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Research Paper

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Written by
Dr. Simon Robbins
  • Icon Calendar 11 June 2024
  • Icon Page 2825 words
  • Icon Clock 13 min read

A research paper is a product of seeking information, analysis, human thinking, and time. Basically, when scholars want to get answers to questions, they start to search for information to expand, use, approve, or deny findings. In simple words, research papers are results of processes by considering writing works and following specific requirements. Besides, scientists study and expand many theories, developing social or technological aspects of human science. However, in order to provide a quality product, they need to know the definition of such a work, its characteristics, type, structure, format, and how to write it in 7 steps.

What Is a Research Paper and Its Purpose

According to its definition, a research paper is a detailed and structured academic document that presents an individual’s analysis, interpretation, or argument based on existing knowledge and literature. The main purpose of writing a research paper is to contribute to existing literature, develop critical thinking and scientific skills, support academic and professional growth, share findings, demonstrate knowledge and competence, and encourage lifelong learning (Wankhade, 2018). Moreover, such a work is one of the types of papers where scholars analyze questions or topics, look for secondary sources, and write papers on defined themes. For example, if an assignment is to write about some causes of global warming or any other topic, a person must write a research proposal on it, analyzing important points and credible sources (Goodson, 2024). Although essays focus on personal knowledge, writing a scholarly document means analyzing sources by following academic standards. In turn, scientists must meet the strict structure of research papers (Busse & August, 2020). As such, writers need to analyze their topics, start to search for sources, cover key aspects, process credible articles, and organize final studies properly. However, a research paper’s length can vary significantly depending on its academic level and purpose.

  1. Undergraduate
    • Length: Typically 2-10 pages.
    • Word Count: Approximately 500-2,500 words.
  2. Graduate
    • Length: Usually 10-30 pages.
    • Word Count: Around 2,500-7,500 words.
  3. Thesis or Dissertation
    • Length: Master’s theses are generally 40-80 pages, while doctoral dissertations can be 100-300 pages or more.
    • Word Count: Master’s theses are typically 10,000-20,000 words, and doctoral dissertations can range from 20,000-100,000 words, depending on the discipline and complexity.
  4. Journal Articles
    • Length: Generally 8-12 pages for short articles, but review articles and comprehensive studies can be longer.
    • Word Count: Approximately 3,000-8,000 words.
  5. Conference Papers
    • Length: Usually 5-10 pages.
    • Word Count: Around 2,000-4,000 words.
  6. White Papers
    • Length: Typically 6-12 pages.
    • Word Count: Approximately 2,500-6,000 words.
  7. Technical Reports
    • Length: Varies widely, often 20-100 pages.
    • Word Count: Around 5,000-30,000 words.
  8. Case Studies
    • Length: Generally 5-15 pages.
    • Word Count: Approximately 2,000-5,000 words.
  9. Book Chapters
    • Length: Varies, usually 20-40 pages per chapter.
    • Word Count: Around 5,000-10,000 words.
  10. Monographs
    • Length: Typically 100-300 pages.
    • Word Count: Approximately 30,000-100,000 words.

Research Characteristics

Any type of work must meet some standards. By considering a research paper, this work must be written accordingly. In this case, their main characteristics are the length, style, format, and sources (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Firstly, the study’s length defines the number of needed sources to be analyzed. Then, the style must be formal and cover impersonal and inclusive language (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Moreover, the format means academic standards of how to organize final works, including its structure and norms. Finally, sources and their number define works as research papers because of the volume of analyzed information (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Hence, these characteristics must be considered while writing scholarly documents. In turn, general formatting guidelines are:

  • Use a standard font (e.g., Times New Roman, 12-point).
  • Double-space the text.
  • Include 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph.
  • Number all pages consecutively, usually in the upper right corner.

Types of Research Papers

In general, the length of assignments can be different because of instructions. For example, there are two main types of research papers, such as typical and serious works. Firstly, a typical research paper may include definitive, argumentative, interpretive, and other works (Goodson, 2024). In this case, typical papers are from 2 to 10 pages, where students analyze study questions or specific topics. Then, a serious research composition is the expanded version of typical works. In turn, the length of such a paper is more than 10 pages (Wankhade, 2018). Basically, such works cover a serious analysis with many sources. Therefore, typical and serious works are two types that scholars should consider when writing their documents.

Typical Research Works

Basically, typical research works depend on assignments, the number of sources, and the paper’s length. So, this composition is usually a long essay with the analyzed evidence. For example, students in high school and college get such assignments to learn how to research and analyze topics (Goodson, 2024). In this case, they do not need to conduct serious experiments with the analysis and calculation of data. Moreover, students must use the Internet or libraries in searching for credible secondary sources to find potential answers to specific questions. As a result, students gather information on topics and learn how to take defined sides, present unique positions, or explain new directions (Goodson, 2024). Hence, they require an analysis of primary and secondary sources without serious experiments or data.

