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How To Write A Research Paper

Step-By-Step Tutorial With Examples + FREE Template

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | March 2024

For many students, crafting a strong research paper from scratch can feel like a daunting task – and rightly so! In this post, we’ll unpack what a research paper is, what it needs to do , and how to write one – in three easy steps. 🙂 

Overview: Writing A Research Paper

What (exactly) is a research paper.

  • How to write a research paper
  • Stage 1 : Topic & literature search
  • Stage 2 : Structure & outline
  • Stage 3 : Iterative writing
  • Key takeaways

Let’s start by asking the most important question, “ What is a research paper? ”.

Simply put, a research paper is a scholarly written work where the writer (that’s you!) answers a specific question (this is called a research question ) through evidence-based arguments . Evidence-based is the keyword here. In other words, a research paper is different from an essay or other writing assignments that draw from the writer’s personal opinions or experiences. With a research paper, it’s all about building your arguments based on evidence (we’ll talk more about that evidence a little later).

Now, it’s worth noting that there are many different types of research papers , including analytical papers (the type I just described), argumentative papers, and interpretative papers. Here, we’ll focus on analytical papers , as these are some of the most common – but if you’re keen to learn about other types of research papers, be sure to check out the rest of the blog .

With that basic foundation laid, let’s get down to business and look at how to write a research paper .

Research Paper Template

Overview: The 3-Stage Process

While there are, of course, many potential approaches you can take to write a research paper, there are typically three stages to the writing process. So, in this tutorial, we’ll present a straightforward three-step process that we use when working with students at Grad Coach.

These three steps are:

  • Finding a research topic and reviewing the existing literature
  • Developing a provisional structure and outline for your paper, and
  • Writing up your initial draft and then refining it iteratively

Let’s dig into each of these.

Need a helping hand?

how do you write a mini research paper

Step 1: Find a topic and review the literature

As we mentioned earlier, in a research paper, you, as the researcher, will try to answer a question . More specifically, that’s called a research question , and it sets the direction of your entire paper. What’s important to understand though is that you’ll need to answer that research question with the help of high-quality sources – for example, journal articles, government reports, case studies, and so on. We’ll circle back to this in a minute.

The first stage of the research process is deciding on what your research question will be and then reviewing the existing literature (in other words, past studies and papers) to see what they say about that specific research question. In some cases, your professor may provide you with a predetermined research question (or set of questions). However, in many cases, you’ll need to find your own research question within a certain topic area.

Finding a strong research question hinges on identifying a meaningful research gap – in other words, an area that’s lacking in existing research. There’s a lot to unpack here, so if you wanna learn more, check out the plain-language explainer video below.

Once you’ve figured out which question (or questions) you’ll attempt to answer in your research paper, you’ll need to do a deep dive into the existing literature – this is called a “ literature search ”. Again, there are many ways to go about this, but your most likely starting point will be Google Scholar .

If you’re new to Google Scholar, think of it as Google for the academic world. You can start by simply entering a few different keywords that are relevant to your research question and it will then present a host of articles for you to review. What you want to pay close attention to here is the number of citations for each paper – the more citations a paper has, the more credible it is (generally speaking – there are some exceptions, of course).

how to use google scholar

Ideally, what you’re looking for are well-cited papers that are highly relevant to your topic. That said, keep in mind that citations are a cumulative metric , so older papers will often have more citations than newer papers – just because they’ve been around for longer. So, don’t fixate on this metric in isolation – relevance and recency are also very important.

Beyond Google Scholar, you’ll also definitely want to check out academic databases and aggregators such as Science Direct, PubMed, JStor and so on. These will often overlap with the results that you find in Google Scholar, but they can also reveal some hidden gems – so, be sure to check them out.

Once you’ve worked your way through all the literature, you’ll want to catalogue all this information in some sort of spreadsheet so that you can easily recall who said what, when and within what context. If you’d like, we’ve got a free literature spreadsheet that helps you do exactly that.

Don’t fixate on an article’s citation count in isolation - relevance (to your research question) and recency are also very important.

Step 2: Develop a structure and outline

With your research question pinned down and your literature digested and catalogued, it’s time to move on to planning your actual research paper .

It might sound obvious, but it’s really important to have some sort of rough outline in place before you start writing your paper. So often, we see students eagerly rushing into the writing phase, only to land up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on in multiple

Now, the secret here is to not get caught up in the fine details . Realistically, all you need at this stage is a bullet-point list that describes (in broad strokes) what you’ll discuss and in what order. It’s also useful to remember that you’re not glued to this outline – in all likelihood, you’ll chop and change some sections once you start writing, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s important is that you have some sort of roadmap in place from the start.

You need to have a rough outline in place before you start writing your paper - or you’ll end up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on.

At this stage you might be wondering, “ But how should I structure my research paper? ”. Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, but in general, a research paper will consist of a few relatively standardised components:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology

Let’s take a look at each of these.

First up is the introduction section . As the name suggests, the purpose of the introduction is to set the scene for your research paper. There are usually (at least) four ingredients that go into this section – these are the background to the topic, the research problem and resultant research question , and the justification or rationale. If you’re interested, the video below unpacks the introduction section in more detail. 

The next section of your research paper will typically be your literature review . Remember all that literature you worked through earlier? Well, this is where you’ll present your interpretation of all that content . You’ll do this by writing about recent trends, developments, and arguments within the literature – but more specifically, those that are relevant to your research question . The literature review can oftentimes seem a little daunting, even to seasoned researchers, so be sure to check out our extensive collection of literature review content here .

With the introduction and lit review out of the way, the next section of your paper is the research methodology . In a nutshell, the methodology section should describe to your reader what you did (beyond just reviewing the existing literature) to answer your research question. For example, what data did you collect, how did you collect that data, how did you analyse that data and so on? For each choice, you’ll also need to justify why you chose to do it that way, and what the strengths and weaknesses of your approach were.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that for some research papers, this aspect of the project may be a lot simpler . For example, you may only need to draw on secondary sources (in other words, existing data sets). In some cases, you may just be asked to draw your conclusions from the literature search itself (in other words, there may be no data analysis at all). But, if you are required to collect and analyse data, you’ll need to pay a lot of attention to the methodology section. The video below provides an example of what the methodology section might look like.

By this stage of your paper, you will have explained what your research question is, what the existing literature has to say about that question, and how you analysed additional data to try to answer your question. So, the natural next step is to present your analysis of that data . This section is usually called the “results” or “analysis” section and this is where you’ll showcase your findings.

Depending on your school’s requirements, you may need to present and interpret the data in one section – or you might split the presentation and the interpretation into two sections. In the latter case, your “results” section will just describe the data, and the “discussion” is where you’ll interpret that data and explicitly link your analysis back to your research question. If you’re not sure which approach to take, check in with your professor or take a look at past papers to see what the norms are for your programme.

Alright – once you’ve presented and discussed your results, it’s time to wrap it up . This usually takes the form of the “ conclusion ” section. In the conclusion, you’ll need to highlight the key takeaways from your study and close the loop by explicitly answering your research question. Again, the exact requirements here will vary depending on your programme (and you may not even need a conclusion section at all) – so be sure to check with your professor if you’re unsure.

Step 3: Write and refine

Finally, it’s time to get writing. All too often though, students hit a brick wall right about here… So, how do you avoid this happening to you?

Well, there’s a lot to be said when it comes to writing a research paper (or any sort of academic piece), but we’ll share three practical tips to help you get started.

First and foremost , it’s essential to approach your writing as an iterative process. In other words, you need to start with a really messy first draft and then polish it over multiple rounds of editing. Don’t waste your time trying to write a perfect research paper in one go. Instead, take the pressure off yourself by adopting an iterative approach.

Secondly , it’s important to always lean towards critical writing , rather than descriptive writing. What does this mean? Well, at the simplest level, descriptive writing focuses on the “ what ”, while critical writing digs into the “ so what ” – in other words, the implications . If you’re not familiar with these two types of writing, don’t worry! You can find a plain-language explanation here.

Last but not least, you’ll need to get your referencing right. Specifically, you’ll need to provide credible, correctly formatted citations for the statements you make. We see students making referencing mistakes all the time and it costs them dearly. The good news is that you can easily avoid this by using a simple reference manager . If you don’t have one, check out our video about Mendeley, an easy (and free) reference management tool that you can start using today.

Recap: Key Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot of ground here. To recap, the three steps to writing a high-quality research paper are:

  • To choose a research question and review the literature
  • To plan your paper structure and draft an outline
  • To take an iterative approach to writing, focusing on critical writing and strong referencing

Remember, this is just a b ig-picture overview of the research paper development process and there’s a lot more nuance to unpack. So, be sure to grab a copy of our free research paper template to learn more about how to write a research paper.

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How to Write a Mini Research Paper Outline

Published 16 October, 2023

how do you write a mini research paper

A mini research paper outline is a great way to organize your thoughts and get started on an assignment. This blog post is going to walk you through the process of writing a mini-research paper outline. It will not only help you with your own work but also give insight into what professors are looking for from their students.

What is the Outline & Significance of Writing it in a mini-research paper?

An outline is significant for all types of research papers . It serves to arrange your thoughts and your entire work prior to writing a research paper . This kind of paper is aimed at scientific research that will prove you to be a scholar that has technical aptitudes to solve core issues and is all set to convey your ideas using scientific approaches and processes. An outline will be a reminder for you to comprise all the necessary subtleties in it. It is “a frame” of the real research paper that will lead you through the whole procedure but how to write a research paper outline ?

Writing a research paper outline for your mini research paper can give a good direction to the students in writing a research paper. But many students do not have the exact idea about the format of the research paper and that is why they fail to write a good outline during mini research paper submission. The structure of the research paper outline could easily be understood by the students with the help of reliable research paper writers of My Research Topics. All the important steps that are part of a research paper outline could easily be written the Outline of Research Paper by students with the help of these experts.

By preliminary dividing your paper into all its basic parts, you will be far more ordered & will not be concerned that you forgot something. In addition, appear at your outline, you will be calmer as after splitting your work into numerous parts. It will not seem so irresistible & perplexing. You can approach all parts during different days & plan your preparations successively which will assist you to meet even tight time limits!

Get professional research paper writing help from expert writers who can help you in scoring high in college & university. Students across the globe can take guidance in writing research paper outlines, research paper introductions , or even complete research paper writing. So if you are not in a motivation to complete your research paper outline in different subjects like sciences, information technology, Economics, Law and Business studies, etc. Take reliable help in research paper writing from My Research Topics Experts.

Why outline writing is a must for a mini research paper

If you are a student who is used to have research paper writing work on a regular basis, it is not a big deal for you to understand the importance of a research paper outline. Sometimes even professors ask their students to write a mini research paper outline before starting the actual research paper.

The major purpose behind writing a research paper outline is to get an idea about the major points of the topic that you have researched that could be included in the research paper. The majority of the time students forget many significant aspects of the research paper due to a lack of a research paper outline. That is why it is very significant to write a little research paper outline for this purpose.

Mini research paper outlines structure tips

If you are asked by your professors to write a mini research paper outline here are some tips that you must follow for this purpose. My Research Topics Experts have given these tips to the students for their outline of the short research paper.

  • Always carry out some research on the topic of your research paperwork before starts writing the outline.
  • Make sure to use simple vocabulary and plagiarism-free ideas in your research paper.
  • Do not write about the things that are written millions of times already, nobody is interested in reading such research papers.
  • Be unique and be innovative along with correct sequences of the arguments in your research paper outline.

It can seem quite difficult to cope with this chore, & in such a case, you can constantly rely on an online writing service. But if you have chosen to write on your own keep reading this piece of writing. To be more capable in the details of the structure look through instances for elementary scholars. The outline for a Literary Essay will also assist you. Anyway, the major parts are as follows:

  • Introduction

Seems not that tough, right?! But the fact is that all of the points include a broad range of information for you to arrange in your research outline regarding animals, for example.

The Introduction part is one of the most significant ones. Since it presents the reader with the topic of your paper and it is like a hook that draws the reader’s interest. Here you are supposed to talk about the top necessary components like the thesis statement, the clarification of the topic (some major points, general information), and an explanation of the core terms associated with your learning

The Body part is the amplest one and consists of numerous paragraphs or subparts. Here you bring the opinion to support your report. The research methodology is what follows the introduction segment. It provides insight into the means you carried out the research and must comprise the investigation kind and the questionnaire you have fulfilled. Never forget the aims of the investigation that must be also stated in the introduction.

