Research Paper Guides

How to Write a Research Paper: Complete Guide & Writing Tips

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A research paper is a written work that presents the results of an investigation or study on a particular topic. The purpose of a research paper is to offer new knowledge to the field and provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the subject. It should have a clear thesis statement, a well-structured outline, and use reliable sources. The paper should also demonstrate critical thinking and in-depth analysis of the research question.

Creating a research paper requires significant effort and time, but it can also be a rewarding experience that leverages your critical thinking and writing skills. 

In this article, you'll find a breakdown of the research paper writing process into manageable tasks. It begins with a clear explanation of what a research paper is and its significance. The guide also provides step-by-step instructions on how to write a research paper, including tips on conducting research, organizing your ideas, and crafting a flawless work.

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What Is a Research Paper: Definition

A research paper is a type of document that requires students to investigate a specific topic, analyze sources, and interpret the findings. The aim is to bring together various facts, evidence, and views regarding a question in your field of study and present your assessment, arguments and understanding of them logically and orderly. 

Research Paper Definition

Note that research papers are different from other types of scholarly tasks such as an academic essay. A research paper aims to contribute new knowledge to a specific field and requires extensive research, sources, and a formal structure. On the other hand, an essay presents an argument or viewpoint, is usually shorter, and may not require sources or a strict structure.

Research Paper vs Academic Essay

Research paper



Contributes new knowledge to a particular field

Introduces an argument or a viewpoint on a particular


4000+ words

500-1000 words



Not always required


Comprehensive structure with separate sections

5-paragraph essay structure


Objective and formal

Personal and subjective

What Makes a Good Research Paper?

A good research paper is not just about presenting information. Its main goal is to  introduce research findings in a way that is both engaging and informative. Below are characteristics of a well-written research paper:

  1. A clear and concise thesis statement is present and serves as the foundation of the key arguments and analysis.
  2. Writing is well-organized, with major points and revelations presented in a logical and coherent manner.
  3. Solid facts and evidence support each central claim.
  4. A deep understanding of the subject matter and studies is shown while writing a research paper.
  5. The work is original and contains no signs of plagiarism.
  6. Correct citation format is followed in every source reference.
  7. Language used in the paper is clear, precise, and appropriate for scientific works.

How Long Should a Research Paper Be?

On average, a research paper length ranges between 4000-6000 words which is around 8-50 pages excluding references, abstracts, figures, or tables. Nevertheless, short works may necessitate 2000 words while longer ones may require up to 8000 words or more, based on their difficulty. In particular, complex subjects focusing on multiple research questions may require extended papers.

Other factors such as school level, an assignment’s discipline, scope, and instructions affect a research paper word count. Remember to stick to your task guidelines strictly as you write a research paper. Seek more information from your instructor in cases where the instructions are unclear about the size aspect.

How to Write a Research Paper Step-By-Step

Composing a professional piece is not something that you can do in a few hours. If you do not know how to write a good research paper, this guide will take you through a series of steps, beginning with a thorough consideration of the instructions and ending with examples:

How to Write a Research Paper

As you progress through these stages, you'll acquire valuable knowledge on how to write an academic research paper. This will enable you to handle the entire process with ease in future assignments. Keep in mind that the goal is to present your findings as clearly as possible. To achieve success in creating your study, follow the steps outlined below.

1. Carefully Read Instructions

The first step to writing a research paper is getting familiar with your instructions. Achieving success in your project demands careful attention and analysis of all the given guidelines. This approach guarantees exceptional outcomes. To ensure that your research paper meets the required standards, it is essential to:

  1. Examine an assignment. Spend adequate time reading all your research paper guidelines. If something is unclear or you are in doubt, ask your professor for clarification.
  2. Understand its purpose. You must be certain about your task’s objective. In other words, what is the purpose of research paper writing? Is it to persuade, inform, or analyze?
  3. Pay attention to specific details. Identify your assignment’s topic, its length, formatting and citation style, information about the process of writing a research paper, deadline, delivery method, number and type of sources, and any other special details.
  4. Keep key points in mind. Now that you know what is required, list all your important points and mark each one of them as done when writing.

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2. Come Up With a Topic

Once you have understood the instructions, the next step is to determine what to write in a research paper. Depending on the guidelines provided, you may be given a specific topic to research or required to choose one yourself. 

