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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.
Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.
This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.
Table of contents
Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.
Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:
- Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
- Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
- Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.
Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.
There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.
You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.
You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.
Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:
- A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
- A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.
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Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.
Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.
- Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
- Are there any heated debates you can address?
- Do you have a unique take on your topic?
- Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?
In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”
A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.
The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.
You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.
A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.
A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.
Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:
- Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
- Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
- Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.
You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.
Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.
Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.
George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.
It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.
You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.
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The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.
What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.
Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?
How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.
The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.
One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:
- topic sentences against the thesis statement;
- topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
- and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.
Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.
The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.
Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.
You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.
You should not :
- Offer new arguments or essential information
- Take up any more space than necessary
- Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)
There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.
- Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
- Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
- Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
- If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.
The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible.
- Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
- Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
- Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.
Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:
- each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
- no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
- all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.
Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .
Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading or create an APA title page .
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Checklist: Research paper
I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.
My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.
My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .
My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .
Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .
Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.
I have used appropriate transitions to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.
My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.
My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.
My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.
I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.
I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .
I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.
I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).
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How to Cite YouTube Videos in Your Paper
Citing a YouTube video in your research paper and other assignments can be a good source of information for your readers. Though there are thousands of videos available on any subject on YouTube these days, their authenticity can be a subject to doubt. However, there are really useful and trusted channels and YouTubers whose videos you can cite in your articles, research reports or any other assignment.
There are several styles to cite a YouTube video, and you can use any of them. For this, you have to consider several pieces of information. Each style requires a specific way of citing a YouTube video which you will learn next in this article. You will also learn about what to include in a citation while using a particular style.
Information to be considered while citing a YouTube video
You should consider the information listed below to be included for citing a video from YouTube.
- The name of the person or company who have complied or created and posted the video. It can be the full name or the username.
- Name or the title of the video
- Website title, i.e. YouTube
- The date when the video was posted
- The date when the video was retrieved
- Video length or duration in hours, minutes and seconds
- Video URL (specific URL of the video)
The use of the above-mentioned information and its style or format depends on which citation style you are going to use. Some of the information may not be used in one style but may be required in the other style.
For example, the Date when the video was retrieved is used in MLA citation style, but not used in other citation styles. Same way the video URL is used in APA and Chicago citation style, but not used in the MLA citation style.
Main citation styles
There are three main citation styles, i.e. APA, MLA, and Chicago citation style. The use of citation style depends on what kind of academic assignment or the research paper you are writing. Before you decide to use a style and know about how to use it, it will be helpful to know more about different styles and which style is used for which academic discipline in general. The main citation styles are;
- APAcitation style – Popularly used in educational, psychological and scientific papers
- MLAcitation style – Used by humanities like literature, art, language, history etc.
- Chicagoor Turabian citation style – Mainly used by the business, fine arts and history
APA stands for American Psychological Association and was used first by a group of business managers, psychologists, and anthropologists in 1929. This style is generally used by the educational, psychological, and scientific assignments, research papers and articles. They established a simple set of rules and styles that will help codify various scientific components in writing. Its purpose is to make the reading comprehension easy.
MLA stands for Modern Language Association and its current version is MLA 8. This style is generally used for citing the sources in the documents, research papers, articles and other academic assignments in subjects like language and literature. This style is easier compared to the other citation styles and uses a parenthetical style. They are keyed to a list of works cited alphabetically that is placed at the end of the work.
Chicago citation style, also called Turabian citation style, was started by the Chicago University Press in 1906.
It is having basically two documentation systems, i.e.
1. Notes and Bibliography and 2. Author-date.
The use of these systems depends on the subject of research and the source that is being cited. This citation style is written in American English style that uses some common grammar and punctuation rules.
The notes and bibliography style is popular among those working in the humanities including literature, art, and the history categories. On the other hand, the author-date style is being used for a long time in the field of natural, physical research and social sciences.
How to use a citation style to cite a YouTube video
You know what are the main citation styles and which information you have to consider in order to cite a YouTube video in your paper now. So you are now ready to go deep and learn how to do it.
APA citation style
The format of APA citation style is as below:
[last-name], [first-name initial]. [Screen name]. (year, month day). Title of video
[Video file]. Retrieved from http://xx x xx
Video compiler or creator name, username or screen name
The first thing to be written while writing a citation in this style is the name of the creator or the compiler of the video. If the name is available, you should write it in a last-name, first-name-initial format. If the actual name is not available, you can also use the username or the screen name. If the video you are citing is pulled from the official channel of YouTube, you should mention YouTube as an author name followed by a period.
For example, if the video is from Google, it means the username used to post the video is Google. So it will be written as: Google.
Date when the video was posted
After the name, you have to mention the date. Mention it in year-month-date format and enclose in parenthesis followed by a period. So for example, if the date when the video was posted on YouTube is 4 th March 2010, it should be written in the APA style citation as below.
Example: Google. (2010, March 04).
Title of the video
Next comes the title of the video. Write the title in the first letter of the first word capitalized style and do the same if there is any subtitle is available and place it after the colon. For example, if the title of the video is “How Search Works”, you should write it as shown in the example below.
Example: Google. (2010, March 04). How search works
The source type
Next, you have to mention that the source is a video file by placing the word “Video file” in the square brackets and followed by a period. See how it is written in a citation in the example below.
Example: Google. (2010, March 04). How search works [Video file].
In the last, you have to mention the URL of the video following the words “Retrieved by” or “Retrieved from”. Make sure to use the specific URL of the video and not the general YouTube URL and don’t add the period in the end.
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNHR6IQJGZs
MLA citation style
The format of this style is as below.
[last-name], [first-name] or [Screen name]. “[Title of Video]. ” Online video clip. [ website name], [post-date in Day Month Year format] . Web. [Retrieved date in Day Month Year format].
Name or username or the screen name
Like in the APA format, the name will come first in this style also. But it will be written in Last name, First name style. If the name is not available, you can use the screen name. In case the video is posted by a YouTube official channel, use YouTube. Don’t forget to add a period after the name. For example, if the video is created by Google, the username or the screen name is Google and it will be written as below.
Title or the name of the video
Then will come the title or the name of the video. But the title should be written in quotation marks. Also, it should be in title case, i.e. the first letter of all major words of the title should be in capital except “to”, an article, preposition, and conjunction. It should be followed by a period. See in the example and not how the title is capitalized, enclosed in the quotation marks and followed by a period within the second quotation mark.
Example: Google. “How Search Works.”
Source type and website name
After the title, you have to specify the format of the source of information by adding words like “Online video clip” followed by a period.
As the next part, you have to mention the website name, i.e. YouTube. Even if the video is from the official YouTube Channel, you have to mention the YouTube name. It should be italicized and followed by a coma.
See in the example below. The Online video clip is the source type and the YouTube is the website. Also, note that the website name is in italic.
Example: Google. “How Search Works.” Online video clip. YouTube ,
Video posting date and source format
After that, mention the video posting date. Write it in the day-month-year format and end with a period. Also, mention the word Web after the date. This would seem an extra text but it is important to mention that the source being cited is in an electronic or print form. So write web while citing a YouTube video, and follow with a period.
See how the video posting date is written in the example given below. Also, note that the word Web is followed by a period.
Example: Google. “How Search Works.” Online video clip. YouTube , 04 March 2010. Web.
Date when the video was retrieved
As the last part, you have to mention the date on which you retrieved the video. Mention this date in day-month-year format and it should be followed by a period.
Example: Google. “How Search Works.” Online video clip. YouTube , 04 March 2010. Web. 10 April 2010 .
Chicago citation style
The template for the Chicago citation style is as below.
“[Title of the Video],” YouTube video, [duration in hh:mm:ss], Posted by “[Author / User / screen name],” [Post date in Month Day, Year format], http://xxxxx.
Name of the YouTube video
In this style of citation, as a first thing, you have to mention the name of the video instead of the name of the person or company who have posted it. All the words should have the first letter capitalized and entire title should be enclosed in quotation marks followed by a comma.
See in the example below that the citation starts with the title of the YouTube video, followed by a comma and enclosed in quotation marks.
Example: “How Search Works,”
YouTube video as a source
As the video is from YouTube, you have to mention it with phrase “YouTube video” after the title of the video, and it should be followed by a comma.
Example: “How Search Works,” YouTube video,
Video duration or length
Mention the video duration by minutes and seconds. Separate them with a colon, i.e. if the duration is 3 minutes and 15 seconds, mention it as 3:15. Add a comma after the seconds.
Example: “How Search Works,” YouTube video, 3:15,
Mention the name of the person who has posted the video. You can also mention the username. If the video is from the YouTube official account, mention YouTube. Make sure to include it in the quotation marks and keep the capitalization same as shown on the channel. Then follow with a comma. See the example below and note how the name and phrase Posted by are written.
Example: “How Search Works,” YouTube video, 3:15, Posted by “Google,”
Write the date when it was posted. It should be in the month-day-year format and add a comma after the year. For the better understanding, see the date in below example.
Example: “How Search Works,” YouTube video, 3:15, Posted by “Google,” March 12, 2017,
Mention the URL of the video without the use of phrase URL and add a period at the end of it.
