How to Write a Research Paper For College Effectively

Guide on How to Write a Research Paper For College Students

At some point in your studies whether in highschool, college, or graduate school, you are tasked with writing a research paper. This can be an online assignment project, college research paper, online exam, or as a section of an application essay. In short, research paper writing is an key skill to have.

Like most students, completing such a task may become difficult for you. But don't worry, because, in this guide, we seek to teach you how to write grade winning research papers from start to the end.

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is formal writing that describes the findings of the research, and conclusions are drawn. 

The research therefore intends to inform action, prove a theory, and contribute to developing knowledge in the area of study.

While it's a no-brainer why research is important, many people find it hard to come up with great research papers. 

It may be technicalities involved, or they are preoccupied with other tasks. The mentally-drained student sometimes does it for the grade, or at the workplace may do it to secure job tenure or promotion. But for those who like to learn, research is not only an imperative but a need.

Understand the requirements

The first step in academic writing is to read and understand the requirements. Failure to read the instructions the number one reason why many students score poorly when it comes to paper writing assignments. Before you even think about anything, you need to understand:

  • What kind of paper you are required to write, 
  • How long should the paper be,
  • What is required of you,
  • What level of writing does your instructor requires,
  • What is the level of research required,
  • Is the topic for the research paper gives?

Once you establish answers to above questions, it is time to go to the next step of selecting a good topic for your paper if you are not provided with one.

Choose a great research paper topic

If a topic has not been assigned to you yet, you need to choose a good topic for your research paper. Here are a few ways on how you can come up with a research topic for your writing assignment:

Come up with a broad topic and narrow down to a topic that interests you. For example you start with a topic like Cancer, write down all the possible research areas and narrow down to find a topic like: Older men are more susceptible to prostrate cancer than younger men. This is just an example which you can still narrow down for a more specific topic. 

Once you identify a great topic, you need to perfom a preriminary research with the aim of identifying all literature and research that has been published on the on the choosen topic. 

Make note of all published work and research materials as you will use it while writing a literature review.

How to Start a Research Paper

Give your paper an exciting intro that makes your reader want to discover more. Otherwise, if your paper has poor introduction, you might find yourself loosing alot of marks irrespective the quality of your body paragraphs. The start should be clear. Make sure the reader understands your research topic and what to expect. 

Follow the following steps while starting your research paper. 

  1. Have a catchy and descriptive title.
  2. State your purpose; actually, this is the research problem. 
  3. Give some background information.
  4. Suggest a solution to the problem. 
  5. Make sure you create an outline before you start writing.

Create Research Paper Outline

A research paper can be classified into several parts, and writing it entails different steps. A research paper outline or an essay outline is supposed to act as your guide while writing your academic paper. A research paper outline should forllow the structure below:

Research Paper Structure

A research paper aims to communicate several items.

  • What are you researching?
  • What is the aim of your research?
  • Your competence in handling the task

Therefore, structure your research proposal appropriately to answer these questions. It consists of;

  • Introduction
  • Aim of your research
  • Research methods. 
  • Timelines and cost implications.
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Recommendations
  • Conclusion.
  • References.

Sections of your research paper

  • Title

Formulating a title can be tasking, but not if you think about your paper and plan your essay before the actual writing.

Set your mind on what you will be writing about, align your thoughts, and compile them into a few words that make your title. The title should be a few words that describe the main idea in your paper.

Writing a title can come at the end of your essay. In that case, it allows you to improve on your initial title and settle on a great title at the end. All the same, you can have the title before writing your research paper, and this helps you to stick to that particular topic. Keep refining the title so that it can fit the content of your academic paper.

  • Writing the Abstract

A research paper abstract is a summary, approximately 300 words, consisting of the research problem and methods used on research and analysis. It enables you to elaborate on each major aspect of the paper and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper.

There are different types of abstracts you can include in your paper. They are:

  1. Critical Abstract – Besides describing the main aspects of your essay, a critical abstract evaluates a paper and often compares it with other works. It reveals all the shortcomings in your paper.
  2. Descriptive Abstract – A descriptive abstract tells the reader more about what you have written in the paper. It incorporates the main ideas found in the essay.
  3. Informative Abstract – Most abstracts fall under this category. An informative abstract does not contain information found in the rest of your essay. However, it provides information on the discursive topic that would interest the reader. In most cases, it contains some background research.
  4. A Highlight Abstract – A highlight abstract gives the reader a preview of what is discussed in the essay. It captures interesting sections in the essay. Such abstracts aim to lure the reader into dipping into more.
  • Background Information

The background info provides an overview of the research topic. Please give a brief explanation of what the topic is and why you choose it. Also, state the relevance of your research.

