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Writing Reaserch Papers: Tutorial and Helpful Tips

Updated on August 7, 2017

Research Paper vs. Term paper

One distinct characteristic of a research paper from term paper is that it shows fact and opinions of different people in a particular topic. The researchers’ interpretation is also included about these known facts. While in term paper you cannot include the writer’s opinion because some of these opinions are already published in magazines, journal and other media sources. Plus, the research paper gives you what other people do think of a specific topic and what the researcher think.

To make your research paper more valuable and interesting below are some of the helpful tips on how you will approach on your paper.

  1. You can choose a topic or gather information from small subject that no one had ever done research before or things that are not examined well.
  2. Or you can just examine a well-known subject but with new refreshing ideas and information.


A research paper is a long written composition about a chosen topic done within the whole semester and intended for submission at the end of the term. It was also called “term paper” because of the time frame given for its completion. It is a “standard and a scholarly student activity” because it is a result of a researcher’s wide reading activity that brought in-depth knowledge of something that is being studied.

We have also encountered several writing activities, but a research writing is more demanding and challenging than any writing activities for it needs deep concentration, more time and great efforts. You need to follow sets of procedures and instruction for it follows a rule or writing style.

In 1990, Hare had said that a research paper is an “orderly and predictable” kind of writing where a researcher has to control both style and content. A research paper differs from report paper in a way that the erstwhile differs from the latter as to the type of data each convey.

Library | Source

Characteristic of a Good College Research Paper

  1. It must be truthful - a research paper must be concise and accurate in presenting facts which must properly documented by means of bibliography and footnotes.
  2. It must be objective– Avoid being biased or prejudiced in presenting your findings. It must not base on your personal experiences rather based on facts. So in order for you to avoid getting being biased it is advisable to use third person when referring to the writer.
  3. It must be timely and relevant - it would be good if the topic of your research paper is something to do with current interest which will help modern man to confront problems.
  4. It must be clear – it is important that the language must be simple and straightforward so that readers could easily get the ideas that you are presenting. There must be a proper use of grammar and rules of composition. Every technical term must also be clearly identified.
  5. It must be complete – Make sure that you include all the pertinent ideas about your topic. It must contain introductory chapter, a body and an ending.
  6. It must be neat and presentable – Follow the rules of typewritten manuscript and make sure it is clear and clean.

 Law Schools | Tulane University
Law Schools | Tulane University | Source

Purpose of a Research Paper

Most of college courses require students to write and pass a research paper before they graduate. And in order to write a good research paper you need to comply with these following reasons:

  1. To free you from the domination of single textbook or let’s just say an instructor’s isolated viewpoint or spoon feeding.
  2. To work independently
  3. To acquire skill on how to work systematically and scientifically
  4. To improve your top-level thinking skills – comparing-contrasting, inferring-criticizing, analyzing, synthesizing, generalizing and creating new ideas
  5. To gain in-depth knowledge of a specific topic
  6. To be familiar with the tools needed in a research and the techniques of collecting data as well as the ways on presenting the results you have gathered.
  7. Most especially to improve your writing skills

Steps in Writing a Research Paper

Below are some of the writing stages in a research work:

Step 1: Choose a topic that you are interested or valuable – In some cases, teachers assign the topic for a research work, but if you have given the freedom to choose your topic it would be good to choose the topic that you are interested or the one that is useful. Since you will be tackling the topic for a long time it should not be cumbersome but enjoyable. Take note of the usefulness of your topic today if you like it to live on, circulate and to help people in a positive manner rather than let it become stagnant in your teacher’s cabinet. And most especially choose a topic that is essential to the world. Below are the four main principles in selecting a topic:

  • Your interest in the subject
  • The availability of needed materials
  • The limitation placed on the subject
  • Its timeless and relevance of the subject

Here are some of the topics that should be avoided in making a research paper. So you better take note of this if you don’t want your research ended up to be a scrap:

  • Controversial topics
  • Highly technical subjects
  • Hard-to-investigate subjects
  • Too broad subjects
  • Too narrow subjects
  • Vague subjects

     Libraries in the UK| Bookbinding |1973 in literature
Libraries in the UK| Bookbinding |1973 in literature | Source

Step 3: Narrow down the topic – in this step you will be breaking down a broad topic into a smaller one to give you more time in tackling the topic and if you fail doing this it might lead in superficial knowledge about your topic.


General subject: Reading

Narrowed: Developmental reading

Narrowed further: Factors affecting developmental reading

Narrowed further: Intangible facts affecting developmental reading

Narrowed further: Psychological factors affecting reading

Narrowed further: the effect of sensory experience on developmental reading

Step 2: Check references for your chosen topic in the library

After you have chosen the topic in your research paper, make sure to visit the library to look for essential references. This will also give you the chance to change it in case the library has no available materials for your topic.