Example: “How Search Works,” YouTube video, 3:15, Posted by “Google,” March 04, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNHR6IQJGZs .
Note that this citation style generally applies to footnotes and endnotes. If you are citing a YouTube video in this style for a bibliography, there is a change in the formatting. For bibliography, you should follow the same format mentioned above, but instead of the commas after the title, duration and post date, you should use period. For example,
Example: “How Search Works.” YouTube video, 3:15. Posted by “Google,” March 04, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNHR6IQJGZs .
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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper
Few things strike more fear in academics than the accursed research paper , a term synonymous with long hours and hard work. Luckily there’s a secret to help you get through them. As long as you know how to write a research paper properly, you’ll find they’re not so bad . . . or at least less painful.
In this guide we concisely explain how to write an academic research paper step by step. We’ll cover areas like how to start a research paper, how to write a research paper outline, how to use citations and evidence, and how to write a conclusion for a research paper.
But before we get into the details, let’s take a look at what a research paper is and how it’s different from other writing .
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What is a research paper?
A research paper is a type of academic writing that provides an in-depth analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a single topic, based on empirical evidence. Research papers are similar to analytical essays, except that research papers emphasize the use of statistical data and preexisting research, along with a strict code for citations.
Research papers are a bedrock of modern science and the most effective way to share information across a wide network. However, most people are familiar with research papers from school; college courses often use them to test a student’s knowledge of a particular area or their research skills in general.
Considering their gravity, research papers favor formal, even bland language that strips the writing of any bias. Researchers state their findings plainly and with corresponding evidence so that other researchers can consequently use the paper in their own research.
Keep in mind that writing a research paper is different from writing a research proposal . Essentially, research proposals are to acquire the funding needed to get the data to write a research paper.
How long should a research paper be?
The length of a research paper depends on the topic or assignment. Typically, research papers run around 4,000–6,000 words, but it’s common to see short papers around 2,000 words or long papers over 10,000 words.
If you’re writing a paper for school, the recommended length should be provided in the assignment. Otherwise, let your topic dictate the length: Complicated topics or extensive research will require more explanation.
How to write a research paper in 9 steps
Below is a step-by-step guide to writing a research paper, catered specifically for students rather than professional researchers. While some steps may not apply to your particular assignment, think of this as more of a general guideline to keep you on track.
1 Understand the assignment
For some of you this goes without saying, but you might be surprised at how many students start a research paper without even reading the assignment guidelines.
So your first step should be to review the assignment and carefully read the writing prompt. Specifically, look for technical requirements such as length , formatting requirements (single- vs. double-spacing, indentations, etc.) and citation style . Also pay attention to the particulars, such as whether or not you need to write an abstract or include a cover page.
Once you understand the assignment, the next steps in how to write a research paper follow the usual writing process , more or less. There are some extra steps involved because research papers have extra rules, but the gist of the writing process is the same.
2 Choose your topic
In open-ended assignments, the student must choose their own topic. While it may seem simple enough, choosing a topic is actually the most important decision you’ll make in writing a research paper, since it determines everything that follows.
Your top priority in how to choose a research paper topic is whether it will provide enough content and substance for an entire research paper. You’ll want to choose a topic with enough data and complexity to enable a rich discussion. However, you also want to avoid general topics and instead stick with topics specific enough that you can cover all the relevant information without cutting too much.
Try not to be robotic about choosing your topic, though; it’s still best to pick something that you’re personally interested in. Ideally, you’ll find a topic that satisfies both requirements, something that provides a suitable amount of content and also keeps you engaged.
3 Gather preliminary research
The sooner you start researching, the better—after all, it’s called a research paper for a reason.
To refine your topic and prepare your thesis statement, find out what research is available for your topic as soon as possible. Early research can help dispel any misconceptions you have about the topic and reveal the best paths and approaches to find more material.
Typically, you can find sources either online or in a library. If you’re searching online, make sure you use credible sources like science journals or academic papers. Some search engines—mentioned below in the Tools and resources section—allow you to browse only accredited sources and academic databases.
Keep in mind the difference between primary and secondary sources as you search. Primary sources are firsthand accounts, like published articles or autobiographies; secondary sources are more removed, like critical reviews or secondhand biographies.
When gathering your research, it’s better to skim sources instead of reading each potential source fully. If a source seems useful, set it aside to give it a full read later. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck poring over sources that you ultimately won’t use, and that time could be better spent finding a worthwhile source.
Sometimes you’re required to submit a literature review , which explains your sources and presents them to an authority for confirmation. Even if no literature review is required, it’s still helpful to compile an early list of potential sources—you’ll be glad you did later.
4 Write a thesis statement
Using what you found in your preliminary research, write a thesis statement that succinctly summarizes what your research paper will be about. This is usually the first sentence in your paper, making it your reader’s introduction to the topic.
A thesis statement is the best answer for how to start a research paper. Aside from preparing your reader, the thesis statement also makes it easier for other researchers to assess whether or not your paper is useful to them for their own research. Likewise, you should read the thesis statements of other research papers to decide how useful they are to you.
A good thesis statement mentions all the important parts of the discussion without disclosing too many of the details. If you’re having trouble putting it into words, try to phrase your topic as a question and then answer it .
For example, if your research paper topic is about separating students with ADHD from other students, you’d first ask yourself, “Does separating students with ADHD improve their learning?” The answer—based on your preliminary research—is a good basis for your thesis statement.
5 Determine supporting evidence
At this stage of how to write an academic research paper, it’s time to knuckle down and do the actual research. Here’s when you go through all the sources you collected earlier and find the specific information you’d like to use in your paper.
Normally, you find your supporting evidence by reading each source and taking notes. Isolate only the information that’s directly relevant to your topic; don’t bog down your paper with tangents or unnecessary context, however interesting they may be. And always write down page numbers , not only for you to find the information later, but also because you’ll need them for your citations.
Aside from highlighting text and writing notes, another common tactic is to use bibliography cards . These are simple index cards with a fact or direct quotation on one side and the bibliographical information (source citation, page numbers, subtopic category) on the other. While bibliography cards are not necessary, some students find them useful for staying organized, especially when it’s time to write an outline.
6 Write a research paper outline
A lot of students want to know how to write a research paper outline. More than informal essays, research papers require a methodical and systematic structure to make sure all issues are addressed, and that makes outlines especially important.
First make a list of all the important categories and subtopics you need to cover—an outline for your outline! Consider all the information you gathered when compiling your supporting evidence and ask yourself what the best way to separate and categorize everything is.
Once you have a list of what you want to talk about, consider the best order to present the information. Which subtopics are related and should go next to each other? Are there any subtopics that don’t make sense if they’re presented out of sequence? If your information is fairly straightforward, feel free to take a chronological approach and present the information in the order it happened.
Because research papers can get complicated, consider breaking your outline into paragraphs. For starters, this helps you stay organized if you have a lot of information to cover. Moreover, it gives you greater control over the flow and direction of the research paper. It’s always better to fix structural problems in the outline phase than later after everything’s already been written.
Don’t forget to include your supporting evidence in the outline as well. Chances are you’ll have a lot you want to include, so putting it in your outline helps prevent some things from falling through the cracks.
7 Write the first draft
Once your outline is finished, it’s time to start actually writing your research paper. This is by far the longest and most involved step, but if you’ve properly prepared your sources and written a thorough outline, everything should run smoothly.
If you don’t know how to write an introduction for a research paper, the beginning can be difficult. That’s why writing your thesis statement beforehand is crucial. Open with your thesis statement and then fill out the rest of your introduction with the secondary information—save the details for the body of your research paper, which comes next.
The body contains the bulk of your research paper. Unlike essays , research papers usually divide the body into sections with separate headers to facilitate browsing and scanning. Use the divisions in your outline as a guide.
Follow along your outline and go paragraph by paragraph. Because this is just the first draft, don’t worry about getting each word perfect . Later you’ll be able to revise and fine-tune your writing, but for now focus simply on saying everything that needs to be said. In other words, it’s OK to make mistakes since you’ll go back later to correct them.
One of the most common problems with writing long works like research papers is connecting paragraphs to each other. The longer your writing is, the harder it is to tie everything together smoothly. Use transition sentences to improve the flow of your paper, especially for the first and last sentences in a paragraph.
Even after the body is written, you still need to know how to write a conclusion for a research paper. Just like an essay conclusion , your research paper conclusion should restate your thesis , reiterate your main evidence , and summarize your findings in a way that’s easy to understand.
Don’t add any new information in your conclusion, but feel free to say your own personal perspective or interpretation if it helps the reader understand the big picture.
8 Cite your sources correctly
Citations are part of what sets research papers apart from more casual nonfiction like personal essays . Citing your sources both validates your data and also links your research paper to the greater scientific community. Because of their importance, citations must follow precise formatting rules . . . problem is, there’s more than one set of rules!
You need to check with the assignment to see which formatting style is required. Typically, academic research papers follow one of two formatting styles for citing sources:
- MLA (Modern Language Association)
- APA (American Psychological Association)
The links above explain the specific formatting guidelines for each style, along with an automatic citation generator to help you get started.