Make certain to comprise the literature overview. Here mention the creative writing you used as a backup to your hypothesis & theories. This part will demonstrate how you can work the terms, theory, and existing evidence. Your chief theme and the selected literature should be adjacent. Demonstrate how your input develops & distends the active works.

Data and analysis generally go after methods and literature. Here present your results & other variables that you have got in the procedure of the survey. Use tables or graphs if required to be more precise and ordered. Interpret your results. Remember to tell the spectators whether your outcomes bring diversity to the whole topic. Outline the drawbacks of the research & its benefits.

The conclusion part generally does not present the spectators with the new information but gives the cursory look at the whole work by summarizing major points in it. Do not forget to talk about the thesis statement again. Formulate the viewpoint for potential research as well.

Read Also: A Guide to Start Research Process  

How to write a mini research paper outline?

Here is the guide to writing the University research paper outline by experts to the students. Those who want to write a perfect research paper outline can follow these points.

  • Begin with the topic of research and understand it by multiple dimensions.
  • Write down the important points that you noticed from the topic.
  • If possible try to sift out the issues and problems that are associated with that topic and how to solve them.
  • Also, try to research the reasons which are obstructing these solutions to work on practical grounds.
  • Now start writing your research paper outline by giving the abstract or reason why you are writing your research paper.
  • Also, discuss the main points that you will raise through your research paper and the way to reach the solutions for these problems.
  • Finally, mention the way that you are going to follow to know the reality of these problems and why they exist.

This is how a good research paper outline could be written by the students easily. Students can show this outline to their professors and teachers as well.

As mentioned above a mini research paper talks about the main issues that the writer is going to deal with in his research paper. Apart from that, it also discusses the way and strategies that will be used to reach up to the solution of these problems. Resources that students are going to use in writing a research paper are sometimes also disclosed to the professors.

To cap it all we can say that a mini research paper outline is helpful to the students in keeping all the points in mind while writing a research paper so that any points do not go missing which should be there. Research paper guidance from the experts of My Research Topics also assists the students to write a supreme quality research paper. So students can take the assistance of these experts in their assignments in the form of assistance in research paper writing.

Research paper writing help to The scholars by My Research Topics at a reasonable cost is given round the clock. Those who do not have the idea about writing a good outline for a mini research paper can effortlessly approach for the assistance of experts. The moment you ask for assistance in your assignment of the research paper, a team of professionals from My Research Topics will actively start work upon your academic assignment work.

The research paper writing services are given to the students by an expert at a very cheap cost-effective and budget-friendly price. Every type of student whether he or she belongs to a poor financial background or rich background can have access to this help.

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Research Guide

Disclaimer: The Reference papers provided by the Myresearchtopics.com serve as model and sample papers for students and are not to be submitted as it is. These papers are intended to be used for reference and research purposes only.

how do you write a mini research paper

How to Write a Research Paper

Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:

Research Paper Fundamentals

How to choose a topic or question, how to create a working hypothesis or thesis, common research paper methodologies, how to gather and organize evidence , how to write an outline for your research paper, how to write a rough draft, how to revise your draft, how to produce a final draft, resources for teachers .

It is not fair to say that no one writes anymore. Just about everyone writes text messages, brief emails, or social media posts every single day. Yet, most people don't have a lot of practice with the formal, organized writing required for a good academic research paper. This guide contains links to a variety of resources that can help demystify the process. Some of these resources are intended for teachers; they contain exercises, activities, and teaching strategies. Other resources are intended for direct use by students who are struggling to write papers, or are looking for tips to make the process go more smoothly.

The resources in this section are designed to help students understand the different types of research papers, the general research process, and how to manage their time. Below, you'll find links from university writing centers, the trusted Purdue Online Writing Lab, and more.

What is an Academic Research Paper?

"Genre and the Research Paper" (Purdue OWL)

There are different types of research papers. Different types of scholarly questions will lend themselves to one format or another. This is a brief introduction to the two main genres of research paper: analytic and argumentative. 

"7 Most Popular Types of Research Papers" (Personal-writer.com)

This resource discusses formats that high school students commonly encounter, such as the compare and contrast essay and the definitional essay. Please note that the inclusion of this link is not an endorsement of this company's paid service.

How to Prepare and Plan Out Writing a Research Paper

Teachers can give their students a step-by-step guide like these to help them understand the different steps of the research paper process. These guides can be combined with the time management tools in the next subsection to help students come up with customized calendars for completing their papers.

"Ten Steps for Writing Research Papers" (American University)  

This resource from American University is a comprehensive guide to the research paper writing process, and includes examples of proper research questions and thesis topics.

"Steps in Writing a Research Paper" (SUNY Empire State College)

This guide breaks the research paper process into 11 steps. Each "step" links to a separate page, which describes the work entailed in completing it.

How to Manage Time Effectively

The links below will help students determine how much time is necessary to complete a paper. If your sources are not available online or at your local library, you'll need to leave extra time for the Interlibrary Loan process. Remember that, even if you do not need to consult secondary sources, you'll still need to leave yourself ample time to organize your thoughts.

"Research Paper Planner: Timeline" (Baylor University)

This interactive resource from Baylor University creates a suggested writing schedule based on how much time a student has to work on the assignment.

"Research Paper Planner" (UCLA)

UCLA's library offers this step-by-step guide to the research paper writing process, which also includes a suggested planning calendar.

There's a reason teachers spend a long time talking about choosing a good topic. Without a good topic and a well-formulated research question, it is almost impossible to write a clear and organized paper. The resources below will help you generate ideas and formulate precise questions.

"How to Select a Research Topic" (Univ. of Michigan-Flint)

This resource is designed for college students who are struggling to come up with an appropriate topic. A student who uses this resource and still feels unsure about his or her topic should consult the course instructor for further personalized assistance.

"25 Interesting Research Paper Topics to Get You Started" (Kibin)

This resource, which is probably most appropriate for high school students, provides a list of specific topics to help get students started. It is broken into subsections, such as "paper topics on local issues."

"Writing a Good Research Question" (Grand Canyon University)

This introduction to research questions includes some embedded videos, as well as links to scholarly articles on research questions. This resource would be most appropriate for teachers who are planning lessons on research paper fundamentals.

"How to Write a Research Question the Right Way" (Kibin)

This student-focused resource provides more detail on writing research questions. The language is accessible, and there are embedded videos and examples of good and bad questions.

It is important to have a rough hypothesis or thesis in mind at the beginning of the research process. People who have a sense of what they want to say will have an easier time sorting through scholarly sources and other information. The key, of course, is not to become too wedded to the draft hypothesis or thesis. Just about every working thesis gets changed during the research process.

CrashCourse Video: "Sociology Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is tailored to sociology students, it is applicable to students in a variety of social science disciplines. This video does a good job demonstrating the connection between the brainstorming that goes into selecting a research question and the formulation of a working hypothesis.

"How to Write a Thesis Statement for an Analytical Essay" (YouTube)

Students writing analytical essays will not develop the same type of working hypothesis as students who are writing research papers in other disciplines. For these students, developing the working thesis may happen as a part of the rough draft (see the relevant section below). 

"Research Hypothesis" (Oakland Univ.)

This resource provides some examples of hypotheses in social science disciplines like Political Science and Criminal Justice. These sample hypotheses may also be useful for students in other soft social sciences and humanities disciplines like History.

When grading a research paper, instructors look for a consistent methodology. This section will help you understand different methodological approaches used in research papers. Students will get the most out of these resources if they use them to help prepare for conversations with teachers or discussions in class.

"Types of Research Designs" (USC)

A "research design," used for complex papers, is related to the paper's method. This resource contains introductions to a variety of popular research designs in the social sciences. Although it is not the most intuitive site to read, the information here is very valuable. 

"Major Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is a bit on the dry side, it provides a comprehensive overview of the major research methodologies in a format that might be more accessible to students who have struggled with textbooks or other written resources.

"Humanities Research Strategies" (USC)

This is a portal where students can learn about four methodological approaches for humanities papers: Historical Methodologies, Textual Criticism, Conceptual Analysis, and the Synoptic method.

"Selected Major Social Science Research Methods: Overview" (National Academies Press)

This appendix from the book  Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy , printed by National Academies Press, introduces some methods used in social science papers.

"Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: 6. The Methodology" (USC)

This resource from the University of Southern California's library contains tips for writing a methodology section in a research paper.

How to Determine the Best Methodology for You

Anyone who is new to writing research papers should be sure to select a method in consultation with their instructor. These resources can be used to help prepare for that discussion. They may also be used on their own by more advanced students.

"Choosing Appropriate Research Methodologies" (Palgrave Study Skills)

This friendly and approachable resource from Palgrave Macmillan can be used by students who are just starting to think about appropriate methodologies.

"How to Choose Your Research Methods" (NFER (UK))

This is another approachable resource students can use to help narrow down the most appropriate methods for their research projects.

The resources in this section introduce the process of gathering scholarly sources and collecting evidence. You'll find a range of material here, from introductory guides to advanced explications best suited to college students. Please consult the LitCharts  How to Do Academic Research guide for a more comprehensive list of resources devoted to finding scholarly literature.

Google Scholar

Students who have access to library websites with detailed research guides should start there, but people who do not have access to those resources can begin their search for secondary literature here.

"Gathering Appropriate Information" (Texas Gateway)

This resource from the Texas Gateway for online resources introduces students to the research process, and contains interactive exercises. The level of complexity is suitable for middle school, high school, and introductory college classrooms.

"An Overview of Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection Methods" (NSF)

This PDF from the National Science Foundation goes into detail about best practices and pitfalls in data collection across multiple types of methodologies.

"Social Science Methods for Data Collection and Analysis" (Swiss FIT)

This resource is appropriate for advanced undergraduates or teachers looking to create lessons on research design and data collection. It covers techniques for gathering data via interviews, observations, and other methods.

"Collecting Data by In-depth Interviewing" (Leeds Univ.)

This resource contains enough information about conducting interviews to make it useful for teachers who want to create a lesson plan, but is also accessible enough for college juniors or seniors to make use of it on their own.

There is no "one size fits all" outlining technique. Some students might devote all their energy and attention to the outline in order to avoid the paper. Other students may benefit from being made to sit down and organize their thoughts into a lengthy sentence outline. The resources in this section include strategies and templates for multiple types of outlines. 

"Topic vs. Sentence Outlines" (UC Berkeley)

This resource introduces two basic approaches to outlining: the shorter topic-based approach, and the longer, more detailed sentence-based approach. This resource also contains videos on how to develop paper paragraphs from the sentence-based outline.

"Types of Outlines and Samples" (Purdue OWL)

The Purdue Online Writing Lab's guide is a slightly less detailed discussion of different types of outlines. It contains several sample outlines.

"Writing An Outline" (Austin C.C.)

This resource from a community college contains sample outlines from an American history class that students can use as models.

"How to Structure an Outline for a College Paper" (YouTube)

This brief (sub-2 minute) video from the ExpertVillage YouTube channel provides a model of outline writing for students who are struggling with the idea.

"Outlining" (Harvard)

This is a good resource to consult after completing a draft outline. It offers suggestions for making sure your outline avoids things like unnecessary repetition.

As with outlines, rough drafts can take on many different forms. These resources introduce teachers and students to the various approaches to writing a rough draft. This section also includes resources that will help you cite your sources appropriately according to the MLA, Chicago, and APA style manuals.

"Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

This resource is useful for teachers in particular, as it provides some suggested exercises to help students with writing a basic rough draft. 

Rough Draft Assignment (Duke of Definition)

This sample assignment, with a brief list of tips, was developed by a high school teacher who runs a very successful and well-reviewed page of educational resources.

"Creating the First Draft of Your Research Paper" (Concordia Univ.)

This resource will be helpful for perfectionists or procrastinators, as it opens by discussing the problem of avoiding writing. It also provides a short list of suggestions meant to get students writing.

Using Proper Citations

There is no such thing as a rough draft of a scholarly citation. These links to the three major citation guides will ensure that your citations follow the correct format. Please consult the LitCharts How to Cite Your Sources guide for more resources.

Chicago Manual of Style Citation Guide

Some call  The Chicago Manual of Style , which was first published in 1906, "the editors' Bible." The manual is now in its 17th edition, and is popular in the social sciences, historical journals, and some other fields in the humanities.

