Writing a research paper part 4: Revising, formatting, fine-tuning citations and writing your conclusion

The final steps in writing a research paper means you're almost to the finish line. (Courtesy of Joshbdork)

The final steps in writing a research paper means you’re almost to the finish line. (Courtesy of Joshbdork)

In week four of writing a research paper you’re near the end of the process. However, you still have plenty to do. You’ll want to get feedback from your professor and make revisions to your paper. Double-check your citations to make sure that you avoid plagiarism. Oh, and don’t forget the formatting. You want the paper to be readable and to conform to guidelines. Now is also the time to write your conclusion where you’ll wrap everything up in a few insightful paragraphs.

Revising your research paper

It’s a good idea to put your paper aside for a few days and work on other assignments. Then revisit your paper with new eyes. You may find that what seemed like witty prose is actually false logic and muddled reasoning. Time to roll up your sleeves and revise.

You’ll find helpful suggestions on how to revise your paper from the writing center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Their advice is to look at the big issues when revising. Don’t get bogged down in little things like formatting. Not yet. Think about your thesis statement again and ask yourself if your paper has explained your thesis.

If you feel stuck, you should check with your professor for advice on how to proceed. Be sure to think about the organization of your paper. Does it flow from one topic to the next in a way that makes sense? Have you spent too much time on one issue more than the others? Have you said anything that could be misleading to the reader? You know what you meant, but will they?

Research paper citations

Which format must you use for your citations: MLA or APA? MLA formatting is typically used in liberal arts and humanities courses while APA is used in the social sciences. If you’re not sure then ask your professor. Whatever the style, there are many tasks that are common to citing your sources.

First, you need to know what type of publication the source is from. Sources can come in many forms:

  • books
  • periodicals (magazine, newspaper, scholarly journal)
  • reports
  • websites

What else do you need to know to complete a citation? You need to know:

  • author name
  • title of book, article, report or website
  • publisher (if more than one is listed, use the first)
  • year of publication (if more than one is listed, use the most recent)

If you haven’t checked out the research tutorials on Questia, now is the time to do that. You’ll find plenty of tools to help you complete your research paper. For example, in the tutorial on identifying and working with sources you’ll find tips on working with websites as sources.

“If a webpage doesn’t have an individual or corporate author, look for links labeled home, about us, biography or contact us. In addition to possibly leading you to the sponsor, about us can also help you evaluate the site’s credibility. If you’re still unable to locate the name of an author, begin your entry with the title of the page,” the tutorial suggests.

Help with formatting

Inserting citations in the correct format (MLA or APA) can be a challenge. If you’re using Microsoft Word to write your paper then you might want to visit YouTube.com where you’ll find videos that show you how to insert citations and create your references page.

You can find samples of both APA and MLA formatted research papers at the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL).

Writing the conclusion

As you wrote your research paper you moved from general information in your introduction to more specific information in the body of the paper. Now, in your conclusion, you’ll switch back to a more general approach. You’ll begin your conclusion by restating your main points. You might also want to add a call to action or a prediction of how this issue might evolve in the future.

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University offered this advice.

“Remember that once you accomplish these tasks, unless otherwise directed by your instructor, you are finished. Done. Complete. Don’t try to bring in new points or end with a whiz bang(!) conclusion or try to solve world hunger in the final sentence of your conclusion. Simplicity is best for a clear, convincing message.”

If you need a refresher of the first three parts of the research paper series, you can click here for the first part, here for the second part and here for the third part.

Be sure to take advantage of the free trial of Questia. You’ll love the tools and tutorials.

What challenges have you faced in the final stages of writing a research paper? Tell us your experience in the comments below.

19 replies
  1. Uzor Oliver says:

    Thanks for you write-up I really do appreciate them and I hope they will be of help to me as prepare to write my project in the near future.

    • Claire Moore says:

      As far as I know you don’t usually include pictures in a research paper. You might however include charts and graphs that illustrate the data that you collected and analyzed in your research.

      You should ask your professor this question to get an answer that applies to your project specifically.

  2. Jayashree says:

    Thank you very much for the four parts in “How to write a research paper.” It would be of really great help if you can post some points on the study guides and strategies.

  3. Kennedy says:

    Its a nice go rather i have a problem of related literature on the following topic “factors that affect the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises’ please help if possible.

    • Claire Moore says:

      In Questia and in search engines you might try using keywords such as:

      growth factors businesses
      growth factors small businesses
      growth factors smb

      Consider putting quotes around the term “growth factors”

      Hope this helps.

  4. Abid says:

    I have missed your article’s other 3 parts may you please send me on email

    Writing a research paper part 4: Revising, formatting, fine-tuning citations and writing your conclusion


    Thank you very much for your tutorial on how to write a research paper. But, i want you to explain more on how to detect plagiarism in a research work.

    • Claire Moore says:

      The cheap and easy way to check for plagiarism is to take a phrase from the work and type it into Google. If a page comes up with much or all of your paper then it’s probably plagiarized.

      If you’re willing to pay for the service you can subscribe to TurnItIn and submit entire works for plagiarism checking.


  6. Tero Talamoa says:

    After reading your article on the fourth steps in writing a research paper, I regret to say I miss the last three steps of refining of a research paper. Nonetheless, I am grateful with what you already posted. This type of assistant helps me, second language learner, comprehend the proper ways of writing a research paper.

    Thank you,

  7. Chandrakant Bhogayata says:

    The presentation of all the four parts about writing a research paper is very helpful, particularly for young writers. You have done a nice work. Many young writers fail in the aspects you have discussed in the last part. Thank you!

    Chandrakant Bhogayata


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