In addition to MLA and APA styles, you occasionally see requirements for CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style), AMA (American Medical Association) and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).
Citations may seem confusing at first with all their rules and specific information. However, once you get the hang of them, you’ll be able to properly cite your sources without even thinking about it. Keep in mind that each formatting style has specific guidelines for citing just about any kind of source, including photos , websites , speeches , and YouTube videos .
9 Edit and proofread
Last but not least, you want to go through your research paper to correct all the mistakes by proofreading . We recommend going over it twice: once for structural issues such as adding/deleting parts or rearranging paragraphs and once for word choice, grammatical, and spelling mistakes. Doing two different editing sessions helps you focus on one area at a time instead of doing them both at once.
To help you catch everything, here’s a quick checklist to keep in mind while you edit:
- Is your thesis statement clear and concise?
- Is your paper well-organized, and does it flow from beginning to end with logical transitions?
- Do your ideas follow a logical sequence in each paragraph?
- Have you used concrete details and facts and avoided generalizations?
- Do your arguments support and prove your thesis?
- Have you avoided repetition?
- Are your sources properly cited?
- Have you checked for accidental plagiarism?
Word choice, grammar, and spelling edit:
- Is your language clear and specific?
- Do your sentences flow smoothly and clearly?
- Have you avoided filler words and phrases ?
- Have you checked for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
Some people find it useful to read their paper out loud to catch problems they might miss when reading in their head. Another solution is to have someone else read your paper and point out areas for improvement and/or technical mistakes.
Revising is a separate skill from writing, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily make you good at the other. If you want to improve your revision skills, read our guide on self-editing , which includes a more complete checklist and advanced tips on improving your revisions.
Technical issues like grammatical mistakes and misspelled words can be handled effortlessly if you use a spellchecker with your word processor, or even better, a digital writing assistant that also suggests improvements for word choice and tone, like Grammarly (we explain more in the Tools and resources section below).
Tools and resources
If you want to know more about how to write a research paper, or if you want some help with each step, take a look at the tools and resources below.
This is Google’s own search engine, which is dedicated exclusively to academic papers. It’s a great way to find new research and sources. Plus, it’s free to use.
Zotero is a freemium, open-source research manager, a cross between an organizational CMS and a search engine for academic research. With it, you can browse the internet for research sources relevant to your topic and share them easily with colleagues. Also, it automatically generates citations.
Writing long research papers is always a strain on your attention span. If you have trouble avoiding distractions during those long stretches, FocusWriter might be able to help. FocusWriter is a minimalist word processor that removes all the distracting icons and sticks only to what you type. You’re also free to choose your own customized backgrounds, with other special features like timed alarms, daily goals, and optional typewriter sound effects.
This useful and free tool from Google lets you create simple charts and graphs based on whatever data you input. Charts and graphs are excellent visual aids for expressing numeric data, a perfect complement if you need to explain complicated evidential research.
Grammarly goes way beyond grammar, helping you hone word choice, checking your text for plagiarism, detecting your tone, and more. For foreign-language learners, it can make your English sound more fluent, and even those who speak English as their primary language benefit from Grammarly’s suggestions.
Research paper FAQs
A research paper is a piece of academic writing that analyzes, evaluates, or interprets a single topic with empirical evidence and statistical data.
When will I need to write a research paper in college?
Many college courses use research papers to test a student’s knowledge of a particular topic or their research skills in general. While research papers depend on the course or professor, you can expect to write at least a few before graduation.
How do I determine a topic for my research paper?
If the topic is not assigned, try to find a topic that’s general enough to provide ample evidence but specific enough that you’re able to cover all the basics. If possible, choose a topic you’re personally interested in—it makes the work easier.
Where can I conduct research for my paper?
Today most research is conducted either online or in libraries. Some topics might benefit from old periodicals like newspapers or magazines, as well as visual media like documentaries. Museums, parks, and historical monuments can also be useful.
How do I cite sources for a research paper?
The correct formatting for citations depends on which style you’re using, so check the assignment guidelines. Most school research reports use either MLA or APA styles, although there are others.
This article was originally written by Karen Hertzberg in 2017. It’s been updated to include new information.
Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
Writing a Research Paper
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The pages in this section provide detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.
The Research Paper
There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.
Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.
The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:
- Genre - This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
- Choosing a Topic - This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses themselves.
- Identifying an Audience - This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
- Where Do I Begin - This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.
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How to Cite YouTube Videos in APA Format
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.
damircudic / Getty Images
What Is APA Format?
- Citing a YouTube Video
- Choosing a YouTube Video
- Citing a Video Podcast
Frequently Asked Questions
APA format is the official writing style used by the American Psychological Association . Researchers use this style when publishing articles in professional journals. Students also use this style when writing papers for psychology and social science courses, including education and sociology.
One challenge that students may face is figuring out how to cite different types of sources. A citation for a book reference, for example, will look somewhat different than that of an online source. Video content is becoming an increasingly important source of information, so how exactly would you cite something like a YouTube video or other online video in APA format?
APA Format for a YouTube Video
APA format for online videos is similar to that of other types of digital media and online content. The format should be:
- The name of the person and/or the name of the account that uploaded the video
- The specific date the video was uploaded in parentheses
- The title of the video in italics
- The description "[Video]" in brackets after the title
- The site name (YouTube) and the full YouTube URL
Video Citation Example
TED-Ed. (2018, May 21). How to stay calm under pressure. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqgmozFr_GM
Some types of electronic sources need to be surrounded by brackets. According to APA's official style guide, the brackets should surround the necessary content with no spaces between the text and the brackets [like this].
Because many online video creators utilize pseudonyms online, you should also include the author’s screen name in brackets when relevant.
Choosing a Video to Cite in APA Format
It's important that the YouTube videos you cite are both reliable and up to date. According to APA guidelines, you can determine whether a source is reliable by looking at the expertise of the author and the vetting standards of the organization or group that published the video.
For instance, many established organizations such as American Psychological Association (APA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have YouTube channels and publish videos that would be considered reliable sources.
Even individual researchers or scientists may publish their research on YouTube—just be sure to do the research on the individual to be sure that the videos they post are coming directly from them (and not from someone else), and that this person is accredited or credentialed in the area of study they're presenting.
Try to use up-to-date videos as often as possible to be sure you're including the most recent research in your paper.
Citing a Video Podcast in APA Format
Video podcasts are another type of video format that you may want to cite. Such podcasts often feature interviews with experts, which can be a great source of unique information for your paper.
If you are citing a video podcast, whether it is hosted on YouTube or published on the author’s own website, use the following format:
Video Podcast Example
James, S. (Host). (2019, March 1). Examining the bystander effect (No. 2) [Video podcast]. In This Week in Psychology. Website. http://www.psyyweekly.com/fakepodcasturl
As you can see in the example above, you should begin by listing the author, then identifying them as the host of the program in parentheses. Next, include the date. After that, list the title of the episode, the episode number in parentheses, and the media type in brackets. This should then be followed by the name of the video podcast, the name of the website it was retrieved from, and the URL.
Also note in the above example that the title of the video podcast is in italics. The official APA publication manual states that when written, video, or audio posts are part of an overarching work (such as a blog or podcast series), the title of the total work should be included in italics. This follows the same format that you would use if you were citing an individual chapter that was part of a book.
Always type the creator’s username or screen name exactly as it appears, including both spelling and capitalization.
Include the name of the page or account that uploaded the video. Put this information at the beginning of the citation (where the author's name would go).
On YouTube and many other video platforms, people must publish their content under a username or screen name. While you can sometimes find a person's YouTube page by searching their real name online, you want to be sure to cite their exact username so that someone can find the video you cited.
That depends on the guidelines your instructor gives you. If you are unsure, ask them. But there are reasons why you might want to cite a YouTube video in your academic writing. The video may contain information not available elsewhere, it may feature an interview with an expert on a topic, or it may present unique examples that you want to reference in your paper.
If the name of the person who is interviewed is not mentioned in the title of the video, do not include it in the reference. One way to refer to the interview subject, however, is to refer to them in the text of your paper, where you cite the reference. "For example, Philip Zimbardo noted that... (Psych Interview, 2013)."
A Word From Verywell
APA format has many different rules and guidelines for citing various types of sources, so you should always check the official guidebook to make sure that your citations and references are correct. Whenever you cite an online source—whether it's a webpage or a video—you should follow the basic rules for citing electronic sources. This includes listing the author of the video, the date, the title, and the online location of the video.
American Psychological Association. YouTube Video References .
APA Style Blog, 6th Edition Archive. How to create a reference for a Youtube video .
American Psychological Association. APA style blog .
Cho D, Cosimini M, Espinoza J. Podcasting in medical education: A review of the literature . Korean J Med Educ . 2017;(29)4:229-239. doi:10.3946/kjme.2017.69
American Psychological Association. Transcript of an audiovisual work references .
American Psychological Association. YouTube video references .
American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2019.
