A research paper uses primary sources or data to support a thesis statement. It is a type of persuasive essay often used in science, literature, and history curricula. Regardless of your level of education and the field you have chosen, you will need to follow a few simple steps to begin your research work. You must decide the topic, formulate a thesis statement, conduct research, organize your conclusions, and then place your pencil on the paper or your fingers on the keyboard.
Part 1 of 5: Deciding on the topic
Step 1. Get started as soon as possible
Most likely, you will move from one topic to another until one finally convinces you. You will need time to review various topics. University professors recommend that you start your research work the same day it is assigned to you. The more time and effort you invest in it, the better your score will be. So, start right now. Don't put things off for later.
Step 2. Understand the assignment
If you are at school, we recommend that you read the instructions of your teacher. If you are conducting research for your work, consider the outcome your boss expects. Undoubtedly, your work will have guidelines or requirements that will fundamentally shape your research. Learn what those guidelines are right from the start. It's unpleasant to do research work only to find out later that you have to start over.
For example, if you are doing research work for a university course, you should know how much time you have, the sources you can use, the topics you can choose from, and the deadline to submit it. Once you understand the parameters, you can set a schedule to finish the job on time
Step 3. Check out the research on possible topics
The best way to cut down on a research paper is to check if someone else has written about it in the past.
For example, if you are taking a course in American History and want to write a research paper on the origins of the Thirteen Colonies Revolution, you may need to start by reading a few books on the subject. You will soon realize that historians have debated the origins of the revolution mostly in political and economic terms, but have paid less attention to the social dimensions. So you can decide to focus, broadly, on the social origins of the thirteen colonies revolution
Step 4. Narrow the focus of your topic, if possible
Depending on the size requirements for your work, you will need to specify your research question. Really short papers (1-2 pages) need a more specific question than a dissertation spanning hundreds of pages.
Let us return to the social origins of the revolution of the thirteen colonies. You can cover this topic in 500 pages, but if you have to write a 20-page research paper for a class, you will have to narrow the topic further. What social groups would you focus on in order to address the social origins of the thirteen colonies revolution? It covers the "social" aspect by categories: women, racial minorities, farmers, city dwellers, writers, travelers, businessmen, or children. There are several different angles from which you can focus. Find out about what has already been written in the past, and then write about it
Step 5. Choose your topic
At some point, you will have to settle down on a topic and begin your research. Remember that after the research phase, you may need to tweak the topic a bit. This is normal. Everybody does it.
Let's say you've decided to focus on the role of farmers in the thirteen colonies revolution. Try to formulate a question based on that particular aspect; for example: "What role did farmers play in the origins of the revolution in the thirteen colonies?"
Part 2 of 5: Developing a Thesis
Step 1. Formulate several hypotheses
These are the possible answers to the research question. Use what you know about the topic to guess the possible answers to your question.
- For example, you could answer the question above (ie, “What role did farmers play in the origins of the Thirteen Colonies Revolution?”) In several ways. Farmers were directly involved in public disturbances against British officers. The farmers refused to sell their crops to the British contingents. The farmers refused to house the British soldiers in their homes. The farmers refused to pay taxes on their property.
- It's a good idea to start with several hypothetical thesis statements. If one turns out to be false or does not have enough evidence, you can quickly start in a new direction.
Step 2. Make sure your thesis is explicit
The thesis statement is the key to all your work. Make sure to include all the necessary information in it so that the reader knows exactly what you are going to argue about in the course of your work.
- For example: "The accommodation of British soldiers in the homes of poor farmers caused them to protest against British taxes and attack British troops."
- This is a single thesis statement that covers both why farmers chose to rebel and how they did it.
Step 3. Talk about your thesis statement with others
Sometimes our ideas make a lot of sense to us, but they are not clearly transmitted to others. Be sure to ask others to evaluate your thesis statement before starting the research process. This will help you identify its faults. Plus, you'll make sure you don't fall into a dead end. Show your thesis statement to your professor.
If the teacher wants you to focus on the political causes of the thirteen colonies revolution, he might ask you to stop investigating farmers. This will save you time in the long run
Part 3 of 5: Conduct the Research
Step 1. Identify the primary sources or data sources
Depending on your project, you must find a way to gather information to support your claims. If your work is on a science topic, you should conduct an experiment and collect data based on that experiment. If you are writing a history paper, you will need to find primary sources (information produced during the time under investigation) to support your thesis statement. Primary sources can be found in a variety of locations. Some are republished in collections from primary sources. Others are accessible only through archive offices or libraries.
For our work on the role of farmers in the thirteen colonies revolution, we could go through the archives of the United States National Archives and Records Administration for the necessary documents
Step 2. Take long notes
As you conduct your experiment or conduct research in an archive office or library, you will need to create a detailed record of your findings. Take notes on a computer or use note cards.
- Include the author, title, and publication information in your notes so that you can write a list of references at the end of your research paper.
- Create a sheet with the citations you want to use in your research work. It is best to gather more information than you need at this point, as you will need evidence from reliable sources to support your thesis.
Step 3. Evaluate your sources
Do some research on the author so you can establish his credibility. Were the documents you obtained written by someone with obvious bias? Was the original document reproduced after the fact? Is the document complete?
