Writing a research paper in college is practically the same as cooking. Your research materials are your ingredients and you have to find a method to prepare and cook your materials into a delicious meal (finished paper).
Invest time in writing your thesis statement—it’s the main idea of your paper, from which everything else flows. Without a well-thought-out thesis statement, your paper is likely to end up jumbled and with an unclear purpose.
Most research papers begin with a thesis statement at the end of an introductory paragraph. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to write a thesis statement as you begin to organize your research. Writing the thesis statement first is helpful because every argument or point you make in your paper should support this central idea you’re putting forward.
Creating an outline is really about structuring your paper. Don’t be too formulaic, but it can be helpful to follow patterns and guides. In high school you might have written three- or five-paragraph essays, and it’s okay to use those same patterns for a college research paper, but be sure that whatever format you choose makes sense for your paper.
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.