Writing a Research Paper: Term Papers from Start to Finish

Thousands of students are about to pull out their hair in desperation as they are stuck writing a research report. How to start writing a research article? What topic to choose? How to format the paper? These and other multiple questions may buzz in your head and stress you out. Here is a solution: take a deep breath and check these simple tips to prevent unnecessary anxiety and panic.

How to start writing a research paper

Take these three steps to finally start writing a term paper:

  • Step 1. Choose a good topic. Make it interesting, researchable and narrow. If you yawn when you hear about corporate social responsibility, you should not choose this research question. However, if you have to, narrow it down to something that you find more captivating. What about this one: “Is the aggressive call of Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple Inc., “clients are idiots” ethical?” This question deals with the issue of corporate responsibility as well, but it sounds much more interesting.
  • Step 2. Start your investigation. Clearly define your topic and hypothesis and dig through the information available on the web. You may start from Wikipedia or other encyclopedias, but make sure you do not end up with them. Pay attention to the types of websites you visit and use. If the name of the site ends in .edu or .gov, feel free to use it. The sources from scholarly databases are good too. However, you should be careful when using other domains. Save your time and scan first the web pages you find. Look only through the abstracts of articles to filter out irrelevant materials and only afterwards read in detail what you selected as relevant.
  • Step 3. Make a plan and write an outline. Do not limit your outline to the words “introduction, main body and conclusion.” Try to use this plan as a skeleton for your future research project. Include a thesis statement and clear arguments in your outline.

Writing a research paper: main parts

These are the main parts of any research paper:

  1. Title page. Follow the recommendations of your citation style. Do not forget to use “Running head” before the short title in APA or your surname before the page number in MLA.
  2. Abstract. Write it at the very end, when the rest of your project is already competed. Briefly summarize your main steps and findings. Make it clear and succinct so that a busy reader can read only your abstract and understand your main idea and conclusion.
  3. Introduction. When writing research papers, spend enough time on writing the introduction, because readers will get from it their first impression of your whole paper. Provide some background information, pose the problem, explain why it is important and formulate a hypothesis (or research question).
  4. Main body.
    • Literature review. Collect information, analyze it and divide it into several groups, depending on the points of view it supports.
    • Materials and methods. State what research methods (quantitative or qualitative) and tools (surveys, interviews, measurements, etc.) you are going to use.
    • Results. Briefly present your findings.
    • Discussion. Analyze the findings and draw appropriate conclusions.
    • Limitations. Discuss what factors could make your conclusions biased. For example, convenience sampling and your personal opinion can be limitations of your investigation.
  5. Conclusion. Repeat what you have already said, in a more concise manner and using different words. Give a clear answer to your research question.
  6. Reference list. Consult the citation style handbook. Make certain that you use citations from all the sources mentioned in your reference list, in the text of your research project.
  7. Appendices. You may include interview questions, transcripts, tables and pictures in your appendices. Do not forget to cite sources where you found these materials, unless you created them yourself.

Your research projects are always there to do, at the end of your term. They are waiting for you, like the dog Hachiko was waiting for his owner. Feel free to use this free guide on how to write research paper projects to make this meeting more pleasant.

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