How to Write a Good Research Paper
The research paper is often the key to your grade. If it is sharp, original and well-defended, it boosts your grade. However, many papers are badly written and are hard to understand. That is why some students get poor grades and the good ideas that they have go under-appreciated. Following simple guidelines can dramatically improve the quality of your papers.
Please, carefully read the information below and learn about effective strategies which may help you write a good research paper.
1. Finding a Research Topic
Finding a good and feasible topic constitutes one of the most essential parts of writing a research paper. While some professors may give you a list of possible topics that you can choose from, other professors may ask you to find your own subject matter. Make sure that you clearly understand the expectations of your professors and find a topic related to the course content. If you are not clear whether you have a tangible topic or not, talk to your professor.
While choosing a research topic, avoid choosing too general or too narrow topics. Usually professors ask you to narrow your topic to allow you to conduct a more focused research. In addition, make sure that you have read adequate materials such as books or journal articles before you start writing your research project.
- Make sure that you understand your professor’s expectations
- Relate your topic to the content of the course
- Narrow your topic
- Find adequate materials before making your last decision about your research topic
2. Resources to Help You Before Starting A Research Paper
- Make an appointment and talk to your professor or your teaching assistant about your interests and ideas.
- BU Library is a massive resource which assists you in finding useful research strategies. To find out more, please visit Research Strategies. To use the library more effectively, you can also view short videos about library resources and services. Here is a list of some very useful videos: How To Use the Library
- You can also make an appointment with a subject librarian whose expertise is on the topic that you are researching. You may find the names and the contact information of the subject librarians at Contact a Librarian
You may also use the online form to make an appointment:
Make an Appointment with a Librarian
- Search Engines always help you get started with research. Below are the names of some search engines and directories selected by librarians.
BU Library also provides you with an extensive list of other libraries and online references: BU Library Guides
BU Library Research Tools
- You may also use the services of the BU Writing Center. The Writing Center helps you understand the assignment, select/narrow a topic, plan your research, choose credible source materials, read critically, develop a thesis statement, organize your paper, and revise the syntax, grammar, mechanics, and style of your paper. (Please, remember that the Writing Center is not responsible for fixing the grammar of your paper. They only give you advice on improving your grammar.)
3. Contents of the Research Paper
Usually research papers are 10-15 pages long and consist of the following parts:
- Introduction (1 page)
- The Main Text:
The Problem (1 page)
Literature Review (2 pages)
Concepts and Hypothesis (2 pages)
Research Design (2 Pages
Findings (1 page)
- Conclusion (1 page)
When organizing your paper, keep in mind that different parts of your paper have different functions. Your introduction makes claims. The body of your paper provides evidence to support each claim. Evidence can be analysis, comparison, theorems, measurements, and case studies. In the conclusion, summarize your findings.
- Introduction: Describe your problem and state your contribution to the solution of the problem (To introduce your problem, you can use an example). In the introduction, you should point out what your thesis statement is. From the very start, the reader should be very clear about what you will be arguing in your paper.
- The Main Text: Here, you start conveying your ideas. First, clearly present the gist of your idea. What is the main problem/question that you are dealing with in this paper? What are the goals of your research? In other words, describe your problem in detail and explain why it is an interesting problem. Then move on elaborating your idea with examples and comparisons. In order to do so, you may refer to previous research done on the same topic (Literature Review) and explain how/why your work differs from and contributes to the existing literature. You may also want to define the basic concepts that you frequently use in your paper and why you use them. Don’t forget to clearly state what your hypothesis is. Then explain your methodology (Research Design). In other words, what is your research based on? What kinds of sources did you use? What are the major questions that you try to answer through your research? As the final step in building up the main body of your paper, describe the findings of your research. In other words, what conclusions did you reach based on your research?
- Conclusion: Briefly summarize the main text of your paper. When the reader stops reading the conclusion, h/she should have a clear idea of what your whole paper was about.
4. Academic Honesty and Citing Your Resources: How to Avoid Plagiarism
While writing a research paper, you need to be very careful about academic honesty. The rules regarding academic honesty may be very different at Binghamton University than the rules in your home country. Be very careful to cite the sources that you use in your paper. If you use somebody else’s idea without giving the appropriate citation, you may violate the ownership of their ideas. This is called plagiarism.
The consequences for a student found guilty of plagiarism are severe. If you are not sure how to cite the sources of your research, you will want to meet with your professor, teaching assistant or a research librarian before you write your research paper. They can help you practice so you know exactly what to do.
You will find the academic policies for academic honesty detailed at this web link scroll down to the section
“Rules Governing Academic Life”
BU Academic Policies
You will find more information on plagiarism at:
BU Library - Plagiarism
REMEMBER, always cite your research sources:
- For more information on how and what to cite, please visit Citing Your Sources. Please be careful to give credit to your sources. There must be no question ever, that you have been completely honest in your work.
Be sure to format your citations according to the style guides required by your professor, such as
American Psychological Association (APA) Style:
APA Citation Guide
Modern Language Association (MLA) Style:
MLA Citation Guide
5. Quick Check – Planning is essential to a successful paper
Carefully check the syllabus for your courses, mark the deadlines for submitting your papers on your calendar.
If you run into obstacles when you are writing your paper, meet with your professor right away!
Remember to do the following:
- Submit your paper by the deadline
- Keep with the format requirement
- Always use a spell check
- Read your paper out loud, doing this will always help you check on the clarity of your writing. It will help you discover if you are missing any part of your thesis, argument or conclusion.