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6 Tips on How To Write a Great Research Paper

Updated on January 17, 2013

Research papers are not easy to write and they involve a lot of work but it does not have to seem impossible – there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you are not a great writer it is still completely possible to score an “A” on a paper, or to write a paper that you feel proud of.

Step 1: Picking A Topic

The first and most important thing is to pick a topic that fuels you, something you feel you can write pages and pages on. If you can not think of anything - find an online database or ask friends and relatives. Don’t wait a week until the paper is due to pick a topic, because that will only set you farther behind.

  • · If you are the kind of person who works better under deadlines, give yourself a deadline – one that is at least a week before the actual due date of the paper.

Step 2: Picking Your Sources

Now, it is time to begin picking your sources.

  • Every paper has to have some sort of support, quotes from well known people is the best bet but anything can work as long as it is not something a random person wrote.

You are going to want at least six sources, with at least two of them being scholarly if not all of them. The best way to find scholarly sources is through a school database but if you do not have access to those try and find articles written by professors, scientists, or well-known journalists; also, check out your local library - the librarians will be a really big resource for finding great articles.

Step 3: Get A Better Hold On Your Sources

Once you have your sources, you will want to write an annotated bibliography, even if it is not required. The annotated bibliography will give you a better feel on how you are going to use the articles, where they will appear in your paper, and if they are good enough for your paper. Each source should have three paragraphs attached to it.

  1. A brief summary,
  2. If the source is reliable and scholarly, and how you know it is.
  3. How you can apply the source to your paper - in this paragraph i is okay to refer to yourself but not in any of the other paragraphs.

Step 4: The Outline - A Very Crucial Step

It is beyond important to have an outline written up. This outline will serve to not only help you organize your thoughts but it will also serve as a very helpful tool when writing the final product. The outline should be in full sentence format and each sentence should essentially be a sentence that will appear in your paper, which will help the final writing process immensely.

The outline should include your

  • thesis
  • topic sentences
  • concluding sentences
  • quotes that are relative to the paragraph and topic sentence that is being worked on

Each roman numeral in the outline should be a separate paragraph for the final paper.

Before the rough draft is written up I would suggest having another person look at your outline. If your school has a writing center, or writing tutors, do not be afraid to utilize that – they can be your best friends when it comes to writing papers. They will help make sure that the order you have your paragraphs in sounds good and so on and so forth. If you do not have this, find a friend who is good a writer and ask them if they wouldn’t mind helping you with your paper.

Step 5: The Rough Draft - You're Almost Done!

The next step is the rough draft. The rough draft should essentially be what you want your paper to be, no exceptions. If you typed up your outline all you have to do is elaborate on the points you have already made. If you have given yourself ample time to write your paper, then you only need to work on one paragraph a day unless you want to get it over with. If you want to get it over with quicker, write one paragraph and then take a small break, do this until you are done.

  • · When the rough draft is written ask someone to look over it for any flaws, including your works cited page. Your teacher would be the best person to ask for help – but if he or she is not available you can always go to the person who looked over the outline.

Step 6: The Final Draft!

Fix whatever needs to be fixed as suggested by whom ever looked over the paper, especially any grammar mistakes or misspelled words, and you are done! If you followed this guideline then you are done early and while all of your friends are stressing to do it last minute – you’ll be completely done and confident in your work.

Some Added Tips

  • For a more professional looking paper, make sure you do not have any contractions such as it's or wouldn’t.
  • Make sure a paragraph isn’t more than a page long, if it is, separate the paragraph into two smaller paragraphs with each having a new topic sentence specific to the main ideas in that paragraph.
  • Don’t delay, if you know you have a paper due and it’s a big part of your grade – GET STARTED RIGHT AWAY, even if it is not as extensive as a research paper. Last minute stress isn’t good, which is why your own personal deadline will give you ample time to fix things.
  • Have and use proper grammar, it will not only make you sound a little smarter but it will also give you a higher chance of getting a better grade even if your paper is not that awesome.
  • Do your best not to use first and second pronouns, when you are writing a research or argumentative paper talking directly to the reader or mentioning yourself is not recommended.


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    • nightmarenyx profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for the input nochance. I will defintely take that into consideration. I may rewrite tonight adding both yours and BraidedZero's suggestions in. :)

    • nochance profile image


      8 years ago from Minnesota

      This is a really great hub with useful information for any student trying to write a paper.

      Personally I would recommend formatting this as a numbered list. "10 Tips on How To Write a Great Research Paper" That way each tip can have a short paragraph that follows making it easier for your reader to follow. Your paragraphs at the moment are a little long and unless your reader really needs the information they might get bored because there are no headers telling them what the next paragraph will be about.

      You have some really great tips here that more writers need to follow. Thanks for the hub.

    • nightmarenyx profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Thanks so much! Glad you found it useful. :) You are very right though, proper grammar should always be practiced and perfected so that you are taken more seriously - no matter what you are doing.

    • BraidedZero profile image

      James Robertson 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Great Article. Lots of good information for high school and college students. If I might add, I think another huge aspect you need to consider (along with no contradictions) is to just have proper grammar. If you sound intelligent then you usually are taken more seriously, even if your topic is a little off or not great. Voted up and useful. Nice work.


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