Nova A.
Nova A.

Research Paper Writing - A Step by Step Guide

14 min read

Published on: Nov 23, 2017

Last updated on: Oct 25, 2023

research paper

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a research paper? Do complex guidelines and the sheer volume of work leave you feeling stuck?

The pressure to produce a well-researched paper can be daunting, often overshadowing the excitement of exploring new ideas.

But fret not! 

In this blog, we'll guide you through the research paper writing process with simplicity and clarity. We'll also provide you with step-by-step instruction and valuable insights to how to write an effective research paper.

Let’s get started.

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What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is a scholarly document that presents a systematic and structured exploration of a specific topic, issue, or question. 

It is a formal academic piece of writing that synthesizes existing knowledge, incorporates original research or analysis, and offers well-supported conclusions or insights. 

Research papers are typically written by students, academics, or researchers and serve to contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field of study.

How Long Should A Research Paper be?

Generically,  a research paper typically falls within the range of 6,000 to 8,000 words, which is equivalent to approximately 15-20 pages double-spaced with standard formatting. 

However, for different academic levels, here is a general idea:

  • Undergraduate Research Paper: Around 10-15 pages (double-spaced).
  • Master's Thesis: 50-100 pages or more, depending on the institution and discipline.
  • Doctoral Dissertation: 150-300 pages or more, depending on the field and research depth.

How to Write a Research Paper?

Writing a research paper is a structured and methodical process that involves several essential steps. 

Following these guidelines will help you produce a well-organized and academically sound research paper.

How to Start a Research Paper?

A good research paper must follow a proper structure and format. The first important step in the writing process is to start your paper perfectly. 

1. Understand the Research Paper Requirements

To succeed in your research paper assignment, it's crucial to comprehend the topic and the paper's structure requirements fully. Here are key steps to enhance your understanding:

  • Read Instructions: Thoroughly read assignment instructions. Seek clarification from your professor if any parts are unclear.
  • Identify Purpose: Understand the main purpose of your research paper, whether it's informing or persuading readers.
  • Note Key Details: Take note of essential details, including the deadline, word count, submission method, and required formatting style.
  • List Key Points: Create a list of key points you need to cover in your paper.
  • Set a Timeline: Plan a schedule for starting, writing, and editing your research paper.

2. Consider the Target Audience

Consider your audience's knowledge and expertise level as it influences writing style, word choice, and the depth of information required:

  • For master's level research, expect an expert audience.
  • Undergraduate papers can cater to both general and expert readers.

3. Choose the Right Research Paper Topic

Selecting the right topic is crucial. If you have the option to choose, follow these steps:

  • Brainstorm Ideas: Generate ideas for your topic. Seek input from professors or specialists for a unique approach.
  • Freewrite: Use freewriting to narrow down a broad topic.
  • Review Research Work: Find inspiration in other research papers, especially in their discussion and recommendation sections.
  • Challenge and Interest: Choose a challenging research paper topic that piques your interest and can engage your audience.
  • Specificity: Avoid overly technical or general topics. Opt for an original, specific idea aligned with your research paper's criteria.

4. Conduct Thorough Research

Thorough research is vital for finding relevant ideas, focus, and direction. Ask these questions:

  • Gap in Research: Is there a gap in previous research on your topic?
  • Recent Developments: Are there recent developments in your subject?
  • Debates: Are there ongoing debates related to your topic?
  • Unique Perspective: Do you possess a unique perspective on the topic?

5. Developing a Strong Thesis Statement

After research, create a strong, concise thesis statement. It should serve as the central argument, stating the purpose and position of your paper. 

Support it with solid evidence and reasoning. Ensure your thesis is clear concise, and guides your writing throughout the research paper process.

Preparing a Research Paper Proposal

A research proposal is vital for framing your research project. To create an effective research proposal, address these key questions:

  • What is your research objective
  • Why is this research necessary
  • How will you approach it?

