Steps for Writing a Research Paper

A research paper involves much more than a simply essay contains. As the name implies, it requires research. A research paper is basically a summation of what other people have already observed in addition to your own ideas and interpretations of primary sources on a subject. In a research paper, you must present your idea on a topic then support that idea with evidence. There are many steps in the process of writing this type of paper.


Choosing a Subject

If you have been assigned a research paper, you have probably also been instructed on the length of the affordable paper, number of sources, and format of the paper. You may also have been assigned a subject. In most cases, however, you will need to choose your own subject for the paper. To choose, begin by thinking of things you are interested in or have experience in.

If you are still at a loss for a subject, browse the table of contents or index of a text for the subject you are writing for. Whether the subject is assigned or chosen, it should be further narrowed. The more focused your subject, the better the final result will be. For example, if your subject is on alcoholism, you will want to focus on only one aspect of alcoholism, the method used by Alcoholics Anonymous is one idea. As you begin your research, you may find the subject needs to be narrowed further.

Collect Information

With a subject in mind, you can begin to collect information for your research paper. There are many different types of information that can be collected. Any sources found will need to be evaluated carefully to ensure they are credible and appropriate for your needs. You will need to make careful notes of the research of your sources, carefully documenting where the information was found and how it will be used. Some examples of sources used for information are unpublished sources, primary sources, secondary sources, general reference, and the Internet.

Unpublished sources include interviews, information collected from experts, class notes, and unpublished public documents. Primary sources are original, first hand information. Secondary sources report on primary sources. General reference includes encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, and biographies. The Internet can provide a wealth of information. You must be careful, however, of the credibility of Internet sources. To be safe, stick primarily to sources which can be found in print as well.


After you have collected a good amount of information, you can begin to organize those ideas. Keep in mind the research process most likely will continue throughout the entire process of writing your research paper. Begin writing by developing a thesis statement. Your thesis should state what the paper is about. Next, you will need to prepare a tentative outline. The outline will provide the structure for your paper. Both the thesis and the outline can be altered as needed to suit your research paper.

Once you have a well developed outline that lists the main topics and sub-points, you will need to organize any notes taken during the research process. Put the notes in order based on the outline. Remember, this order may change as suits the flow of the paper. But this outline will give you a good starting point. Now, you are ready to begin the first draft of your research paper. Follow the outline and notes adding your own input or explanation of sources. It is very important that you carefully cite any source information used. If not, you face the risk of plagiarism.


After you have finished the first draft of your research paper, you will need to revise. Check for any errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Be sure you have cited sources every time you used other people’s information. Read the entire paper making sure every idea presented supports your thesis statement. If it doesn’t, you will need to rewrite your thesis. Finally, see how your paper flows. Does it draw the reader through from beginning to end? Do you have a strong introduction and conclusion?

Final Draft

Once all the revision work is finished, prepare your final draft. Be sure to follow any format style that has been instructed for the paper and sources, for example MLA or APA style. You can have someone else read the paper to check for any errors you may have missed. Finally, you need to prepare a list of references used in the paper. Be sure to include every source used and format the list according to the desired style, APA, MLA, etc.