By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
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How to Cite YouTube Videos in Your Academic Research
May 28, 2019
YouTube videos can be an important source of information for your research work. However, it is challenging. The following steps take you through the process using the citation styles.
There are millions of videos available on YouTube. However, their authenticity can be questionable and doubtful. However, many channels and dedicated YouTubers exist, whose content may be a source of academic information, articles and research reports. Citing YouTube videos have been quite a challenge due to the issue of authenticity. There are various ways of citing YouTube videos available for use. You should consider several factors and information in the citation process. Each of the styles presents a unique way of citing these Videos. This article will teach you how to cite and what to include in your citation according to each method.
Information to Consider before a Citation
- The full name or username of the YouTube channel or the YouTuber who’s Video you intend to Cite
- The title of the Video
- Title of the Website
- The date of the Video post
- The day of retrieval
- The length of the Video
- The Video URL
How you use the information listed above depends on the citation style that you have selected for your paper. Not all the information recorded will be applicable in all the methods. Some of them may be necessary for one style and not applicable in the other. For example, the date when a video was posted is appropriate for MLA citation style but not useful in the others. Just like Video URL is useful in APA and the Chicago citation styles but not applicable in the MLA style.
Main Styles of Citation
The main Citation style includes APA, Chicago, and MLA. The application of any of these citation styles depends on the type of academic assignments, articles or research paper that you want to write. Before selecting any of the methods, make sure you know the rules of each. It is essential to have knowledge of all the different citation styles and which one is suitable for which academic discipline. The primary forms of Citation include;
- APA style (used commonly in educational, scientific publications/papers and psychological works).
- MLA style (used mainly in humanities such as literature and history)
- Chicago or Turabian style (applied primarily on fine arts, business and history papers)
The APA style is an abbreviation for the American Psychological Association. It was first used by a group of psychologists, anthropologies and business managers back in the year 1929. This style is mostly used for educational or scientific research assignments and articles. They developed rules and methods to help codify scientific writings. It serves to make reading easy to comprehend.
MLA is an abbreviation for Modern Language Association. Currently, MLA version 8 is in use. This style is majorly used in citing language and literature assignments such as research papers, academic articles, and scholarly articles. It is one of the most natural methods to use and employs the use of parenthetical style. The list of works cited is arranged alphabetically on the last page of the assignment.
Chicago style, also called the Turabian style was developed by The Chicago University Press in the year 1906. It generally has two documentation systems.
- Notes and bibliography
These systems are applied depending on the subject being researched and the source to be cited in work. American English is used in this citation as it uses the common punctuation and grammatical rules. The bibliography style is most common in the humanities such as art and history subjects. The author-date system is applicable in social sciences, physical and natural research subjects.
So far, you have learned about the main citation styles and the information that you must put into consideration when citing a YouTube video. In the section below, you will learn how to do these citations.
APA Citation of YouTube Videos
The following is the format of YouTube citation using the APA style.
- [last name], [first-name, initial]. [Screen name]. (year, month day). Title of video
- [Video file]. Retrieved from http://xxxxx
- Citing the name of the video creator
The video creator name is the first thing to be written in the APA citation style. If available, the name should be listed in the last name, first name, initials format indicated above. If the name of the creator or author is not there, use the screen name or the username. If the video you intend to use is from an official YouTube channel, state YouTube as the author and place a period. That is to say, if Google posts the video, the username for the video shall be Google; thus, your citation will be: Google.
Date of posting
The date is mentioned after the names have been written. You should mention it using the format of year-month-date and enclose it in a parenthesis followed by a full stop. For example, if the YouTube video were posted on 6th March 2017, the APA citation format would be:
- Google. (2017, March 06).
- Video title
After the date mentioned, you have to specify the title of the video that you want to cite. Start the title and all the main words with capital letters. If the Video has subtitles, consider doing the same after a full colon. For example, consider the title, “Life and books” to be formatted as follows:
- Google. (2017, March 06). Life and books
The next thing to mention is the source of the video, which you can do by placing the words “Video file” in a square bracket ‘’ followed by a full stop as shown in the example below.
- Google. (2017, March 06). Life and books [Video file].
The Video URL is the last thing that you must mention in this style. After the title and the source type, you can place the video URL after the words “Retrieved from.” Ensure you use the correct video URL. Do not use the YouTube website URL. DO NOT place a period after writing your selected URL. For example:
- Google. (2017, March 06). Life and books. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/
The MLA style
This style has the following format.
[last-name], [first-name] or [Screen name]. “[Title of Video]. ” Online video clip. [ website name], [post-date using the Day-Month-Year format] . Web. [Retrieved using the Day-Month-Year format].
Just like in the APA formatting style, the name of the author comes first. However, it is written in the last name, first name format. If there is no name, you can indicate the screen name. If an official YouTube channel publishes the video, you can use “YouTube” and place a period after the screen name. For instance, if the official Google channel has posted the clip, the username shall be Google.
The Video name follows the screen name. This title is however written in quotations and must be in the title case; each of the words in the title must be in uppercase except conjunctions, propositions, articles and the word “to,” and must be followed by a full stop, placed within the last quotation marks. Observe the example below.
- Google. “Books and Life.”Name of the website and the information source type
After indicating the title of the Video, state the format of the information source by including information such as “Online video,” then place a full stop. The name of the website then follows it. That is YouTube and then followed by a comma. Italicize the name and put a comma. The name should be mentioned even if the source of the Video is the official YouTube channel. As indicated in the example below, YouTube, being the website name, is written in italics.
After the website name, indicate the date of posting. It should be indicated in the day-month-year format, followed by a full stop. The word Web should also be mentioned at the end. It is imperative to indicate the source being cited. Write the word web followed by a full stop, as shown below.
- Google. “Books and Life.” Online Video. YouTube, 06 March 2017. Web.
The date of retrieval
Retrieval day is the final section. You have to indicate the time that the YouTube video was retrieved. For example;
- Google. “Books and Life.” Online Video. YouTube, 06 March 2017. Web. Retrieved on 18 March 2017.
The Chicago Style
The following is the format of the Chicago Citation style.
“[Video title],” YouTube video, [duration in hh:mm:ss], Posted by “[Author / screen name],” [date of posting in Month-Day-Year format], http://xxxxx.
For this method, start with the name or title of the video and not the author’s name. Each of the words in the name must start with capital letters and place within quotation marks, followed by a comma. As shown below, the video name is indicated firstly, comma and then the quotations are put.
Example. “Books and Life,”
Indicate the source of the clip. Being that the video is retrieved from YouTube; indicate the name YouTube as the source of your clip. It is then a comma placed. For example
“Books and Life,” YouTube video.”
Length of the Video
Indicate the duration of the video in minutes or seconds separated by a colon. If the duration is, say 5 minutes 20 seconds, indicate it as 5:20 and then add a comma.
Indicate the name of the video publisher. You may as well mention the username of the YouTube account or channel. For instance, if the official Google account posts the Video, mention Google. It must be enclosed in quotation marks, and all the main words must be capitalized. A comma then follows the name, as indicated in the example below.
- “Books and Life,” YouTube video, 5:20, Posted by “Google,”
Indicate the date when the video was posted in the month-day-year format and then place a comma. See the example below for a better understanding.
- “Books and Life,” YouTube video, 5:20, Posted by “Google,” March 06 2016, Video URL
Indicate the video URL and place a period in the end. Make sure you do not include the word ‘URL.’ For example;
- “Books and Life,” YouTube Video, 5:20, Posted by “Google,” March 06, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch
The style of citation is generally applicable to footnotes or endnotes. When citing a YouTube Video using this style for the bibliography section, there is a slight change in formatting. For the bibliography section, the format discussed above should be used. Instead of using commas after the title and date of posting, use a period.
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30 thoughts on “How to Cite YouTube Videos in Your Academic Research”
What information do I need to provide to make all citations well?
There are many points, like title, source of a video, its length, date of posting, etc. The exact scope of information depends on the concrete style you need to use for this formatting. Contact us for more details about this citation.
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Is it really necessary to cite videos?
If you use those as a source of information while making a paper, citations are required as in the case with any book or any other source.
I need more details. Can you make an extra post with examples?
Examples are already here. You may review those above and use them for making your own citations. In case of limited time or other problems, place your order without hesitation.
It seems to me that citing videos is useless.
Citing videos is a compulsory requirement as for any other source. It is equally important as citing any book or a similar source used.
I don’t understand how to make that right?
It is easy, in fact. You may take a separate paper and shortlist all requirements you have. Follow this basic scheme or assign professionals for help.
If I don’t have all details about a video, can I skip that?
We don’t recommend you doing that. Using videos requires citation as referring to any other source. If you have such problems, contact our agents for solutions.
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We work with all existing common formatting styles. If you have any specific demands, you need only let us know about such. Professionals will follow those.
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Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Paper Types / How to Write a Research Paper
How to Write a Research Paper
Research papers are a requirement for most college courses, so knowing how to write a research paper is important. These in-depth pieces of academic writing can seem pretty daunting, but there’s no need to panic. When broken down into its key components, writing your paper should be a manageable and, dare we say it, enjoyable task.
