How to Write a Research Paper: Step by Step Guide?

How to Write a Research Article: Step-by-Step Guide

Scholars and students have to go through different types of academic writings. A research paper is one form of academic writing, which is very popular in high schools, colleges and even at higher academic levels. Many students think that it is difficult to write a research paper. Just relax, because this is not the case.

Writing a research paper is not as difficult as one thinks. This just requires a focused approach with some consistency for research. This blog post will discuss in detail the step-by-step process of how to write a research paper?

After reading through this blog post, you will completely understand the structure of a research paper, its formats, layouts, examples etc.

Before discussing how to write a research paper, you need to completely understand what a research paper is and how to write a research paper? Besides discussing what is a research paper, you will also read about the difference between a research paper, research article, thesis and dissertation.

What is a Research Paper?

As per the dictionary definition, “research paper is a substantial piece of academic writing, usually done as a requirement for a class, in which the author does independent research on a designed topic and writes a description of the finding”.

A research paper presents an original purpose statement, about a topic and develops it with information gathered from a variety of sources.

Difference between a research paper and research article, thesis and dissertation?

Research Article Vs Research Paper

Do you know the difference between a research article and a research paper? In actual, there is no major difference between the two. Scholars and experts of different fields carry out research and articulate both research paper and articles.

Research article is published in research journals and magazines. It is an original research work of scholars and is published in peer-reviewed journals.

A research paper is also an original research which is published mainly in conferences and journals. Moreover, research paper may be presented orally during the presentation, in conferences or also published as a poster. A research paper is also given as an assignment in the higher or college-level classes.

Well, this is all about the difference between research article and research paper.

Now, let’s discuss the difference between research paper and thesis. Furthermore, you are also going to read in-depth about how to write a research paper.

Research Paper Vs Thesis

The thesis focuses on a scholarly statement or an argument, which needs further research attention in future too. The thesis has a statement, which is called a research question. This is the central idea or the main point for academic writing. Undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing their Bachelor and Master level degrees from universities or colleges mainly write a thesis. 

Do you know, a thesis is normally around 100 pages in length including the reference pages. 

It is important for you to clear the understanding of what is a research paper? In a research paper, the central argument is proved during the process of the research. Moreover, Literature Review is not required in a research paper which is a fundamental part of a thesis.

Have you learnt the difference between research paper and thesis? If you have any doubts, win comments. Now focus on difference between a research paper and dissertation.

Clearing of doubts about different forms of academic writings is important for your academic career.

Research Paper Vs Dissertation

Dissertation is academic research, which is normally undertaken by PhD scholars as part of their university degree and research. Mainly dissertation comprises arguments, theories, analysis, hypothesis etc and is more likely an academic book. You will be surprised to know about the length of the dissertation. It is normally 100 – 200 pages long. You need to add everything about your research. 

A research paper is a written report as a class assignment and is normally 5 to 20 pages long. You have already gone through other details about research paper. You have learnt about research paper clearly. Now, you really enjoy it more to make your research paper impactful. 

 After going through the definition and key differences between research paper and other academic writings i.e. research article, thesis and dissertation, let’s discuss how to write a research paper step-by-step in detail. So, you need to read with full attention to make a clear understanding of each step on how to write a research paper.

First, discuss Step 1.

Step 1: Deliberate, Narrow down and Focus on Topic for Research

This is a very important step, as the quality of the whole research will depend on the correct research topic. Find the research topic, which has a good scope for further research. Some people suggest that here you should find the research topic, which truly interests you. Try to select a few topics and then discuss these with friends, classmates and class instructor or professor.

Extract different questions from your topic and make statement questions. Then select the best statement question, which is to be solved.

Step 2: Search, Select and Read Sources for References

In Step 2, you will need to look around in the libraries, online internet. There are types of sources as primary and secondary. Consult “library catalogs, periodical indexes”, bibliographies and get suggested recommendations from your instructor or professor.

Use all the available primary and secondary sources.

Do you know what the primary and secondary sources are?

Primary Sources

Primary sources are those, which provide first-hand accounts of any event, incident or time, and are “considered authoritative”. They represent the creative research and thinking process for any event or discovery. Primary sources provide direct access to the subject of research.

Examples of primary sources are original documents, which include diaries, speeches, manuscript, letters, interviews, records, eyewitness accounts, autobiographies. Creative work like poetry, music, videos, photography are also part of primary sources. Similarly, empirical scholarly research work such as research articles, clinical reports, case studies, dissertation are also part of primary sources.

Secondary Sources

The Secondary sources are those sources, which are based on the research, analysis, synthesis, interpretation or evaluation of primary sources. Secondary sources provide second-hand commentary and information from other researchers.

