Guide to Writing a Research Paper

Research papers are popular and common assignments in the academic world. Different forms of this type of paper are used in a variety of professional areas. A research paper is an opportunity for the writer to give serious consideration to some particular issue or problem. It usually means building upon research work that has already been done by others, and it is also an opportunity for the writer to provide their own insights and/or make their own contribution to an issue that interests them. Additionally, this genre of writing helps develop crucial academic experience and skills in such areas as:

  • Conducting worthwhile research.
  • The formulation of various research problems/questions.
  • Organizing and arranging an array of information into a coherent and structured paper.
  • Managing one’s own time effectively.
  • Providing insight into some field of research.
  • Developing and supporting arguments with relevant research in a given field.

The way in which research is conducted and research papers are written often varies from one discipline to another, as does the way the final version of a paper is presented. Please check out TopThesis.com’s website for sample research papers and guides to citing sources in the four most common formatting styles i.e. for papers in history, humanities, the sciences, and social sciences.  

Different tutors and instructors can also have different expectations in terms of what they want to see in research papers. Therefore, it is essential to read your assignment’s instructions carefully. Tasks such as research paper writing can be an extremely fluid and messy process for those who are not sure how to approach them. The following is an idea of the steps commonly used for writing research papers but, remember, this is only a guide. 

  • Begin by selecting a suitable topic.
  • Narrow this topic down to a more manageable entity.
  • Develop a central thesis statement or claim (which you may change as your research progresses).
  • Undertake any research that is necessary.
  • Organize your research materials (at this stage, an outline can be a great help).
  • Start drafting your paper. Check out the Writing Guide on TopThesis.com’s website for tips, suggestions, and ideas for creating an initial draft.
  • Start creating your Works Cited section or bibliography.
  • The next step is revising your first draft. Look at the content and general organization.
  • Once your last draft is complete, proofread and edit it. 

Two Main Types of Research Paper

Analytical Type

It is commonplace for a research paper of the analytical variety to begin with the writer posing a (research) question, upon which he or she has not taken any stance. Papers of this nature often evaluate and explore as they progress.

Usually, the writer does not attempt to persuade their readers that their ideas or viewpoints are correct or valid or that the views of others are not correct. Rather, the aim is to critically interpret the primary source materials and secondary source materials they have presented over the course of their paper – sources which ultimately should support the writer’s own analysis of their chosen topic.

Usually it is only after beginning to write that the writer begins to develop a strong thesis statement. Indeed, thesis statements in this style of research paper usually differ from those in argumentative-style research papers in that they are fairly fluid in nature. This is one of the many benefits of not adopting a definite stance towards a topic.  

Argumentative Type

A research paper of the argumentative variety is comprised of, among other parts, an introductory section, which the writer uses to introduce their topic and to inform their readers what stance they will be taking. Usually, the writer’s stance is encompassed in the thesis sentence or statement. Persuasion is an essential aim in an argumentative-type research paper. This implies the chosen topic should be a controversial or debatable one. 

Then throughout the remainder of their paper, the writer should support their central thesis using (usually) a combination of primary source materials and secondary source materials with the aim of persuading readers that their interpretation is valid and viable.