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The complete guide to writing a brilliant research paper

Editage Insights | Jun 5, 2018 | 7,029 views

Your one-stop resource to writing a great research paper


 

  • Find a curated list of 51 resources to write your research paper
  • Get access to 7 actionable video tutorials

Writing a research paper is a challenging job for most of us --- from conceptualizing the paper, to breaking it down to its constituent parts, and finally, to referring to numerous other papers and books to get your own paper going --- it is daunting, to say the least. What it is not is, impossible! What follows is a step-by-step guide on how you can make your research paper a good read and improve the chances of your paper's acceptance: 

CONTENTS

1. How to dive into the process of writing 

2. Getting the title of your research paper right

3. Writing the abstract of your research paper

4. How to structure an original research paper (IMRAD)

5. How is a research paper formatted?

6. How you should reference your research paper?

7. Avoid grammar and writing mistakes in your writing

8. How to keep your paper away from unethical practices

 

1. How to dive into the process of writing a research paper

Many a time, we are advised to start with a clean slate, or go Tabula Rasa! However, it isn’t always easy to make a fresh start. What you can do instead is to start on a creative note! How does one do that, you ask? By adopting a creative frame of mind! A research paper does not have to be seen as an exercise in writing turgid prose. You can start with an incident or an episode that links to your research topic. You can also start with a news item from history, to connect to your area of research. The sky is the limit when it comes to exploring such angles. If you’re jittery about sending out your paper for publication, worry not! Just ensure that you grab some eyeballs, while you bring out your creative side at the very start of diving deep into your research paper.


What follows are the next steps that need to be taken in the process of writing your research paper:

Originality is often what separates great research from mediocrity. How does one write an original research article? Here is some insight: 
A young researcher’s guide to writing an original research article
Writing a research paper


Before embarking on the process of writing a paper, it is important to get all your doubts cleared. One query that we frequently receive was on the difference between a review and a research paper. Find out more here: 
What is the difference between a research paper and a review paper?

Another query some researchers have is this:
What is the difference between a research proposal and a research paper?

Did you know that Stuart Hall, the media and cultural theorist extraordinaire had published his work called ‘Keywords’? Keywords are often like SEO builders--Keywords help readers discover papers that are relevant to them and that they supplement the title? Here are some tips on how to write keywords: 
How to create keywords for a research paper?
Why do journals ask for keywords?

How does one go about putting text onto paper or screen? Does this send shivers up your spine? Here are some practical tips on how to clock in some words per hour:
Tackling the task of writing text

If this is the first time you’re working on a scientific paper, here’s what you could do to put together a good one:
5 Practical tips for writing your first scientific paper

 

  • Outline of a research paper

It is always a useful endeavor to create an outline or inventory of the things that would go into your research paper. We have a ready reckoner on how you can do that. Watch this video for some excellent ideas:

 

  • Keep sub-topics and references ready 

Before you begin writing your paper, it is a good idea to collect an initial set of references to match the various topics and sub-topics to be covered in the paper. This way, you will not waste time balancing writing ideas and references, once you start writing.

What should you be including as references in your paper? This is a query we received, and here’s our answer:
What should be included as references in my paper?

One of our readers asked us to help identify what a comprehensive citation list should include. Here’s how we responded:
What does a comprehensive citation list include?

Picture this: As part of preparing for your literature review, you have been reading a fascinating article that has some useful pointers for your work. The article cites some primary resources that you would like to use for your own work. How does one cite primary sources that one comes across in a secondary resource? Read on to find out:
Should I cite the primary source if I have come across them in a secondary source

Similarly, the article also has references that you would like to draw on. How does one go about this? Here’s what we have to say:
How should I cite a reference that I found in a paper?

Authorial responsibility in citing sources is an ethical aspect of publishing that all authors must understand well. Here’s a query that we received on this aspect of publishing:
What is an author’s responsibility while citing sources?

Is there a minimum or a maximum number of references that papers should have? Find out what the standard numbers of references in a paper are:
What is the standard number of references a paper should have?

 

2. Getting the title of your research paper right

A good title grabs attention like none other. Make sure that your title is catchy and informative, all at once. Allow your title to pique your readers’ curiosity or even make a statement. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to come up with a great title for your research paper. 

