How To Write a Research Paper for Publication or University Credit
Academic and scientific research papers are written primarily to disseminate original contributions to current knowledge, so no research paper should ever be exactly like another. The question of precisely how to write a research paper will also be answered somewhat differently by each author, and there is no perfect overall strategy for how to write a research paper well in every possible situation. There are, however, certain principles, practices and concerns that are virtually universal in their application to a wide variety of research papers, so understanding them is an essential part of knowing how to write a research paper successfully. I have gathered a number of these principles, practices and concerns here as helpful tips for aspiring academic and scientific authors who wish to know how to write a research paper that will interest and impress readers and either earn an excellent grade or achieve publication in a reputable journal.
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1. Excellent research is the most vital element of how to write a research paper, and excellent research must be accurately explained for readers to understand its value and implications. Background and context should be established, previous scholarship should be cited, methods and materials should be described, results should be reported with precision, primary findings should be discussed and logical conclusions should be drawn.
2. Following the relevant instructions is a far more important part of how to write a research paper than many authors might think. Whether an author is using the style sheet provided by a publisher, the guidelines on a journal’s website or the instructions handed round by a professor, accurate and consistent observation of every requirement, great or small, throughout the entire paper is absolutely necessary.
3. Anticipating the readers of a research paper by writing with them in mind is an effective strategy for how to write a research paper that will hold the interest of its audience. Keep in mind that most research papers reach a varied audience, so a term paper may never be seen by anyone but the course instructor, but a research paper submitted to a journal will be read by journal editors, by peer reviewers and, if published, by other researchers.
4. Careful organisation of content into a clear and logical structure that enhances reader comprehension and tells an engaging research story is a necessary aspect of how to write a research paper. Guidelines and instructions for scientific research papers tend to outline required sections and headings, but structure is more flexible in other fields of study and some research topics demand innovative organisational solutions.
5. Learning how to write a research paper well means mastering the art of writing formal prose that is completely clear in meaning and correct in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Common language is usually desirable, jargon should be avoided and any discipline- or subject-specific terminology must be carefully defined or explained to ensure that all readers are able to understand the concepts and the paper as a whole.
6. Writing the individual sections of a paper in an order other than that in which they will appear in the final text can be a useful approach when tackling how to write a research paper. Many authors will write about their methods and results first, move on to draft the discussion and conclusion sections, and only then turn to the introduction. As a summary of the research paper, the abstract is almost always written or at least revised last.
7. Tables, figures and other visual aids to comprehension and analysis can be vital parts of a research paper and extremely helpful tools for both readers and the author. Designing and creating the tables and figures before writing about the information contained in them can enable the effective presentation of data, prevent unnecessary repetitions and constitute an efficient method for how to write a research paper.
8. Discussion and interpretation are essential aspects of a research paper, yet many research manuscripts are assigned poor grades by instructors or rejected by journal editors due to a shortage of intelligent and insightful interpretation. It is therefore imperative when considering how to write a research paper to reflect on the meaning and implications of the research findings and then discuss them logically for readers.
9. Published studies and other sources consulted during the research should be accurately cited when appropriate in a research paper both to support the new research and to pay due respect to research predecessors and their intellectual property. The style used to provide these in-text citations as well as the final list of complete references is usually dictated by guidelines or instructions, every detail of which must be followed precisely.
10. All forms of error must be avoided when determining how to write a research paper, so it is important to leave enough time for careful proofreading and editing to correct and improve content, language and formatting. Remember that a sloppy and poorly written manuscript is unprofessional and may suggest to a publisher or instructor that the research and analysis behind it are less than adequate as well.
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