Research paper writing is an essential part of your academics, especially for college students. On one hand, it can be a very daunting task due to anxiety and lack of preparedness. On the other hand, writing research can be the most rewarding experience with adequate preparedness. Writing a compelling research paper often requires that the student determines a broad research area based on the course. You will then need to select a focus topic through background reading and identify a clear research question. Consequently, the student should search primary and secondary sources to find answers for the research question and present the arguments in a thoughtful and clear manner. This article guides you through writing a compelling research paper to earn you good grades. We walk you through the steps you need to write a strong paper together with a sample.
Step 1: understand the assignment
This stage is often overlooked but is one of the most important aspects of writing a strong research paper. Understanding the research paper requirements provided by the instructor is vital to developing an accurate guideline for your writing. You need to carefully go through the instructor’s assignment, prompts, and grading rubric to understand what is required of you. In particular, you need to understand the topic area you are required to write about and ask for clarifications from the instructor if need be. Take time to go through the grading rubric because it highlights the key points or areas to be covered in your research paper. While there is a standard format for writing a research paper, some instructors may give specific formatting guidelines for the paper. Therefore, as a student, you need to pay attention to the requirements before starting your writing.
Step 2: Choose an appropriate topic
In most cases, instructors assign students research paper topics. However, in some cases, the students have the freedom of choosing their preferred topic provided it is within the course coverage. The best approach to picking a research topic is to choose one that interests you or you are passionate about. This way you will be compelled to do thorough research and learn more about it. Moreover, you are likely to enjoy writing about a topic you are passionate about more than others.
In some cases, the preferred topic may not fit in the assignment guidelines. In such a case, consult with the instructor to guide you through the topic selection to ensure that your research paper writing remains within the requirements. At the end of the day, you should understand that this is academic writing that must be delivered in a specific format and style. Another approach to selecting a research paper topic is picking a topic you find challenging that can inspire you to research further and learn new things. One of the objectives of a research paper in academics is to test your research capability. That is the ability to find new information and organize and present it in a thoughtful manner for easy understanding by the reader. Therefore, by seeking more information about a topic you become an expert at it at the end of your writing. However, selecting a challenging topic should not be equated to choosing a technical one. Try to avoid technical topics especially if they are outside your discipline because they may require technical knowledge which may take longer to acquire.
Step 3: Research on the topic
This is another important stage in research paper writing which involves gathering and organizing resources around your topic. Research is key to understanding your subject, creating ideas around the topic, and developing a strong thesis. Some of the tips to consider when performing your research include:
First, skim through the resources and identify key points. Research is one of the most time-consuming stages and reading every resource related to your topic may consume even more time. Therefore, it is advisable to skim through quickly as you note down the key arguments
Another tip is to ensure that you focus only on reliable resources. You can read all the relevant resources online such as Wikipedia to enrich yourself about the topic. However, you need reliable sources to write a strong research paper. Your research paper should only utilize well-sourced academic resources like journals. It is advisable that you cite the original source of the information rather than the secondary source. You can find valuable information and arguments in other sources like Wikipedia but it is important that you reference reliable sources from academic databases supporting the arguments. Some of the sources for research include books and periodicals, google scholar, government publications, newspapers and online encyclopedias, and databases. Always compare sources to ensure that an argument or idea is supported by more than two sources to ensure the credibility of the information.
Step 4: Develop a thesis for your research paper
A thesis statement is a short statement that states your objective as a writer such as what you are trying to prove or explain. It seeks to answer the research question and what you intend to talk about in the paper. Therefore, it needs to be precise and reflective of your type of writing. It should determine if your paper is argumentative, persuasive, expository, or analytical. It is important that you keep your thesis statement debatable in a manner that provokes argument and supporting evidence. Here is an example of a thesis statement:
The primary objective of the paper is to explore the political system of the Nordic region which has successfully run a political system that established an effective balance between socialism and capitalism.
Step 5: Develop an outline
An outline is a structure of the paper that determines how you organize the ideas obtained from the research. It is through an excellent outline that you as the writer can make sense of your paper during the revision before submitting it to the instructor. The outline also acts as a guide through your paper to help the reader understand it better. The main points you will need to support your thesis statement form the sub-headings in your paper under which you will organize your ideas. In some cases, the professor may ask you for an outline before you start your writing. This is to ensure that your paper meets the requirements and remains within the subject.
A typical research paper consists of the following sections: title page, abstract, introduction, methodology, findings, discussion, and conclusion. However, this may not always be the case because sometimes the instructor may ask you to write a short research paper. In such a case, you may only have three sections in the paper: introduction, body, and conclusion.
Creating a good outline also requires you to think critically about the objective of the research paper and come up with a structure that organizes those thoughts effectively. Between the introduction and the conclusion sections of your paper should be an organized flow of ideas around your subject. It is also advisable that you remain strictly within the boundaries of the outline. You should avoid ideas that are not directly related to the thesis statement and don’t fit within the outline.
- Here are the questions to consider when creating an outline:
- What is the topic of the paper?
- Why is the topic significant?
- What are the relevant background materials?
- What is the thesis statement?
- What structure will best support the purpose of the paper?
Step 6: Write the paper
This is the stage that determines how well you performed in the previous steps. Having gathered ideas from various sources it is time to organize them thoughtfully to come up with a great academic research paper. One important factor to consider when writing your research paper is to focus on presenting your ideas in a clear, precise, and interesting manner without trying to make them perfect. Perfection comes at a later stage.
