About Research Papers

If you are a student in a school from elementary on up and have not yet been required to write a research paper, chances are you will. It is almost a given this day and age that a research paper will be required at some point in your education. While elementary school research papers offer just a glimpse of what a true, college-level research paper will be like, it is still beneficial to have had even that small amount of experience. If you want to be successful in your continuing studies it is important that you know all about research papers so you will be fully prepared when it comes time to write a more in-depth research paper.


The function of a research paper involves more than you might initially think. Obviously, one functional aspect is that you as a student will learn more about a specific topic that falls under the subject matter of the class for which it is being written. Beyond that aspect, a research paper also functions to demonstrate to your instructor your ability to collect and organize information and to present it in an interesting and informative manner. Also, depending on the type of research paper, another functional aspect could be showing your ability to defend your beliefs, be persuasive and add fresh ideas about a subject.


As there are different types of research papers, be sure that when you are assigned a research paper you know what the expectations of the instructor are. The most basic type of research paper is one that simply presents and summarizes information that has been collected. The next level of research paper is one that presents, summarizes and analyzes the information (keep in mind, there are different types of analysis that may be required as well). And finally there is the type of research paper that collects data to support a new theory that you, as the writer, hypothesize. This type of research paper is often referred to as a thesis.

Time Frame

The overall amount of time allotted for a research paper will vary depending on the type of paper and your instructor’s specific requirements. However, when writing a research paper, instructors usually present a time frame for specific steps of the writing process that should be followed. If your instructor does not provide a time frame, it is a beneficial idea to make one of your own to keep you on track. Time frames generally include due dates for a research paper proposal, an outline, a first draft, revisions, a second draft and the final draft.


Regardless of the type of research paper you are writing, one of the most important features of the paper is the actual presentation of the research and collected data. Also highly important is the section that lists your references; this is how your research can be verified. In addition to presenting the research, features may include your proposed hypothesis, the analysis of your research and the supporting argument for your hypothesis. A research paper should include a title, whether it has its own title page or not depends on your instructor’s preference. Some other optional features of a research paper are a table of contents, appendices, illustrations, graphs and charts.


Throughout the entire writing process attention should be paid to the style guidelines that are required by the instructor. One of the more popular and frequently used style guides is the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. The MLA, as it is known, includes guidelines for the overall formatting of research papers in addition to guidelines for capitalization, number usage, footnotes and references. Depending on the class for which you are writing the research paper, keep in mind that different fields of academia do use different style guides. A few of the many other style guides are: The Associated Press Stylebook, American Sociological Association Guide, and The Style Manual for Political Science.