Lists & Tips

What Is a Research Paper?

Explore the essentials of writing and editing research papers, from topic selection to final revisions, in this comprehensive guide, and learn what a research paper truly entails.
Dr. Susan Martinez
Apr 23, 2024

Definition of a research paper

A research paper is a scientific piece that covers a certain topic. It requires in-depth research, analysis, evaluation of literature or qualitative research performed via interviews or observations. 

A standard research paper includes these sections: 

  • Intro
  • Review of literature 
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

The topic usually pertains to your area of study and is often connected to the papers you’ve written before. You will either choose the topic on your own or select it from the options proposed by your professor.

If you need to write a research paper but don’t know where to start, read on! This article will guide you through the entire process. 

What Is a Research Paper Purpose?

The main purpose of this type of academic paper is to either research a new topic or add to existing research. You may be covering a topic that has been explored long ago to update the information and possibly debunk some assumptions. Or you may be conducting brand new research that hasn’t been done before. Sometimes, you will also write a paper like that to add to the existing research if it is insufficient.

8 Steps to Writing a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is a lengthy process that many may find complicated. However, it becomes more manageable if you break it down into these steps:

  1. Pick a topic; approve it with your academic advisor.
  2. Conduct research, review the available sources, and pick the ones you find the most useful.
  3. Develop a thesis statement.
  4. Write an outline; put your ideas, potential sources and notes in it.
  5. Write the introduction chapter; this may also be done last.
  6. Move on to the body paragraphs & conclusion.
  7. Give it a rest, then edit without mercy.
  8. Format the paper and the references.

This may feel like a lot. It’s true. If you’re still confused as to how to write a research paper, refer to our expert writers for help. Studyfy can help you handle all eight steps of the writing process. 

Ensure you consult your academic advisor every step of the way. They may have valuable remarks, questions and advice.

How to Conduct Research?

When it comes to writing, research papers emphasize a solid base. The literature review is the whale that carries your paper. You must take enough time to discover all the relevant, timely information on the topic.

Otherwise, you risk redundancy. Search for keywords in Google Scholar and focus on publications made in the last 5-10 years, depending on the topic.

Conducting research for a research paper involves several steps to ensure thoroughness and accuracy. Here's a simplified guide:

  1. Define Your Topic: Clearly define the scope and focus of your research. This helps narrow down your search and ensures relevance.
  2. Identify Keywords: Brainstorm and identify keywords related to your topic. These will be crucial when searching for relevant sources.
  3. Use Reliable Sources: Utilize academic databases, scholarly journals, books, and reputable websites for your research. Evaluate the credibility and reliability of each source.
  4. Gather Information: Collect relevant data, statistics, quotes, and examples to support your thesis or argument. Take notes and keep track of your sources for citations.
  5. Analyze and Synthesize: Evaluate the information you've gathered critically. Identify patterns, themes, and relationships between different sources. Synthesize the information to develop your own perspective or argument.
  6. Organize Your Notes: Organize your notes and findings in a logical manner. Create an outline to structure your research paper effectively.
  7. Cite Your Sources: Make sure to properly cite all sources used in your research paper. Follow the citation style guidelines specified by your instructor or academic institution (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).
  8. Review and Revise: Review your research paper draft carefully. Make revisions as needed to strengthen your arguments, improve clarity, and ensure coherence.
  9. Seek Feedback: Consider seeking feedback from peers, instructors, or mentors to gain additional insights and improve the quality of your research paper.
  10. Finalize Your Paper: Once you're satisfied with your research paper, finalize it by proofreading for errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Make sure your paper adheres to formatting guidelines before submission.

Thesis Statement

Writing a research paper is impossible without a good thesis statement. A thesis statement is a brief description of your stance on the topic. You may decide to reason for or against the existing opinion on the topic. Your thesis statement will reflect that.

You may also be required to write a research question instead. That question will guide your research and will either be answered positively or negatively at the end of the paper.

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Compose an Outline

This is a map for your future paper. One obviously can write research papers without it, but it’s easier to use the outline method. 

An outline will act like the skeleton of your paper. You jot down all the points that will appear in the final draft and then add meat and muscle to them. Those may be details, notes from your research, potential references, expected results and, of course, your methods.