APA Citation Guide

According to the American Psychological Association, this guide was developed to aid reading comprehension, clarity of communication, and to reduce bias in language in the social and behavioral sciences. Its first full edition was published in 1952, and it is now in its sixth edition.

MLA Citation Guide

The Modern Language Association style is used most commonly within the liberal arts and humanities. The  MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing  was first published in 1985 and (as of 2008) is in its third edition.

Any professional scholar will tell you that the best research papers are made in the revision stage. No matter how strong your research question or working thesis, it is not possible to write a truly outstanding paper without devoting energy to revision. These resources provide examples of revision exercises for the classroom, as well as tips for students working independently.

"The Art of Revision" (Univ. of Arizona)

This resource provides a wealth of information and suggestions for both students and teachers. There is a list of suggested exercises that teachers might use in class, along with a revision checklist that is useful for teachers and students alike.

"Script for Workshop on Revision" (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt's guide for leading a 50-minute revision workshop can serve as a model for teachers who wish to guide students through the revision process during classtime. 

"Revising Your Paper" (Univ. of Washington)

This detailed handout was designed for students who are beginning the revision process. It discusses different approaches and methods for revision, and also includes a detailed list of things students should look for while they revise.

"Revising Drafts" (UNC Writing Center)

This resource is designed for students and suggests things to look for during the revision process. It provides steps for the process and has a FAQ for students who have questions about why it is important to revise.

Conferencing with Writing Tutors and Instructors

No writer is so good that he or she can't benefit from meeting with instructors or peer tutors. These resources from university writing, learning, and communication centers provide suggestions for how to get the most out of these one-on-one meetings.

"Getting Feedback" (UNC Writing Center)

This very helpful resource talks about how to ask for feedback during the entire writing process. It contains possible questions that students might ask when developing an outline, during the revision process, and after the final draft has been graded.

"Prepare for Your Tutoring Session" (Otis College of Art and Design)

This guide from a university's student learning center contains a lot of helpful tips for getting the most out of working with a writing tutor.

"The Importance of Asking Your Professor" (Univ. of Waterloo)

This article from the university's Writing and Communication Centre's blog contains some suggestions for how and when to get help from professors and Teaching Assistants.

Once you've revised your first draft, you're well on your way to handing in a polished paper. These resources—each of them produced by writing professionals at colleges and universities—outline the steps required in order to produce a final draft. You'll find proofreading tips and checklists in text and video form.

"Developing a Final Draft of a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

While this resource contains suggestions for revision, it also features a couple of helpful checklists for the last stages of completing a final draft.

Basic Final Draft Tips and Checklist (Univ. of Maryland-University College)

This short and accessible resource, part of UMUC's very thorough online guide to writing and research, contains a very basic checklist for students who are getting ready to turn in their final drafts.

Final Draft Checklist (Everett C.C.)

This is another accessible final draft checklist, appropriate for both high school and college students. It suggests reading your essay aloud at least once.

"How to Proofread Your Final Draft" (YouTube)

This video (approximately 5 minutes), produced by Eastern Washington University, gives students tips on proofreading final drafts.

"Proofreading Tips" (Georgia Southern-Armstrong)

This guide will help students learn how to spot common errors in their papers. It suggests focusing on content and editing for grammar and mechanics.

This final set of resources is intended specifically for high school and college instructors. It provides links to unit plans and classroom exercises that can help improve students' research and writing skills. You'll find resources that give an overview of the process, along with activities that focus on how to begin and how to carry out research. 

"Research Paper Complete Resources Pack" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, rubrics, and other resources is designed for high school students. The resources in this packet are aligned to Common Core standards.

"Research Paper—Complete Unit" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, notes, PowerPoints, and other resources has a 4/4 rating with over 700 ratings. It is designed for high school teachers, but might also be useful to college instructors who work with freshmen.

"Teaching Students to Write Good Papers" (Yale)

This resource from Yale's Center for Teaching and Learning is designed for college instructors, and it includes links to appropriate activities and exercises.

"Research Paper Writing: An Overview" (CUNY Brooklyn)

CUNY Brooklyn offers this complete lesson plan for introducing students to research papers. It includes an accompanying set of PowerPoint slides.

"Lesson Plan: How to Begin Writing a Research Paper" (San Jose State Univ.)

This lesson plan is designed for students in the health sciences, so teachers will have to modify it for their own needs. It includes a breakdown of the brainstorming, topic selection, and research question process. 

"Quantitative Techniques for Social Science Research" (Univ. of Pittsburgh)

This is a set of PowerPoint slides that can be used to introduce students to a variety of quantitative methods used in the social sciences.

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  • How to write a research paper

Last updated

11 January 2024

Reviewed by

With proper planning, knowledge, and framework, completing a research paper can be a fulfilling and exciting experience. 

Though it might initially sound slightly intimidating, this guide will help you embrace the challenge. 

By documenting your findings, you can inspire others and make a difference in your field. Here's how you can make your research paper unique and comprehensive.

  • What is a research paper?

Research papers allow you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic. These papers are usually lengthier and more detailed than typical essays, requiring deeper insight into the chosen topic.

To write a research paper, you must first choose a topic that interests you and is relevant to the field of study. Once you’ve selected your topic, gathering as many relevant resources as possible, including books, scholarly articles, credible websites, and other academic materials, is essential. You must then read and analyze these sources, summarizing their key points and identifying gaps in the current research.

You can formulate your ideas and opinions once you thoroughly understand the existing research. To get there might involve conducting original research, gathering data, or analyzing existing data sets. It could also involve presenting an original argument or interpretation of the existing research.

Writing a successful research paper involves presenting your findings clearly and engagingly, which might involve using charts, graphs, or other visual aids to present your data and using concise language to explain your findings. You must also ensure your paper adheres to relevant academic formatting guidelines, including proper citations and references.

Overall, writing a research paper requires a significant amount of time, effort, and attention to detail. However, it is also an enriching experience that allows you to delve deeply into a subject that interests you and contribute to the existing body of knowledge in your chosen field.

  • How long should a research paper be?

Research papers are deep dives into a topic. Therefore, they tend to be longer pieces of work than essays or opinion pieces. 

However, a suitable length depends on the complexity of the topic and your level of expertise. For instance, are you a first-year college student or an experienced professional? 

Also, remember that the best research papers provide valuable information for the benefit of others. Therefore, the quality of information matters most, not necessarily the length. Being concise is valuable.

Following these best practice steps will help keep your process simple and productive:

1. Gaining a deep understanding of any expectations

Before diving into your intended topic or beginning the research phase, take some time to orient yourself. Suppose there’s a specific topic assigned to you. In that case, it’s essential to deeply understand the question and organize your planning and approach in response. Pay attention to the key requirements and ensure you align your writing accordingly. 

This preparation step entails

Deeply understanding the task or assignment

Being clear about the expected format and length

Familiarizing yourself with the citation and referencing requirements 

Understanding any defined limits for your research contribution

Where applicable, speaking to your professor or research supervisor for further clarification

2. Choose your research topic

Select a research topic that aligns with both your interests and available resources. Ideally, focus on a field where you possess significant experience and analytical skills. In crafting your research paper, it's crucial to go beyond summarizing existing data and contribute fresh insights to the chosen area.

Consider narrowing your focus to a specific aspect of the topic. For example, if exploring the link between technology and mental health, delve into how social media use during the pandemic impacts the well-being of college students. Conducting interviews and surveys with students could provide firsthand data and unique perspectives, adding substantial value to the existing knowledge.

When finalizing your topic, adhere to legal and ethical norms in the relevant area (this ensures the integrity of your research, protects participants' rights, upholds intellectual property standards, and ensures transparency and accountability). Following these principles not only maintains the credibility of your work but also builds trust within your academic or professional community.

For instance, in writing about medical research, consider legal and ethical norms , including patient confidentiality laws and informed consent requirements. Similarly, if analyzing user data on social media platforms, be mindful of data privacy regulations, ensuring compliance with laws governing personal information collection and use. Aligning with legal and ethical standards not only avoids potential issues but also underscores the responsible conduct of your research.

3. Gather preliminary research

Once you’ve landed on your topic, it’s time to explore it further. You’ll want to discover more about available resources and existing research relevant to your assignment at this stage. 

This exploratory phase is vital as you may discover issues with your original idea or realize you have insufficient resources to explore the topic effectively. This key bit of groundwork allows you to redirect your research topic in a different, more feasible, or more relevant direction if necessary. 

Spending ample time at this stage ensures you gather everything you need, learn as much as you can about the topic, and discover gaps where the topic has yet to be sufficiently covered, offering an opportunity to research it further. 

4. Define your research question

To produce a well-structured and focused paper, it is imperative to formulate a clear and precise research question that will guide your work. Your research question must be informed by the existing literature and tailored to the scope and objectives of your project. By refining your focus, you can produce a thoughtful and engaging paper that effectively communicates your ideas to your readers.

5. Write a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a one-to-two-sentence summary of your research paper's main argument or direction. It serves as an overall guide to summarize the overall intent of the research paper for you and anyone wanting to know more about the research.

A strong thesis statement is:

Concise and clear: Explain your case in simple sentences (avoid covering multiple ideas). It might help to think of this section as an elevator pitch.

Specific: Ensure that there is no ambiguity in your statement and that your summary covers the points argued in the paper.

Debatable: A thesis statement puts forward a specific argument––it is not merely a statement but a debatable point that can be analyzed and discussed.

Here are three thesis statement examples from different disciplines:

Psychology thesis example: "We're studying adults aged 25-40 to see if taking short breaks for mindfulness can help with stress. Our goal is to find practical ways to manage anxiety better."

Environmental science thesis example: "This research paper looks into how having more city parks might make the air cleaner and keep people healthier. I want to find out if more green spaces means breathing fewer carcinogens in big cities."

UX research thesis example: "This study focuses on improving mobile banking for older adults using ethnographic research, eye-tracking analysis, and interactive prototyping. We investigate the usefulness of eye-tracking analysis with older individuals, aiming to spark debate and offer fresh perspectives on UX design and digital inclusivity for the aging population."

6. Conduct in-depth research

A research paper doesn’t just include research that you’ve uncovered from other papers and studies but your fresh insights, too. You will seek to become an expert on your topic––understanding the nuances in the current leading theories. You will analyze existing research and add your thinking and discoveries.  It's crucial to conduct well-designed research that is rigorous, robust, and based on reliable sources. Suppose a research paper lacks evidence or is biased. In that case, it won't benefit the academic community or the general public. Therefore, examining the topic thoroughly and furthering its understanding through high-quality research is essential. That usually means conducting new research. Depending on the area under investigation, you may conduct surveys, interviews, diary studies , or observational research to uncover new insights or bolster current claims.

7. Determine supporting evidence

Not every piece of research you’ve discovered will be relevant to your research paper. It’s important to categorize the most meaningful evidence to include alongside your discoveries. It's important to include evidence that doesn't support your claims to avoid exclusion bias and ensure a fair research paper.

8. Write a research paper outline

Before diving in and writing the whole paper, start with an outline. It will help you to see if more research is needed, and it will provide a framework by which to write a more compelling paper. Your supervisor may even request an outline to approve before beginning to write the first draft of the full paper. An outline will include your topic, thesis statement, key headings, short summaries of the research, and your arguments.

9. Write your first draft

Once you feel confident about your outline and sources, it’s time to write your first draft. While penning a long piece of content can be intimidating, if you’ve laid the groundwork, you will have a structure to help you move steadily through each section. To keep up motivation and inspiration, it’s often best to keep the pace quick. Stopping for long periods can interrupt your flow and make jumping back in harder than writing when things are fresh in your mind.

10. Cite your sources correctly

It's always a good practice to give credit where it's due, and the same goes for citing any works that have influenced your paper. Building your arguments on credible references adds value and authenticity to your research. In the formatting guidelines section, you’ll find an overview of different citation styles (MLA, CMOS, or APA), which will help you meet any publishing or academic requirements and strengthen your paper's credibility. It is essential to follow the guidelines provided by your school or the publication you are submitting to ensure the accuracy and relevance of your citations.

11. Ensure your work is original

It is crucial to ensure the originality of your paper, as plagiarism can lead to serious consequences. To avoid plagiarism, you should use proper paraphrasing and quoting techniques. Paraphrasing is rewriting a text in your own words while maintaining the original meaning. Quoting involves directly citing the source. Giving credit to the original author or source is essential whenever you borrow their ideas or words. You can also use plagiarism detection tools such as Scribbr or Grammarly to check the originality of your paper. These tools compare your draft writing to a vast database of online sources. If you find any accidental plagiarism, you should correct it immediately by rephrasing or citing the source.

