7 Basic Steps for Writing a Research Paper

Hand wringing… pacing… agonizing…the upcoming deadline…without one word on paper!

Happens to average…and really smart students, academians, and professionals all the time.

The good news is that anybody can write a research paper!

The first thing to think about is why you’re writing the paper in the first place.

There are three main reasons for research papers:

1. To help you to piece together information from different sources and cohesively put it back together into your unique perspective…looking at “the top of the mountain” from a different vantage point.

2. To help you develop good written and oral communication skills.

3. To help you to figure out how to find information.

Not knowing how to write properly can make your academic life disorganized, stressful and chaotic. By improving your writing skills, you can confidently and quickly finish assignments and write properly throughout your professional career.
Writing a research paper can be quite easy when you follow these basic steps:

1. Choose or Brainstorm Your Topic: Sometimes a topic is given to you, or you may have your own topic that you would like to research. You may be forced to conduct your research with very little direction. Sometimes you are only given a page count, number of sources and a deadline. It is helpful to begin by brainstorming a topic. Writing down a few ideas can be very helpful, and lead you in a certain direction.

2. Determine the Scope: Once you’ve scanned the internet or library and learned a little more about your topic, you need to determine whether you need to broaden or narrow your focus.

3. Research: By now you have an idea of your topic and have scanned the subject area. You have a focus for your research paper, but you also need details to “flesh out” the paper. Start going to your resources, and taking notes on sections that may be pertinent to your paper. Remember to document where you got the research from! This usually includes noting the author’s name, title of book, paper or website, year of publication, publishing house, page numbers and/or date accessed.

4. Outline Your Paper: An outline is an organized plan for your paper. Develop an outline by starting the first section with a broad introduction of the topic, then list several sections that you have read about (or will read about) that pertain to your topic. The general sections are: introduction, literature review, data collection, results and discussion. Writing an outline will help you to feel better about writing your research paper because you will have a sense of organization and direction after you write it.

5. Create the First Draft: The first draft should be written after you have completed your research. By this point, you will probably have numerous sources and many pages of notes written down from each of these sources. You should have enough information to write the entire paper. It is important “just to start writing”, and not to worry too much about the details at this point.

6. Revise, Revise, Revise! Revision of a paper should actually take longer than writing the first draft. This is the time to clean up all of the grammatical mistakes, spelling, run-on sentences, etc, and to make this paper easily readable. This is also the time to add or subtract text when necessary.

7. Proofread: This is the time for nit-picky editing to insure that there are no mistakes. Some things to watch for are: correct verb tenses, punctuation, grammar, spelling, word choice and proper citation. Other details that may be important are: page numbers, correct spacing and correct margins.

By breaking your research paper into small tasks, you can stay focused on the goal of completing it quickly and meticulously!

There you have it…the 7 basic steps for writing a research paper. As with everything, it’s getting started that’s the most difficult. After that, you’re “on the sled and headed downhill.” Remember to steer in the general direction, add a few twists and turns for variation, and first thing you know, you’re at the bottom of the hill.

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