How to Write a Research Paper

Formulate your own ideas and theories on the basis of existing data and knowledge.

A research paper is an essay or academic paper in which the content is supported by data or other sources. In other words, instead of just sitting down and writing something from the top of your head, you research about what other people have said about the subject and you then formulate your own ideas and theories on the basis of existing data and knowledge.

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Steps to Write a Research Paper

In some ways, knowing how to write a research paper is similar to learning how to write any sort of paper. You will need to:

  • Do your research
  • Develop a thesis
  • Outline your paper
  • Write your paper
  • Edit your paper

Choosing a Topic

Coming up with a topic is the first step, because until you know what you want to write about, it can be difficult to do research.

  • A topic “the history of events in British Columbia that took place at 2:00 PM on May 3” would be far too narrow because there simply would not be enough data about events at that exact minute and time for you to write a paper about (unless it was an extremely exciting minute in time).


The next step to knowing how to write a research paper is to understand how to do research. Research occurs when you look up information about your topic. For example, if you are writing a paper on the Revolutionary War, you may want to read American history books that deal with the subject. You can then use information from those books to narrow your topic, say to a particular battle in the revolutionary war, and then find books (or sections of books) on that particular battle.

  • Paraphrasing
  • Block quotations
  • Graphs
  • Statistical data
  • Any other sort of information that you get from another resource
  • Use quotation marks around titles of poems, articles, and short stories
  • List authors by their last name first
  • Include the author’s name and page number of the quote on the works cited page


After you have done your research, continue writing your paper as you would any other.

  • Your thesis is supported and explored in each paragraph
  • You properly cite the resources, giving credit for any ideas you draw from.
  • Be sure to include a works cited page at the end according to the style manual your teacher specifies (AP style or MLA style are common) so you can show just how much research you have done for your paper.

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