How to Write a Research Paper (Writing Guide)

author By Mary Boies

In most universities and colleges, students get only 50 percent of their education in class. They get the other 50 percent from researching and finding out things independently. This is the reason why college professors give assignments all the time. They want students to research and write on specific topics so they can read and acquire more knowledge independently.

One of the most popular types of assignments professors give at the undergraduate level is the research paper assignment. This assignment requires you to conduct thorough research into a topic and to detail your findings using a particular format.

In this post, you will discover everything you need to know about research paper assignments. You will discover the standard research paper structure, how to write a strong research paper, and how to develop a brilliant research paper topic.

Whether you are an experienced writer or a beginner, you need this guide because it is written after comprehensive research, based on the personal experiences of our professional writers, and on strategies that can work.

Let's begin.

What is a research Paper?

A research paper is an academic paper that contains an in-depth and evidence-based analysis and discussion of a specific topic. The most crucial element in every research paper is the evidence. A research paper can only be considered true if it contains empirical evidence (evidence based on research).

If you have ever successfully written an analytical essay, you should have no problems writing a research paper. This is because research papers are very similar to analytical essays. The only difference between the two types of papers is that research papers have strict rules on the sources you can use and citation.

Research papers are at the heart of modern science. This is because they help scholars to share discoveries and share information. At the undergraduate college level, research paper assignments are frequently given to enable students to discover new information and/or to test their knowledge on a particular topic/area.

Research Paper vs. Research Proposal

A research paper and a research proposal are two very different things. While they are both somewhat difficult to write, these two academic writings differ in two major ways.

First, they differ in terms of purpose. A research paper aims to investigate and share findings in a particular field. In contrast, the purpose of a research proposal is to communicate the author's research plan and the significance of the research. Since the purpose of a research paper differs from the purpose of a research proposal, it makes sense that the two types of academic writing have different structures.

Second, they differ in terms of when they are written. A research paper is written at the end of data collection. In other words, you cannot start writing a research paper before you collect what you need to write. In contrast, a research proposal is written before any research or data collection starts. This is because it is simply a proposal by the author to do research. So it can be written straightaway instead of waiting for data collection.

Research Paper vs. Term Paper

There are several differences between a research paper and a term paper. The first difference is in the purpose. The purpose of writing a research paper is generally to share information. In contrast, the purpose of writing a term paper is to show the knowledge one has acquired in a specific area of study.

The second difference between the two papers is the time when the papers are assigned. A research paper can be assigned at any time by an instructor. In contrast, a term paper can only be assigned at the end of a term to test the knowledge the student has acquired during the term. The last difference between the two papers is in the type of sources used. When developing a research paper, you can only support your arguments using very credible sources. In contrast, when writing a research paper, you can support your arguments using various sources, including your course materials, scholarly magazines, and textbooks.

While there are several key differences between a research paper and a term paper, it is important to note that there are also some similarities between the two. For example, both types of papers require proper research and formatting at the end of the day. Furthermore, both require the proper development of ideas and logical flow from paragraph to paragraph.

Types of Research Papers

There are several types of research papers that you can be asked to write in college. It is crucial to note the type of research paper you have been assigned to write because different research papers require different preparation methods. Here are the most popular types of research papers in colleges and universities across the world:

1. Argumentative research paper

 An argumentative research paper presents two opposing sides in one paper. Its objective is to make the reader understand the opposing points of view and then to make them side with the writer's point of view. When writing an argumentative research paper, the writer/student must use persuasive and empirical evidence to support their arguments.

2. Analytical research paper

This type of research paper poses a research question and then provides data and evidence to answer. Its objective is to make the reader understand the findings and evidence presented by other researchers to answer the research question. When writing an analytical research paper, the writer must analyze or discuss relevant research evidence and make a personal conclusion based on the evidence.

3. Definition paper

A definition research paper is a type of research paper that provides comprehensive and factual information on a subject to enable the reader to understand it fully. Its only objective is to describe or give arguments to enable understanding. It usually doesn't analyze the facts or arguments provided.

4. Cause and effect paper

Cause and effect research papers are common in both high school and college. They are a type of research paper that provides evidence-based answers on various causes and effects. They typically trace probable results from a specific action.

5. Compare and contrast paper

This type of research paper typically analyzes the differences between two things, subjects, viewpoints, or authors. Its objective is to make sure the reader totally understands both sides in addition to the author's viewpoint.

