Are you staring at your computer screen and having no idea how to approach your daunting research paper? If you are a college or graduate school student, you will be required to write at least one research paper before graduating.

Research papers are challenging, and they take a huge portion of a student’s grade. Suppose you have never written one before; this can appear like an impossible task. But don’t worry, we are here to help.

A research paper is a form of academic writing that analyzes, interprets, argues, and concludes on a specific topic based on in-depth independent research. Although similar to academic essays, research papers are usually lengthier and more explicit. Not only is your writing skill required, but with a collection of your skills in scholarly research is needed for your success.

Still worried about how to score higher grades in your research paper? This guide will put you through effective strategies that make the process of writing research papers easy, and you get good grades. Below are the steps required to write a strong research paper.

Understand the Assignment

You can only write thoroughly and explicitly when a subject is well understood. This might sound a bit tasking, but successfully completing a research work means having a thorough understanding of what is required and fulfilling the specific task.

Many students tend to skip this step with the urge to complete the research work in time. If you fail to fully understand the concept of an idea, you might end up writing out of context. You might end up with low grades and wonder why, despite inputting so much hard work. Before you start writing, take your time to:

✔ Identify the assignment goal, any given specifications such as lengths, formatting, and other details on the assignment rubric

✔ Take note of key points and ensure you follow them as you write.

✔ Check for the area(s) that appear confusing and seek clarification with your professor or supervisor

Choose a Topic

Most students are assigned a research topic, but if you are fortunate to have the option of self-selecting a topic, you need to choose wisely. Choosing a topic may be a bit challenging, but the thing is, there are several ways you can generate an idea for your research topic.

You can think of a challenging topic you are interested in and brainstorm with your colleagues, supervisor or professor. You can also try to narrow a broad topic to something relevant and interesting.

When deciding on your topic, do not choose subjects that are too technical, general, or broad. If your topic is too broad, your paper may look like a general overview of the topic, or your research work becomes impossible to accomplish. This may also affect your scope of study (link to the article on the scope of study). Take note to select topics that are original and specific.

For instance, if your topic is on “The Effect of Coronavirus,” you should make it specific to “The Effect of Coronavirus in Africa’s Economy.” Not the globe at large.

Carry out a prior research

This is usually termed reconnaissance survey in most research work. You should conduct preliminary research on your topic after selection. This will open you to discussions that are important to the topic, which can form your research focus. Ensure you make use of reliable websites, journals, on-site visit and other sources.

In your prior research, you may formulate some research questions based on anything people overlooked or had heated debates on. This will enable you have a deep insight of the research you are performing.

Write your thesis statement

Before you begin to organize your research, you need to prepare a working thesis. A thesis statement is a statement that reveals your central argument. It makes the purpose and position of your paper, known. Research papers can be categorized into 3;

  • Argumentative or persuasive (you argue the conclusion)
  • Analytical (you present your analysis of specific information)
  • Expository (you explain certain information)

Your thesis should be brief and reflect the type of paper you are writing when preparing your thesis statement. The thesis statement gives your research a clear purpose. Therefore you should allot enough time to writing your thesis statement.

As you do your research, you may revise and refine your thesis statement; nevertheless, it will guide you throughout the writing process.

Design a research paper outline

Your research need to be pointing towards a particular direction. You can’t just bring in the relevance and the irrelevance into your research work. Cut off what is not required while not forgetting to include the major focus points.

A research outline is a list of the key topics you are to cover in your writings. The outlines can be divided into sections or headings to know what your paper will look like before you begin writing. Key points that you will need to develop your writing to support your thesis can be made as subheadings for your paper.

Conventionally, a research paper is structured to include;

❖ Title Page

❖ Abstract

❖ Introduction

❖ Literature Review/Background Information

❖ Methodology

❖ Results

❖ Discussion

❖ Conclusion

❖ Reference/Citation

Different schools and research topics have their outline formats. It is important to follow the specific guidelines assigned to you by your professor or instructor.

Create your first draft

Creating your first draft of your research paper is next in line. When writing your first draft, don’t try to perfect every sentence but make sure the sentences are meaningful and well expressed. This will make it easier to edit when you come back to it. Try to write in your own words or understanding, as this will help you to avoid plagiarism.

You can start your first draft from any section of the outline. Some people prefer to finish the easier sections first, while others choose to start with the difficult section. You can start from any section that feels simple with you.

When writing, ensure you follow the right paragraph structure. Each paragraph should emphasize a single idea or claim. As you write, it is important that you keep track of the citations (sources) to avoid unexpected plagiarism.

How to write the introduction

A research paper introduction should answer the “what, why, and how” questions. The introduction gives the reader an insight into what your paper is about, why it is important, and how you will structure your argument.

You should finish your introduction section with your thesis statement or research question. The introduction section of a research paper is not too long, so you can be certain you can finish it quickly.

How to write the body of your paper

The body of your paper should contain background information, your methodology, results, and discussion. The outline is a guideline, and you can be flexible when creating this section. Use your thesis statement as well as your topic sentences to stay on track.

Ensure that your topic sentences are not against your thesis statement. Check your topic sentences for similarities and logical ordering. Finally, check to ensure each sentence is not against the topic sentences of the paragraph they form.

How to write the conclusion

The conclusion section of your paper is to give the reader an insight into finality. You should take note and not

❖ Offer a new argument or information

❖ Begin with phrases that depict you are ending the paper (e.g, in conclusion, finally).

In this section, you might outline the benefits of the paper to future students of the topic, suggest arguments the paper raises but do not try to answer them. Also, show the solutions your study will provide towards the listed problems analyzed.

Revise, edit and proofread your work

After you might have written your research project, it is essential to revise, edit and proofread your work. You can do it yourself; a colleague can help or employ the service of an expert. When revising and editing your paper, check to ensure that your paper answers the thesis statement and the assignment questions.

You should also check for assumptions or theories that need more justification while keeping your reader’s perspectives in mind. Check for the need to rearrange your ideas or delete old ideas that do not fit well.

Also, check out for logical flows, idea transitions, and paragraph structure. Look out to correct incomplete sentences, punctuations, and grammatical mistakes.

Finally, you need to ensure your paper conforms to the given guideline, has a consistent heading format, correctly written according to the rules of the citation styles.