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  • How to Do Research for an Excellent Essay: The Complete Guide

how to write an english research essay

One of the biggest secrets to writing a good essay is the Boy Scouts’ motto: ‘be prepared’. Preparing for an essay – by conducting effective research – lays the foundations for a brilliant piece of writing, and it’s every bit as important as the actual writing part. Many students skimp on this crucial stage, or sit in the library not really sure where to start; and it shows in the quality of their essays. This just makes it easier for you to get ahead of your peers, and we’re going to show you how. In this article, we take you through what you need to do in order to conduct effective research and use your research time to best effect.

Allow enough time

First and foremost, it’s vital to allow enough time for your research. For this reason, don’t leave your essay until the last minute . If you start writing without having done adequate research, it will almost certainly show in your essay’s lack of quality. The amount of research time needed will vary according to whether you’re at Sixth Form or university, and according to how well you know the topic and what teaching you’ve had on it, but make sure you factor in more time than you think you’ll need. You may come across a concept that takes you longer to understand than you’d expected, so it’s better to allow too much time than too little.

Read the essay question and thoroughly understand it

If you don’t have a thorough understanding of what the essay question is asking you to do, you put yourself at risk of going in the wrong direction with your research. So take the question, read it several times and pull out the key things it’s asking you to do. The instructions in the question are likely to have some bearing on the nature of your research. If the question says “Compare”, for example, this will set you up for a particular kind of research, during which you’ll be looking specifically for points of comparison; if the question asks you to “Discuss”, your research focus may be more on finding different points of view and formulating your own.

Begin with a brainstorm

Start your research time by brainstorming what you already know. Doing this means that you can be clear about exactly what you’re already aware of, and you can identify the gaps in your knowledge so that you don’t end up wasting time by reading books that will tell you what you already know. This gives your research more of a direction and allows you to be more specific in your efforts to find out certain things. It’s also a gentle way of introducing yourself to the task and putting yourself in the right frame of mind for learning about the topic at hand.

Achieve a basic understanding before delving deeper

If the topic is new to you and your brainstorm has yielded few ideas, you’ll need to acquire a basic understanding of the topic before you begin delving deeper into your research. If you don’t, and you start by your research by jumping straight in at the deep end, as it were, you’ll struggle to grasp the topic. This also means that you may end up being too swayed by a certain source, as you haven’t the knowledge to question it properly. You need sufficient background knowledge to be able to take a critical approach to each of the sources you read. So, start from the very beginning. It’s ok to use Wikipedia or other online resources to give you an introduction to a topic, though bear in mind that these can’t be wholly relied upon. If you’ve covered the topic in class already, re-read the notes you made so that you can refresh your mind before you start further investigation.

Working through your reading list

If you’ve been given a reading list to work from, be organised in how you work through each of the items on it. Try to get hold of as many of the books on it as you can before you start, so that you have them all easily to hand, and can refer back to things you’ve read and compare them with other perspectives. Plan the order in which you’re going to work through them and try to allocate a specific amount of time to each of them; this ensures that you allow enough time to do each of them justice and that focus yourself on making the most of your time with each one. It’s a good idea to go for the more general resources before honing in on the finer points mentioned in more specialised literature. Think of an upside-down pyramid and how it starts off wide at the top and becomes gradually narrower; this is the sort of framework you should apply to your research.

Ask a librarian

Library computer databases can be confusing things, and can add an extra layer of stress and complexity to your research if you’re not used to using them. The librarian is there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to go and ask if you’re not sure where to find a particular book on your reading list. If you’re in need of somewhere to start, they should be able to point you in the direction of the relevant section of the library so that you can also browse for books that may yield useful information.

Use the index

If you haven’t been given specific pages to read in the books on your reading list, make use of the index (and/or table of contents) of each book to help you find relevant material. It sounds obvious, but some students don’t think to do this and battle their way through heaps of irrelevant chapters before finding something that will be useful for their essay.

Taking notes

As you work through your reading, take notes as you go along rather than hoping you’ll remember everything you’ve read. Don’t indiscriminately write down everything – only the bits that will be useful in answering the essay question you’ve been set. If you write down too much, you risk writing an essay that’s full of irrelevant material and getting lower grades as a result. Be concise, and summarise arguments in your own words when you make notes (this helps you learn it better, too, because you actually have to think about how best to summarise it). You may want to make use of small index cards to force you to be brief with what you write about each point or topic. We’ve covered effective note-taking extensively in another article, which you can read here . Note-taking is a major part of the research process, so don’t neglect it. Your notes don’t just come in useful in the short-term, for completing your essay, but they should also be helpful when it comes to revision time, so try to keep them organised.

Research every side of the argument

Never rely too heavily on one resource without referring to other possible opinions; it’s bad academic practice. You need to be able to give a balanced argument in an essay, and that means researching a range of perspectives on whatever problem you’re tackling. Keep a note of the different arguments, along with the evidence in support of or against each one, ready to be deployed into an essay structure that works logically through each one. If you see a scholar’s name cropping up again and again in what you read, it’s worth investigating more about them even if you haven’t specifically been told to do so. Context is vital in academia at any level, so influential figures are always worth knowing about.

Keep a dictionary by your side

You could completely misunderstand a point you read if you don’t know what one important word in the sentence means. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep a dictionary by your side at all times as you conduct your research. Not only does this help you fully understand what you’re reading, but you also learn new words that you might be able to use in your forthcoming essay or a future one . Growing your vocabulary is never a waste of time!

Start formulating your own opinion

As you work through reading these different points of view, think carefully about what you’ve read and note your own response to different opinions. Get into the habit of questioning sources and make sure you’re not just repeating someone else’s opinion without challenging it. Does an opinion make sense? Does it have plenty of evidence to back it up? What are the counter-arguments, and on balance, which sways you more? Demonstrating your own intelligent thinking will set your essay apart from those of your peers, so think about these things as you conduct your research.

Be careful with web-based research

Although, as we’ve said already, it’s fine to use Wikipedia and other online resources to give you a bit of an introduction to a topic you haven’t covered before, be very careful when using the internet for researching an essay. Don’t take Wikipedia as gospel; don’t forget, anybody can edit it! We wouldn’t advise using the internet as the basis of your essay research – it’s simply not academically rigorous enough, and you don’t know how out of date a particular resource might be. Even if your Sixth Form teachers may not question where you picked up an idea you’ve discussed in your essays, it’s still not a good habit to get into and you’re unlikely to get away with it at a good university. That said, there are still reliable academic resources available via the internet; these can be found in dedicated sites that are essentially online libraries, such as JSTOR. These are likely to be a little too advanced if you’re still in Sixth Form, but you’ll almost certainly come across them once you get to university.

Look out for footnotes

In an academic publication, whether that’s a book or a journal article, footnotes are a great place to look for further ideas for publications that might yield useful information. Plenty can be hidden away in footnotes, and if a writer is disparaging or supporting the ideas of another academic, you could look up the text in question so that you can include their opinion too, and whether or not you agree with them, for extra brownie points.

Don’t save doing all your own references until last

If you’re still in Sixth Form, you might not yet be required to include academic references in your essays, but for the sake of a thorough guide to essay research that will be useful to you in the future, we’re going to include this point anyway (it will definitely come in useful when you get to university, so you may as well start thinking about it now!). As you read through various books and find points you think you’re going to want to make in your essays, make sure you note down where you found these points as you go along (author’s first and last name, the publication title, publisher, publication date and page number). When you get to university you will be expected to identify your sources very precisely, so it’s a good habit to get into. Unfortunately, many students forget to do this and then have a difficult time of going back through their essay adding footnotes and trying to remember where they found a particular point. You’ll save yourself a great deal of time and effort if you simply note down your academic references as you go along. If you are including footnotes, don’t forget to add each publication to a main bibliography, to be included at the end of your essay, at the same time.

