A Step by Step Guide to Writing a Research Paper Tips and Strategies for Effective Academic Writing

A Step by Step Guide to Writing a Research Paper Tips and Strategies for Effective Academic Writing

Download FREE LegalStix App

Understanding the Research Paper Writing Process

What are the different stages involved in writing a research paper?

Writing a research paper involves multiple stages that are unique to this type of assignment. The first step is to understand the assignment and create an outline of the paper's structure [1]. Conducting thorough research and organizing ideas are other important stages in the process [2]. Once the research is complete, the next stage is drafting the paper, which can be a lengthy and involved process [2][1]. Due to the additional rules involved in writing a research paper, there are some extra steps to be taken, such as properly preparing sources and focusing on scientific writing approaches [1][3]. Revising and editing the paper is the final stage, where the document is polished and refined [2]. It is important to note that the steps involved in writing a research paper can be rearranged based on familiarity with the topic and encountered challenges, and different methods may work best for different individuals [3][4]. While the writing process of a research paper may seem daunting, there are strategies that can help ease the process and improve its results [3]. It is also important to note that tools and resources are available to provide help with each stage of the process [1].

What are the key components of a research paper?

Research papers are a type of academic writing that requires in-depth independent research, analysis, interpretation and argumentation. They are based on empirical evidence and statistical data, and provide an evaluation or interpretation of a single topic. The paper should be well-structured and divided into sections with headings, as outlined in the pre-writing stage [5][1]. Paragraphs serve as the basic building blocks of research papers, with each paragraph focusing on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper [5]. The topic of a research paper should be specific enough to cover all relevant information without being too broad, and have enough data and complexity to support the analysis and evaluation provided in the paper [1]. Key terms or concepts should be defined and the background of the topic introduced. An introduction is essential, which should convey what the paper is about, explain why it's worth reading, and address three questions: What, why and how?.Making an original contribution to the debate is an important requirement of a research paper, and it is designed to assess writing skills and scholarly research skills [5]. Research papers are longer and more detailed assignments than academic essays, requiring strong knowledge of the topic and engagement with a variety of sources. The body contains the bulk of the research paper and is usually divided into sections with separate headers. The divisions in the outline can be used as a guide for organizing the body.

How do you choose a topic for your research paper?

Choosing a topic is the most important decision when writing a research paper, as noted by [1]. This can be the most challenging part of a research assignment [4]. So, it is vital to choose a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment [4][5]. A good starting point is to brainstorm ideas with pen and paper. As you do this, you should aim for ideas that are original and specific [5]. You can also gain inspiration from other research papers, using their discussion or recommendations sections to find ideas for specific topics [5]. Once you have a few topic ideas, you should begin early research to refine your ideas and find the best paths and approaches to gather more material for the research paper [1]. This early research can also reveal the best length for your research paper based on the available information [1]. If you are struggling to choose a topic, talking it through with a fellow student or professor can be helpful [5]. Ultimately, the chosen topic should be of personal interest, as this can make the research and writing process more enjoyable and keep the researcher engaged [4][1].

Conducting Research and Gathering Information

What are the different types of sources you can use for your research paper?

When conducting research, it is important to carefully consider the types of sources that will be used. The text does not provide information on other types of sources besides print resources [6]. However, it is important to be specific when describing the types of resources that will be used [6]. There are two categories of research sources: primary and secondary [6]. Primary sources provide direct, firsthand information or data, such as the text of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights [6]. Secondary sources, on the other hand, are not direct, firsthand sources of information or data; they are based on primary sources and include books and journal articles that analyze or interpret primary sources [6]. In addition to print sources, human sources of information, such as interviews, can also serve as sources for a research paper [6]. Electronic sources, such as websites and articles retrieved from databases, can also be used, but it is important to be cautious when using sources that may not be reliable, such as popular magazine articles or company brochures that may be written to market a product or a cause [6]. It is important to note that not all sources are rigorously researched and reviewed [6]. The type of source used depends on the topic and purpose of the research paper [6]. Sources are written with different audiences in mind and for different purposes [6]. While electronic sources are also used for research, it is unwise to limit oneself to only electronic sources as potentially useful sources may only be available in print form [6]. A variety of print resources are available at public and university libraries, which are listed in Table 11.1 [6].

