Writing the Research Essay – Your Ultimate Guide


    Essays come in all “flavors.” There are narratives, in which you tell a story; there are admissions and scholarship essays; there are explanatory, descriptive, persuasive, argumentative, comparison/contrast, and analyses.

    Some essays are simply written “from your head” – especially narratives and those pesky college admissions ones. But others will require that you conduct research to gather facts and data to support the points you are making. And these essays area usually longer than the basic 5-paragraph ones.

    Writing a solid research essay involves a process of steps, none of which you can ignore.

    Use this guide as your roadmap for any research essay you have to produce. If you do, chances are your instructor will be happy with the result. And happy instructors mean better grades/scores.

    The Steps

    1. Selecting the Topic: You will probably have options within the parameters of the coursework. To find a good topic, look through your textbook, review your lecture notes and assigned outside readings. When something piques your interest, write it down. You want to be certain that any topic you choose will be one you like – if not, the essay becomes an exercise in drudgery. Once selected, run that topic by your instructor so that you know it is solid.
    2. The Initial Research: This is not the full research that you will be doing for your essay. What you need to do here is just a basic search to discover what other experts have had to say about the topic. Try to use primary resources – it’s just more scholarly.
    3. The Thesis Statement: This was the point of that initial research. You need to develop a thesis or a hypothesis about the topic. Was there one overriding cause of the Civil War in the U.S.? What is the single most important thing we can do to combat global warming at this critical stage in its progression? Answers to these types of questions will help you formulate your thesis. Write up that thesis statement in solid, formal, scholarly English.
    4. The Deep Research: Now you are ready to do the rest of your research. Having your thesis statement will narrow that research. Here’s the important thing: As you conduct your research, take notes, of course, but be certain that you include your citation information with all of those notes. Nothing is worse than putting in some factual data and not knowing where it came from. Write down the complete source information and the page numbers as you go.
    5. Organizing your Research: before you begin to organize your notes, you need to decide on sub-topics that will be included in the essay. At a loss here? Access some essays that have been written on the same topic and take a look at the sub-topics that were devised there. This should give you a framework at least. Once you have those sub-topics, you can organize your notes based on those.
    6. The Outline: there is a lot of debate about outlines. In high school, you probably learned how to make a formal one with Roman numerals, alphabet letters, and numbers. You don’t have to be so formal, but at least get an informal outline that is based upon your sub-topics and the details you plan to include in them. This is an important step because it gives you the roadmap to follow as you write that first draft.
    7. The Rough Draft: Using your outline, write the body paragraphs of your essay. An important task here is to work on transitions. How will you transition from one sub-topic to the next? You reader needs to know where you are going next, and transitions resolve this issue. The other important task? Make sure that you have included your citations in your text as your write. This saves a lot of later work.
    8. The Review and Edit: No rough draft is ever ready to turn in. Put your essay down, and just let it sit for a while. When you pick it back up, your mind will be more re-freshed. Editing comes in two parts. The first part involves reading the entire essay and making certain that the flow is logical and that your points are in a good sequential order. Once you are satisfied with that, you must go back and look at sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and all of those little things that must be right, so that you do not irritate an instructor who is a ‘stickler” for grammar. If you struggle with grammar and mechanics, you can always get a professional writing service like Get Academic Help. They have editors and proofreaders that can provide all of the polish you need.
    9. Write Your Introduction: Don’t be boring, trite, or childlike in your introduction. You want to introduce your topic and, by the end of this paragraph, state your thesis. You need to “hook” the reader with your first couple of sentences. Find some stunning statistic to open with; find a quote from a famous person; write a brief anecdote that will engage a reader (everyone loves stories).
    10. Don’t Ignore Formatting: Your instructor has provided the required format style. Adhere to it. All of your in-text and end-of-text citations must conform to that style, along with title page, margins, headings, margins, and pagination. Don’t risk a lower grade because you failed to do this.

    There you have it. 10 steps for writing a research essay. If you have chosen a topic you like and if you follow this guide, you will have a finished piece that is worthy of a great assessment from your instructor.

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