If you are tasked with selecting a topic, there are several ways to generate ideas, including:

  • Brainstorming
  • Discussing with your instructor or classmates
  • Engaging in freewriting exercises to identify relevant subjects
  • Reviewing other studies for undercovered topics.

Regardless of how you choose your topic, it is crucial to ensure that it meets the following criteria:

  1. Is relevant to an academic research paper length Longer works may require a slightly broad topic such as “Climate Change Effect on Agriculture”, while shorter ones need narrower themes such as “Climate Change Impact on Wheat Production.”
  2. Is interesting Selecting something interesting increases your eagerness to investigate and simplifies your work when interpreting sources.
  3. Can be analyzed rather than summarized Focus on a debatable theme that can be viewed from different angles.
  4. Has adequate previous exploration Finding a topic with many research papers makes it easy to find and evaluate information.

Besides, make sure that your preferred theme meets the assignment criteria, is original, and is specific. For example, “Cold War Chronology” is too broad and not specific compared to “Significant Technological Inventions during the Cold War.”

3. Carry Out Initial Research

Now that you have a topic, conducting a preliminary investigation when you write your research paper is important. This step is crucial in discovering the availability of information on the issue, understanding your target audience, and establishing the background of your work. To achieve this, you need to read several articles or books in your field related to your topic, as you continue to learn on how to do a research paper. But before getting your sources, you must develop a good search strategy.

Therefore, start by listing several keywords related to your subject. Then, find reliable databases such as JSTOR, EBSCO etc. and type in the phrases you identified one by one to commence your search. The results from your exploration will show a wide range of articles. However, research writing requires selecting credible sources. Thus, ensure that you choose scholarly documents only.

As the initial inquiry progresses, find relevant texts for a literature review. Assess them by thinking about their importance to your topic, accessibility, and relevance. Additionally, look out for prominent authors, try to identify the perspectives of studies, and determine if you can understand the presented facts. As you pick sources for a research paper, take notes about their arguments.

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4. Construct a Thesis Statement

After conducting preliminary research and gathering data, it's important to craft a thesis statement that captures the main idea of your research paper. This statement will serve as the focal point of your analysis, and it helps to organize your thoughts and arguments effectively. Typically placed in the introduction, your thesis statement prepares your readers for the insights you'll present in the rest of the paper.

To create a good thesis, ensure that it is in a statement form, not a question. This is essential because it must express your perspective. Also, don’t exaggerate an opinion. For example, don’t say, “AI is wonderful” or “AI is terrible”. Rather, you should state that “AI does more good than harm” or vice versa and give reasons. 

While writing an academic research paper, it's crucial that you directly address the topic you intend to discuss in your thesis statement. This involves clearly defining and categorizing the information you've gathered to support your argument.

Look at the following example:

The Amazon Rain Forest can be saved by Restricting Tourism, Boycotting Products made by Companies Depleting its Resources, and Educating Masses regarding the need to Preserve it.

This statement is good because it provides the main arguments and focuses your study by identifying and demonstrating the reasons for taking that particular position. However, something like “Is it possible to Save the Amazon Rain Forest?” is catchy but does not state an opinion, offer reasons, or provide a direction for an investigation. 

Note that developing an effective thesis is an essential skill that contributes to your knowledge about how to properly write a research paper.

Read this resource if you need more details on how to write a thesis statement for a research paper.

5. Build an Outline

One of the crucial steps to writing a research paper is creating an outline. This is vital because it streamlines your work, highlights detailed information for each paragraph and identifies the elements to be included in each section. Besides, it acts as a visual map of your research paper.

The structure usually encompasses a thesis statement, basic ideas that will be mentioned in each paragraph, and supporting thoughts under each major theme. 

But how do you write a research paper outline? Start with your thesis before listing and dividing the subjects to be discussed into major categories and sub-categories. Include sources under each topic. Remember that your sketch must reflect the selected arrangement of your project. Check this research paper outline template to get a better idea on how to properly organize your work.

6. Write the First Research Paper Draft

After completing an outline, you can start to write your research paper first draft. Keep in mind that you can revise or proofread it later. Thus, at this point, don’t be concerned too much with issues such as punctuation, editing, grammar or spelling. Rather, focus on your work’s content based on your outline. In particular, expand the template’s ideas with the information you collected during your initial exploration and elaborate on them. 

