7 Tips for Organizing and Formatting Your Research Paper


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Are you trying to write a research paper but feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone–many students feel the same way. But it doesn’t have to be so stressful. With just a few tips and tricks, you can organize and format your paper with ease. 

Here are 10 helpful tips you can use.

1. Start with an Outline 

Begin with a clear structure that outlines the main points of your paper. Your outline will help you collect your thoughts and organize them in the order they appear. Stay organized by using a labeling system for your notes and references, and make sure you save everything you’ll need.

When drafting the outline, make efforts to stay in tune with your thesis. If it’s well written, you’ll be left with several clues on how to best structure your paper. As a rule, your thesis will start with your argument that leads into a promise that you’ll give readers evidence to support it.

2. Choose the Right Format

Research papers typically use the APA format, but always check with your professor to make sure. The APA format is the standard format for most scientific and psychological papers and is used by most publishers and university libraries. APA has its own layout and alignment style.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to add your references at the back of the essay, but you can’t just throw a URL or book name on the list. If you want to make sure your references are formatted correctly, use Quillbot’s APA citation maker. Quillbot is up to date with APA 6th and 7th editions.

3. Pick a Structure Pattern

There’s no hard and fast rule for how you should structure your paper, but there are a few patterns you can try. Since your research paper likely revolves around proving or disproving an argument, you’ll likely use compare and contrast, cause and effect, and process arguments.

With that said, you may need to use a description structure pattern to describe what you’re talking about or a definition structure pattern to clarify complex terms. The easiest way to pick your structure pattern or patterns is by understanding the purpose of your research paper.

4. Find Flow in Your Paragraphs

The majority of your paper’s paragraphs represent the body or the place where you’ll make your argument. One thing students often forget about when writing their papers is flow. “Flow” is the process of connecting your ideas, which makes it easier for readers to get into the text.

To create flow, your paragraphs have to support your thesis, include strong evidence that convinces readers of your point, and be considerate of the coherent paragraph. Your readers should never feel like they’re jumping around or struggling to understand your argument. 

5. Evidence is Very Important

In a research essay, your paragraphs will start with the point you’re trying to make and lead into the evidence that supports your claim. For this evidence to be convincing, it has to come from a legitimate source. It also can’t be long-winded. Adding too many sources hurts your argument.

If you have a good source to back up your argument, you won’t need to worry about being long-winded. The length of your paragraphs doesn’t matter. As long as you’ve defined all of the paragraph’s important terms and your evidence supports your argument, you’ve done well.

6. Do the Introduction Last

It feels natural to start an essay off with an introduction, but this section is the hardest to write. Nonfiction and fiction writers alike tend to write the introduction last. Why? At that point, you know who the characters are, what you’re trying to say, and what may interest the reader.

The introduction is the most important part of any essay because it encourages the reader to dive in. For this reason, you should spend most of your time perfecting this section. Another tip: make sure the introduction is short and snappy. Don’t bog the reader down with details yet.

7. Acknowledge Your Opponents 

There are two kinds of people who read research papers: those that want to confirm their biases and people who are interested in learning regardless. Most of the population falls into the former category, making it extremely important that we acknowledge our intellectual opponents.

With that said, any argument is made stronger if it’s willing to come up against its strongest foes, and your research paper will benefit from engaging with contradicting evidence. Make sure to bring up a commonly prevailing thought in the community, so you can properly engage with it.

In Conclusion…

By following the above tips and tricks, you’ll be able to organize and format your research paper like a pro. With a little bit of planning, research, and intellectual engagement, you’ll be able to write a quality paper that makes you shine or at the very least, gets you a great grade!

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