How to write a research paper: tips and best practices

The programme of study at a college or university includes the preparation of different writing assignments, and research is no exception. It is not the most straightforward academic paper, but we will tell you how to write a research paper,  get high grades and complete this task efficiently. Remember that every detail and every section is important when writing research – don’t miss them, and move along with our step-by-step guide.

What is a research paper?

Research is the foundation of modern knowledge and one of the most effective ways to share relevant information on the Internet.

You train to write such studies from college or university and learn to understand the information they represent because in future you need to be perfectly oriented in the information you receive.

Research papers are among the most complex academic papers that require a systemic approach and analytical thinking. They test the ability to compare facts and statistics and draw conclusions from the information obtained. That is why it is crucial to figure out how to write a study correctly so that the professor highly appreciates it.

When you get an assignment to write a research paper, keep in mind that it should include evidence and reasoning for each conclusion. In addition, the college may ask you to write a research proposal. It is a different kind of paper that is not the research itself but refers to its importance and justifies the resources (human and financial) that can be used to prepare the research paper itself.

How long should a research paper be

Different word-count may be assigned in research for a school, college and university. At the university, you can expect a document of 6,000 – 10,000 words; at the school, from 1,000 words. In any case, the number of words is also influenced by the topic to be explored. In addition, the lecturer can specify the required amount of the task to check whether you can work within the defined limits or specific requirements for a particular level of student training.

What to include in research paper

Your research should show why you are undertaking this topic and what important value/thought/find you are promoting.

The research paper has a clear structure.

Unless otherwise specified by your assignment, you can use the IMRaD format to prepare the research. It means your paper should have an introduction, methods, results and discussion in the same sequence. We also recommend including an abstract, keywords, acknowledgements and citations.

It is what your research should look like:

  • Title (Indicate the research topic, submission date and your name.)
  • Abstract (The short version of your research. Why the topic is essential, how it was researched, what methods were used and what results were obtained. In short – about 300 words. )
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction. (Why have you taken up this topic, how can its research influence social/individual processes and what outcome you wanted to achieve.)
  • Methods (How you performed research. Your strategies should be clear and reasonable.)
  • Results. (Here you summarise all the data. You can add graphs and tables to this section.)
  • Discussion (It is necessary to explain the results, for example, how they will affect a certain field of research. Your justification should be clear within the context of the assignment.)
  • Conclusions (Write about the most significant discoveries and finds you made in the research process.)
  • References (List of all resources used for research)

How to start a research paper

Before writing your research paper, you must carefully read the assignment. Failure to comply with technical requirements can result in a lower rating, even if your research is well-written. Consider factors such as text length, formatting, and citation style.

Another critical point before writing the research is the choice of the topic. It is the topic that determines all your further work on the study, so its choice should be considered. Avoid too popular issues. Although on them you will find many sources of information, unlikely to be able to bring something new. Too narrow a topic can limit you in the sources of information, and it will be challenging to get the text to the required words count. The best option for you is to choose a topic that you really want to understand and discover something new for yourself. Stay involved and test a few topics in common. We are sure that you will easily find exactly your case.

How to write a research paper step-by-step

The first step, start writing the research paper with a thesis statement. It briefly summarises your research work and reveals its primary meaning. According to your thesis statement, your instructor should clearly understand what he will read next. But uncovering all the research findings in the thesis statement is not worth it. If you have difficulty writing an affirmative thesis statement, try to transform it into a question and immediately answer it.

The second step, write an outline. Sometimes students ask themselves, do you need to write a research paper outline? Our answer is yes! The research paper is the kind of writing that requires a systematic approach and a clear structure. It is why the outline is primarily essential for the student.

How to write an outline for research? Write all the items you want to cover in the paper, then analyse them and arrange them correctly and logically.

The third step is to go to writing the research paper itself. If you have not missed the previous point and you have a detailed outline, writing a research paper will go smoothly for you, however voluminous it may be. Follow the IMRaD format unless otherwise specified in your assignment.

Your work will be divided into three parts:

  • Intro
  • Paper body
  • Conclusions

The most significant part falls on the body of the paper. Ensure that the sections in the body of the study meet the outline items. Do not be afraid to make a mistake; you will again re-read your paper. When completing your essay, pay more attention to the logical sequence and the correct substantiation of your findings, and correct the grammatical later.

The secret to the research paper’s success is brilliant insights (conclusions).  Here you can demonstrate your eloquence skills and confirm your thesis statement emphasising the importance of research. Your opinion should also be present in the conclusions to explain to the professor the ability to evaluate facts and evidence and express your opinion on their basis.

Research paper format

You chose a great topic and wrote a great paper with findings and conclusions. Do you think you have your study ready? Still waiting! No less important point in writing such an academic paper is formatting. 

Formatting makes text readable and whole. Try formatting your paper according to our recommendations or requirements from your university assignment.

