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How to Write a Research Paper in High School

What’s Covered:

 

A research paper can refer to a broad range of expanded essays used to explain your interpretation of a topic. This task is highly likely to be a common assignment in high school, so it’s always better to get a grasp on this sooner than later. Getting comfortable writing research papers does not have to be difficult, and can actually be pretty interesting when you’re genuinely intrigued by what you’re researching. 

 

How to Pick a Compelling Research Paper Topic

 

Regardless of what kind of research paper you are writing, getting started with a topic is the first step, and sometimes the hardest step. Here are some tips to get you started with your paper and get the writing to begin! 

 

Pick A Topic You’re Genuinely Interested In

 

Nothing comes across as half-baked as much as a topic that is evidently uninteresting, not to the reader, but the writer. You can only get so far with a topic that you yourself are not genuinely happy writing, and this lack of enthusiasm cannot easily be created artificially. Instead, read about things that excite you, such as some specific concepts about the structure of atoms in chemistry. Take what’s interesting to you and dive further with a research paper. 

 

If you need some ideas, check out our post on 52 interesting research paper topics.

 

The Topic Must Be A Focal Point

 

Your topic can almost be considered as the skeletal structure of the research paper. But in order to better understand this we need to understand what makes a good topic. Here’s an example of a good topic:

 

How does the amount of pectin in a vegetable affect its taste and other qualities?

 

This topic is pretty specific in explaining the goals of the research paper. If I had instead written something more vague such as Factors that affect taste in vegetables, the scope of the research immediately increased to a more herculean task simply because there is more to write about, some of which is overtly unnecessary. This is avoided by specifications in the topic that help guide the writer into a focused path.

 

By creating this specific topic, we can route back to it during the writing process to check if we’re addressing it often, and if we are then our writing is going fine! Otherwise, we’d have to reevaluate the progression of our paper and what to change. A good topic serves as a blueprint for writing the actual essay because everything you need to find out is in the topic itself, it’s almost like a sort of plan/instruction. 

 

How To Format Your Research Paper

 

Formatting a research paper is important to not only create a “cleaner” more readable end product, but it also helps streamline the writing process by making it easier to navigate. The following guidelines on formatting are considered a standard for research papers, and can be altered as per the requirements of your specific assignments, just check with your teacher/grader!

 

Start by using a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial, in 12 or 11 sized font. Also, add one inch margins for the pages, along with some double spacing between lines. These specifications alone get you started on a more professional and cleaner looking research paper.

 

Paper Citations 

 

If you’re creating a research paper for some sort of publication, or submission, you must use citations to refer to the sources you’ve used for the research of your topic. The APA citation style, something you might be familiar with, is the most popular citation style and it works as follows:

 

Author Last Name, First Initial, Publication Year, Book/Movie/Source title, Publisher/Organization

 

This can be applied to any source of media/news such as a book, a video, or even a magazine! Just make sure to use citation as much as possible when using external data and sources for your research, as it could otherwise land you in trouble with unwanted plagiarism. 

 

Structuring The Paper

 

Structuring your paper is also important, but not complex either. Start by creating an introductory paragraph that’s short and concise, and tells the reader what they’re going to be reading about. Then move onto more contextual information and actual presentation of research. In the case of a paper like this, you could start with stating your hypothesis in regard to what you’re researching, or even state your topic again with more clarification!

 

As the paper continues you should be bouncing between views that support and go against your claim/hypothesis to maintain a neutral tone. Eventually you will reach a conclusion on whether or not your hypothesis was valid, and from here you can begin to close the paper out with citations and reflections on the research process.

 

Tips For Writing A Research Paper

 

Talk To Your Teacher

 

Before the process of searching for a good topic, start by talking to your teachers first! You should form close relations with them so they can help guide you with better inspiration and ideas.

 

Along the process of writing, you’re going to find yourself needing help when you hit walls. Specifically there will be points at which the scope of your research could seem too shallow to create sizable writing off of it, therefore a third person point of view could be useful to help think of workarounds in such situations. 

 

Aim High


You might be writing a research paper as a part of a submission in your applications to colleges, which is a great way to showcase your skills! Therefore, to really have a good chance to showcase yourself as a quality student, aim for a topic that doesn’t sell yourself short. It would be easier to tackle a topic that is not as intense to research, but the end results would be less worthwhile and could come across as lazy. Focus on something genuinely interesting and challenging so admissions offices know you are a determined and hard-working student!

 

Don’t Worry About Conclusions

 

The issue many students have with writing research papers, is that they aren’t satisfied with arriving at conclusions that do not support their original hypothesis. It’s important to remember that not arriving at a specific conclusion that your hypothesis was planning on, is totally fine! The whole point of a research paper is not to be correct, but it’s to showcase the trial and error behind learning and understanding something new. 

 

If your findings clash against your initial hypothesis, all that means is you’ve arrived at a new conclusion that can help form a new hypothesis or claim, with sound reasoning! Getting rid of this mindset that forces you to warp around your hypothesis and claims can actually improve your research writing by a lot!

 

Do Research Paper Grades Impact Your College Chances?

 

Colleges won’t ever see the grades for individual assignments, but they do care a bit more about the grades you achieve in your courses. Research papers may play towards your overall course grade based on the kind of class you’re in. Therefore to keep those grades up, you should try your absolute best on your essays and make sure they get high-quality reviews to check them too!

 

Luckily, CollegeVine’s peer review for essays does exactly that! This great feature allows you to get your essay checked by other users, and hence make a higher-quality essay that boosts your chances of admission into a university. 

 

Want more info on your chances for college admissions? Check out CollegeVine’s admissions calculator, an intuitive tool that takes numerous factors into account as inputs before generating your unique chance of admission into an institute of your selection!


Short Bio
Varun is a junior at Arizona State University, Tempe. He aims to share his knowledge of college admissions and the IB Diploma Program with high school students. In his free time, he can be found making music or trying a new recipe!