion, and what they mean for the field.
The concluding paragraph should talk about the major outcomes of the study. Be careful not to write your conclusion here. Merely highlight the main themes emerging from your data.
Tips to write an effective discussion:
- It is not a literature review. Keep your comments relevant to your results.
- Interpret your results.
- Be concise and remove unnecessary words.
- Do not include results not presented in the result section.
- Ensure your conclusions are supported by your data.
How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
While writing the conclusion for your research paper, give a summary of your research with emphasis on your findings. Again, structuring the conclusion section of your research paper will make it easier to draft this section. Here are some tips when writing the conclusion of your paper:
- State what you set out to achieve.
- Tell the reader what your major findings were.
- How has your study contributed to the field?
- Mention any limitations.
- End with recommendations for future research.
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Effectively Citing and Referencing Your Sources
You need to acknowledge the original work that you talk about in your write-up. There are two reasons for this. First, cite someone’s idea to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is when you use words or ideas of others without acknowledging them and this is a serious offence. Second, readers will be able to source the literature you cited easily.
This is done by citing works in your text and providing the full reference for this citation in a reference list at the end of your document.
Tips for effective refencing/citations:
- Keep a detailed list of your references including author(s), publication, year of publication, title, and page numbers.
- Insert a citation (either a number or author name) in-text as you write.
- List the full reference in a reference list according to the style required by the publication.
- Pay attention to details as mistakes will misdirect readers.
Try referencing software tools “cite while you write”. Examples of such referencing software programs include: Mendeley , Endnote , Refworks and Zotero .
Some quick tips about figures:
- Legends of graphs and tables must be self-explanatory.
- Use easily distinguishable symbols.
- Place long tables of data in the supplementary material.
- Include a scale bar in photographs.
Important pointers for tables:
- Check the author guidelines for table formatting requirements.
- Tables do not have vertical lines in publications.
- Legends must be self-explanatory.
To qualify as an author on a paper, an individual must:
- Make substantial contributions to all stages of the research.
- Draft or revise the manuscript.
- Approve the final version of the article.
- Be accountable for the accuracy and integrity of the research.
Unethical and unprofessional authorships have emerged over the years. These include:
- Gift authorship : An individual is listed as a co-author in lieu of funding or supervision.
- Ghost authorship : An author is paid to write an article but does not contribute to the article in any other way.
- Guest authorship : An individual who is given authorship because they are well known and respected in the field, or they are senior members of staff.
These authors pose a threat to research. Readers may override their concerns with an article if it includes a well-respected co-author. This is especially problematic when decisions about medical interventions are concerned.
How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper
Those who do not qualify as authors but have contributed to the research should be given credit in the acknowledgements section of your research paper . These include funders, supervisors, administrative supporters, writing, editing, and proofreading assistance .
The contributions made by these individuals should be stated and sometimes their written permission to be acknowledged is required by editors.
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Points to Note from the Author Instructions Before Preparing the Manuscript
Check the author guidelines for your chosen publication before submission. Publishers mostly have a “House Style” that ensures all their manuscripts are consistent with regards to language, formatting, and style. For example, these guidelines will tell you whether to use UK or US English, which abbreviations are allowed, and how to format figures and tables. They are also especially important for the references section as each journal has their own style.
Proofreading/Editing your Manuscript
Ensure that your manuscript is structured correctly, clearly written, contains the correct technical language, and supports your claims with proper evidence. To ensure the structure is correct, it is essential to edit your paper .
Once you are happy with the manuscript, proofread for small errors. These could be spelling, consistency, spacing, and so forth. Importantly, check that figures and tables include all the necessary data and statistical values. Seek assistance from colleagues or professional editing companies to edit and proofread your manuscript too.
Pre-submission Peer-Review of Your Manuscript
A pre-submission peer-review could improve the quality of articles submitted to journals in general. The benefits include:
- A fresh eye to spot gaps or errors.
- Receiving constructive feedback on your work and writing.
- Improves the clarity of your paper.
You could ask experienced colleagues, supervisors or even professional editing services to review your article.
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