How to write a good research paper: rules for beginners

Writing research papers is a separate branch of writing that requires not only deep insight into a scientific problem but also the ability to quickly research and analyze information. You must be able to critically summarize material from a variety of sources, taking into account its importance and novelty, and present complex and lengthy topics in comparatively simple language. Successful research papers may be published in books, but weak or simply poorly written papers will not be read or cited. Here are a few rules to help your work.

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One day you will be faced with writing a research paper. This type of writing is due to the ever-increasing number of new scientific developments and studies. College students are often assigned to write a research paper. This task is more complicated than other types of writing, so students often seek help from WritingAPaper experts. Professional writers can help with editing or writing the most difficult academic papers.

In addition to knowledge and diligence, writing a research paper requires considerable experience. The first two qualities are entirely on your conscience, and experience will require practice, well as the 10+1 tips of this article synthesized from experience.

Rule #1: Clearly define the topic of the research paper and its audience

How do you choose a successful topic to write about? After all, in any field, there are an inconceivable number of interesting problems to tackle. Here are some tips on choosing a topic:

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The topic should be interesting to you personally. Ideally, you should immediately think of a dozen recent publications that would be appropriate to critique.

The topic should be relevant. This will knowingly provide you with a lot of material.

Your paper should address identified problems. There is no point in parsing one area or another – there is not enough paper or energy to do so.

Determine your target audience. Knowing your reader’s level will make it easy for you to determine the level of detail of an issue.

Rule #2: Search the literature

You are more likely to write a good research paper if you have done it before (even if on a different topic). In that case, you can use a previous publication as a base on which to string new data. Here are some tips for finding information:

Don’t limit yourself to a single search engine of scientific literature. This will ensure that you don’t miss any truly worthwhile publications to review. 

Keep all articles in one folder. Organizer programs (Endnote, Mendeley) can help you find the right source quickly. Always duplicate information on several independent media.

Define in advance the criteria for suitable articles (e.g., journal impact factors, keyword combinations, etc.). These criteria should allow you to select information quickly.

Review not only all the experimental articles on the topic but also previous reviews – this will allow you to avoid wasting time describing what has already been described, as well as provide food for thought. It is advisable to refer to such reviews, with emphasis on new data that has emerged.

Pay attention to who cited the latest reviews and where. See how their new data complements or refutes what has been published before.

Rule #3: Mark in the margins

If you have just started writing a research paper and are reading selected articles for the first time, it is very important to remember new information. It is desirable to write it all down at once – it will be easier to connect new thoughts with existing results, your ideas, etc. You can write directly in the margins, glue sticky notes (if you are using printouts of articles), or take notes directly on your computer or tablet: almost all modern digital library cataloguing software allows you to leave notes. Write out quotations verbatim that you plan to refer to in the review. When writing a draft, try to paraphrase these quotations in your own words.

It’s important to be careful and write out the references at this point so that you don’t have to flounder later in trying to remember to who this or that data belonged. In this way, while you are reading the selected literature, a draft of the review will appear by itself. Of course, this draft will have to be rewritten, restructured, and paraphrased more than once or twice to produce a finished text with coherent logic and well-honed arguments. Don’t let this scare you. Just start taking notes, even without any system – as you go along, you’ll gradually have an outline for your review, and the further you go, the clearer and clearer it will be.

Rule #4: Determine the type of review

If you kept taking notes while reading the literature, at the end of this process you will already have a rough idea of the scope of the future review. This may be the most appropriate time to decide where to go. There are two varieties of the review genre, the mini-review, and the full-length review. Some journals now prefer to publish short reviews, focusing on recent publications, with limited words and citations. A mini-review does not mean inferiority – on the contrary, it is a concise article, a concentration of current thinking that attracts the attention of busy readers with its small volume. To write a competent mini-review, you must be truly masterful with your pen. The disadvantage of mini-reviews is that sometimes some problems are presented in a simplified form because of space limitations.

A full-length review has obvious advantages: you can cite more data and are free to dwell on the details that you find important or interesting. However, such articles are in danger of being shelved “for thoughtful study later,” which may never come.

