Nova A.
Nova A.

How to Write a Research Paper Step by Step

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Published on: Apr 25, 2021

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

how to write a research paper

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A research paper is a journey into the world of in-depth analysis, interpretation, and argumentation based on independent research. 

Writing a research paper might feel tough, but don't worry. There's a trick to making it much easier. By learning how to do it right, you'll see that it's not as scary as it seems.

This guide is here to help you step by step through the whole process of writing an academic research paper. We'll cover things like how to start, make an outline, and wrap it up nicely at the end.

So, get ready to explore this guide and make writing your research paper a lot less daunting!

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What Sets Research Papers Apart?

Research papers share common ground with academic essays, but they are distinguished by their extended length and intricate detail. These assignments are designed not only to evaluate your writing skills but also to calculate your proficiency in scholarly research. 

Crafting a research paper demands a strong understanding of your topic and active engagement with sources. It requires the ability to contribute an original perspective to the ongoing scholarly discourse.

Let’s take a look and explore the different steps in writing a research paper: 

Step 1: Understanding Your Research Paper Requirements

The first step to starting a research paper journey involves a careful analysis of research paper requirements

Before you dip into the research process, take a moment to dissect the requirements. 

  • Scope Check: Define the boundaries of your paper. What specific aspects should you cover? Understanding this sets the stage for focused research.
  • Formatting Guidelines: Take note of any specific formatting requirements. Are there rules on fonts, margins, or page numbers? Clarity in these details enhances your paper's presentation.
  • Structural Insights: Explore if your assignment outlines a preferred structure. Does it require specific sections like introduction, methods, results, and conclusion? Following these guidelines ensures a well-organized paper.
  • Citation Styles: Identify the preferred citation style. Whether it's APA, MLA, or another format, adhering to these rules adds credibility to your research.
  • Timeframe and Word Limit Consideration: Carefully evaluate your timeframe and word limit. Be realistic and allocate sufficient time for researching, writing, and editing.


Keep in mind that your research paper format depends on the target journal. While most follow a standard structure, variations exist, so review the journal's guidelines for optimal alignment.

Step 2: Choosing a Relevant Topic

Selecting a research paper topic may seem like a straightforward task, but it holds critical value in the success of your research paper. 

  • Balance Interest and Academic Relevance: Choose a topic that merges your interest with academic relevance. This balance keeps you motivated and engages your audience.
  • Sustained Motivation: A well-chosen topic sustains your motivation during the writing process.
  • Contributing to Knowledge: Opt for a subject that contributes meaningfully to existing knowledge.


  • "Impact of Social Media on Mental Health in Adolescents: A Comprehensive Study"

This topic merges personal interest in social media and addresses a critical academic concern about mental health in a specific demographic.

  • "My Favorite Social Media Platforms"

This topic focuses solely on personal preferences, lacking the depth and academic significance needed for a research paper.

Step 3: Conducting In-Depth Research

With a clear understanding of your assignment and a compelling topic in hand, the next step is a detailed literature search. 

  • Comprehensive Source Gathering: Utilize academic databases, libraries, and online resources to compile a diverse range of sources.
  • Critical Evaluation: Assess the reliability and relevance of each source. Consider:
    • Noting important discussions related to your topic.
    • Identifying key issues to focus your paper on.
    • Exploring a variety of sources – journals, books, and reliable websites – to capture different perspectives.
  • Contradictory Exploration: Verify and seek sources that challenge your viewpoint, ensuring a well-rounded understanding.
  • Overlooked Aspects and Recent Developments: Look for:
    • Overlooked aspects in existing research.
    • Heated debates you can address.
    • Unique angles to approach your topic.
    • Recent developments building on existing research.
  • Formulating Research Questions: Develop research questions like: “I want to know why/how/what…” to guide your exploration. This helps in framing the purpose and direction of your research.

Step 4: Developing a Strong Thesis Statement

A thesis statement encapsulates the primary argument or central claim you're presenting in your research paper. It should be concise, specific, and focused on the main idea or purpose of your paper.

It should be, a clear, debatable, and specific assertion that guides the direction of your paper.

It should not be, vague, overly broad, or a mere statement of fact without room for discussion or analysis.

Crafting an Effective Thesis:

  • Ensure it reflects the core essence of your research, acting as a roadmap for both your writing process and readers.
  • It serves as the foundation upon which your entire paper is built, guiding the exploration of key points and arguments.

Step 5: Creating a Detailed Outline

A research paper outline is a structured plan that organizes the main points and details you'll include in your paper. It serves as a blueprint, guiding you through the writing process.

Organize your thoughts and research findings by constructing a comprehensive outline. A well-structured outline can make the writing process much easier. 

Break down your paper into sections, enlist important topics, headings, and subheadings. Also, write down the key arguments and evidence, it will be convenient to add them where needed while writing.

Step 6: Writing the Introduction

The research paper introduction serves as a vital entry point, answering three crucial questions: What, why, and how?

  • What: Start by being specific about your paper's topic, write the problem statement, provide the background, state the hypothesis, and define key terms or concepts.
  • Why: This is the crux of your introduction. Briefly answer questions like: What new insights does your paper offer? What important issues does it address?
  • How: Provide a roadmap for your readers. Preview the key elements of your paper in chronological order to guide them through your arguments.

