Tips for writing a great research paper

What is a research paper?

A research paper is often published in a scientific journal, of which there are many, and also forms an important part of university-level education. In essence, research papers are written by subject-matter experts, such as practicing researchers, scientists, and university graduates and research fellows. The typical research paper has a defined structure, a very strict format, and a formal writing style using scholarly language. This article aims to give you a brief idea of what a research paper is. Before any research paper is published, it must go through a rigorous peer review process, followed by a comprehensive copy edit before being sent to the layout team for publishing.

If you’re only just setting out on your quest to write a research paper, bear in mind that although it can be challenging for many, it is also a rewarding and educational experience. After passing your draft research paper to your tutor and receiving valuable feedback, their review will point out how and where to improve your scholarly voice, as well as how to tailor it to the required reference, citation, and heading styles. In the process of writing your research paper, you will also learn about how to organize your time and research sources effectively.

In learning about how to compile the research sources, you’ll get an understanding of how to categorize the information, how to cite sources appropriately, and how to compile a comprehensive references section.


Before we start, I’d like to mention the importance of making sure that your writing is as accurate and clear as possible. Now, if you’re writing in your native language and directly translating your research, some of the verbs and vocabulary might get lost in translation. This can pose a major problem in research writing as the reader may not understand the exact word in the context of its writing, so if you’re giving your research paper to a translator and editor to clean it up, leave notes throughout the paper to state your intended meaning in the simplest possible terms. Ideally, your paper should be visible in journal databases; therefore, make sure to include a list of the primary keywords at the end of the Abstract section.

  • Choose an engaging topic

Try to make sure you choose a topic that interests you, but make sure that it’s not too broad. There are many strategies you can employ to narrow down your research topic. Looking for gaps in the research gaps in the pre-existing knowledge will help you to identify gaps in the existing knowledge in your specific field. Another good tip for narrowing down your research topic is to look at the existing literature to understand the depth of the knowledge in your specific area.

You can also ask a few questions to determine how strong your research topic is: Why did you choose this research topic?

  1. What exactly interests you about it?
  2. Who is interested in reading about this topic and who would publish it?
  3. Which journals are the ones that interest you the most?
  4. What do you think the most important research questions to answer for the topic?
  5. Is there anything that particularly interests you that you would like to explore in this research project?
  6. Who is affected by the issue you intend to research?
  7. Does it affect people on an international level or is it closer to home?
  8. Is the research topic still important?
  9. Is it a pressing issue?
  10. Will it have an impact in the future if this research topic is not researched?
  • Brainstorming and organizing ideas

When beginning your research, brainstorming is a great way to come up with new ideas. Another tip is to have a meeting with your tutor or mentor to talk about your planned study. You can also ask some important questions concerning the overarching subject to narrow down your research topic. Ask yourself the five W questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

  • Create a clear statement

Technical in nature, research statements need to be readable by all members of the research department, as well as other academics who are not experts in the field. Further, the research needs to be realistic and align with the research department’s objectives. In terms of style, be concise with your statements and avoid unnecessary jargon or instances of wordiness—keep it simple and stick to the facts.

When introducing the topic, summarize the main points, without going into too much detail; you will elaborate further on the study in the Materials and Methods and Results sections.

Make sure the Background and Literature Review sections are place your study in the context of the research.

  • Write a first draft

Note that the first draft is exactly that—it is not the finished paper, but rather a detailed outline of the study. As such, you will include the main ideas and research strategies to apply, in accordance with your overarching thesis. The first stage of the draft process involves laying out the sections required, which are stated as follows:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Conclusion

Organizing your sources

When organising research sources, it is important to note the format of that research (e.g., published articles, videos, audio transcripts, books, etc.). When working on a structured piece of writing, sorting the research into categories and types will save time when looking for specific information.

Saving links to articles and other research in your web browser’s bookmarks folder can be indispensable when collecting research sources. There are other web tools dedicated to organizing research sources online. In the age of digitalization, research has become much more accessible to us and can be overwhelming given the wealth of online resources.


This article touched upon some of the basic techniques and strategies to use when preparing a research paper. Always make sure to read the submission guidelines and follow the format set by your university or journal you intend to publish with.

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