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Home » Blog » How to Write a Research Paper Fast in 9 Steps

How to Write a Research Paper Fast in 9 Steps



So you have a blank document opened and you don’t know how to write a research paper from scratch. Well, academic writing is indeed challenging and much different than other types of writing. If you haven’t written a research paper and it is your first time, it could turn out to be an overwhelming task.

It gets more challenging if you have to write your research paper fast. It really gets tough. And if you don’t learn how to write a good research paper fast that is more than a well-written paper, you’ll find yourself in deep trouble.

However, if you know what steps to follow and how to do a research paper, it will get a whole lot easier. All you have to do is follow a systematic approach. Follow a step-by-step guide and it will become a piece of cake. That’s why I created this guide below.

It shows you what steps you have to take in order to write a research paper and how to get it finished and submitted on time. It covers everything including topic selection, research, write-up, editing and proofreading, and much more.

This guide is all you need to write a killer research paper fast. Let’s get started.

What is a Research Paper?

A research paper is an extended form of essay that represents original research work of the author. It is an academic piece on a topic that is based on original research, arguments, interpretation, and analysis. Examples of a research paper include term papers, doctoral dissertations, and scientific research articles.

So who needs to write a research paper?

Anyone can write a research paper but generally, graduate students, PhDs, and academicians write research papers and have them get published in journals. The idea is to share your research and findings with the world.

Here is a research paper example from the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal :

research paper example

Here is another research paper example from the Journal of Academic Librarianship :

research paper example

Yes, research paper involves a lot of research and this is one reason why a lot of people struggle. If you get to know how to write a good research paper and you know the exact steps, you can manage it easily.

How to Write a Research Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Here are the steps that you can follow to write a good research paper fast:

  • Set objectives
  • Choose a topic
  • Review literature
  • Organize your research
  • Create a thesis
  • Create an outline
  • Start writing
  • Edit and revise

These steps are covered in detail below.

Step #1: Set Objectives

To learn everything on how to write a research paper quickly, the first thing you need to do is set clear objectives. Why do you need to write a research paper in the first place?

There are several reasons why you should end up writing a research paper:

  • It could be a requirement from your university or supervisor to get your degree
  • It could be to share your original research work with the right people
  • To move ahead in your career as an academician or a professional
  • You’re writing a research paper just to let others know of your experience and you don’t intend to get anything in exchange

If you’re writing a research paper as a degree requirement, you’ll approach it differently as compared to if you’re writing one as a professor. Setting the right objectives and goals for your research paper helps you stay focused and organized.

Ask yourself following questions to set objectives for your assignment:

Why do you need to write a research paper?

What is its deadline?

What is the research paper format?

Is there a specific word count requirement?

Do you have a topic in mind?

Where do you wish to publish your research paper?

Set realistic yet challenging objectives and goals for your assignment based on your answers. If you have to write a research paper as a requirement for your graduate degree, you will get clear objectives from your university. It will make your job easier. You just have to stick to them.

However, if you’re writing a research paper to get it published in a journal to strengthen your resume and to get a better job, you’ll have different objectives that will be more geared towards the journal’s requirements.

Step #2: Plan

After you have identified objectives for your research paper, you need to create a plan to achieve your objectives. If you’re serious about how to do a research paper, you should plan it. The best way to plan your research article is to create a Gantt chart.

A Gantt chart helps you manage your research paper and set schedule for different activities (discussed later in this guide). You’ll be able to complete important tasks on time so that you don’t end up missing deadlines.

gantt chart template

If, for instance, you have to submit a research paper to a journal’s call for paper request, you’ll have to get it ready well before the deadline. This is where the Gantt charts are very helpful. You can set a schedule based on the priority of the tasks.

You can’t write your complete research paper in a single go even if it has to be 3K words or less. You need to collect data and you have to analyze your data using a statistical tool. And this is where things get complicated because data collection and analysis can take months. It isn’t necessary that you personally collect data so if someone else is collecting data, you have to manage things at your end smartly. You can’t do it without planning and proper scheduling.

