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How to Start a Research Paper

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Good examples of research papers are sometimes hard to find but consider how this example of a research paper begins:

"From 1960, through the 1970s, gender research has taken an important turn, making changes in the theory and research of gender development. One of the largest and biggest turning points was the establishment of the feminist journal Sex Roles. This research aims to examine Sex Roles and its effect on the gender development of children and adolescents over time. The study begins with a review of the history and follows through to discussions about how the field has changed over time, prompting research directions for future research."

  • This is clearly a promising start to a research paper example for numerous reasons:
  • The reader knows what is to come in the paper
  • The research essay outline and structure are introduced well
  • The reader is aware of the context
  • There is an explanation of the research problem
  • It is clear why this research is likely to make an impact

High school students often don't have to write a lot of research essay outline texts and so it can be daunting at college to provide examples of research papers in class. So how can one begin their research, formulate a good topic and get to a paper outline?

Let's consider some common questions and how to get further to the research paper example above.

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Paper outline - how can I create an idea?

Before getting anywhere near a research paper outline, one needs to consider what their idea will be. Students often struggle to develop a good topic before starting an essay and it's vital that one does this. So how can you choose the perfect topic?

  1. Stick to what you know - it's good to be original in your research but you won't want to pick something that you have no knowledge of or no interest in, otherwise, it's hard to create a good research paper outline example. Anything that is too technical for you will be harder to write and if you pick a subject that you're not familiar with, you could find it dull which would jeopardize the writing process. What are you passionate about? What subject can you manage? Put some thoughts down on paper.
  2. Get reading - once you've developed a few preliminary thoughts for research papers examples, read around your topic extensively. Think about what jumps out at you and what is most interesting. Beginning with what you know and trying to narrow down your focus will lead you to an idea about what you'd like to research.
  3. Consider your sources - now that you're getting closer to forming a research focus, consider what kind of sources you can have. Will they be mainly primary or secondary? There's no point in choosing a topic that is so niche or undiscovered that there is no information to back up your arguments - you need to think about how much information is out there to help you create a decent outline for research paper. It doesn't matter whether you want an APA research paper outline in the end or some other style, without sources to point to, how can your reader be convinced of your arguments?
  4. Novel research - After a more extensive read around, you should start to look for gaps in the research you're reading. Think about how your topic can point to some research that is unique and how you can approach your research in a new way. All the best research paper examples are the ones that have had a new outlook on some topic in a field. Consider what the sources are telling you and then think about what they could be telling you. A good tip is also to look at the recommendations for further research at the end of journal articles to get a better idea.

Hopefully, by now, you will have thought about what strikes your curiosity and what your field could benefit from. What kind of research does that field need? Create your topic and let's move on to the outline for research paper writing.

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Outline for research paper - how can I make a plan?

So now that your topic is well on its way, how can you create a research paper outline? The best example of a research paper writing strategy includes a solid research paper outline. Without a successful planning stage, there isn't much hope for your paper. The best research paper outline example is the one that follows the structure of a research paper. Let's look at what that is and how to create your own outline - once you've created it, you can put some meat on the bones of your outline and start your research paper.

Research paper outline template

For the best start, we've simplified things for you - just follow this research paper outline template for all your essay needs. It doesn't matter whether you're looking for an APA research paper outline or if your essay is for high school, this outline will be sure to be of use to you.


  • Provide a summary of your topic in around a sentence or two.
  • Include the names of your supervisors.


  • Provide a brief outline or your study, what it is mainly about, the outcomes, and any other information that will guide the reader. It's important to be brief on the matter.
  • Check your journal guidelines or ask your supervisor - different abstracts will have different styles and lengths. Typically, the length should not exceed 200 words but this can vary.


  • Create a list of what is in each section of your essay. It's best to focus on this part towards the end.


  • Be clear and present the research problem at hand.
  • What were your thought processes? Make it clear how you arrived at your research topic.
  • Include a thesis statement - three of the main points about your topic and research.
  • Why has this topic been chosen in particular?
  • What makes this topic so important in your field?
  • Include definitions of key terms.
  • Include the hypotheses. What do you expect the outcome to be?


  • Provide a step by step guide so that another person could do your research. The best research paper examples are the ones where the methods are easily repeatable.
  • Discuss the equipment that you used.
  • Include anything to help the reader understand how you got your data.

Main body

  • Give the study context and background.
  • Provide examples of research.
  • Show your data and findings.
  • Give results.
  • Provide data analysis and analyse your findings.


  • Provide a summary of what you've found.
  • Go back to your thesis statement and discuss how you have or haven't achieved your goal.
  • Give some recommendations for what you could have done better and what else the field needs to research.


  • Provide references in order and in the correct style, e.g. Chicago or Harvard referencing.


  • Make a note of any raw data you have.

We hope that this research paper outline example proves as useful as it purports to be. We know just how daunting it can feel to come up with a topic and start your essay but hopefully, once you use this research paper outline example, you'll be off to a good start. Make sure you look at research papers examples in your field before you begin writing to get the best idea.

Good luck!

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