How to Write a Research Paper


Unless you manage to take classes that require only personal essays or creative writing, chances are pretty good that you're going to face that snarling, enormous monster that professors like to call the research paper.

Consider this bit of wisdom provided by Muriel Harris, English professor, director of Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL), and author on the subject.

"Knowing how to write a research paper is a critically important skill," she says. "We live in an information age, and almost any job or project will involve searching out and working with information we find and then transmitting it to others. That's exactly what research paper writing prepares us for. So, like it or not, research paper writing is something most of us will be doing for most of our lives."

By breaking the task into lots of steps, a research paper becomes something you can master and approach with confidence.

Learning Goals

At the completion of this article, you should be able to:

  • devise a working strategy for a research essay assignment
  • understand what critical steps are involved before you begin research
  • navigate your local and school libraries with a purpose and method to guide you
  • understand how sources become woven into your paper without plagiarizing
  • look at the writing process as several natural stages, not one overwhelming task
  • use the suggested resources for guidance, reference, or more detail on the research paper process