We’re going to look at the required elements of a paper in detail, and you might also find this webpage to be a useful reference .
- What is a research paper?
- How to start a research paper
- Get clear instructions
- Brainstorm ideas
- Choose a topic
- Outline your outline
- Make friends with your librarian
- Find quality sources
- Understand your topic
- A detailed outline
- Keep it factual
- Finalize your thesis statement
- Think about format
- Cite, cite and cite
- The editing process
- Final checks
What is a Research Paper?
A research paper is more than just an extra long essay or encyclopedic regurgitation of facts and figures. The aim of this task is to combine in-depth study of a particular topic with critical thinking and evaluation by the student—that’s you!
There are two main types of research paper: argumentative and analytical.
Argumentative — takes a stance on a particular topic right from the start, with the aim of persuading the reader of the validity of the argument. These are best suited to topics that are debatable or controversial.
Analytical — takes no firm stance on a topic initially. Instead it asks a question and should come to an answer through the evaluation of source material. As its name suggests, the aim is to analyze the source material and offer a fresh perspective on the results.
If you wish to further your understanding, you can learn more here .
A required word count (think thousands!) can make writing that paper seem like an insurmountable task. Don’t worry! Our step-by-step guide will help you write that killer paper with confidence.
How to Start a Research Paper
Don’t rush ahead. Taking care during the planning and preparation stage will save time and hassle later.
Get Clear Instructions
Your lecturer or professor is your biggest ally—after all, they want you to do well. Make sure you get clear guidance from them on both the required format and preferred topics. In some cases, your tutor will assign a topic, or give you a set list to choose from. Often, however, you’ll be expected to select a suitable topic for yourself.
Having a research paper example to look at can also be useful for first-timers, so ask your tutor to supply you with one.
Brainstorming research paper ideas is the first step to selecting a topic—and there are various methods you can use to brainstorm, including clustering (also known as mind mapping). Think about the research paper topics that interest you, and identify topics you have a strong opinion on.
Choose a Topic
Once you have a list of potential research paper topics, narrow them down by considering your academic strengths and ‘gaps in the market,’ e.g., don’t choose a common topic that’s been written about many times before. While you want your topic to be fresh and interesting, you also need to ensure there’s enough material available for you to work with. Similarly, while you shouldn’t go for easy research paper topics just for the sake of giving yourself less work, you do need to choose a topic that you feel confident you can do justice to.
Outline Your Outline
It might not be possible to form a full research paper outline until you’ve done some information gathering, but you can think about your overall aim; basically what you want to show and how you’re going to show it. Now’s also a good time to consider your thesis statement, although this might change as you delve into your source material deeper.
Researching the Research
Now it’s time to knuckle down and dig out all the information that’s relevant to your topic. Here are some tips.
Make Friends With Your Librarian
While lots of information gathering can be carried out online from anywhere, there’s still a place for old-fashioned study sessions in the library. A good librarian can help you to locate sources quickly and easily, and might even make suggestions that you hadn’t thought of. They’re great at helping you study and research, but probably can’t save you the best desk by the window.
Find Quality Sources
Not all sources are created equal, so make sure that you’re referring to reputable, reliable information. Examples of sources could include books, magazine articles, scholarly articles, reputable websites, databases and journals. Keywords relating to your topic can help you in your search.
As you search, you should begin to compile a list of references. This will make it much easier later when you are ready to build your paper’s bibliography. Keeping clear notes detailing any sources that you use will help you to avoid accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work or ideas.
Understand Your Topic
Simply regurgitating facts and figures won’t make for an interesting paper. It’s essential that you fully understand your topic so you can come across as an authority on the subject and present your own ideas on it. You should read around your topic as widely as you can, before narrowing your area of interest for your paper, and critically analyzing your findings.
A Detailed Outline
Once you’ve got a firm grip on your subject and the source material available to you, formulate a detailed outline, including your thesis statement and how you are going to support it. The structure of your paper will depend on the subject type—ask a tutor for a research paper outline example if you’re unsure.
If you’ve fully understood your topic and gathered quality source materials, bringing it all together should actually be the easy part!
Keep it Factual
There’s no place for sloppy writing in this kind of academic task, so keep your language simple and clear, and your points critical and succinct. The creative part is finding innovative angles and new insights on the topic to make your paper interesting.
Don’t forget about our verb , preposition , and adverb pages. You may find useful information to help with your writing!
Finalize Your Thesis Statement
You should now be in a position to finalize your thesis statement, showing clearly what your paper will show, answer or prove. This should usually be a one or two sentence statement; however, it’s the core idea of your paper, and every insight that you include should be relevant to it. Remember, a thesis statement is not merely a summary of your findings. It should present an argument or perspective that the rest of your paper aims to support.
Think About Format
The required style of your research paper format will usually depend on your subject area. For example, APA format is normally used for social science subjects, while MLA style is most commonly used for liberal arts and humanities. Still, there are thousands of more styles . Your tutor should be able to give you clear guidance on how to format your paper, how to structure it, and what elements it should include. Make sure that you follow their instruction. If possible, ask to see a sample research paper in the required format.
Cite, Cite and Cite
As all research paper topics invariably involve referring to other people’s work, it’s vital that you know how to properly cite your sources to avoid unintentional plagiarism. Whether you’re paraphrasing (putting someone else’s ideas into your own words) or directly quoting, the original source needs to be referenced. What style of citation formatting you use will depend on the requirements of your instructor, with common styles including APA and MLA format , which consist of in-text citations (short citations within the text, enclosed with parentheses) and a reference/works cited list.
The Editing Process
It’s likely that your paper will go through several drafts before you arrive at the very best version. The editing process is your chance to fix any weak points in your paper before submission. You might find that it needs a better balance of both primary and secondary sources (click through to find more info on the difference), that an adjective could use tweaking, or that you’ve included sources that aren’t relevant or credible. You might even feel that you need to be clearer in your argument, more thorough in your critical analysis, or more balanced in your evaluation.
From a stylistic point of view, you want to ensure that your writing is clear, simple and concise, with no long, rambling sentences or paragraphs. Keeping within the required word count parameters is also important, and another thing to keep in mind is the inclusion of gender-neutral language, to avoid the reinforcement of tired stereotypes.
Don’t forget about our other pages! If you are looking for help with other grammar-related topics, check out our noun , pronoun , and conjunction pages.
Once you’re happy with the depth and balance of the arguments and points presented, you can turn your attention to the finer details, such as formatting, spelling, punctuation, grammar and ensuring that your citations are all present and correct. The EasyBib Plus plagiarism checker is a handy tool for making sure that your sources are all cited. An EasyBib Plus subscription also comes with access to citation tools that can help you create citations in your choice of format.
Also, double-check your deadline date and the submissions guidelines to avoid any last-minute issues. Take a peek at our other grammar pages while you’re at it. We’ve included numerous links on this page, but we also have an interjection page and determiner page.
So you’ve done your final checks and handed in your paper according to the submissions guidelines and preferably before deadline day. Congratulations! If your schedule permits, now would be a great time to take a break from your studies. Maybe plan a fun activity with friends or just take the opportunity to rest and relax. A well-earned break from the books will ensure that you return to class refreshed and ready for your next stage of learning—and the next research paper requirement your tutor sets!
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How to Write a Research Paper
Last Updated: January 31, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Chris Hadley, PhD . Chris Hadley, PhD is part of the wikiHow team and works on content strategy and data and analytics. Chris Hadley earned his PhD in Cognitive Psychology from UCLA in 2006. Chris' academic research has been published in numerous scientific journals. There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 45 testimonials and 80% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 4,108,888 times.
Whether you’re in a history, literature, or science class, you’ll probably have to write a research paper at some point. It may seem daunting when you’re just starting out, but staying organized and budgeting your time can make the process a breeze. Research your topic, find reliable sources, and come up with a working thesis. Then create an outline and start drafting your paper. Be sure to leave plenty of time to make revisions, as editing is essential if you want to hand in your best work!
Sample Research Papers and Outlines
Researching Your Topic
- For instance, you might start with a general subject, like British decorative arts. Then, as you read, you home in on transferware and pottery. Ultimately, you focus on 1 potter in the 1780s who invented a way to mass-produce patterned tableware.
Tip: If you need to analyze a piece of literature, your task is to pull the work apart into literary elements and explain how the author uses those parts to make their point.
- Authoritative, credible sources include scholarly articles (especially those other authors reference), government websites, scientific studies, and reputable news bureaus. Additionally, check your sources' dates, and make sure the information you gather is up to date.
- Evaluate how other scholars have approached your topic. Identify authoritative sources or works that are accepted as the most important accounts of the subject matter. Additionally, look for debates among scholars, and ask yourself who presents the strongest evidence for their case.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- You’ll most likely need to include a bibliography or works cited page, so keep your sources organized. List your sources, format them according to your assigned style guide (such as MLA or Chicago ), and write 2 or 3 summary sentences below each one.  X Research source
- Imagine you’re a lawyer in a trial and are presenting a case to a jury. Think of your readers as the jurors; your opening statement is your thesis and you’ll present evidence to the jury to make your case.
