“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

– Anne Lamott

Guidelines on How to Write a Research Paper

A research paper is a must item for your postgraduate and doctoral degrees. Mastery of academic papers writing is thus crucial to help you smoothly manage your research without facing the common challenges encountered by students. 

Unfortunately, the instructions offered by tutors are often shallow, leaving a student confused about the deliverables of their research papers. This article will tackle the tips for writing a research paper, helping you resolve any confusion you had regarding research paper assignments. 

Types of research papers

Often, some guidelines may be omitted, leaving you with the onus of figuring out the type of essay and thus the instructions you ought to adhere to. It is thus crucial that you identify the type of research paper you are writing to better select your research methods and approaches for data analysis. 

Some of the common types of research papers include:

  1. Analytical research papers – these are papers that gauge facts, events, and various phenomena to elaborate the processes and relationship between variables. Analytical research papers often take a piecemeal approach, breaking a large concept into segments and analysing each segment at a time. 
  2. Argumentative research papers – unlike the former, argumentative research papers may either make a stance for a single idea or compare two ideas and select the best alternative. These papers aim to shift a reader’s stance and are thus based on valid facts and informed persuasion. 
  3. Cause and effect research papers – these types of papers analyse an event, a procedure, or an occurrence to determine the role of each action in achieving a particular outcome. 
  4. Experimental research papers – experimental research papers are often based on scientific research to expose original facts in support of your hypothesis. This type of research paper is common at postgraduate and doctoral levels, especially in the field of science. 
  5. Survey research papers – these papers are based on input from questionnaires and forms from a sampled group of respondents. 

If the type of research paper has not been specified in your essay prompt, we recommend that you analyse the trigger words in the paper to identify the type of paper you are required to prepare. 

How long is a research paper?

A research paper ranges between 5,000 and 100, 000 words depending on the level of study, the complexity of your research topic, the research methodology, and the extent of existing work on the topic. if you are unsure of the ideal length for your paper, consider checking the faculty guidelines and previous dissertations for an estimate of your preferred essay length. 

How to write a research paper

poor approaches to writing your research paper may doom your efforts in the latter writing stages. As such, it is vital to follow a procedural method when going about the preparation of your paper. 

Some of the key steps for writing a research paper include:

  1. Topic selection

Topic selection is a key determinant of your essay writing experience. Besides determining the challenge, you get during the research and writing stages, your topic choice also determines the relevance of your paper to the general topic. 

Ideally, settle for a topic that piques your interest and also allows you to offer original insights on the topic. Also, err towards simpler topics to avoid the confusion that often faces students who select extremely complex research papers. 

  1. Research

Next, interact with a vast range of resources documenting your topic. Proper research will widen your perspective on the research topic, making it easier to come up with unique arguments and overcome plagiarism.

Some credible research paper sources include journals, books, research papers, and websites with a. Edu, .org, or a. med extension. Although they won’t be cited in your work, we also recommend that you read various blogs on the topic to identify multiple approaches from which your topic could be addressed. 

  1. Outlining your paper

An outline is a crucial tool in planning a research paper. This document allows you to organize your arguments, ensuring a smooth flow of arguments and completeness of your research. 

The outline also comes in handy for editing as it can be compared against the reverse outline, highlighting the concepts that have been developed poorly. 

  1. Drafting and editing

After planning your outline, write your first draft and commit a substantial amount of time to edit. When possible, edit for one type of error at a time to nub a wider range of issues within your paper. 

Also, consider seeking editing help to manage tight deadlines without compromising the overall quality of your research paper. 

Research paper instructions

As stated earlier, research paper guidelines may vary based on your field of study, the faculty, and your tutor’s preferences. It is thus crucial for you to consult your tutor to clarify the research paper requirements for each assignment. 

Some of the key instructions to check when writing your paper include: 

  • The ideal word count range
  • The referencing style, i.e., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.
  • Font style and size
  • Line spacing
  • Margin spacing
  • Scope of the research paper
  • Chapters within your paper
  • Team size (as in the case of group assignments)