Planning is essential because you have to rely on different resources for data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, data reporting, editing, etc. When there are multiple individuals and tools involved, you need to set your priorities and you need a proper plan that will show you what needs to be done, who will do it, when it should start, and when a task should be completed.

At the same time, there are certain resources that you’d need special access to from your university such as statistical tools. If you’re analyzing data in SmartPLS , you’d need a key from your university which remains active for 30 days. Not only that you have to request a key on time after you have collected the data, but you’ll also have to make sure that data is analyzed in 30 days else you’ll have to request for key renewal which takes a few days.

In the absence of planning, you might not get access to several critical university resources and this will significantly delay your research article.

A proper plan will let you put requests for resources well before the time that will be entertained as compared to putting requests at the last moment (that are normally rejected due to resource unavailability or overload).

Step #3: Choose a Topic

Your research topic is of central importance in the research article. You should give special attention to topic selection as everything else will be derived from the topic. A wrong topic selected and you won’t be able to get back on track very soon.

There are two ways to choose a topic for your research paper:

  • If you’re writing a research paper for a degree requirement, you’ll receive guidelines from your supervisor/university. Follow the guidelines. You’ll have to choose a topic of your interest.
  • If you’re writing a research paper for publication in a journal, you’ll have to identify a journal, read its scope, read author guidelines, and then choose a topic that is most likely to be accepted by the journal for publication.

Even if you’re writing a paper as an assignment, you’ll still have to get it published in a relevant journal so you have to choose an appropriate journal first. That’s the right approach to choosing a topic.

So your research topic should meet these two criteria:

  • You should have an interest in the topic.
  • You have identified an appropriate journal that’s likely to accept and publish your research article.

Choosing a topic of your interest will make it easier for you to write about it. Your passion will motivate you and you’ll rarely feel bored. Aligning your topic to a specific journal will make publication easier. Journals are very choosy and publish articles that meet their scope and won’t publish anything that doesn’t meet their scope.

Here is an example of the scope of the Alternative Law Journal:

screenshot of journal's scope and aims

If you submit an article to this journal, it will be accepted if and only if it meets the aims and scope. And this holds true for all the journals out there. So you have to choose a topic and then you have to find a relevant journal that will accept your research paper.

Here are a few actionable tips on how to choose a topic for your research paper:

  • The topic should meet the assignment requirements.
  • Use brainstorming to identify a decent research topic.
  • Start from a broad topic such as human resource management and then narrow it down. Ensure that the topic isn’t too broad.
  • Narrow down the focus. The more focused your topic is, the better. Broader topics don’t tend to do well. For instance, you can narrow down your human resource management topic to organizational citizenship behavior in the banking sector.
  • Don’t narrow your topic too much as it will limit your options for data collection. There has to be a balance between too broad and too narrow.
  • Ask industry experts as they might be able to help you identify a hot topic based on their experience and the challenges they’re facing in the industry. This will make your research practically applicable and useful for practitioners.
  • The topic needs to be of interest for practitioners or a certain group (e.g. researchers). If it only interests you and is considered invaluable by others, you’ll struggle to get your research paper published in a high impact journal.

how to choose a research topic

Once you have finalized your topic, you then need to identify a journal to get your article published. This is the stage where you’ll be able to further refine your topic, tweak it, and make it compatible with the journal’s requirement.

Here are some tips to identify the right journal based on your research topic and how to make your topic compatible with your preferred journal:

  • Visit leading publishers such as Elsevier , Sage , Wiley , etc. and search for journals based on your topic.
  • Use Google Scholar to identify recent articles published on your topic.
  • Read the aims and scope of the journals to screen them and identify the ones that are most likely to publish your article.
  • Read the recently published article in these journals. This will give you an idea of what type of articles they publish. Tweak your research topic if needed to make it compatible with a journal’s policies.
  • Read author guidelines and any special instructions that will help you craft a better research paper.
  • Target one journal and stick with its requirements. This will help you focus on one journal’s requirements which makes acceptance easier as you’ll write specifically for it.

Once your topic is finalized, you’re ready to proceed with an in-depth literature review to create your thesis and outline.

Step #4: Literature Review

Reviewing literature is an essential step of how to write a research paper. You can’t do research without reviewing literature.

The literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research on your selected topic. It involves reviewing existing research papers, books, scholarly articles, and any other authentic and reliable data source that is related to your topic.

review of literature meaning

The purpose of the literature review is to describe, summarize, and evaluate previous research on your topic to find what has already been done and where you want to move from here. Existing literature helps you identify theories on your topic, history of the topic, current issues, and future research directions that help you refine your research topic and build a thesis.

The literature review is essential as it lets you understand the topic and previous research. You don’t want to end up researching an issue that’s already covered by someone else. How’d you find what work other researchers have done on the subject? By reviewing literature. Besides, you get to learn methodologies, theories, models, and other critical information about your topic during the literature review process.

Since writing a research paper is much different than writing a novel where you can write a novel even if you haven’t read any novel in your life. In case of writing a research article, you can’t write a research paper (on any topic) without reading existing literature. You need a base and a theory to support your arguments. It’s a scholarly article that can’t exist in isolation.

Here is what in-depth literature review will help you with:

  • It will clarify your topic and will help you refine it
  • It helps you find theories and models
  • It helps you narrow the focus of your research
  • You get to learn everything about your research topic
  • You get resources that you can cite in your research paper
  • It helps you create a thesis for your research paper
  • You give an overview of the past research to the readers which helps them better understand your research and how it is relevant to the existing research

how to review literature for your research paper

Follow these steps to review the literature for your research paper.

Step #1: Select Literature to Review

Identify keywords that are relevant to your research topic and start searching for the existing literature. Google Scholar and your university’s library should be your starting point.

Besides, you can access databases like JSTOR , Medline , EBSCO , and others to search for articles, books, and other relevant material. You’ll be able to access databases and journals that your university has an agreement with so it’d be best to use your university’s resources.

Step #2: Take Notes

The literature review is a part of your research paper so it will be best to start writing it as you review and analyze literature. You need to interpret and synthesize published work with your critique.

ways to review literature

If you want, you can create an Excel sheet where you can add article titles with their key findings and your comments. This type of sheet helps you keep a record of all the literature reviewed.

Step #3: Write

Don’t just write a summary of the literature rather add your arguments, critique, and analysis. Create a structure for your literature review as it makes writing easier. Here is a structure that you should follow:

  • Introduction: Tell readers the purpose of the introduction.
  • Body: Organize literature in one of the forms: Systematic, chronological, theoretically, thematic, or methodological.
  • Conclusion: Highlight key findings and summarize your literature review.

By the time you’ll be done with the literature review, you’ll have a thorough understanding of your research topic.

Step #5: Organize Your Research

If you’re writing a research paper for the first time and don’t know anything about how to write a good research paper or how to do a research paper, you’ll get lost easily.

Because writing a research article is not the same as how to write a novel. It’s much different. You have to read a lot of literature, you have to take notes, and you have to keep everything organized.

Organizing your research, literature, notes, PDFs, data files, and other resources are essential. Your research paper isn’t just the paper you write but it is based on and is linked to several other elements.

Organizing your research paper and research work is essential.

It also helps you write a research paper fast. I mean if you’re short of time, you don’t want to spend half of your day finding missing files, literature, and theories that you have already reviewed. This is why using tools is essential.

First off, if you’re interested in writing your research paper fast, you need a writing software like Squibler .

Why Squibler specifically?

Because it helps you organize your content, paper, literature, and everything else. Authors use it to organize their manuscripts and to get their books published fast (in as low as 30 days). This shows how powerful this tool can be for your research paper’s organization.

Squibler alone will reduce your writing time to a great extent. If you’re in a hurry, don’t miss it.

But Squibler isn’t all you need, it helps you manage and organize your files, manuscript, and content, you still need other tools to manage other stuff. Here is a list of tools that you must use to organize your research:

  • NVivo for reviewing the literature and for qualitative analysis
  • EndNote for managing references and citations
  • Grammarly for writing, editing, plagiarism, and proofreading
  • Evernote for taking notes and managing your research
  • Scrivener for writing and managing your research paper

You should also check with your university for tools and apps. You might get access to tools for free that have partnered with your university. In any case, don’t go without tools as they can save you a lot of time at the end of the day.