A well-structured research proposal includes these sections:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Background and significance
  • Literature review
  • Research design and methods
  • Hypothesis and discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Citations

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Writing the First Draft

In the first draft, your focus is on:

  • Translating ideas into arguments
  • Adding detail and structureUnderstanding the paper's overall flow
  • Adhering to the research paper format
  • Maintaining clear organization
  • Properly explaining ideas and findings
  • Ensuring flexibility for future adjustments
  • Providing proper citations

1. Create a Research Paper Outline

An organized outline is crucial for planning your paper's structure and content. It serves as a roadmap for your writing process. Here are some components of an effective research paper outline:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Literature Review
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix

2. Writing an Abstract

The abstract is a concise summary of your paper. Keep it between 150 and 250 words, highlighting key points from each section.

3. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction should answer 'What,' 'Why,' and 'How' questions:

  • What: Clearly specify the topic, historical context, and key terms.
  • Why: Discuss the significance of your research.
  • How: Outline the main elements to be covered.

4. Crafting a Literature Review

In the literature review, discuss existing research on your topic. Locate and analyze scholarly articles, highlighting their relevance to your study. Present the past, present, and expected future of the issue.

5. Methodology

Methodology outlines how you conducted your research and collected data. It should be detailed enough that another researcher could replicate your study. In this section, you should include:

  • Study Design: Describe the type of study (e.g., experimental, observational, survey) and its rationale.
  • Participants: Provide information about the number, characteristics, and selection criteria of the participants.
  • Data Collection: Explain the instruments, tools, or techniques used to gather data. Include details such as questionnaires, surveys, interviews, or experiments.
  • Procedure: Describe the step-by-step process of your research, including how data was collected and any ethical considerations.
  • Data Analysis: Specify the statistical or analytical methods used to process and interpret the data.

6. Results

The Results section presents the findings of your study. It should be factual and data-driven, without interpretation. Include:

  • Data Presentation: Use tables, figures, and charts to present your data clearly.
  • Descriptive Statistics: Report essential statistical measures like means, standard deviations, or percentages.
  • Inferential Statistics: Use appropriate statistical tests to analyze your data.
  • Textual Description: Summarize the key findings and refer to tables or figures where necessary.

7. Discussion

This is where you interpret your results, discuss their implications, and relate them to your research question. Include:

  • Interpretation: Explain the meaning and significance of your findings.
  • Comparison to Existing Research: Compare your results to previous studies and explain how they align or differ.
  • Limitations: Address the limitations of your study and potential sources of bias.
  • Future Research: Suggest areas for future research or improvements to your methodology.

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8. Writing a Research Paper Conclusion

In the conclusion:

  • Summarize your paper
  • Reiterate how you addressed the main idea and research questions
  • Avoid introducing new information
  • Suggest potential future research

9. Bibliography

The Bibliography (or References) section lists all the sources you cited in your paper. It should follow a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). Arrange your sources alphabetically and format them according to the style guidelines.

10. Appendix

The Appendix is an optional section where you can include supplementary material that supports your research but is too detailed or extensive to include in the main body of the paper. 

Examples of content for the appendix might include raw data, additional charts, questionnaires, or extended descriptions of methods.

Writing the Second Draft

Once you've roughly organized your thoughts in the first draft, proceed to craft the second draft of your paper. 

Consider the following aspects to perfect your second draft:

  • Effectively Address the Main Argument: Review your paper to ensure you've effectively addressed the main argument or thesis statement.
  • Identify Assumptions: Identify any assumptions that may need inclusion or clarification in your paper.
  • Logical Structure: Rearrange and structure your ideas logically to enhance the paper's flow.
  • Trim Irrelevant Ideas: Remove any outdated or irrelevant ideas from the first draft and introduce fresh, unique approaches.
  • Create a Work Cited List: Start compiling a list of works cited according to your chosen citation style guide.

Revising and Proofreading

The final step in the writing process involves revising and proofreading to ensure your paper is well-developed and error-free. 

