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The Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Research Paper: Tips and Tricks

Jan 19, 2024

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Jan 19, 2024 | Blog

Research papers are essential to academic writing, requiring students to delve deep into a topic, gather evidence, and present their findings clearly and concisely. However, knowing how to start a research paper can be challenging, particularly for those new to academic writing. Starting your research paper the right way can make all the difference in terms of the quality of your work and the level of interest it generates among your readers. In this article, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to start a research paper, including tips on choosing a topic, writing an introduction, supporting your thesis statement, and avoiding plagiarism. So, whether you’re writing an academic research paper for the first time or just looking to improve your skills, let’s look at how to get started.

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Step 1: Choose a topic and research question

The first step in starting a research paper is to choose a topic and research question. This is an important step because the topic you choose will determine the direction of your research and the quality of your final paper. When choosing a topic, it’s important to consider your interests and expertise, as well as the requirements of the assignment. Choosing a narrow topic to be manageable but broad enough to provide sufficient material for your research is also essential.

Once you’ve chosen your topic, you must formulate a research question to guide your research. A good research question should be specific, clear, and answerable within the scope of your research. It should also be interesting and relevant to your field of study. For example, suppose you’re writing a research paper on the impact of climate change on agriculture. In that case, your research question might be: “How does climate change affect the productivity and profitability of cattle farmers in the United States?” This research question is specific, clear, answerable, and relevant to agriculture.

When selecting a topic and research question, it’s essential to consider the availability of sources and the amount of research already conducted on your chosen topic. It would be best to avoid topics that are too broad, as this can make it difficult to cover all aspects of the subject within the scope of your research paper. Finally, seek guidance from your professor or librarian is important, who can offer suggestions and help you refine your research question. Choosing a suitable topic and research question will set you up for a successful and well-researched paper.


Step 2: Conduct research and gather background information

Once you have chosen a topic and research question, the next step is to conduct research and gather background information on the subject. This step is essential as it allows you to understand the topic better and identify key themes and concepts that you can incorporate into your research paper.

You can conduct a literature review to gather background information, which involves reading academic journals, books, and other scholarly publications related to your topic. This will help you identify the main issues, debates, gaps in the existing research, and any key concepts, theories, and methodologies relevant to your research question.

In addition to the literature review, you can also conduct primary research by interviewing experts in the field, conducting surveys, or collecting data through experiments or observations. This can help you gather new information and perspectives unavailable in existing sources.

As you gather information, taking detailed notes and recording your sources is important to avoid plagiarism. You can use index cards or a citation manager tool to organize your notes and keep track of your sources.


Step 3: Develop a thesis statement

After choosing a topic and conducting research, the next step in starting a research paper is to develop a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a brief, one- or two-sentence statement that summarizes your research paper’s main point or argument. It should be specific, clear, and concise and preview the main points you will discuss in your paper.

To develop a thesis statement, consider the research question you have formulated and the evidence you have gathered during your research. Your thesis statement should be based on the main argument or claim you want to make in your paper and should be supported by the evidence you have gathered.

For example, suppose you’re writing a research paper on the impact of social media on mental health. In that case, your thesis statement might be: “Social media hurts mental health, as it increases feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness among users.” This thesis statement is clear, specific, and supported by the evidence you have gathered during your research.

When developing your thesis statement, it’s important to consider your audience and the purpose of your research paper. Your thesis statement should be tailored to your intended audience and convey your paper’s purpose. It should also be written in a way that is engaging and interesting to your readers to grab their attention and encourage them to continue reading.


Step 4: Come up with an introduction paragraph outline

Once you have developed a clear and concise thesis statement, the next step in starting a research paper is to develop an outline. An outline is a framework or plan for organizing your research paper, and it should include an introduction, body, and conclusion.

