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How to Write a Research Paper: Writing Your Paper

Writing the Body of the Paper

Use your notes to write your paper. As you read over your notes, look for main themes and points of interest. These can be the main ideas you read about in your research sources.  Try to support these main ideas with facts and statistics you have collected. If the paper is argumentative, remember to provide an argument for counterpoints to your main ideas. 

Try to state the main theme and supporting points in your own words. See the Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing Guidelines from Purdue Owl. Try to explain the major ideas. Begin a new paragraph for each main idea. Remember to integrate the research you have found and acknowledge ideas and information you have learned with in-text citations. A research paper is not an essay, in other words, this is not about your opinions. Do not use first person nouns such as "I" or "my." If you have developed new interpretations or concepts related to your research, great! But, you need to back up these ideas with facts. 

Read the paper out loud. In addition to helping you express ideas in your own words, this exercise may stimulate your own thoughts and viewpoints concerning your topic. Reading out loud also helps with your phrasing and organization of ideas. Even better, read your paper out loud to someone else. You may be more aware of how your words sound when you have an audience, and your audience may also give you some good feedback. 

Rewriting & Editing

Leave your first draft alone for a while. Don’t reread it immediately after you write it. You need time to see your writing with fresh eyes or you will miss errors. Come back to it later and take a very critical look at it. A rough draft gives you the opportunity to think freely as you write. Now is the time to organize that thinking. The rough draft can show you where some gaps exist in your research and ideas; where information might be missing.

Get your details correct and consistent. Check sentence structures, tense, punctuation, spacing, etc. Don't rely totally on a spell checker. It will help catch repeated words, reversed letters, and many other common errors, but it's certainly not foolproof. 

Read your paper in ways you ordinarily wouldn’t:

  • Read it out loud.  Listen to how your words sound. Do they flow. Do your ideas transition from one to the other. Do your transitions make sense? 
  • Read it backwards, paragraph by paragraph. You can often find errors in organization and structure of ideas.
  • Then, have someone read the paper to you. Be prepared for criticism.
  • Make revisions and check the paper again.
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