12. Revise, edit, and proofread

One of the essential qualities of excellent writers is their ability to understand the importance of editing and proofreading. Even though it's tempting to call it a day once you've finished your writing, editing your work can significantly improve its quality. It's natural to overlook the weaker areas when you've just finished writing a paper. Therefore, it's best to take a break of a day or two, or even up to a week, to refresh your mind. This way, you can return to your work with a new perspective. After some breathing room, you can spot any inconsistencies, spelling and grammar errors, typos, or missing citations and correct them. 

  • The best research paper format 

The format of your research paper should align with the requirements set forth by your college, school, or target publication. 

There is no one “best” format, per se. Depending on the stated requirements, you may need to include the following elements:

Title page: The title page of a research paper typically includes the title, author's name, and institutional affiliation and may include additional information such as a course name or instructor's name. 

Table of contents: Include a table of contents to make it easy for readers to find specific sections of your paper.

Abstract: The abstract is a summary of the purpose of the paper.

Methods : In this section, describe the research methods used. This may include collecting data , conducting interviews, or doing field research .

Results: Summarize the conclusions you drew from your research in this section.

Discussion: In this section, discuss the implications of your research . Be sure to mention any significant limitations to your approach and suggest areas for further research.

Tables, charts, and illustrations: Use tables, charts, and illustrations to help convey your research findings and make them easier to understand.

Works cited or reference page: Include a works cited or reference page to give credit to the sources that you used to conduct your research.

Bibliography: Provide a list of all the sources you consulted while conducting your research.

Dedication and acknowledgments : Optionally, you may include a dedication and acknowledgments section to thank individuals who helped you with your research.

  • General style and formatting guidelines

Formatting your research paper means you can submit it to your college, journal, or other publications in compliance with their criteria.

Research papers tend to follow the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) guidelines.

Here’s how each style guide is typically used:

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS):

CMOS is a versatile style guide used for various types of writing. It's known for its flexibility and use in the humanities. CMOS provides guidelines for citations, formatting, and overall writing style. It allows for both footnotes and in-text citations, giving writers options based on their preferences or publication requirements.

American Psychological Association (APA):

APA is common in the social sciences. It’s hailed for its clarity and emphasis on precision. It has specific rules for citing sources, creating references, and formatting papers. APA style uses in-text citations with an accompanying reference list. It's designed to convey information efficiently and is widely used in academic and scientific writing.

Modern Language Association (MLA):

MLA is widely used in the humanities, especially literature and language studies. It emphasizes the author-page format for in-text citations and provides guidelines for creating a "Works Cited" page. MLA is known for its focus on the author's name and the literary works cited. It’s frequently used in disciplines that prioritize literary analysis and critical thinking.

To confirm you're using the latest style guide, check the official website or publisher's site for updates, consult academic resources, and verify the guide's publication date. Online platforms and educational resources may also provide summaries and alerts about any revisions or additions to the style guide.

Citing sources

When working on your research paper, it's important to cite the sources you used properly. Your citation style will guide you through this process. Generally, there are three parts to citing sources in your research paper: 

First, provide a brief citation in the body of your essay. This is also known as a parenthetical or in-text citation. 

Second, include a full citation in the Reference list at the end of your paper. Different types of citations include in-text citations, footnotes, and reference lists. 

In-text citations include the author's surname and the date of the citation. 

Footnotes appear at the bottom of each page of your research paper. They may also be summarized within a reference list at the end of the paper. 

A reference list includes all of the research used within the paper at the end of the document. It should include the author, date, paper title, and publisher listed in the order that aligns with your citation style.

10 research paper writing tips:

Following some best practices is essential to writing a research paper that contributes to your field of study and creates a positive impact.

These tactics will help you structure your argument effectively and ensure your work benefits others:

Clear and precise language:  Ensure your language is unambiguous. Use academic language appropriately, but keep it simple. Also, provide clear takeaways for your audience.

Effective idea separation:  Organize the vast amount of information and sources in your paper with paragraphs and titles. Create easily digestible sections for your readers to navigate through.

Compelling intro:  Craft an engaging introduction that captures your reader's interest. Hook your audience and motivate them to continue reading.

Thorough revision and editing:  Take the time to review and edit your paper comprehensively. Use tools like Grammarly to detect and correct small, overlooked errors.

Thesis precision:  Develop a clear and concise thesis statement that guides your paper. Ensure that your thesis aligns with your research's overall purpose and contribution.

Logical flow of ideas:  Maintain a logical progression throughout the paper. Use transitions effectively to connect different sections and maintain coherence.

Critical evaluation of sources:  Evaluate and critically assess the relevance and reliability of your sources. Ensure that your research is based on credible and up-to-date information.

Thematic consistency:  Maintain a consistent theme throughout the paper. Ensure that all sections contribute cohesively to the overall argument.

Relevant supporting evidence:  Provide concise and relevant evidence to support your arguments. Avoid unnecessary details that may distract from the main points.

Embrace counterarguments:  Acknowledge and address opposing views to strengthen your position. Show that you have considered alternative arguments in your field.

7 research tips 

If you want your paper to not only be well-written but also contribute to the progress of human knowledge, consider these tips to take your paper to the next level:

Selecting the appropriate topic: The topic you select should align with your area of expertise, comply with the requirements of your project, and have sufficient resources for a comprehensive investigation.

Use academic databases: Academic databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and JSTOR offer a wealth of research papers that can help you discover everything you need to know about your chosen topic.

Critically evaluate sources: It is important not to accept research findings at face value. Instead, it is crucial to critically analyze the information to avoid jumping to conclusions or overlooking important details. A well-written research paper requires a critical analysis with thorough reasoning to support claims.

Diversify your sources: Expand your research horizons by exploring a variety of sources beyond the standard databases. Utilize books, conference proceedings, and interviews to gather diverse perspectives and enrich your understanding of the topic.

Take detailed notes: Detailed note-taking is crucial during research and can help you form the outline and body of your paper.

Stay up on trends: Keep abreast of the latest developments in your field by regularly checking for recent publications. Subscribe to newsletters, follow relevant journals, and attend conferences to stay informed about emerging trends and advancements. 

Engage in peer review: Seek feedback from peers or mentors to ensure the rigor and validity of your research . Peer review helps identify potential weaknesses in your methodology and strengthens the overall credibility of your findings.

  • The real-world impact of research papers

Writing a research paper is more than an academic or business exercise. The experience provides an opportunity to explore a subject in-depth, broaden one's understanding, and arrive at meaningful conclusions. With careful planning, dedication, and hard work, writing a research paper can be a fulfilling and enriching experience contributing to advancing knowledge.

How do I publish my research paper? 

Many academics wish to publish their research papers. While challenging, your paper might get traction if it covers new and well-written information. To publish your research paper, find a target publication, thoroughly read their guidelines, format your paper accordingly, and send it to them per their instructions. You may need to include a cover letter, too. After submission, your paper may be peer-reviewed by experts to assess its legitimacy, quality, originality, and methodology. Following review, you will be informed by the publication whether they have accepted or rejected your paper. 

What is a good opening sentence for a research paper? 

Beginning your research paper with a compelling introduction can ensure readers are interested in going further. A relevant quote, a compelling statistic, or a bold argument can start the paper and hook your reader. Remember, though, that the most important aspect of a research paper is the quality of the information––not necessarily your ability to storytell, so ensure anything you write aligns with your goals.

Research paper vs. a research proposal—what’s the difference?

While some may confuse research papers and proposals, they are different documents. 

A research proposal comes before a research paper. It is a detailed document that outlines an intended area of exploration. It includes the research topic, methodology, timeline, sources, and potential conclusions. Research proposals are often required when seeking approval to conduct research. 

A research paper is a summary of research findings. A research paper follows a structured format to present those findings and construct an argument or conclusion.

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  • CAREER BRIEF
  • 08 May 2019

Toolkit: How to write a great paper

A clear format will ensure that your research paper is understood by your readers. Follow:

1. Context — your introduction

2. Content — your results

3. Conclusion — your discussion

Plan your paper carefully and decide where each point will sit within the framework before you begin writing.

how do you write a mini research paper

Collection: Careers toolkit

Straightforward writing

Scientific writing should always aim to be A, B and C: Accurate, Brief, and Clear. Never choose a long word when a short one will do. Use simple language to communicate your results. Always aim to distill your message down into the simplest sentence possible.

Choose a title

A carefully conceived title will communicate the single core message of your research paper. It should be D, E, F: Declarative, Engaging and Focused.

Conclusions

Add a sentence or two at the end of your concluding statement that sets out your plans for further research. What is next for you or others working in your field?

Find out more

See additional information .

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01362-9

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How to Write a Research Paper

Last Updated: February 18, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Chris Hadley, PhD . Chris Hadley, PhD is part of the wikiHow team and works on content strategy and data and analytics. Chris Hadley earned his PhD in Cognitive Psychology from UCLA in 2006. Chris' academic research has been published in numerous scientific journals. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 4,189,298 times.

Whether you’re in a history, literature, or science class, you’ll probably have to write a research paper at some point. It may seem daunting when you’re just starting out, but staying organized and budgeting your time can make the process a breeze. Research your topic, find reliable sources, and come up with a working thesis. Then create an outline and start drafting your paper. Be sure to leave plenty of time to make revisions, as editing is essential if you want to hand in your best work!

Sample Research Papers and Outlines

how do you write a mini research paper

Researching Your Topic

Step 1 Focus your research on a narrow topic.

  • For instance, you might start with a general subject, like British decorative arts. Then, as you read, you home in on transferware and pottery. Ultimately, you focus on 1 potter in the 1780s who invented a way to mass-produce patterned tableware.

Tip: If you need to analyze a piece of literature, your task is to pull the work apart into literary elements and explain how the author uses those parts to make their point.

Step 2 Search for credible sources online and at a library.

  • Authoritative, credible sources include scholarly articles (especially those other authors reference), government websites, scientific studies, and reputable news bureaus. Additionally, check your sources' dates, and make sure the information you gather is up to date.
  • Evaluate how other scholars have approached your topic. Identify authoritative sources or works that are accepted as the most important accounts of the subject matter. Additionally, look for debates among scholars, and ask yourself who presents the strongest evidence for their case. [3] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • You’ll most likely need to include a bibliography or works cited page, so keep your sources organized. List your sources, format them according to your assigned style guide (such as MLA or Chicago ), and write 2 or 3 summary sentences below each one. [4] X Research source

Step 3 Come up with a preliminary thesis.

  • Imagine you’re a lawyer in a trial and are presenting a case to a jury. Think of your readers as the jurors; your opening statement is your thesis and you’ll present evidence to the jury to make your case.
  • A thesis should be specific rather than vague, such as: “Josiah Spode’s improved formula for bone china enabled the mass production of transfer-printed wares, which expanded the global market for British pottery.”

Drafting Your Essay

Step 1 Create an outline

  • Your outline is your paper’s skeleton. After making the outline, all you’ll need to do is fill in the details.
  • For easy reference, include your sources where they fit into your outline, like this: III. Spode vs. Wedgewood on Mass Production A. Spode: Perfected chemical formula with aims for fast production and distribution (Travis, 2002, 43) B. Wedgewood: Courted high-priced luxury market; lower emphasis on mass production (Himmelweit, 2001, 71) C. Therefore: Wedgewood, unlike Spode, delayed the expansion of the pottery market.

Step 2 Present your thesis...

  • For instance, your opening line could be, “Overlooked in the present, manufacturers of British pottery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries played crucial roles in England’s Industrial Revolution.”
  • After presenting your thesis, lay out your evidence, like this: “An examination of Spode’s innovative production and distribution techniques will demonstrate the importance of his contributions to the industry and Industrial Revolution at large.”

Tip: Some people prefer to write the introduction first and use it to structure the rest of the paper. However, others like to write the body, then fill in the introduction. Do whichever seems natural to you. If you write the intro first, keep in mind you can tweak it later to reflect your finished paper’s layout.

Step 3 Build your argument in the body paragraphs.

  • After setting the context, you'd include a section on Josiah Spode’s company and what he did to make pottery easier to manufacture and distribute.
  • Next, discuss how targeting middle class consumers increased demand and expanded the pottery industry globally.
  • Then, you could explain how Spode differed from competitors like Wedgewood, who continued to court aristocratic consumers instead of expanding the market to the middle class.
  • The right number of sections or paragraphs depends on your assignment. In general, shoot for 3 to 5, but check your prompt for your assigned length.

