6 Steps to a Better Research Paper

Step 1

The first step in any research project is deciding what you want to research. For example, you may want to research China. Whoa, that’s a big topic. You’ll need to narrow it down a bit.

What exactly interests you about China? Let’s say you’re interested in the History of China. That topic is as enormous as the Great Wall, so let’s narrow it down to something more manageable:

History of China–>Women’s roles –>Tang Dynasty (June 18, 618 – June 1, 90)

Step 2

What you need to do now is consider the purpose of your research:

  • Will you compare and contrast the roles of women during the Tang dynasty with some other country?
  • Will you make an argument for or against the treatment of women during the Tang Dynasty?
  • Do you have an original theory you would like to propose about women’s status during the Tang Dynasty?

Let’s pick option 3: An original theory regarding women’s roles during the Tang Dynasty.

Step 3

Now you must formulate a thesis. A thesis is typically a one-sentence summary of your topic.

For our topic, the thesis may be:

Thesis: Women’s status in the Tang Dynasty was relatively liberal.

Great! We’ve got our thesis statement.

Step 4

Now, the fun stuff: let’s come up with a hypothesis. Admittedly to do this, you must already know something about your topic. But, essentially a hypothesis is an attempt to explain the state of something-it is to answer the question of why.

Women’s liberal status during the Tang Dynasty was a result of relative stability and prosperity of the time.

Step 5

Our next step is the literature review, which will help us back-up our hypothesis. A literature review is a survey of the research that already exists on your chosen topic. You will incorporate this into your results, most likely a research paper. There are several different ways to incorporate the literature review.

Below are two commonly used methods of incorporating a lit review:

  • Compare and contrast the existing research
  • Present the existing research in chronological order

In our case, we’ll compare and contrast the existing research, to figure out where our thesis fits in. For example, we’ll look at the roles of women in China and compare times of peace with times of war, times of prosperity with times of leanness.

Step 6

After our lit review, we should have a broad understanding of our topic. At this point, we must begin the writing phase of our research project.

Before you begin, here are a few tips

Your research paper should consist of:

An introduction

  • Clearly states thesis and hypothesis
  • Gives some indication of the topics to be covered (i.e. war, peace, prosperity, poverty)


  • Each paragraph should have a topic sentence-something that tells the reader what is to come. And, each paragraph should transition smoothly into the next.
  • How many paragraphs will depend entirely on the required length of the paper, but as a general guide:
  • One or more paragraphs for a lit review
  • One or more paragraphs for each issue addressed in hypothesis
  • One or more paragraphs synthesizing the work with previous research-both the areas where it coincided and where it contradicted


A conclusion should make mention of your thesis/hypothesis, results, and conclusions.

Bibliography/Works Cited

  • Here is where all your sources used in the research should be listed.
  • The format will depend entirely on the requirements set forth.