- A thesis should be specific rather than vague, such as: “Josiah Spode’s improved formula for bone china enabled the mass production of transfer-printed wares, which expanded the global market for British pottery.”
Drafting Your Essay
- Your outline is your paper’s skeleton. After making the outline, all you’ll need to do is fill in the details.
- For easy reference, include your sources where they fit into your outline, like this: III. Spode vs. Wedgewood on Mass Production A. Spode: Perfected chemical formula with aims for fast production and distribution (Travis, 2002, 43) B. Wedgewood: Courted high-priced luxury market; lower emphasis on mass production (Himmelweit, 2001, 71) C. Therefore: Wedgewood, unlike Spode, delayed the expansion of the pottery market.
- For instance, your opening line could be, “Overlooked in the present, manufacturers of British pottery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries played crucial roles in England’s Industrial Revolution.”
- After presenting your thesis, lay out your evidence, like this: “An examination of Spode’s innovative production and distribution techniques will demonstrate the importance of his contributions to the industry and Industrial Revolution at large.”
Tip: Some people prefer to write the introduction first and use it to structure the rest of the paper. However, others like to write the body, then fill in the introduction. Do whichever seems natural to you. If you write the intro first, keep in mind you can tweak it later to reflect your finished paper’s layout.
- After setting the context, you'd include a section on Josiah Spode’s company and what he did to make pottery easier to manufacture and distribute.
- Next, discuss how targeting middle class consumers increased demand and expanded the pottery industry globally.
- Then, you could explain how Spode differed from competitors like Wedgewood, who continued to court aristocratic consumers instead of expanding the market to the middle class.
- The right number of sections or paragraphs depends on your assignment. In general, shoot for 3 to 5, but check your prompt for your assigned length.
- If you bring up a counterargument, make sure it’s a strong claim that’s worth entertaining instead of ones that's weak and easily dismissed.
- Suppose, for instance, you’re arguing for the benefits of adding fluoride to toothpaste and city water. You could bring up a study that suggested fluoride produced harmful health effects, then explain how its testing methods were flawed.
- Sum up your argument, but don’t simply rewrite your introduction using slightly different wording. To make your conclusion more memorable, you could also connect your thesis to a broader topic or theme to make it more relatable to your reader.
- For example, if you’ve discussed the role of nationalism in World War I, you could conclude by mentioning nationalism’s reemergence in contemporary foreign affairs.
Revising Your Paper
- This is also a great opportunity to make sure your paper fulfills the parameters of the assignment and answers the prompt!
- It’s a good idea to put your essay aside for a few hours (or overnight, if you have time). That way, you can start editing it with fresh eyes.
Tip: Try to give yourself at least 2 or 3 days to revise your paper. It may be tempting to simply give your paper a quick read and use the spell-checker to make edits. However, revising your paper properly is more in-depth.
- The passive voice, such as “The door was opened by me,” feels hesitant and wordy. On the other hand, the active voice, or “I opened the door,” feels strong and concise.
- Each word in your paper should do a specific job. Try to avoid including extra words just to fill up blank space on a page or sound fancy.
- For instance, “The author uses pathos to appeal to readers’ emotions” is better than “The author utilizes pathos to make an appeal to the emotional core of those who read the passage.”
- Read your essay out loud to help ensure you catch every error. As you read, check for flow as well and, if necessary, tweak any spots that sound awkward.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
- It’s wise to get feedback from one person who’s familiar with your topic and another who’s not. The person who knows about the topic can help ensure you’ve nailed all the details. The person who’s unfamiliar with the topic can help make sure your writing is clear and easy to understand.
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- Remember that your topic and thesis should be as specific as possible. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
- Researching, outlining, drafting, and revising are all important steps, so do your best to budget your time wisely. Try to avoid waiting until the last minute to write your paper. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 5 Not Helpful 1
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- ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/planresearchpaper/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/evaluating-print-sources/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/conducting_research/research_overview/index.html
- ↑ https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/writing/graduate-writing-lab/writing-through-graduate-school/working-sources
- ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-5-putting-the-pieces-together-with-a-thesis-statement/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/developing_an_outline/index.html
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/essay-structure
- ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/counterarguments
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/
- ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/formandstyle/writing/scholarlyvoice/activepassive
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/reading-aloud/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/index.html
About This Article
To write a research paper, start by researching your topic at the library, online, or using an academic database. As you conduct your research and take notes, zero in on a specific topic that you want to write about and create a 1-2 sentence thesis to state the focus of your paper. Then, create an outline that includes an introduction, 3 to 5 body paragraphs to present your arguments, and a conclusion to sum up your main points. Once you have your paper's structure organized, draft your paragraphs, focusing on 1 argument per paragraph. Use the information you found through your research to back up your claims and prove your thesis statement. Finally, proofread and revise your content until it's polished and ready to submit. For more information on researching and citing sources, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Write a Research Paper
Updated August 24, 2022
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If you’re a college student, you will probably have to write at least one college-level research paper before you graduate. Writing a good research paper can be daunting if you have never done it before. We’re here to help.
This guide walks you through everything you need to do to write an effective, impactful research paper . . . and get the good grade you’re after!
Here are the steps and resources you need to write a strong research paper, as well as a checklist to go over to be sure you wrote a good paper. Research writing can be a challenge, but with a little practice, it can become an important part of your academic and professional toolkit.
The following steps will help you write a research paper, starting with nothing but an assignment or prompt and ending up with a well-crafted essay. The steps are:
- Step 1: Get familiar with the assignment
- Step 2: Pick a topic
Step 3: Research
- Step 4: Organize research
- Step 5: Form a thesis
- Step 6: Create an outline
Step 7: Write
- Step 8: Edit for content
- Step 9: Edit for grammar
- Step 10: Re-read and submit your paper
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Step 1: Get Familiar with the Assignment
This may sound obvious, but it’s very important to understand what your teacher or professor is asking for before you start writing your research paper. Many students skip this step, and then wonder why they receive a low grade on a paper they worked hard on or were excited about. It’s often because they didn’t read the instructions.
Spend time going over the assignment. Look at everything your instructor has provided you with. Carefully read the writing assignment, prompts, grading rubric, or any other materials you’ve received. It might even be helpful to highlight and take notes on the assignment. Take time to understand exactly what you are being asked to write and how you will be graded on it. And if you aren’t sure, ask! Ask your teacher for clarification before you even pick a topic. That way, you will be sure you are on the right track.
Step 2: Pick a Topic
Once you understand what you’re being asked to write in your research paper, it’s time to decide what to write about. This can be daunting, but don’t get too bent out of shape. It can be very helpful to write about something you’re interested in or passionate about, but don’t worry about choosing the perfect topic. In many cases, a controversial topic can be ideal, so that you can exercise your ability to objectively explain differing positions, and even defend one if the assignment calls for that.
Use the guidelines given by your instructor to help pick your paper topic. If you have a topic that you love, but you’re having trouble fitting it into the guidelines, choose another topic. It will be easier on you in the long run to write about a topic that fits the assignment. It’s important to be engaged in the topic you’re writing about it, but you don’t have to love it. It’s also good to realize that you can use this research writing assignment as an opportunity to learn about something new. You will be somewhat of an expert in the topic by the end of this process, but you don’t have to know everything right now.
And now what you have been waiting for — research! This step is pretty flexible; different people will research for a paper in different ways. However, it’s important to stay focused and move pretty quickly. After all, you still have to write your research paper.
Several key things to remember as you research are: 1) skim, 2) find reliable resources, and 3) don’t ignore information.
First off, skimming. You don’t have to read in-full everything ever written about your topic. In fact, you probably can’t. Get comfortable reading through things quickly. Learn how to identify key points and arguments without getting bogged down and reading every word.
Next, find reliable resources. Although this may run contrary to what you’ve been told, you can use Wikipedia to write a research paper. But, you cannot use that as a final source. You can use general sources like Wikipedia to get familiar with a topic, find keywords that can further drive your research, and quickly understand large amounts of information. But, for the information you use in your paper, you have to find reliable resources.
Take what you have learned from a Google search or Wikipedia article and dig deeper. Check out the sources on the article, use keywords from your internet search to search an academic database, or ask an expert whether or not what you learned is valid and if it is, where you can find a reliable source stating the same thing. So, just to be clear: you can use Wikipedia as a starting point in your research, but you should not cite Wikipedia as one of the primary sources for your research paper.
Finally, don’t ignore information. You can find an article that says anything you want it to say. Did researchers recently discover that octopus DNA is made of alien DNA from outer space? Are the spires on the Cinderella Castle at Disney World removable in case of a hurricane? Did a cook attempt to assassinate George Washington by feeding him poisoned tomatoes? You can find articles testifying that all three of the previous claims are true; however, when you dig deeper, it’s clear that they’re not. Just because you find one article stating that something is true, that does not necessarily mean it is a proven fact that you can use in your research.
