How to Write a Research Essay

Writing guide
Posted on July 8, 2022

Many writers perceive research work as something scary because it means hard work and long hours on assignments. But it only seems that way before you actually start working on the essay. Once you get familiar with the rules for writing a research paper, you will find that it is not so scary.

After reading this article, you will be more or less familiar with the steps involved in writing this type of letter. You’ll learn how to write an introduction, outline your letter, add citations and evidence, and complete your text. But before delving into the structure, it is worth looking at general information about this type of letter and how it differs from others.

What is research work?

When writing a research paper, the emphasis is on an in-depth analysis of the topic, its assessment, or its interpretation, which is based on empirical data. This type of writing resembles an analytical essay, but in a research paper, you will emphasize found statistics and known facts from previous research, as well as certain citation rules.

Modern science is built on scientific articles and is also a great way to share information on a global level. The first time a person is introduced to research work is at school when such an assignment is used by professors to determine what level of knowledge they have in a particular area or the general research skills of students.

Considering that a research paper is a serious type of writing, the writing language should be strictly formal and simple so that there is no bias. Research authors should state their findings as directly as possible and provide relevant evidence so that other researchers can use the information from their work in the future.

Note! Remember the difference between a research article and a research paper. In order to get funding to find the data you need to write a research paper, you will create a research article.

Scope of Research Work

The length of your text will depend on what topic you have chosen or what task you have been given. Usually, a research paper will be 4000-6000 words, but sometimes authors limit themselves to 2000 words when writing articles. The options for writing research papers and 10,000 words are not excluded.

Usually, at school or university, you will be given the required volume. Otherwise, the subject will dictate the length of the text to you. With complex topics, your text will be required to be more explanative and argumentative.

Writing a Research Paper in 9 Steps

You will learn the rule for writing a research paper in nine steps, more for university students than for professional researchers. You don’t have to follow all the steps because some of them may not be compatible with your specific job. Think of this guide as a map that you will follow to stay on track. When you follow the rationale steps, you go from developing the thesis of your research paper to writing it. In the process of familiarizing yourself with the steps and sketching, you may find that you are not able to go through all the stages and steps in chronological order and this is absolutely normal. Depending on what subject of your study, you can adapt the plan for yourself.

The steps presented are the best way to get through the process of writing a research paper, because you break down each step of writing into questions and think through your text in detail. It often happens that you can lose the main idea of your text due to a glut of information. You will want to include everything you find in the text and thus generalize it too much.

Note! You shouldn’t do a lot of disparate research first, because you risk losing focus. You should, according to the steps, first, formulate your point of view, and then do research to support it.

Deep Understanding of the Task

At first glance, it may seem that it is elementary to get acquainted with the topic, but you will be surprised that so many people skip this stage and are too lazy to read the task properly.
The first thing you should do in the process of writing is to carefully read all the instructions for the assignment. Please also note that the requirements for formatting (intervals, indents, etc.), length, and style of citation will be indicated in the terms of reference. Also, review the requirement for details such as annotations or a title page.

If you successfully pass the first stage of writing, then you will follow the essay structure with a full understanding of the topic and what you need to state in the text. That is, the creation of your work will be conscious. Of course, there are additional rules, but the basic process is the same as in other writing styles.

Choosing a Theme

If no topic is given, the task performer is free to choose any topic (anything from the area of psychology to history). It may seem simple to you, but do not underestimate this process, because this is your most important decision before you start collecting information and formatting it. The theme determines all your subsequent actions.

Pro tip

When choosing a theme, your top priority should be whether it will provide enough content for your work. Your topic should include an optimal amount of data and a moderate level of complexity so that your readers see a meaningful discussion. Also, you should not choose topics that are too general, but on the contrary, choose very specific ones so that you are able to cover all the necessary information and not reduce it to a minimum.

But take into account the fact that the topic should be of interest to you. Ideally, your topic should fulfill all the requirements, provide the text with the necessary content, and should involve you in the process of studying it.

Gather Data from Preliminary Research

In order not to go beyond the deadline, try to start background research as early as possible. View the list of available studies on your topic and, based on this, form your own and the thesis. Early preparation for writing and searching for information will be the best way to dispel the doubts and misconceptions that you have. You will discover the best ways and approaches to find a large amount of material.

