1. Introduction: Your introduction should be clear, provocative and provide a road map to your research paper. It doesn’t have to be as specific as detailing what each section will contain, but it should certainly describe what you’ll be examining, analyzing, and proving. Readers begin forming judgments about a research paper after just viewing the introduction, which is why it’s so important to make it shine.
2. Clear Thesis: A good thesis statement expresses your main idea, perspective or position. It is not a statement of known fact. For extra help with writing a thesis statement, visit Questia’s 9-step writing guide.
3. Organization: “Writing Papers Grading Criteria” from Writing-tipstoday.com suggests that your paper be checked for: presentation of references, clarity of language style, spelling, punctuation, grammar, length and overall presentation.
4. Integrating Sources: Professors expect sources—that’s what puts the “research” in “research paper.” Moreover, they expect you to integrate those sources and fuse them with your ideas, equally. If you have 10 sources and only use two, for example, a professor will notice and grade you down.
Just as important, make sure you are using reliable research sources. Ask your professor ahead of time whether your sources are okay—most will not accept sources such as Wikipedia or blog entries; some will only accept sources from approved journal databases.
5. Be Concise: Wordy, bombastic writing will impress no one, especially not your professor. The longer it takes them to understand what you’re saying, the less clear you’ll be and the quicker your grade will drop. If you think you might be rambling, consider having a roommate, peer, or friend read your research paper and offer feedback.
6. Originality: Your writing should be your own. In other words, anything not in quotations should be your ideas and analyses, not anyone else’s. It’s not uncommon for students to pursue the same research topic, but most professors will try to ensure that each one is unique. Many instructors request the thesis ahead of time so they can evaluate it, as well as verify that each student is working on a different research paper. To avoid plagiarism, check out the tips Loraine Blaxter offers in How to Research.
7. Editorial Style: Many professors require a certain research paper format such as APA, MLA, or Chicago. This isn’t a suggestion, and your professor may lower your grade if you don’t follow the correct style. Some grade more harshly than others, but style is especially important in your parenthetical references and on your works cited page. Questia helps you to format your citations, bibliographies and works cited pages in multiple writing styles to help you do well on your research paper.