Step #6: Create a Thesis Statement

Now that you have reviewed a lot of literature, refined your research topic, and have organized your research work (so far) appropriately, it is time to create your thesis statement.

A thesis statement is a one-sentence that defines your research and topic. It tells the readers what your research paper will discuss. Here is an example of a thesis statement:

thesis statement example

The thesis statement is derived from the literature. You can’t (and in fact shouldn’t) write a thesis statement without extensive review of the literature.

Here is what a thesis statement does:

  • It tells readers what big problem you’re addressing
  • It sets the expectations of the readers
  • It shows how you’ll interpretation of the question your research paper will address
  • It makes a claim

In simple words, your thesis statement is a sentence that represents your point of view (or argument) about the topic that you’ll defend in the rest of the research paper.

Here is an example of a good and a bad thesis statement:

good and bad thesis statement example

Your thesis statement should be:

  • Unambiguous
  • Shows your position or point of view

A great technique to create a thesis statement is to convert your research paper topic into a question and then answer the question is a sentence or two. The answer to the question will be your thesis statement.

For instance, your topic is to discuss the benefits of cinnamon for weight loss .

Convert it into a question as: What are the benefits of using cinnamon for weight loss?

Answer it as: The benefits of using cinnamon for weight loss are …

This answer is your thesis statement. Make it a bit scholarly as: Using cinnamon will reduce weight by …

That’s how simple it is.

Step #7: Create an Outline

Once you’re done with the thesis statement, you need to create an outline for research paper. You can skip this step if you want but it isn’t recommended. If you plan to write a decent research article and if you want to know how to write a good research paper, you should know the ins and outs of creating an outline.

An outline for research paper helps you structure your paper. It tells you what you’re supposed to do and how to do it. And it helps you write your research paper fast.

Here is how an outline for research paper looks like :

outline for research paper

The outline can be as detailed as you want or as short as you want it to be. You should, however, keep outline fairly detailed by listing all the headings and subheadings. List what you’ll cover in each subheading. The following outline for research paper is a perfect example that lists all the major portions of the article:

example of outline for research paper

If you’re writing a research paper as a degree requirement, you’ll get an outline template from your university. Follow the template and stick with it.

If your university doesn’t provide you with a template, you can find a free template from the internet. There are tons of free templates available out there for research papers that help you with research paper format and outline.

For journal submissions, you’ll have to create an outline using the journal’s author guidelines. Journals have specific requirements in terms of word count, headings, subheadings, number of tables, number of figures, etc. They provide you with in-depth details so in this case, creating an outline becomes a whole lot easier.

Follow these tips to create a perfect outline for your research paper:

  • Start by listing the major headlines including abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, bibliography, and appendices.
  • Add subheadings by looking at previous research papers.
  • Since you have already reviewed literature, you’ll be in a better position to identify subheadings and sections for your research paper.
  • Keep outline flexible.
  • Don’t hesitate to tweak your outline. You should update it as you start writing your paper.

Step #8: Start Writing

Finally, it’s the stage in your how to write a research paper guide where you can start writing it. I have to admit that writing is the most difficult part. The good news is that you have already done most of the hard work by preparing an outline, thesis statement, and literature review.

You now need to write the remaining sections as per outline which normally includes:



The introduction is derived from the thesis statement and literature review. You have to write the background, research purpose, research questions and objectives, the significance of your research paper, and the structure of the research paper.

It isn’t a very detailed section rather it lays the foundation of your paper. The introduction needs to be interesting so readers don’t lose interest and continue reading.

This section comes right after the literature review where you mention the methodology you’ll follow to conduct your research. This is an important section of your research paper that needs to be written clearly.

Methodology includes:

  • Research methods
  • Research philosophy
  • Population and sampling techniques
  • Data collection and data analysis techniques
  • Instruments and scale used
  • Pilot study details

You need to justify your selection of research methods and techniques with strong arguments. For instance, if you’re doing qualitative research, you need to present arguments as to why you selected qualitative research as opposed to quantitative.

