10 Practical Guidelines to Writing Academic Research Papers

Last Updated on July 31, 2019 by Chrisantus Oden

Practical Guidelines to Writing Academic Research Papers

To someone who has never written academic or research papers, it is easy to imagine the process as simply the collecting of data, evidence or facts, then the unloading of everything found on the topic onto a paper. Suffice to say, this is a very simplistic and inaccurate view of what is required to write an academic paper.

An academic paper takes time to write and demands a lot of intellectual skills, coupled with technical knowledge. It is about investigations, discoveries, analysis and documentation of the process through critical thinking and thoughtful reflection. Regardless of the fact that this is a rigorous process, there are ways the process can be made somewhat less laborious. Below are 10 strategies that should guide you; right from the beginning, to the end of your academic paper journey.

How to write academic research papers: Guidelines

Choosing a Topic

A topic is the primary organizing principle that guides your academic paper’s analysis. It provides you with an opportunity to write and concentrate on your objectives. Topics constitute the key subject of academic interaction, and it is how we get to other subjects of conversation and explore fresh understanding. Most people think choosing a topic is easy but it is not. This is why it should be the first thing to consider when writing academic papers. You might consider working with your supervisor if you don’t have a topic in mind.

There are set guidelines in choosing a particular topic. For example, if you focus on the research problem: “Does the European Union as a whole become a credible security player with the ability to contribute to global security?” The concepts in this problem are: European Union, global security, credibility. To choose a topic, make sure you concentrate on the identification of proper nouns, phrases and action verbs.

The Research Before the Research

Do not adopt the mindset of pursuing an esoteric or incredibly complicated topic that might impress your professor, but does not really interest you. This can be dangerous. Rather, choose a topic that is of some interest to you. You may have background knowledge of a topic due to the fact that it falls under one of your major courses, but this does not mean you shouldn’t conduct a research on the topic before the actual research. The deeper your research depths, the easier the journey becomes for you. Do not be afraid of incorporating the perspectives of other writers into your work. This will give your paper a strong background. As you investigate facts to support your arguments, bring in opposing views and researches as well. This will ensure you get better grades because it means that you have in-depth understanding of the subject.

Abstract is Important

An abstract summarizes the major aspects of the whole paper in a prescribed sequence that includes:

  • The overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) investigated, usually in one paragraph of 300 about words or less.
  • The study’s fundamental design.
  • A short overview of your findings and interpretations.

A simple rule of thumb is to imagine you’re doing a similar study as another researcher. Then ask yourself: would you be pleased with the quantity of data submitted if the abstract was the only component of the document you could access? Does it summarize the whole story of your study? If it doesn’t, then your research paper is not complete.

Organization is Key

Organization gives you a clear sense of direction, making sure you have all you need for your academic paper. Always find a way to list, classify, group and number all the points and thoughts of your interest. Also, having a mind map is a nice way to plan an academic paper. A mind map will help you write a paper that is well articulated. As you take notes, a clear and detailed outline of your paper will also make it easier to follow. This will be your first draft’s basis. The outline will also ensure your scholarly paper sections are easy to write.

Start Early

Setting deadlines for each task that you need to carry out will motivate you to make use of the resources available to you. Research papers are tasking, and the outcome of your paper and the speed of completion is proportional to your commitment to the deadlines. Ensure that you work with the requirements of your supervisor and never lose focus or go off point.

Active or Passive Voice?

The active voice is particularly useful in your manuscript’s introduction and discussion sections, where you discuss previous research and then introduce your own. Consider the following sentences, for example: “Previous studies have shown that in women with osteoporosis, drug X increases serum calcium levels. In this research, we explored the impacts of drug X on post-menopausal women’s serum phosphorus concentrations.” Here, using the active voice in the second phrase enables the reader to make a clear mental shift from past research to the current research.

On the other hand, in the methodology section, where the steps taken are more important than the doer, passive voice is useful. For example, a reader would prefer “A catheter was inserted for post-operative irrigation of the bladder” to “We inserted a catheter for post-operative irrigation of the bladder.”

The First Write Up is Always the Draft

To meet your reader’s expectations, consider them as you write. One way to do this is to imagine a reader in front of you as you write. Use words that evoke curiosity, echo the issue, and justify your argument. Your first write-up does not have to make sense, don’t try to pour out everything you know in one sitting. Instead, focus more on quality than quantity. Take note not to copy and quote everything you find on the internet in your paper in an attempt to attain perfection in your first write-up.

Get Good Rest

It may sound like taking a rest is a joke but it is not. You have to take a break after your first draft. This break is as essential as writing your paper. Set aside a moment to walk or do something completely different. Not only will this give you a fresh perspective of the work, it will also open your eyes to mistakes you wouldn’t have noticed before.

Selecting your Words

Never use vulgar words in your articles and stay away from slangs. A research paper is a formal academic piece so you have to ensure that your words are well selected with precision and clarity. However, your research study is also not a grammar contest. Your aim is to establish a premise for the objective of your research paper and support the conclusions you made. But above that, you are doing it for the reader, the supervisors and reviewers. Use straightforward phrases. Why say, “Prestidigitator” if you can just say, “Magician?”

Be Critique for your Paper, Stick to the Rules

You have to criticize yourself ruthlessly to prevent your work from being rejected. But ensure that you judge only after you are done. Don’t start criticizing your work from the drafting stage, else you might lose all the inspiration that you need to complete it. Note that the most significant aspect of your job as a writer is editing and rewriting. Part of it is spell checking, grammar, and tenses. Always check for any trace of plagiarism, verify your facts and follow the normal academic paper writing pattern. Stick to traditional standards: Introduction, Body, Summary, and conclusion.

I will conclude by stating that the most important feature of an academic paper is that it passes an academic quality assessment review before it can be purchased. After you have passed the test, the next phase is to publish. This means that your work will be made available to the public and your name will be attached to it. So, ensure that you put all of your efforts into making your academic paper an evidence-driven paper.