Writing an academic research paper is not something that comes naturally to most students. While most students may find it rigorous and complicated at the beginning, it really is not all that difficult once you understand the proper steps to follow. Here is a highlight of some important steps involved in writing an academic paper. Although the list seems to suggest that there is a clear, liner procedure to writing this kind of a paper, the true procedure is usually messy and repetitive. However, you can use these steps as a flexible guide.
Find, Narrow down and Focus on a Researchable Topic
The first step in writing an academic research paper is discovering, narrowing and focusing on a research topic. You should try to choose a topic that interests you by attempting to write your way to the topic. You should also consult your instructor or professor, as well as your classmates. It is always advisable to pose the topic as a problem that needs a solution or a question that needs to be answered.
Find, Select and Read Sources
At this stage, you need to take a look at a variety of information sources. You need to make use of the library catalog, bibliographies, periodical indexes, and some suggestions from your professor/instructor. In addition, you need to consider primary versus secondary sources, as well as look at books, journals, and other sources of literature on the topic.
Group, Sequence and Document Information
When writing an academic research paper, it is important to be organized. You need to have a system for noting the sources you collected on bibliography cards. You also need a system that will help you organize material on the basis of its relative importance. Finally, you will need a system note taking.
Write an Outline and your Prospectus
The next stage in writing the academic paper is crafting the outline. At this stage of the paper, you need to consider what your topic is about, why it is significant, and the relevant background materials. You also need to develop your thesis statement or purpose statement at this point. Finally, you need to consider the organizational plan that will best suit your purpose.
Write the introduction
When writing the introduction of your paper, you will have to do several things. First, you need to present the relevant contextual or background material. Secondly, you need to define the key concepts or terms. Thirdly, you need to present an explanation of the focus of your paper and its specific purpose. Lastly, you must reveal the plan of organization of the paper.
Write the Body
This is the main section of an academic research paper. You should use the outline and your prospectus as a guide. You should develop the discussion around the main points that you want to present, rather than letting the sources dictate the organization of the paper. However, the sources should be integrate into the discussion. Instead of just reporting published work, you need to analyze, summarize, evaluate and explain published work. Lastly, navigate through the “ladder of abstraction” by moving from generalizations to different degrees of detail and then back to generalizations.
Write the Conclusion
If the point or argument of the paper is complicated, it is advisable to summarize the point or argument for the reader. In case you did not provide an explanation of the significance of the findings prior to the conclusion or in case you are moving inductively, you should use the concluding section of the paper to add-up your arguments or points and explain the significance. Proceed from a detailed level of consideration to a general level that brings back the topic to the context presented in the introduction. Finally, you may suggest what aspects of the topic need further research.
Revise the Final Draft
This is a very important step in writing academic papers. Check the organization of the entire paper and ensure there is a logical flow of the introduction, the discussion section in the body for depth and coherence, and the effectiveness of the conclusion. Other issues to revise include paragraph construction and sentence structure, punctuation, word choices, spellings, and documentation or citation.