This section covers the results of your research paper. It happens to be a crucial part of your research paper as it highlights the findings of your research which is your contribution.

Write your results scientifically in this section and relate them to your thesis statement and research questions. Add tables, figures, and other details from the statistical tool that you used in your study.

Explain your results in detail in the discussion section. Link results to theory and literature. You need to explain results in an easy-to-understand language not just scientifically. Provide arguments for your results that weren’t supported by theory or weren’t as expected.

The discussion section includes:

  • Discussion on results
  • Limitations of the research paper
  • Implications
  • Future research directions

Finally, write a conclusion that summarizes your research paper’s findings and contribution. The conclusion should give a concise overview of your research paper that should be meaningful in isolation.

Step #9: Edit and Revise

This is the last step in how to write a research paper process. You have written the first draft and it’s time to edit and revise it.

You need to complete the first draft of your manuscript well before the submission date so you get time to edit and tweak it. This is where the Gantt chart becomes so handy. In the absence of planning, you’ll finish your first draft right on the last day leaving no room for edits.

Editing your research paper is essential. You need to go through it once and fix errors and typos. Then use editing software like Grammarly to fix grammatical errors, typos, sentence structure errors, and to check plagiarism. It is an extremely handy tool. You can use its Word extension to fix errors as you type.

As you find and fix errors in your draft, revise it by fixing sentence structure and flow. Academic writing is different than other types of writing (fiction, non-fiction, etc.) so you have to make sure your research paper’s language is academic. You might have to revise sentences and even paragraphs to make them robust.

It is a good idea to have someone preferably a colleague review your research paper. This is a great way to find and fix errors that might go unnoticed otherwise.

Start Writing Your Research Paper

A research paper is way different than novel writing and other types of writing. If you know how to write a novel or how to write a book , it doesn’t mean you’ll know how to write a research paper. If you think you can write a research paper just because you have written a novel, you’re mistaken.

Research paper writing is something different. You need to learn it. You need to at least learn the basics. The 9-step to writing a research paper fast discussed in this guide is more than enough to help you get started right away. You’re all set to write an amazing paper.

Get cracking.

Josh Fechter

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Research Paper

29 Practical Tips On How To Write A Research Paper Fast (Without Sacrificing Quality)

Master the art of quick research paper writing! Learn efficient strategies on how to write a research paper fast. Achieve top-notch results now.

Feb 21, 2024

how to do a research paper fast

Delving into the realm of academia can be a whirlwind of deadlines and data, but mastering the art of how to write a research paper fast is within reach. From organizing your thoughts to fine-tuning your research paper structure , this guide will equip you with the tools to navigate the labyrinth of citations and analysis efficiently. So, buckle up and prepare to unravel the secrets of crafting a stellar research paper in record time.

Table of Contents

How to rapidly plan your research paper to help you write your research paper fast, supercharge your researching ability with otio — try otio for free today.

student completing her research paper - How To Write A Research Paper Fast

When it comes to writing a research paper fast, the key lies in efficient planning. Start by selecting a focused topic that you are passionate about and have access to sufficient resources. Create a detailed outline with main points and subpoints, ensuring a logical flow of information.  This will serve as a roadmap for your writing process, saving you time by preventing unnecessary tangents. Gather all your reference materials beforehand and organize them based on your outline . This will streamline the research phase and prevent interruptions while writing. Set specific goals and deadlines for each section of your paper to keep yourself on track and motivated throughout the process.

How To Write Your Research Paper Fast

Once your research and outline are in place, it's time to dive into writing your research paper. Start with the sections you feel most confident about to build momentum. Write freely without worrying too much about perfection on the first draft. The goal is to get your ideas on paper quickly.  Use tools like Otio to help you easily organize and reference your sources as you write. Leverage features like AI-generated notes and AI-assisted writing to speed up the process and enhance the quality of your paper. Finally, take breaks to recharge your mind and avoid burnout, but stay disciplined in following your outlined schedule to ensure timely completion.