When you have an outline, you can approve it with your professor, and they will guide you on what steps to take next.

Do I Need to Write the Intro First?

According to research paper writing service experts, no, you don’t. Some students find it best to craft this part last when the rest of your paper is ready. This way, you can see the direction your research has taken and prepare the reader appropriately. 

Most of the time, the intro chapter mentions the thesis statement, methods that will be used, either qualitative or quantitative, and the expected outcomes.

How Do I Write Body Chapters?

After the introduction, where you disclosed the research paper meaning and purpose, you move on to the body. Your literature review must show adequate research and familiarity with the topic. 

The methods for your research paper may differ depending on the topic, as well as what you think is best. You can either stick with the review of the literature (aka meta-analysis) or go on the slightly more complicated path of qualitative or quantitative research. Your choice depends on what fits your topic best.

Conclusion of research paper

Your conclusion must answer the question: what is the point of a research paper? Finish your paper stating if you’ve proved or disproved your thesis statement and what can be done in the future in further research. Don’t repeat the information already given in the paper word for word. Instead, summarize it briefly and don’t add any new information.

Improving Objectivity in Editing

When it comes to bigger academic works, like research papers, it’s hard to assess them adequately immediately after you’ve written them. Your memory will be too fresh, and you’ll recall the sentences rather than read them. To edit a paper properly, you should put it away for some time. This will allow you to be more objective and critical.

How to Edit a Research Paper?

The research paper definition states that you are to present your findings on the topic backed by facts and research.

To do that, you must ensure that every statement is supported by evidence. 

When you read the paper once again, look for logic, flow and evidence-based statements. Every paragraph must support the thesis statement for the whole paper to be on topic. Look at grammar, word choice and punctuation. Make sure to bring the paper to your professor for final edits.

Which Formatting Style Should I Use?

Any research paper requires referencing and citations. Yet, there are different formatting styles to use. In most cases, your professor will specify the required style, and you’ll be able to find the guide with its instructions. Most often, Harvard or APA are used for research papers; however, your academic advisor might require you to use another style, so you must consult with them if you’re not sure.

Final Words

A research paper is a very influential phase in your educational journey. You may be wondering, “How long should a research paper be?” The answers vary. Usually, the length is somewhere between 15 and 50 pages. But it depends on your year of study, topic and your professors’ requirements.

Make sure that you continuously consult with your advisor. This will make your job of writing and their job of grading your paper a lot easier. Besides, if they see your involvement and willingness to learn, they might be more lenient towards you.

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How to choose topics for research papers?

Choosing a topic for a research paper involves a few key steps:

  1. Interest and Passion: Pick a topic that excites you, as this will keep you motivated and engaged.
  2. Scope: Ensure the topic is neither too broad nor too narrow. A broad topic can be overwhelming, while a narrow topic might not have enough material.
  3. Resources: Check the availability of resources. Make sure there are sufficient sources to support your research.
  4. Originality: Consider originality. Aim for a topic that offers a new perspective or fills a research gap.
  5. Relevance: Choose a topic that is relevant to your field and current research trends, which can increase the impact of your work.

Usually, a student chooses a topic for their paper on their own. When you are asked, “What is a research paper about?” you must justify your choice and present enough evidence to cover the scope of the paper.They will likely offer you adjustments, propose sources, or suggest that you take another approach depending on the relevancy of the topic. But in general, the topic is up to you.

What are the major stages of composing a research paper?

First, you choose the topic and approve it with your advisor. Then, you do preliminary research and form your opinion along with the thesis statement. Next, you get to writing. Start with the outline and build on it. Write your body chapters, then the intro and conclusion. Then, move on to editing and formatting. Essentially, what’s a research paper? It’s your findings on the topic backed up by evidence. 

How many references should I include? 

Just as the length of your research paper depends on many factors, so does your reference count. A good starting point is seeing how many sources you can find on your topic. Discuss them with your professor. Then, once you write, you’ll see how many you need for an adequate review of the literature.

How do I finish the writing process?

What is a research paper? It’s a presentation of your findings backed by evidence. At the end of it, you assess if you’ve proved your thesis statement or not and provide a summary. Restate your points and key findings.