Putting in the background work required to write a good essay can seem an arduous task at times, but it’s a fundamental step that can’t simply be skipped. The more effort you put in at this stage, the better your essay will be and the easier it will be to write. Use the tips in this article and you’ll be well on your way to an essay that impresses!

To get even more prepared for essay writing you might also want to consider attending an Oxford Summer School .

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How to Write a Research Essay

Last Updated: January 12, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Michelle Golden, PhD . Michelle Golden is an English teacher in Athens, Georgia. She received her MA in Language Arts Teacher Education in 2008 and received her PhD in English from Georgia State University in 2015. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 382,110 times.

Research essays are extremely common assignments in high school, college, and graduate school, and are not unheard of in middle school. If you are a student, chances are you will sooner or later be faced with the task of researching a topic and writing a paper about it. Knowing how to efficiently and successfully do simple research, synthesize information, and clearly present it in essay form will save you many hours and a lot of frustration.

Researching a Topic

Step 1 Choose a topic.

  • Be sure to stay within the guidelines you are given by your teacher or professor. For example, if you are free to choose a topic but the general theme must fall under human biology, do not write your essay on plant photosynthesis.
  • Stick with topics that are not overly complicated, especially if the subject is not something you plan to continue studying. There's no need to make things harder on yourself!

Step 2 Locate resources.

  • Specialty books; these can be found at your local public or school library. A book published on your topic is a great resource and will likely be one of your most reliable options for finding quality information. They also contain lists of references where you can look for more information.
  • Academic journals; these are periodicals devoted to scholarly research on a specific field of study. Articles in academic journals are written by experts in that field and scrutinized by other professionals to ensure their accuracy. These are great options if you need to find detailed, sophisticated information on your topic; avoid these if you are only writing a general overview.
  • Online encyclopedias; the most reliable information on the internet can be found in online encyclopedias like Encyclopedia.com and Britannica.com. While online wikis can be very helpful, they sometimes contain unverified information that you should probably not rely upon as your primary resources.
  • Expert interviews; if possible, interview an expert in the subject of your research. Experts can be professionals working in the field you are studying, professors with advanced degrees in the subject of interest, etc.

Step 3 Take notes.

  • Organize your notes by sub-topic to keep them orderly and so you can easily find references when you are writing.
  • If you are using books or physical copies of magazines or journals, use sticky tabs to mark pages or paragraphs where you found useful information. You might even want to number these tabs to correspond with numbers on your note sheet for easy reference.
  • By keeping your notes brief and simple, you can make them easier to understand and reference while writing. Don't make your notes so long and detailed that they essentially copy what's already written in your sources, as this won't be helpful to you.

Step 4 Develop an objective.

  • Sometimes the objective of your research will be obvious to you before you even begin researching the topic; other times, you may have to do a bit of reading before you can determine the direction you want your essay to take.
  • If you have an objective in mind from the start, you can incorporate this into online searches about your topic in order to find the most relevant resources. For example, if your objective is to outline the environmental hazards of hydraulic fracturing practices, search for that exact phrase rather than just "hydraulic fracturing."

Step 5 Talk to your teacher.

  • Avoid asking your teacher to give you a topic. Unless your topic was assigned to you in the first place, part of the assignment is for you to choose a topic relevant to the broader theme of the class or unit. By asking your teacher to do this for you, you risk admitting laziness or incompetence.
  • If you have a few topics in mind but are not sure how to develop objectives for some of them, your teacher can help with this. Plan to discuss your options with your teacher and come to a decision yourself rather than having him or her choose the topic for you from several options.

Organizing your Essay

Step 1 Break up your essay into sub-topics.

  • Consider what background information is necessary to contextualize your research topic. What questions might the reader have right out of the gate? How do you want the reader to think about the topic? Answering these kinds of questions can help you figure out how to set up your argument.
  • Match your paper sections to the objective(s) of your writing. For example, if you are trying to present two sides of a debate, create a section for each and then divide them up according to the aspects of each argument you want to address.

Step 2 Create an outline.

  • An outline can be as detailed or general as you want, so long as it helps you figure out how to construct the essay. Some people like to include a few sentences under each heading in their outline to create a sort of "mini-essay" before they begin writing. Others find that a simple ordered list of topics is sufficient. Do whatever works best for you.
  • If you have time, write your outline a day or two before you start writing and come back to it several times. This will give you an opportunity to think about how the pieces of your essay will best fit together. Rearrange things in your outline as many times as you want until you have a structure you are happy with.

Step 3 Choose a format.

  • Style guides tell you exactly how to quote passages, cite references, construct works cited sections, etc. If you are assigned a specific format, you must take care to adhere to guidelines for text formatting and citations.
  • Some computer programs (such as EndNote) allow you to construct a library of resources which you can then set to a specific format type; then you can automatically insert in-text citations from your library and populate a references section at the end of the document. This is an easy way to make sure your citations match your assigned style format.

Step 4 Make a plan.

  • You may wish to start by simply assigning yourself a certain number of pages per day. Divide the number of pages you are required to write by the number of days you have to finish the essay; this is the number of pages (minimum) that you must complete each day in order to pace yourself evenly.
  • If possible, leave a buffer of at least one day between finishing your paper and the due date. This will allow you to review your finished product and edit it for errors. This will also help in case something comes up that slows your writing progress.

Writing your Essay

Step 1 Create an introduction.

  • Keep your introduction relatively short. For most papers, one or two paragraphs will suffice. For really long essays, you may need to expand this.
  • Don't assume your reader already knows the basics of the topic unless it truly is a matter of common knowledge. For example, you probably don't need to explain in your introduction what biology is, but you should define less general terms such as "eukaryote" or "polypeptide chain."

Step 2 Build the body of your essay.

  • You may need to include a special section at the beginning of the essay body for background information on your topic. Alternatively, you can consider moving this to the introductory section, but only if your essay is short and only minimal background discussion is needed.
  • This is the part of your paper where organization and structure are most important. Arrange sections within the body so that they flow logically and the reader is introduced to ideas and sub-topics before they are discussed further.
  • Depending upon the length and detail of your paper, the end of the body might contain a discussion of findings. This kind of section serves to wrap up your main findings but does not explicitly state your conclusions (which should come in the final section of the essay).
  • Avoid repetition in the essay body. Keep your writing concise, yet with sufficient detail to address your objective(s) or research question(s).

Step 3 Cite your references properly.

  • Always use quotation marks when using exact quotes from another source. If someone already said or wrote the words you are using, you must quote them this way! Place your in-text citation at the end of the quote.
  • To include someone else's ideas in your essay without directly quoting them, you can restate the information in your own words; this is called paraphrasing. Although this does not require quotation marks, it should still be accompanied by an in-text citation.

Step 4 State your conclusions.

  • Except for very long essays, keep your conclusion short and to the point. You should aim for one or two paragraphs, if possible.
  • Conclusions should directly correspond to research discussed in the essay body. In other words, make sure your conclusions logically connect to the rest of your essay and provide explanations when necessary.
  • If your topic is complex and involves lots of details, you should consider including a brief summary of the main points of your research in your conclusion.

Step 5 Revisit your thesis or objective.

  • Making changes to the discussion and conclusion sections instead of the introduction often requires a less extensive rewrite. Doing this also prevents you from removing anything from the beginning of your essay that could accidentally make subsequent portions of your writing seem out of place.
  • It is okay to revise your thesis once you've finished the first draft of your essay! People's views often change once they've done research on a topic. Just make sure you don't end up straying too far from your assigned topic if you do this.
  • You don't necessarily need to wait until you've finished your entire draft to do this step. In fact, it is a good idea to revisit your thesis regularly as you write. This can save you a lot of time in the end by helping you keep your essay content on track.