The best way to write a research paper is to organize your project into three sections including an introduction, body, and conclusion. This enables you to put together different pieces into a coherent work.


To write an effective research paper you need to compose a decent introductory section. A research paper introduction should include a thesis, a summary of the main ideas, and a hook to engage the reader. To achieve this, you must first grab your audience's attention, provide relevant background information, explain the importance of your work, and present a clear thesis statement. 

To decide what information to include, use the "what", "why", and "how" questions. Start by identifying the topic and providing context and key concepts. You can also highlight the controversial or critical nature of the topic or your novel insights. 

Next, explain how your paper is organized and preview the topics to be discussed. By the end of the introduction, your readers should have a clear understanding of what a research paper is written about.


When it comes to writing a research paper, the body paragraphs are where you will discuss your main points and how they relate to one another. As a rule of thumb, this section is divided into several subsections, each covering a specific aspect of your research question. This approach enables you to organize your arguments and evidence in a clear and logical manner.

Here is how you can effectively develop each paragraph when you write a research paper:

  • Start with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main point of the paragraph.
  • Include reliable sources to provide evidence that backs up your argument. Make sure these sources come from reputable books or journals for accuracy and credibility.
  • Keep each paragraph focused on one main idea by avoiding any extra information not directly related to your argument.
  • Include graphs, tables and figures to support your ideas. However, avoid stuffing your text with too many distracting elements. The best way out is to show additional images in the appendix of a paper.
  • Utilize transition words such as "furthermore," "in addition," or "similarly" to show how ideas connect throughout your paper.
  • End each body paragraph with a conclusion statement that restates the main ideas and how they relate to your overall argument.

Following these steps in each body paragraph will ensure that you have effectively supported your research paper's argument, helping it to be as successful as possible. With strong evidence and well-structured paragraphs, you can make sure your research paper stands out from the crowd.


When concluding a research paper, it's important to consider your audience and the desired results you want readers to achieve. Simply restating your thesis and summarizing key arguments will result in a weak ending that fails to guide readers toward considering the implications of your topic. To ensure a strong conclusion for your research paper, keep the following in mind:

  1. Provide future direction. Now that you have convinced the audience to accept your argument, what do you think will occur or should be done in the future?
  2. Offer specific recommendations. At this point, your readers understand that the issue you explored is important. What should they do next or what can be done next?
  3. Place your study problem in a broader context. Once you have proven the relevance of your topic, what other essential themes should be considered?

As you continue learning about how to write a conclusion for a research paper, note that it should not provide new information. Besides, it should not be too long or too short. Specifically, cover the aforementioned points adequately to help your readers understand your work’s argument and how you have addressed the thesis. Additionally, avoid phrases such as “In conclusion” at the beginning of this section.

Feel free to use our Summarizing Tool to wrap up information you have provided in the main body. 

7. Cite Sources as You Write a Research Paper

Citing sources is a crucial step in writing a research paper, as it allows you to acknowledge information obtained from external sources. By referencing the sources you've used, you demonstrate to your readers which concepts support your arguments, where your ideas come from, and which ideas are your own.

Proper citation is essential because it's a key skill in the research process, and it enhances your credibility as a scholar by showing that you've used reputable sources to back up your statements. On the other hand, improper citation can harm your integrity by misrepresenting others' ideas as your own, which is plagiarism. Academic dishonesty can result in project paper rejection or dismissal from your institution. It's important to check for plagiarism to ensure the authenticity of your research paper.

Thus, to ensure your academic reliability, avoid:

  1. Heavily depending on outside sources.
  2. Summarizing or paraphrasing others’ ideas too much.
  3. Incorrectly documenting articles.

The basic requirement regarding citation is that you should cite any specific information from outside sources. 

You can use one of the following formats for citing in essays:

  1. APA
  2. MLA
  3. Chicago
  4. AMA
  5. IEEE
  6. Harvard
  7. Vancouver.

Remember that each style has specific rules regarding referencing sources within the document and at the end of research papers. So, ensure you understand the layout to use and its requirements.

8. Write the Second Draft of Your Research Paper

You started with a first draft, which means that your writing should have improved by now. Do not stop because the process for writing a research paper is not over yet. You need to prepare a second draft of your project. For this part, compare your current piece with the initial draft and ensure you are on the right path in terms of addressing your thesis and task instructions. You must also consider your audience and identify any points requiring more information or evidence.

