Essay and research paper topics & ideas

How to write a research paper: using examples

Research papers require very precise wording and structuring. Unlike response papers, persuasive essays, personal essays, and creative nonfiction, there is very little wiggle room when you are writing a research paper. Science instructors evaluate research papers according to particular standards, and do not allow for much creative expression or experimentation with form.

Because of this, research papers are more of a hard science, or a skill to be mastered, than they are an art to practice and explore. The best way to learn how to write a research paper is to study successful research papers and learn to emulate them. There are many things you can learn by using example research papers. For instance, the structure, formatting, word and language usage, and style can all be made readily apparent.

Here are just a few of the many things you can learn from using research paper samples.

Academic Writing Style: Active Voice, Objective Prose

In a more creative essay or paper, you can afford to be lyrical or lapidary with your prose. In a research paper, however, you must write in a fairly clinical, cold, and objective style. Literary techniques such as parallelism, irony, wit, assonance, and alliteration should generally be avoided in such papers. Humor should be used only in the rarest of circumstances. Metaphors and similes should also be used with caution.

By reading example research papers, you will get a sense of what is and is not appropriate to use in the language of your own writing. Generally speaking, you want your research paper to be accessible to the scientific community. Every point you make should be very clear and concrete. Assume that your readers will take your paper highly literally. Keep your sentences relatively short and spare. Use the active voice and keep the language simple unless jargon is needed. Shun literary references.

Formatting and Structuring: Layout and Appearance

You can also use example research papers to guide the formatting and editing of your own draft. You should follow a particular editorial style, usually as laid out in a specific handbook pertaining to your academic discipline. You may be asked to write in MLA, Chicago, or APA style, among several other possibilities. Each style guide has particular recommendations for margin size, spacing, in text citation, reference list composition, heading usage, pagination, and title and table of contents page formatting.

To learn what a finished and properly formatted paper looks like, find an example research paper. Use its layout as a template as you edit your paper.