Step 6 Construct a

  • Computer software such as EndNote is available for making citation organization as easy and quick as possible. You can create a reference library and link it to your document, adding in-text citations as you write; the program creates a formatted works cited section at the end of your document.
  • Be aware of the formatting requirements of your chosen style guide for works cited sections and in-text citations. Reference library programs like EndNote have hundreds of pre-loaded formats to choose from.

Step 7 Put finishing touches on your essay.

  • Create a catchy title. Waiting until you have finished your essay before choosing a title ensures that it will closely match the content of your essay. Research papers don't always take on the shape we expect them to, and it's easier to match your title to your essay than vice-versa.
  • Read through your paper to identify and rework sentences or paragraphs that are confusing or unclear. Each section of your paper should have a clear focus and purpose; if any of yours seem not to meet these expectations, either rewrite or discard them.
  • Review your works cited section (at the end of your essay) to ensure that it conforms to the standards of your chosen or assigned style format. You should at least make sure that the style is consistent throughout this section.
  • Run a spell checker on your entire document to catch any spelling or grammar mistakes you may not have noticed during your read-through. All modern word processing programs include this function.

Step 8 Revise your draft.

  • Note that revising your draft is not the same as proofreading it. Revisions are done to make sure the content and substantive ideas are solid; editing is done to check for spelling and grammar errors. Revisions are arguably a more important part of writing a good paper.
  • You may want to have a friend, classmate, or family member read your first draft and give you feedback. This can be immensely helpful when trying to decide how to improve upon your first version of the essay.
  • Except in extreme cases, avoid a complete rewrite of your first draft. This will most likely be counterproductive and will waste a lot of time. Your first draft is probably already pretty good -- it likely just needs some tweaking before it is ready to submit.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Avoid use of the word "I" in research essay writing, even when conveying your personal opinion about a subject. This makes your writing sound biased and narrow in scope. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Even if there is a minimum number of paragraphs, always do 3 or 4 more paragraphs more than needed, so you can always get a good grade. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write an english research essay

  • Never plagiarize the work of others! Passing off others' writing as your own can land you in a lot of trouble and is usually grounds for failing an assignment or class. Thanks Helpful 12 Not Helpful 1

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/research_papers/choosing_a_topic.html
  • ↑ https://libguides.mit.edu/select-topic
  • ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/research-objectives
  • ↑ https://www.hunter.cuny.edu/rwc/handouts/the-writing-process-1/organization/Organizing-an-Essay
  • ↑ https://www.lynchburg.edu/academics/writing-center/wilmer-writing-center-online-writing-lab/the-writing-process/organizing-your-paper/
  • ↑ https://www.mla.org/MLA-Style
  • ↑ http://www.apastyle.org/
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/PlanResearchPaper.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa6_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/in_text_citations_the_basics.html
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-12-peer-review-and-final-revisions/
  • ↑ https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/wrd/back-matter/creating-a-works-cited-page/

About This Article

Michelle Golden, PhD

The best way to write a research essay is to find sources, like specialty books, academic journals, and online encyclopedias, about your topic. Take notes as you research, and make sure you note which page and book you got your notes from. Create an outline for the paper that details your argument, various sections, and primary points for each section. Then, write an introduction, build the body of the essay, and state your conclusion. Cite your sources along the way, and follow the assigned format, like APA or MLA, if applicable. To learn more from our co-author with an English Ph.D. about how to choose a thesis statement for your research paper, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Writing a Research Paper

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This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

The pages in this section provide detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:

  • Genre - This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
  • Choosing a Topic - This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses themselves.
  • Identifying an Audience - This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
  • Where Do I Begin - This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.

Student sat writing at a table. Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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ENGL 101: Academic Writing: How to write a research paper

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  • How to write a research paper
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How to write a research paer

Understand the topic, what is the instructor asking for, who is the intended audience, choosing a topic.

  • General Research

Books on the subject

Journal articles, other sources, write the paper.

You've just been assigned by your instructor to write a paper on a topic. Relax, this isn't going to be as bad as it seems. You just need to get started. Here are some suggestions to make the process as painless as possible. Remember, if you have any questions ASK .

Is the assignment a formal research paper where you have to do research and cite other sources of information, or is the assignment asking you for your reaction to a particular topic where all you will need to do is collect your thoughts and organize them coherently. If you do need to research your topic, make sure you know what style manual your instructor prefers (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc).

Make sure you keep track of any restrictions that your instructor places on you. If your instructor wants a 4 page paper, they won't be happy with a 2 page paper, or a 10 page paper. Keep in mind that the instructor knows roughly how long it should take to cover the topic. If your paper is too short, you probably aren't looking at enough materials. If you paper is too long, you need to narrow your topic. Also, many times the instructor may restrict you to certain types of resources (books written after 1946, scholarly journals, no web sites). You don't want to automatically lessen your grade by not following the rules. Remember the key rule, if you have any questions ask your instructor!

You will also need to know which audience that you are writing for. Are you writing to an audience that knows nothing about your topic? If so you will need to write in such a way that you paper makes sense, and can be understood by these people. If your paper is geared to peers who have a similar background of information you won't need to include that type of information. If your paper is for experts in the field, you won't need to include background information.

If you're lucky, you were given a narrow topic by your instructor. You may not be interested in your topic, but you can be reasonably sure that the topic isn't too broad. Most of you aren't going to be that lucky. Your instructor gave you a broad topic, or no topic at all and you are going to have to choose the specific topic for your paper.

There are some general rules that you can use to help choose and narrow a topic. Does a particular topic interest you? If you are excited by a particular field, choose a topic from that field. While doing research you will learn more about the field, and learn which journals are written for your topic. Are you answering a relevant question? You and your instructor are going to be bored if you are writing a paper on the hazards of drunken driving. However, it might be more interesting to write about what causes people to drink and drive. The more interesting your topic the more you will enjoy and learn from writing your paper. You may also want to focus on a specific point of view about the topic, such as what teenagers think the causes of drunken driving are.

Do General Research

Now that you have a topic, it is time to start doing research. Don't jump to the card catalog and the indexes yet. The first research that you want to do is some general research on your topic. Find out what some of the terms used in the field are. You will also find that this research can help you further define you topic.

One source of general research is a general encyclopedia. Depending on the encyclopedia, at the end of each entry there may be a bibliography of suggested works. Good encyclopedias to consult are Encyclopedia Britannica , Encyclopedia Americana, and World Book.

You will also want to check to see if your topic is in a field that has a subject Encyclopedia, a Subject Handbook, or a Subject Dictionary. These guides contain information about a wide variety of topics inside a specific field. Generally the information in more detailed that what is contained in a general encyclopedia. Also the bibliographies are more extensive.

Find further information

Now that we have some background information on our topic; we need to find information about our specific topic. Before searching, ask yourself what type of information you are looking for. If you want to find statistical information, you will need to look in certain types of sources. If you are looking for news accounts of an event, you will need to look in other types of sources. Remember, if you have a question about what type of source to use, ask a librarian.

Have you asked your instructor for suggestions on where to look? Why not? This person is experienced in the field, and they have been doing research in it longer than you have. They can recommend authors who write on your topic, and they can recommend a short list of journals that may contain information on your topic.

Books are one type of resource that you can use for your research. To find a book on your topic, you will need to use the online catalog, the CamelCat . Taking the list of keywords that you created while doing general research, do keyword searches in the catalog. Look at the titles that are being returned, do any look promising? If none do, revise your search using other keywords. If one does, look at the full record for that book. Check the subject headings that it is cataloged by. If one of those headings looks pertinent to your research, do a subject search using that particular heading.

Once you've got the books that you want to use start evaluating whether the book will be useful. Is it written by an author who is knowledgeable about that particular topic? Is the author qualified to write about the topic? What biases does the author have about the topic? Is the book current enough to contain useful information?

Once you've answered these questions, use the books that you deem useful for your research. Remember while taking notes to get the information that you need to do a proper citation. Also, pay attention to any bibliographies that are included in the book. These can help you locate other books and articles that may be useful for your research.