Step 4 Address a counterargument to strengthen your case.

  • If you bring up a counterargument, make sure it’s a strong claim that’s worth entertaining instead of ones that's weak and easily dismissed.
  • Suppose, for instance, you’re arguing for the benefits of adding fluoride to toothpaste and city water. You could bring up a study that suggested fluoride produced harmful health effects, then explain how its testing methods were flawed.

Step 5 Summarize your argument...

  • Sum up your argument, but don’t simply rewrite your introduction using slightly different wording. To make your conclusion more memorable, you could also connect your thesis to a broader topic or theme to make it more relatable to your reader.
  • For example, if you’ve discussed the role of nationalism in World War I, you could conclude by mentioning nationalism’s reemergence in contemporary foreign affairs.

Revising Your Paper

Step 1 Ensure your paper...

  • This is also a great opportunity to make sure your paper fulfills the parameters of the assignment and answers the prompt!
  • It’s a good idea to put your essay aside for a few hours (or overnight, if you have time). That way, you can start editing it with fresh eyes.

Tip: Try to give yourself at least 2 or 3 days to revise your paper. It may be tempting to simply give your paper a quick read and use the spell-checker to make edits. However, revising your paper properly is more in-depth.

Step 2 Cut out unnecessary words and other fluff.

  • The passive voice, such as “The door was opened by me,” feels hesitant and wordy. On the other hand, the active voice, or “I opened the door,” feels strong and concise.
  • Each word in your paper should do a specific job. Try to avoid including extra words just to fill up blank space on a page or sound fancy.
  • For instance, “The author uses pathos to appeal to readers’ emotions” is better than “The author utilizes pathos to make an appeal to the emotional core of those who read the passage.”

Step 3 Proofread

  • Read your essay out loud to help ensure you catch every error. As you read, check for flow as well and, if necessary, tweak any spots that sound awkward. [13] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Step 4 Ask a friend, relative, or teacher to read your work before you submit it.

  • It’s wise to get feedback from one person who’s familiar with your topic and another who’s not. The person who knows about the topic can help ensure you’ve nailed all the details. The person who’s unfamiliar with the topic can help make sure your writing is clear and easy to understand.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Remember that your topic and thesis should be as specific as possible. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 0
  • Researching, outlining, drafting, and revising are all important steps, so do your best to budget your time wisely. Try to avoid waiting until the last minute to write your paper. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 2

how do you write a mini research paper

You Might Also Like

Get Started With a Research Project

  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/planresearchpaper/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/evaluating-print-sources/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/conducting_research/research_overview/index.html
  • ↑ https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/writing/graduate-writing-lab/writing-through-graduate-school/working-sources
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-5-putting-the-pieces-together-with-a-thesis-statement/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/developing_an_outline/index.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/counterarguments
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/formandstyle/writing/scholarlyvoice/activepassive
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/reading-aloud/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/index.html

About This Article

Chris Hadley, PhD

To write a research paper, start by researching your topic at the library, online, or using an academic database. As you conduct your research and take notes, zero in on a specific topic that you want to write about and create a 1-2 sentence thesis to state the focus of your paper. Then, create an outline that includes an introduction, 3 to 5 body paragraphs to present your arguments, and a conclusion to sum up your main points. Once you have your paper's structure organized, draft your paragraphs, focusing on 1 argument per paragraph. Use the information you found through your research to back up your claims and prove your thesis statement. Finally, proofread and revise your content until it's polished and ready to submit. For more information on researching and citing sources, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

College Info Geek

How to Write a Killer Research Paper (Even If You Hate Writing)

how do you write a mini research paper

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how do you write a mini research paper

Research papers.

Unless you’re a weirdo like me, you probably dread them. When I was in college, depending on the class, I even dreaded these.

It’s the sort of project that can leave even the most organized student quaking in their boots, staring at the assignment like they’re Luke Skywalker and it’s the Death Star.

You have to pick a broad topic, do some in-depth research, hone in on a research question, and then present your answer to that question in an interesting way. Oh, and you have to use citations, too.

How on earth are you supposed to tackle this thing?

Fear not, for even the Death Star had weaknesses. With a well-devised plan, some courage, and maybe a little help from a few midichlorians, you can conquer your research paper, too.

Let’s get started.

1. Pick a Topic

And pick one that interests you. This is not up for debate.

You and this topic are going to be spending a lot of time together, so you might as well pick something you like, or, at the very least, have a vague interest in. Even if you hate the class, there’s probably at least one topic that you’re curious about.

Maybe you want to write about “mental health in high schools” for your paper in your education class. That’s a good start, but take a couple steps to hone your idea a little further so you have an idea of what to research. Here’s a couple of factors to look at when you want to get more specific:

  • Timeframe : What are the most important mental health issues for high schoolers that have come up in the last five years?
  • Location : How does the mental health of students in your area compare to students in the next state (or country) over?
  • Culture or Group : How does the mental health of inner-city students compare to those in the suburbs or places like Silicon Valley?
  • Solution : If schools were to make one change to high schools to improve the well-being of their students, what would be most effective, and why?

It’s good to be clear about what you’re researching, but make sure you don’t box yourself into a corner. Try to avoid being too local (if the area is a small town, for example), or too recent, as there may not be enough research conducted to support an entire paper on the subject.

Also, avoid super analytical or technical topics that you think you’ll have a hard time writing about (unless that’s the assignment…then jump right into all the technicalities you want).

You’ll probably need to do some background research and possibly brainstorm with your professor before you can identify a topic that’s specialized enough for your paper.

At the very least, skim the Encyclopedia Britannica section on your general area of interest. Your professor is another resource: use them! They’re probably more than happy to point you in the direction of a possible research topic.

Of course, this is going to be highly dependent on your class and the criteria set forth by your professor, so make sure you read your assignment and understand what it’s asking for. If you feel the assignment is unclear, don’t go any further without talking to your professor about it.

2. Create a Clear Thesis Statement

Say it with me: a research paper without a thesis question or statement is just a fancy book report.

All research papers fall under three general categories: analytical, expository, or argumentative.

  • Analytical papers present an analysis of information (effects of stress on the human brain)
  • Expository papers seek to explain something (Julius Caesar’s rise to power)
  • Argumentative papers are trying to prove a point (Dumbledore shouldn’t be running a school for children).

So figure out what sort of paper you’d like to write, and then come up with a viable thesis statement or question.

Maybe it starts out looking like this:

  • Julius Caesar’s rise to power was affected by three major factors.

Ok, not bad. You could probably write a paper based on this. But it’s not great , either. It’s not specific, neither is it arguable . You’re not really entering any sort of discussion.

Maybe you rework it a little to be more specific and you get:

  • Julius Caesar’s quick rise to power was a direct result of a power vacuum and social instability created by years of war and internal political corruption.

Better. Now you can actually think about researching it.

Every good thesis statement has three important qualities: it’s focused , it picks a side , and it can be backed up with research .

If you’re missing any of these qualities, you’re gonna have a bad time. Avoid vague modifier words like “positive” and “negative.” Instead use precise, strong language to formulate your argument.

Take this thesis statement for example:

  • “ High schools should stop assigning so much homework, because it has a negative impact on students’ lives.”

Sure, it’s arguable…but only sort of . It’s pretty vague. We don’t really know what is meant by “negative”, other than “generically bad”. Before you get into the research, you have to define your argument a little more.

Revised Version:

  • “ High schools in the United States should assign less homework, as lower workloads improve students’ sleep, stress levels, and, surprisingly, their grades.”

When in doubt, always look at your thesis and ask, “Is this arguable?”  Is there something you need to prove ? If not, then your thesis probably isn’t strong enough. If yes, then as long as you can actually prove it with your research, you’re golden.

Good thesis statements give you a clear goal. You know exactly what you’re looking for, and you know exactly where you’re going with the paper. Try to be as specific and clear as possible. That makes the next step a lot easier:

3. Hit the Books

So you have your thesis, you know what you’re looking for. It’s time to actually go out and do some real research. By real research, I mean more than a quick internet search or a quick skim through some weak secondary or tertiary sources.

If you’ve chosen a thesis you’re a little unsteady on, a preliminary skim through Google is fine, but make sure you go the extra mile. Some professors will even have a list of required resources (e.g. “Three academic articles, two books, one interview…etc).

It’s a good idea to start by heading to the library and asking your local librarian for help (they’re usually so excited to help you find things!).

Check your school library for research papers and books on the topic. Look for primary sources, such as journals, personal records, or contemporary newspaper articles when you can find them.

As you’re starting your research, create some kind of system for filing helpful quotes, links, and other sources. I preferred it to all be on one text document on my computer, but you could try a physical file, too.

In this text document, I start compiling a list of all the sources I’m using. It tends to look like this:

Research file example

Remember that at this point, your thesis isn’t solid. It’s still in a semi-squishy state. If your research starts to strongly contradict your thesis, then come up with a new thesis, revise, and keep on compiling quotes.

The more support you can find, the better. Depending on how long your paper is, you should have 3-10 different sources, with all sorts of quotes between them.

Here are some good places to look for reputable sources:

  • Google Scholar
  • Sites ending in .edu, .org, or .gov. While it’s not a rule, these sites tend to represent organizations, and they are more likely to be reputable than your run-of-the-mill .com sites
  • Your school library. It should have a section for articles and newspapers as well as books
  • Your school’s free academic database
  • Online encyclopedias like Britannica
  • Online almanacs and other databases

As you read, analyze your sources closely, and take good notes . Jot down general observations, questions, and answers to those questions when you find them. Once you have a sizable stack of research notes, it’s time to start organizing your paper.

4. Write an Outline

Even if you normally feel confident writing a paper without one, use an outline when you’re working on a research paper.

Outlines basically do all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to writing. They keep you organized and on track. Even if you feel tempted to just jump in and brain-dump, resist. You’ll thank me later.

Here’s how to structure an outline:

outline example

You’ll notice it’s fairly concise, and it has three major parts: the introduction , the body , and the conclusion . Also notice that I haven’t bothered to organize my research too much.

I’ve just dumped all the relevant citations under the headings I think they’ll end up under, so I can put in my quotes from my research document later as they fit into the overall text.

Let’s get a little more in-depth with this:

The Introduction

The introduction is made up of two main parts: the thesis and the introduction to the supporting points. This is where you essentially tell your reader exactly what sort of wild ride they’re in for if they read on.

It’s all about preparing your reader’s mind to start thinking about your argument or question before you even really get started.

Present your thesis and your supporting points clearly and concisely. It should be no longer than a paragraph or two. Keep it simple and easy to read.

Body Paragraphs

Okay, now that you’ve made your point, it’s time to prove it. This is where your body paragraphs come in. The length of this is entirely dependent on the criteria set by your professor, so keep that in mind.

However, as a rule, you should have at least three supporting points to help defend, prove, or explain your thesis. Put your weakest point first, and your strongest point last.

This doesn’t need a lot of outlining. Basically, take your introduction outline and copy it over. Your conclusion should be about a paragraph long, and it should summarize your main points and restate your thesis.

There’s also another key component to this outline example that I haven’t touched on yet:

Research and Annotations

Some people like to write first, and annotate later. Personally, I like to get my quotes and annotations in right at the start of the writing process.

I find the rest of the paper goes more smoothly, and it’s easier to ensure that I’ve compiled enough support for my claim. That way, I don’t go through all the work of writing the paper, only to discover that my thesis doesn’t actually hold any water!

As a general rule, it’s good to have at least 3-5 sources for every supporting point. Whenever you make a claim in your paper, you should support it with evidence.

Some professors are laxer on this, and some are more stringent. Make sure you understand your assignment requirements really, really, really well. You don’t want to get marked down for missing the correct number of sources!

At this stage, you should also be sure of what sort of format your professor is looking for (APA, MLA, etc.) , as this will save you a lot of headache later.

When I was in college, some professors wanted in-text parenthetical citations whenever I made a claim or used my research at all. Others only wanted citations at the end of a paragraph. And others didn’t mind in-text citations at all, so long as you had a bibliography at the end of your entire paper.

