How to Write a Research Paper: Outline and Structure

How to Write a Research Paper: Outline and Structure

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that contains in-depth independent research analysis, interpretation, and argument.

Research papers are comparable to academic essays, but they are usually longer and more extensive assignments. They are used to evaluate your writing abilities and your scholarly research abilities. A research paper needs you to exhibit a thorough understanding of your subject, engage with several sources, and contribute something unique to the discussion.

This step-by-step tutorial will walk you through the whole writing process, from understanding your assignment to editing your final document.

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1. Understand the task

Completing a research paper entails handling the specific responsibilities assigned to you. Before you begin, double-check that you fully comprehend the assignment task sheet.

  • Read everything, looking for any ambiguities you may need to clarify with your lecturer.
  • Determine the assignment’s aim, deadline, length requirements, formatting, and mode of submission.
  • Make a bulleted list of the most important elements, then go back and cross them off as you write.
  • Consider your deadline and word count carefully: be realistic and provide adequate time to research, write, and edit.

2. Pick a topic for your research paper

There are various ways to develop a research paper topic, from brainstorming with a pen and paper to discussing it with a classmate or lecturer.

You can try freewriting, which entails deciding on a broad topic and constantly writing for two or three minutes to find anything relevant.

Other studies can also serve as a source of inspiration. Research paper discussion or suggestions sections frequently include ideas for other specific areas that warrant further investigation.

Once you have a broad subject area in mind, narrow it down to an interesting topic that will satisfy your assignment’s requirements and is researchable. Attempt to come up with ideas that are both unique and specific:

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3. Perform some preliminary research

Make notes of any discussion that seems relevant to the topic, and try to narrow down a problem on which you can focus your paper. To guarantee you don’t miss anything important, consult various sources, including journals, books, and reputable websites.

Not only should you double-check your ideas, but you should also hunt for sources that contradict them.

  • Is there anything in your sources that people seem to overlook?
  • Are there any contentious issues that you can address?
  • Do you have a unique perspective on your subject?
  • Is there any new research that builds on what’s already been done?

You might find it helpful to establish some research questions at this point to guide you. When writing research questions, try to complete the following statement: “I want to know how/what/why…”

4. Construct a thesis statement

A thesis statement determines the goal and position of your article by stating your crucial point. The thesis statement should answer the research question if you started with one. It should also tell what facts and logic you’ll use to back up your claim.

The thesis statement should be brief, controversial, and well-organized. That is, it should summarize your thesis in a phrase or two, make a claim that requires additional proof or analysis, and make a logical point that connects all sections of the work.

The thesis statement will most likely be revised and refined as you conduct more research, but it can act as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should seek to back up and expand on the main argument.

5. Outline your research paper

A research paper outline is essentially a list of the main themes, arguments, and evidence you want to include, separated into parts with headings. It helps you get a general idea of how the paper will look before writing.

It’s worth devoting some time to creating a structured plan. It can make the writing process more efficient.

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6. Make a rough draft of your research paper

It’s okay if your initial draft isn’t flawless; you can improve it later. At this point, your top priorities are as follows:

  • Keeping the momentum going – write, perfect later
  • Paying close attention to proper arrangement and logical grouping of paragraphs and sentences will help in the second draft
  • Using a few words to express your idea– Will help you remember what you were attempting to communicate when you return to the text

You do not have to begin with the introduction. Start where it feels most natural for you – some people prefer to finish the most challenging sections first, while others prefer to start with the easiest. Use your outline as a road map while working.

Large portions of text should not be deleted. If you don’t like what you’ve written, or it doesn’t seem to fit, move it to a new document, but don’t delete it entirely; you never know when it might come in handy later.

structure of a paragraph

The basic building elements of research papers are paragraphs. Each should concentrate on a particular point or idea that contributes to the paper’s broader argument or objective.

Using references

It’s critical to keep track of citations to minimize plagiarism. Make a note of where the information comes from every time you use a source.

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7. Compose an introduction

Three questions should be addressed in the research paper introduction: what, why, and how. After reading the introduction, the reader should have a good idea of what the paper is about, why it’s worth reading, and how you’ll support your claims.

What? Be clear about the paper’s topic, provide background information, and describe important terminology or concepts.

Why? It is the most vital part of the introduction, but it’s also the most challenging. Answer the following questions briefly: What new information or perspectives do you have to offer? What crucial concerns does your essay contribute to the definition or resolution?

How? The introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly outlining the important aspects of the work chronologically to let the reader know what to expect from the body of the assignment.

8. Write a strong body of text

Most authors struggle with organizing the information in their papers, so an outline is helpful. However, keep in mind that the outline is a guide, and you can be creative with the sequence in which you present material and arguments when writing.

Using your thesis statement and topic phrases as a guide can help you stay on track. Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement
  • Compare and contrast topic sentences for similarity and logical sequence
  • Compare each sentence against the paragraph’s topic sentence

Keep an eye on paragraphs that appear to cover the same topics. If two paragraphs cover the same topic, they must take various approaches. Attempt to make transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections as seamless as possible.

9. Write the conclusion

The purpose of the research paper conclusion is to guide the reader out of the document’s argument by providing a sense of closure.

Follow the flow of the paper, focusing on how it all comes together to prove your point. Make sure the reader understands how you’ve resolved the problems stated to give the article a feeling of closure.

You might also talk about the argument’s broader implications, highlight what the paper has to offer future students of the subject, and propose any problems the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not attempt to answer.

You must not:

bring new arguments or provide important facts

Don’t take up any more space

Begin with stock terms that indicate the paper’s conclusion

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The second draft

There are four major factors to consider regarding the second draft.

Check to see if your vision for the paper matches the initial draft and, more crucially, if your paper still responds to the task.

Identify any assumptions that may require justification, keeping your reader’s point of view in mind. Remove these points if you can’t back them up with more evidence.

Be willing to rearrange your thoughts. Check if any sections are out of place or if your ideas may be rearranged.

If you notice that old concepts do not fit as well as you had hoped, eliminate or simplify them. While writing the first draft, you might also come up with new and well-suited ideas; now is the time to include them in the paper.

The revision procedure

Ensure that you have performed all necessary activities and that the paper is well-articulated during the editing and proofreading process.

Before submitting your research paper:

  • Verify that it fulfills all of the requirements listed in your instructions
  • Examine the paragraphs for logical order and flow
  • Compare and contrast paragraphs with the introduction and thesis statement
  • Exceptional attention to detail

Check each paragraph’s content to ensure that:

  • Each sentence contributes to the topic sentence’s success
  • There is no extraneous or irrelevant data
  • All technical phrases that your audience might not be familiar with are defined

Consider sentence structure, grammatical mistakes, and formatting. Make sure you’ve utilized the right transition words and phrases to explain how your thoughts are connected. Look for mistakes, eliminate extraneous words, and double-check spellings and heading formatting for uniformity.

Finally, double-check that your document is formatted appropriately according to the guidelines of the citation style you’ve chosen. You might need to include an MLA heading or make an APA title page, for example.

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