How to Start a Research Paper: A Comprehensive Guide


“I need a research paper example” is what many students say when faced with such an assignment. Although research papers are a common college assignment, many learners struggle to write them.

It is understandable — the research, writing, and proofreading process can get quite overwhelming. Here is a comprehensive guide to use when writing a research paper on any topic to help you out.

Research Paper Outline — What Is It?

A research paper outline template is the most effective tool to use when writing a paper. It organizes your ideas and gives the general direction that your writing takes.

You may write a paper without outlining it. However, the writing process will be much harder, and you might miss a few essential points.

An outline is important for the following reasons:

  • It organizes information gotten from research;
  • It helps filter out unnecessary and repetitive details;
  • It ensures that all important details are covered in the paper;
  • It makes the writing process easier and less time-consuming.

Outlining Your Research Paper In 5 Steps

“How do I prepare a research paper outline template?”

Although college papers require different formats depending on their purpose, there are a few widely accepted ones. For example, most short papers will take the 5-paragraph structure.

Our example outline in this article serves to illustrate the general methods of outlining a paper.

Familiarize Yourself With the Assignment

Checking out a research paper example online is a great idea, especially when you are confused. However, the assignment instructions given by your professor are more important.

Before you start preparing an outline for your paper, read and understand the instructions. Know what is expected of you as far as the particular assignment is concerned, then check an example.

Select an Appropriate Topic for Your Research Paper

The first step when writing a college research paper outline is to choose the right topic. Sometimes, your professor will dictate the confines of your topic.

For example, they might ask you to write about environmental degradation. It is up to you to come up with a specific title that covers your main argument. A good title is specific enough to address a particular issue while generating enough content to meet the desired word count.

Carry Out Thorough Research

All samples of outline for a research paper have one thing in common — lots of research information. Thorough research is necessary for an in-depth analysis of any topic. Know the difference between primary and secondary sources of information to use them appropriately.

For example, a journal and a magazine can be used differently for academic purposes. Keep track of your sources by indicating all the details necessary for reference.

Draft a Thesis Statement

Good outline examples for a research paper have a strong thesis statement. The thesis statement acts as the compass for the entire paper. It gives the reader a hint of what to expect in the body paragraphs and presents the main argument.

For example, if your paper is on environmental degradation, your thesis would be “Human beings can do more to protect the environment.” Your body paragraphs would be structured to prove the thesis.

Outline Your Research Paper

Samples of outline for a research paper that have been written well are numbered. Numbers denote different sections of the composition and give a structure for the final paper. It is a good idea to use different numbering systems for headings and subheadings.

For example, you can use roman numbers for headings and letters for the subheadings. All major arguments are denoted in point form, followed by brief explanations.

The First Draft of Your Research Paper — 3 Simple Steps to Follow

The first draft brings together the paper outline. It fleshes out the numbered points and creates coherent paragraphs. Usually, the first draft is long as it has all the information.

Here is an example of how to write a good first draft.

Write a Brief yet Informative Introduction

Just because you are familiar with a given topic does not mean your readers are. Assume that some of your readers are unfamiliar with the research paper topic and give a brief background. Choose only the most important information, for example, something from history, to include in the introduction.

Avoid detailed statistics that may overwhelm the readers and make them lose interest. At the end of your introductory paragraph, write an example of your thesis statement.

Write Compelling Body Paragraphs

Have you noticed that good outline examples for a research paper have topic sentences for each paragraph?

The body of your paper must have paragraphs that have strong topic sentences, followed by evidence from credible sources. Although each body paragraph presents a new idea, the transition from one to the next should be seamless. A well-written example research paper body lives up to the expectations created by the thesis statement.

Conclude Comprehensively

The conclusion should tie back to the thesis. No new information should be written in the last section of your paper.

For example, with different words, you should restate the thesis. Emphasize the points you have made in the body paragraphs. The last sentence of your paper should leave your readers with something to think about.

Not sure how? One example is ending your paper with a relevant rhetorical question.

The Second Draft of Your Research Paper

So, the research paper example you read was not clear about what the second draft is?

Many students assume that the next step after writing the first draft is to write the final version. The truth is, there are a series of steps to follow before getting the final version of your paper. For example, you may need to recheck your facts and logical flow of content.

The first example of your paper is a chance to pour out all the information you have gotten from research. The second example presents an opportunity to check the mechanical issues.

Check the length of sentences and the structure of paragraphs as per the example. Keep an eye out for your tone, as it affects the delivery of your arguments. While preparing the second draft, make sure that you have said everything exactly the way you wanted to.

Revising Your Content

When the second draft of your research paper is ready, it is time to take a break from writing. The purpose of this break is to refresh your mind and come back to writing with a fresh pair of eyes.

Most writing mistakes are easy to miss, especially when looking at the same essay for days. For example, you may not notice wordiness or typos when you are exhausted.

The revising stage is crucial for the success of your writing, even when it is an example. The best way to revise is systematically — address one issue at a time. Start by addressing the major issues and end with the minor ones. Below is more than one example of areas you should focus on when revising your content.


Read your college research paper outline from an outsider’s point of view.

Does it make sense? Have you delivered your points effectively as per the example?

Bear in mind that your readers are not as familiar with the topic as you are. Any logical inconsistencies will affect the quality of your paper as they will not be able to follow your argument. Rely on the example to know how logical arguments are structured.


How long are your sentences? Are your paragraphs well-structured?

Academic writing demands precision — no sentence should be longer than 20 words. Furthermore, paragraphs should be long enough to make a point without being wordy. Refer to an outline example to know whether your paper is well-structured.

Grammar, Typos, and Other Errors

These might seem like minor errors, but they have a big impact on the quality of your essay. An example of a common mistake is mixing active and passive voice. It confuses readers and interferes with the effective delivery of the message.

Poor word choice, spelling errors, and minor typos are worth looking out for. You may use an automatic grammar checker, for example, but know that nothing beats the human eye.

Need Help? Hire Research Paper Experts From Us!

With the right research paper example, you can write your assignment. However, there are many reasons why you might need professional help. Perhaps you are too busy to write or are struggling with the core concepts of the subject. Hiring an experienced writer guarantees a high-quality paper delivered on time.

We offer custom writing service at an affordable price. If you want to hire a professional paper writer who will adhere to your instructions and deliver on time, come to us. Our writers will help you write an outline and draft the research paper.

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