Confirm the following aspects:

  • Meeting Requirements: Verify if your paper meets all the specified requirements.
  • Logical Paragraph Order: Check for a logical order of paragraphs and ideas.
  • Eliminate Irrelevant Details: Remove any irrelevant or extra details.
  • Grammar and Punctuation: Look for grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors.
  • Sentence Structure: Identify and rectify any issues with sentence structures.
  • Consistency: Ensure consistency in font, headings, page numbers, and formatting throughout the paper.
  • Proper Referencing: Confirm that all sources are correctly referenced following the guidelines of your chosen citation style.

Research Paper Examples

Examples serve as valuable templates and guides, showcasing various formatting styles, organization, and approaches to research paper writing. 

In this section, we will provide you with research paper examples for your reference and a deeper understanding of how to structure and present your own research. 

Expert Tip

If you want more examples for research papers, check out our blog about research paper examples!

Research Paper Writing Checklist

This stage often refers to the phase of conducting research for your paper. This checklist will help you ensure that you cover all the necessary steps during this phase:

Define Your Research Topic:

  •  Is your research topic clear and well-defined?
  •  Have you identified the key research questions or objectives?

 Review Existing Literature:

  •  Have you conducted a comprehensive review of relevant literature?
  •  Have you identified gaps in the existing research that your paper can address?

Choose Research Methods:

  •  Have you selected appropriate research methods (e.g., surveys, experiments, interviews) for your study?
  •  Are your chosen methods aligned with your research goals?

Collect Data:

  •  Have you gathered data according to your research plan?
  •  Is the data collection process ethical and well-documented?

Organize and Analyze Data:

  •  Have you organized your data for easy analysis?
  •  Have you applied the appropriate data analysis techniques?

 Cite Sources Properly:

  •  Have you cited all your sources correctly using a consistent citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago)?

 Evaluate the Quality of Sources:

  •  Have you assessed the credibility and relevance of your sources?
  •  Do your sources provide strong support for your research?

 Manage Your References:

  •  Have you created a bibliography or reference list for your paper?
  •  Are your references well-organized and complete?

Analyze and Interpret Findings:

  •  Have you drawn meaningful conclusions based on your data and research results?
  •  Have you discussed the implications of your findings?

Draft a Research Paper Outline:

  •  Have you created an outline that organizes your research paper logically?
  •  Does your outline include sections like the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion?

Write a Clear and Coherent Paper:

  •  Is your paper well-structured with a clear introduction and conclusion?
  •  Do your paragraphs and sections flow logically and coherently?

Proofread and Edit:

  •  Have you carefully proofread your paper for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors?
  •  Have you edited for clarity, conciseness, and consistency?

Format Your Paper:

  •  Have you formatted your research paper according to the required style guidelines (e.g., font, margins, line spacing)?

 Include Proper Citations:

  •  Have you cited all sources within the text and in the reference list accurately?
  •  Are in-text citations consistent with your reference list?

 Check for Plagiarism:

  •  Have you used plagiarism detection tools to ensure your paper is free from copied content?

Seek Feedback:

  •  Have you asked peers, advisors, or colleagues to review your paper for feedback and suggestions?

Review Guidelines and Requirements:

  •  Have you double-checked that your paper meets all the assignment or journal submission requirements?

Create Tables and Figures:

  •  If applicable, have you created clear and informative tables, charts, or figures to support your findings?

Reference Appendices:

  •  Have you included any necessary appendices for supplementary information?

 Final Review:

  •  Have you given your paper a final review to ensure it meets your research objectives and quality standards?

In summary, this guide will assist you in writing a perfect research paper. However, we understand that it may be quite challenging for students who lack strong writing and research skills.

The above-mentioned complete guide will help you write a perfect research paper. However, we understand that it is quite difficult for students who lack good writing and research skills.

If you're in search of the best paper writing service, stands out as the prime choice. We are a legitimate writing service, where you can hire an expert writer for your research papers.

Feel free to contact us without hesitation to discuss your custom research paper requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main purpose of a research paper?

The main purpose of a research paper is to bring together different views, evidence, and facts from books, articles, and interviews. It will interpret the information into your own writing so that you can share these with other writers as well as an audience of readers. 

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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