  • Writing a Research Paper Literature review

When writing a research paper, report the findings of other authors relating to your topic. Literature reviews provide an overview of your sources to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits within a larger field of study. 

The purpose of a literature review is;

  • Reveals any gaps that exist in the literature. 
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration.
  • States the methodologies used in carrying out research
  • Explains the research question.
  • Writing Research Paper Methodology

Include a description of the techniques you used to gather information during your research. The mallows readers to evaluate the readability of your paper and identify how credible your sources are. 

Methodology includes;

  • Observation – Entails gathering information that can be seen by the human eye, which is relevant to your discussion topic.
  • Surveys and experimentation.
  • Conducting interviews
  • Case study and literature research

The methods you use to gather information vary depending on your research subject.

  • Results Section

Report on the findings of your research, and describe the type of data you.

Data collected from research can be presented in several methods.

  • Use of tables, 
  • Listed points on theoretical findings
  • Use of graphs, bar charts, pie graphs, histograms, and line graphs.

How you present the data depends on the type of data you have. Data collected for a research paper include;

  • Image or pictorial data – Such data can be collected from electronic sources such as flash disks. Pictorial data be very useful for your essay. They provide real evidence.
  • Numerical Data – Come in the form of digits and should add significant value to your paper.
  • Textual Data – Obtained from books, reports, or any other material. It is well-formatted and neat.
  • Research Paper Discussion

Comprises of the analysis of the obtained results and conclusions drawn from them. It provides an explanation of various concepts, theories, frameworks, and methods used. 

There are several discussions that you should integrate into your essay. They include: 

  • Suggesting advancements in the research
  • Recommendations 
  • Explanation of your results
  • Examination of the data and findings obtained from your research
  • Research Paper Conclusion

Dedicate this part to your reader. Invite them to look into the research on their own. Restate the thesis of your research. Show the relevance of your essay by relating it to the current day occurrences.

  • References page

Reference page, also referred to as the bibliography, is a citation of materials you gathered information. Do not leave out this part to avoid plagiarism. Whether your are writing an MLA format paper or APA format paper, you need to cite every source you have used while writing your paper. 

How to End a Research Paper

When concluding your research paper, you can consider the steps below:

  1. Restate the research topic and the research problem. Be keen not to be repetitive. Use different words to describe these elements. 
  2. Summarize the main points of your research. The conclusion is a brief overview of the points, particularly those that you want to emphasize. 
  3. Show the significance of your research. Use the results obtained to emphasize the significance of the research carried out. State the impact of your topic relating it to the current day happenings.
  4. Conclude your thoughts. All stated and done, finalize your thoughts by giving a call of action for the reader.

Once you have completed your proposal, take the time to proofread. You should make sure all the information you have cited is accurate. Correct spelling and punctuation are also essential.

Tips for Writing a Research Paper for College

  • Follow the instructions given by the institution or the supervisor. Stick to your assignment topic. When you go out of topic, the essay becomes irrelevant.
  • Draft the paper before writing the final copy that you will submit. A draft allows you to make mistakes. Later you can read through the draft and correct any mistakes.
  • Write your paper to suit your audience. What you write in your paper depends on the audience you target. For example, what's written to college students may not appeal to businesses.
  • Introduce your proposal in an interesting formal way to invite the reader to read the rest of the paper.
  • Have a clear title. Let your title speak for your essay. The reader should pull what your essay describes after reading the title.
  • Show that your research is viable. Show the relevance of your essay, and how it applies to the modern-day.
  • Use simple language avoiding grammar mistakes and typing errors. 

Common Mistakes Students Make When Writing Research Papers.

  • Poor organization and structure.
  • Fail to cite references. It makes your work unbelievable. 
  • Use of too much vocabulary and jargon. 
  • Make the research paper too long or too short.
  • Inadequate research on the topic.
  • Too many spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.
  • Use of the wrong verb tense. 
  • Adding too much irrelevant information in your essay, making your paper lose meaning.

Final Thoughts

Indeed, writing research papers is a critical part of your studies. Research encourages learners to explore possibilities, understand underlying issues, and expound and disclose truths, half-truths, and fabricated ones. So, when you make your next research paper, observe the tricks you have learned in this "how to write a research paper" guide. But if your hands are full or the whole exercise is still troubling you, you can seek help from our platform of professional research paper writers.

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