Research comes from the French word rechercher, meaning “to seek out.” Writing a research paper requires you to seek out information about a subject, take a stand on it, and back it up with the opinions, ideas, and views of others. What results is a printed paper variously known as a term paper or library paper, usually between five and fifteen pages long—most instructors specify a minimum length—in which you present your views and findings on the chosen subject.
Let’s be honest: most students hate research papers. They think it an assignment that is both picky and tedious. Wrestling with the correct format of a footnote drives them loopy. That, in a nutshell, is how you really feel about the research paper. Many students feel exactly the same. Yet for all the anxiety that the research paper provokes, it has outlasted generations of its student haters. Obviously it must be good for something, or else it would have been swept away long, long ago.
In fact, the research paper is an excellent tool for learning about a topic of your choice. Writing it will expose you to the rigors of research, acquaint you with the protocol of making correct citations to sources consulted, and teach you how to forge a mishmash of researched opinions into a single, coherent viewpoint. Of course, it is possible that your instructor will assign a specific topic for your paper, but typically topic choice is left up to the writer. Finding and shaping the final topic is usually regarded as a test of the student’s judgment. The student who chooses a vast topic, such as wars throughout the ages, has taken on too big a job. On the other hand, the student who chooses to write on the history of the tire iron is proposing a topic that is too small. So how to write a research paper? Our writing guide is arranged following the logical steps of writing process.
Research Paper Writing Guide
Reasons for Writing a Research Paper
One obvious reason for writing the research paper is that writing it forces you to learn lots about your chosen subject. Sifting through the pros and cons of opinions on any subject is a priceless learning experience. Another reason is that writing the research paper teaches you the conventions of academic writing, among them the accepted styles of documentation and the ethics of research.
A third reason is that you will become familiar with the library through the “learning by doing” method. Even the simplest library is an intricate storehouse of information, bristling with indexes, encyclopedias, and abstracts. How to seek out from this maze of sources a single piece of information is a skill you learn by actual doing. Writing a research paper may also mean interviewing experts about your subject and blending their ideas with your own distinct point of view. In short, you, like everyone else, can profit from knowing how to do research.
There are other benefits as well. Writing the research paper is an exercise in logic, imagination, and common sense. As you chip away at the mass of data and information available on your chosen topic, you learn:
- How to track down information
- How to organize
- How to use the Internet in your research
- How to discriminate between useless and useful opinions
- How to summarize
- How to budget your time
- How to conceive of and manage a research project from start to finish