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9 Step Research Paper Writing Guide

        Research paper should be based on a research you have done along with your own arguments and opinion on the topic at hand. A research paper differs from reviews, summaries, or critiques, therefore, it might be a real challenge to create one from scratch, especially if you are not a wordly-wise academic writer. Below we have created a writing guide to help you in composing outstanding research papers.

Step #1. Let’s get started

        This point can be one of the most difficult ones. You need to focus and conquer your fear of a blank page. The temptation to check your Facebook feed or incoming email folder can be stronger than ever, but you must fight if off! These are the steps to keep you concentrated on your work. Firstly, you have to make sure that you understand the task and then set up a schedule:

  • Look through the instructions your professor gave you and find out what are the milestones of your project;
  • Identify the deadlines and give yourself at least one extra day to edit and revise it;
  • You are not expected to understand the entire project from the first glance;
  • Take your time to get your head around the task you are about to do – even 15 minutes will help;
  • Make sure that you are aware of all the basic requirements – formatting, paper length, type, number of sources etc.;
  • Set a firm date for every milestone.

Define what type of a research paper you are writing

  • Analytical research paper
        In an analytical paper, you are required to perform a deep rooted research and scrutinize the present topic. Then you should present the findings on paper from your subjective point of view.Example: The importance of religion for the Muslim and Vatican world
  • Argumentative research paper
        In this case, you have to present a controversial issue and choose a certain side. Your task is to present objective research and persuade your readers that your point of view is correct.
Example: National security is more important than people’s privacy

Organize yourself

        Make sure to stay organized. Forget about the mess in your notes, research sources, and thoughts. Write down everything you deem important for your paper while reading through study materials and books. And don’t forget to clearly mark your notes, such as the book titles, author’s name, and number of pages. Iit is better to have a plenty of information and use only a half of it than to be scratching your head trying to remember the title of the book you read with some important ideas.

Step #2. Choose a specific topic

        These tips and ideas can help you make better decisions when you are choosing a topic for your research paper.

Coming up with a topic idea

        Generally speaking, your topic is the main theme of your paper. Literally, this is something you are going to write about.

        Look through the paper instructions and think what interests you the most in the assignment you’ve been given. For instance, if your topic is 19th century English Literature, think about the time period that interests you most. Is it related to modernist novels? British drama? Late modernism? Then check out some sources, like encyclopedias, books, magazines, newspapers, Internet, and talk to your classmates – a good topic idea can come up from an unexpected place.

How to determine whether a topic fits your paper

  • You are interested in this topic.

If you are passionate about the topic, you will have a better time writing your paper. The process will be much easier and faster.

  • If the topic is broad, it should be narrowed down.

        Your topic should be broad enough to let you find enough materials for a research, but it should be specific enough to let you cover it completely in your paper.

Broad topic

Moon Exploration

Narrowed topic

The First Lunar Landing Programs in the USA

Broad topic

British Literature of the 19th century

Narrowed topic

The Concept of “Love” in British Literature of the 19th Century

Broad topic

21st Century French Philosophers

Narrowed topic

Central Ideas in French Philosophy of the 21st Century

  • Is it possible to find enough sources to compose your paper?

Are there enough accessible books and articles on your topic?

  • Do you have some thoughts to express on this topic?

        You need to briefly state the topic of your paper to move on to the thesis statement.

Step #3. The process of researching and note-taking

       Researching and note-taking is listed here as a single step for a reason. You will be performing a research and finding the best ideas for your thesis statement and body paragraphs while taking notes.       
        When you start writing, you may feel a necessity to do more research.How to get reliable sources?       
        There are different kinds of sources available and each of them has its pros and cons.
  • Books

        As a rule of thumb, books contain detailed information and research but sometimes they are hard to work with due to the volumes of data you have to process.

  • Encyclopedias

        They are useful in getting some general insights into the topic, but they are not your primary sources.

  • Journals

        Scholarly, specialized and deeply focused articles on specific topics are very useful. A relevant journal article can significantly strengthen the depth of your paper.

  • Magazines

        Include popular information on the most up-to-date events and general topics. However, not all of them are accepted as academic sources.

  • Newspapers

        The same as for the magazines, newspapers can include information about the current events, conferences and scholarly meetings.

  • Web

        It offers a plenty of information. A great part of online sources is valuable and can be used for your research paper, but there are just too many unreliable websites. Choose carefully.

  • Interviews

        If you can interview a person of authority on your topic, this interview could become a valuable part of a detailed expert insight in your paper.