Organize your notes. Put your notes or data in a logical order that supports your thesis statement. Organize them so that they flow from one to the other seamlessly. For our imaginary project, it would be best to place your notes on the British troops housed before the notes on the revolutionary actions of the farmers. Since our argument is that the farmers were enraged by the troops staying in their homes, we have to talk about this in that order
Step 4. Interpret your findings
Does the information you found support your thesis statement? Does it make you reconsider your original hypothesis? Or does your research further clarify your original thesis statement? If so, make any necessary adjustments.
- For example, if you discover that farmers were enraged by hosting British soldiers primarily because they ate all their food, you should include this information in your thesis statement.
- British troops consumed large amounts of food while staying with poor farmers. Because there was not enough food for them or the troops, the farmers chose to protest against the British taxes and attack the British troops. For this reason, farmers played a significant role in the origins of the thirteen colonies revolution.
Part 4 of 5: Begin the Investigation Work
Step 1. Write an outline
This is a great way to organize your thoughts before you sit down to write. In addition, it serves to verify what should come first. Once you have a general idea of the trajectory of your work, you can present it more efficiently.
- Consider writing an outline as a list of questions that you want to answer. Start with your thesis at the beginning, and then divide it into sections that support your argument. Write questions like "Why is this research important?" and "What studies support my thesis?" Next, enter the information you found while researching into the outline that answers these questions.
- Also, you can write a prose outline, rather than a question-based outline. Add topic headings for each paragraph or section of your research paper. Add quotes and other bulleted notes below the topic. You can start writing directly from a prose-based outline.
- Keep investigating if you need to fill in gaps in your outline. Make sure to collect bibliographic information as you do so.
Step 2. Start with an objective statement on the subject
Some people like to start broad and work toward a research topic. This works for those people who want to know the great appeal of your work. If you are writing a paper on the importance of comics, you could claim their importance since 1930. If you want to focus on the role of farmers in the thirteen colonies revolution, you can make a comprehensive statement on the complex causes of the revolutionary movement.
- This is how most people start their research papers. They don't want to make their topic seem too complex, so they write about the longer points before diving headfirst into the topic.
- Just make sure your broad statement relates to your thesis statement and that everyone agrees with your broad statement. It is unpleasant to see your readers criticizing your argument from the beginning. You need to develop a certain degree of credibility.
Step 3. Review what else has been written on the subject in the past
One of the best ways to start a job is to present to your audience what has already been researched. If you are writing about the role of farmers during the revolution of the thirteen colonies, start by presenting those works that directly or indirectly cover the subject. Then explain how your work adds to that research or makes a difference. This answers the question that resonates in the minds of your readers: "Why do I have to read this research paper?"
Step 4. Define your terms
We all know those people who begin their papers or speeches by quoting Webster's dictionary. Most of the time, this form is trite, as the author defines a common word that most people already know. If your topic is more complex or the audience doesn't know anything about it, you may need to start by establishing a knowledge base line.
For example, if you want to write a research paper on philately (a hobby for collecting postage stamps), you should probably start by defining the key term
Step 5. Start with a true story
This works well for history jobs in particular. A story about a family who attacked a British soldier staying in their home in the middle of the night because he ate all of his bread would be a fitting story for a paper on the role of farmers in the thirteen colonies revolution.
By placing this story at the beginning, you will be able to return to it periodically throughout your work to illustrate points and support your thesis statement
Step 6. Understand what is conventional for your field
For most fields, you can start with broad, analytical statements or a story. However, in some fields this is neither appropriate nor useful. Although historians can make use of both grand claims and stories, biologists may not be able to do the same. If a biologist wanted to write a paper on the photosynthesis process in celery stalks, they probably wouldn't want to start with a story (especially a hypothetical one). "A celery stalk was tanning in the backyard" would be a terrible way to start a biology research paper. It would be just ridiculous. Ultimately, you must know your audience. Who is this work for? Are they likely to enjoy the way your story began?
Part 5 of 5: Write the research paper
Step 1. Make your first draft
Throughout this draft, you will answer the main question with your thesis statement, and then you should systematically support that statement with evidence obtained during the research phase. Make a full draft before you start editing. It's easier to put all your thoughts on paper (especially if you have a solid outline to guide you from) and then go back and edit. Do not start editing while you are working on the draft, as it will interrupt the process of your thoughts.
Some authors find it helpful to write the body of the text and then go back and write the introduction and conclusion. This gives them a better idea of what exactly they want to argue about
Step 2. Check the spelling of your work
Remember that spell checker is not 100% foolproof. You should always check spelling, grammar, and personal content. The spell checker won't tell you if you've made a mistake unless you've misspelled a word. Keep homonyms in mind. These are the primary type of words that the spell checker ignores. "Asia" and "towards" are examples of homonyms.
Step 3. Make sure you correctly quote your work
If you use someone else's words or ideas, you will have to give them credit. Check with your teacher to find out what kind of style you should use. The MLA, Chicago and APA styles are commonly used for placing appointments. Each of these uses a different method.
Make sure to give the author credit. If you don't, you could be accused of plagiarism
Step 4. Make a bibliography
Depending on the assignment, you can compose a page of works cited. This page specifically includes those sources that you used to write your work. A bibliography can include other works that you know about, but are not referenced in the body of your work.
In general, the bibliography should be organized by type of source and in alphabetical order
Step 5. Go over the draft one more time to clarify your point
Consider printing it out and writing notes with a pen and pencil. Some writers read their work aloud. Hearing the words makes your brain work to process them differently. This makes it easier to detect errors.