The Campbell University Libraries subscribe to a wide variety of Indexes and Journals for the use of students and faculty. Increasingly these materials are provided as Electronic Databases. These databases contain citations of articles and in some cases the full text of articles on a variety of topics. If you don't know which database will be useful for you, ask a librarian and they will be happy to assist you. You can also use the Find Articles link to search multiple databases at one time for information on your topic.

Once you've selected a database to use, use the keywords that you developed from your general research to find articles that will be useful for you. Once you've found one, see which terms the database used to catalog the article and use those terms to find more articles. Don't forget to set limits on the database so that only scholarly articles are returned if your instructor has made that a requirement for your paper.

Look at the journal articles that you have selected, and examine the bibliographies. Are there any authors that are mentioned in more than one article? Are there any articles that are mentioned more than once? You should find those authors and articles and include them in your research.

There are other useful sources that you can use in your research. If your report tends to be on a business topic or if you need company information for your research there are many companies that provide company reports. The contents of these reports differ, depending on which service that you are using. Generally speaking you will find company officers, financial statements, lists of competitors, and stock price.

The Internet is another source for information on a variety of topics. The major problem with the using Internet resources is authority. Anybody who knows HTML can produce a web site that looks pretty decent. However, a website produced by a sophomore in high school on a topic is not going to be useful to you in your research. Before using a website for information, you need to evaluate the site. Here are some questions you will want to ask: Who created the site? (If you can't tell, don't use it.) Has the site been recently updated? Is the site promoting a specific agenda/ does it have a bias? (Bias isn't necessarily bad, but you need to keep it in mind when interpreting the information presented?) Are there any misspellings on the site? (If there is one misspelling careless error more than three, don't use the page) Do the links on the page work? (If a few don't work, not a big problem, if most of the links don't work, the site isn't being maintained, and should not be used.)

You have all of your research, now it is time to write the paper. Don't forget to cite all of the research that you have collected using the preferred citation style of your instructor. If possible try to give yourself a couple of days to let the paper sit before you edit it. Look at a hard copy of the paper and check for mechanical errors (spelling, punctuation). Also try to imagine that you are the intended audience for the paper. Does your paper make sense? Are the arguments logical? Does the evidence presented support the arguments made? If you answered no to any of these questions, make the necessary changes to your paper.

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Research for Essay Writing in English

  • Library Terminology
  • Types of sources
  • Google vs. Library Databases
  • Building your search strategy
  • Running your search
  • Evaluating your results
  • Chicago Manual of Style

Academic Writing Help Centre (AWHC) - Handouts

  • Following the Instructions Before you start planning your paper, make sure that you understand its goal.
  • Planning the Paper: Establishing the Thesis Before writing a paper, make sure that you narrow down the topic so that you can find a unique way to address it.

Concept Mapping

Concept mapping can be useful in helping you tease out your subject, identify your key concepts, and finally formulate a strong research question or topic statement.  This video will show you how to do a concept map. 

Learning Objectives

how to write an english research essay

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Determine an appropriate scope of investigation
  • Apply brainstorming methods, like concept mapping, to refine your topic
  • Select appropriate resources to get background information on your subject (encyclopedias, dictionaries, web sources)

1. Start with a topic

The first step to any research project is to choose a topic. Often you can choose your own topic, however, at times you may be called up to write on a specific topic or to choose from a listing. 

What are you interested in finding out?

  • Select a topic that interests you whenever possible.
  • Gather and read background information.
  • Your research question or topic statement may change once you start searching. If the question is too broad, you will need to go back and narrow your topic further. 

2. Gather background information

When you start thinking about your research question or topic, you should start by gathering background information. this information can help:.

  • Familiarize yourself with a topic.
  • Identify key concepts and keywords you can use in your search strategy.
  • Discover related concepts.
  • Locate other pertinent sources you can use to complete your assignment.

Specialized Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Reference tools such as specialized encyclopedias are good starting points to find background information on your topic. Here are some online reference tools that will help you familiarize yourself with your topic.

  • Oxford Reference Online » This link opens in a new window Maximum simultaneous users: 5 . Definitions from over 100 dictionaries in all subject fields.
  • Gale eBooks » This link opens in a new window The Gale Virtual Reference Library contains online access to 45 encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other specialized reference sources published by Gale. A full list of titles in this collection can be found by searching in the Library Catalogue for Gale virtual reference library as a title.

3. Research Question

A research question indicates the direction of your research. It is an open-ended query, not a final claim or conclusion about an idea. The research question guide all subsequent stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting. 

A well-developed research question will lead to an arguable thesis.

  • Broad question: too much information to cover; the essay will lack depth and focus
  • Narrow question: tracking down information takes too much time; not enough information available on the topic;  the essay will lack breadth

Steps to develop a research question: 

1. Choose a general topic or primary text that you are interested in (your professor might submit you some topics). 2. Do some preliminary search to gather background information and familiarize yourself with the topic. 3. Start asking you questions like: who? when? why? how? etc.  4. Brainstorm ideas using different methods, such as concept mapping. 5. Make sure that your question is:

  • clear : it provides enough specifics that one's audience can easily understand its purpose without needing additional explanation
  • focused : it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows
  • concise: it is expressed in the fewest possible words.
  • complex : it is not answerable with a simple "yes" or "no," but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to the composition of an answer
  • arguable: its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts. 

(Content adapted from  Richard G. Trefry Library  and  The Writing Center  at George Mason University)

Concept mapping allows you to visually depict a system of relationships by creating a map in which nodes represent ideas or facts, and lines or connectors between nodes represent relationships (for example, cause-and-effect relationships, category and subcategory relationships, and so on). (Definition from  University of Waterloo )

See the video on the left to learn more about how to create a concept map.

how to write an english research essay

✓ Good research question : How can the regular practice of a sport improve our mental health? 

X Not so good of a research question : What are the effects of doing sports on our health?

If you have questions, or if you run into problems that the guide does not address, e-mail Catherine Lachaîne at [email protected]

image

This online guide is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International  license. This page is attributed to Catherine Lachaîne. 

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Research Paper Guide

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Research Paper Examples - Free Sample Papers for Different Formats!

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Research Paper Example

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Crafting a comprehensive research paper can be daunting. Understanding diverse citation styles and various subject areas presents a challenge for many.

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Research Paper Example for Different Formats

Following a specific formatting style is essential while writing a research paper . Knowing the conventions and guidelines for each format can help you in creating a perfect paper. Here we have gathered examples of research paper for most commonly applied citation styles :

Social Media and Social Media Marketing: A Literature Review

APA Research Paper Example

APA (American Psychological Association) style is commonly used in social sciences, psychology, and education. This format is recognized for its clear and concise writing, emphasis on proper citations, and orderly presentation of ideas.

Here are some research paper examples in APA style:

Research Paper Example APA 7th Edition

Research Paper Example MLA

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is frequently employed in humanities disciplines, including literature, languages, and cultural studies. An MLA research paper might explore literature analysis, linguistic studies, or historical research within the humanities. 

Here is an example:

Found Voices: Carl Sagan

Research Paper Example Chicago

Chicago style is utilized in various fields like history, arts, and social sciences. Research papers in Chicago style could delve into historical events, artistic analyses, or social science inquiries. 

Here is a research paper formatted in Chicago style:

Chicago Research Paper Sample

Research Paper Example Harvard

Harvard style is widely used in business, management, and some social sciences. Research papers in Harvard style might address business strategies, case studies, or social policies.

View this sample Harvard style paper here:

Harvard Research Paper Sample

Examples for Different Research Paper Parts

A research paper has different parts. Each part is important for the overall success of the paper. Chapters in a research paper must be written correctly, using a certain format and structure.

The following are examples of how different sections of the research paper can be written.

