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Research, Writing, and Style Guides – A Research Guide for University Students

At some point during your studies, you will be required to conduct research on various topics. In most cases, this translates to writing up a research paper as a college student.

It is usually a complex piece of work that requires you to invest a significant amount of time into investigating the topic in question. Many students have absolutely no idea how to approach the problem.

When performing any kind of research it is important to keep some things in mind. Here are some key guidelines to help get you on the right track from the start.

Choice of topic

very individual piece of research starts with you choosing a topic. Usually, you are free to do this by yourself, however, in some cases, the teacher may give out ready-made topics. This is arguably the most important part of the process as it defines how much wiggle room you will have down the line. There are three basic steps one can make use of to define what their work will be about.


First of all, choose a topic you are interested in and passionate about. Working on something you like is going to be a much more productive experience than forcing yourself to explore something you have no personal interest in. Believe me, it shows. Regardless of the subject, try to find something that will not only spark your interest but also the readers.


This brings us to the second step. Choose a topic that is challenging for you and offers something about it to explore and has not been overly discussed already. Understandably, we can not reinvent fire, however, that does not mean that we should not add our own unique flavor while researching things. The level of challenge is up to you. Typically, the narrower the topic, the more challenging it is to make a solid argument.


As for the third step, we will be getting into the benefits of narrowing down your topic. If the topic of your research paper is, for example, “Cars in the modern era” it is way too broad as it lacks focus. There simply is too much information about cars, in general, to cover in a single research paper. Concentrate on something more specific, such as “The development of the Ford Mustang”. This focuses on a single type of car and will allow for some in-depth research since you can look at the impact this model had on the auto industry as well as the consumers. On that note, avoid topics that make collecting information on them difficult since it will be hard to identify bias sources and their reliability.


Where there is a will, there is always a way. It is important for students to realize they are not alone when tackling lengthy complex assignments. With that in mind, find a legit research paper writing service to delegate your college tasks to professionals who are well versed in tackling such issues.

Create an outline

Get your thoughts organized in an outline or a brainstorm first. Doing so allows one to structure the information so that it flows naturally throughout the text. Think of an outline as the foundation of your paper. A strong foundation allows putting other building blocks in the right place to make sure it cannot crumble to the ground. Same with research papers, an outline will keep your paper structured and help highlight the value of this research.

Collecting and citing information

This part of the research paper writing process is relatively straightforward but can get a bit tricky at times. Start by searching the web for anything that relates to your topic. Here are some things you should keep in mind as you are scavenging for reliable sources:

Hit up the libraries 🏫, you will be surprised how much information you can find there. Almanacks, atlases, government publications, guides, and magazines are just some of the things you can find in libraries.

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In some cases, you will have to do your own research. Depending on your subject, the way you will have to collect information may vary. Technical fields of study usually involve laboratory tests, journalism and people studies will most likely involve conducting surveys. Paying close attention to details and following the scientific method while conducting research is the key to obtaining reliable results.

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As you gather information from various places, create a space where you drop every source you find. Whenever you stumble upon an article, on the web, save its URL. Add some notes about what kind of information you found there. It will only take a few seconds and save you hours of time later on. Saving your sources on the go will greatly help later on when you will be forming a list of your sources.

When citing your sources, you will have to follow a certain format depending on your subject. There are three citation formats:

  • APA used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences.
  • MLA style is used by the Humanities.
  • Chicago/Turabian style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts.

Check out this guide* for more in-depth help with these citation styles.

Formulate your thesis

Your thesis is used to communicate the central idea of your research. Most educators will require you to come up with a thesis for this kind of assignment. Formulating a thesis statement can be done after you already have collected some information on your topic. This will determine the direction of your research paper if that is the case.

When creating your thesis 📋, try to think how you could describe the central theme of the piece to someone who doesn’t know a single thing about it. It should not be long, usually takes a couple of sentences.

To sum things up

After completing the steps listed above📕 📗 📘 📙, you should be good to go. Keep in mind that any research task 🗂is a lengthy process that can take a lot of time and effort on your part. It is important to have a realistic plan and avoid writing it at the last minute or the quality of your paper may suffer.

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Megan Batchelor
Executive features editor at The CEOWORLD magazine and lover of reality TV. I eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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