So, go through your outline and start inserting your quotes and citations now. Count them up. If you need more, then add them. If you think you have enough (read: your claims are so supported that even Voldemort himself couldn’t scare them), then move on to the next step:

5. Write the First Draft

Time to type this thing up. If you created a strong enough outline, this should be a breeze. Most of it should already be written for you. All you have to do at this point is fill it in. You’ve successfully avoided the initial blank-screen panic .

Don’t worry too much about grammar or prose quality at this point. It’s the rough draft, and it’s not supposed to see the light of day.

I find it helpful to highlight direct quotes, summaries, paraphrases, and claims as I put them in. This helps me ensure that I never forget to cite any of them.

So, do what you’ve gotta do . Go to a studious place or create one , put on an awesome playlist, close your social media apps, and get the work done.

Once you’ve gotten the gist of your paper down, the real work begins:

6. Revise Your Draft

Okay, now that you’ve word-vomited everywhere in a semi-organized fashion, it’s time to start building this thing into a cohesive paper. If you took the time to outline properly, then this part shouldn’t be too difficult.

Every paper has two editing stages:the developmental edit , and the line edit.

The developmental edit (the first one, at least) is for your eyes only. This is the part where you take a long, hard look at your paper and ask yourself, “Does this make sense, and does it accomplish what I want it to accomplish?” If it does, then great. If it doesn’t, then how can you rearrange or change it so that it does?

Here are a few good questions to ask yourself at this stage:

  • Is the paper well-organized, and does it have a logical flow of thought from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Does your thesis hold up to the three criteria listed earlier? Is it well supported by your research and arguments?
  • Have you checked that all your sources are properly cited?
  • How repetitive is the paper? Can you get rid of superlative points or language to tighten up your argument?

Once you’ve run the paper through this process at least once, it’s time for the line edit . This is the part where you check for punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors.

It helps to let your paper sit overnight, and then read it out loud to yourself, or the cat, or have a friend read it. Often, our brains know what we “meant” to say, and it’s difficult for us to catch small grammatical or spelling errors.

Here are a couple more final questions to ask yourself before you call it a day:

  • Have you avoided filler words , adverbs , and passive voice as much as possible?
  • Have you checked for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Spell-checker software is pretty adept these days, but it still isn’t perfect.

If you need help editing your paper, and your regular software just isn’t cutting it, Grammarly is a good app for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Chrome that goes above and beyond your run-of-the-mill spell-checker. It looks for things like sentence structure and length, as well as accidental plagiarism and passive tense.

7. Organize Your Sources

The paper’s written, but it’s not over. You’ve still got to create the very last page: the “works cited” or bibliography page.

Now, this page works a little differently depending on what style your professor has asked you to use, and it can get pretty confusing, as different types of sources are formatted completely differently.

The most important thing to ensure here is that every single source, whether big or small, is on this page before you turn your paper in. If you forget to cite something, or don’t cite it properly, you run the risk of plagiarism.

I got through college by using a couple of different tools to format it for me. Here are some absolute life-savers:

  • EasyBib – I literally used this tool all throughout college to format my citations for me, it does all the heavy lifting for you, and it’s free .
  • Microsoft Word – I honestly never touched Microsoft Word throughout my college years, but it actually has a tool that will create citations and bibliographies for you, so it’s worth using if you have it on your computer.

Onwards: One Step at a Time

I leave you with this parting advice:

Once you understand the method, research papers really aren’t as difficult as they seem. Sure, there’s a lot to do, but don’t be daunted. Just take it step by step, piece by piece, and give yourself plenty of time. Take frequent breaks, stay organized, and never, ever, ever forget to cite your sources. You can do this!

Looking for tools to make the writing process easier? Check out our list of the best writing apps .

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Home » Research Paper Format – Types, Examples and Templates

Research Paper Format – Types, Examples and Templates

Table of Contents

Research Paper Formats

Research paper format is an essential aspect of academic writing that plays a crucial role in the communication of research findings . The format of a research paper depends on various factors such as the discipline, style guide, and purpose of the research. It includes guidelines for the structure, citation style, referencing , and other elements of the paper that contribute to its overall presentation and coherence. Adhering to the appropriate research paper format is vital for ensuring that the research is accurately and effectively communicated to the intended audience. In this era of information, it is essential to understand the different research paper formats and their guidelines to communicate research effectively, accurately, and with the required level of detail. This post aims to provide an overview of some of the common research paper formats used in academic writing.

Research Paper Formats

Research Paper Formats are as follows:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) format
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) format
  • Chicago/Turabian style
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) format
  • AMA (American Medical Association) style
  • Harvard style
  • Vancouver style
  • ACS (American Chemical Society) style
  • ASA (American Sociological Association) style
  • APSA (American Political Science Association) style

APA (American Psychological Association) Format

Here is a general APA format for a research paper:

  • Title Page: The title page should include the title of your paper, your name, and your institutional affiliation. It should also include a running head, which is a shortened version of the title, and a page number in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Abstract : The abstract is a brief summary of your paper, typically 150-250 words. It should include the purpose of your research, the main findings, and any implications or conclusions that can be drawn.
  • Introduction: The introduction should provide background information on your topic, state the purpose of your research, and present your research question or hypothesis. It should also include a brief literature review that discusses previous research on your topic.
  • Methods: The methods section should describe the procedures you used to collect and analyze your data. It should include information on the participants, the materials and instruments used, and the statistical analyses performed.
  • Results: The results section should present the findings of your research in a clear and concise manner. Use tables and figures to help illustrate your results.
  • Discussion : The discussion section should interpret your results and relate them back to your research question or hypothesis. It should also discuss the implications of your findings and any limitations of your study.
  • References : The references section should include a list of all sources cited in your paper. Follow APA formatting guidelines for your citations and references.

Some additional tips for formatting your APA research paper:

  • Use 12-point Times New Roman font throughout the paper.
  • Double-space all text, including the references.
  • Use 1-inch margins on all sides of the page.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches.
  • Use a hanging indent for the references (the first line should be flush with the left margin, and all subsequent lines should be indented).
  • Number all pages, including the title page and references page, in the upper right-hand corner.

APA Research Paper Format Template

APA Research Paper Format Template is as follows:

Title Page:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Institutional affiliation
  • A brief summary of the main points of the paper, including the research question, methods, findings, and conclusions. The abstract should be no more than 250 words.

Introduction:

  • Background information on the topic of the research paper
  • Research question or hypothesis
  • Significance of the study
  • Overview of the research methods and design
  • Brief summary of the main findings
  • Participants: description of the sample population, including the number of participants and their characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.)
  • Materials: description of any materials used in the study (e.g., survey questions, experimental apparatus)
  • Procedure: detailed description of the steps taken to conduct the study
  • Presentation of the findings of the study, including statistical analyses if applicable
  • Tables and figures may be included to illustrate the results

Discussion:

  • Interpretation of the results in light of the research question and hypothesis
  • Implications of the study for the field
  • Limitations of the study
  • Suggestions for future research

References:

  • A list of all sources cited in the paper, in APA format

Formatting guidelines:

  • Double-spaced
  • 12-point font (Times New Roman or Arial)
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Page numbers in the top right corner
  • Headings and subheadings should be used to organize the paper
  • The first line of each paragraph should be indented
  • Quotations of 40 or more words should be set off in a block quote with no quotation marks
  • In-text citations should include the author’s last name and year of publication (e.g., Smith, 2019)

APA Research Paper Format Example

APA Research Paper Format Example is as follows:

The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

University of XYZ

This study examines the relationship between social media use and mental health among college students. Data was collected through a survey of 500 students at the University of XYZ. Results suggest that social media use is significantly related to symptoms of depression and anxiety, and that the negative effects of social media are greater among frequent users.

Social media has become an increasingly important aspect of modern life, especially among young adults. While social media can have many positive effects, such as connecting people across distances and sharing information, there is growing concern about its impact on mental health. This study aims to examine the relationship between social media use and mental health among college students.

Participants: Participants were 500 college students at the University of XYZ, recruited through online advertisements and flyers posted on campus. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 25, with a mean age of 20.5 years. The sample was 60% female, 40% male, and 5% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming.

Data was collected through an online survey administered through Qualtrics. The survey consisted of several measures, including the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for depression symptoms, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) for anxiety symptoms, and questions about social media use.

Procedure :

Participants were asked to complete the online survey at their convenience. The survey took approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, correlations, and multiple regression analysis.

Results indicated that social media use was significantly related to symptoms of depression (r = .32, p < .001) and anxiety (r = .29, p < .001). Regression analysis indicated that frequency of social media use was a significant predictor of both depression symptoms (β = .24, p < .001) and anxiety symptoms (β = .20, p < .001), even when controlling for age, gender, and other relevant factors.

The results of this study suggest that social media use is associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety among college students. The negative effects of social media are greater among frequent users. These findings have important implications for mental health professionals and educators, who should consider addressing the potential negative effects of social media use in their work with young adults.

References :

References should be listed in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. For example:

  • Chou, H. T. G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: The impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others’ lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(2), 117-121.
  • Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among U.S. adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17.

Note: This is just a sample Example do not use this in your assignment.

MLA (Modern Language Association) Format

MLA (Modern Language Association) Format is as follows:

  • Page Layout : Use 8.5 x 11-inch white paper, with 1-inch margins on all sides. The font should be 12-point Times New Roman or a similar serif font.
  • Heading and Title : The first page of your research paper should include a heading and a title. The heading should include your name, your instructor’s name, the course title, and the date. The title should be centered and in title case (capitalizing the first letter of each important word).
  • In-Text Citations : Use parenthetical citations to indicate the source of your information. The citation should include the author’s last name and the page number(s) of the source. For example: (Smith 23).
  • Works Cited Page : At the end of your paper, include a Works Cited page that lists all the sources you used in your research. Each entry should include the author’s name, the title of the work, the publication information, and the medium of publication.
  • Formatting Quotations : Use double quotation marks for short quotations and block quotations for longer quotations. Indent the entire quotation five spaces from the left margin.
  • Formatting the Body : Use a clear and readable font and double-space your text throughout. The first line of each paragraph should be indented one-half inch from the left margin.

MLA Research Paper Template

MLA Research Paper Format Template is as follows:

  • Use 8.5 x 11 inch white paper.
  • Use a 12-point font, such as Times New Roman.
  • Use double-spacing throughout the entire paper, including the title page and works cited page.
  • Set the margins to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Use page numbers in the upper right corner, beginning with the first page of text.
  • Include a centered title for the research paper, using title case (capitalizing the first letter of each important word).
  • Include your name, instructor’s name, course name, and date in the upper left corner, double-spaced.

In-Text Citations

  • When quoting or paraphrasing information from sources, include an in-text citation within the text of your paper.
  • Use the author’s last name and the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence, before the punctuation mark.
  • If the author’s name is mentioned in the sentence, only include the page number in parentheses.

Works Cited Page

  • List all sources cited in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
  • Each entry should include the author’s name, title of the work, publication information, and medium of publication.
  • Use italics for book and journal titles, and quotation marks for article and chapter titles.
  • For online sources, include the date of access and the URL.

Here is an example of how the first page of a research paper in MLA format should look:

Headings and Subheadings

  • Use headings and subheadings to organize your paper and make it easier to read.
  • Use numerals to number your headings and subheadings (e.g. 1, 2, 3), and capitalize the first letter of each word.
  • The main heading should be centered and in boldface type, while subheadings should be left-aligned and in italics.
  • Use only one space after each period or punctuation mark.
  • Use quotation marks to indicate direct quotes from a source.
  • If the quote is more than four lines, format it as a block quote, indented one inch from the left margin and without quotation marks.
  • Use ellipses (…) to indicate omitted words from a quote, and brackets ([…]) to indicate added words.

Works Cited Examples

  • Book: Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Year.
  • Journal Article: Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, volume number, issue number, publication date, page numbers.
  • Website: Last Name, First Name. “Title of Webpage.” Title of Website, publication date, URL. Accessed date.

Here is an example of how a works cited entry for a book should look:

Smith, John. The Art of Writing Research Papers. Penguin, 2021.

MLA Research Paper Example

MLA Research Paper Format Example is as follows:

Your Professor’s Name

Course Name and Number

Date (in Day Month Year format)

Word Count (not including title page or Works Cited)

Title: The Impact of Video Games on Aggression Levels

Video games have become a popular form of entertainment among people of all ages. However, the impact of video games on aggression levels has been a subject of debate among scholars and researchers. While some argue that video games promote aggression and violent behavior, others argue that there is no clear link between video games and aggression levels. This research paper aims to explore the impact of video games on aggression levels among young adults.