Work to understand all of the different viewpoints and schools of thought on your topic. This can be done by reading a variety of articles, reading a book or article that gives an overview of the topic and incorporates different points of view, or talking to an expert who can explain the topic in depth.
Step 4: Organize Your Research
So you have all of this information, now what to do with it? Step four is all about getting organized. Like research, different people have different preferences here. It can also depend on your assignment. Some sort of bibliography (literally “book writing,” this is a list of the books, articles, and other sources you have used in your research) is helpful when it comes to organizing your research.
If your teacher requires you to turn in a bibliography with your research paper (think back to step #1; you ought to already know exactly what the assignment is by now!), create a bibliography that meets the requirements for the paper. If you are just making one just for yourself, think about how you would like to organize your research. It might make sense to bookmark resources on your web browser or make a digital bibliography that allows you to link the resources you found. You might prefer a printed list of your resources or you might want to write down all you have learned that is relevant to your project on notecards or sticky notes and organize your research paper on a table or the floor.
Step 5: Form a Thesis
Now that you understand what you’ve been asked to do, have chosen a topic that fits the assignment, and have researched and organized that research, you’re ready to articulate your own opinion, argument, or assertion. Even if you aren’t arguing for or against anything, your paper needs a thesis. A thesis is a short statement that you — as researcher and author — put forward for the readers of your paper as what you are trying to explain or prove.
A starting point when writing a thesis might be to write a one-sentence answer to the question: what is your paper about? The answer might be something like the following examples:
- My paper explains the relationship between dogs and humans.
- It’s about university policies on freshman living on campus.
- I wrote about views on marriage in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice .
See, that wasn’t so hard. But, what is important to remember, is that this is just a starting point. Many students stop right there, and then don’t understand why their instructor graded them poorly on their thesis statement. A thesis needs to be definitive, and should not be about you. So, you might change the above answers to statements like:
The relationship between dogs and humans goes both ways; not only are dogs man’s best friend, but human interactions have influenced the way that modern dogs’ behavior and anatomy.
Many universities require freshmen students to live on campus for their first year, which keeps students out of trouble, helps students get better grades, and increases their likelihood of staying in school.
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, marriage is seen as a number of things, including as a social mobility tool, as a mistake, and as a beneficial partnership .
Can you see the differences between the first set of sentences and the second set of thesis statements? It might take a few tries, but work to eliminate words and phrases like “I think,” or “My paper is about.”
It is also very important not to be too vague. Don’t be afraid to make a strong statement. If you look at the above examples, each of them makes a specific point about the topic. Another key to crafting a strong thesis statement is making sure that your thesis is arguable. That doesn’t mean it’s controversial or particularly opinionated, but it does mean that someone could disagree.
For example, someone might argue that humans haven’t influenced dogs all that much, that requiring freshman students to live on campus isn’t a good thing, or that marriage in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is all about romance. (Another way to check whether or not your statement is arguable: Is Pride and Prejudice a book? Yes. So the statement, “Pride and Prejudice is a book written by Jane Austen,” doesn’t work as a thesis because no one could disagree. There is no point in writing an entire essay about that obvious fact.) Checking whether or not someone could argue with your thesis statement is a good way to make sure you have written a strong, specific thesis statement that will guide you as you write your paper and earn a good grade for your efforts.
After you have worked to create a specific, arguable, definitive thesis statement, this is another place that it could be helpful to check in with your professor, a writing center tutor, or another trusted educator or mentor. Show them your thesis statement and ask them if they think itis a powerful thesis that you will guide you as you build your essay.
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Step 6: Create an Outline
Like a bibliography, the way that you create your outline may depend on your assignment. If your teacher asked you to turn in an outline, be sure to make an outline that follows the example, guidelines, or requirements you have been given. If you aren’t required to write an outline, it can still be a helpful tool as you build your research paper.
Creating an outline is really about structuring your paper. Don’t be too formulaic, but it can be helpful to follow patterns and guides. In high school you might have written three- or five-paragraph essays, and it’s okay to use those same patterns for a college research paper, but be sure that whatever format you choose makes sense for your paper. If you have two main points in your thesis, three or five main sections might not work for your research paper. If the assignment asks you to introduce a topic, explain different opinions on the topic, and then choose and explain your opinion, then your paper probably needs three main sections, one for each of those objectives.
As you create an outline, think critically about what you are trying to explain or communicate in your research paper and what structure allows you to do that in a clear, organized way. It usually makes sense to have an introduction and conclusion, but what goes between will vary based on the contents of your essay.
The outlining stage of producing your argument is a great time to think about bad forms of argumentation you should avoid. If you aren’t familiar with logical fallacies, take some time to review the most common fallacies ; your grade could depend on it!
And then, finally, it’s time to actually write your paper. You might feel like you should have started writing sooner, but, rest assured: the work you have done up to this point is important. It will help you create a strong, clear, interesting research paper.
As you write, don’t be a perfectionist. Don’t worry about finding the perfect words, using the perfect grammar, or crafting the perfect title. There is time to perfect your research paper as you edit. Right now, you just need to write.
It might be helpful to look over your research before you start writing, but don’t write directly from your research. If you’re looking back and forth between your resources and your paper as you begin writing, it’s easy to copy ideas without really creating your own work. You have done a lot of work already, so trust that and work from memory as you write your research paper. It’s okay to look up a specific quote or statistic, but in general your ideas should be your own at this point.
Working from your own ideas will help you avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is the uncredited use of someone else’s words or ideas, whether you meant to use them without credit or not. This sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow the steps outlined in this guide, you can be confident that you’ve created your own essay that builds on the ideas, writing, and work of others, without stealing, copying, or plagiarising.
If you quote something word-for-word, you need to cite your source. Use quotation marks and mention the source of the quote. You will also need to include more information about the quote on a Works Cited or References page. If you paraphrase, that is, you don’t use the exact words, but do use someone’s idea, it’s still important to give credit. You don’t need quotation marks here, but it is important to mention where the idea comes from.
If something is a common fact (generally accepted if you can find the fact stated, without credit, in three or more credible sources), you don’t need to mention where the idea comes from. For example, Bill Gates is a billionaire who founded Microsoft. That is a common fact; you can find it stated in numerous trustworthy sources. But if your paper is about the why behind Bill Gates’ wealth, fame, and success, then you’re going to need to credit and cite specific quotes and statistics, as well as theories about why the Microsoft billionaire is so successful.
Step 8: Edit for Content
Now that you’ve got a paper written, take a moment to congratulate yourself. You have done a lot of work to get to this point! And then, get back to work. You still need to edit your paper before it’s ready to turn in. Remember how you weren’t supposed to worry about being perfect? You still don’t need to worry, but it is time to make your paper as perfect as you possibly can.
Start by editing for content. This means thinking about structure, organization, wording, and length. You carefully organized your paper when you created an outline. Now that you have written your paper, does that organization still make sense? If so, great. If not, what do you need to move around? Look carefully at how you’ve worded your sentences. Did you communicate what you meant to get across? Can you make your paper clearer or easier to understand? This is also a good point to think back to Step 1. Does your paper include everything the assignment asked for? If not, where can you include the missing pieces?
If your paper is too long or too short, now is the time to cut it down or build it up to an acceptable length. Don’t just delete your conclusion because your paper is too long. Don’t waste your time playing with the font size and margins to try to make your essay longer. Be careful and thoughtful about these edits. If you need to take something out, what makes sense to cut and how can you re-organize your paper so that it maintains a strong structure? If you need to lengthen your paper, don’t just randomly add words or repeat things you have already said. Think about where you could expand or what you can add that fits in with the rest of your paper, further develops the ideas you are presenting, or adds valuable information to your research paper.
Once you have made all the changes you think necessary, read back through your paper again to be sure it all makes sense. Especially when working on a computer, it is easy to leave or delete a word, sentence, or paragraph that you didn’t mean to. If you are tired of looking at your research paper, give it to a friend, mentor, or teacher and ask them to take a look at your paper and let you know what they think of the content.
Step 9: Edit for Grammar
It is also important to edit for grammar. This might seem daunting, but there are lots of tools and resources that can help. Check out resources like Grammarly or Strunk and White’s Elements of Style if you’re unsure of what to do with commas, semicolons, or run-on sentences.
Like editing for content, editing for grammar might take a few run-throughs. If you need to take a break, that’s fine. It can even help you come back to your paper feeling more focused, which is key to catching and fixing mistakes.
Step 10: Re-read and Submit your Research Paper
Once you’ve finished Steps 1–9, it’s definitely time to take a break. Give your paper a day or two (or an hour or two, if you are running short on time) and give it a final read-through. It can be helpful to print a copy of your paper and read a hard-copy if you have only read through it on a screen thus far. You might notice mistakes or formatting issues that your eyes missed while reading on your computer. Once you have read your research paper for a final time and double checked that your paper does everything the assignment is asking for, it is time to submit.