Serious Research Studies

Although long papers require a lot of time for finding and analyzing credible sources, real experiments are an integral part of research work. Firstly, scholars at universities need to analyze the information from past studies to expand or disapprove of topics (Wankhade, 2018). Then, if scholars want to prove specific positions or ideas, they must get real evidence. In this case, experiments can be surveys, calculations, or other types of data that scholars do personally. Moreover, a dissertation is a serious research paper that young scientists write based on the analysis of topics, data from conducted experiments, and conclusions at the end of work (Wankhade, 2018). Thus, they are studies that take a lot of time, analysis of sources with gained data, and interpretation of results.


The structure and format of research papers depend on assignment requirements. In fact, when students get their assignments and instructions, they need to analyze specific research questions or topics, find reliable sources, and write final works. Basically, their structure and format consist of the abstract, outline, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, recommendations, limitations, conclusion, acknowledgments, and references (Graham & McCoy, 2014). However, students may not include some of these sections because of assigned instructions that they have and specific types they must follow. For instance, if instructions are not supposed to conduct real experiments, the methodology section can be skipped because of the data’s absence. In turn, the structure of the final work consists of:

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🔸 The First Part of a Research Study

Abstract or Executive Summary means the first section of a research paper that provides the study’s purpose, its questions or suggestions, and main findings with conclusions. Moreover, this paragraph of about 150 words should be written when the whole work is finished already (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Hence, abstract sections should describe key aspects of studies, including discussions about the relevance of findings.

Outline or Table of Contents serves as a clear map of the structure of a study.

Introduction provides the main information on problem statements, the indication of methodology, important findings, and principal conclusion. Basically, this section covers rationales behind the work or background research, explanation of the importance, defending its relevance, a brief description of experimental designs, defined study questions, hypotheses, or key aspects (Busse & August, 2020). Hence, scholars should provide a short overview of their studies.

🔸 Literature Review and Research or Experiment

Literature Review is needed for the analysis of past studies or scholarly articles to be familiar with research questions or topics. For example, this section summarizes and synthesizes arguments and ideas from scholarly sources without adding new contributions (Scholz, 2022). In turn, this part is organized around arguments or ideas, not sources.

Methodology or Materials and Methods covers explanations of research designs. Basically, techniques for gathering information and other aspects related to experiments must be described in a research paper. For instance, students and scholars document all specialized materials and general procedures (Turbek et al., 2016). In this case, individuals may use some or all of the methods in further studies or judge the scientific merit of the work. Moreover, scientists should explain how they are going to conduct their experiments.

Results mean the gained information or data after the study or experiment. Basically, scholars should present and illustrate their findings (Turbek et al., 2016). Moreover, this section may include tables or figures.

🔸 Analysis of Findings

Discussion is a section where scientists review the information in the introduction part, evaluate gained results, or compare it with past studies. In particular, students and scholars interpret gained data or findings in appropriate depth. For example, if results differ from expectations at the beginning, scientists should explain why that may have happened (Turbek et al., 2016). However, if results agree with rationales, scientists should describe theories that the evidence is supported.

Recommendations take their roots from a discussion section where scholars propose potential solutions or new ideas based on obtained results. In this case, if scientists have any recommendations on how to improve this research so that other scholars can use evidence in further studies, they must write what they think in this section (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Besides, authors can provide their suggestions for further investigation after their evaluations.

Limitations mean a consideration of research weaknesses and results to get new directions. For instance, if scholars find any limitations in their studies that may affect experiments, scholars must not use such knowledge because of the same mistakes (Busse & August, 2020). Moreover, scientists should avoid contradicting results, and, even more, they must write them in this section.

🔸 The Final Part of a Conducted Research

Conclusion includes final claims of a research paper based on findings. Basically, this section covers final thoughts and the summary of the whole work. Moreover, this section may be used instead of limitations and recommendations that would be too small by themselves (Wankhade, 2018). In this case, scientists do not need to use headings as recommendations and limitations.

Acknowledgments or Appendix may take different forms, from paragraphs to charts. In this section, scholars include additional information about what they did.

References mean a section where students, scholars, or scientists provide all used sources by following the format and academic rules.

