6 Steps to Writing a Fantastic Research Paper
When you hear the words ‘Research Paper’ what is the first thing that comes to your mind? If you are anything like the average student, I’ll wager the first thoughts coursing through your mind would be ‘No! No!! No!!!’ Understandably, most students tremble at the mere mention of these two words in the same sentence_ and for good reason. However, writing a Research Paper_ and a fantastic one at that, is not as difficult as most people think.
So first things first, let’s demystify the term ‘Research Paper’, shall we?
What is a Research Paper?
A Research paper is a piece of academic writing based on an author’s original work (research and findings) on a given topic. Note that the author should own the research, analysis, and interpretation of all conclusions.
Most commonly, a research paper can either be Term Papers, Master’s Thesis, and/or Doctoral Dissertations. However, it is important to note that there exists a marked difference between a research paper and a research proposal.
A research proposal (Prospectus) is a powerful piece of writing, of which its findings are based, assumed or approximated conclusions of the desired topic. A research proposal is a research project developed to convince its reader (i.e., research committee, project coordinator, agency, etc.) of the prolifically of the research. On the other hand, a Research Paper is intended to demonstrate factual findings based on academic knowledge.
Someone a lot wiser than me once said, the very first step to defeating an enemy is to know his face (though enemies are not gender specific and may appear in different forms). It’s important to understand what a Research Paper is before you can even begin to attempt to write a fabulous one. Having done that, you may proceed!
Outlined below is a step by step guide to help you navigate the tricky and somewhat treacherous waters of writing a Kick-ass Research Paper.
Step 1: Choosing a Topic!
Like my favorite Sound of Music Song says: “The best place to start is at the very beginning.” Choosing a Topic isn’t always as straight forward and easy as most people would think. In fact, in some universities, students are assigned a research project topic by the faculty. If you fall into that category, I’m happy for you! Kindly move on to step 2.
If you’re still reading, then the first thing you should do when about to choose a topic is to think about what interests you and how challenging conducting a research on it would be. Ensure that you are as specific as possible; avoid topics that are too broad. Your research paper is more likely to be successful if it doesn’t look like a general overview.
For example, if your interests lie in” Education”, you can narrow it down to “Quality of Education system in the federal primary school system.” And voila! You have a workable topic.
Step 2: Write a Statement of your Working Thesis
It’s essential that you prepare a working thesis. That is, organize your research, the action, guidelines and expectations before you begin.
Your Thesis Statement should be precise and accurately represent the kind of paper you are writing. You should note that there are three kinds of research papers:
- Argumentative or Persuasive: In the case where you are arguing the conclusion.
- Expository: In the case where you are explaining information.
- Analytical: In the case where you are presenting your analysis of certain information.
An example of a Thesis Statement can therefore be ‘The Quality of Education in the public primary school sector defines the Quality of Education in a country.’
Any questions? No? Carry on.
Step 3. Extensively Research Your Topic
Okay, I won’t lie. This part has been said to be the least fun when it comes to writing a Research Paper. The workload will discourage the weak and feeble. But not you! Because you’ve made it this far already.
To extensively research your chosen topic means you will have to find credible sources on the topic of your paper. And read anything and everything (everything!) you can find on the topic. At this point, you should be evaluating your sources, taking notes and documenting your sources accordingly.
It is also important to stay up to date on the research’s best practices and guidelines. (Take notes of all sources you used to paraphrase, accurate quotations, and summarize creatively to avoid plagiarisms).
Step 4. Create a Quality Outline
If you have done the necessary legwork, your research will be filled with ideas. But you must be careful not to overdo it. It’s entirely possible to get carried away by the amount of information you have amassed and end up crowning your Research Paper with too much information. Therefore, you must plan for the task.
Think about the main points you’ll need to develop to support your working thesis statement. Scan your notes and organize the information for each sub-heading. (Only include the relevant information).
Resist the temptation to include unnecessary information and subheadings. Resist!
While creating your outline, keep in mind the regular research paper structure:
- A title page;
- An abstract;
- An introduction;
- A methodology section;
Step 5. Write a Quick Draft
Ok! You have a clear direction, you have done your homework and you know what you need to do. It’s time to allow yourself to make a couple of mistakes. Yes, you heard that right!
Write out the first draft with a title, in-text citations, preliminary findings and a referrer page. Also, please cut yourself some slack.
Before We move on to the next step, let’s talk about some things.
The Title is beyond your preliminary topic. It is the first impression your reader gets of the paper and most times, it determines whether or not your reader will be interested in it.
For example, there’s a big difference between ‘The summary of the events following the death of King Robert’ and ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. (That was a game of thrones reference, in case you missed it)
Next Up: Introduction!
The introductory paragraph should begin with an attention grabbing statement. Just because you’re writing an academic paper doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
Then, you’ll need to provide background information; clearly explain your goals and your approach to the research topic. This introduction should end with your working thesis statement.
Your outline (you know, the one I’m sure you wrote out earlier) will help you complete this part of your paper. Note: you don’t have to follow it strictly, it’s just a guide. Allow the writing to evolve. Begin each body paragraph with a topic point and provide evidence that supports each point.
A Suitable Conclusion for your Research Paper.
For most people, they see this part as an opportunity to repeat their thesis statements and emphasize elements of the introduction. I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow this trend, you can. But, avoid repeating word for word.
Paraphrase, summarize and emphasize the significance of your findings. (I also recommend providing recommendations and/or suggestions based on your findings)
If you have walked through the above listed then your rough draft is ready!
Want to know how to make it perfect? Well, sorry you can’t! There is no such thing as a perfect Research Paper. However, there is something as a fantastic Research Paper and that is what we are aiming for. Right?
Step 6. Proofread, Edit and Proofread
Don’t roll your eyes and sigh. This part is important too. Proofread!
You will need to make large-scale changes, check and recheck the logic behind every statement.
Ensure that all your ideas are fully developed! And all your claims, recommendations, suggestions are credible and supported by well-reviewed and documented evidence.
After the initial proofreading, the next task on your plate is editing. Lookout for:
- Incomplete sentences
- Dangling modifiers
- Easily confused words (such as to, too, and two)
- Spelling mistakes
- Apostrophes for possessives and plurals
- Quotation rules obeyed
- Comma use
You done? Congratulations!!!
Now go back to rereading your paper; a good idea is to read your research paper backward. It will get you a bit disoriented but will allow you to catch more mistakes.
Now, if possible, get another person’s perspective. Give it to a professional proofreader, editor, friend, or family member, ask them to provide feedback and suggestion. You don’t necessarily need to take their opinions but seeing the research paper from their eyes will allow you to know if the information you wanted to pass across was passed across.
Finally, a good idea would be to print your paper and proofread it on paper, as this will allow you to find last minute errors, mistakes, typos, and ensure your research paper is fantastic.