Research Proposal

The research proposal acts as a detailed plan or roadmap for your study, outlining the focus of your research and its significance. It's essential as it not only guides your research but also persuades others about the value of your study.

Example of Research Proposal

An abstract serves as a concise overview of your entire research paper. It provides a quick insight into the main elements of your study. It summarizes your research's purpose, methods, findings, and conclusions in a brief format.

Research Paper Example Abstract

Literature Review 

A literature review summarizes the existing research on your study's topic, showcasing what has already been explored. This section adds credibility to your own research by analyzing and summarizing prior studies related to your topic.

Literature Review Research Paper Example

Methodology

The methodology section functions as a detailed explanation of how you conducted your research. This part covers the tools, techniques, and steps used to collect and analyze data for your study.

Methods Section of Research Paper Example

How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper

The conclusion summarizes your findings, their significance and the impact of your research. This section outlines the key takeaways and the broader implications of your study's results.

Research Paper Conclusion Example

Research Paper Examples for Different Fields

Research papers can be about any subject that needs a detailed study. The following examples show research papers for different subjects.

History Research Paper Sample

Preparing a history research paper involves investigating and presenting information about past events. This may include exploring perspectives, analyzing sources, and constructing a narrative that explains the significance of historical events.

View this history research paper sample:

Many Faces of Generalissimo Fransisco Franco

Sociology Research Paper Sample

In sociology research, statistics and data are harnessed to explore societal issues within a particular region or group. These findings are thoroughly analyzed to gain an understanding of the structure and dynamics present within these communities. 

Here is a sample:

A Descriptive Statistical Analysis within the State of Virginia

Science Fair Research Paper Sample

A science research paper involves explaining a scientific experiment or project. It includes outlining the purpose, procedures, observations, and results of the experiment in a clear, logical manner.

Here are some examples:

Science Fair Paper Format

What Do I Need To Do For The Science Fair?

Psychology Research Paper Sample

Writing a psychology research paper involves studying human behavior and mental processes. This process includes conducting experiments, gathering data, and analyzing results to understand the human mind, emotions, and behavior.

Here is an example psychology paper:

The Effects of Food Deprivation on Concentration and Perseverance

Art History Research Paper Sample

Studying art history includes examining artworks, understanding their historical context, and learning about the artists. This helps analyze and interpret how art has evolved over various periods and regions.

Check out this sample paper analyzing European art and impacts:

European Art History: A Primer

Research Paper Example Outline

Before you plan on writing a well-researched paper, make a rough draft. An outline can be a great help when it comes to organizing vast amounts of research material for your paper.

Here is an outline of a research paper example:

Here is a downloadable sample of a standard research paper outline:

Research Paper Outline

Want to create the perfect outline for your paper? Check out this in-depth guide on creating a research paper outline for a structured paper!

Good Research Paper Examples for Students

Here are some more samples of research paper for students to learn from:

Fiscal Research Center - Action Plan

Qualitative Research Paper Example

Research Paper Example Introduction

How to Write a Research Paper Example

Research Paper Example for High School

Now that you have explored the research paper examples, you can start working on your research project. Hopefully, these examples will help you understand the writing process for a research paper.

If you're facing challenges with your writing requirements, you can hire our essay writing service .

Our team is experienced in delivering perfectly formatted, 100% original research papers. So, whether you need help with a part of research or an entire paper, our experts are here to deliver.

So, why miss out? Place your ‘ write my research paper ’ request today and get a top-quality research paper!

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How to write a Research Paper – Step by Step Guide

How to write a research paper step by step

A Step-by-Step Guide to writing a research paper

Introduction:

Writing a research paper is a job that we all have to do in our academic life. A research paper represents the ideas of the person who writes it. In simple words, a research paper presents an original idea and substantiates it with logical arguments. Writing a research paper in the domain of English literature is very different compared to writing research articles in other domains. Literature inclines towards abstract thinking. In other subjects, one has to stick to the facts. Howsoever you try, disputing an idea of science becomes very difficult. On the other hand, to contradict an idea in the purview of literature, you just need a systematic flow of arguments (logical and valid) and it’s done! So, writing a research paper in the field of English literature becomes easy if arguments are strong, in a sequence and wisely crafted.

Step 1: Choose the topic of your research paper:

This is one of the most vital parts. Choosing a topic is a crucial choice to make and it has to be taken seriously. You have to choose the area of your interest in English literature and then narrow it down to the area of your expertise. You cannot write a paper on the topics which are wider than a Doctoral thesis! So, you have to be precise and wise while choosing your topic.

An example: Suppose a person has adequate knowledge about Matthew Arnold. Can he write a research article on Arnold alone? No! He will need to bring the topic to some specific idea related to Arnold. The possibilities may be in his prose or poetry writing. In certain states in India, students work on topics like “Matthew Arnold as a poet” and “Matthew Arnold as a great prose writer” which is invalid, injustice and academically a sin. It should not be encouraged! Someone being a poet cannot be a subject of a research article. Any special quality of someone’s poetry writing can certainly be an interesting topic of a research paper – now you must have the idea. ‘Hopelessness and Despair in the poetry of Matthew Arnold’ can be a topic for a brilliant research paper. The hint is very simple – narrow it down to the speciality and you will have your topic ready!

Read in detail – How to choose a research topic? 

Step 2: Collect information – primary and secondary sources:

Now that you have selected a topic for your research paper, you should find ‘credible sources’ that substantiate your ‘paper’s purpose’. Sources are divided into two major categories – primary and secondary. Primary sources are the materials produced by the people who feature in your topic. In the case of our example above, poetry by Matthew Arnold and other writings by him will be primary sources. Secondary sources are the writings ‘about the topic and anything related to the topic’. Therefore, you have to browse the internet, visit a library, check your bookshelves and do anything that will bring you information about the topic and anything that relates to the topic.

Step 3: Plan your research article:

Before you begin writing the paper, it’s always wise to have a clear plan in your mind. Planning a research paper in the domain of English literature should always begin with a clear ‘purpose of research’ in your mind. Why are you writing this paper? What point do you want to make? How significant is that point? Do you have your arguments to support the point (or idea) that you want to establish? Do you have enough credible sources that support the arguments you want to make in the body of the paper? If all the answers are positive, move to the next step and begin writing the drafts for your paper.

Step 4: Writing the first draft of your research paper:

Now it comes to writing the paper’s first draft. Before you begin writing, have a clear picture of your paper in your mind. It will make the job easier. What does a research paper look like? Or, rather, what’s the ideal structure of a research paper?

Beginning – Introduce your idea that drives the research paper. How do you approach that idea? What is your paper – an analysis, review of a book or two ideas compared or something else. The introduction must tell the story of your research in brief – ideas, a highlight or arguments and the glimpse of conclusion. It is generally advised that the introduction part should be written in the end so that you have the final research paper clearly justified, introduced and highlighted at the beginning itself.

Middle – And here goes the meat of your paper. All that you have to emphasise, euphemise, compare, collaborate and break down will take place in the middle or the body of your research paper. Please be careful once you begin writing the body of your paper. This is what will impact your readers (or the examiners or the teachers) the most. You have to be disciplined, systematic, clever and also no-nonsense. Make your points and support them with your arguments. Arguments should be logical and based on textual proofs (if required). Analyse, compare or collaborate as required to make your arguments sharp and supportive to the proposition that you make. The example topic of a research paper that we chose somewhere above in this article – Hopelessness and Despair in the Poetry of Matthew Arnold will require the person writing this paper to convince the readers (and so on) that actually Arnold’s poetry gives a sign of the two negative attitudes picked as the topic. It would be wise to analyse the works (and instances from them, to be specific) The Scholar Gypsy, Empedocles on Etna, Dover Beach and others that support the proposition made in the topic for research. You can use primary and secondary sources and cite them wisely as required. You have to convince the readers of your paper that what you propose in the purpose of the research paper stands on the ground as a logical and valid proposition.

