9 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

Everyone must do ‘it’ at one point or another to pass a course, whether you like it or not. ‘It’ is writing a research paper. Many students cringe when their professor/teacher even mentions the words because of the amount of work that needs to go into the process. Unless you don’t care about failing, you know you need to spend a good amount of time on the entire process. From the time you’re given the assignment to the actual research to the writing and editing, can take days or weeks. Below are nine steps that will guide and help you to write a GREAT research paper for your class.

1. Know What You Have To Do.

Many times after an assignment is given, students are leftwonderingjust exactly what it is they have to do. This can be thebiggestblockade in your way and usually can cause the most stress asstudents thinkabout topics. First, make sure you have a clear andprecise topic to write.Whether the topic is plain, “The Civil War,” orspecific,”Economic Effects of the Civil War,” try to settle down on asinglefactor. Working on a broad topic will hurt your paper, as youwill tend to flyoff of the model and introduce outside information thatwill only confuse thereader.

Depending on the class you may be given the opportunity to choose a topic of your own; this is a great feature of some courses. In this case, choose a topic, which you find most interesting. Whether or not you’re an expert on a given topic is the least important of matters, as you will have to do at least some research either way.
2. Understand Your Teacher’s/Professor’s Specific Requirements

This is the biggest key in succeeding, as most educators are fickle about their own set of regulations as far as papers go. Whether it’s types of font, margins, page numbers or any other variety of particulars. Usually, your teacher should either set the guidelines for any future papers at the beginning of the term. Otherwise, they would inform students at the same time of giving the assignment. Either way, make sure you understand and FOLLOW all of these requirements. Not doing so will automatically lower your grade tenfold.
Each teacher is different. However, generally, don’t use an abnormal font or size. ’12’ point font is usually the consensus along with a basic font such as Times New Roman, Arial, etc. Should you be unclear on any writing guidelines, either ask or e-mail your teacher. It will save you in the long run.

3. Actual Research

Chances are your teacher has demanded that you actually do some legwork as far as the research goes. In today’s world of technology and the Internet, students’ thoughts are far from heading to the local library or University library. Who can blame you? Depending on the class, the requirements for research will differ. However, it’s always good to have at least two books on your side. Whether or not you need to find yourself articles, newspapers or other concrete sources is up to your specific paper. It’s good to at least make a single trip to a library so that you’re not completely lost when you do need to go. You will.
Online research is a benefit to all as it is so simple to find and work with. Still, everyone and their pet parrot has a website these days. Try to distinguish between a credible site and one written by a kid/adult/group with a clear agenda.

Online databases such as EBSCO are very user friendly in hunting down articles, journals, books, reviews, and just about any other literature that can help you in your research.
As always, keep a list of all the sources you use or plan on using. Remember, you can use pictures, tables, graphs or other illustrations as sources. As a matter of fact, they can really stuff home a point during a paper and are generally easy to understand.

4. Introduction / Thesis

Your thesis is usually a single sentence in your introductory paragraph that explains what the rest of your paper will be about, proving a point. You should have a good idea of this before you begin your research so that you know how to help prove your belief.
Any good introduction should grab the reader by the proverbial horns and never let go. Even though it’s a research paper, make it interesting. Teachers have over 40 papers to go through in a matter of weeks, it can and DOES get boring. Spice it up a bit. Good introductions set the tone for the rest of the paper and will get you a better grade, guaranteed.

5. The Meat of Your Paper / The Body

The body of your paper is everything in between the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. This is where you include all the pertinent information, sources, quotes, etc. Depending on how long your paper is; the body will range from a pair of deep paragraphs to pages upon pages worth.
Choosing a format of citing sources is important here. MLA, Chicago and APA are the most popular and widely used. Whether you choose one or the other, always be consistent and never switch styles mid-paper. If you don’t have to use footnotes, don’t.

Now comes plagiarism, the big no-no. As you should know by now, it is a felony and if caught will get you into serious trouble. So, if you ever use any information from a source, ALWAYS give credit in some way. Whether it’s a quote or lead-in, give credit. For example of a lead in, introduce the source of the information and reveal it. Then you would go about analyzing and developing an opinion on it.
6. Finalize / The Conclusion

Some people work in different ways as far as the conclusion goes. Some finish it before the body, or vice-versa. Either way, AVOID introducing the paragraph with such words as: In conclusion, finally, Therefore, etc. The conclusion paragraph should restate your main points and give the reader a good sense of what they’ve just read.
Never introduce new information at this point. As the name says, use it to conclude the paper.

7. Check and Add On

Depending on who you are and what the topic you’re writing on is, you may be stretching words and information out. Whether it’s because you need to fulfill a page requirement or whatnot, this is usually one of the toughest parts of writing a paper. You’re nearly done, but not completely. Go through the entire paper, edit, see where you can add more information or other tidbits.
Usually, points of analyzing are the best to add more onto. If your paper is shorter than 5 pages, this may not be that difficult.

8. Bibliography

As was taught to you in elementary school, a bibliography is a final gathering of all the sources you’ve used. Even if you only slightly used a book, a web source or anything else, include it. It never hurts to have a good number of sources in your bibliography. On the other hand, you can be penalized for not having enough. Always make sure you have at least the minimum amount by checking the teacher’s set guidelines.

For specifics on creating a bibliography, check your specific format (MLA, APA, Chicago) for more information.
9. Double Check EVERYTHING

Now that you think you’re finally done, don’t put everything away just yet. Before you do, give one final check of everything. Editing the paper is as key a quality as the actual writing of it. Of course, spell-check is a godsend but read it for yourself. A helpful utility, try giving your paper to a family member or friend to read and receive their feedback on any mistakes or errors you may have made.

When you’re finally done, congratulations, you’ve written a fine paper. Now hand it in and wait for the results.

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