Remember, the introduction is your paper's first impression, setting the stage for an engaging and informative journey ahead.

Step 7: Elaborating on the Body

In the body of your research paper, dive into your thesis, supporting it with evidence, analysis, and interpretation. 

Your outline makes it easier to tackle the challenge of organizing information. However, remain flexible in the order of presentation, with your thesis and topic sentences acting as guiding lights.

To ensure coherence:

  • Check Topic Sentences: Align them with your thesis and each other, ensuring logical flow.
  • Avoid Redundancy: Watch for paragraphs covering similar ground, aiming for distinct approaches.
  • Smooth Transitions: Create seamless connections between sentences, paragraphs, and sections, guiding your readers effortlessly through your arguments.

Remember, a well-structured body enhances the clarity and impact of your research paper.

Step 8: Crafting a Cohesive Conclusion 

As you approach the conclusion of your research paper, aim for a powerful and memorable finale. Summarize your key findings, reiterate the significance of your research, and, if relevant, hint at potential avenues for further exploration. 

This section acts as a guide for your reader out of the paper’s argument, providing a sense of closure.


  • Logical Connection: Trace the paper's course, emphasizing how it substantiates your thesis.
  • Finality: Help the reader understand how you've addressed issues raised in the introduction.
  • Broader Implications: Discuss general consequences, the paper's contribution to future studies, and questions left unanswered.

Remember, a conclusion is not about introducing new information but reinforcing the impact of your work, leaving a lasting impression.

Step 9: Citing Sources Properly

In the world of research papers, accurate and consistent citation is a must. It's more than a formality; it's a link to the greater scientific community and a validation of your data.

Here's the deal:

  • Formatting Rules: Citations follow precise formatting rules dictated by the citation style specified in your assignment guidelines (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Importance of Citations: They validate your data and connect your paper to the broader scientific community.
  • Style Variety: Depending on your assignment, you might encounter different citation styles like MLA or APA. Each style has specific guidelines for citing various sources, from photos to websites.

Remembering the citation rules can be overwhelming. You can use citation generator tools to make the task easier. Familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines for your chosen style to fortify the credibility of your research.

Step 10: Proofreading and Editing

Before presenting your research paper to the world, dedicate time to thorough proofreading and editing. This final step ensures a polished presentation, free of grammatical errors and possessing a cohesive structure.

Here's a breakdown:

Structural Edit:

  • Ensure clarity and conciseness in your thesis statement.
  • Confirm a well-organized flow with logical transitions.
  • Verify logical sequence within paragraphs.
  • Validate the use of concrete details, avoiding generalizations.
  • Confirm that arguments align with and support your thesis.
  • Check for proper citation of sources and guard against accidental plagiarism.

Word Choice, Grammar, and Spelling Edit:

  • Confirm clear and specific language.
  • Ensure smooth sentence flow and clarity.
  • Eliminate filler words and phrases.
  • Conduct a detailed check for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Consider reading your paper aloud or having someone else review it for additional perspectives. 

The proofreading and editing phase guarantees your research paper stands as a refined and polished piece of scholarly work.

How to Write a Research Paper Examples

Explore our collection of sample research paper PDFs. These examples are designed to address your queries and offer a comprehensive understanding.

Expert Tip

Looking for more examples? Here’s a dedicated blog on research paper examples. Read to find more sample research papers.

Research Paper Writing Checklist

Follow the checklist below to ensure a thorough review of your paper.

Pre-Writing Phase:

I have thoroughly reviewed and understood all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My research question or thesis statement is clear and concise.

I have conducted a comprehensive literature review to understand existing research on the topic.

Writing Phase:

My introduction engagingly presents the topic and provides necessary background information.

The paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings.

Each paragraph is centered around one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence.

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

Revising Phase:

I have used appropriate transitions to clarify connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

I have reviewed the structure of my paper and edited it for grammar, punctuation, and style.

My paper is formatted according to the specified guidelines.

I have double-checked citations and references for accuracy.

Summing it up!

Writing a research paper might appear challenging, yet with this detailed guide in hand, you can navigate the intricacies of academic research. Each step outlined here contributes to the overall triumph of your paper – from constructing a captivating introduction to concluding with a strong finale.

If you find yourself grappling with the complexities of your research paper, remember that help is just a click away. Consult for expert assistance. 

Our Research Paper Writing Service is ready to support you on your academic journey.

Ready to ace your research paper? Connect with our custom writing service and seek expert guidance now!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 parts of the research paper?

The five parts of the research paper are;

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion

What is the easiest part of a research paper?

Methods are the easiest part of a research paper. This is where you should include all the information about your research, including what methods were used and which sources helped gather data for your paper.

How many pages should a research paper be?

The average length for a research paper is 5-7 pages. For this kind of document, there should be at least two paragraphs on every page. However, the word count will vary depending upon various factors such as type or technicality within your specific field. So please consult an instructor before submitting anything.

What should you not do in a research paper?

Below are some things that you do not do in your research paper.

  • Don’t lengthen your paper
  • Don’t write incomplete information
  • Don’t plagiarize your work
  • Don’t forget to cite sources
  • Don’t write incorrect information

What is the introduction of the research paper?

The introduction is a great way to hook your readers and showcase your work. It provides context for the paper, interestingly introduces the topic, and gives overviews of each section before moving on to the next.

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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