What is a Research Paper?

Find out What is a Research Paper and the Process of Writing one

What is a research paper?

When someone asks you to explain what is a research paper, what kind of image comes to mind? Is it one where you have to work with large stacks of books and articles in the search for others’ thoughts?

Whatever kind of image you create, there is no question you envision large sources of information such as artworks, articles, people and books. However, there is more to writing a research paper than the summing up of sources, collection of information from different sources and the review of literature in a given field.

A research paper argues out a point or analysis a given perspective. Despite the kind of research paper you work on, the finished paper should be a presentation of your own thinking backed by the information and ideas of others.

Whenever people hear the term research paper, they are often filled with dread. However, this should not be the case as long as you understand what is a research paper. A good example of a research paper is Strategic Management and Strategic Competitiveness paper. The term research paper can be used to refer to:

  • Academic paper-Also referred to as scholarly paper, found in academic journals and which contains original reviews and results or which shows a completely new innovation
  • Term paper-written by college or high school students
  • Dissertation or thesis-document that is submitted to support a candidature for professional or degree qualification, presents the findings and research of the author

For purposes of drawing a parallel, a lawyer reads and researches numerous cases and uses these to support their case. Scientists read numerous case studies to support their scientific principles. In that same manner, students write about Vietnam War after reading books, articles or interviews with veterans in order to confirm and/or develop their support and viewpoint with evidence.

In a nut shell, a research paper refers to expanded essay that is a presentation of your own evaluation, argument or interpretation. While writing a research paper, you are supposed to build upon what you already know regarding a subject and make deliberate attempts to discover what experts already know.

If you want to know what is a research paper, it is worth noting it involves evaluating your field of knowledge in order to come up with reliable information in that given field. The survey needs to be focused and orderly. Our mandate is to guide you through the process of research paper writing to ensure you don’t get lost in the massive sources.

Understanding what is a research paper before you start to write one

Before you start working on your paper, it is crucial for you to understand what does not constitute a research paper.

  • It is not focused on a subject-A research paper must have a thesis-clear view point. It does not refer to generalized discussion regarding an issue.
  • A research paper is not about summarizing everything you find. The goal is not in collecting everything regarding your subject and summarizing it, though it is important to review numerous sources. It is ideal to choose sources that support your thesis directly.
  • It is not made up of quotes. The focus of the paper is your own commentary and point of view. Throughout the paper, you can include direct facts, statistics and quotations if they are in support of your position. The commentary is supposed to accomplish more than the simple introduction or link quotations.
  • Research papers do not support pre-conceived view point. Looking at facts that back up what you already know is not research. You are supposed to look at evidence and from there, form your opinion.
  • Research papers always use documentation of others’ ideas to avoid cases of plagiarism. Never borrow facts, statistics or ideas without referencing the original sources.

Specific goals a research paper must achieve

  • Research paper is supposed to meet the assignment needs. Most instructors give requirements that are specific for writing a research paper which includes the documentation technique to use, the topics and the sources to use.
  • It should have a well laid out focus-The subject of the paper needs to be narrow as this makes writing the paper easier. An excellent example of such a research paper is the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions paper which focuses on peacekeeping missions.
  • The paper must have a clear thesis and not simply report the ideas of other people. Focus of the paper should be on your own interpretations and opinions rather than those of others.
  • Finally, a research paper should have high quality sources and it should be rich as well. An excellent paper is not simply a summary of the ideas of others. Rather, it distinguishes biased and reliable sources from questionable and authoritative sources. It also differentiates fact and opinion.

Guidelines to writing a research paper

Develop a topic

Select a topic that not only interests but challenges you as well. The attitude you have towards a topic will help you establish the effort you direct towards your research. Your focus should be narrow and before you begin full scale research, seek approval from your teacher. Steer clear of subjects that are too learned, specialized or technical as well as topics with narrow sources of information.


Once you pick a topic, commence with the research. This can come from different sources which include books, web pages, journal articles, interviews as well as encyclopedias. Ensure that:

  • Your sources are professional and they provide insightful information regarding your topic and valid research
  • Use varying sources of information and do not depend on just one or two sources.
  • Consider using empirical research which simply refers to books or articles written by experts and whose work can be vouched by others in the same field.
  • Use the library-Though this is a traditional source of information, you are likely to find great details of information on your topic.
  • Look for academic databases as there are special academic and search engine databases that have plenty of peer-reviewed or books, journals and magazines that are scientifically published. This as well will help you get results that are well tailored than what you would from general research. Note that in most cases, academic databases provide the chance to seek specific information regarding a topic.

Write your thesis

It is now time for critical thinking so you can write your thesis statement. The statement is a declaration of what you believe in. The main focus of the paper should be your arguments to defend and support your belief.

Come up with an outline

All points should be related to your selected topic. In this case, your outline should include:

  • Introduction-This should be a brief comment that leads to the subject matter
  • Research annotation-Annotate thoroughly as this will make the process of writing the paper easier. While marking off important information, add your own notes and commentary. Having your ideas written down on a paper will make it easier to refer back to them.
  • Organize thoughts-Annotation might take a little time but should be taken a step further to increase the clarity of the outline. Attempt writing each item and quote on individual note cards.
  • Construct a preliminary reference and bibliography. While going through the notes, mark the page number, author and title as well as publish information for all the sources. This will be of great use while crafting your works cited page and bibliography later.
  • Identify the papers goal-Basically, there are two kinds of research papers, argumentative and analytic. Each needs a different writing style and focus to be identified before starting the writing process.

Writing the paper

  • Write the body paragraphs– Though this might appear counter intuitive, writing an introduction first is far more difficult to accomplish than writing the actual meat of the paper. Start by writing main points as this makes it easy to manipulate or slightly change your commentary and ideas. Statements should be supported with evidence.
  • Write your conclusion-The conclusion is one of the most important aspects you need to remember when asking what is a research paper? After working through your evidence, write a conclusion that summarizes your findings for the reader and offers them closure. Start by restating your thesis statement and reminding the reader of points you have covered in your research paper. The purpose of a conclusion is answering the question, “so what?” and aims to help the reader feel they have gleaned something from your work.
  • Document the paper-All research papers need to be documented so as to avoid cases of plagiarism. Depending on your research topic and field of study, there are different format styles you can use like APA, Chicago and MLA. Be certain to choose the appropriate style for your paper.
  • Edit the rough draft-It is tempting to simply read the essay over and not use the spell check tool. However, you need to edit your work thoroughly. Ask one or more people to look at your essay and edit it at least three days before you turn it in.

Here is a good sample of a research paper on Usability Evaluation. You can also continue to peruse on this blog for more great research paper samples.

If you have difficulties in handling your research paper, get in touch with us for assistance. Visit our homepage for more information about our academic writing services. You can also continue reading more academic paper writing guidelines and sample papers on our blog.