Help Writing a Research Paper

Research for Essay Writing

Learn how to complete the essential steps needed to plan a college research paper, identify suitable source material related to your research paper, make and organize research notes, write using appropriate academic language and tone, generate a MLA-formatted works cited list to organize your sources, and key steps to take to avoid problems related to plagiarism regarding your sources.

Choosing a research topic for your paper

A common assignment in many colleges is to write a research paper. Research assignments can vary greatly, but there are certain aspects which are common to most. Some common aspects include the majority of research papers aim to explore somewhat complex issues, and because of this the papers tend to be complex and sometimes extremely long. Such research papers usually require you to make use of external sources in support of your ideas.

However, it’s important to remember that each research assignments you are given will be slightly different. Your field of study, and even department, will influence the style of your research paper. So, a Math research paper will be considerably different from a social studies research paper, for example.

Even different teachers tend to develop different requirements for their research assignments. There can be different rules to follow and requirements regarding the type of sources you use for research paper writing. While some teachers just ask you to evaluate or analyze information, others might ask you to come up with your own ideas regarding a topic or research subject. In some cases you might be asked to synthesize several distinct articles as part of your assignment.

How to write a research paper step by step

Let's look at a research assignment for an English class (a composition). Normally your teacher will provide the purpose of the paper, requirements and the deadline or date it has to be submitted. Typically you might be required to produce 10 to 11 pages in MLA format, which means double spaced, and using a 12 point font. It’s also normal for your teacher to provide additional instruction such as the minimum and maximum number of academic sources you should use, for example, 5 and 10. Sometimes the topic you are asked to write about will be very specific and sometimes you will be prompted to come up with your own topic based on a list of ideas provided by your teacher.

If for example your teacher asks you to write a paper on a current controversy related to one of the U.S. constitutional amendments – your first task would be to identify a current controversy which is in some way associated with an amendment of the constitution.

If your teacher gives you specific instructions about topics which you should not write about – pay attention – because it will normally be your teacher who is responsible for grading your research paper. If you are told not to write about certain topics, no matter how interested or passionate you feel about one of them, you’ll have to choose a different topic.

It’s important that you follow all the instructions given and complete all the necessary sections or requirements for the paper. Do not overlook or ignore anything which is asked for as this will affect your final grade. Make sure you are clear about all things required to be included as part of the assignment.

In the next post we'll examine choosing a research question for your research paper.

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