College is an exciting time in your life, out on your own for the first time, enjoying freedom, but it is also a time of great stress and responsibility. There are going to be many new tasks which will be assigned to you and among them will inevitably be to write a research paper
. Each different course that you take will require that you show your command of the subject matter. Along your academic path you will no doubt have to show your proficiency of material presented in a specific class by writing a research paper.
What is a research paper?
A research paper is one that is guided by the students ability to reason and be analytical. Research papers can be characterized in three different ways:
- Academic paper - an academic paper is written for the intent of being published in an academic journal. It can either be a review of the information currently available on any subject, or it can present new and original content about the subject matter
- Term paper - an academically analytic paper which is written either by a college or high school student
- Thesis or dissertation - a paper that is written specifically to obtain a professional degree, it is based on original findings
A research paper can either be a work that is based on the original research or findings of the student, or can be a broad overview of the literature which is available on any subject which is chosen. It is a formal document that presents objective content in an informative way, unlike other papers which can be in whole, or part, subjective in nature, research papers are not subject to opinions, they are purely empirical and theoretical.
What is the structure of a research paper?
Each paper you will write throughout your academic career will have a specific structure that needs to be followed. A research paper is no different. There are three main components to a research paper:
- Introduction - this is the part of the paper which will contain your thesis statement. A thesis statement is the statement of the intent of the paper. It is also the place where you will present your main points about the subject matter and statement
- Body - Within the first paragraph of the body will be the main point followed by supporting details and a conclusion statement within each point. A poignant research paper will have two or more main points and supporting detail paragraphs which lead into each other with transitional statements
- Conclusion - within the conclusion will be a restatement of the thesis statement and a summary of the content provided in the body of the paper. It is a place to reiterate your main points and conclusions about them
Strictly adhering to the structure is important when writing a research paper
. Since a research paper is guided by making points and then lending support to them, the way that you formulate your argument will lend to the validity and credibility of your work.
When beginning to write
- Set aside enough time to do the research before you write the paper
- Begin with the thesis statement and build around it
- Find a quiet place to do your work
- If you can't find enough evidence to support your thesis it is okay to either alter it or to change it all together
- Make an outline of the main points you want to present
- Constantly and continually go back to the assignment that is outlined by the instructor. Paying close attention to any specifications that they have is important to show that you can follow directions
Things to remember when writing your research paper
- The thesis statement must be concise and specific
- The paper is only as good as the argument that you supply and support
- Grammar is very important
- If you use any evidence to support your thesis it must be properly cited in your work according to the style your instructor outlines
- A research paper should not contain your personal opinions, feelings or emotions. It is a purely objective and empirical piece
- Complete your research to support your argument prior to beginning writing. You should have your argument outlined and have the supporting details before you begin, not filling in while you are writing
- Making an outline will help you to stay on task and follow along with the structure that is required
Things to avoid when writing your research paper
- Don't make assertions which can not be supported
- Opinions are not appropriate, nor is persuasion that does not have any supporting details
- Don't wait until the last minute to begin it
- Don't make your thesis statement vague
A research paper is different than other types of papers that you will be asked to write during your academic career. It is a paper that is guided by analytical data and a thesis statement
. It is not a paper that is structured around an opinion, it is one that is based on a purely empirical statement and then support of that statement. To begin writing your research paper, the cornerstone of it will be the formulation of the thesis statement which must be clear and concise. If you have a thesis statement that is vague, or cannot be supported, the entire validity of your paper will be in question.
Above all, like any paper that you write in an academic setting, you must follow proper grammatical rules and guidelines. It is extremely important that if you use the information of another source you acknowledge it in either a works cited, or reference section in your paper. Not only is plagiarism illegal, it is a great way to get a failing grade. Finally, following the specifications of the instructor when formulating your research paper is important. Many professors will add additional requirements that need to be included to verify that you understand what a research paper is, how to write one, and that you can follow instructions as asked.