A research paper is one of the most common assignments in high school and college. There are many kinds of research papers, from annotated bibliographies to term papers to lab reports, but they all have something in common: they require you to gather information and analyze it to form an opinion or argument about a topic you’re interested in.
An Introduction to Research Paper
In a nutshell, a research paper is an in-depth study of a topic. Research papers often require reading several texts on your topic before sitting down to write and are typically longer than other kinds of essays. Writing a research paper requires students to be well-informed on their topic so they can compose a thorough piece of writing that makes sense in its presentation and flow. Students can expect to use sources extensively throughout their research paper, as there will likely be multiple outside references provided by scholars with expert knowledge on your topic. This is why students need to learn how to cite sources correctly and effectively when writing a research paper.
The Parts of a Research Paper
To write a paper, you first need to be familiar with its structure. A research paper contains an
Each element is equally important in ensuring that your paper flows nicely.
The introduction establishes a context for your argument, while the body is where you provide supporting details. Finally, you can briefly summarize your arguments in a conclusion. To learn more about how these elements fit together, take a look at our guide on writing a research paper.
Writing an Introduction for Your Research Paper
The introduction is one of the two most important parts of any research paper. The introduction should grab a reader’s attention, tell him what you will discuss in your paper and make him want to read on. The best way to create an interesting introduction is to create a problem that interests your reader and then offer a solution in your paper. After writing an introduction, you should have a clear plan of your research and its structure in front of you.
Researching Your Topic
Before you even begin your research paper, make sure you’ve done some research on your topic to help you understand exactly what it is.
- Search for articles about your topic
- Ask people who are experts in that area
- Read up on books or journals to develop a sound understanding of what a research paper is.
Doing so will give you a better grasp of what’s expected of you as an author and also allow you to more easily create an outline based on other published articles.
Choosing Your Topic
When you’re choosing a topic for your research paper, make sure to ask yourself these four questions:
- Do I care about it enough to spend weeks researching and writing about it?
- Does it seem like an idea that is likely to hold my interest for weeks on end (and cause me no end of procrastination)?
- Does it interest me in a personal way, even if my teacher will probably make us focus on technical details?
- Will I gain some information or insight into myself by studying and discussing it with others?
Reviewing Your Sources
When you’re writing a research paper, it’s important to source your work so that readers know where you got your information. Properly citing and referencing others is vital—it shows readers that your work is legitimate and thorough, not just another rehash of what someone else said. Remember that your sources must always be cited; if you don’t know how to cite a source properly, ask for help!
Outlining Your Content
An outline is a great way to organize your research paper and help you focus on exactly what you’re going to write about. Once you have an outline, it’s easier to determine how much information you need for each section. Remember that your outline doesn’t have to be perfect right away—just focus on getting one together before getting started on your paper so that when it comes time to write, there will be less room for procrastination.
Writing Body Paragraphs
A research paper should contain an introductory paragraph, three or four body paragraphs (depending on length), and a concluding paragraph. Each body paragraph should discuss one aspect of your research question or argument and include relevant examples, quotes, statistics and/or facts to back up your assertion. Don’t introduce any new concepts or arguments in each body paragraph; that information should be saved for either your introductory or concluding paragraph. If necessary, paraphrase earlier points in each subsequent paragraph so as not to use up valuable words unnecessarily.
Constructing the Conclusion of Your Research Paper
A research paper’s conclusion is designed to provide your reader with a concise overview of your findings. In your research paper, you’ll need to back up your arguments with evidence from all five parts of your paper (your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion). Make sure to tie everything together in an organized way that leaves no gaps.
How to cite your sources in APA style
Citing sources in a research paper is important for two reasons. First,
- It ensures that you’re not plagiarizing—that is, using someone else’s ideas and writing as your own.
Second, it shows readers where your information comes from, so they can look into it themselves if they want to find out more about a topic. If you have APA style set as your default citation method in Word or Google Docs, then you’re already on your way to formatting citations correctly!
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