6. Interpretative paper

This type of research paper requires the author to utilize the knowledge they have gained from a specific case study. To write this type of paper, the student has to use a specific theoretical framework and supporting evidence to support their thesis statement.

7. Survey research paper

This research paper requires a survey to be conducted. It is written as an analysis of the data collected from the conduction of a survey. Statistical tools are normally used in this type of paper to help analyze the data.

8. Experimental research paper

This type of research paper is common in scientific fields such as physics, chemistry, and biology. It is usually written after the conduction of an experiment to describe and then analyze the results of that experiment.

Related Reading: How to write a perfect case study paper. 

Steps to Writing a Good Research Paper

Before doing anything about the research paper, you must understand the assignment. Completing a research paper successfully meets the requirements listed in the assignment prompt, rubric, and extra directions from the professor or instructor.

Below is a step-by-step guide for the entire writing process that can help you accomplish the assignment with the assurance of scoring the best grade or getting higher marks.

1. Read the assignment instructions and Rubric

The most important thing you must do when given an assignment is to understand what is expected of you. And to know what is expected of you, all you need to do is to read the assignment instructions. Read them twice or even thrice to make sure you understand everything.

Perhaps the most important thing you must understand in your assignment instructions is the research question or topic. Make sure you know what your professor expects you to write in your research paper based on the research question. If you are confused or don't understand the research question, you should talk to your professor. They will tell you what exactly you need to do.

Other important things to note in the assignment instructions include the objective of the research paper, the word count, the deadline, the formatting style, the number of references needed, and the submission method. Knowing all these things will help ensure your paper meets your professor's requirements. And, of course, this will ensure you don't get any penalties in your paper that will reduce your grade.

After reading your assignment instructions and ensuring you understand everything, you should use the information to plan when to start your research, write your scientific research paper, and submit it. This will help to ensure you don't miss the deadline entirely or you don't submit a rushed paper.

2. Select a suitable and relevant research topic

Once you fully understand the assignment instructions, select a suitable and relevant research topic for your research paper. Perhaps the most popular way to do this is to brainstorm. Brainstorming to generate a research topic for your research paper is fun. It involves thinking hard about the research question to develop possible topics for your research paper. When brainstorming possible research topics, you should write them down. Once you've written down about four or five possible topics, choose the one that you are most interested in to be your topic.

Another way to select a suitable research topic for your paper is to discuss the research question with your professor or fellow student. Start the discussion by asking them what they would personally write or focus on when given the research question you've been given. You should also share your thoughts about the research question with the person you are discussing the research question with. Such a discussion can easily help you find or settle on a research topic for your paper.

One more way to select a suitable research topic for your paper is to read research papers relevant to the research topic. When reading these research papers, focus on the conclusion and/or recommendations section. The recommendations can inspire you to develop a topic for your research paper.

When you write down what your research will focus on, you should rewrite the topic to ensure it is relevant to your research question. You should also make sure it sounds original enough and specific enough. A specific topic helps to produce a focused research paper.

3. Research and understand the topic

The most important part of writing any research paper is the research part. A research paper is called a research paper because it is based on thorough research and evidence. Once you have a specific research topic, you should embark on research.

Research the topic using your university's library database. Try to find as much relevant information as possible from the sources you find in your university library database. Google the topic to find out even more about the topic. You will understand the topic by finding and reading different sources on your research topic. This will make it easy for you to decide on your research paper's direction.

Once you've decided what direction your paper will take, you should develop a potential research question for your paper. This should be easy for you to create since you will be quite familiar with the research topic at this point.

4. Construct a good thesis statement

After research, the next thing you want to do is to construct a good thesis statement. A thesis statement is a statement that outlines the main argument and position of your academic paper. The best way to think of a thesis statement is to think of it as the answer to your research question. Your thesis statement should directly answer your research question and briefly state your paper's direction.

Once you have written down a good thesis statement, edit it to ensure it is concise, argumentative, and coherent. You want your thesis statement to be concise to make it easy for the reader to understand it when they read it quickly. You want to make sure it is argumentative or contentious so that there is a point to reading it. Not many people will want to read a non-argumentative paper. This is because non-argumentative papers are usually flat and boring.

Lastly, you want to make sure your thesis statement is coherent. In other words, you want to ensure that it is relevant to your research topic and easy to understand. This is perhaps the most critical thing when constructing a thesis statement.

