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How to Write a Research Paper

Research papers are the pinnacles of academic writing. They encompass writing creatively, academically, seeking quotations, facts, and information from books, magazines, internet sites, personal interviews, and so on. The beauty in writing a research paper is that there is a clear and uniform formula that, if you follow, you are certain to find success. The problem with writing research papers is that they require a lot of work and time. But, once you finish with them, you might have learned some interesting facts and thought of a few on your own.

Here are some quick guidelines to writing a research paper:

  1. Decide on a topic and discuss it with your teacher.
  2. Do back research:
    • Go to the library
    • Use the Internet Catalog to search for books about your subject
    • Use the Guide to Periodicals to search for magazine articles about your subject
    • Photocopy and/or check out the sources you need
  3. Read over the material
  4. Make notes (on note cards preferably) (see our guide, "How to Use Note Cards")
  5. Write an outline (see our guide, "How to Write an Outline")
  6. Write your introductory paragraph
  7. Complete your paper, as if just writing an essay
  8. Have someone else look over the essay, edit it for content and grammar.
  9. Rewrite/edit the paper.
  10. Double-check your quotations/facts
  11. Write a Works Cited page or Bibliography (see our guide, "How to Write a Bibliography")

While it may seem like there are so many steps in writing a research paper, do not let that bog you down. Yes, a research paper is quite a large task and it is important that you do it completely. If you skip one of the steps, you may find problematic areas later on.

Writing is not an easy task. When you add research to writing a paper, then fear may take over. It is important to realize that organization is the key to writing a research paper. In fact, the writing is the least of your worries. The writing is the easiest part of it. The research, note taking, and outline is the bulk of the creation of the research project. Once you have accomplished all those steps, then writing the paper is simply like filling in the blanks. Your outline will dictate what to say and when to say it.

Here are some quick tips as you're turning those late hours at the library into long lines on your Word documents:

  1. Do not forget to cite quotations
  2. Do not forget to use documentation
  3. Always write an outline first
  4. Always write down the bibliographical information for every source you use
  5. Always remember to write down the page number on which you found information
  6. Always let someone else read over your paper
  7. Never use "first person" (the personal "I think...") in your research paper
  8. Always double check your sources

Good luck with your research paper. Remember, writing a research paper is just like writing a regular essay. The only difference is the extra sources that go into your work. There is a lot more to do prior to writing a research paper than writing most other types of essays. While that may seem tedious, it is always liberating. It makes the actual writing component of the research paper much easier in the long run.