How To Write A Research Paper: Basic Strategies For Beginners

In high school and college, you’ll have to write your fair share of research papers. Research papers demonstrate your critical thinking and your understanding of the subject matter, making them one of the best ways for teachers and professors to determine how well you’re learning the material.

If it’s your first time, writing a research paper can seem like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t actually need to be all that difficult. As long as you give yourself plenty of time, and don’t wait until the last minute, it’s not that hard to create an excellent paper with a strong argument and authoritative references. Here are some strategies that you can use to write a great paper:

  • Choose a topic. Sometimes you’ll be assigned a topic, but usually, you’ll have some degree of freedom as far as your choice of topic is concerned. Within any subject, there are many things you could write about, but it’s always a good idea to choose a topic that interests you. Writing a research paper is much less tedious if you’re actually genuinely interested in learning more about the subject. If your topic is too broad, you’ll have a hard time processing all the information into something that fits the assigned word count. If it’s too narrow, you might not be able to find enough to write about. Also, make sure your topic isn’t too obscure, and that you can find enough information about it to write your paper.

  • Gather information, data, and evidence. This is where “research” comes in. You’ll need to find reliable sources of information that you can use within your paper. Your local or university library is a great resource. You will want to avoid “tertiary sources” like encylopedias, or unreliable sources like anonymous blogs by people who aren’t experts on the subject. Some examples of solid sources include books, articles in peer-reviewed academic journals, and periodicals like newspapers and magazines. At a college level, peer-reviewed journals will be the most important resource.

  • Create an outline. Once you have your topic and the information about it, creating a structured outline is a great way to organize your thoughts. You can outline however you want, since it exists only for your benefit. Some people use bullet points, whereas others prefer a more structured alphanumeric outline format. Do whatever works for you, as long as it allows you to organize your ideas into a “skeleton” for your paper.

  • Create a strong thesis statement. The thesis statement is the heart and soul of your research paper. It should be present toward the end of your introductory paragraph, and restated in the conclusion.

  • Write the actual paper. Once you’ve done your research and created the outline, this is actually the easy part. Make sure to edit your draft for grammatical errors and clarity before you turn it in.