1. Paper

Use high-quality and density paper, necessarily clean and only on one side. 

2. Margins and indentations

Remember to leave indent fields 1 or 2.5 cm on each side of the sheet. Use 1/2 distance (1.25 cm) from the top right corner for page numbers.

3. Cover page

Check with your tutor if you need the title page. Not all universities require it, but it should be by default for some. 

4. Page numbering 

All pages should be numbered in the upper right corner on the right. Write numbers with Arabic numerals. Students who write research for the first time can embellish their essays; page numbering is no exception. But do not do this. One number in the right place will be enough. 

5.  Use the proper format for citations.

Citation style should also be specified in the research requirements. Several major styles are used in universities and colleges around the world:

  • works-cited-list (MLA)
  • in-text citations (Harvard, APA)
  • footnotes at the bottom of the page (Oxford)

But if the style is not specified in the requirements, remember that the most popular source citation in the UK is the Harvard style.

6. End of essay

You can put a period at the end of your essay paper and nothing more. There is no word signal to complete the research paper.

Types of research papers

There are different types of research papers, each with its characteristics. That is why you need to know what kind of research the teacher expects from you initially. Often, the definition of the type of research paper also depends on the topic. Let’s look at the most popular types of research papers among students. 

  • Compare And Contrast Research Papers

For this research, it is essential to provide the collected facts and compare and/or contrast them.

  • Analytical Research Paper

In this paper, the analysis of all points of view and facts is the key. Conclusions should also demonstrate not dry facts and finds but their analysis. At the same time, one should avoid the predominance of one point of view over another and demonstrate the author’s preference. 

  • Problem-solving Research Paper

This study needs to focus on solving the problem. But first, you have to make it straightforward so that during the research, even if you come across a very suitable source and you want to expand the topic – you have not done that. One problem – one solution – one study. 

  • Definition Research Paper

This type of research paper involves a few active research tools, but you will have to explore many sources that will help prepare a brilliant essay. All that is needed is to collect complete information on your topic. It does not even require analysis or your opinion. 

  • Survey Research Paper

The key source in this study is the respondents, and the researcher should conduct a survey on his topic, analyse the responses received and draw conclusions. 

  • Argumentative Research Paper

The main goal is to compare two opposing viewpoints. You will also need to indicate which of them you prefer and justify why.

  • Experimental Research Paper

To write the Experimental Research Paper, you need to experiment, describe the methodology and the entire experimental process, and specify the results and sources of citation. Use empirical analysis to construct your conclusions correctly.

Writing research papers: do’s and don’ts

You wrote the research paper, formatted it, and proofread it. But is that really the end of it, and it’s time for the university submission?

Let’s review the points that need to be in the paper and what should not be there. 


  • Stick to one topic and do not deviate from it, even if you have found new information from your sources that you want to explore further.
  • Remain clear and precise. Any doubt or uncertainty should be clarified in the text, as your instructor may also have a misunderstanding.
  • Use a single format style (and citation) for the entire paper.
  • Specify  sources used for citation (it will be interpreted as plagiarism).
  • Check for plagiarism with any available (even free) application.
  • Use the correct abbreviation, and check whether the abbreviation you use for abstracts in the UK is acceptable.
  • Revise the essay for grammatical and spelling errors or ask a professional editor.


  • Write sentences too long because it is an analytical document and should look solid. 
  • Write words in capital letters trying to give them great importance. 
  • Use questionable sources to write research.
  • Use too many sources for little research papers.
  • Use repetitions, generalisations, filler, or parasitic words in the text.
  • Share your opinion without substantiating anything.

Research paper tips

  1. Take notes. Students often rely on memory but quickly forget what source they saw as useful for research. Be sure to make notes during the topic research; your notes will help you fill in gaps when you sit for the writing of the study
  2. Use examples. If you are writing research papers for the first time, find an example of good quality and study it. It will help you make your paper as brilliant as ever.
  3. Be brief. Long paragraphs of essays complicate the perception of information, and the professor may find it difficult to follow your thoughts. Leave the most important! 
  4. Add examples to the text. It will help the reader immerse in your research and clarify your vision of the situation or problem.
  5. Don’t delay your research until the last moment. It is not the most straightforward essay, and you will not be able to find and study all the sources on the topic, as well as convert a simple text into a research paper of a decent kind for a day. You will have to devote enough time to this assignment to get a high rate. 
  6. Check the sources in the bibliography for consistency with the quotes in the text. Depending on the citation style, you may have a short description of the sources in the text and a list of bibliographies at the end of the study. Make sure that all the sources you have used are on the bibliography page because it may affect the evaluation of your work. 
  7. Adjust your final paper.

     Before writing the research:

  • Make a draft, read it and write the final document.
  • Read the final document, make corrections and improve it to perfect condition.
  • Take enough time to edit.