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Knowledge workers, researchers, and students often struggle with content overload and fragmented tools in their research workflows. Otio offers a solution with its all-in-one AI-native workspace designed to streamline the research process. From collecting diverse data sources to creating draft outputs, Otio simplifies the research journey.  Embrace Otio as your AI research and writing partner to experience efficient research paper writing — try Otio for free today!

Related Reading

• Research Paper Thesis Examples • Best Research Paper Topics • How To Write A Research Paper Outline • Research Topics For High School • History Research Paper Topics • Examples Of Research Topics • Us History Research Paper Topics • How To Write A Research Report • Topics For History Research Paper • How To Choose A Research Topic • Controversial Research Paper Topics • English Research Paper Topics • Tips For Writing A Research Paper • Best Topics For Research Paper • Scientific Research Paper Topics • Research Paper Ideas For English • What To Include In Introduction Of Research Paper • Research Paper Draft

study desk of a student - How To Write A Research Paper Fast

1. Choose a Manageable Topic

Opt for a topic that is focused and manageable within your time constraints.

2. Create a Detailed Outline

Organize your thoughts and research materials before diving into writing.

3. Set Clear Goals and Deadlines

Establish specific writing goals and deadlines to keep yourself on track.

4. Utilize Reliable Sources

Save time by using reputable sources for your research.

5. Use Online Tools for Research

Make use of databases, academic search engines, and reference managers to speed up your research process.

6. Limit Distractions

Find a quiet workspace and eliminate distractions to boost productivity.

7. Write in Blocks of Time

Break down your writing into smaller blocks of time to maintain focus and prevent burnout .

8. Utilize Templates

Save time on formatting by using research paper templates.

9. Write the Body First

Start with the main body of your paper as it often contains the most critical information.

10. Focus on One Section at a Time

Divide your paper into sections and focus on completing one at a time.

11. Write a Strong Thesis Statement

A clear and concise thesis statement will guide your research and writing process.

12. Use In-text Citations as You Write

Avoid going back to add citations by incorporating them as you write.

13. Proofread as You Go

Correct errors and polish your writing as you progress through the paper.

14. Seek Feedback Early

Share your work with peers or professors early on to catch any issues and make improvements.

15. Utilize Writing Apps

Use writing apps that offer features like grammar checking and word suggestions to enhance your writing process.

16. Take Breaks

Allow yourself short breaks to rest and recharge, improving overall productivity.

17. Stay Organized

Keep your research materials, notes, and drafts organized to save time searching for information.

18. Edit and Revise

Allocate time for thorough editing and revision to refine your paper.

19. Set Aside Time for Final Proofreading

Ensure your paper is error-free by dedicating time specifically for a final proofreading session.

A Complete Guide on How to Write a Research Paper Fast (Without Sacrificing Quality), Step-by-Step

Step 1: topic selection.

Choose a focused and manageable topic that aligns with your interests and assignment guidelines.

Step 2: Research

Conduct thorough research using reliable sources and take detailed notes.

Step 3: Outline

Create a comprehensive outline with main points and supporting evidence for each section of your paper.

Step 4: Writing

Start writing the body of your paper based on your outline, focusing on one section at a time.

Step 5: Introduction and Thesis

Craft a strong introduction with a clear thesis statement that sets the tone for your paper.

Step 6: Citations

Incorporate in-text citations as you write to avoid backtracking later.

Step 7: Proofreading

Proofread and edit your paper as you progress, correcting errors and refining your writing.

Step 8: Feedback

Seek feedback from peers or professors early on to make necessary revisions.

Step 9: Revision

Allocate time for thorough editing and revision to enhance the quality of your paper.

Step 10: Final Proofreading

Set aside time for a final proofreading session to ensure your paper is polished and error-free. Let Otio be your AI research and writing partner — try Otio for free today!

• Research Paper Outline Template • Research Paper Introduction Example • Research Paper Conclusion Example • How Long Should A Research Paper Be • How To Quickly Write A Research Paper • Tips For Writing Research Papers • 7 Steps In Writing A Research Paper

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Unlocking Insights through AI-Generated Notes and Q&A Chat

One of the most time-consuming aspects of research is extracting key insights from the vast amount of information collected. Otio simplifies this process by providing AI-generated notes on all bookmarks, including various types of content such as YouTube videos, PDFs, and articles.  These notes offer a concise summary of the main points, enabling researchers to quickly grasp the key takeaways from their sources. Otio's source-grounded Q&A chat feature allows users to delve deeper into their research by asking specific questions and receiving detailed answers based on the content they have collected. This interactive feature not only facilitates a deeper understanding of the material but also enhances the research process by encouraging critical thinking and exploration.

