Research Papers For Dummies: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

posted by Andy Preisler 02 Jun 2016
Table of contents:

Let’s start at the beginning. A research paper is an academic paper that you write after researching the topic of your choice. It contains none of your own opinions, just the data that you gather through online research sources, books, journals, magazines, newspaper articles, and a variety of other sources, along with your thesis and conclusion. Keep reading to learn much more about research papers and what it takes to write one. We hope the following guidelines will be very useful the next time you have to write a research paper of your own.

Important Notes About Research Paper Expectations

If you are at the college level, your instructors are going to have the expectation that you already know what it takes to write an academic research paper. Unfortunately, depending on the high school you attended and the academic track that you were on, you might not actually have those skills. You may have written a couple research papers in classes where the teacher was very lenient about the various required elements, or you may have never written a research paper while you were in high school. If this is the case, here’s some bad news; you’re still going to be held to the same standards as other students. This is why it is best to take research paper assignments seriously and to educate yourself as much as possible on all that is required of you. Although, before you dismiss your abilities, you should remember that there are many outlets on and off campus that you can go to for online research papers help. Availing yourself to some free tutoring or other writing help can truly help you with writing.

Topic Selection

The first thing that you will need to do is select a topic. In some cases your instructor will provide you with a limited list of research paper topics. This makes it easier for them to read and grade the papers and it stops students from getting too far out in left field. However, in classes such as English, you will be more likely to be able to choose your own topic. This is because the focus is usually on proving your research and writing skills rather than demonstrating knowledge on a specific topic. Here are some tips on choosing a topic:

  • Make a list of a few things that interest you
  • For each line item in that list, think of several, smaller sub topics
  • If you are working from a textbook look at your chapter and unit headings for inspiration
  • Go to the internet and look for papers and articles on these subtopics. If they are too narrow, you won’t find many articles or papers that meet your length requirements. If they are too general, you could find yourself writing a novella instead of a research paper.

Getting Into The Writing Process

Students who are well seasoned when it comes to research papers have a variety of “hacks” that they use to make writing at least a bit easier. Here are some things that you can do as well:


  • Search for research papers on your topic. Don’t plagiarize them. Just use them as resources. For example, what references did they use? How did they build up to their final point? What topics did they address in each paragraph?
  • Next, take a further look at the references that were used. If they are outdated, eliminate them. If they are encyclopedias, the same thing goes. However, if they are current, up to date, original sources, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot use them in your research as well.
  • Use technology, it is a true blessing. First of all, find a note taking app that works for you and use it. Many students like Evernote because it helps them to keep their notes organized, and it is searchable. Then, find an app to help you to keep your citations straight. You will appreciate this later on. Easybib is an app that allows you to enter in a reference source, and will then provide you with the citation that you need, in any format. If you have a hard copy of a reference, just scan the barcode with your phone.
  • Finally, do the research. There are ways to make this process easier, but you still have to do some legwork of your own.


  • Start with a research paper outline: Thanks to using the app, your notes are now well organized. In fact, each note card can be used as a line in your outline. Use your outline to focus on how you will structure your final research paper and what you will address in each paragraph.
  • Now move onto the rough draft. If you have done your leg work so far, this should be an easy process. Just convert your essay points into sentences and paragraphs. Just keep one thing in mind. Start spelling and grammar checking your work at this point. This will save you much time editing and proofreading down the line. Consider using grammarly or Hemingway to help you along the way. Also, be mindful of your resources. You might add a few at this point, just be sure you keep up with your citations. There is nothing worse than scrambling at the end of a research paper to figure things out.
  • Revise your first draft. Now is the time to begin perfecting your work. First and foremost, cut away anything that is a distraction. This is the challenge of writing a research paper. Not only do you have to write a paper that is a specific length, every bit of that paper must be absolutely relevant. There is no room for filler when it comes to writing a college level research paper. This means paring things down while still providing your instructor with all of the content that is required. It may be at this point where you consider contacting a company like where you can purchase high quality research papers. This is an absolutely valid option while you are still learning about research paper writing.
  • Now Focus on your formatting. You were probably told that your paper should be in APA, MLA, Chicago or another writing format. This impacts several aspects of your research paper including the following:
    • Font type and size
    • Line spacing
    • Margins and indentations
    • Citations
  • Choose a formatting app. Once you know the formatting requirements, you can find an app that will help you to structure your research paper so that it is compliant. A good tool will highlight any areas of your paper that are not compliant with the format you have been assigned.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget to check how to conclude a research paper.
    • A good conclusion should either support your thesis statement or clearly show why the evidence goes against your initial suspicions. Just remember that the purpose of a research paper isn’t to prove yourself right, it is to show that you can research a topic and them come up with an objective conclusion.

Figuring Out What You Have Learned

Research papers are hard work. In fact, they are often frustrating and rarely any fun at all. However, what they can do is provide you with some insights into your interests and talents. Once you’ve completed a research paper, do a bit of soul searching. Ask yourself what you learned and whether or not that knowledge has ignited any passions. Believe it or not, many students have changed the course of their college education because a research assignment turned them on to a true passion or interest. If you are choosing your major, pay attention to the writing assignments that you receive. One of them just might influence your future academic and career path. That is why do not hesitate using a professional research paper writing service and learn from experts.

Looking to The Future

Here is the good news. Now you know how to write a research paper. This means that you know how to approach these assignments in the future. So, what can you learn and carry into the future? Whether you like them or not, research paper assignments teach you to become a critical thinker. Remember that looking to pay to write research paper if you have no time left, doesn't make you a bad student. However, now that you look into the future, it might be time to consider how to apply what you have learned in the future. The critical thinking skills and other abilities that you learn with regard to researching and fact checking will be invaluable in the future.

Andy Preisler

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay

Andy Preisler


Hey there!

I’m Andy Preisler, and I’m super happy to be joining the blog team at!

While I hail from Fayetteville, Arkansas (I know, not the most progressive state!), I left the Southern life behind me many years ago when I went to college for my first degree. I’ve received it in University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and I’m really proud of this. Since then, I have studied in the U.S., and later on, continued my education in Loughborough University, UK, where I actually my second Bachelor’s Degree along the way.

With my perpetual studies (my parents wonder if it will ever stop), I have become a bit of an expert on college life – academic, social, and financial – and love sharing my experiences and my methods of “circumventing the system” with others.  I will be sharing all of these great tips and strategies with my readers, so stay tuned!

When I am not blogging or enrolling in some new course that interests me, I am backpacking through Europe and staying in hostels, working on my second novel (a riveting murder mystery), and pursuing my interest in music. Yes, I travel with my guitar, and you would be amazed at the amount of cash I can accumulate, just performing on the streets of European cities (they are so much more tolerant of vagabond musicians). 

My other passion is environmental. In my short 27 years of life on this planet, I have witnessed the extinction of species, the destruction of rain forests, and irreparable harm to our oceans. I contribute both time and money to several international environmental organizations, because we all must do our part to save Mother Earth.

But I digress! If you are interested in the “ins and outs” of college life, and want some great tales of navigating through the game of “degree attainment,” as well as tips for easing the pain of those pesky essay and paper assignments, follow my blog!

I would love to hear from you, to give you advice, and to lend a listening ear. You can contact me at [email protected] anytime! And follow my posts – you won’t be disappointed!

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