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Writing a Research Paper: Writing Your Paper

This guide will teach you how to write a research paper, find reliable resources, and site your sources appropriately.

1. Outline


The first step to building a research paper is to develop an outline. This outline can take many different forms, based on what is most useful for you. All of these forms, however, should at least include the basic build of an essay: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. 

  • Introduction of the essay is where you, as the writer, prepare the reader for the body of the essay. Your thesis or question should be within this paragraph.

  • The Body of the essay is where you, as the writer, include the bulk of your information or arguments. The Body is often made of multiple paragraphs, with the average being three (although more is perfectly fine.)

  • The Conclusion of the essay is where you, as the writer, remind the reader of the thesis or question and repeat the main points within the essay. You aren't just repeating information, but rather connecting all these points together.

2. Writing


The next step to building a research paper is to start writing the paper. This writing is your first draft of the paper and thus doesn't need to be perfect. There are many ways to start writing a research paper and many places to start. All of these ways, however, are based on some main aspects that factor into each part of the essay.

The Introduction of the essay should include an opening that catches the reader's attention, also known as the Hook. This could be a question, a claim, a reference to a story or experience, etc. Next is to give a sense of what the body of the essay will entail. This isn't meant to be a list stating what each paragraph is about, but rather of the ideas you will be touching on. Finally, you should include your thesis or question that the essay is about. The introduction should be short, only a few sentences. (Please note: some people recommend completing the Introduction last. Often, it can be difficult to start if you're stuck on how to open the paper, so starting in the body can be easier.)

The Body of the essay should usually be split into multiple paragraphs. On average, each paragraph should be about a different key point, however, they can interconnect with each other or reference previous paragraphs. These paragraphs can be quite long, should be much longer than the introduction, and should contain your citations when referencing or quoting from your sources. When writing your body and determining what order to put the information in, you should keep in mind two things: whether the paragraph is referencing previous points, and also which is your weakest paragraph. Your weakest paragraph is the part of the body that you are the least confident in. It's often recommended that you place this part in the middle of your essay, as this is where your reader is paying the least amount of attention and will make it less memorable. 

The Conclusion of the essay should start by reminding the reader of your thesis or question. Then, you should move into your key points that tie into either your argument or the final conclusion on your topic, without simply repeating what was said in the essay or introduction. Finally, you should wrap up the conclusion with something memorable that either pushes to fully persuade the reader or keeps your final conclusion in the reader's memory. The conclusion should also be short, only a few sentences.

3. Editing


The final step to building a research paper is to edit your work. As mentioned before, your initial writing should be your first draft. Meaning, you should go back after to reread your work and make changes where needed, as many times as needed. Editing should go on until you feel satisfied enough to submit your work (your final draft.) When editing your essay, there are a few aspects to keep in mind:

  • Spelling and grammar are a huge part of any piece of writing, so make sure to go over your work by reading it out loud. Often, you'll find something that doesn't sound right now that you're saying it. Have you been maintaining your tenses (past, present, future?) Have you been splitting your contractions?

  • Each paragraph after the introduction should start with a transition - something to connect the paragraphs - so it isn't just a sudden change of topic. Examples are "My next point", "However", "Furthermore", and "Finally".

  • A huge part of editing is cutting down your work to be more concise. It's easy to ramble while writing, and this can make it difficult for the reader to follow your points. When editing, try to cut out any unnecessary information or comments that don't help support your topic.