5. Generate ideas and write an outline

Every academic paper with a thesis statement is written in the same way. Once the thesis statement is written, all that remains for the writer is to provide several arguments in support of the thesis statement. Each argument is typically discussed in its own body paragraph.

Therefore, after constructing a good thesis statement, you will want to generate ideas/arguments supporting it. You do this by looking at the sources you identified in your research as relevant to your topic. As you look at the sources, develop ideas to support your thesis statement. Because you have already researched the topic, it should be easy to generate ideas.

The number of ideas or arguments you generate supporting your thesis should be based on the length of your research paper. The longer your research paper, the more ideas you will have to generate. In most cases, only three to five ideas/arguments favoring a thesis statement are enough. For every idea you generate, note down the source you took it from and the page number. This will help you to provide in-text citations and to reference your ideas correctly.

After writing down your ideas, you should write your college research paper outline. You should be as comprehensive as possible when writing your research paper outline. The outline should capture your research topic, opening statement, thesis, arguments supporting your thesis, and so on. It should capture the main points you will focus on in every paragraph you write in your research paper. A good research paper outline will make it very easy for you to write your research paper.

Related: how to create a literature review outline for a research paper.

6. Write the First Draft Copy

Your research paper outline will make it easy for you to write your first draft copy. Remember, your first draft copy does not need to be perfect. Indeed no first draft is ever perfect. It just needs to be finished. Writing your first draft from your outline is reading what the outline says you should write in a particular paragraph and writing that paragraph in full in your draft.

When writing paragraphs in your first draft, ensure you have forward momentum. Your goal should be to reach the finish line, not to write the perfect copy. While your first draft will not be perfect, you need to ensure it is properly structured and that there is a logical flow of ideas from the first paragraph to the last.

Your research paper's first draft copy should begin with a properly written title page. This should be followed by you writing your research paper introduction. The introduction should address the topic of your paper, why it is important, and the direction your paper will take.

Body paragraphs should follow the introduction. Write the body paragraphs the way you outlined them. If you need to rearrange the order of your body paragraphs for a better flow, feel free to do so. When writing the body paragraphs in your first draft copy, you should make sure each paragraph is well-developed with a clear topic sentence (argument), a link to the thesis, evidence, and a closing sentence. Moreover, you should ensure your ensure there is a smooth transition between your sentences and between your paragraphs.

After writing the body paragraphs in your first draft copy, you should embark on writing your research paper conclusion. Write it so that it gives your reader a sense of finality. Start the conclusion paragraph with a restatement of your thesis statement and your main supporting arguments. Then point out how the paper addressed the issues you raised in your introduction. Lastly, you should summarize your conclusion paragraph with a statement summarizing its significance. A conclusion paragraph should not include new information and should not take more space than it needs to.

When done writing your first copy, you should attach a reference page and create a table of contents for your paper. After everything is done, write the research paper abstract before proceeding to the proofreading and editing stage.

7. Revise and Edit into a Final Draft

As mentioned above, the objective of writing the first draft is to finish. It is not to write the perfect copy. In this last step, you should aim to create the perfect copy of your research paper.

To create the perfect copy, you should first examine whether your paper meets the requirements in the research paper assignment instructions, especially the grading rubric. If there are parts of it that don't meet your assignment instructions, you should fix them immediately. Countercheck that your research paper if formatted correctly. You can be asked to format a research paper in MLA, Harvard, APA, Chicago/Turabian, Oxford, AGLC, Bluebook, AMA, ASA, and other referencing styles depending on the discipline or subject you are writing the paper. At this stage, you check the consistency of the in-text citations and the reference list.

Remember, a scientific paper follows the IMRAD format, which entails the abstract, introduction, methodology, results, analysis, discussion, and conclusion. Such a paper can also have an appendix after the references list.

On the other hand, a typical non-scientific research paper is an extended essay with an abstract, introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion, references page, and appendices. Sometimes the abstract is not a must. In some disciplines, they will ask you to write an executive summary instead of an abstract.

The next thing you must do is ensure your paper has an exemplary logical flow. Correct all the sentences or paragraphs that do not have a good flow.

The last thing you need to do is to proofread your draft thoroughly. Fix all typing errors, grammatical errors, structure errors, and so on. You should do this first by proofreading your paper using an AI proofreader like and then by proofreading it yourself.

Once you revise your research paper as detailed above, it will be 100% ready for submission.

Choosing a Good Research Topic- The Steps

Choosing a good research topic is not easy. Many students do not know how to develop a good research paper topic. Here are the steps you must follow to develop a good research topic.