How to Write a Research Paper in 7 Steps

Writing any research paper requires following a systematic process. Firstly, writers need to select a focused topic they want to analyze. To achieve this objective, comprehensive preliminary research must be conducted to gather credible and relevant sources (Scholz, 2022). After reviewing the existing literature, writers must develop a clear and concise thesis statement sentence to guide the direction of their studies. Then, organizing the main arguments and evidence into a detailed outline ensures a coherent structure. In turn, the initial draft should be started with a compelling introduction, proceeded with body paragraphs that substantiate the thesis through analysis, and ended with a conclusion that underscores the study’s importance (Turbek et al., 2016). Basically, concluding the work by summarizing the findings and emphasizing the significance of the study is crucial. Moreover, revising and editing for content, coherence, and clarity ensures quality (Busse & August, 2020). Finally, proofreading for grammatical accuracy and ensuring adherence to the required formatting guidelines is necessary before submitting the final paper. Hence, when starting a research paper, writers should do the next:

Step 1: Choose a Topic

  • Select a Broad Subject: Begin by identifying a specific subject or theme of interest.
  • Narrow Down Your Topic: Focus on a specific aspect of the subject or theme to make your examination more focused.
  • Establish the Background: Do a preliminary analysis of sources to ensure there is enough information available and refine your topic further.
  • Formulate a Research Question: Create a first draft of a clear, concise research question or thesis statement to guide your study.

Step 2: Conduct Preliminary Analysis

  • Gather Credible Sources: Use books, academic journals, scholarly articles, reputable websites, and other primary and secondary sources.
  • Choose Only Relevant Sources: Review chosen sources for their content and pick only relevant ones.
  • Take Notes: Organize your notes, highlighting key points and evidence and how they relate to your initial thesis.
  • Create an Annotated Bibliography: Summarize each source in one paragraph and note how it will contribute to your paper.

Step 3: Develop a Working Thesis Statement

  • Be Specific: Revise your initial thesis, making it a working one, outlining the main argument or position of your paper.
  • Make It Debatable: Ensure that your working thesis presents a viewpoint that others might challenge or debate.
  • Be Concise: Write your working thesis statement in one or two sentences.
  • Stay Focused: Your working thesis must be focused and specific.

Step 4: Create an Outline

  • Beginning: Outline your opening paragraph, including your working thesis statement.
  • Middle Sections: Separate your body into sections with headings for each main point or argument and include sub-points and supporting evidence.
  • Ending: Plan your concluding section to summarize your findings and restate your thesis in the light of the evidence presented.
  • The List of Sources: Finish your outline by providing citation entries of your sources.

Step 5: Write the First Draft

  • Introduction: Start with an engaging opening, provide background information, and state your thesis.
  • Body Section: Each body paragraph should focus on a single idea and start with a specific topic sentence, followed by evidence and analysis that supports your thesis.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your arguments, restate the importance of your topic, and suggest further investigation, analysis, examination, or possible implications.
  • Reference Page: Include the list of references used in your first draft.

Step 6: Revise and Edit

  • Content Review: Check for clarity, coherence, and whether each part supports your thesis.
  • Structure and Flow: Ensure logical flow of ideas between sections and paragraphs.
  • Grammar and Style: Correct grammatical errors, improve sentence structure, and refine your writing style.
  • Citations: Ensure all sources are correctly cited in your chosen citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, etc.).

Step 7: Finalize Your Paper

  • Proofread: Carefully proofread for any remaining errors or typos.
  • Format: Ensure your paper adheres to the required format, including title page, headers, font, and margins.
  • Reference List: Double-check your bibliography, reference, or works cited page for accuracy.
  • Submit: Make sure to submit your paper by the deadline.

Summing Up

In conclusion, a research paper is a formal academic document designed to provide a detailed analysis, interpretation, or argument based on in-depth study. Its structured format includes providing opening components, such as the abstract, outline, and introduction; study aspects, such as literature review, methodology, and results; analysis of findings, such as discussion, recommendations, and limitations; and final parts, such as conclusion, acknowledgments, appendices, and references. Understanding the essential elements and adhering to academic standards ensures the creation of a well-organized and meaningful research paper.


Busse, C., & August, E. (2020). How to write and publish a research paper for a peer-reviewed journal. Journal of Cancer Education, 36(5), 909–913. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z

Goodson, P. (2024). Becoming an academic writer: 50 exercises for paced, productive, and powerful writing. Sage.

Graham, L., & McCoy, I. (2014). How to write a great research paper: A step-by-step handbook. Incentive Publications by World Book.

Scholz, F. (2022). Writing and publishing a scientific paper. ChemTexts, 8(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40828-022-00160-7

Turbek, S. P., Chock, T. M., Donahue, K., Havrilla, C. A., Oliverio, A. M., Polutchko, S. K., Shoemaker, L. G., & Vimercati, L. (2016). Scientific writing made easy: A step‐by‐step guide to undergraduate writing in the Biological Sciences. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 97(4), 417–426. https://doi.org/10.1002/bes2.1258

Wankhade, L. (2018). How to write and publish a research paper: A complete guide to writing and publishing a research paper. Independent Published.