research paper methodology

How to Start and Complete Your Research Paper Effectively

Have you ever thought about why so many students dread research paper writing and regard it as the most mind-numbing and dreary of the academic papers?

It’s hard to say for sure. Some students don’t like spending tons of time researching topics, while others experience difficulty verbalizing their thoughts and arguments. But there is also a category of learners who merely don’t know how to write research papers properly and thus find themselves following the vicious circle of making the same mistakes over and over again. If you also perceive writing as a type of mental torture or it’s been ages since you’ve written your last paper and now you’re eager to resume our research writing quest, follow some simple steps outlined below. Hopefully, they will help you create a strong, well-structured, and coherently presented research paper.

1. Choose a Focus

The primary goal of any academic paper is to help you develop important learning skills, acquire new knowledge, find and critically evaluate the information relevant to your research. Writing for the sake of writing is the way to nowhere. Therefore, you should never strive to hand in your research paper and forget about it as soon as possible. (Unfortunately, it’s something that most students do.)

To get the most out of your writing process and make it more pleasant, pick the topic you’re passionate about or the one that holds your interest. If you’re assigned a topic that’s too broad or generic, hone in on some specific aspect you find interesting. In other words, narrow your focus. Once you do so, conduct preliminary research to make sure there is enough adequate information available on your topic. Should you have a hard time finding adequate sources, don’t waste your time and continue looking for another topic.

2. Research, Take Notes, Plan

Once you decide on your topic, you may proceed to thoroughly researching it. Your textbook is a great place to start, but you should not limit your research to it. Study the guideline provided by your instructor carefully to know what kind of sources you need to rely on to create a strong paper. But no matter the type of assignment and the subject, you should always use only credible sources, e.g. peer-reviewed articles, scholarly journals, scientific publications, official websites, etc. Steer clear of using various wikis, popular magazines, blogs, forums, and other non-scholarly sources.

That being said, just because the article was published in a scholarly article doesn’t mean that you should not critically evaluate and analyze it. Check it for possible biases and erroneous judgments prior to using its findings in your paper.

While perusing various readings, take down the ideas, arguments, and evidence you think can be used in your writing. At this point, you should come up with a succinct, clear, and arguable thesis statement which communicates your stance on a certain issue.

If creating an outline is not mandatory, you can do without it. But if you’re not expert at writing research papers and have issues with presenting your arguments or structuring your thoughts in a logical manner, we highly recommend that you make an outline. Listing each paragraph’s topic sentence and adding in several examples or evidence wherewith you can support the main argument will suffice.

3.  Get Down to Writing

Start with a strong introductory paragraph. Your research paper shouldn’t be boring and insipid. To that end, you should incorporate an effective hook into your writing. Thus, you’ll encourage the audience to join your discussion. Also, provide context and background to the topic you’re going to investigate further in your paper. As usual, make the thesis the final sentence of your intro.

When working on body paragraphs, include a transition, topic sentence, supporting evidence and your interpretation, and a wrap-up sentence that briefly summarizes everything discussed in the paragraph and thus helps defend your main argument. Make sure to move from general to more specific information as your paper progresses.

Close your research paper with a conclusion that wraps your discussion nice and tight and lead your reader to explore the topic further.

 4. Revise

So, you have finished the draft. You can congratulate yourself on accomplishing this mentally and intellectually demanding, yet exceptionally rewarding task. But you should in no way stop here. Put your work aside for a while and get back to it after a while.

Check for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other types of errors. Also, ensure your ideas are presented in a logical and coherent way, and arguments are backed up with sufficient evidence and examples. If need be, rewrite those sentences that don’t run smoothly and delete those parts that don’t pertain to your discussion or distract from the main point. And remember – practice makes perfection!

About the Author

Isabelle Foster, MSS, MAT, is a senior writer at the PapersOwl online educational portal. She has extensive experience in teaching, custom writing, and journalism. Isabelle is keen on arts, philanthropy, and traveling.  She cannot imagine her life without her job, books, and coffee, which keeps her productive.