  1. Brainstorm. The first thing you need to do is to brainstorm. In other words, it is to think. Read the research question and write down all the topics you think can be written on the research question. Try to come up with as many topics as possible. Make sure the topics interest you but do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone.
  2. Choose a topic. Among the topics you have written down, you should choose one. The best way to choose one topic is to eliminate the weakest topic in the list and then do that repeatedly until you remain with only one topic.
  3. Make the topic specific. At this stage, you should make your topic specific. A broad topic is never exciting or academically useful. To make your topic specific, you must refine it and give it more depth. For example, if your topic is: "The Second World War history." You can refine it to something more specific, like: "What made the US join the Second World War?"
  4. Rewrite your topic as a question. Research topics are easier to write when framed as questions. So if your topic is not yet framed as a question, you should frame it as a question.
  5. Start your research. At this point, you have a research topic ready for research. All you need to do is to start the research process and create an outline to start writing your research paper.

Where to Find Relevant Sources for Research Paper

Thus far, you understand that a research paper, like any other academic writing task, requires more background information, supporting facts, and practical examples/illustrations. You need to cite credible sources as you write the research paper and attach a list of references at the end of the paper, just before the appendices section.

When deciding on what sources to include in your research paper, consider using the CRAAP test to check whether or not it is credible. Again, we remind you to use websites such as Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica as a source of background information and not for citation purposes.

To help you write the best research paper, here are 17 relevant sources you need to use.

  1. Government publications. Check the government publications on the respective government agency websites. They are primarily in web content, PDF, PPT, or word format. Most of the websites have the prefix .gov.
  2. Educational websites. You can also cite data and information from educational institution websites such as universities. The assumption is that such websites are written by scholars who have expertise in the field. Most of the educational institution websites have the .edu prefix in their URL.
  3. When writing a research paper, consider drawing information from periodical publications. Academic journals are mostly peer-reviewed and thus credible.
  4. Google Scholar. This online curated database operated by Google lets you access millions of academic papers you can use when writing a research paper.
  5. SAGE Publishing. You can use SAGE Pub to look for academic articles from scholars in various fields. Many articles are from many backgrounds, including humanities, medicine, technology, and science.
  6. Boasting of over 12 million journal articles, images, books, and primary sources, you can find relevant and credible sources to use in your research paper from the JSTOR database.
  7. Science Direct. If you are an avid researcher, you have discovered the Science Direct database.
  8. EBSCOhost. The online database has good journals and informative articles published on different subjects such as geology, business, health sciences, nursing, biology, and many more. Many institutions of higher learning and researchers use this intuitive research platform. The database has a variety of academic articles that you can use during your scholarly research.
  9. PubMed. Consider using the PubMed database if you write a research paper for health and sciences, biology, biomedical, biochemistry, biotechnology, and nursing. You will access full-text articles of journal articles published over the years on different topics. It is also free to access. If you are stuck with finding good topics, you can count on PubMed to get a good topic for life sciences and biomedical papers.
  10. The Cochrane Library. This database contains up-to-date journal articles on the effects of interventions. It is a collection of evidence-based medicine databases.
  11. This European database allows you to access biomedical literature and information.
  12. BioMed Central. An online database boasts a portfolio of over 300 peer-reviewed journals in science, tech, medicine, and engineering. It can come in handy when researching high-quality articles for your research paper.
  13. You can search the ProQuest database for scholarly articles, dissertations, and a thesis to cite in your research paper. It is a multidisciplinary database that allows you to access eBooks, journals, videos, and dissertations.
  14. The Economist. You can find fresh, credible, impactful news and research findings about finances and economics from The Economist.
  15. Scientific American. Access recent, educative, and awe-inspiring content about science and technology. You can find information that can help you when writing a research paper.
  16. Academia is a repository of academic papers. You can find and download scholarly articles. However, you need to be very keen because the website allows self-publishing, and it is very hard to scrutinize most publications' credibility.
  17. Research Gate. You can get insights on topics, access scholarly forum discussions to brainstorm ideas, and access peer-reviewed journals, books, and e-books from ResearchGate. This website connects you to members of the scientific community.

We have put together an article on how to find scholarly articles for free, which can also help you expand your scope on the areas to find credible scholarly sources for a research paper.

Tips for Writing a Good Research Paper

Most students put much effort into their research papers but only get an average grade. If you want to guarantee a good grade on your paper virtually, follow the tips below.

