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Composition & Writing

How to Write a Research Paper

Writing the Body of the Paper

Use your notes to write your paper. As you read over your notes, look for main themes and points of interest. These can be the main ideas you read about in your research sources.  Try to support these main ideas with facts and statistics you have collected. If the paper is argumentative, remember to provide an argument for counterpoints to your main ideas. 

Try outlining you ideas. Outlining is a way to organize your information into a series of well-ordered and understandable thoughts. What ideas are your main points and what ideas are supporting information. You may also find gaps in your ideas and reasoning. Use the outline to give yourself a better idea of what structure you paper is going to take. It will create a map for where information should be placed; how the placement of the information will create a flow of ideas. 

Try to state the main theme and supporting points in your own words. See the  Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing Guidelines from Purdue Owl. Try to explain the major ideas. Begin a new paragraph for each main idea. Remember to integrate the research you have found and acknowledge ideas and information you have learned with in-text citations. A research paper is not an essay, in other words, this is not about your opinions. Do not use first person nouns such as "I" or "my." If you have developed new interpretations or concepts related to your research, great! But, you need to back up these ideas with facts. 

Read the paper out loud. In addition to helping you express ideas in your own words, this exercise may stimulate your own thoughts and viewpoints concerning your topic. Reading out loud also helps with your phrasing and organization of ideas. Even better, read your paper out loud to someone else. You may be more aware of how your words sound when you have an audience, and they may also give you some good feedback. 

Parts of the Paper

Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your introductory paragraph should grab the reader's attention, state your main idea and how you will support it. The body of the paper should expand on what you have stated in the introduction. Finally, the conclusion restates the paper's thesis and should explain what you have learned, giving a wrap up of your main ideas. 
 

1. The Title
The title should be specific and indicate the theme of the research and what ideas it addresses. Use keywords that help explain your paper's topic to the reader. Try to avoid abbreviations and jargon. Think about keywords that people would use to search for your paper and include them in your title. 


2. The Abstract
The abstract is used by readers to get a quick overview of your paper. Typically, they are about 200 words in length (120 words minimum to  250 words maximum). The abstract should introduce the topic and thesis, and should provide a general statement about what you have found in your research. The abstract allows you to mention each major aspect of you topic and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Because it is a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last. 


3. The Introduction
The introduction should be designed to attract the reader's attention and explain the focus of the research. You will introduce your overview of the topic, your main points of information, and why this subject is important. You can introduce the current understanding and background information about the topic. Toward the end of the introduction, you add your thesis statement, and explain how you will provide information to support your research questions. This provides the purpose, focus, and structure for the rest of the paper.


 

4. Thesis Statement
Most papers will have a thesis statement or main idea and supporting facts/ideas/arguments. State your main idea (something of interest or something to be proven or argued for or against) as you thesis statement, and then provide your supporting facts and arguments. A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking. It also points toward the paper's development. This statement should be both specific and arguable. Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

Students often learn to write a thesis as a first step in the writing process, but often, after research, a writers viewpoint may change. Therefore a thesis statement may be one of the final steps in writing. 
Examples of Thesis Statements from Purdue OWL


 

5. The Literature Review
The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and how it specifically relates to the research thesis. It should be a synthesis of the previous literature and the new idea being researched. The review should examine the major theories related to the topic to date and their contributors. It should include all relevant findings from credible sources, such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles. You will want  to:

  • Explain how the literature helps the researcher understand the topic.
  • Try to show connections and any disparities between the literature.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research.
  • Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.

More about writing a literature review. . .
More about summarizing. . .


 

6. The Discussion
​The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe what you have learned from your research. Make the reader understand why your topic is important. The discussion should always demonstrate what you have learned from your readings (and viewings) and how that learning has made the topic evolve, especially from the short description of main points in the introduction.Explain any new understanding or insights you have had after reading your articles and/or books. Paragraphs should use transitioning sentences to develop how one paragraph idea leads to the next. The discussion will always connect to the introduction, your thesis statement, and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction. You want to: 

  • Demonstrate critical thinking, not just reporting back facts that you gathered.
  • If possible, tell how the topic has evolved over the past and give it's implications for the future.
  • Fully explain your main ideas with supporting information.
  • Explain why your thesis is correct giving arguments to counter points.


​7. The Conclusion
A concluding paragraph is a brief summary of your main ideas and restates the paper's main thesis, giving the reader the sense that the stated goal of the paper has been accomplished. What have you learned by doing this research that you didn't know before? What conclusions have you drawn? You may also want to suggest further areas of study, improvement of research possibilities, etc. to demonstrate your critical thinking regarding your research.