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How to write a research essay (outline & topics)

by tutlance
Published: Last Updated on 26 views

Students will encounter research essays in almost all the subjects they study at school. These papers help the instructors to evaluate various skills in their students. A student must possess impeccable research and writing skill among others. They must also follow the proper research essay structures and referencing styles.

These essays combine both the individual’s research and that of other people. You can check a concrete tutorial on how to write a research paper on our other guide.

Students must be careful to avoid producing plagiarized work by inputting the relevant in-text citations. Though research essays are not a new concept, many learners find them difficult to complete flawlessly.

What is a research essay?

A research essay is a piece of academic writing that uses past and present research to assess a certain problem. A great research essay will incorporate one’s ideas and thoughts with those of previous researchers. Therefore, it requires a student to use various resources to come up with this piece. Writing a research essay can be time-consuming and tiresome if one does not understand how to do it.

How to write a research essay

Below are some steps that will ease your research essay writing process, while yielding a flawless paper.

1. Choose an appropriate topic

The choice of your topic determines how well you will conduct your entire research. Students must, therefore, take the time to come up with the right research topic for your essay. Your topic will be a problem that needs analysis and recommendations on how it can be solved. Unfortunately, at times, you will have to work with what the instructor has provided. If you are at liberty to make your choice, work with an area that interests or inspires you. This way, it will be easier for you to conduct in-depth research and analysis. Some students want to impress their professors by choosing complex topics. Instead of selecting an area in which you get stuck in the middle, work within your ability. Also, remain relevant to the course whose research you are conducting. For example: You cannot write a reproductive essay in an engineering subject. Make your topic as narrow as possible.

Simple tips when selecting the best research essay topics

When you have not been assigned research paper topics to write about, it is your responsibility to find out what to write a research essay on based on the topics covered in class or as required. In most cases, teachers will give you various parameters to be followed. Here are various types of research essay topics google searches popularly searched by other students:

  • Argumentative research essay topics
  • Good research essay topics,
  • Research based essay topics,
  • Easy research project topics

2. Brainstorming

Since you most likely have a reason for choosing a certain area, what do you know about it? List all the information you can think concerning your study. What resources are available about the problem you intend to study? Identify the different sources that can provide you with reliable information. Look for books, journals, websites or scholarly articles on similar research. As you proceed, note down these sources and the authors; you will require this for your references. For each information collected, use sub-topics to organize it.

3. Formulate research objective

Some topics have a straightforward objective laid down for the learner while others require some prior research. After reading through various sources, you can easily identify the direction your study will take. You should also formulate a few research questions that will guide you in your study. These questions will mostly be three or four, depending on the length of your paper. Consequently, you can now create a thesis statement that highlights your research and the expected outcome. Does your essay require you to provide information or help solve certain issues?

4. Create an essay outline

Up to this point, you have subtopics relevant to your study, but in no specific order. An essay outline will help you organize these ideas in a manner that will shape your essay. Use a logical flow to establish where you will place the different pieces of information. The details in this outline depend on the student since some of them need a little guidance. Also, remember that a research paper must adhere to a specific formatting style. The outline can be a good place to identify all the sources you have used. Are you required to use MLA, APA, Chicago, or Harvard among the others? You must be conversant with the required style and follow the institution’s guidelines too. Refer to research paper outline and examples for detailed information.

5. Write your essay

You will easily complete your essay in time if you come up with a plan before starting to draft it. You can set aside some days for specific sections or the number of pages as you deem suitable. Your essay will have an introduction, body, and conclusion, comprising of the ideas you had listed in the sub-topics.

Writing the introduction

Your introduction tells the reader what your research entails and provides the research questions. In this section, the reader must have a clear picture of this study’s purpose. However, you should not expound on any results or conclusions here. If there are definitions that will be required, this is the place for them. Short essays can have one or two introductory paragraphs but may vary for longer pieces

Body paragraphs

This part of the essay provides all the details of your study; from key arguments, to research methods and findings. Long essays will have background information at the beginning of the body paragraphs. On the other hand, this part will be in the introduction when writing short essays. Ensure that your ideas flow logically and arguments are supported by relevant evidence. Ensure you have used the proper in-text citations for work cited from other people. Arrange the body paragraphs in sub-topics revolving around your research topic.


This part provides a summary of the entire research and states a logical conclusion. Long essays discuss the results of findings within the body paragraphs while shorts ones do it at the conclusion. Make sure that your conclusion is in line with the objective and research question. Has your essay explicitly addressed the issue that you had introduced at the beginning? As much as the conclusion highlights the research work, do it in a unique way that avoids repetition.

Proofread and reference your work

Since research essays make use of other people’s research, you must cite the sources used. You can use some computer programs to help you cite your references in the most appropriate format. Failure to include this part as well as the proper in-text citations results in a plagiarized piece. Take some time away from your essay and then review it for any mistakes and ensure it has the right flow of ideas. Also, ensure that your paper has an appealing and concise title.

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