How to write a good research paper: Top five lessons learned from our Questia readers!

Research paper adviceWe’ve all heard the expression “hindsight is 20/20,” and the same goes for writing research papers! Last week, we posed a question to our readers: For those of you well-seasoned research paper writers out there, what’s the best lesson you’ve learned about writing a great paper? The many responses about lessons learned fell into five categories, each with something valuable to say about how students can create a quality research paper and still keep their sanity.

Understand the assignment

Learning how to write the best research paper possible begins with fully understanding what’s being asked of you. We received several responses like this one, “If you do not fully understand what the assignment is about, ask the teacher early on because you don’t want to wait until the last minute and produce a paper that is not what was expected.”

A good way to make sure that you’re on the right track is to do some preliminary research on your topic. Questia’s library is great for that kind of thing. You can browse by topic and zero in on your research assignment then run it by your instructor to see if you’ve got the right idea. The time spent here will save you hours of rewriting later.

How long should you spend on this research? According to, “For an average length (10-20 pgs) paper you should give yourself a month to adequately collect the library research and materials. At a bare minimum you should give yourself a week.”

Start early, have a plan

It’s a whole lot better to plan out your entire paper before you write rather than just diving in and figuring it out as you go along. “Plan how you are going to do your research, set aside a time to study. Create a calendar so you know where you are headed. Check it often. Start early, gather information, organize it and write the paper,” said one respondent.

Get outside the box

Some respondents suggested that you should try to get creative when writing your paper. One answered, “Don’t go for the obvious, easy topic.” While another said, “Think about what you want people to know that they didn’t know until they read your paper. Don’t be afraid to go outside the box; professors love that stuff.” Another pointed out the value of researching a topic of interest to you: “That way, your passion will carry you through the frustrating times in your writing process.”

Create an outline

The Cambridge Rindge & Latin School (CRLS) Research Guide said of “Making an Outline,” “An outline is an abbreviated picture of the parts of your paper or project and the order in which they will come. You can think of it as a ‘road map’ of your journey toward making a final product.”

According to one of our research paper writers, “Prepare a good outline and support it with detailed research. Also, while researching, note down your sources so that when you are ready to cite/make bibliography, it becomes less tedious.”

When creating your outline, you’ll love Questia’s organizational tools to help you manage your research projects and keep yourself on track. You can save, highlight text, write a note, or cite a passage as you read through Questia’s research materials. It will even help you create your bibliography!

Proofread and review requirements

When you’re in the last stages of completing your assignment it’s easy to miss important details. That’s why one respondent advised, “Make sure to go over the assignment requirements multiple times and be sure to meet them all.” Another said, ” Make sure to have at least one person read your paper after you have proofread it.”

When it comes to proofreading your paper the Purdue Online Writing Lab suggested, “Reading a paper aloud encourages you to read every little word.”

There you have it, words of wisdom from well-seasoned paper-writing pros who have been there before. So take their advice, check out the resources at and you’ll find that you can breeze through the most challenging research assignment with ease.

Want more research paper help? We’re busy putting together a full arsenal of tools, tips and videos to help you tackle the toughest research assignments while keeping your cool. Check out our blog post, “New Questia research tutorials: Term paper research and writing now easier than ever.”

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