End – Or the conclusion of a research paper that should be written wisely and carefully. You can use a few of your strongest arguments here to strike the final balance and make your proposition justified. After a few of your strongest arguments are made, you can briefly summarise your research topic and exhibit your skills of writing to close the lid by justifying why you are proposing that you have concluded what you began. Make sure that you leave the least possible loopholes for conjecture after you conclude your paper.

Reference: You can use two of the most used styles (or rather only used) to give a list of references in your paper – APA or MLA. Whatever you choose needs to be constant throughout the paper.

To summarise, here is what a research paper should look like:

  • Introduction
  • A list of References

Step 5: Read & re-read your draft: It gives you the chance to judge your research paper and find the possible shortcomings so that you can make amends and finalise your paper before you print it out for your academic requirements. While you read your first draft, treat it with a purpose to find contradictions and conjecture points as much as possible. Wherever you find the chances of contradiction possible, you have to make those arguments forceful and more logical and substantiate them to bypass the fear of being contradicted (and defeated). Let us be clear – it is English literature we are dealing with and there will be contradictions. Don’t fear it. However, make sure your arguments are not defeated. The defeat means your paper will not hold up to the scrutiny of the experts. And this is why you need to read and re-read the first draft of your literature research paper.

Step 6: Finalise & print your research paper: After reading your paper 1 or 2 times, you should be sure what needs to be changed and otherwise. Finalise it so that it appears the best and sounds good to be the final version. Print your work in the best possible quality and you are done! If there is a verbal question-answer associated with the paper you prepare, make sure you understand it completely and are ready for the questions from any possible side of your topic.

This was our step-by-step guide to writing a research paper in the field of English literature. We hope you have found it useful. We will write more articles associated with the concept – such as choosing a research topic, building arguments, writing powerful introductions. Make sure you subscribe to our website so that you are notified whenever we post a new article on English Literature Education! All the best with your paper!

More guides on How to Subjects: 

How to Study Poetry?

Read related articles from this category:

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Bildungsroman – literary term definition, examples, notes & help you need

Major Literary Terms Associated With Drama English Literature Alok Mishra tips guide

List of important literary terms associated with studying drama or play – Literature Guides

Drama English Literature Study Guide Alok Mishra Tips Study Students Best ways analysis

What is Drama? What is Drama in Literature? Features, Types & Details Students Must Know

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9 Comments . Leave new

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Thank you so much, explanation about research work is a nice manner. (private information retracted)

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Very well written article! Thanks for this. I was confused about my research paper. I am sure I can do it now.

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Quite resourceful. thank you.

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Very nice reseach paper

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It was very nice reading, helpful for writing research paper.

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Thanks for your kind sharing of the information

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Normally, I don’t leave any replies after reading a blog, but I couldn’t help this time. I found this blog very useful. So, I’m writing my research paper and I’ve been racking my brain and the internet for a good topic, plus trying to learn how to write a research paper. Thank you so much for putting this up!

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I want to work on The French Revolution and its impact on romantic poetry. Please help in this regard.

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Thanks a lot for the information.

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Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press's Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Scientific writing as a research skill

how to write an english research essay

Scientific Papers Made Easy

  • By Stuart West and Lindsay Turnbull
  • February 2 nd 2024

Scientific papers are often hard to read, even for specialists that work in the area. This matters because potential readers will often give up and do something else instead. And that means the paper will have less impact.

The fact that many scientific papers are hard to read is surprising. Scientists want others to read their papers—they don’t try to make them difficult to get through! So why does this problem arise? And how can we fix it?

The curse of knowledge

One problem is that scientists are incredibly knowledgeable about every detail of their research: from the studies that inspired them, to their methods and results, to the implications of those results. This means that they’re about as far away as it’s possible to be from someone who is new to the topic, so often they’re the worst person in the world to write up their study.

This problem is so common that it has even been given a name in psychology literature: the ‘curse of knowledge’. The curse means that people tend to unwittingly assume that others have the necessary background to understand what they are saying. Put simply, it’s easy for a scientist to miss out crucial points or steps because they’ve forgotten how important those things are for understanding their work.

Another aspect of the ‘curse of knowledge’ is that scientists tend to write like scientists. They use jargon, technical abbreviations, and phrases that they would never use in everyday speech. This ‘science speak’ usually makes things harder, not easier, for potential readers. This is particularly true with readers of interdisciplinary research, or with readers who are new to the specific subject area, who are less likely to know the meaning behind the jargon.

So how can we fix the writing problems that come from science speak and the curse of knowledge?

Writing as a research skill

The first step is that we need to acknowledge that writing is a skill that needs to be learnt, just like any other aspect of scientific research. Indeed, good writing can require a much longer learning period than many familiar research techniques. Once you have learnt how to pipette, you can do it, but writing is something that you can keep improving throughout your career.

Writing can be learnt in multiple ways. Courses can be run, usually for undergraduate or graduate students. But learning to write needs practise and motivation, and these courses are often run before the students need to write up their own research, An alternative is guide

books, that provide advice and tips, that writers can read and apply as they go along, as they produce the different sections of their paper. But what exactly needs to be learnt?

The next step is to pause and imagine potential readers. A potential reader is likely to be time-limited, stressed, and easily bored. They have a million other things to do and will take any excuse to give up on reading your paper. They might be a PhD student trying to get to grips with their subject, or a professor who doesn’t really have time to read papers anymore.

They key point is that they don’t have to read your paper—it’s the writer’s job to make them want to. This leads to a fundamental principle of scientific writing: the reader must come first. It is the job of the writer to help the reader understand the content of their paper by making things as clear and straightforward as possible.

Guiding principles

Unfortunately, putting the reader first does not always come naturally, and can require a change of thinking on the part of the writer. Luckily there are a few general principles that help with this:

  • Keep it Simple. Use simple clear writing to make it as easy as possible for the reader.
  • Assume nothing. A paper is more likely to be hard to read because it assumed too much, rather than because it was dumbed down too much.
  • Keep it to essentials. A more focused paper will better at both getting the major points across and keeping the attention of a time-stressed reader.
  • Tell your story. Good scientific writing tells a story. It tells the reader why the topic you have chosen is important, what you found out, and why that matters.

The beauty is in the details

The above advice might still seem a bit vague, but it’s just an overview. In our recent book, Scientific Writing Made Easy, we build upon these guiding principles to provide a toolkit for writing the different parts of a scientific paper. We provide both a structure for each section, and detailed tips for how to fill that structure out. We make writing easier and less scary.

Our toolkit can be applied to different types of paper across the life, human, and natural sciences. While there are important differences, a lot of the same principles can be applied whether someone is writing up a laboratory experiment, a mathematical model, or an observational field study.

Learn more about Scientific Writing Made Easy with this review from the Stated Clearly YouTube channel.

Stuart West, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Department of Biology, University of Oxford, UK. Lindsay Turnbull, Professor of Plant Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Oxford, UK.

  • Earth & Life Sciences
  • Science & Medicine

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"A Concise Guide to Communication in Science and Engineering" by David H. Foster, published by Oxford University Press

Recent Comments

I am disappointed by this so-called article. I have long been interested in this field; it combines two interests of mine – science and language. Sad to say, what we have here is a free ad disguised as a review. If it had been written by independent reviewers, I would have been glad to hear of it. As it stands, this book is crossed off my TBR list. Too bad.

Sorry you thought that SB – it wasn’t trying to look at all like a ‘review’. The blog was a summary of what we think are some some key points about writing – which are then expanded in our book (where there is loads more space!). Cheers Stu

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TOEFL iBT ®  Test

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Log in every day to challenge yourself with a free activity from one of the 4 test sections, such as a Reading passage and related questions. This activity rotates daily.