Another essential point on how to write a great research paper is removing arguments that lack adequate support and include new ideas that are relevant to the topic. Besides, check all the sections and make sure they are well-organized. You can rearrange your arguments to make your text flow smoothly and logically.

9. Revise and Edit

Writing a good research paper necessitates going over your work to improve it. Start with looking at various sections of your project such as an introduction, body, and conclusion and assess whether they convey your perspective correctly. 

It is also essential to ensure that your research paper is correct concerning aspects such as punctuation, sentence construction, grammar, spelling, and word choice among others. 

Remember that there is a difference between revising and proofreading. In particular, when doing a revision, the focus is usually on altering elements such as paper structure and arrangement of points. Nonetheless, proofreading entails polishing the text in terms of grammar aspects. Therefore, it is important to modify the document first before refining its semantics. 

Generally, attend to the following rules:

  1. Double-check to be sure that your work conforms to research papers guidelines.
  2. Look out for incomplete or vague arguments and offer more clarification or explanation.
  3. Consider whether you forgot transitions between paragraphs, offered examples without explanations, or overlooked links between segments. Make corrections accordingly.

Tips on Writing a Research Paper

Now that you know how to create a research paper, completing your project successfully should not be a difficult task. Since the procedure of writing a research paper is not easy to most students, knowing the research paper writing tips that should be considered during the actual writing is essential. Therefore, to ensure that the task is less challenging for you, follow the following extra tips for writing a research paper and get high grades:

  1. Use index cards when analyzing studies. This allows you to keep track of all your thoughts, sources, and ideas.
  2. Question/thesis statement. Ensure it is stated clearly and is specific. Avoid being too broad or vague. Also, make sure that it is addressed or answered properly by the end of your work.
  3. Structure. Follow a proper and consistent format. Make sure you understand what each page requires and where to place it.
  4. Language. Eliminate any grammatical or language issues as this enhances the quality of a research paper.

You may also need a useful guide on how to write a research proposal for your paper. We have such a blog with all the necessary steps.

Research Paper Checklist

If you are crafting your project from scratch, begin by going through the aforementioned steps to gain insights into the research paper process. However, if you are done with your work, you should be ready to submit it. But is it all set for delivery? To be sure, you should double check everything and make sure that your research paper writing has covered all elements. Consider this checklist:

  • My work complies with all the formal assignment requirements.
  • I picked an appropriate topic based on the instructions.
  • I have included reliable and credible studies.
  • My work contains an arguable, clear, and specific thesis statement.
  • I have organized my research paper logically and in an easy-to-understand structure.
  • I cited the information I obtained from others.
  • I have revised and proofread my work to eliminate errors and improve its quality.
  • I used a proper format.
  • My work is ready for delivery.

Bottom Line on Research Paper Writing

This article has presented valuable information about how to write a research paper. The entire process has been described comprehensively covering every important detail that guides you in developing your project. By now you should understand what is research paper writing. As seen from the aforementioned definition, it is a crucial piece of work that requires you to investigate, analyze, and interpret studies about an issue. We hope that by reading this guide for the research paper, you will be able to grasp the essential concepts. However, if some ideas are unclear, you can go through the blog again to see what a research paper looks like.

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FAQ About Writing a Research Paper

1. What is the purpose of a research paper?

The main purpose of a research paper is to engage other studies, draw on the opinions of experts about a specific topic, and offer a unique and thoughtful view of the problem being investigated. Accomplishing this necessitates spending an adequate amount of time examining, assessing, and interpreting sources before presenting the analysis results.

2. How to organize a research paper?

A completed research paper is generally organized into three major sections including an introduction section, a body segment, and a conclusion part. Each main part may include subheadings to ensure a logical structure and smooth flow of ideas. The body is the longest of the three and includes the bulk of your work supported with evidence from other studies.

3. What is the difference between a research paper and an essay?

The main difference is that a research paper is usually longer and offers arguments to prove a thesis or analyze a topic. It relies on information from other sources to back up points in an attempt to conduct a primary investigation about a particular phenomenon. An essay, on the other hand, looks shorter, has a focused objective, provides an answer to a particular issue, is based on the author’s experiences and thoughts, and mostly involves individual opinions on a specific subject. It also covers content that is already published in other studies and lacks original inquiry.

Article posted on:Mar 9, 2023
Article updated on:Jan 19, 2024


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