Background:

The debate on the impact of video games on aggression levels has been ongoing for several years. According to the American Psychological Association, exposure to violent media, including video games, can increase aggression levels in children and adolescents. However, some researchers argue that there is no clear evidence to support this claim. Several studies have been conducted to examine the impact of video games on aggression levels, but the results have been mixed.

Methodology:

This research paper used a quantitative research approach to examine the impact of video games on aggression levels among young adults. A sample of 100 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 was selected for the study. The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that measured their aggression levels and their video game habits.

The results of the study showed that there was a significant correlation between video game habits and aggression levels among young adults. The participants who reported playing violent video games for more than 5 hours per week had higher aggression levels than those who played less than 5 hours per week. The study also found that male participants were more likely to play violent video games and had higher aggression levels than female participants.

The findings of this study support the claim that video games can increase aggression levels among young adults. However, it is important to note that the study only examined the impact of video games on aggression levels and did not take into account other factors that may contribute to aggressive behavior. It is also important to note that not all video games promote violence and aggression, and some games may have a positive impact on cognitive and social skills.

Conclusion :

In conclusion, this research paper provides evidence to support the claim that video games can increase aggression levels among young adults. However, it is important to conduct further research to examine the impact of video games on other aspects of behavior and to explore the potential benefits of video games. Parents and educators should be aware of the potential impact of video games on aggression levels and should encourage young adults to engage in a variety of activities that promote cognitive and social skills.

Works Cited:

  • American Psychological Association. (2017). Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/08/violent-video-games
  • Ferguson, C. J. (2015). Do Angry Birds make for angry children? A meta-analysis of video game influences on children’s and adolescents’ aggression, mental health, prosocial behavior, and academic performance. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(5), 646-666.
  • Gentile, D. A., Swing, E. L., Lim, C. G., & Khoo, A. (2012). Video game playing, attention problems, and impulsiveness: Evidence of bidirectional causality. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1(1), 62-70.
  • Greitemeyer, T. (2014). Effects of prosocial video games on prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(4), 530-548.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chicago/Turabian Formate is as follows:

  • Margins : Use 1-inch margins on all sides of the paper.
  • Font : Use a readable font such as Times New Roman or Arial, and use a 12-point font size.
  • Page numbering : Number all pages in the upper right-hand corner, beginning with the first page of text. Use Arabic numerals.
  • Title page: Include a title page with the title of the paper, your name, course title and number, instructor’s name, and the date. The title should be centered on the page and in title case (capitalize the first letter of each word).
  • Headings: Use headings to organize your paper. The first level of headings should be centered and in boldface or italics. The second level of headings should be left-aligned and in boldface or italics. Use as many levels of headings as necessary to organize your paper.
  • In-text citations : Use footnotes or endnotes to cite sources within the text of your paper. The first citation for each source should be a full citation, and subsequent citations can be shortened. Use superscript numbers to indicate footnotes or endnotes.
  • Bibliography : Include a bibliography at the end of your paper, listing all sources cited in your paper. The bibliography should be in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, and each entry should include the author’s name, title of the work, publication information, and date of publication.
  • Formatting of quotations: Use block quotations for quotations that are longer than four lines. Indent the entire quotation one inch from the left margin, and do not use quotation marks. Single-space the quotation, and double-space between paragraphs.
  • Tables and figures: Use tables and figures to present data and illustrations. Number each table and figure sequentially, and provide a brief title for each. Place tables and figures as close as possible to the text that refers to them.
  • Spelling and grammar : Use correct spelling and grammar throughout your paper. Proofread carefully for errors.

Chicago/Turabian Research Paper Template

Chicago/Turabian Research Paper Template is as folows:

Title of Paper

Name of Student

Professor’s Name

I. Introduction

A. Background Information

B. Research Question

C. Thesis Statement

II. Literature Review

A. Overview of Existing Literature

B. Analysis of Key Literature

C. Identification of Gaps in Literature

III. Methodology

A. Research Design

B. Data Collection

C. Data Analysis

IV. Results

A. Presentation of Findings

B. Analysis of Findings

C. Discussion of Implications

V. Conclusion

A. Summary of Findings

B. Implications for Future Research

C. Conclusion

VI. References

A. Bibliography

B. In-Text Citations

VII. Appendices (if necessary)

A. Data Tables

C. Additional Supporting Materials

Chicago/Turabian Research Paper Example

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Political Engagement

Name: John Smith

Class: POLS 101

Professor: Dr. Jane Doe

Date: April 8, 2023

I. Introduction:

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. People use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with friends and family, share their opinions, and stay informed about current events. With the rise of social media, there has been a growing interest in understanding its impact on various aspects of society, including political engagement. In this paper, I will examine the relationship between social media use and political engagement, specifically focusing on how social media influences political participation and political attitudes.

II. Literature Review:

There is a growing body of literature on the impact of social media on political engagement. Some scholars argue that social media has a positive effect on political participation by providing new channels for political communication and mobilization (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1996; Putnam, 2000). Others, however, suggest that social media can have a negative impact on political engagement by creating filter bubbles that reinforce existing beliefs and discourage political dialogue (Pariser, 2011; Sunstein, 2001).

III. Methodology:

To examine the relationship between social media use and political engagement, I conducted a survey of 500 college students. The survey included questions about social media use, political participation, and political attitudes. The data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Iv. Results:

The results of the survey indicate that social media use is positively associated with political participation. Specifically, respondents who reported using social media to discuss politics were more likely to have participated in a political campaign, attended a political rally, or contacted a political representative. Additionally, social media use was found to be associated with more positive attitudes towards political engagement, such as increased trust in government and belief in the effectiveness of political action.

V. Conclusion:

The findings of this study suggest that social media has a positive impact on political engagement, by providing new opportunities for political communication and mobilization. However, there is also a need for caution, as social media can also create filter bubbles that reinforce existing beliefs and discourage political dialogue. Future research should continue to explore the complex relationship between social media and political engagement, and develop strategies to harness the potential benefits of social media while mitigating its potential negative effects.

Vii. References:

  • Delli Carpini, M. X., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans know about politics and why it matters. Yale University Press.
  • Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: What the Internet is hiding from you. Penguin.
  • Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. Simon & Schuster.
  • Sunstein, C. R. (2001). Republic.com. Princeton University Press.

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Format

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Research Paper Format is as follows:

  • Title : A concise and informative title that accurately reflects the content of the paper.
  • Abstract : A brief summary of the paper, typically no more than 250 words, that includes the purpose of the study, the methods used, the key findings, and the main conclusions.
  • Introduction : An overview of the background, context, and motivation for the research, including a clear statement of the problem being addressed and the objectives of the study.
  • Literature review: A critical analysis of the relevant research and scholarship on the topic, including a discussion of any gaps or limitations in the existing literature.
  • Methodology : A detailed description of the methods used to collect and analyze data, including any experiments or simulations, data collection instruments or procedures, and statistical analyses.
  • Results : A clear and concise presentation of the findings, including any relevant tables, graphs, or figures.
  • Discussion : A detailed interpretation of the results, including a comparison of the findings with previous research, a discussion of the implications of the results, and any recommendations for future research.
  • Conclusion : A summary of the key findings and main conclusions of the study.
  • References : A list of all sources cited in the paper, formatted according to IEEE guidelines.

In addition to these elements, an IEEE research paper should also follow certain formatting guidelines, including using 12-point font, double-spaced text, and numbered headings and subheadings. Additionally, any tables, figures, or equations should be clearly labeled and referenced in the text.

AMA (American Medical Association) Style

AMA (American Medical Association) Style Research Paper Format:

  • Title Page: This page includes the title of the paper, the author’s name, institutional affiliation, and any acknowledgments or disclaimers.
  • Abstract: The abstract is a brief summary of the paper that outlines the purpose, methods, results, and conclusions of the study. It is typically limited to 250 words or less.
  • Introduction: The introduction provides a background of the research problem, defines the research question, and outlines the objectives and hypotheses of the study.
  • Methods: The methods section describes the research design, participants, procedures, and instruments used to collect and analyze data.
  • Results: The results section presents the findings of the study in a clear and concise manner, using graphs, tables, and charts where appropriate.
  • Discussion: The discussion section interprets the results, explains their significance, and relates them to previous research in the field.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion summarizes the main points of the paper, discusses the implications of the findings, and suggests future research directions.
  • References: The reference list includes all sources cited in the paper, listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

In addition to these sections, the AMA format requires that authors follow specific guidelines for citing sources in the text and formatting their references. The AMA style uses a superscript number system for in-text citations and provides specific formats for different types of sources, such as books, journal articles, and websites.

Harvard Style

Harvard Style Research Paper format is as follows:

  • Title page: This should include the title of your paper, your name, the name of your institution, and the date of submission.
  • Abstract : This is a brief summary of your paper, usually no more than 250 words. It should outline the main points of your research and highlight your findings.
  • Introduction : This section should introduce your research topic, provide background information, and outline your research question or thesis statement.
  • Literature review: This section should review the relevant literature on your topic, including previous research studies, academic articles, and other sources.
  • Methodology : This section should describe the methods you used to conduct your research, including any data collection methods, research instruments, and sampling techniques.
  • Results : This section should present your findings in a clear and concise manner, using tables, graphs, and other visual aids if necessary.
  • Discussion : This section should interpret your findings and relate them to the broader research question or thesis statement. You should also discuss the implications of your research and suggest areas for future study.
  • Conclusion : This section should summarize your main findings and provide a final statement on the significance of your research.
  • References : This is a list of all the sources you cited in your paper, presented in alphabetical order by author name. Each citation should include the author’s name, the title of the source, the publication date, and other relevant information.

In addition to these sections, a Harvard Style research paper may also include a table of contents, appendices, and other supplementary materials as needed. It is important to follow the specific formatting guidelines provided by your instructor or academic institution when preparing your research paper in Harvard Style.

Vancouver Style

Vancouver Style Research Paper format is as follows:

The Vancouver citation style is commonly used in the biomedical sciences and is known for its use of numbered references. Here is a basic format for a research paper using the Vancouver citation style:

  • Title page: Include the title of your paper, your name, the name of your institution, and the date.
  • Abstract : This is a brief summary of your research paper, usually no more than 250 words.
  • Introduction : Provide some background information on your topic and state the purpose of your research.
  • Methods : Describe the methods you used to conduct your research, including the study design, data collection, and statistical analysis.
  • Results : Present your findings in a clear and concise manner, using tables and figures as needed.
  • Discussion : Interpret your results and explain their significance. Also, discuss any limitations of your study and suggest directions for future research.
  • References : List all of the sources you cited in your paper in numerical order. Each reference should include the author’s name, the title of the article or book, the name of the journal or publisher, the year of publication, and the page numbers.

ACS (American Chemical Society) Style

ACS (American Chemical Society) Style Research Paper format is as follows:

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Style is a citation style commonly used in chemistry and related fields. When formatting a research paper in ACS Style, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Paper Size and Margins : Use standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper with 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Font: Use a 12-point serif font (such as Times New Roman) for the main text. The title should be in bold and a larger font size.
  • Title Page : The title page should include the title of the paper, the authors’ names and affiliations, and the date of submission. The title should be centered on the page and written in bold font. The authors’ names should be centered below the title, followed by their affiliations and the date.
  • Abstract : The abstract should be a brief summary of the paper, no more than 250 words. It should be on a separate page and include the title of the paper, the authors’ names and affiliations, and the text of the abstract.
  • Main Text : The main text should be organized into sections with headings that clearly indicate the content of each section. The introduction should provide background information and state the research question or hypothesis. The methods section should describe the procedures used in the study. The results section should present the findings of the study, and the discussion section should interpret the results and provide conclusions.
  • References: Use the ACS Style guide to format the references cited in the paper. In-text citations should be numbered sequentially throughout the text and listed in numerical order at the end of the paper.
  • Figures and Tables: Figures and tables should be numbered sequentially and referenced in the text. Each should have a descriptive caption that explains its content. Figures should be submitted in a high-quality electronic format.
  • Supporting Information: Additional information such as data, graphs, and videos may be included as supporting information. This should be included in a separate file and referenced in the main text.
  • Acknowledgments : Acknowledge any funding sources or individuals who contributed to the research.

