Every college student will likely have to write at least one college-level research paper once they graduate. We understand the process can be daunting. So in this guide, we will walk you through 10 steps of writing a research paper that’s effective and impactful. These are:
- Familiar Yourself with the Assignment
You must understand what your professor is asking of you before you begin writing a research paper. Spend time carefully reading the assignment, grading rubric, and any other material provided. And ask for clarification if you don’t understand what the teacher expects you to write and how he/she will grade you.
- Pick a Topic
Having understood what you should write in your paper, you can now decide what to write on, preferably something you’re passionate about and find interesting. Regardless, it is easier and recommendable to pick a topic that fits into the guidelines provided by your instructor.
People approach research in different ways. The key things to remember are:
Skimming: read through things quickly by identifying key points and arguments without getting bogged down in details.
Find reliable resources: these include your teacher/professor, research librarians, academic databases, and the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.
Don’t ignore information: take time to understand different perspectives and schools of thought on your topic, by say, reading various articles.
- Organize Your Research
Step four involves organizing all the information you have gathered. There are various ways to organize your research, depending on your preference or assignment requirements. These include creating a bibliography, printing a list of your resources, bookmarking links to your top resource sites, or using notecards or sticky notes.
- Form a Thesis Statement
Next on the list is to craft a thesis statement, which tells your readers what you are trying to explain or prove. Try writing a one-sentence answer to the question, “what is my paper about?” Your professor can help you determine whether your thesis statement matches the scope of your paper.
- Create an Outline
An outline is really about structuring your paper. When creating one for your research paper, it makes sense to have an introduction and conclusion. However, the sections that fall between will depend on the contents of your essay. The outlining stage is also a great time to think about logical fallacies you should avoid.
Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s now time to write. It may be helpful to go over your research before you start writing. But don’t go back and forth between your resources and writing your essay since it increases the chances of plagiarism.
- Edit for Content
Next comes the editing stage, where you first edit your content for structure, organization, wording, and length. Is your paper well developed? Does it communicate what you meant to get across? Is your essay too long or too short? Make all the changes you need to make, then read through the paper again to ensure it all makes sense.
- Edit for Grammar
The editing stage also involves editing for grammar. Resources like Grammarly and Strunk & White’s Elements of Style can help you correct your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and more. It might take a few run-throughs for you to catch and fix all mistakes.
- Re-read Your Research Paper Before Submitting
Read through your paper again. Reading your research paper in hard copy may help you spot errors or formatting inconsistencies that you may have missed when reading on screen. Once you have double-checked that your paper meets all the assignment requirements, turn it in.