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Not sure when to start preparing for the TOEFL iBT test? Answer 5 short survey questions to generate a free interactive study plan to fit your schedule and help you stay organized, track your progress and focus on the skills you need to boost.

TOEFL Practice Online (TPO) tests simulate the real TOEFL iBT testing experience.

  • Review and answer authentic test questions.
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  • Choose from volumes that include complete tests, half tests or speaking tests.

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Practice a section in test mode and receive a score, performance feedback and additional insights.

  • Receive estimated section score and CEFR level
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  • Review correct and incorrect answers in the Reading and Listening sections

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Practice a complete section at your own pace and receive immediate scores, feedback and insights to help you improve.

  • Reading and Listening: learn why your response was correct/ incorrect as well as why other response options were correct/incorrect.
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Focused Practice

Boost your skills and confidence by focusing on sets of specific question types with immediate scores, feedback and insights.

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Best-selling guides and books to help you prepare for the TOEFL iBT test.

The Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT ® Test

This guide is a comprehensive, all-in-one reference to help you prepare for the test and get your best score. It is available in eBook and paperback formats and includes:

  • Four full-length practice tests
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  • valuable tips
  • scoring criteria
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Official TOEFL iBT ® Tests, Volumes 1 & 2

Get 10 authentic, full-length TOEFL iBT tests with previous test questions. Available in paperback or eBook formats, each volume offers five practice tests and includes:

  • Interactive online versions of all five tests
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Learn about TOEFL iBT courses to help you prepare for your test.

Official TOEFL iBT ® Prep Course

Build the skills you need to communicate in English in an academic environment with this self-paced course. With the 6-month subscription, you’ll be able to:

  • Do in-depth lessons and activities across the 4 skills — Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing
  • Take pre- and post-tests to help you evaluate your performance
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You can choose one of two options:

  • The Prep Course — standard course
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TOEFL ® Test Preparation: The Insider's Guide

With this free self-paced course, you can learn and practice whenever it’s most convenient for you. It includes:

  • An introduction to the test and each section
  • Short quizzes
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  • Tips from expert instructors
  • Scaled-score range for Speaking and Writing practice questions
  • Information and sample questions for the new Writing for an Academic Discussion task

Value Packs

Save money when you purchase multiple prep offerings bundled together into an expertly curated package. Find discounts on test registrations, practice tests, guides, books, additional score reports and more.

Performance Insights, Feedback and Guidance

As you engage with TOEFL TestReady prep offerings, robust AI algorithms serve up valuable information to help you maximize your score potential.

Feel confident on test day! The overwhelming majority of learners we surveyed reported that the new test prep offerings and features within TOEFL TestReady boosted their confidence, improved their skills and increased their readiness for the TOEFL iBT test 2 .

Curated Prep Recommendations

Close skill gaps and focus your time more effectively and efficiently with curated prep recommendations. Receive evolving guidance on where to focus your efforts and which prep offerings to try next based on insights drawn from your past performance.

Continuous Progress Tracking

Monitor your progress in real time with tracking of overall performance, section performance and question type performance. Your personal Insights page showcases your skill trends, as well as an estimated TOEFL iBT score and CEFR level to help you gauge your readiness.

1 Source: Statistics gathered from 765 users who also took the TOEFL iBT test (China, India, and the U.S.)

2 Source: Survey of 765 users across China, India and the U.S.

2023-2024 Common App essay prompts

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We are pleased to announce that the Common App essay prompts will remain the same for 2023-2024.

It’s not just for the sake of consistency that we have chosen to keep the essay prompts the same for the upcoming application year. Our past research has shown that overall satisfaction with the prompts exceeded 95% across our constituent groups - students, counselors, advisors, teachers, and member colleges. Moving forward, we want to learn more about who is choosing certain prompts to see if there are any noteworthy differences among student populations.

We know some schools are beginning to have conversations with juniors and transfer students about their college options. As we’ve always said, this is not a call for students to begin writing. We hope that by sharing the prompts now, students will have the time they need to reflect on their own personal stories and begin thinking about what they want to share with colleges. As you assist students with their planning, feel free to share our Common App Ready resource on approaching the essay (in English and Spanish ). You can also visit our YouTube channel to view our breakdown of all 7 Common App essay prompts . 

"Moving forward, we want to learn more about who is choosing certain prompts to see if there are any noteworthy differences among student populations." Meredith Lombardi, Director, Education and Training, Common App

Students who are ready to start exploring the application can create their Common App account prior to August 1. With account rollover , we will retain any responses to questions on the Common App tab, including the personal essay.

Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2023-2024.

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

We will retain the optional community disruption question within the Writing section. 

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Hiring a research paper writer from Reddit or any other place that isn’t a reputable writing company comes with a plethora of dangers, including:

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Checking for plagiarism should be of utmost importance, and hiring a Reddit-based writer doesn’t necessarily give you this peace of mind.

2. Late delivery

As you know, the punctual submission of term papers and research papers is paramount to success. If the writer fails to meet the deadline you set, the paper could be useless, wasting time and money.

While life does through curveballs to everybody, hiring a writer from Reddit provides no assurance that they’ll deliver your paper on time.

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Poor writing quality is very likely if you fail to use a legitimate writing service and instead choose to hire a writer from Reddit.

It’s unlikely that they will show you samples of their previous work, causing your grades to slip if they can’t meet the high standards of academic writing.

4. Failure to meet requirements

Every essay has criteria that must be met. Writers who aren’t experienced with such writing can fail to meet the standards or conduct a thorough research.

We recommend hiring expert writers from reputable websites only, despite the potentially low cost of those advertising their services on Reddit.

How can a research paper writing website guarantee original, plagiarism-free papers?

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Only reliable services offer guarantees of originality and ensure they write the paper from scratch. So, that’s the first thing you should look for when deciding where to buy a research paper online.

The services ensure original work by running all final papers through at least one plagiarism checker. Depending on the specific site, they may give you this report for free.

Reasons to Buy Custom Research Paper Online

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And last but not least, reputable sites where you can order research paper online typically provide clients with a plagiarism report. Hence, you can make sure that your research paper is original. For your instructors, it will be impossible to reveal that your work was written by somebody else.

Buying research papers online is a common practice nowadays. Many students turn to special services that complete their assignments for money. This is a very convenient way to get your homework done when you are overloaded with academic and professional responsibilities. A reliable writing service can save your time and energy, helping you avoid emotional burnout.

Before you choose a company to buy a paper from, you need to do proper research. Try to find as much information about different platforms as possible. Also, compare their prices and terms. Judging by multiple reviews, one of the best services available today is PaperHelp. But the choice is completely up to you, so you should make your own analysis.

Article paid for by: Ocasio Media The news and editorial staffs of the Bay Area News Group had no role in this post’s preparation.

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A COnversation With

He Hunts Sloppy Scientists. He’s Finding Lots of Prey.

Meet Sholto David, whose error-spotting has raised a question: If researchers aren’t getting the little things right, what else might be wrong?

Sholto David wears a dark purple polo shirt and sits at a desk with a computer on it and looks directly at the camera.

By Matt Richtel

Sholto David, 32, has a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from Newcastle University in England. He is also developing an expertise in spotting errors in scientific papers. Most recently, and notably, he discovered flawed or manipulated data in studies conducted by top executives at the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The institute said that it was requesting retraction of six manuscripts and had found 31 other manuscripts that required corrections.

From his home in Wales, Dr. David scours new research publications for images that are mislabeled and manipulated, and he regularly finds mistakes, or malfeasance, in some of the most prominent scientific journals. Accuracy is vital, as peer-reviewed papers often provide the evidence for drug trials or further lines of research. Dr. David said that the frequency of such errors suggests an underlying problem for science.

His interview with The New York Times has been edited and condensed.

Are you done hunting scientists for the day?