How do you effectively search for and gather information?

When it comes to effectively searching for and gathering information, there are various strategies to consider. One of the first steps is conducting a keyword search to locate sources quickly and efficiently [6]. However, this can be challenging because search results can be overwhelming, requiring the use of strategies to narrow down the results to find relevant information [6]. Using online catalogs and databases can also be helpful, but it is important to understand how to use them effectively [6]. Reference librarians can be a valuable resource when it comes to finding and gathering information effectively, especially if you are struggling to locate the right sources or need help with search strategies [6]. It is important to remember that effective information gathering may require using more methods and/or more nuanced techniques than just searching on Google [7]. Knowing the right keywords to use is also crucial in conducting a successful search [6]. If you are having trouble finding sources on a topic, consulting a librarian for help with modifying your search terms can be beneficial [6]. Additional strategies for making your search more efficient include using multiple keywords and Boolean operators to limit your results, clicking on the Advanced Search link for additional options, and conducting a preliminary search to ensure enough information is available and set the context of research [6][4]. Once you have located relevant sources, it is important to look for background information in lecture notes, textbooks, and reserve readings as well as using appropriate titles in the library's Reference collection and other sources like catalogs, databases, and search engines [4]. Lastly, it is important to verify if there is enough authoritative information on the topic and make a list of resources to use for research. If data gathering is necessary for your research, there are multiple methods available such as surveys, forms, interviews, focus groups, observation, and online tracking [8][9]. However, it is crucial to use reliable sources of information, ensure that the data is collected consistently and reliably, select appropriate data-gathering techniques, and prepare to collect and store the collected data safely and privately [8][9]. Data gathering is necessary to understand your target market, and there are multiple methods for gathering data [9].

What are the best practices for taking notes and organizing your research?

To efficiently locate sources and take notes, it is essential to develop a plan to organize and synthesize the gathered information. The first step in this process is to collect all the relevant information [4]. As sources are gathered, notes should be taken to record one major point at a time [6]. These notes should include enough information to help organize and locate ideas quickly [6]. While taking notes, it is important to think about how the information will be used later on and attribute each idea to its respective source to avoid plagiarism [6]. Quotations or paraphrases should be enclosed in quotation marks and include source information to identify the ideas [6]. It is also important to keep your own responses and ideas separate from the quoted or paraphrased ideas [6]. To take notes, one can choose from a variety of methods, such as using a separate column or section of a notebook to record responses to the information encountered in research [6]. Allotting a few pages or one file for each source in the research notebook is also a recommended best practice for taking notes and organizing research [6]. Once all sources have been gathered and notes have been taken, the next step is to create a rough draft to organize ideas and determine the final form of the paper [4]. This draft should be revised multiple times to create a final product [4]. Throughout the note-taking process, it is important to make connections between your notes and the research questions and subtopics you identified earlier, as well as identifying connections among different pieces of information [6]. It is also recommended to keep all your notes in one file, digital or otherwise, for ease of access and organization [6]. Overall, developing a plan for organizing research by efficiently locating sources and taking notes can greatly enhance the research process.

Outlining and Structuring Your Paper

Why is creating an outline important for writing a research paper?

Creating an outline is a crucial aspect of writing a research paper, which cannot be overlooked. An outline serves as a roadmap for the writer to stay organized and focused while writing the paper [10]. It helps in defining the structure of the paper and ensures that all topics, data, and inclusions are structured correctly [10][11]. An outline provides a structure for the research paper and allows the author to stay on track while writing [10]. It also helps the writer stay organized by including subtopics and evidential sources [10]. Moreover, creating an outline can save time and make the writing process more efficient [11]. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas, anticipate different directions in analysis, and brainstorm new ideas [11][12]. An outline also allows for flexibility in writing the paper since it can be reorganized if there are changes in the paper's focus or new sections need to be added [11]. Additionally, it helps to support the thesis statement or purpose of a research paper and ensures that everything in the research paper supports the thesis statement [13]. Language is an important consideration when creating an outline, and an effective research paper outline can help in presenting the paper to the teacher [14]. Overall, creating an outline is important for writing a research paper because it helps the writer to stay organized, structured, and focused during the writing process, ensuring proper coherence or flow of ideas in the final paper [10][11].

