Writing a College-Level Research Paper

Once you are a college student, you will be expected to up your game in the academic department. In high school, you could make do with normal assignments and essays, but in college, you have to master the art of writing a comprehensive academic research paper. A research paper is just as professional as it sounds and there is very little room for error. Before you start writing your first research paper, read through the following tips carefully:


A research paper is very different from a regular essay

An academic research paper is not a summary of information or a brief exposition on a topic. Instead, it addresses a pertinent academic issue which is investigated thoroughly either by conducting practical experiments or by doing theoretical research. Based on these, an organic argument is developed using external sources and references. Significantly, a research paper looks into all possible branches of a particular issue and provides extensive knowledge about them.


Write a strong thesis statement

A thesis statement is the very first thing your professors or colleagues will read in your research paper. Therefore, it has to impress them by its brevity, precision and clarity. Simply put, a thesis statement reflects the entire argument of your paper in a brief manner. For instance, if you are writing a research paper about the increasing levels of obesity in the country, the thesis statement should identify the concrete problem, provide possible causes, state your unique findings and end with your proposal to treat the problem. Remember, a thesis statement doesn't have to be undebatable, it simply has to communicate your aim behind writing the paper.


Start with a solid introduction

If your thesis statement has invoked the curiosity of the reader, chances are that he or she will have high expectations from the introduction. To meet these expectations, hit the nail on its head i.e. be specific and don't linger around too much. Provide a relevant context briefly before you address the central issue. For example, a sentence like "Obesity is growing rampantly in USA" is a horrible way to start a paper. Replace this with "Statistics have shown that obesity has grown at 10% within the age group of 15-21 in the past decade in the US."


Form your argument in the main body

The body of the paper is where you develop your argument, provide references, exhibit your research, and problematize the central issue. The examples should be relevant and the research must be extensive. Write small and succinct paragraphs beginning with a topic sentence i.e. a sentence which states the argument that you will develop through the course of the paragraph. Make sure that the paragraphs are arranged in a logical manner so that each one smoothly flows into the other.


Tie up all lose ends in the conclusion

When you are handling several sub-topics at once, things can get a little chaotic. The conclusion is a golden opportunity to tie all loose ends together. Repeat the basic proposition before you go on to provide concrete conclusions. Incorporate all your major arguments and persuade your readers about your perspective so that they take away something substantial from the paper. Whatever you do, never introduce a new topic in the conclusion. This would create unrest within the mind of your readers thereby reducing the potency of your argument.


Give credit where it's due

Whenever you borrow something from another author or researcher or critic, give credit by providing proper citations. There are many different citation styles like MLA, APA, Chicago, etc., which include in-text citations, footnotes and bibliographies (which are attached at the end of the paper). Check with your professor to see which citation style he or she prefers. The failure to cite sources properly could lead to charges of plagiarism and as you know, colleges don't take plagiarism casually. You could be suspended from school or not allowed to graduate. Additionally, if you want to focus on a particular aspect of the paper in detail even if it is not directly related to your thesis, feel free to add a footnote. Citation styles can all be found pretty easily online and at your school's library.

At every step, be meticulous and refer to standard formats and structures regularly. And be sure to edit your paper before you turn it in! Whenever you find yourself in a fix, don't hesitate to ask for help. Good luck!

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