The first place you will look for information is the Internet, but do not pass by libraries. When you search online, you run the risk of finding information that turns out to be unreliable. Check whether scientific journals or academic articles correspond to the actual facts. Also, keep in mind that there are primary and secondary sources. The former means you get first-hand stories, which can be articles or autobiographies. And the latter means something more distant, for example, reviews of the same articles or a second-hand rewritten biography.

When you’re gathering material for your work, it’s best to skim through the sources rather than read them in their entirety – save for later if the source seems interesting to you. Otherwise, things may just end up getting you stuck reading material that you may or may not use at all.

In the end, you may be required to provide a list of sources and literature that you used for confirmation. Even if it is not necessary, in any case, it is better to make such a list so that it is convenient to revise the information.

Write a Thesis

Using the information you found during your research, form a thesis that will briefly summarize what your text will be about. Most often, this is the sentence that ends the first paragraph of your research paper. The thesis is the bridge from the introduction to the core of your research paper. It has the function of preparing readers, as well as making it easier for other researchers to evaluate the quality of your work and its usefulness for their own research. In the same way, in reverse order, you evaluate the theses of other authors.

A good abstract should mention all the important parts of your discussion without giving away the details. If it is difficult for you to immediately formulate a thesis, then try to ask yourself a thesis question and answer it.

Identify Supporting Evidence

At this stage, you analyze all collected sources. From a huge mass of material, you choose something specific that you want to include in your work.

Usually, the most effective way is to read each source and take notes on it. Highlight only the information that is relevant to your topic. Do not overload your text with unnecessary material, even if it seems very interesting to you.

Note! Always keep a record of page numbers. This is necessary not only so that it will be easy for you to find information later, but also because you will use it for quoting.

Another useful tactic is to create bibliographic cards. They are ordinary index cards with facts or a specific quotation written on one side and bibliographic information on the other. They are not essential to an efficient process, but there are those who hold the idea that they are very useful for keeping things in order. Especially when it comes time to write a plan.

Create a Good Plan

One of the main knowledge that a student must acquire is the knowledge of how to write a research plan. For research work, it is necessary to choose a structure that is strictly methodical and systematic. To compare with other types of essays with an informal structure for a research paper, it is required to be very precise. For this, it is very important to sketch.

The first step is to make a list of what you need to cover in your essay: categories and subtopics. Everything that you have included in this list, look through and ask yourself how best to group it.

When you form blocks of information, then proceed to arrange them in order: subtopics should be connected. If you’ve chosen a simple theme, there’s nothing wrong with arranging it chronologically the way you got it.

Since not all topics are easy, you may need to break your outline into paragraphs. This will help you organize the structure when you have a lot of information. You gain control over the flow and direction of research work. It will be easier for you to correct structural problems during the rough work stage than when you have finished the paper. Remember that in your text there must be evidence that confirms everything you wrote. Your readers must understand that all the information they read is really reliable.

Sketch in Draft

When you have prepared a plan, you can start writing the research paper itself. Naturally, this stage takes the most time and is the most difficult step. You will make your work easier if you prepare all the sources in advance and draw up a detailed plan.

Getting started with writing a paper can be difficult if you don’t know how to write an introduction. Therefore, writing a thesis before starting the paperwork plays a crucial role. Start your introduction by establishing a thesis, and then supplement it with other thematic information. You will add details already in the main part of your text, which follows after the introduction.

This main part, called the body, is the largest part of your research work. The main difference between a research paper and an essay is that the main part is divided into paragraphs with separate headings. This makes the work easier to read when it consists of many pages. Add divisions to your plan to make it easier to navigate. Gradually follow your plan, moving from one part to another gradually. Assuming this is just a first draft for you, don’t worry that the text won’t look perfect. From the very beginning, you should not focus on mistakes and correcting them – at this stage, the most important thing is to say everything you want to say. It is perfectly normal to make mistakes, you will then have time to correct them.

When writing long texts, authors often face the problem of joining paragraphs. The more paragraphs you have, the more difficult it is to make a single text out of them. For smooth transitions between parts, use transitional sentences. In this way, you will improve the presentation of your text.
Karen Beesley

After writing the main part, you should move on to writing the conclusion of your research paper. In the end, you should reformulate your thesis, repeat all your evidence and summarize all the results obtained so that they are easy to understand. In the end, don’t try to add new information, but give your personal point of view. You can interpret it so that the reader understands the big picture.