I haven’t had time today. But if I spent a couple of hours reading papers, I’d probably write four or five comments about errors in scientific papers. It’s not hard to find these problems, and it’s not hard to find them at any institution. They’re all out there to find, if anyone wants to read the scientific literature.

What motivates you to spend the time to do it?

I’m not an anti-vaxxer, I’m not a crank conspiracist or anything like that. I’m a scientist myself, and I care about getting the science right.

You focus in part on images that have been mislabeled, or used twice in a paper but as evidence for different things, lazily cut-and-pasted from one spot to another. Is there a simple way for you to tell that an image is wrong?

You just look at the picture and read the labels. For example, if you look at a microscopic picture of cells, you see the position, location, orientation and shape of the cells. And if you look at another picture of cells and they’re all in the same position, with the same shape and orientation, then you know that this is the same image, right? It’s not a complicated process.

You’ve also identified errors in western blots. What are those?

These are a type of scientific experiment used to identify and quantify specific proteins. The images are important in a lot of scientific papers. They look gray in the background and have black bands. When you look at them very closely, you can usually tell whether it’s a copy-and-paste job or not. These things aren’t always obvious to people who don’t look at a lot of western blots.

Let’s turn to Dana-Farber. After finding errors in multiple papers from its researchers, what inference do you draw about the scientific methods of that pre-eminent institution?

It’s important to remember that Dana-Farber researchers publish a lot of papers. But it’s still a lot of errors, and they’ve happened over a long period of time. This tells me that for a long time people haven’t paid close enough attention to getting the basics right. How many sloppy errors are we comfortable with top institutions making? It’s probably not many. I think most people expect that Harvard scientists aren’t doing copy-and-paste mistakes often.

More generally, do the mistakes you find seem innocent to you?

I think we can all understand that sometimes an image may have been copied and pasted by mistake. But there are more complicated examples where images are being rotated, transformed or stretched. Those kinds of examples are less savory. There are other examples of Western blots which have been spliced together so they’re a composite image, not just copied and pasted, but the image has been assembled in a way that you couldn’t reconstruct a sensible experiment from. Sometimes there are cases where people are using Photoshop to more extensively edit images.

It’s hard not to wonder if, in some cases, the scientist is not expecting anyone to look that closely.

In most of these cases, people don’t look very closely, and peer reviewers don’t look closely. Maybe they have an assumption that most scientists will get it right. But if you look closely, you will often find problems.

To what extent are these peer-reviewed papers?

They’re all peer-reviewed.

Does this call into question the peer-review process?

I think that’s something that people need to think about. These are top scientific journals with errors that escaped peer review. Maybe the peer reviewers are looking for other things. Maybe they like to look at the methods or the conclusions more carefully than the results. But, yeah, it does make me think that people should question how effective the peer-review process has been.

To what extent do you find that there is a relationship between images that are mislabeled or falsified and larger conceptual problems with the paper?

When a paper has duplicated images, we know that something’s gone wrong in the process. So I’m not too worried about the specific instances of image duplications. I’m concerned that there’s a lack of control over the whole process of turning images into papers. Science is hard, but labeling images correctly isn’t the hard part. We could probably do without some of the silly errors and apparent fraud.

Matt Richtel is a health and science reporter for The Times, based in Boulder, Colo. More about Matt Richtel

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  • How to write an argumentative essay | Examples & tips

How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement . The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.

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Table of contents

When do you write an argumentative essay, approaches to argumentative essays, introducing your argument, the body: developing your argument, concluding your argument, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about argumentative essays.

You might be assigned an argumentative essay as a writing exercise in high school or in a composition class. The prompt will often ask you to argue for one of two positions, and may include terms like “argue” or “argument.” It will frequently take the form of a question.

The prompt may also be more open-ended in terms of the possible arguments you could make.

Argumentative writing at college level

At university, the vast majority of essays or papers you write will involve some form of argumentation. For example, both rhetorical analysis and literary analysis essays involve making arguments about texts.

In this context, you won’t necessarily be told to write an argumentative essay—but making an evidence-based argument is an essential goal of most academic writing, and this should be your default approach unless you’re told otherwise.

Examples of argumentative essay prompts

At a university level, all the prompts below imply an argumentative essay as the appropriate response.

Your research should lead you to develop a specific position on the topic. The essay then argues for that position and aims to convince the reader by presenting your evidence, evaluation and analysis.

  • Don’t just list all the effects you can think of.
  • Do develop a focused argument about the overall effect and why it matters, backed up by evidence from sources.
  • Don’t just provide a selection of data on the measures’ effectiveness.
  • Do build up your own argument about which kinds of measures have been most or least effective, and why.
  • Don’t just analyze a random selection of doppelgänger characters.
  • Do form an argument about specific texts, comparing and contrasting how they express their thematic concerns through doppelgänger characters.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

An argumentative essay should be objective in its approach; your arguments should rely on logic and evidence, not on exaggeration or appeals to emotion.

There are many possible approaches to argumentative essays, but there are two common models that can help you start outlining your arguments: The Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.

Toulmin arguments

The Toulmin model consists of four steps, which may be repeated as many times as necessary for the argument:

  • Make a claim
  • Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim
  • Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim)
  • Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives

The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays. You don’t have to use these specific terms (grounds, warrants, rebuttals), but establishing a clear connection between your claims and the evidence supporting them is crucial in an argumentative essay.

Say you’re making an argument about the effectiveness of workplace anti-discrimination measures. You might:

  • Claim that unconscious bias training does not have the desired results, and resources would be better spent on other approaches
  • Cite data to support your claim
  • Explain how the data indicates that the method is ineffective
  • Anticipate objections to your claim based on other data, indicating whether these objections are valid, and if not, why not.

Rogerian arguments

The Rogerian model also consists of four steps you might repeat throughout your essay:

  • Discuss what the opposing position gets right and why people might hold this position
  • Highlight the problems with this position
  • Present your own position , showing how it addresses these problems
  • Suggest a possible compromise —what elements of your position would proponents of the opposing position benefit from adopting?

This model builds up a clear picture of both sides of an argument and seeks a compromise. It is particularly useful when people tend to disagree strongly on the issue discussed, allowing you to approach opposing arguments in good faith.

Say you want to argue that the internet has had a positive impact on education. You might:

  • Acknowledge that students rely too much on websites like Wikipedia
  • Argue that teachers view Wikipedia as more unreliable than it really is
  • Suggest that Wikipedia’s system of citations can actually teach students about referencing
  • Suggest critical engagement with Wikipedia as a possible assignment for teachers who are skeptical of its usefulness.

You don’t necessarily have to pick one of these models—you may even use elements of both in different parts of your essay—but it’s worth considering them if you struggle to structure your arguments.

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should always be structured using an introduction , a body , and a conclusion .

Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction . The introduction serves to capture the reader’s interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how a typical introduction works.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

The body of an argumentative essay is where you develop your arguments in detail. Here you’ll present evidence, analysis, and reasoning to convince the reader that your thesis statement is true.

In the standard five-paragraph format for short essays, the body takes up three of your five paragraphs. In longer essays, it will be more paragraphs, and might be divided into sections with headings.

Each paragraph covers its own topic, introduced with a topic sentence . Each of these topics must contribute to your overall argument; don’t include irrelevant information.

This example paragraph takes a Rogerian approach: It first acknowledges the merits of the opposing position and then highlights problems with that position.

Hover over different parts of the example to see how a body paragraph is constructed.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

An argumentative essay ends with a conclusion that summarizes and reflects on the arguments made in the body.

No new arguments or evidence appear here, but in longer essays you may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your argument and suggest topics for future research. In all conclusions, you should stress the relevance and importance of your argument.

Hover over the following example to see the typical elements of a conclusion.

The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

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    How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Examples & Tips Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023. An argumentative essay expresses an extended argument for a particular thesis statement. The author takes a clearly defined stance on their subject and builds up an evidence-based case for it.