Is it fair to judge a book by its cover? Unfortunately, that’s how most people decide if they’d like to read your article. Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it! Read on to read some basic tips on writing a good title for your research paper:
3 Basic tips on writing a good research paper title

I hope you found the tips useful. Writing a good title for a research paper comprises a few basic steps as well. Here are a bunch of steps that you should follow to writing a good research paper title:
5 Simple steps to write a good research paper title

Let us round it off with some more quick tips with examples of getting the title of your research paper right:
Quick tips to help you get the title of your research paper right

One of our readers sent in a query that is pertinent to all of us --- how to write the title and introduction to a research paper. Often, readers (including journal editors) read the title and the first passage and then decide whether they want to read any further. So, make sure your work grabs attention:
Can you help me write the title and introduction of my research paper?

A good title hits like a bullet, is descriptive, yet crisp. We also have a video to guide you through the process of creating a title for your research paper. Here goes:

                                                                                                                             

3. Writing the abstract of your research paper

A good abstract is one that not only succinctly summarizes your paper but also eggs your readers to read on. It provides a broad overview of your paper in an easy-to-grasp manner. Here’s more on what your abstract should read like:

Writing an abstract is like giving a glimpse of your research paper in a short paragraph. What are the components that go into writing a good abstract? Here’s a 10-step guide to writing a good abstract:
A 10-step guide to making your research paper abstract more effective

Gone are the days when tough prose was the only way to express research work. With the coming of easy-to-use technology and innovative ways of explaining science, graphical and video abstracts are becoming increasingly popular. Find out more about innovative ways of putting together your abstract:
The coming of age of the abstract in scientific writing

Want to learn the secret to writing a great abstract for a research paper in 3 minutes? Here’s a video that unravels tips that you could make use of:

 

Often times, abstracts differ according to the broad field of study that you work in. One of our readers sent in a query about writing an abstract for a social sciences or humanities paper. Find out more on how you can tailor-make your abstract here:
How to write the abstract for a social sciences or humanities paper?

Is it possible for a research paper to be written without an abstract added to it? Here’s what our publication expert has to say:
Can a paper be published without an abstract?

Is there a fundamental difference between an abstract and a synopsis? How do they differ from each other? If you too are baffled like one of our readers was, read the response to this question:
What is the difference between an abstract and a synopsis for a biological science research paper

What are the ethics of converting a conference abstract and paper in two different journals? Is this an acceptable norm? Join in to read our reflections on this:
Is it acceptable to publish a conference abstract and an article based on it in two different journals?

Are you still unsure of the importance of writing an effective abstract? This case study will surely convince you:
The need to write an effective abstract: A case study

 

4. How to structure an original research paper (IMRAD)

The IMRAD is a passkey to the structure and function of a good research paper. Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion --- these are the key components of a good paper.

  • What is the IMRAD structure and its components?

This 2-minute video tells you more about what each section of your paper should include and how the sections should be organized:



Have you felt too cluttered in your head and found it hard to grasp what you should focus on while writing your paper? Delineating the most important ideas and knowing which ideas go where is crucial for a good research paper. Here’s an excellent article to guide you on the IMRAD structure:
How to convey your most important ideas through your paper

The introductory abstract tells you the gist of the research paper, hooking you on to it but keeping the suspense alive:
I want to write an introductory abstract before writing a manuscript. How do I go about it?

How you write your introduction sets the tone of your paper. And the section that follows introduction is the one where you become all descriptive. For some great tips on writing the introduction and methods section to your paper, read on:
The secret to writing the introduction and methods section of a manuscript

Establishing the end result is extremely important once you’ve got the readers hooked on to your research paper. And what these results imply, what are the limitations of the study, etc. is what constitutes the discussion section. So the results and discussion section of your manuscript are as important as a good introduction and body:
The secret to writing the results and discussion section of a manuscript

 

5. How is a research paper formatted

Formatting your research paper can help you present your research in an accessible, discernible manner. Formatting adds or takes away layers from your written work, and good formatting accentuates the key ideas of your paper.

Capturing research data is an art, be it in words or in an artwork. Tables and figures are often the more communicative of the mediums to establish facts, provide comparisons, or state data. Here are some tips on how to use tables and figures effectively: 

Tips on effective use of tables and figures in research papers

As we have already attuned ourselves to various kinds of data representations, how do you zero in on the best format? Find out more here:

Choose the best format for presenting your research data

 

Do you find it difficult to present your data effectively in the form of tables and figures? We have some handy guidelines for you:

6 Easy guidelines for preparing tables and figures for a research manuscript

 


6. How should you reference your research paper?

Usually, referencing styles are prescribed by the journal or your place of submission. As you may already know, there are numerous referencing styles that help present the works you have referred to, in a concise, stylized manner.
 

  • Which style should you pick for referencing?

There are numerous stylistic formats in which your research papers and writing can be drafted. The American Psychological Association (APA) is one among the many bodies which prescribe referencing formats for academic works.