Those people who use note cards as an aid for sketching sometimes respond negatively, saying that they are very small and inconvenient to work with. Therefore, they use a notepad, leaving a lot of space between entries and writing everything on one page. This is in order to return to everything written and supplement it. You can color your notes, and add stickers and labels to organize or separate information.

You should choose your own style, but in any case, remember that writing down quotes as you find them is almost the most important thing. You can get very frustrated if you want to use a really good source, but you don’t have any information about it.

Correctly Cite Sources

Adding citations makes your work stand out from non-fiction. Your data will be validated for readers by citing evidence. You also link your work with the scientific community. Since this is an important part of the work, quoting must be done according to clear rules. There are several of them.

The formatting style can also be specified in your job. Usually, within the framework of academic work, you will be offered two styles:

MLA (Modern Language Association)

MLA (Modern Language Association)

APA (American Psychological Association)

APA (American Psychological Association)

You can check online or ask the person who asked for the task for specific formatting recommendations. In addition to these two, there are others: CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and AMA (American Medical Association).

At first, it may seem to you that the quotes confuse you in the general mass of the entire text. But once you learn how to use them, you can easily cite your sources without even thinking about it.

Final Adjustment and Formatting

The last thing you do when writing a research paper is proofreading and formatting. It’s best to go through the entire text twice:

  • The first time checking a structural issue, such as deleting or adding paragraphs or rearranging them;
  • The second time check expressions, words, spelling, synthesis, and grammar errors.

You thus minimize to zero the probability that readers will find them already in the final version. During editing, you can go through questions that will help you detect structural errors:

  • Is your thesis clear enough and how concise is it?
  • Are there logical transitions in your work from the introduction to the conclusion?
  • Are your ideas laid out in a logical order?
  • Have you added enough specific details and facts and avoided generalizations?
  • Are your arguments written to support and prove your thesis?
  • Are there any repetitions in your text?
  • Did you follow the citation rules?
  • Have you checked your text for plagiarism?

You can be good at writing but bad at editing. Check out the editing guides separately. In order to make sure that your text will be published without spelling errors, then use the online services for checking the text. The same should be done with checking for plagiarism. Also, there are questions to detect grammatical or spelling errors:

  • How clear and understandable is your writing language to the reader?
  • Do you write fluently and clearly?
  • Are there any parasitic words and extra phrases in your text?
  • Have you checked all punctuation marks?

In some cases, the authors use the principle of reading aloud. In this way, they catch problems that might be missed if they only read the text in their minds. Another option may be to read the material to your loved ones or friends.

Tools and Resources

Before you start writing the text with your own hand, read the topic in more detail. Select suitable sources and review them before you start writing your own text in order to plan ahead. It is best to write on a topic that interests you, and thus it will not be difficult for you to search for information on this topic, or maybe you already own some of it.

It’s a good idea to go to the library and look for books written on your topic. Most often in the library, you can find unique copies that are not on the Internet. This is an excellent and most importantly reliable resource that you can really trust. You can also take additional links from these books to collect other material.

You can also turn to academic journals, where you will find articles that are devoted to research on your topic, in a specific area. These articles are written by experts in their field and then checked by other professionals so that the published information is really of high quality and accurate. This option works well if you are writing a text on a complex topic, but otherwise, avoid them – do not complicate your text if it is just a general overview.

The most common and easiest way is to use Internet resources. Online encyclopedias offer a ton of information. But you need to be careful with this because this information may not be verified and can hardly be relied upon.

One option, albeit a bit confusing, is to ask the experts for an interview. You can go with a topic to a professional you know and ask them everything about the topic. These can be people who work in the field you are studying or professors who have been teaching the subject for a long time and have an appropriate degree.

About authors
James Snyder A Top-10 writer at
James is one of the most prominent authors on our team with more than 7 years of experience. He specializes in writing essays and coursework. James loves to work from home with a cup of hot chocolate and his cat Archibald.
Kate Roth A Top-10 writer at
Kate likes to read long stories and write essays. She’s experienced in both academic writing and marketing activities, so she can tell everything about a writer’s job in a few simple words. You can use our website to request the help of our experts anytime.

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