ASA (American Sociological Association) Style

ASA (American Sociological Association) Style Research Paper format is as follows:

  • Title Page: The title page of an ASA style research paper should include the title of the paper, the author’s name, and the institutional affiliation. The title should be centered and should be in title case (the first letter of each major word should be capitalized).
  • Abstract: An abstract is a brief summary of the paper that should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page. The abstract should be no more than 200 words in length and should summarize the main points of the paper.
  • Main Body: The main body of the paper should begin on a new page following the abstract page. The paper should be double-spaced, with 1-inch margins on all sides, and should be written in 12-point Times New Roman font. The main body of the paper should include an introduction, a literature review, a methodology section, results, and a discussion.
  • References : The reference section should appear on a separate page at the end of the paper. All sources cited in the paper should be listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Each reference should include the author’s name, the title of the work, the publication information, and the date of publication.
  • Appendices : Appendices are optional and should only be included if they contain information that is relevant to the study but too lengthy to be included in the main body of the paper. If you include appendices, each one should be labeled with a letter (e.g., Appendix A, Appendix B, etc.) and should be referenced in the main body of the paper.

APSA (American Political Science Association) Style

APSA (American Political Science Association) Style Research Paper format is as follows:

  • Title Page: The title page should include the title of the paper, the author’s name, the name of the course or instructor, and the date.
  • Abstract : An abstract is typically not required in APSA style papers, but if one is included, it should be brief and summarize the main points of the paper.
  • Introduction : The introduction should provide an overview of the research topic, the research question, and the main argument or thesis of the paper.
  • Literature Review : The literature review should summarize the existing research on the topic and provide a context for the research question.
  • Methods : The methods section should describe the research methods used in the paper, including data collection and analysis.
  • Results : The results section should present the findings of the research.
  • Discussion : The discussion section should interpret the results and connect them back to the research question and argument.
  • Conclusion : The conclusion should summarize the main findings and implications of the research.
  • References : The reference list should include all sources cited in the paper, formatted according to APSA style guidelines.

In-text citations in APSA style use parenthetical citation, which includes the author’s last name, publication year, and page number(s) if applicable. For example, (Smith 2010, 25).

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Research Paper Structure 101: From Title Page to Appendices

Research Paper Structure: The Complete Guide

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A professional writer with ten years of experience and a Ph.D. in Modern History, Catharine Tawil writes engaging and insightful papers for academic exchange. With deep insight into the impact of historical events on the present, she provides a unique perspective in giving students a feel for the past. Her writing educates and stimulates critical thinking, making her a treasure to those wading through the complexities of history.

A research paper is an academic work depicting the design and results of a study. It can be an academic assignment in undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Moreover, it is an integral requirement in doctoral programs, where postgrads’ research papers are published in reputable journals to add credibility to their research findings. 

Ordering different parts of a research paper is critical for fulfilling academic standards, streamlining your writing, and avoiding distractions and sidetracks. Although outlining may seem like a waste of time, it is the most efficient use of your time at the pre-writing stage, as it will help you order your thoughts and ideas and develop a plan of action to follow throughout the study. 

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of the research paper formatting, provide a basic template of a research paper structure, and provide a detailed description of each section, including the title page and abstract, introduction and literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. You can skip to a specific section if you have questions or concerns about it or check out the full article for an in-depth understanding of the full structure. 

Essential Components of a Research Paper

Unlike other types of academic assignments, research papers have a structure more complex than a simple trio of introduction, body, and conclusion. You are expected to follow the established academic norms and include specific information for your paper to have any scientific value. The basic research paper structure example comprises the following parts:

Introduction

  • Literature review

Methodology

  • Acknowledgments

Please note that some sections of a research paper outlined above are optional. For example, you only need to include appendices if you wish to share a large volume of data that would make the paper unwieldy. You can also adjust this research paper setup to fit your study and word count requirements better. For instance, you can combine the results and discussion sections or the introduction and literature review.

Formatting Requirements

Although the research paper structure is basically the same for all fields of study and topics, the papers can look drastically different when following research paper formatting guidelines of various formatting styles, be it Chicago, MLA, or APA. You must learn the appropriate style at the onset of the writing process, so remember to ask your academic advisor about it if there’s no mention of the formatting style within general requirements.

Once you know which research paper formatting style to use, get your hands on the relevant formatting guidebook. You can find most of the requirements online or sign out a book from a college library. Considering most formatting guidebooks are huge, focus on the main aspects that can make or break your paper, such as:

  • Margins, font, and spacing. Most research paper format guidelines require 1-inch margins on all sides, a legible font of at least 12 pt, and double-spaced lines. 
  • Page numbering. Requirements vary, but typically, you’ll need to include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the corner.
  • Headings and subheadings. Refer to MLA or APA handbooks to learn specific research paper headings requirements or ask your professor, as the guidelines differ greatly. 
  • In-text citations and reference list. In most cases, research paper in-text citations require the name of the main author along with the page number or the publication year. Reference list formatting varies across different styles, but you can use automatic citation generators to speed up the formatting process.

With formatting requirements out of the way, let’s now focus on individual components of a research paper to help you understand what each section should contain to be well received.

Title Page and Abstract

The research paper title page format depends on the required formatting style:

  • MLA does not require a separate title page (unless specifically requested). Instead, in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, type your name, your instructor’s name, course name, and date (each on a new line, double-spaced). After that, center the title of the page and include its text.
  • APA requires a separate title page, which should include the title of the paper, your name and affiliation, as well as the course name and number, your instructor’s name, and the assignment’s due date. 

A research paper abstract is brief summary of the main points of the research paper. Depending on the formatting style, it can be from 100 to 250 words long, highlighting the research objective, key methodology, and results highlights. An abstract should help readers decide if your work is worth reading at a glance. 

An APA research paper organization requires an abstract on a separate page, with the “Abstract” heading and the paper’s summary (without indent). Below the abstract, type “Keywords:” (in italics) and list the keywords researchers would use to find your paper in the library or online. 

The opening section of the research paper outline gives students pause because they never know what the introduction should entail. If you’re stuck with writer’s block and don’t know how to start the paper, answer these four questions, and you’ll have all the major pieces necessary for the introduction:

  • What’s the context of the problem? Open with a general view of the issue and its current state without going into too much detail (that’s what the literature review is for). The background information should fit within one or two paragraphs and lead directly to the next point. 
  • What is the issue? The problem statement or question is the core of this part of the research paper structure. Think of it as a thesis statement for an essay. Everything you write in other sections of a research paper should always tie to your problem statement.
  • How do you plan to solve the problem? You can formulate research objectives or hypotheses that your study will try to achieve or prove. Short papers typically have one hypothesis, while longer works usually have two or more related objectives.
  • How will your study improve the issue? The answer can circle back to the background you laid out at the beginning of the research paper introduction and highlight the benefits (and potential drawbacks and limitations) of your research. It’s the major “selling point” of the study, which should explain why anyone should care about it. 

You can always leave the introduction for last and tackle it once the rest of the paper is done. That’s especially helpful if you use writer’s block as an excuse to procrastinate and put off writing other parts of a research paper.

Literature Review

The primary objective of a research paper literature review is to provide context and prove the relevance of your topic, as specified in the introduction. To that end, you need to find credible, objective, and relevant sources and synthesize any data pertaining to your research. It’s important to avoid simple paraphrasing or summarization of reference data and instead provide its analysis and synthesize your own hypothesis.

Aside from the similarities found in references, this part of the research paper structure should also focus on discrepancies, contradictions, and knowledge gaps. These will prove your study has merit and can resolve the existing issues. Moreover, the knowledge gaps will help lead up to your main research question, which you may repeat near the end of the literature review.

Depending on the topic of your study, you can organize the literature review:

  • Chronologically. You can go from the oldest sources published to the latest or from the latest events to situations long past. This approach is often the easiest, but it doesn’t fit all topics and fields of study.
  • Thematically. If you wish to cover two or more aspects of the issue, you can dedicate a subsection to each and analyze them together in the final subsection of the literature review. This is the most popular approach, as it can work for most topics.
  • Methodologically. If you want to focus on the differences and similarities in research methodology, you can split the literature review into several subsections, devoting each one to a single methodology. This approach works for select subjects and can make the most of systemic studies. 

If you’re working on an empirical study, you can stop there, but if your work is mostly theoretical, this stage of the research paper writing process could also involve developing a theoretical framework. It will help put your findings and results into perspective.

Although it may seem simple at first glance, a literature review takes a long time, most of which you’ll spend looking for reliable sources. Luckily, you can easily outsource this task. All you need to do is say, “Write my paper for me”, and our experts will take over ASAP. 

The research paper methodology section is an integral part of the piece, as it helps ensure the reproducibility of your results and increases your credibility. This part should answer two main questions:

  • What? What did your study involve? What resources, software, materials, or samples did you use? What were the ethical considerations of your research?
  • How? How much time did your study take? How did you choose participants? How did you collect data and analyze it?

Keep these questions in mind when working out a research design, picking data collection procedures and analysis techniques. If you rely on standard methods, a quick description with a citation would be enough for the methodology part of the research paper structure. But if you employ a unique approach, make sure to describe it in minute detail to ensure anyone can repeat the process and achieve the same results. 

For obvious reasons, the methodology section will differ greatly depending on your field of study and topic. For example, qualitative and quantitative research methods are vastly different. At the same time, quantitative analysis of sociology or linguistics research will be nothing like analyzing blood tests for nursing students or analyzing the success of a marketing campaign for a business and management class. While the tools (i.e., programming language or table processing software) may be similar, the application will be different, and you should highlight these distinctions in your methodology section. 

Although you can put off working on this section of the structure of a research paper, it can be helpful to put your methodology on paper before embarking on the study. A clear idea of the protocols you plan to employ should keep your study on track and minimize methodological errors. 

The research paper results present the study findings as the ultimate product of your research. Instead of the raw data, you can present analysis results and visual aids in the form of tables, figures, and graphs, provide statistical analysis results, and refer interested readers to appendices containing raw data.

Remember to follow the formatting style requirements for tables and figures, which differ for APA and MLA. The same applies to lists and other visual aids. You should also ensure these materials do not destroy your paper’s readability. For example, a three-page table is much more difficult to grasp than a couple of charts highlighting the same data. Moreover, if you plan to present your findings on a poster or a PowerPoint presentation, it pays to work out the best way to present your insights that will fit all formats, including print and projection.

It’s important to draw the line between the results and discussion parts of the research paper structure. The first presents analysis, while the latter relies on interpretations (or implications) of that analysis. Understanding the distinction can be quite challenging, especially if you’re working out the structure of a research paper for the first time.

Discussion and Conclusion

The research paper discussion connects the introduction and research question with the study results. Instead of merely analyzing data, this section should explain whether your initial hypothesis was correct or not. Moreover, the final section, along with the research paper conclusion, should cover the implications of the findings and their potential practical and theoretical applications. This part can also include the limitations of the study and the need for further research if you feel that it could be useful.

It may seem counterproductive, but you shouldn’t shy away from shortcomings, mistakes, and negative results achieved in your study. Instead of waiting for uncomfortable questions from your instructor, present the bad along with the good and hypothesize potential ways of correcting errors or minimizing the negative influences. In some cases, negative results can be just as valuable (if not more so) than positive findings.

Remember to include the research paper references and appendices after the conclusion to wrap up your work and make it better with careful editing, proofreading, and formatting.

What is the purpose of a research paper?

The main objective is to present and share research insights and discoveries, which you should account for when structuring a research paper. Adding literature review and methodology sections is critical for highlighting the study’s relevance and ensuring its reproducibility.

How do I structure the different sections of a research paper?

Structuring a research paper means adding an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. You can organize each of these sections thematically or chronologically or use a funnel structure, going from the broad context strokes to a narrow view of the problem.

What are the key formatting guidelines for a research paper?

Specific requirements for the structure of a research paper outline and its contents depend on the preferred formatting style. However, at its core, each formatting style focuses on readability. That’s where 12 pt to 14 pt font size and double line spacing come from. Refer to the relevant formatting style handbook for specific recommendations. 

How do I effectively write the introduction and literature review?

The introduction is a critical part of the research paper structure that should include your primary research objective (or question), hypotheses, and the study’s relevance. A literature review is designed to support the claims you make within the introduction by generously using reference data. 

What is the difference between the results and discussion sections?

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  1. How to Write a Research Paper

    Choose a research paper topic. Conduct preliminary research. Develop a thesis statement. Create a research paper outline. Write a first draft of the research paper. Write the introduction. Write a compelling body of text. Write the conclusion. The second draft.

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