  1. Structure your paper. Do not write your research paper before first creating an outline. If you do this, your paper won't have a robust structure. The only way to ensure your paper has a good structure is to create a good outline to ensure all your thoughts and arguments are properly structured and developed.
  2. Conduct thorough research. All excellent research papers are based on outstanding research. This means that if you want your paper to be excellent, you must do excellent research. Ensure you use credible databases during research to find trustworthy sources with good evidence for your paper.
  3. Choose a good research topic. The topic of your research paper will determine your research and the direction of your paper. Therefore, you must choose it correctly to ensure you get good research and that your paper takes a good direction.
  4. Create the first draft. The first copy you write of your paper will not be perfect, so don't force it to be. Write it as your first draft. If you do this, you will quit trying to be perfect when writing your paper. This will help you to get to the conclusion faster. It will also help you to put a lot of effort into editing your first draft to make a final and perfect copy of your paper.
  5. Use They say to err is human. You can fail to see errors or mistakes when proofreading and editing your paper to make it perfect. However, if you use, you will ensure you catch all the errors your eyes missed. Grammarly is an AI-powered online proofreader; you need not download it.

Go Ahead and Write that Research Paper!

The knowledge we have shared in this post is enough to enable you to write a good research paper if you have the time. If you don't, you should order your paper from us. Why us? We are a leading research paper help website among many companies worldwide. We are world leaders because we have world-class writers ready to put their hearts into every paper they write. Try us today; you will not be disappointed.

FAQs about Research Paper Writing

Is a research paper the same as a term paper?

No, it is not. The purpose of writing a research paper is to share information. In contrast, writing a term paper aims to show the knowledge one has acquired in a specific area of study.

Is a research paper the same as a white paper?

No, it is not. A research paper is written to share scientific information. In contrast, a white paper is written to analyze an industry problem and possible solutions through a technical discussion.

Are all research papers scientific?

Yes, they are. All the research papers written properly are scientific in nature. This is because they are properly written following academic or scientific norms such as proper formatting and citation of other works. And they are based on credible and verifiable evidence.

Must a research paper contain data analysis and findings?

No. A research paper with data analysis and findings is an excellent research paper. However, it doesn't mean every research paper must have the same elements to be considered a great research paper.

Can you use first-person in a research paper?

Yes, it is acceptable to utilize first-person in certain parts of your research paper, such as when writing your research paper introduction, your discussion, and your conclusion. However, this is not the case in most academic circles, including journal publishing.

What tense do I write a research paper?

You should use the present tense to write your research paper. This is because the present tense is the best to use when expressing facts, truths, and arguments. The tense is also perfect for providing analysis.

How many paragraphs make a good research paper?

A good research paper is about 10 pages long or about 22 paragraphs. Among the 22 paragraphs, the first is normally used to present the introduction, while the last is used to present the conclusion. If you want to know how to write an introduction paragraph or conclusion paragraph, please read the steps in the research paper writing guide provided earlier in this article.

Does a research paper have a thesis statement?

Yes, it does. Like any other academic paper, a research paper has a thesis statement. The thesis statement provides the reader with the blueprint for the research paper.

What are the steps of writing a research paper?

There are many steps to writing a research paper. The most important step is reading the instructions to understand them fully, followed by topic selection and then research. After the research, there is outline creation, and then the actual writing begins.

Can a research paper be published in a journal?

Yes, it can. It just needs to meet the conditions set by the journal for publishing. If it does, it will most likely be published. If it doesn't, it will most likely be referred back with recommendations and instructions for re-submission.

How do I start writing a research paper?

You start by picking a topic and researching to learn more about it and get enough information to create a thesis statement. After creating a thesis statement, you should create an outline and then use it to write your research paper.

What is the best format for writing a research paper?

The best format is to create a comprehensive outline and follow it. It can help you write a research paper in 1 day or 2 days because it will provide you with a map to follow to finish quickly. You can even write a 10-page research paper overnight or in less than a day with the outline.

Need a Discount to Order?

15% OFF First Order!

What you get from us


Plagiarism-free papers

Our papers are 100% original and unique to pass online plagiarism checkers.


Well-researched academic papers

Even when we say essays for sale, they meet academic writing conventions.

24/7 support

24/7 online support

Hit us up on live chat or Messenger for continuous help with your essays.


Easy communication with writers

Order essays and begin communicating with your writer directly and anonymously.