Although the research paper format is fairly standardized, writing guidelines may vary not only among academic institutions but also among individual professors. Pay attention to any how-to handouts you’ve received, and don’t forget to check your university’s writing lab for more resources.
It might make sense to bookmark resources on your web browser or make a digital bibliography that allows you to link the resources you found. You might prefer a printed list of your resources or you might want to write down all you have learned that is relevant to your project on notecards or sticky notes and organize your research paper on a table or the floor.
Most research papers fall into one of three categories: analytical, expository, or argumentative. If you’re presenting an analysis of information, then your paper is analytical. If you’re writing to explain information, then your paper is expository. If you’re arguing a conclusion, then it’s argumentative or persuasive. Your thesis statement should match the type of paper you’re writing.
Your research spawned tons of ideas. Great! Now you’re ready to begin the process of organizing your presentation . . . before you begin writing. Don’t skip the organization step—it’s critical to your paper’s success. Without it, your paper will lack focus and you’ll spend much more time in the revision process trying to make sense of your jumbled thoughts.
Work to understand all of the different viewpoints and schools of thought on your topic. This can be done by reading a variety of articles, reading a book or article that gives an overview of the topic and incorporates different points of view, or talking to an expert who can explain the topic in depth.