Research Paper Writing Rules

While there isn’t one set of generally agreed upon rules for writing research papers, there certainly exists some guidelines which most academic institutions agree on. By definition, a research paper consists of research that is either conducted by the writer (original research) or based on research that has been completed by others.

The writer then takes this research and formulates a stand on the topic. The research paper is then constructed by the evidence presented by the writer. If this seems complicated, it is.

Generally accepted writing rules for research papers

1) Identify a topic by:

  • Doing some background reading
  • Speaking with your professors
  • Browsing newspapers and other current periodicals
  • Searching the internet for good topics related to your field

This step should be completed as early in the course as possible, to allow time for the next steps to be accomplished on time. Once you have identified a broad topic, begin to narrow it down so that it will be easier to focus on the details later on.

2) Identify a clear and concise research question by:

  • Pose a “how” or “why” question
  • Look for trends, developments or cause-outcome relationships within your topic
  • Formulating an argument; this is not the place to list off facts

3) Conduct some real research by:

  • Using primary sources as much as possible – not someone else’s summary or opinion.
  • Using sources that have a direct connection to the person, event or development that you are conducting research about.
  • Using your scholarly creativity, gather enough information and sources including secondary, to piece together a solid and sustainable argument.

4) Formulate and state your argument by:

  • Remembering this is not a book report. Making a list of the facts or events will not make an argument.
  • Answering the research question, identified in step #2, above.
  • Supporting your argument with adequate and substantial evidence as gleaned from the real research in step #3, above.

5) Write. Write brilliant content by:

  • Using a formal and serious writing style
  • Taking this project seriously; pay proper attention to logical steps
  • Using other scholars – fellow students and professors – to proofread for you and find any gaps or errors before you make your final draft.

Following some simple guidelines like these can make all the difference between a weak, feeble research paper that cannot stand on its own two legs and a strong, cogent research paper that wins over your professor and makes a memorable impact.


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