Essay and research paper topics & ideas

Academic Research Paper Writing Rules

After narrowing your research paper’s topic, you will want to do some research so that you can add specific details. Most professors require a minimum amount of pages. In order to supply the amount of details needed to adequately support your thesis, you will investigate facts, statistics, and writings on relevant subjects. Two main areas of English research papers are problematic for international students. They are plagiarism and not following style guide rules.


Plagiarism means you intend to use the words or ideas of another person without giving any credit to them. In English speaking countries, ideas and specific words are called intellectual property. Plagiarism can become a problem for international students because of cultural differences. For example, in parts of Asia, copying another person’s words is a compliment because it means you think no one can explain the material better.

Using Specific Words. In the USA, copying another person’s words is considered cheating unless you enclose the specific copied words in quotation marks. Most professors will give the student a failing grade or make the student withdraw from the class without a grade if they find you cheating. Some schools will make a student withdraw from the school. So, if you have a computer and plan to copy material from an article, put the copied material in a different color from your writing until you can decide what to quote and cite it in your paper.

General Ideas. It is easy to forget to cite the article where you found an idea because you will be asked to read many journal articles and books. So, put general ideas in a different color to make sure you do not plagiarize by accident. However, if the fact or idea is commonly known, such as England is located above the Equator, then you do not need to cite the fact or idea.

Style Guide Violations

Universities in the USA use three main style guides. A style guide is a book which shows the expected ways of:

  • citing an idea or specific words inside the paper, and
  • making a list of works cited at the end of the paper.

This is done so readers can check the quality of your sources. You can find information about the three main style guides:

  • Modern Language Association (MLA),
  • American Psychological Association (APA), and the
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) on various sites on the Internet.

Be sure to use the style guide your professor tells you to use.