6 Steps for Writing a College Research Paper

In college, research papers are usually assigned to help students familiarize themselves with the work of experts in a given field of study. When students study and analyze the work of experts, they are not only given the opportunity to gain more knowledge in the subject area, they are also provided with a chance to voice their own opinions, which are formed while the study the expert’s work.

Writing a research paper requires good writing skills, but it also requires a great deal of thought and analysis. For many students, writing college research papers may seem like a daunting task. Although the research and writing processes may be overwhelming at times, sticking the following formula will help you make the grade.

*Step One: Research

At the heart of the research paper is, of course, research. You will first need to find sources to include in your paper and to base your analyses and comparisons on. Head to the library or research online. Most college professors will require scholarly sources, but many research papers will cite sources that include interviews, websites, and journals, magazines, or newspapers, not just books.

*Step Two: Purpose

The next part of the research paper formula is to figure out what your purpose will be in writing the paper. In other words, your purpose will be your paper’s topic. This is usually what most students have difficulty with when it comes to research papers. You’ll want to be sure to keep your scope in mind when you’re considering research paper topics. Too broad may require too much research for a ten-page paper, for example. Whereas too narrow a topic may leave you little to research or write about.

*Step Three: Analysis

Professors are usually interested in finding out what you have been able to extract from the massive amounts of research you have done. In other words, what are you getting from the material? How have the experts’ thoughts sparked your own? Compare the experts’ opinions to your own, this will help you write the thesis statement (which puts forth your paper’s purpose) in the introductory paragraph.

*Step Four: Outline

Outline your paper first. Some students think this is an “extra” step that isn’t necessarily required; however, outlining your paper will help you focus your thoughts and organize your information/analysis so that your final paper flows. Generally, you’ll want to stick to the following format when it comes to your outline:

I. Introduction

Give your reader some background on your paper’s topic and then introduce YOUR purpose in writing the paper. Another incredibly important aspect of the introductory paragraph (as mentioned above) is the thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the summation of your paper’s purpose. In argumentative essays, it is your argument. In research papers, it is intended to summarize your overall thoughts on all your research.

II. Body Paragraphs

This is the bulk of your paper. For every aspect you’d like to explore or analyze, formulate a body paragraph. Use the sources you’ve gathered throughout your research to support your claims. Also, be sure to use transition words or phrases to move fluidly from one thought to another.

III. Conclusion

Finally, summarize your paper, and draw your final conclusions in the conclusion of your paper.

Obviously, you can expand your outline as you gather more information or explore more certain facets of your research.

*Step Five: Fill in the blanks

After you finished outlining, you’ve basically got your paper’s skeleton. Now, all you need to do is go back and fill in the blanks.

*Step Six: Review and Edit

Obviously, you don’t want to turn in a shabby first draft. So after you’ve put in all the work to research and write for your paper, be sure you take the extra time to go back and make sure that there are no grammatical errors and that your paper flows well.

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