What are the different elements and sections of a research paper?

Research papers require a specific structure that must be followed to ensure a methodical and systematic approach to the paper. The standard format of a research paper includes different elements and sections, which must be organized to match the standard format [11]. The writing in a research paper is typically broken up into sections and paragraphs, with each paragraph focusing on a specific topic and related evidence or data [10]. The depth of detail in a research paper can vary depending on the writing style or requirements of the paper [10]. To ensure that the contents of the paper are well-organized, an outline must be created, which can have different levels of intricacy [10]. Four-level outlines can have detailed paragraph and sentence breakdowns while one-level outlines display only section headings or main topics [10]. A research paper consists of topics, subtopics, and supporting points. Everything discussed in a research paper should relate to the thesis. Tangential information should be omitted, and related information should be kept together [10]. The point of the paper should be summed up in one sentence or phrase, and the research problem can help in deciding the title of the paper. In fact, the research problem is the focal point of a research paper, and the rest of the outline flows from it [11]. Research paper outlines have the same organization as alphanumeric outlines, with main topics listed as Roman numerals, details for each point listed as lowercase letters, subtopics listed as capital letters, and subtopic points listed as Arabic numerals [10].

How do you structure your paper to effectively convey your research and ideas?

To effectively convey your research and ideas, it is essential to structure your paper in a logical and organized manner. Begin by brainstorming the main ideas you want to convey, and then using a technique to organize these ideas into a coherent outline [15]. The outline should include headings for each main point you want to make, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion [15][11]. Each body paragraph should focus on a specific topic or idea, and transitions between ideas and paragraphs should be used to maintain coherence throughout the paper [11]. When outlining your own paper, it is important to focus on your own ideas and how best to organize them [15]. Creating an outline can help to put your ideas in a logical order, making your argument stronger and more effective [11][15]. It is also important to incorporate concepts and quotations from various sources, but ultimately your interpretation of those ideas is what will make your paper unique and insightful [15]. Finally, be sure to start with an introduction that clearly states your argument and end with a conclusion that summarizes your main points and leaves a lasting impression on the reader [15]. By following these guidelines, you can structure your paper in a way that effectively conveys your research and ideas.

Writing and Revising Your Paper

What are the best practices for writing a research paper, including grammar, tone, and style?

In the United States, the emphasis is placed on the writing process in academic English [16]. Experienced writers spend a considerable amount of time revising their initial draft, often rewording, reorganizing and rewriting their work to improve its quality and readability [16]. While the text does not provide any information on best practices for grammar, tone, and style in writing research papers, it is important to consider these aspects of writing. Tone and style can greatly impact the reader's perception of the work and should be tailored accordingly to the intended audience [17]. Additionally, grammar is an essential part of writing a research paper. Grammatical errors can detract from the credibility of the work, and therefore, it is important to take the time to review and edit the document for accuracy and clarity [17]. One of the best practices for ensuring grammatical accuracy is to have a writing expert proofread the paper before submission. This can help catch any errors that may have been missed during the writing and editing process [17]. Ultimately, when writing a research paper, it is important to remember that the process involves multiple drafts and revisions to produce a polished final product that effectively communicates the intended message to the reader.

How do you effectively revise and edit your paper?

