Getting Started on That Research Paper

Posted August 12, 2015 by
piles of books open with a computer. Working on a research paper.

Piles of books open with a computer. Working on a research paper. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

No one really loves writing research papers – well, maybe a few do when it’s on a topic they really love! For the most part, however, students dread them when they appear on course syllabi, try to carve out the time to do the research and the writing, and often find themselves pushing those deadlines as tightly as they can, because they really don’t like the work. During my work with I learned a lot of crucial waypoints that makes research paper writing easier.

Sometimes the worst part about research paper writing is just the first step – identifying and refining that topic! Once you have that, you at least have a focus for your research! So, here you will find some tips for getting this project off the ground and getting through each step of the production process!

  • It’s All About the Topic: If you are stalled in how to start a great research paper, then you really haven’t clarified your topic. Your instructor may have given you a general topic area or provided options within a topic area among which you can choose. But it is now up to you to refine that topic within the parameters of the breadth and depth of the assignment. How do you do this? You cannot refine a topic unless you do some initial basic research on it. So, get online and conduct a search for that topic area. You can simply type in basic keywords, such as, “Resistance efforts in France during World War II,” or “ethics and biogenetic engineering.” You get the idea. Then you can actually get an idea of how much resource material is available on the topic, including books, journal articles, and such. Click on a couple of these sources and read! As you read, you will be able to refine that topic to a more manageable facet of the larger “picture.”
  • The Thesis: A big part of learning how to start off a research paper is developing a thesis to accompany your topic. As you read the few sources you have selected, start thinking about a position or a point of view you may want to take. For example, in the case of French resistance during World War II, you may want to focus on why certain movements were successful and how they operated. This will allow you to develop your thesis that successful resistance movements in France all had certain common characteristics and procedures. The topic of biogenetic engineering ethical considerations may draw you to the concept of “designer babies” and who can actually afford such engineering procedures. This will lead you to an opinion that, because only wealthy individuals will be able to engineer the characteristics of their offspring, a potential society of great inequality may be in our future, unless strict regulations are put into place!
  • The Real Research Begins: Now that you have your topic and your thesis, you can refine the search for the most suitable resources. You are no longer using the keywords “French Resistance during World War II;” your new search keyword phrase is “Successful French Resistance Movements during World War II.” You are not just looking into the “Ethics of Biogenetic Engineering;” you are now using the phrase, “Designer Babies – Future Societal Issues.” This change in your research strategy will give you the specific source materials you need!
  • Clarifying Your Position or Point of View: The research you now conduct will allow you to further develop your thesis. You can now quantify the specific things that made resistance movements successful and perhaps apply them to resistance movements in countries with repressive governments. You may develop the opinion that allowing people of means to construct “designer babies” will be horrible for a democratic society. These clarifications will give you the basic information for how to start a research paper introduction on your topic. For, you will need to clearly state both your topic and your thesis statement in your introduction.
  • Writing that Introduction: If there is one piece of advice for students producing research papers, it is to leave the introduction for last. Do your research, take your notes, synthesize those notes into sub-topics, prepare your outline, and write your rough draft before you ever tackle that introduction. Why? Because as you put all of that research together and write that rough draft, you are getting the larger “picture,” and there may be some startling or really interesting piece of information that you can use in your introduction – something that will engage your reader immediately! And that is precisely what good introductions do – grab attention and motivate the reader to want to continue.

Of course, the ultimate measure of your success in such a project is that final grade. It will certainly be based upon your content and presentation, but the other details, such as grammar, punctuation, and proper formatting will also be in play. However, if you have taken the time to get a good start, by following these tips, you are on your way!


Edward Terry is an author with very interesting experience that he gained during his two graduation programs as bachelor in different universities. And now his articles contain life hacks and know hows that will be very useful for newcomers and future students.

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