How to Write a Research Paper For College

posted by Laura Callisen 17 Sep 2014
Table of contents:

Research Paper Writing in College – the Stakes are High

Research papers at the university level can count for up to 50% of one’s course grade. It is a bit frightening to think that one project can be so important, but many professors believe they are more important than final exams or other coursework assignments. They believe that the college research paper demonstrates several important skills:

  • Fundamental ability to become an “expert” on a specific topic within the course curriculum
  • A willingness to engage in scholarly activity
  • The ability to organize one’s thought and to engage in critical thinking
  • A predictor of one’s ability to become a lifelong learner
  • Skill in use of formal English communication

For the most part, these professors may be right. And, to be certain, college research papers are unlike those term paper written in high school that did little more than impart information from objective sources.

In order to fully understand the expectation of research paper writing at the college level, it is important to look at the fundamentals of quality standards.

Topic Selection and Thesis

Choosing a topic for research is the first important step. To understand the difference between a high school topic and a topic for a research paper at the college level, let’s look at the causes of the Civil War, a paper for a U.S. history course. At the high school level, a student will read portions of a few books on the Civil War, perhaps locate some Internet sources, and may even be allowed to use a reputable encyclopedia. The student will then write a paper identifying and explaining the three causes – economic differences between the North and South, the conflict of states’ rights versus federal power, and, of course, the issue of slavery. The paper will be informational only. At the university level, however, the topic will involve a research question and a resulting thesis.  Perhaps after initial research, you will determine that, more than anything, the Civil War was fought in order to permanently settle the political and Constitutional issue of the supremacy of power – in the hands of individual states or the Federal government.  Your paper will focus only on this single cause and your thesis will be that this issue was the overriding cause of the War. Your paper will then have to prove your thesis.


As stated, research papers at the high school level will require objective, secondary resource materials. At the college level, however, there will be an expectation that resources will involve subjective materials that include the opinions of the authors, often primary sources from politicians and statesmen of the time. You will be required to comment on the validity of arguments and those who posit them. Remember, you must prove your thesis!

Expectations for Scholarly Writing

The college research paper must be reflective of a high level or written communication. Sentence structure must be more sophisticated, transitions must be fluid, and the entire piece must flow logically from one section to the next.  Grammar and mechanical errors will not be tolerated, as they may have been in high school. College research papers will be evaluated on language usage, vocabulary, structure and coherency as much as on the ideas put forth.

Research paper writing is a cumbersome and complex task. If you find the challenge beyond you, if you are pressed for time, or if you have little interest in the topic, don’t sacrifice your grade! can rescue you with exceptional researchers/writers who can produce academically-sound research papers with ease and grace. Contact us today with any research paper need – we have an exceptional writer waiting!

Laura Callisen

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay


Hello there! I am Laura Callisen, and I fancy myself to be a modern “Renaissance person.” I suppose my 30-something self began my incredible journey after having been born in Stavanger, Norway and then immigrating to the U.S. (Utah, actually) at the age of 5. I am certain that this change was more of a cultural “shock” for my parents than for me, because I quickly mastered the language and was clever enough to “play the game” of public education in America. After graduating from Skyline High School, where I spent two years as the school newspaper editor, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Utah was a natural culmination of my love for writing.

My inclination to be socially conscious led me to lots of community outreach and volunteering during my college years, especially in the areas of educational and housing improvement for the poor and a number of environmental crusades. My passion for philosophy and travel have now taken over, and I am enthralled with the widely varied value systems of all cultures in which I can immerse myself, if only temporarily. My life as a freelance writer allows a freedom I never want to sacrifice for a stuffy office!

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