10 Research Paper Tips

By
Alexa Mendez
Published on
November 16, 2021
A student is seen sitting in front of his computer, with notes, timers, and chat bubbles behind him.

Students have different interests all across the wide spectrum of subjects and disciplines there are to learn. Regardless, almost all of us can say that our field of interest requires some sort of research. Thus, it is important for high school students to hone the skills and techniques needed to write a good research paper. Here, we’ll go over ten tips to write a research paper for any subject!


  1. Create an outline


Most teachers will give you at least two weeks to write a research paper, which means you have time to plan it out.

One of the most important steps you can take in planning your paper is making an outline. This will help you know what sources to look for, how to organize the flow of your paper, and make sure you don’t forget to discuss anything you wanted to talk about. Overall, writing an outline will help you know what you’re doing!


  1. Ask your teacher or librarian for help


At most schools, the librarian will be available for help in writing a research paper, especially a major one. If not, you can ask the teacher of the class you’re writing the paper for; more often than not, they’ll be happy to read the first draft. They can help you decide on a topic, create a bibliography, and fine-tune your paper before submitting it. Don’t be afraid to reach out!


  1. Use transition words


Nothing’s worse than a paper where the reader has no idea of what’s going on. The use of transition words and phrases helps facilitate communication of your ideas and helps readers understand your writing better. If your teacher doesn’t understand your paper, they might give you a bad grade!


  1. Pay attention to diction and tone


These are words that you might hear in an AP Lang class, but they’re important in every piece of writing. Diction is your word choice and tone is how you come across. For research papers, you want a subjective, unbiased tone and the diction to support that!

Using complicated vocabulary may make your paper seem more credible, but you also run the risk of making it sound confusing and difficult to follow —  it's important to find the right balance!


  1. Have a friend who’s not in your class read your paper


You might have heard your teacher say that your content should be understood by a Kindergartener. While that may be an exaggeration, the message is true to an extent: your paper should be understandable and well-explained, even in the eyes of someone who is not especially familiar with the field.

You can make sure your paper is easy to understand by having a friend who’s not in your class read it and point out parts that are confusing.


  1. Know what citation style your paper has to be in


Knowing the citation style is important; otherwise, you may lose points! Social studies and English classes generally use MLA, science classes generally use APA, and you won’t really see Chicago used in high school.

If you’re unsure of what you’re supposed to be using, check in with your teacher to make sure you cite your sources correctly!


  1. Understand key findings of your sources


Though some sources may be too complicated with higher-level, field-specific jargon that you may not understand, it is important to derive the main idea(s) of every source you cite. You can do this by underlining or highlighting key phrases and by looking up words you don’t know!

Understanding the key takeaways of your sources helps make your paper more accurate.



  1. Check the dates on your sources


When you’re gathering sources for your paper, make sure to check the year in which the source was published.

Unless you’re writing a social studies paper and the source is from the time period that you’re writing about, it’s better for your sources to be recent so that you can be sure they’re still relevant.

You may also be writing a current events paper, where it would be absolutely crucial to find recent sources only.

In summary, it’s not necessarily bad to cite old sources. It all depends on the type of paper you’re writing!


  1. Don’t “fluff” your bibliography


In other words, don’t cite a source that you didn’t actually use! Doing so is extremely frowned upon, especially in research-based competitions like National History Day, and could potentially get you in trouble at school if your teacher finds out you did so. Having a short and concise list of sources isn’t that bad a thing!


  1. Proofread your paper before submitting


We’ve all fallen victim to writing a paper right before it’s due, slaving away at our computers to finally submit it at 11:58 pm, wishing to never read that paper ever again, but this can be harmful to our grammar and spelling points. As opposed to editing, proofreading is a final skim of your paper to make sure everything is nice and neat. If you’re pressed for time and can’t take breaks, having speech-to-text software read your paper out loud can help a lot with this!



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