If you’re a college student, you will likely write numerous research papers in addition to your senior thesis. You must then master the basics of writing research papers since these have a significant impact on your overall academic performance!
In our bachelor’s program research and writing guide, we offer practical strategies for completing well-crafted college research papers. We understand that college students, whether in their freshman year or senior year, can encounter anxiety-inducing challenges in their academic writing. These practical strategies are intended to decrease the anxiety associated with writing academic papers, including research papers.
A college research paper is different from a senior thesis! Both are types of academic writing. A research paper provides an analytical evaluation and interpretation made by its author of a specific topic supported by research studies and expert opinions. A thesis is a scholarly research paper that contains a proposition, an argument and evidence of the argument, and is usually written as a culminating academic requirement in your senior year.
While the bachelor’s degree paper writing strategies discussed below are specifically written for research papers, many can also be applied for writing your senior thesis and other types of academic writing.
Understand the Assignment
Every research paper comes with specific instructions regarding its topic, style and substance, structure and formatting style, and length. You must read and understand the assignment before starting your research!
You should also ask:
- When is it due?
- What is the process for submitting it?
- Is it an individual project or a group project? You should know this to schedule and assign the tasks.
If you have clarificatory questions, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask your professor. You will find that the clearer the instructions from your perspective, the better your research paper will likely be.
Create a Schedule
Be sure to take note of the specific deadline for submission of the research paper on your calendar or planner. You can then make a SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound — schedule. Essentially, you can break down the large goal — write a good research paper — into smaller tasks that can be done between now and its submission deadline.
We suggest allotting at least two days for every step in the research paper writing process. But you must also consider the time blocks for studying your textbooks, attending classes, and participating in extracurriculars when creating your research paper-related schedule.
Let’s say you have four weeks to submit a research paper. Your weekly schedule can look like the following:
- Week 1: Preliminaries
- Understand the guidelines, requirements and deadlines.
- Write down your possible topics.
- Perform preliminary research on the selected topic.
- Week 2: Thesis and Outline Development and Research
- Define your research question and make your thesis statement.
- Write the research outline with an introduction, body and conclusion.
- Perform your research.
- Weeks 3–4: Writing, Editing and Proofreading
- Write a draft based on the outline.
- Check for compliance with the guidelines related to structure, style and substance. Consider citation, plagiarism and grammar.
- Revise your draft upon editing and proofreading. Ask your peers and professors for feedback.
Perform a final reading of your research paper before submitting it. You may have missed a few errors that you can easily fix.
Select and Research Your Topic
Your professor can provide specific topics from which you and your classmates can choose or allow you and your classmates to choose relevant topics on your own.
Keep these tips in mind when selecting a research topic:
- Choose a topic that is based on your interests and intellectually challenging.
- Choose a topic that is relevant to your program course.
- Use current events and trends to research paper more engaging and relevant.
- Keep a unique tone to emphasize originality.
For your research process, follow these steps:
- Use credible sources like textbooks, peer-reviewed journals, newspapers and digital articles.
- Read and cite your sources properly. Don’t just copy-paste.
- Create a running document for your data points, citation sources, and potential quotations. Use reference management tools like EndNote and Zotero.
- Keep the points organized based on your outline.
We suggest sticking to the relevant sources for your research topic instead of being distracted by related topics. You will then find it easier to focus on your research paper and its timely completion.
Make a Research Paper Outline
Your research paper outline ensures a logical flow of your analysis, evaluation and conclusion regarding your topic. There may be a specific style and structure required.
In general, students use this outline with appropriate subheadings:
II. Literature Review
Sit down and write your research paper! You will be creating a draft at this point, so no editing or proofreading will be required yet. The idea is to flesh out your outline and thesis based on your style.
- Make a compelling introduction. State a clear research question and add background details.
- Write strong body paragraphs. Focus on a single argument that supports your thesis. Use supporting evidence and appropriate citations.
- Make a logical flow and smooth transitions between paragraphs and headings. It will keep your readers engaged.
- Provide a proper analysis of your research topic and findings. State your interpretations and insights clearly.
- Address disagreements and counterarguments.
- Make your conclusion.
- Write the proper references and appendices.
If you don’t write or type fast, you can use a dictation app.
Edit and Proofread
Your first draft should never be your final submission! You will spot errors in grammar, spelling and syntax. Edit and proofread your research paper as many times as possible.
Certain writing apps can make your editing and proofreading faster. AI tools are a great help, but they cannot compare with human intelligence and judgment. AI isn’t always error-free, so verify your data at all times.
Get Feedback and Welcome Criticism
Your multiple edits and writing apps do not guarantee 100% accuracy. A fresh perspective helps you point out errors and deficiencies in your style, structure, and substance. Before submitting, do the following:
- Have a classmate or schoolmate read your research paper.
- Ask for assistance from your college’s writing center.
- Request your professor or their teaching assistant for feedback.
Give these people sufficient time to read your research paper. A couple of days to a week should be enough.
After receiving feedback, perform your second round of editing and proofreading while keeping the feedback in mind.
Learn about Citations, Plagiarism and Use of Resources
These research and writing tips for bachelor’s students are only a part of the process. Pay attention not only to the structure but also to the substance of your research paper!
By tapping into a wide variety of research sources, your research papers will be better in structure and substance. Look into these resources whenever you’re writing academic papers, both for information and guidance.
- Physical and digital library catalogs including college libraries, Project Gutenberg, and the Digital Public Library of America
- Government or institutional websites
- Peer-reviewed articles and journals
- Professional societies or associations
- Public Library of Science and other open-access journals
- Purdue OWL and other online writing guides
- Google Scholar, PubMed, and Web of Science
There’s no greater crime in writing papers in bachelor’s degree programs than copying your sources word-for-word! Be mindful of citations and plagiarism. Always practice academic integrity!
Keep these tips in mind:
- Understand the different citation styles Chicago, MLA, APA and Harvard.
- Use citation management tools like Endnote and Zotero.
- Use quotation marks for quoting sources. Include a complete citation.
- Express ideas using your own words but cite your sources.
- Make a bibliography,
- Use plagiarism detection software.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good college research paper?
Learn the right strategies and go from there! Fundamentally, a good research paper should be properly researched. It should be free from the basic errors. You need to cite your sources accurately.
What are the steps of writing a research paper?
Start by understanding the assignment and then choosing your topic, creating an outline, and performing research, as mentioned above. You can start writing once your research sources are complete.
What are important tips for writing a research paper title?
Many things make up a well-crafted research title. Here’s how you make one:
- Be clear and concise in your use of words. Research papers are usually formal and objective. Write accordingly.
- Use relevant keywords, especially if you’re writing for publication in online databases.
- Be specific in your choice of title and headings.
- Consider your audience and the terminology used by the field.
- Follow guidelines including citations, structure and number of pages.
How can I make my research strong?
A strong research boils down to these to-dos:
- Formulate a clear research question.
- Perform a comprehensive literature review.
- Verify the accuracy and quality of the data you gather.
- Use accepted methodologies.
- Make a robust analysis of your findings.
- Develop a definitive conclusion.
What should I know before writing a research paper?
As a college student, you should view academic writing with the right mindset. Writing a research paper demands plenty of time and energy, so make sure to take your time making one. Explore the right topics and find ways to enhance your writing skills. A research paper can be tedious, but with the right process, you will finish strong and in no time.
Make an excellent research paper that you can make a reference to throughout your career and in pursuing graduate degrees. By earning academic papers in bachelor’s programs now, you’re paving the way for your professional success in the future!
University of Minnesota