The common form of academic writing is a research paper that requires students to find information about a topic give a point of view on that topic and provide support for that position in organized writing. So you are given the assignment to write a research paper and you are not pretty sure about the steps on how to write it. Don’t worry I am going to walk you through the 12 easy steps to write a great research paper.
Writing advisors have different methods but I think there are some basic steps to writing a good research paper and it doesn’t involve just typing out as many words on a topic that you can possibly think of. You can adjust accordingly based on your assignment and your general research and writing speed. Follow the steps below to write a good research paper.
12 Easy Steps to Write a Great Research Paper
1. Understand the Instructions
Read through the instructions for the assignment thoroughly and make notes! It’s obviously really important to understand exactly what the assignment is asking for and as early as possible. You don’t want to find that you don’t understand something when you are down to the wire.
So if you want to get a good grade, you need to follow the assignment instructions even if you think its a dumb assignment. Take your time to understand the assignment completely.
2. Choose a Topic
After you’ve figured out what the assignment is asking for, you’ll need to pick a topic. You can pick one out of the air, but I would suggest choosing a couple of topics that seem interesting to you and then doing some superficial research just to make sure that there is enough interesting information out there to do a paper on.
If you don’t do this, you may have to change your topic later in the process after you’ve wasted considerable mental energy. This step can take 1-2 hours depending on how much research you do on your possible topics.
3. Build a Basic Outline
Now that you have a topic, you are going to build a basic outline for your paper based on the instructions given. Just make a list of the sections and some bullets underneath them to give more detail. At this point, you haven’t fully researched yet, so this outline won’t be very detailed until you do.
If your teacher or professor provides exemplars or examples of exemplary papers from previous classes, these always can help you build a good outline. Moreover, do not hesitate to completely rip off a good structural design for a paper! As long as it flows with the way you think. This should take you no more than an hour.
4. Make a list of Relevant Research Studies
Now you are going to use all of your resources, online and otherwise, to make a list of studies and articles to read for your paper. You can use Google Scholar or if your learning institution has a library portal, you will have even better access to research journals and other scholarly resources. For this step, you are just gathering a giant list of things to read that may be relevant for your research. Compiling this list can take 2 to 4 hours.
5. Read Research And Make Notes
This is the step where you actually read through the studies and the articles and the papers on your list. Plan for this to take a little while. Remember you need to read and take notes as you read.
You can keep all of your quotes from the literature and a giant spreadsheet and highlight and copy it into a spreadsheet. Any quotes that you might need to reference like an important piece of data, good arguments, examples, and findings from studies, you can cut and paste all of those quotes into a spreadsheet that is referenced back to the original articles.
Remember you don’t usually need to read the entire journal article if you are mostly interested in the results of the study, instead, you can simply quote the findings which can usually be found in the abstract. If you are citing liberally from a book, you can try to get that book in kindle format so that you can export those highlights into your spreadsheet. This step can take a really long time.
6. Categorize Highlights by Topic
Once you have a giant list of highlights, you can read back through them all and as you do you should try to categorize each quote roughly mapping back to your outline. This way you can easily find the quotes and information you need. Sometimes you may need more granular categories so you can also create a subcategory column.
7. Make Decisions by Mind Map
As you are reading through the research that you have gathered, you might have to make some decisions about what are the strongest points to make in your paper, so how do you come to these decisions.
Sometimes you can use a mind map to gather your thoughts. A mind map is a visual tool to help you see how ideas are related to each other. Try to determine the three strongest arguments that you want to present. You write your main topic in the center and then you write down all the ideas that have emerged from your research then you are going to move those ideas that are related and you will start to see some patterns emerge showing which arguments have the most back up in literature.
Remember it’s not always required but if you are at all visual mind maps will help you to see relationships and make decisions.
8. Fill in Outline With Research
Sort your reference spreadsheet based on the paper section and now beef up your outline with the information from your research. If you have three arguments to make, add those statistics data findings and quotes that support those arguments. This step is not required but it helps to make the writing process much faster.
9. Write Draft
Now you are going to work off of your detailed outline or off of your basic outline and reference spreadsheet if you would skip the last step and start writing your draft. At the drafting stage instead of filling in full APA formatted references and citations, you can use the reference numbers from your spreadsheet otherwise you may break the flow of writing.
10. Edit Paper, Fix APA And Fill in References
It’s best to put a little time between this step and the last one just to clear your brain. You may aim for at least 24 hours even better. This is when you reread, you can edit Grammar, you look at sentence structure, etc.
You can print out your work and edit with a red pen meanwhile you can also fix your APA or writing style problems and format all of your citations. You can format all of your citations on a spreadsheet and then sort them alphabetically before pasting them into your paper. This way you can save the hassle of alphabetizing as you go. You can give yourself at least 4 hours for this step.
11. Find a Second Reader
You can find a good writing advisor and ask him or her to read your papers and have the advisor’s feedback about your writing. If you don’t have access to a writing advisor, you can get a friend or a colleague whose opinion you respect to read through it. Also, read the following article for this step.
12. Make Final Edit And Submit
Implement whatever suggestions came from your second reader, provided that you agree with them and give it one last read through and submit.
These are the steps that you follow for decent research papers. Please let me know what you think. Your comments and feedback are always appreciated.