Be sure to follow any instructions you have been given about turning in your research paper. Also give yourself time to troubleshoot if things go wrong. If you try to print your paper five minutes before class starts, what are you going to do if your printer is out of toner? If you are supposed to submit your paper online at midnight and the wifi is down when you login to submit your assignment at 11:58 PM, even though that is unfortunate, it is still something you could have avoided by logging on with enough time to solve any problems that arise before the deadline. Your teacher will appreciate and respect your preparedness, and it will likely impact your grades positively.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructor for help, but be reasonable and responsible about it. If you log on the day before and see that the place where you are supposed to turn in your assignment is locked or unavailable, send your teacher an email so that they can help you submit your paper before it is due. Just don’t expect them to help you in the middle of the night, on a weekend, or minutes before an assignment is due. Some instructors might, but you are just lucky at that point. If you prepare and give yourself time to turn in an assignment, you don’t have to count on getting lucky about whether or not your professor is sitting at their computer and available to help you at the very moment you email them.
Your Teacher or Professor
When writing a research paper for a teacher or professor, it is important to step back and think about why they asked you to write this essay in the first place. More than likely, they are giving you an opportunity to learn something. Learning often involves trial-and-error, making mistakes, and asking lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask a question; in fact, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor lots of questions! However, do remember to be respectful of them, their time, and efforts. It is important to follow any directions that you have been given by your teacher or professor, to take responsibility and not expect them to do your work for you, and to listen to the answers and advice they share with you. Working with your teacher and asking them for help is an often overlooked resource when it comes to writing research papers. Be sure to take advantage of this help; your paper will be all the better for it.
Another often-overlooked resource is the research librarian. Did you know that, in addition to tons of books and online materials, college and university libraries often have staff whose job it is to help answer your questions? Research librarians specialize in research (it might sound obvious, but take a second to get excited about how much this could help you and your research paper!). These librarians usually specialize in particular fields and subjects, so you can get specific, expert help that pertains to your topic. They can help you search for resources, connect you with experts in the field your researching, or give you suggestions about the direction of your research and writing.
In addition to research librarians, many college and university libraries often house writing centers. While research librarians can help you more with your research, writing center staff can help you actually write your research paper. You can usually schedule an online or in-person appointment with a tutor or instructor that will help you through any step of the writing process. You might want to visit a writing center early on as you develop the concept for your paper, in the middle as you struggle to think of how to discuss one of your key points, or right before you turn in your paper to be sure it’s in near-perfect shape before it goes to your professor for a grade. Many professors even give you extra credit for taking advantage of writing center services. Win-win!
As mentioned earlier in this guide, you can use Wikipedia for introductory research. But, because Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone and therefore aren’t 100% credible, your professor will likely frown on citing it as a source for your research paper. So, do not use Wikipedia as a primary source for your research paper. When it comes to writing research papers, the references section of a Wikipedia page is one of your best friends. Just like you should be citing your sources at the end of your research paper, Wikipedia articles link to their primary sources. You can use the list of references to find books, articles, and other material that can help you find reliable, relevant primary sources for use in your research.
Your instructor may require you to use peer-reviewed academic articles as some or all of the sources for your research paper. As a college student, you probably have access to a number of academic databases that you can use to find scholarly articles. If you are unsure of how to search for articles in an academic database, it’s worth asking your professor or a research librarian to help you learn. This skill will be a useful one to have, and you will be easily finding trustworthy, interesting sources in no time.
OWL at Purdue
This is not a nocturnal bird that lives at a university in Indiana, but rather the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University. This online resource offers a number of helpful writing materials, including information on how to cite sources, grammar rules, choosing a topic, and even how to write a research paper. You can search for specific help, or browse resources by category. This free website is a must-visit online resource when writing a college research paper.
Grammarly is like a super-powered spell checker. It’s a free Chrome extension that allows you to edit your writing. You can copy and paste your paper into the Grammarly editor and get spelling and grammar advice that is easy to implement. If you’re looking for additional help or want to use the software without leaving Microsoft Office, check out Grammarly Premium or Grammarly for Microsoft Office. However, it’s important to remember when using this software (or any spelling or grammar checker!) that it is a computer and therefore doesn’t always understand your writing. You need to go over each suggestion made by the software and make sure that it is indeed correcting an error or improving a sentence and not changing something that you meant to say. That being said, Grammarly is great at catching errors and provides easy-to-understand explanations of spelling and grammar suggestions so you can knowledgeably make changes to your research paper.
The Elements of Style — William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Style guides may be mostly a thing of the past. You have probably used a spell checker or Googled where to put a comma, but you may never have opened a style guide. However, this book, The Elements of Style, has helpful advice and information about writing. If you are looking for guidance when it comes to editing your paper, picking up a copy of this book may be just what you need. The book consists of different sections, some with specific grammar and writing rules and definitions and others with general writing advice. One rule that is worth knowing, even if you don’t read The Elements of Style is Rule #17: “Omit needless words.” Keep that in mind as you edit your paper; it will help you craft a clear, strong, concise research paper that your teacher will enjoy reading (and even grading!).
Style Guides (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)
You might feel like we keep saying this (we do . . . ), but it’s for a good reason: know what your research paper assignment is asking for. That is especially important when it comes to formatting your paper. There are several different formatting styles and each has specific rules and guidelines. The main three are MLA, APA, and Chicago. Your instructor likely gave you instructions on which style to use, and if not you can ask which they prefer. Each style has a different name for the list of sources you attach at the end of your paper, different rules about headers and page numbers, etc. Many teachers will deduct points from your grade if you don’t adhere to the style they have asked you to for your research paper; some teachers may not accept the paper at all. You can find more information about whatever style you are working with in a style guide or from OWL at Purdue.
If you are crafting a paper from scratch, start by reading through the above steps to learn how to write a strong research paper. If you have already written a paper, go over this checklist to ensure that it is ready to turn in.
- Does your paper fulfill all of the requirements that the assignment asked for? (If not, or if you are unsure, look back at Step 1.)
- Did you stick to a topic that fits the assignment? (Reference Step two as you think through topic selection.)
- Are your sources credible, reliable, and logical? (Look at Steps three and four for help reflecting on your research.)
- Do you have a clear, arguable thesis statement? (For help with thesis statements, take a look at Step 5.)
- Is your paper organized in a logical way that is easy to understand? (When thinking about outline and structure, see Step 6.)
- Did you plagiarize? (If you have any doubts, check out Step 7.)
- Did you proofread for content and grammar improvements and errors? (See Steps eight and nine for more information about proofreading and editing.)
- Is your paper properly formatted? (See Step one and check out the resources section for information about being sure your paper is formatted correctly.)
- Are you prepared to submit correctly? (Read Step 10 for a few last pieces of advice before you turn in your research paper.)
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On YouTube, all the information you need can be found below the video. The name of the channel that uploaded the video should be written the same as it is on YouTube, but the title of the video should follow standard MLA capitalization rules. Citing videos with the same creator and uploader
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Choose a research paper topic Conduct preliminary research Develop a thesis statement Create a research paper outline Write a first draft of the research paper Write the introduction Write a compelling body of text Write the conclusion The second draft The revision process Research paper checklist Free lecture slides Understand the assignment
Citing a video from YouTube Keep in mind that if you are referencing a section of the video, you should include a time code in your in-text citation. The format for the time code is minutes:seconds. Alternatively, if the entire video is relevant, then you don't need to include the time code. You'll find two examples for each scenario below.
As the video is from YouTube, you have to mention it with phrase "YouTube video" after the title of the video, and it should be followed by a comma. Example: "How Search Works," YouTube video, Video duration or length Mention the video duration by minutes and seconds.
Unlike essays, research papers usually divide the body into sections with separate headers to facilitate browsing and scanning. Use the divisions in your outline as a guide. Follow along your outline and go paragraph by paragraph. Because this is just the first draft, don't worry about getting each word perfect.
Upload your paper & get a free Expert Check Get a real writing expert to proofread your paper before you turn it in Check my paper Using paper checkers responsibly The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:
APA format for online videos is similar to that of other types of digital media and online content. The format should be: The name of the person and/or the name of the account that uploaded the video. The specific date the video was uploaded in parentheses. The title of the video in italics. The description " [Video]" in brackets after the title.
After indicating the title of the Video, state the format of the information source by including information such as "Online video," then place a full stop. The name of the website then follows it. That is YouTube and then followed by a comma. Italicize the name and put a comma.
This should usually be a one or two sentence statement; however, it's the core idea of your paper, and every insight that you include should be relevant to it. Remember, a thesis statement is not merely a summary of your findings. It should present an argument or perspective that the rest of your paper aims to support.
1. Create an outline to map out your paper's structure. Use Roman numerals (I., II., III., and so on) and letters or bullet points to organize your outline. Start with your introduction, write out your thesis, and jot down your key pieces of evidence that you'll use to defend your argument.
Here are the steps and resources you need to write a strong research paper, as well as a checklist to go over to be sure you wrote a good paper. Research writing can be a challenge, but with a little practice, it can become an important part of your academic and professional toolkit. The Process
This can help guide you through both your research and outline creation process. 2. Select the topic of your paper. After reviewing the guidelines of your paper, you can choose the topic you'd like to cover. Take your time researching different topics relevant to the guidelines of your paper.