The introduction for a research paper should provide background information on your topic, introduce your thesis statement, and grab your reader’s attention. The body of your paper should include several paragraphs that support your thesis statement with evidence, analysis, and examples. Use proper citation styles, such as APA or MLA, to cite your sources and avoid plagiarism. The conclusion should summarize your main points, restate your thesis statement, and provide a sense of closure.

To develop an effective outline, start by identifying the main points you want to cover in each section of your paper. You can review your research notes, look for common themes and ideas, and organize them into categories. Once you have identified the main points, arrange them in a logical order that flows smoothly from one point to the next.

You can use different methods to create your outlines, such as a traditional Roman numeral format or a bullet point list. Regardless of your chosen method, ensure your outline is clear and easy to follow. Each section should be clearly labeled, and the sub-points should be indented, numbered, or bulleted.


Step 5: Write a research paper introduction paragraph

After developing an outline, the next step in starting a research paper is to write the introduction paragraph. The introduction is the first part of your research paper that your readers will see, and it should capture their attention and provide a clear overview of what they can expect from the rest of your paper.

To write a good introduction paragraph, start with an attention-grabbing opening line that introduces your topic and draws your reader in. This could be a relevant anecdote, an interesting fact or statistic, or a provocative question related to your research question.

After your opening line, provide background information on your topic that sets the stage for your thesis statement. This could include definitions, historical context, or an overview of previous research.

Once you have provided some background information, introduce your thesis statement. Your thesis statement should be concise, clear, and specific, providing a roadmap for the rest of your paper.

Finally, end your introductory paragraph with a transition that links your introduction to the body of your paper. This could be a sentence summarizing the main points you will cover in the rest of your paper or a statement explaining how your research question will be addressed in the body of your paper.


Final Thoughts

In conclusion, starting a research paper can seem daunting, but following these step-by-step guidelines can make the process more manageable and efficient. By choosing a topic and research question, conducting thorough research, developing a clear thesis statement, creating an outline, and writing an effective introduction, you can set yourself up for success in writing the rest of your paper. Remember to consider citation and plagiarism guidelines and revise, proofread, and summarize your work before submitting your final paper. With practice and persistence, you can become proficient in the academic research process and write a well-organized, well-supported, and compelling research paper.


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What is a good starting sentence for a research paper?


The opening sentence of a research paper should be attention-grabbing and relevant, introducing the main idea and providing background context. It can start with an interesting fact, statistic, anecdote, quotation, or provocative statement challenging common assumptions.

How to start writing a research paper?



What is a good way to start a research topic?


A good way to start a research topic is, to begin with a general area of interest and then narrow it down to a specific research question. Consider your interests, current events, or gaps in the research on your chosen topic. Once you have identified a research question, conduct preliminary research to determine if enough information is available to support your thesis statement. You can consult your instructor or a librarian to find reliable sources and refine your research topic.

What do you write first in a research paper?


The first thing you should write in a research paper is the introduction, which includes the thesis statement and provides an overview of the research question, background information, and the purpose of your research paper. The introduction should be attention-grabbing and relevant to your topic, setting the stage for the rest of your paper. After writing the introduction, you can move on to the body of the paper, which should provide supporting evidence and analysis to support your thesis statement. Finally, it would be best to write the conclusion, which summarizes your main points and reiterates the importance of your research question.

What should be included in the introduction of a research paper?


The introduction should include an attention-grabbing opening line, background information on the topic, your research question, and your thesis statement.

How do I choose a research paper topic?


Choose a topic that interests you and that you are knowledgeable about. Consider the topic’s scope and ensure it is narrow enough to cover in a research paper.

What is a thesis statement, and why is it important?


A thesis statement is a clear and concise statement of your main argument in the research paper. It is important because it guides the rest of the paper and helps the reader understand the main point of your research.

How can I support my thesis statement in the rest of the paper?


Use your notes and sources to write paragraphs that cover your main points and provide enough information to support your argument. Use proper citation style to cite your sources and avoid plagiarism.

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