- By Jason Bacot
- Published 09/29/2010
Research papers represent the results of the writer’s investigations on a specific topic. They are informed by the writer’s gathered facts as well as his or her own ideas and thoughts. If you are writing a research paper, create it with a specific audience in mind: an audience of interested readers who want some depth on the topic. You shouldn’t use your research paper to repeat facts that your audience either already knows or could easily find in an encyclopedia, but should approach your topic from a unique point of view. You should have a sufficiently narrow topic that you don’t overwhelm your reader with information. In general, the more complicated the topic, the more narrow the focus should be. Start by creating a brief, yet specific title for your paper. If you are writing a research paper for a grade, you may be required to write an outline, and if you are, you should follow your instructor’s guidance on how to format it. But even if you are not required to write an outline, you should create a list of the points that you want to cover in your research paper. An outline will help you organize material and sometimes helps you make connections among facts that you might not have noticed before. Outlines also help you discover facts that are irrelevant and should be removed (perhaps to cover in a future paper). Keep your outline next to you as you write so that you don’t forget to cover any major points.
When your outline is complete, begin writing wi
th an introductory paragraph or section. Here you will start with a general statement and narrow it down until you reveal your specific topic in the final sentence of the introduction. Then cover each of your outlined points in turn. If your instructor has not assigned a particular length for you to use for each point, start with a paragraph of about 100 words per point. Once you have covered all points, write a concluding paragraph. In your conclusion, begin by briefly recapping your points, then end your conclusion with a more general statement similar to the statement you used to open your introductory paragraph. Always cite the sources you used in conducting your research. If your instructor gives you a format for doing this, stick to that format. Otherwise, a simple way is to list sources alphabetically by author name at the end of the paper, with referrals within the text consisting of the last name of the author in parentheses at the end of the sentence where the source applies. Never plagiarize. Using other’s ideas as your own is not ethical and could get a failing grade or disciplinary action. Re-stating well known facts is OK, but passing off someone else’s interpretation or conclusion as your own is not. Properly citing sources will do 90% of the work in preventing plagiarism.
Writing a good research paper isn’t necessarily a matter of bowling the reader over with your expertise or style. Keep sentences reasonably simple, and concentrate on making your points clear. Before submitting your paper, ideally take a day away from it, then go back and give it a final edit and proofreading.