Examples include textbook, articles from magazines, journals, newspapers and reference books. Literature review articles also included in secondary sources.

In Step 2, go through all the primary and secondary sources including journals, books, and other documents to increase your knowledge base for a quality research work.

Step 3: Group, Sequence and Document the available Information

After going through the primary and secondary sources, you need to take notes of all important information and where it’s available. To organize this process, you can devise a system where all the information is readily available for reference.

First, group the information according to the importance, linkage and event or incident or may be time. 

Then, start taking notes of all the sources and write the page numbers for easy reference. You can use handwritten chits or you may use your laptop or mobile for saving the importing information. You can also bookmark the required websites.

This all information will become handy once you will be writing bibliography.

Step 4: Write Outline and Finalize the Layout of Research Paper

After going through primary and secondary sources you have increased your knowledge base and are now able to dissect the available information. This is the time when you should write an outline for your research paper.

Outline of Research Paper

Organize different questions for the research work into parts of chapters as under:-

  • What is the topic?
  • Why is it important?
  • Which information is available including background material?
  • What is the purpose or question statement of the research?
  • What outcome is required to find out?

Layout of Research Paper

After writing the outline, finalize the layout of research paper as under:-

  • Abstract and Introduction
  • Body of the research paper
  • Conclusion

Add bibliography at the end of the research paper after the conclusion.

Step 5: Write Abstract and Introduction


Abstract is the small summary of the research paper and that is why you should write Abstract after finishing your research paper. However, it does not matter, if you first write Abstract before going further with writing your research paper. You have all the liberty to update or modify Abstract after completing the research paper.

How to write a good Abstract?

How to write a good Abstract? What should be written in Abstract?

Basically Abstract is a small summary of the research paper. Write introductory background, describe methodology of research and most important findings of the research paper.

This is how to write a good Abstract, which is powerful, and stick the reader to the research paper.

How long should an Abstract be or what is the word limit for an Abstract?

How long should an Abstract be or what is the word limit for an Abstract is a question, which is directly related to the type of the research and the length of the research paper.

Abstract is always written in one paragraph form after the Title.

The exact limit of the Abstract is different for different academic writing writings and academic styles. Here is a simple guide of writing the word limit of Abstract in different writing styles:-

  • 100 to 500 word, as per the discipline and publishing requirements. Rarely it will be of one page and occasionally it will be of few words.
  • 120 word, in APA style format.
  • 150 to 250 words, in MLA style format. Generally, MLA style format does not require an Abstract.
  • 300 to 350 word, for a dissertation of 10,000 words or more
  • 150 to 250 word, in Chicago style format, if it is required. Generally, Abstract is not written in Chicago style format. However, it depends on your supervisor or instructor. Therefore, you may follow the general rule of writing an abstract and limit the word count to 150 to 250 words.

After going through the above details you must have been able to brush up your knowledge about how long should an Abstract be or what is the word limit for an Abstract?


Actually, Introduction is the broad beginning of the research paper. This is the first place where a reader is able to understand your research paper. Introduction leads the reader from general subject area or research issue to a specific topic or problem for research.

How to write a good Introduction?

How to write a good Introduction? What should be written in Introduction?

Normally, Introduction is based on some context of the subject and a background. It tells your readers about your research which is being undertaken. Here, you need to state your rationale for the research. You also need to write why the research is important in this subject matter; write about the problem in hand. Write the hypothesis or question statement.

Start Introduction with an attention-grabbing sentence (you will learn about different types of attention-grabbing Hooks in this post), which force the reader to stick to the reading process till the end.

This is how to write a good introduction. By following the above technique, you will be able to produce an attention-grabbing Introduction.

How long should an Introduction be or what is the word limit for an Introduction?

Generally, there is no pet answer to the question of how long an Introduction should be or what the word limit is for an Introduction.

However, as a general guide, the Introduction should be the 10% of the total word count of the research paper. Before writing your Introduction, you need to consider the total length of the research paper. It is usually known to everyone due to the level of the academic class or by the guidance of a professor or supervisor.

Therefore, you can estimate a general length of the Introduction by using 10% of total word count. For a 5000 word research article, which is common at graduate level, the word count for Introduction will be 500 words, which is quite suitable as per the length of the paper.

Introduction consists of a number of paragraphs and even number of pages if the research paper length is 40-60 pages or more.

Step 6: Write the Body of Research Paper

Body is the main meat of the research paper. Body is the largest part of the research paper. It is divided into parts or chapters depending upon the level of writing. At Master level, the body of research paper includes chapters.

The outline, which you have prepared at Step 3, will become handy here in Step 6. Use that outline to expand the Body of the research paper.