Note-taking tips

  • Write down everything you think is important.
  • When you write down a quotation, don’t forget to put the quotation marks.
  • Write down not only some parts of the text or quotes for the future but also your own ideas.
  • Paraphrase if possible (don’t forget to include quotation marks even when paraphrasing).
  • Every note should include a source title and a page number.


Step #4. Coming up with a thesis

        Once the topic is decided, the time is right to write a strong thesis statement. This is a brief declaration of the main argument you are making.

What makes a good thesis

  • Make it short: one or two sentences are usually enough.
  • Express your central idea. Avoid stating general or blurred facts.
  • Do not include the argumentation – it is for your body paragraphs.
  • Avoid using first person language (“I believe” or “I think).
  • Do not generalize your topic (“This paper is about...”).
  • Locate your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph.


Step #5. Create an outline

        You need to outline your thoughts and be sure that you remember every detail. By outline the work you are about to do you make a writing process much easier. It helps you determine the direction of your thoughts and make any adjustments before you start writing.

        How to create an outline?

  • Look through your notes and group similar materials;
  • Come back to your thesis statement and make sure that it still expresses the central argument in the best way. If not – rewrite it.
  • Determine which arguments are the strongest and let each of them be a point for every separate paragraph of your paper.
  • Match the research notes with your points.
  • Order your ideas logically.
  • Determine whether some points need more research. If some thoughts require specification – make sure to continue researching.


Step #6. Writing a draft

        When you have an outline and a thesis statement done, the time is right to write a first draft. The structure of your paper should be as follows:



Your task is to present your topic briefly, explain your main purpose, include your thesis statement and motivate readers to continue reading.



Body should include your main points you have listed in your outline. Each point should be in a separate paragraph. Include your arguments, evidence, and quotations to support the main points.



In conclusion you have to sum up your previous points without presenting any new ideas. Make sure that your conclusion ties the previous points together.

        Some tips for draft writing

  • Don’t feel disappointed if your first draft is not perfect – a first draft is written to get your ideas together. You will polish it later.
  • Follow your outline and the writing process will be much easier.
  • Track the sources and ideas you use when writing. Don’t put off including the  quotation marks as you can forget about them later.
  • If you are stuck with a certain section of your paper – it’s okay to skip it and come back to it later.


Step #7. Revise

        Revising means reading through your draft and improving it. If you see that some parts need editing or adding extra information – make sure you do that.

Some revising tips

  • When you have finalized your draft, do not start revising it  once again right on the spot. Wait for a couple of days. This will give you a fresh perspective on things.
  • Read your paper without revising it at least once. This will give you a full picture.
  • Ask someone else to read your draft and give you some feedback.
  • Print your paper and read it once again. Then return to your computer to make amendments.

Revising checklist

        Use this checklist to make final revisions to your paper to make it better.

  • Does my thesis statement exprese my position to the fullest?
  • Do my points support the thesis statement?
  • Do I have enough evidence to support my points?
  • Do I have unnecessary information that is not related to my main points?
  • Is the order of my points structured logically?
  • Did I note all citations properly?
  • Are there any confusing parts that are hard to understand?


Step #8. Bibliography and citations

        It is crucial to give credit for the quotations you have used for your paper to avoid plagiarism. Citations and bibliography will make your readers follow the development of your ideas and the way other authors helped you formulate them.

Give credit

        Always give credit to the following information:

  • Facts that are not common;
  • Quotations (direct and paraphrased);
  • Any ideas expressed by other authors.

Formatting styles

        You professor will specify the formatting style to use. There are several widely used styles like APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian and Harvard. Make sure to check with your professor on a style you have to use.

        You can use online citation generators to create your bibliography in one of the common styles mentioned above.

Step #9. Proofread

        Proofreading is a must if you want to present your work and yourself in the best way possible.

Proofreading tips

  • Read through your paper to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes your auto-checker doesn’t find.
  • Check for the formatting issues, including bibliography and citations.
  • Correct the sentences that seem unclear or look awkward.

        Try some proofreading techniques listed below and choose the one that works best for you.

  • Read your paper out loud
  • Read your paper line by line
  • Proofread your paper for spelling, grammar and style one by one
  • Try using proofreading tools but don’t solely rely on them
  • Reread a printed version of your paper
  • Proofread the day before the submission is due
  • Don’t rush – be attentive and scrupulous
  • If your paper is long, don’t proofread it all at once – separate it in several sessions
  • Proofread your paper at least twice
  • Ask your friends or family to proofread the paper for you.


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