Once the rough draft of the paper is complete, revising and editing become crucial components of the writing process. Revision encompasses more than simply fixing errors; it involves evaluating, adding, deleting, replacing, and moving items in your paper to ensure that ideas are clearly expressed and well supported [18][19][20]. Successful revision requires stepping back and re-envisioning the writing and determining if the goals of the paper have been accomplished [20]. To effectively revise your paper, wait at least an hour after writing it or a day or two if possible before revising, as taking a break between drafting and revision can be helpful [19][20]. During revision, it is important to cut irrelevant sections,reorder the main points,strengthen topic sentences and transitions to make the argument's structure visible,and make structural changes such as bringing the strongest ideas to the front of the essay [21]. Visualizing and physically rearranging your draft can help with this process, and you can rearrange paragraphs to see which option is best for organization, development of ideas and argument, where your counterargument best fits, and the flow of your writing [18]. Furthermore, successful editing involves checking for errors of grammar and style,considering your writing style,and ensuring that the paper is error-free and clear [20]. Involving someone else in your revision process can also be helpful when feeling frustrated or stuck [20]. The goal of revision is to move the paper closer to a final draft, and changes to organization and development should be made during this process [19]. A reverse outline can also be created to see the structure and logical flow of the draft, and each paragraph should support the argument and relate back to the thesis [18]. Finally, gaps in logic should be identified and filled through further research if necessary, and paragraphs that do not fit within the paper should be either developed or deleted [18]. By following these steps, the writer can effectively revise and edit their paper.

What are the common mistakes to avoid when writing a research paper?

When writing a research paper, there are several common mistakes that should be avoided. One such mistake is neglecting the revision process and mistaking editing for revision. Revision is an integral part of any good writing process, and it's essential to keep your target audience in mind when revising [22]. During revision, you should try to see your work from different perspectives and different angles to avoid imbalanced papers with some parts out of proportion with others [22][21]. Cutting out information that doesn’t relate to the thesis or focus is also crucial during revision. Too often, students include irrelevant or redundant information, which can detract from the paper's overall quality [22][21]. Spending too much time on trivial points and neglecting more important ones is another common mistake to avoid when writing a research paper. It's crucial to focus on the major issues in the paper rather than minor details like commas, and start with a working thesis while not being hesitant to change it if necessary [23]. Revision is not just rewording; it's also a chance to look at the entire paper [23]. Therefore, it's essential to avoid falling in love with what you have written and to let go of the old thesis if a better one comes along [23]. In summary, it's important to prioritize revision and to approach it with an open mind, while also keeping the paper's focus and organization in mind.

Formatting and Citing Your Paper

What are the different citation styles and when should you use them?

Citation styles are used to recognize related literary pieces and mention references used in academic writing [24]. Different citation styles such as APA, MLA, Chicago, and AMA exist to cite resources from research [25][26]. The format of citation varies depending on the style used, and each citation style formats the information differently [26][25]. The basic information in a citation is the same across all citation styles; however, the citation style used depends on the requirements of the research project [26]. Sometimes, the citation style is dependent on the academic discipline involved [25], and one should study various citing styles and research well before producing any academic writing [24]. It is important to cite academic papers properly to counteract plagiarism [24]. When listing education on the resume, citations are not required [24]. There are different citation styles, and the text provides descriptions and samples of major in-text and bibliographic citations for each style. Additionally, the guide provides a few examples for each citation style and links to online resources for citing [25].

How do you properly format your paper, including headings and margins?

Proper formatting is essential in writing a research paper. In general, the paper should be typed and double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides [27]. The page header should include the paper title and the page number. For professional papers, the title should be typed flush left in all capital letters, whereas for student papers, the page header should only include the page number [27][24]. The running head, a shortened version of the paper's title, should be typed in all capital letters and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation. It should appear flush left in the header on every page of a professional paper, while a student paper's header should only contain the page number in the top-right corner [27][28]. The recommended font style is Times New Roman in size 12 for MLA and APA formats [24]. When creating tables, it is essential to keep row and column labels concise and use bold styling for "Table" or "Figure" and the number. The title should be placed on a separate line directly below it in italics and title case, while vertical lines should not be used in tables, and as few horizontal lines as possible should be used [27]. Finally, paragraphs should be indented by half an inch using the tab key, and the last name and page number should appear flush right on the first page's upper right-hand corner [27].