As a general guide, divide the body of research paper into following parts or chapters:-

  • Background history, general information or current trends about the topic
  • Analysis of the problem and its impact
  • Suggested way forward or recommended solution to the problems (as per the analysis already done in above step)

Background history, general information current trends about the topic

This is the first part or chapter of the Body portion. Here you include the discussion on the subject matter, any background information or history. You can also add current trends which are being followed or latest happenings.

There is not hard and fast rule about length of this portion. But, as a general guide, keep the word count of this portion to 25% of the total word count of a research paper.

Analysis of Problem

This portion becomes second part of the Body of research paper. In analysis part mention about the problem in hand. Analysis of the problem, the factors that are affecting the problem. Here, you use references from different sources to write the bibliography to support your argument.

Summarize, discuss the argument in detail from all different angles and perspectives, evaluate the sources of information. Provide your own analysis of the problem.

As a general guide, keep the word limit to 30% of total word count of a research paper. For a 5000 words research paper, this make 1500 words for analysis of the problem in detail.

Way Forward or Suggested Solution

After analyzing the problem, you give the suggested way forward or recommended solution to that problem. This portion will depend upon all the information which you have already discussed in analysis part. So, accordingly, you will write best available solutions to solve the problem.

Analysis and suggestions or way forward are the main crux of the research paper and the purpose of the research if to extract quality analysis and suggested way forward for improvement of the issue at hand.

The length of Way Forward or Suggested Solution will depend upon the length of Analysis portion, as only that solution will be discussed which has already been highlighted in Analysis portion as problem area.

Therefore, length of this portion will also be 30% of the total word count of a research paper, which is 1500 words for a 5000 words research paper

For writing the research article quickly, add the bibliography as you write from different sources. This will reduce the time for adding the bibliography and references. After completing a research paper, it will be difficult to cite sources, as you may find it difficult which idea or data belongs to which source.

 Step 7: Write the Conclusion

Conclusion is the last part of the research paper. This is important in the sense that here research paper terminates. As it is the last part, therefore, here you will summarize the complete research paper. This includes important facts and finding, main problem and major solution or suggestion for solving the problem.

In short, Conclusion has all the important point which have been discussed in Introduction and Body of the research paper including findings or analysis and suggestion or solution.

How long should a Conclusion be or what is the word limit for a Conclusion?

Like Introduction, there is no answer to the question how long should a Conclusion be or what is the word limit for a Conclusion.

But as a general rule, Conclusion should be 5% of the total word count of the research article. So, for a 5000 words long research paper, length of Conclusion will be 250 words, which is enough for such lengthy academic writing.

Similarly, for a 1000 words research paper (rarely such a short research paper is produced), the Introduction and Conclusion will be of few sentences, written in paragraphs.

From the above information, you have been able to get the answer to the question how long should a Conclusion be or what is the word limit for a Conclusion.

In short Conclusion is the last part and research paper terminates at this point. For improving the quality of the research article, follow the Step 7.

Step 8: Revise, Proofread and Edit

This step is very important because, after completing the Conclusion, time has come when you need to quickly go to the Title of the research paper and start proofread and edit where required. This should not take much of the time.

For a quality research, revision, proofreading and editing is of utmost importance. Consequently, this will erase any errors both grammatical and inaccuracies. After completing the process, you are ready with your quality research paper.

This is your how to write a research paper, step-by-step guide. By following above mentioned 8 Steps, you can write a quality research paper fast. An inforgraphic has also been designed to focus on the process to write a research paper fast in 8 Steps. Use this inforgraphic and share it with others for spreading knowledge. However, do remember to give appropriate recognition and acknowledgement by linking to this blog post.


After learning to write a research paper, lets understand what is bibliography and references?

How to write Citation, Bibliography and References?


Citation is a process in which person who is performing research gives credit to the authors or individuals for their researched work due to ingenuity and creativity. This way will protect the intellectual work of original authors. 

Citation is required for every material whether articles, newspaper stories, magazine, personal diaries, interviews, audios, videos, images, means anything which you are using in your research should be given due acknowledgment.

Generally, citation includes “author’s name, date, location of the publishing company, journal title, or Digital Object Identifier (DOI)”.

How to choose a citation style?

Citation has different styles or formats. Each has its own significance and use. For various subjects and disciplines, different citation styles are used as per the requirement. Examples are as under:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) is used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used by the Humanities
  • Chicago/ Turabian style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts

All the Citation Styles are used in three Citation forms which are Work Cited, Bibliography and Reference. What and when to use, depends upon the Citation Style being used. For students and researchers, your professor or supervisor will guide you which style to use.