Here’s a link that allows you to understand what the APA style sheet is:
How to cite a journal article using APA style?

Have you comes across research works that involve more than one author? If the number of authors is above three, you would have noticed that the phrase ‘et al.’ is used. You would have wondered what the rules are around using the phrase. Here’s an article that sheds light on when and how you can use et al.
Using et al for in-text citations in research papers

You were just introduced to a style of referencing. You would have noticed that there are various editions of such referencing formats, prescribing the style sheet. How are the style manuals updated with every version? Find out more:
How are style manuals updated

If your research work has legends and illustrations, graphs and pictorial representations, how would you go about referencing them? Here’s a look at how major style guides advice on multiple illustrations:
4 Major style guides on labeling composite or multi-part illustrations

We have some interesting comparison of the styles of scientific publishing in English and Chinese! Find out more here:
The style of scientific manuscripts published in Chinese and English in addition to language is quite different

Avoid grammar and writing mistakes in your writing Grasping citation styles is usually a matter of practice. How do you format an article using a particular style? Similarly, how do you steer clear of plagiarism by citing right? Read on to find out:
How to format an article using APA style
What citation style should I use to avoid unintentional plagiarism?

 

7. Avoid grammar and writing mistakes in your writing

Can you understand this sentence: “He telephoned asking me to come next Sunday today”? Language is the medium to convey your ideas to your readers, so writing an error-free paper is essential. A badly written paper could potentially lead to journal rejection. So here are some quick and easy tips to avoid grammar and writing related mistakes.

Grammar eludes many authors. Should you or should you not add a comma after “etc.”? Read on to find out:
Comma after etc. at the end of a sentence

Did you write the paper or is the paper written by you? Confused? Active and passive voices are both right but should be used appropriately. Here’s what you should be using in research writing:
Using the active and passive voice in research writing

Is it alright to use ‘I’ when you write your research paper, or is it too informal and not scientific enough? Here is some guidance on that:
Is it acceptable to use first-person pronouns in scientific writing

Are all abbreviations Greek and Latin to you? Worry not, for our publication experts will tell you how you could use some Latin abbreviations in your research writing:
Difference between eg., i.e., and namely

A lot of times, journal guidelines prescribe word limits for papers, and we tend to overshoot. Is there a knack to reduce the length of your paper without altering the meaning too much? Read on:
10 Tips to reduce the length of your research paper

What is the difference between the terms “gender” and “sex?” How should you use these terms when you write your research paper? Our experts weigh in:
Should I use the word sex or gender in my scientific research paper?

Here’s a quick look at how you can use commas, brackets, and dashes when you write your research paper:
Quick tips on using commas, brackets, and dashes in a research paper

Writing clearly and crisply is half the battle won. But research writing process is fraught with difficulties since many researchers feel compelled to use jargon. Here are some tips on writing in simple and clear language:
5 Steps to simplifying the language in research communication

Let us round those tips off with an article for you on improving academic writing:
Language tips to improve academic writing
 

8. How to keep your paper away from unethical practices

Ethics are an integral aspect of research, so it is extremely important that your research and writing are rooted in good ethical practices. Read on to find out more about how we address ethics in research:

If you are unaware of publication ethics, without intending to plagiarize, you may accidentally stumble into the trap of plagiarism. This is called accidental plagiarism. Authors who struggle with writing in English too fall prey to this. Plagiarism is often career-wrecking and can bring disrepute and shame. It is best to avoid any remote possibilities of accidental plagiarism. Here’s how you can do that in 5 easy steps:


Find out an experienced journal editor’s views on what constitutes plagiarism, and how you can be wary of this unethical practice:



So you decided to write a research paper drawing on your previous work. Are there any pitfalls here? There may be if you decide to copy parts of your previous paper. To avoid self-plagiarism, follow the guidelines below:
What’s the big deal about self-plagiarism

Is there a way of avoiding plagiarism? Well, yes! Paraphrase what you read and reference it clearly. Here is a great video on how you could paraphrase English text effectively:


Is paraphrasing necessary at all? What if you quote the original text, and then cite it? Would that amount to plagiarism? If you have these questions, then you should read what our experts have to say:
Is it plagiarism if I use the same words as the original text but cite the source?

 

Conclusion

We hope our effort in putting together a curation on the norms and ways of academic and research writing helps you in tackling your everyday tryst with the world of academia and research and helps you in your journey to getting published in an international journal. Do drop us a message on what else you’d like covered extensively like this, and we’ll make sure it happens. Onwards, to write!

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