In 1985, Yaggy says that the publication of a book or an article is not an automatic assurance of the excellence of the reading material. You should always consider the qualification of the writer and its whereabouts how much knowledgeable he is in a certain topic.

Step 4: Prepare a preliminary bibliography for the research paper

A preliminary bibliography is a list of the reading materials that you intend to read for the substance of paper. It is called a preliminary bibliography because it can be change, decrease or increase depending on the availability of the needed materials

In 1985, Yaggy says that it can serve as your working bibliography from the start until the end of your research work. This materials which is the sources of your data is embedded in a 3 x5 inch card. You can use the two standard styles; the MLA (Modern language Association) and the APA (American Psychological Association).

Step 5: Take notes by reading diligently your reference books – in this part you should be starting collecting data from the library. You should be diligently enough to be functional in getting data for your research work. Always remember the cardinal rule that you should be putting quotation marks around all words that are not yours. However, technical terms are usually used no within quotation mark. Other ideas must be noted by means of:

  • Paraphrase or express the author’s ideas by your own words
  • Summarize the selection or get the main ideas of the author using your own words
  • You can also use both summarize and paraphrase words

In 1967, according to Lyerly; a researcher’s failure to indicate in his paper the names of the owners of the ideas taken from the reference materials or to express these in language different from the authors’ words is a form of “cheating or stealing”.

Step 6: Formulate a thesis statement – a “thesis statement” refers to a one-sentence statement that expresses the controlling or main idea of the paper.

In 1996, Magpayo, Tabor and Rapsing say that this statement prevents the researchers from “incorporating unrelated details” to come up at the core of the paper.

In 1990, Goulds, Veit and Clifford state that “a research paper needs a single unifying theme, one that will help the researcher focus himself on a goal” and prevent him from going away from his main topic. Below are the guidelines that they have suggested in writing a thesis statement.

  • Have a general view of the topic
  • Change your general understanding into a more specific idea

What will be your topic in your research paper?

See results

Step 7: Write an outline based on the thesis statement – in this part, you should have an outline that will present all your major and minor ideas and must be arrange logically to reveal their relevance to each other and the importance of it. You can choose either; topic outline or sentence outline to make your outline.

  • Topic outline- present each point in a single word or phrase
  • Sentence outline- present each point in a complete sentence

In 1998, Rorabacher and Dunbar have suggested some steps in outlining:

  • Know the main idea of your paper
  • Specify the main division of the author’s thought
  • Establish comparison among the main parts
  • Divide the main section into parallel parts
  • Completely outline each main section before you proceed to the next section
  • Completely outline each main section before you go to the next section
  • Arrange the ideas deductively
  • Exclude anything that is not related to the main plan
  • Have a minimum of two sub-points under a major point

Stick to one method or style of outlining

Step 8: Write the rough draft of the paper – A rough draft gives the preliminary sketch or design of your paper. At this stage, you should be careful and choose the layout of all the parts of the research paper. In putting together the parts you will be assembling, disassembling, erasures, deletions, insertions, cancellations and expansions so don’t feel bad if it is dirty for it is normal since it is just a draft. It would be confusing since it is still topsy-turvy. In a rough draft the following parts are considered:

The preliminary parts (Cover, Title Page, Preface, Acknowledgement, Table of Contents, and the list of tables, Illustrations, Diagrams and Figures)

  • The text of your paper (Introduction, main body, the summary and conclusion)
  • The other parts of the paper (Footnotes, Endnotes, Bibliography)

Step 9: Acknowledge sources of data – The body of the research may contain a multitude of knowledge that you have unearthed from different references and reading materials such as books, journals, magazines and newspapers. Since these ideas are not yours, you should be acknowledged and put citations of the authors as gratitude.

In 1990, Hare says that telling your reader “who says so and where” is a sign of honesty. The way you have documented the references will determine your reliability and integrity. Below are the two basic methods of documenting sources of data:

  • Documentary Notes or Humanities Style or MLA style (Modern language Association)
  • Author-Date System or APA (American Psychological Association)

References: Communication Skills II: Developing basic Research and Writing Skills by Esther L. Baraceros (ISBN-971-23-2980-1)


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    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 3 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Hello Sheila: I decided to write a hub about research paper for we will be doing this in this coming school year so i do thing it would be very beneficial to my part too. yes you are right with that, a professor guidance and instruction is significant.

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 3 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Hello Cardisa: Thank you for stopping by and reading my newest hubs. It's nice to hear that this hubs is something helpful for you :)

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      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I think you've hit every point of writing a good research paper. It can be confusing in college because different professors will require different styles for the footnotes and possibly designate what types of works can be used to compile your information. It's always best to ask the professor if they have a particular way they want it written if they don't tell you.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Your hub is truly informational. A job well done and easy to understand with step by step tips.