Work Cited Page

Normally, Work Cited Page is used in MLA Style and is written at the end of the research paper. Work Cited Page includes all the sources which have been used in the research. Normally, all sources are written in a list-form in alphabetical order with author’s last name first. Following example explains the style of Work Cited Page:-

Example of an MLA Citation in a Works Cited Page


A bibliography is a complete detail of all the sources which have been used or cited during the research work. All the sources will be included whether referenced or not. Bibliography is a written in a list-form and also includes other material that have not been cited but you have read it before the start of research paper to broaden your knowledge base. Normally, Bibliography includes following details about the sources:-

  • Names of authors
  • Title of the sources
  • Names and location of companies that have published copies of the sources
  • Dates of when copies were published
  • Page number of sources

With Chicago Style Format, use of Bibliography is must, example is as under:-

Example of a Chicago Citation in a Bibliography


In a Reference is a list of all the sources or references which have been cited in the work. Reference are written in list-form at the end of the research paper. These include only those sources which have been cited unlike Bibliography which have the list of even those sources which have not been cited but read. Reference List helps the reader to find all the sources at one place at the end of the research paper.  

Usually, Reference is written in APA Style. This is actually like Work Cited Page, but with a different name.

Example of an APA Citation in a Reference List

Can you put References and Bibliography together?

Bibliography and Reference are put at the end of the research paper or the thesis. Both Reference Lists and Bibliographies are placed at the end of your essay, assignment or thesis (unless your lecturer has specified differently, which may be the case for theses). Citations by the same author are then arranged chronologically, with the most recent first

For a detail guide on Bibliography and Reference, read the article on University of Leicester Website and University of Pittsburg.

What is the hook in a Research Paper?

What is a Hook?

Do you know what is a Hook? A hook is “the line or lines written to lure a reader or listener in and make them want to learn more”. Hook is the introduction whose purpose is to seek the attention of the reader, simply, a hook is an attention-grabbing sentence. In research papers or essays, Hook should be used in first sentence of the Introduction. The perfect Hooks are quotes and questions. But you should not use quotes or questions just because these are good hooks. You should use only if they are relevant to your area of study or research topic.

Seven best writing hooks for research paper or essays are as under:

  • Interesting Question Hook
  • Strong Statement/Declaration Hook
  • Fact/Statistic Hook
  • Metaphor/ Simile Hook
  • Story Hook
  • Description Hook
  • Quotation Hook

By using these Hooks, you can attract almost every reader to go through your research paper. Check out this inforgraphic on 7 Hooks for writing a research paper.


How to Avoid Plagiarism?

While doing research, one goes through a lot of material, articles, newspaper items, interviews, journals and magazines. Sometimes it’s tempting to just copy paste the complete material in own research paper or thesis or essay.

But this is against the ethics. Moreover, it is misuse of theft of property rights of all those authors or individuals who have put in their efforts for complete that creative piece.

To avoid this theft, Intellectual Property Rights have been created which are Internationally recognized. Any violation is liable to punishment.

Plagiarism common under the Intellectual Property Rights. You should always avoid Plagiarism.

Here is How to avoid Plagiarism.

What is plagiarism?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the verb “to plagiarize” means:

“to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source”

The scholarly work which has been cited, if written in the same form, can lead to Plagiarism. Even if you copy the material from the source unintentionally, you are liable to Plagiarism. This come under “theft”.

Why should you avoid Plagiarism?

These days, online softwares are available which checks the Plagiarism of any article or research paper. Even Google penalizes all those websites which have copy pasted content from other websites and it either by changing their SERP ranking in search results or remove them from search engine altogether (SERP ranking is part of SEO).

You should avoid Plagiarism due to following reasons:

  • Give due credit for the hard work of the original individual
  • Your research paper or thesis or essay can be rejected altogether
  • You can get a ban on your research position, if you are a student, you can be expelled from the university or college.
  • If you are a Professor or researcher, you can lose your position and a ban can be imposed on you by your institution
  • On internet, Google will put a ban on your website or take your website (where research paper or thesis has been published) at the end of the search results.

5 ways to avoid Plagiarism

There are methods which can be used to avoid Plagiarism. In actual, avoiding Plagiarism is not that difficult that one can be scared off. Following technique will help you in avoiding Plagiarism:

  • Cite your source
  • Include quotations
  • Paraphrase
  • Present your own idea
  • Use a plagiarism checker

This is the complete guide on How to write a Research Paper? Step by Step Guide. If you have any questions on How to write a Research Paper or any other question related to sub part, you can always write in comments. Even if you have any suggestions on How to write a Research Paper or any other topic related to it, you are always welcome to hit in the comments for a healthy discussion.

You want to read more? Check this out:

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