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10 Steps To Writing A Research Paper Like A Professional

Whenever a research paper is assigned, most students are assailed by a sense of instant panic, especially if it is their first paper. There is no need to be afraid, though, when you follow these same steps that professionals use.

  1. Select a topic: Select a topic that is broad enough to have enough information for you to investigate, but narrow enough that you are not overwhelmed by too much information. Select a topic that is original and about which you are passionate.
  2. Find your resources: Locate all of the information that you can on your specific topic. This can include books, newspaper and magazine articles, internet resources, and even multi-media sources. Your librarian is your best friend!
  3. Begin research: Start by reading your resources and taking note of important or interesting facts. Use two sets of cards (either paper cards or electronic) for this process: note cards and bibliography cards. Take complete notes (including quotes) on your notecards. The bibliography cards will end up being your resource for creating your ‘Works Cited’ list, so make sure that all of the publication information that you need is there.
  4. Develop your thesis: Your thesis does not simply state a fact. It is the statement that gives the reader an idea of what your topic is and what your stance is on that topic. All of the evidence that you provide in the paper will defend this perspective.
  5. Create an outline: Your outline is where you begin to synthesize all of your research. The outline follows a standard format and lays out your thesis and supporting statements in a logical order. This is where you will organize your notes and decide what goes where.
  6. Write an introductory paragraph: This is the paragraph that will grab your reader’s attention and also present your thesis statement. This is often the most difficult part of the process.
  7. Finish the first draft: Your first draft should follow the outline that you have created, filling in the details for each item listed. The goal for this draft is to get your ideas organized and written down. Editing will come next.
  8. Edit and revise: This is the time to go through the first draft and check for readability, syntax, spelling and grammar. Read the paper out loud to yourself to hear how it sounds. It is a good idea to have someone else review your rough draft as well, to find errors you may miss.
  9. Prepare Works Cited list: This includes creating end or footnotes if they are required. Use the bibliography cards that you created during your research phase in order to easily create your Works Cited list. Only include the resources that actually ended up being used in your paper.
  10. Type your final draft: Use the proper font, margins, headers and page numbering. Make the corrections from your rough draft, and then re-read the paper and perform one final edit.

Completing a research paper is a sizeable project, and one that you cannot leave until the last minute. Use this checklist to plan your time based on the due date. And don’t be afraid to ask your professor or teacher for help. Follow these steps and you will have a research paper that even a professional would be proud of.

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