No-bullshit guide for writing a research paper
In school and college professors love to ask for “research papers” from their students. Truth is that sometimes they do not even read all of them (who has the time to carefully read thirty 5-page papers, right?). So let’s cut to the chase and learn how to write one without sweating too much.
Usually a “research paper” is a form of essay. There are different types of essays; for instance, expository, descriptive, literary, biographical, etc. First, identify the type of essay you need to write. The method proposed in this article is best suited for argumentative essays which is one of the most requested in schools and universities.
0. Choose a topic (if you can)
The first thing to consider is choosing what your essay is going to be about. At this stage, I recommend you to choose a topic in which you have decent knowledge. This way, the job will be easier because you are already familiar with the topic and know what ideas to include and where to look for more information. Sometimes your teacher will give you the topic, in that case, try to find the most interesting (or less boring) angle of that topic to you.
1. Organize your ideas and outline your paper
An outline is like the blueprints of your essay. There you include the topic and subtopics you are going to talk about. Analyze what is your intention, and what topics you will not be covering in this paper. This will help you to focus on your position and not to start rambling about everything which is a common pitfall if you do not plan your essay.
2. Define your thesis
Once you have your topic, the next step is to identify you thesis. This is a position (about the main topic) that you will defend. It does not need to be the absolute truth, it can be a subjective idea. Some authors like Rodburg, M.(1999) argue that “an effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion”. For him, an effective thesis statement has two parts: The first one tells what you plan to argue and the second one tells how you plan to argue. (Rodburg, M. 1999).
Why it is not an opinion if it can be a subjective idea? You might ask. Because an opinion ends when you express it. A thesis is something you are willing to demonstrate through your paper using a convincing method.
3. Write the introduction
Once you have prepared an outline or sketch of your paper, it is time to start writing it! Usually one begins with an introduction, here it is important to catch the reader’s interest and gently present the topic. You can also give context for your essay and tell readers why you think it is important to analyze that matter.
For some authors, it is important to explicitly include a thesis statement in the introduction. According to Gafarova, T. (2018). “The thesis statement is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader”. This will depend exactly on the type of paper you are writing and the structure you need to follow: If you are writing a book-length essay it is not necessary to write down the thesis on the first paragraph. If you are writing a 5 paragraph essay, doing it so is probably the best option.
Finally, you can end the introduction paragraph by presenting an overview of the structure that your essay will follow.
- Convince with your arguments, evidence, and examples
After finishing the introduction, continue with the longest part of your essay in the body section. This section comprises most of your essay and it is where you make all the arguments in favor or opposing your initial thesis. Here it is common to use your persuasion skills to convince the reader of your thesis.
Due to the extensive content of this section, it is easy to get lost, that’s why it is important to divide the information into small blocks or paragraphs containing a single idea. Paragraphs can begin with a topic sentence. A topic sentence makes the transition between the previous paragraph to the following one and gives an idea to the reader about the main topic of that paragraph. Now, after the topic sentence, you support it by giving examples, data, or quotes. However, if you give quotes or paraphrases, you must use reliable sources because not all the information you find on the internet is true or can be proved. These reliable sources can be scientific magazines, newspapers, or books. Also, you must give the original author the credit for the ideas you use in your essay. If it is advisable not only to give data, examples, or quotes; but also to interpret and explain them to the reader.
- Show solid conclusions
Finally arrive at the last part of your essay, the conclusions. Here, you can summarize all the arguments you made in the body, emphasize why your initial thesis is important, and finally state if you proved that your initial thesis is true. Make sure your conclusions are a product of your dissertation and do not make the common mistake of presenting conclusions with loose or no relation to the body of the essay.
After stating your conclusions, you have finished your essay. Not that hard, right? But before you submit it, you must revise and polish your essay, double-check the data and quotes you use. Also, check your grammar and spelling.
Submit it, and forget about it for the rest of your life.
Adolfo Acevedo. Bachelor in Foreign Languages.
Andres Acevedo. Software Engineer and Master in Literature.
Rodburg, M. et al. (1999). Developing a thesis. Harvard College Writing center. Harvard University. https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/developing-thesis
Gafarova, T. (2018). How to write strong thesis statements. Academia. 8(4), 40–42.