Research papers can also be classified as descriptive and conceptual. Descriptive reviews focus on the methodology, retrieval, and interpretation of each study-it is a bona fide outline of current data. Conceptual research papers, on the other hand, present new ideas and concepts derived from the entire body of published material. To write a good conceptual review, it is advisable to be a true acolyte in your field and to grasp the most invisible of ideas floating around in the atmosphere. Be self-critical–will you be able to catch such trends correctly? And do you have enough time? Remember: descriptive research papers tend to take much less time and effort.

Rule #5: Look at the problem from different angles

Regardless of what type of research you plan to write, focus on a particular problem. However, it is helpful to use data from neighbouring fields in your analysis as well. For example, if you are writing a review of immunology, also include input from epidemiologists, cytologists, physicians, and biochemists. Considering the mechanisms of a problem at different levels, from molecules to populations, will allow you to present the material more clearly and broadly. Such work will be of interest to many more readers.

Rule #6: Be critical and consistent

Writing literature reviews is not about collecting stamps. A good research paper is not only a synthesis of the literature but also a critical analysis that helps identify methodological problems and points out research gaps. After reading your review, the savvy reader should get a sense of the following:

  • What are the major advances in the field described;
  • What are the major controversial issues in the field;
  • What are the major scientific issues and perspectives on them?

Of course, successfully answering all three questions in one study would be an untold success. It is not always possible for one author to have such global thinking. Therefore, involving co-authors will greatly enhance the quality of the article. Each scientist has his or her strengths: one excels at describing the results of the work, another deftly criticizes others’ work and identifies problematic areas, while the third is good at systematizing and summarizing the results of various studies. 

By the way, in addition to critical thinking, a literature review needs a good slogan and grammar. Don’t forget to ask your colleagues to read the final version before publication.

Rule #7: Think structurally

Good research is not to be confused with anything else: it is timely, systematic, easy to read, structured, and critical. Research papers rarely use the structure of experimental articles. Instead, the author chooses unique writing. And while there is no single format, in general, the paper should be divided into several logical sections, which will be preceded by a short introduction and summarized at the end with a repetition of the main conclusions.

Rule #8: Consider reviewer feedback

Literature reviews are usually peer-reviewed just as rigorously as research articles. As a rule, taking into account the feedback and opinions of your reviewers greatly improves the initial version of the research paper. After carefully reading the study, reviewers will take a fresh look at the inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or unresolved problems that you did not notice. By the way, carefully reread the entire review just before submitting it to the journal-no typos or confusing sentences will allow reviewers to focus on the essence of the paper rather than on complaints about the style of presentation.

Rule #9: Include your research, but be modestly objective

Typically, the authors of the studies have had some success in the field described and have themselves published some experimental work on the topic. This can create a conflict of interest because it is difficult to judge one’s work objectively. Scientists may somewhat overestimate what they have done. And yet, do not be overly modest. In reviews written by more than one author, objectivity is easier to achieve because each co-author edits the text and has a more realistic view of his or her colleagues’ achievements.

Rule #10: Use fresh data, but don’t forget the classics

Given the rapid growth in the number of scientific papers, literature reviews in many areas of biology are quickly becoming outdated and losing relevance. Don’t let that worry you, however – a really good analysis will be relevant for quite a long time. Every experimental paper, no matter how new and beautiful, covers only a narrow area of the broad front of science. Your main task is to summarize, comprehend, and show the general vector of development of this or that direction. Even if in five years this analysis will be incomplete or even outdated, this review will still be valuable and will serve as a starting point for future works. It will serve as a historical landmark in the development of an academic subject. If you need help writing a research paper, you can find the best essay writing service reddit for help from qualified and experienced writers.

Rule #11: Practice

You can’t become an accomplished writer by reading tips on how to become a writer. You can’t become an artist by watching a drawing course on television. You can’t write a good research paper without practice. And while you are only young write them yourself. Start with popular outlines. If you can write a literature review that you think reflects the latest trends in your industry on a decent scholarly level – try it, and submit it to a scholarly journal.

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