Your writing is a representation of your thoughts supported by the information obtained from the research. Therefore, you should not write directly from the research but generate thoughts from your memory. However, you can occasionally refer back to your research for statistics or specific quotes. Moreover, writing from your memory as opposed to copying from the research helps avoid plagiarism which is the uncredited use of one’s ideas. Plagiarism is taken seriously in academics and considered a serious offense that may lead to penalization from your instructor. This is why it is advisable to write an original paper and cite your sources whenever you borrow a piece of information from someone’s work. Notably, you are allowed to quote directly from your sources using quotation marks and cite the sources. Alternatively, you can paraphrase someone’s words and give credit.
The following are the main parts of your research paper:
Introduction section of the research paper
As the opening statement of your research paper, the introduction should be strong, interesting and provocative enough to grab the attention of the reader. This is where you give a statement about the purpose of the paper and your approach to the topic. Your introduction should consist of:
Setting the context: where you provide a general description of the topic to help the reader have an idea of the topic
Justify the main idea: where you provide the importance of the topic and why it is worth discussing
The thesis: where you state your position in regards to the topic such as whether you support or oppose it.
Writing the body section of a research paper
The body of your research consists of the sub-headings identified earlier in the paper outline. Based on the subheadings, you should generate ideas to form paragraphs covering specific points around the topic and focus on the thesis statement. Therefore, your body section should adhere to the outline created earlier. The paragraphs should consist of strong topic sentences supported by arguments and relevant evidence.
Writing the conclusion
This section summarizes the paper and justifies how it supports the thesis. You can start this section by restating the thesis statement followed by a summary of the points and an explanation of how the ideas support the thesis. You can also call for further research if your research was inconclusive.
Step 7: Proofread and edit your paper
Having presented your ideas about the topic now is the time to make your paper perfect and academically presentable by proofreading. This is the stage where you ensure that your paper is well structured and organized with logical flow of ideas. Check the paragraphs to ensure that they are well-structured and ideas clearly stated with supporting evidence. Consequently, you should check your paper for grammar and spelling mistakes. Some of the things to consider include:
- Proper citation of sources
- Credibility of evidence
- Clarity of the thesis statement
- Logical transition
- Repetition of words or ideas
Sample Research Paper
The second amendment expressly grants every United States’ citizen rights to bear arms and makes adequate efforts to control the usage of the weapons. However, this law has provided a rich avenue for one of the most hotly debated issues within the land, with the nation being virtually divided on the best course of action. The debate gets rooted on the opinion differences between the country’s most popular parties, the Democrats and the Republicans (Newport and Dugan). Notably, Coates gave accounts of the struggles of black Americans who had to work twice as hard and were continuously targeted by the police with high chances of being killed (9). As the discussions take sides between gun control and gun rights, it is imperative that a clear firearm law should get enacted. Thus, owing to the widening margin between the Democrats and Republicans with regards to gun laws, stringent firearm control policies should be implemented to reduce crime rates as well as racial profiling.
The availability of guns to the majority of citizens increases the instances of violent crimes perpetrated within the country. With an almost unanimous agreement between the Democrats and the Republicans on background checks before the issuance of weapons, regulation of firearm laws would ensure that mature and well-adjusted individuals get to be the ones to carry guns (Newport and Dugan). Notably, this would ensure that the majority of citizens are motivated to showcase positive values and increase their chances of possessing weapons. In addition, punitive litigation procedures would be implemented against offenders found guilty of misusing their guns and those found owning them illegally. On the same note, it will be essential that all individuals in need of firearms are properly vetted and take through some training on how to use the weapons before they get cleared to possess them. These measures to control gun laws would reduce the rates of crimes as well as the instances of racial profiling of minority races such as the blacks. Hence, there will be reduced cases of gun misuse as well as decreased rates of crime.
Controlled access to weapons places a limit on each citizen’s right to bear arms in line with the second amendment, which gives Americans freedom to possess weapons. Although the claim that the presence of guns increases the chances of violent crimes cannot be substantiated beyond all reasonable doubts, firearms increase violence in communities. However, each citizen is expected to be mature and care for the others to ensure a free and fair economy, where all can chase after the American dream safely (Napolitano). In recent instances, racial provocations have been witnessed, and both blacks and whites have caused deaths and injuries against each other using firearms. On this note, regulating the right to guns will not only reduce violence and crime, but will foster economic empowerment and peaceful coexistence of Americans. Therefore, the rights of citizens to bear firearms should be maintained, but only to the qualified and mature individuals.
Gun laws continue to be one of the most passionately discussed legislations within the country. The Republicans favor the enforcement of the second amendment, the rights of each citizen, while the Democrats support peace within communities by regulating the gun laws within the states. Markedly, these conflicting views have increased the sharpness of differences among the country’s supporters. Consequently, gun control should be favored as compared to the application of firearm rights because it will reduce instances of violent guns crimes and ensure the possibilities of safe behavior in handling weapons.
1. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.
2. Napolitano, Andrew P. “Judge Napolitano: Why I Will Always Defend the Second Amendment and the Right to Self-Defense.” Fox News, 16 June 2016, www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/06/16/judge-napolitano-why-will-always-defend-second-amendment-and-right-to-self-defense.html
3. Newport, Frank, and Andrew Dugan. “Partisan Differences Growing on a Number of Issues.” Gallup News, 3 Aug. 2017, news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/215210/partisan-differences-growing-number-issues.aspx? g_source=POLITICS&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles