How to Write a Research Paper

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
picture of computer and notebook used to write a research paper

Research Papers

  1. Establish your topic.
  2. Look for sources of information.
  3. Read your sources and take notes.
  4. Organize your ideas.
  5. Write a first draft.
  6. Use footnotes or endnotes to document sources.
  7. Write a bibliography.
  8. Revise the first draft.
  9. Proofread the final draft.

The Basics

Research papers are generally longer pieces of written work than essays. Writing a research paper involves all of the steps for writing an essay plus some additional ones.

To write a research paper you must first do some research, that is, investigate your topic by reading about it in many different sources, including books, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet. In some cases you may also conduct interviews. The information you gather from these sources is then used to support the points you make in your paper.

Writing a research paper also involves documenting your sources of information in footnotes or endnotes. This way the reader knows where you got your information and can judge whether it is reliable.

Here are the steps to follow when writing a research paper. Click on the links to the right to read more and see examples of successful papers.

Pick Your Topic

Writing will be easier if the subject matter is of interest to you, and try to be as specific as possible.

Find Your Sources

Books, magazines, internet articles--there are a wealth of places to find information about your topic; make sure your sources are reliable and diverse.

Take Notes

Paper rules when organizing your ideas; use index cards to keep track of your thoughts and sources.


Use your handy index cards to create an outline for your paper.

The First Draft

Following your outline, now you get to write! All papers include an introduction, body, and conclusion.


If you don't keep track of—and report—your sources, it is plagiarism!

The Bibliography

The sources you used to get ideas and write your paper are listed here.

Revise, Rewrite

Look at your research paper with fresh eyes; try to imagine you are reading it for the first time: What is it missing? How can it be better?

The Final Reading

Again, paper rules. . .print out your research paper and inspect for grammar and careless errors. Be proud, enjoy a job well done!

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