How to Write an Academic Research Paper – Updated in 2023!

When you are assigned an academic research paper, the task can seem daunting. But with a little organization and planning, you can write a great paper. In this article, we will give you some tips on how to write an effective academic research paper.

Core Elements Of A Research Paper

Scientific writing papers

One of the main staples of academic writing is the research paper. The focus of this type of paper is on the student’s ability to formulate an idea, back up his or her points with research, and succinctly and correctly argue in favor of the point. Here are common elements of research papers:

  • Introduction and Conclusion Sections– Essays should have an introduction with strong sentence starters that interests readers in the topic or explains the importance. It should also introduce the argument. The conclusion should briefly summarize the points made in the paper and explain the significance of the argument.
  • Thesis – Academic essays need to have a thesis, or a statement of the point you are trying to make. The entire body of the essay should support this sentence.
  • Citation – All facts that are not considered common knowledge should be cited using appropriate citation guidelines for your field. This proves that you gathered information from experts in the field and helps to back up your points.
  • Paraphrasing and Quotations – All information should be paraphrased from the original source, even when cited, unless being used as a direct quotation. Good research papers have both quotations and paraphrased citations.
  • Additional Elements – This could include experiment information, analysis of results, graphs, and recommendations for further studies. These extra elements will be dictated by conventions in your specific field.

How to Write a Research Paper

After you have written your title, the first step in writing a research paper is to do preliminary research on your topic to determine what point will be made in the course of the essay.

Once you have identified key information about the topic, you need to formulate your thesis statement.

  • Your thesis statement is usually going to be a sentence that briefly summarizes the point you are trying to make in an essay.

By determining your thesis statement before you start writing, you can help focus your research and save yourself extra work.

Research Paper Introduction

The introduction for a research paper sets the tone for the rest of the paper, so it’s important to hook your readers and provide them with a roadmap of what’s to come.

The reader should not have to guess what the paper is about!

  • Start with a compelling opening sentence or two that grabs your reader’s attention and sets the tone for your paper
  • Provide background information on the topic
  • Write a clear and concise thesis statement that outlines the purpose of your paper

Research & Note Taking

writing research papers

Once you have your thesis, continue researching your topic, but try to focus on information that supports or argues against your point. You should take detailed notes throughout your research.

Different schools and fields may recommend different approaches to taking notes and organizing research, but notecards are a commonly used tool during the research phase.

It is usually recommended that students use one notecard for each different point found in research, and that the card contains the author of the text the point came from, along with the page numbers from which the information came.

Additionally, students should create notecards for potential references, including all citation information according to the style guide of the research paper. Unlike when writing a prologue, you want to be very detailed and cover the full topic.

If you do not use notecards, you should have some method of keeping information organized and finding sources to reference. Many students create text documents or spreadsheets with information as alternative methods.

Outline Your Work

Once you think you have most of the necessary information to begin drafting your paper, you should try to organize your notes into a basic argument that supports your facts.

  • Many people try to create an outline at this point.

Creating an outline is the most important part of pre-writing. One reason that notecards are particularly helpful during the drafting of a research paper is that during this phase, notecards can be ordered to accompany an outline.

An outline is a tool that helps you organize your thoughts for your paper. It can be considered a list of the points you intend to make on the subject.

  • The outline is your main tool in organizing how you will argue your point.

You should write your thesis statement at the top, and then divide your argument into key points below. Each point should have supporting information below it, which will come from the research you completed.

Research papers in academic writing usually include a listing of all sources in the form of a works cited page or bibliography.


There are many formats for academic research papers, and which type you will use depends on your field. They each have different formatting and citation standards including order of information in citations, what information to include, and how your paper should be indented or spaced.

You should talk to your teacher or professor about what style guide he or she wants you to use and about key points they want you to know about the style.

Tips for a Great Research Paper:

Writing great research papers is not an eloquent science. There is no single hard and fast rule

  • You should address arguments against your point in your paper, but those can be addressed in one paragraph or throughout the body of your paper, depending on your subject and the length of the argument.
  • Your argument should be presented in a coherent manner with points that flow nicely into one another.
  • You should utilize transitional phrases when changing paragraphs to make the paper flow cohesively. These phrases include but are not limited to terms like, “furthermore,” “however,” and “similarly.”
  • Each point of your argument should be supported by factual evidence you gathered in your research.
  • Most of the paper should be your own argument, but each point should have a few pieces of supporting evidence in the form of citations and quotes.
  • Your paper should balance your own information, citations, and quotes, rather than having all one type of information or another.
  • Most research papers are assigned well in advance of deadlines. Research can take a long time to complete fully, so begin early and stick to a plan.
  • The length of your research paper will often be dictated by your teacher or professor. It should be proportional to the amount of research required.
  • Remove informal vocabulary. Phrases like “catch you on the flip side” should not be used. Read our post on see you on the other side meaning to learn more about this colloquial term!

FAQs – Research Papers

What are the 7 steps of writing a research paper?

1) Find the purpose of the pape
2) Refine your research question
3) Organize your approach
4) Collect more information
5) Attribute the information correctly
6) Write your conclusion
7) Polish your thesis statement

What is the basic format of research paper?

The basic format of a reach paper in academic publishing is: 8 ½ x 11-inch white paper, with 1-inch margins, and a font size of 12 point Times New Roman.

Can I use first person in a research paper?

Writers often ask whether they can use first person pronouns like “I” and “we” in a research paper. The answer is that it depends on the context. In general, it is perfectly acceptable to use a first-person point of view in certain situations, such as in abstracts, introductions, discussions, and conclusions. Research papers should be written in third person NOT first person.

What can I use instead of I in a research paper?

One way to reduce ‘I’ usage in your scientific papers is to use the passive voice. “The viewer” or “the reader” are also good options. You should avoid first-person writing in scientific writing. For example, “The viewer may notice that the protagonist seems bothered by something.” Write your scientific paper in the third person. Avoid personal pronouns.

Where do you put the bibliography in a research paper?v

It is commonplace in the academic community to place the bibliography at the end of your report, on the last page. This ensures that readers can easily find the sources that you used, and it makes it easy for them to check your citations.

Final Thoughts

The best way to sum up our advice on how to write an academic research paper? Use your time wisely, be concise in your writing, and always proofread! These tips will help you produce a high-quality research paper that will make you proud. Try out ProWritingAid or Grammarly if you want some extra help. And don’t forget – if you get stuck at any point along the way, we are always here to help. Good luck with your next paper!