What are the best practices for citing sources and avoiding plagiarism in your research paper?


When writing a research paper, it is important to properly cite all sources used to avoid plagiarism and give credit where it is due. Citing sources not only acknowledges the original author's ideas and research but also demonstrates accountability and integrity as a writer [29]. Failure to cite sources can result in a failed grade or even job termination, as plagiarism is considered theft of intellectual property and is taken seriously in academic and professional settings [29]. To prevent plagiarism, both in-text citation and a reference list should be used together, and every quote or piece of outside information included in the paper should be referenced [29]. APA style is commonly used for citation to prevent plagiarism, and both in-text citation and reference list are equally important and should be used together [29]. EasyBib.com offers various styles for citation, and its APA format generator can be used to quickly and easily credit sources [29]. Every reference should have an entry, and a matching full reference should be shown at the end of the paper [29]. Furthermore, best practices for citing sources should be followed to avoid plagiarism in research papers [26]. MLA Style provides guidelines for citing research in writing, using parenthetical citation for referencing sources in essays and Works Cited pages. Properly using MLA can demonstrate accountability to source material and protect writers from accusations of plagiarism [30]. Lastly, for research papers published in academic journals, it is essential to treat them like any other journal article by including the abbreviated title of the journal in italics, followed by the year of publication, issue number, and pages where the paper appears [26]. By including proper citation, a writer can avoid plagiarism and demonstrate their professionalism and commitment to ethical writing practices.


1. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-write-a-research-paper/
2. Writing for Success. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from open.lib.umn.edu
3. Writing Process and Revising. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from psychology.ucsd.edu
4. Basic Steps in the Research Process | North Hennepin Community College. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.nhcc.edu
5. How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.scribbr.com/category/research-paper/
6. Writing for Success. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from open.lib.umn.edu
7. The Research Process - RESEARCH TOOLKIT. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from researchtoolkit.weebly.com/the-research-process.html
8. 5 Steps in the Research Process - AcqNotes. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from acqnotes.com
9. Ways to conduct data gathering. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.surveymonkey.com
10. How to Write a Research Paper Outline In 7 Steps. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.grammarly.com/blog/research-paper-outline/
11. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/outline
12. Creating an Outline. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.iup.edu
13. Outlining. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from writingcenter.gmu.edu
14. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.scribbr.com/research-paper/outline/
15. Using An Outline to Write A Paper | CUNY School of Professional Studies Writing Fellows. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from bacwritingfellows.commons.gc.cuny.edu/using-an-outline/
16. Revising - Writing a Paper - Academic Guides at Walden University. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from academicguides.waldenu.edu
17. Steps for Revising Your Paper. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from owl.purdue.edu
18. Revising. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from writingcenter.gmu.edu
19. Guidelines for Revising. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.iup.edu
20. The Importance of Revising Your Paper - History - Trent University. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.trentu.ca/history/importance-revising-your-paper
21. How to Revise Drafts | University of Minnesota Crookston. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from crk.umn.edu/writing-center/how-revise-drafts
22. Revising & Editing a Research Paper. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from owl.excelsior.edu
23. Revising Drafts – The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/
24. How to Cite a Research Paper in Each Research Paper Format. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from essaypro.com/blog/research-paper-format
25. University of Pittsburgh Library System. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from pitt.libguides.com/citationhelp
26. How to Cite a Research Paper. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.wikihow.com/Cite-a-Research-Paper
27. General Format. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from owl.purdue.edu
28. APA Formatting and Citation (7th Ed.) | Generator, Template, Examples. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.scribbr.com/apa-style/format/
29. APA Format for Students & Researchers. (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from www.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/apa-format/
30. MLA General Format . (n.d.) Retrieved September 2, 2023, from owl.purdue.edu

Loading Result...

Download FREE LegalStix App

Get instant updates!

Request a callback
Register Now