research paper tips

How to Write a Research Paper on Any Topic


At some point during high school or college, students have to write a research paper. This style of paper requires students to use evidence, primary documents and secondary sources to support a thesis. Although the format seems straightforward, actually writing the paper can be difficult. For students that are unable to get started on their assignment, try using the following tips.

Teach Yourself the Topic

Writing a research paper is essentially a learning process. As students learn more about their topic, they will be able to write the paper. This type of ability is useful for writing paper and for general learning. Students have to learn how to ask the right questions and find strong sources.

Start With Background Reading

Especially for unfamiliar topics, students should always begin with background reading. Before they can write a thesis, they have to understand the topic. In general, students can begin with reading secondary literature about the topic or recent studies. Many textbooks and encyclopedias can also give an overview of the topic.

Create a Clear Question

Sometimes, students create a thesis that is too vague or confusing. This makes the research paper almost impossible to write. In order to write a strong paper, students have to have a clear research question that they will address. This will help them to narrow down their research and really focus their paper around a specific topic.

Step Outside of Using Just Secondary Sources

When it comes to writing a research paper, students need to go beyond just secondary sources or the Internet. For a history paper, they may need to read first-hand letters from historical figures or search through years of magazines. Real research requires primary sources. Although secondary sources are great for background, they make it difficult to right an innovative, intelligent essay. Primary sources allow the student to get as close as possible to the actual topic.

Make Sure to Make an Argument

A research paper is not just a book report. Students are expect to go beyond just reiterating information they read. They must combine information and assemble evidence. All of this information must be weaved together to create a cohesive argument. In scholarly circles, few ideas or facts are uncontested for long. Due to this, research papers always have an argument for a particular idea or thesis. Without this argument, the research paper is just another book report—albeit an especially long, time-consuming one.

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