Research papers are one of the hurdles PG students must cross before their institutions award them the certificates they yearn for. Being scientific in nature, research papers must be presented in an organized and logical manner that should make them easy to scrutinize and replicate.
This article offers some useful advice on how to start a research paper.
What is a research paper?
A research paper is a type of academic writing which involves formally investigating a field of knowledge or topic of interest in order to add to the existing stock of knowledge in that field and/or solve a particular problem. Educational research is formal because it is not based on the subjective discretions of the researcher but on an accepted and objective standard such as the scientific method of inquiry.
A variety of academic studies can be described as research papers. These include term papers, seminar presentations, undergraduate projects, post-graduate thesis or dissertations, conference/workshop papers, and journal entries, among others.
Though these highlighted papers and others can be structured in diverse ways, conducting research in this context basically requires that the researcher identifies a problem or area of interest; formulates research questions and/or hypothesis; reviews the existing literature in the field; collects, measures and analyzes relevant data; discusses the findings; makes conclusions and recommendations based on the findings and then suggests possible directions for future research.
Tips for starting a research paper
As a PG student, you must have been commissioned to write the research paper by a professor or other instructor. Therefore, before starting the paper, you have to sit down with the instructor and obtain every necessary information and guidance that will help you not only to start but also to successfully complete your research paper.
If your institution has a formal document detailing how to format its research papers, be sure to consult that document as well. Should you find any area of such a document confusing, do not hesitate to ask your instructor to clarify things.
Choose a topic
After consultations to update yourself on all the formal requirements for writing your research paper, it is then time to choose a tentative topic for the paper (if you’ve not already been assigned one by your instructor). The topic is tentative at this stage because it can easily be revised (or even replaced) later.
Make sure you choose a researchable topic that arouses your interest enough to warrant your time and resources. It must be a topic whose findings will have important implications for your field and society at large. Do not hesitate to approach your instructor or other experts for help if you are struggling to settle on a topic.
Research the topic voraciously
Conducting a thorough investigation of the selected topic is the most important aspect of preparing to start a research paper. This is because, when conducted efficiently, it helps provide the researcher with in-depth knowledge about all aspects of the topic, especially the research problem. It will also help in the formulation of the paper’s research questions and hypothesis as well as the thesis statement.
With all this knowledge, you will then be in a better position to determine the most suitable research methods to use. Needless to remind you that your investigation should be multi-dimensional rather than reliant on one source, e.g., the internet.
In a nutshell, a thorough investigation of your topic will help you to start and complete your research paper strongly. Do not take it for granted.
Evaluate the depth and suitability of your investigation
When you feel you have gathered enough materials and knowledge to do justice to your topic, you then need to make out time to critically analyze and evaluate them to see if they will actually do the main job they are supposed to do – help provide solutions to the research problem/answers to the research questions.
Also, based on the analysis and evaluation of the scope and usefulness of your investigation, you may want to fine-tune or radically change the tentative topic into what will eventually become your final topic.
Formulate a thesis statement
As noted above, one of the benefits of researching a topic voraciously is that it helps you to construct an ideal thesis statement. A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or controlling idea of an essay, research paper, and/or other informative writing. All information in the paper tends towards this idea, one way or the other.
Thus, a thesis statement is a specific claim or pivot around which all other sentences in one‘s paper revolve. Therefore, every sentence, be it simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex should aim at substantiating the thesis statement. It is the foundation from which the writer builds the logical framework that guides the development and organization of all the reasoning and arguments in the paper.
The thesis statement can, therefore, be seen as an angle, perspective, or point of view from which the writer wants to present his writing. It is usually captured in one sentence but may sometimes be a bit more. Position your thesis statement towards the end of the introduction or introductory paragraph of the research paper.
With your thesis statement and every other information in place, it is now time to start your research paper. Being the first part of the paper, the introduction must be written in such a way as to attract and keep the reader. It should make the reader want to continue reading.
There is no one rigid method or style to follow on how to structure the introduction as long as it does its job which is to lay a solid foundation for the entire paper as well as establish the relevance of the topic being researched.
Before you start a research paper, you need significant preparatory work that includes consultations and extensive research, among others. The more efficient your preparations, the more the likelihood that you’ll start your research paper strongly.