Effortless Drafting with AI Assistance

Once researchers have collected and synthesized their data, the next step is to transform their findings into a coherent research paper or essay. Otio simplifies this process by offering AI-assisted writing capabilities that help users create draft outputs using the sources they have collected.  By leveraging AI technology, Otio can assist researchers in structuring their ideas, improving the flow of their writing, and even suggesting relevant content to enhance their arguments. This not only accelerates the writing process but also ensures that the final output is well-organized, coherent, and backed by robust evidence.

Embrace the Future of Research with Otio

Otio is not just a tool; it is a research companion that empowers knowledge workers, researchers, and students to navigate the complexities of information overload with ease. By providing a unified workspace for collecting, extracting, and creating content, Otio revolutionizes the way research is conducted, making the process more efficient, insightful, and enjoyable.  Whether you are a seasoned researcher or a student embarking on your first research project, let Otio be your AI research and writing partner — try Otio for free today and experience the future of research firsthand.

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  • How to write a research paper

Last updated

11 January 2024

Reviewed by

With proper planning, knowledge, and framework, completing a research paper can be a fulfilling and exciting experience. 

Though it might initially sound slightly intimidating, this guide will help you embrace the challenge. 

By documenting your findings, you can inspire others and make a difference in your field. Here's how you can make your research paper unique and comprehensive.

  • What is a research paper?

Research papers allow you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic. These papers are usually lengthier and more detailed than typical essays, requiring deeper insight into the chosen topic.

To write a research paper, you must first choose a topic that interests you and is relevant to the field of study. Once you’ve selected your topic, gathering as many relevant resources as possible, including books, scholarly articles, credible websites, and other academic materials, is essential. You must then read and analyze these sources, summarizing their key points and identifying gaps in the current research.

You can formulate your ideas and opinions once you thoroughly understand the existing research. To get there might involve conducting original research, gathering data, or analyzing existing data sets. It could also involve presenting an original argument or interpretation of the existing research.

Writing a successful research paper involves presenting your findings clearly and engagingly, which might involve using charts, graphs, or other visual aids to present your data and using concise language to explain your findings. You must also ensure your paper adheres to relevant academic formatting guidelines, including proper citations and references.

Overall, writing a research paper requires a significant amount of time, effort, and attention to detail. However, it is also an enriching experience that allows you to delve deeply into a subject that interests you and contribute to the existing body of knowledge in your chosen field.

  • How long should a research paper be?

Research papers are deep dives into a topic. Therefore, they tend to be longer pieces of work than essays or opinion pieces. 

However, a suitable length depends on the complexity of the topic and your level of expertise. For instance, are you a first-year college student or an experienced professional? 

Also, remember that the best research papers provide valuable information for the benefit of others. Therefore, the quality of information matters most, not necessarily the length. Being concise is valuable.

Following these best practice steps will help keep your process simple and productive:

1. Gaining a deep understanding of any expectations

Before diving into your intended topic or beginning the research phase, take some time to orient yourself. Suppose there’s a specific topic assigned to you. In that case, it’s essential to deeply understand the question and organize your planning and approach in response. Pay attention to the key requirements and ensure you align your writing accordingly. 

This preparation step entails

Deeply understanding the task or assignment

Being clear about the expected format and length

Familiarizing yourself with the citation and referencing requirements 

Understanding any defined limits for your research contribution

Where applicable, speaking to your professor or research supervisor for further clarification

2. Choose your research topic

Select a research topic that aligns with both your interests and available resources. Ideally, focus on a field where you possess significant experience and analytical skills. In crafting your research paper, it's crucial to go beyond summarizing existing data and contribute fresh insights to the chosen area.

Consider narrowing your focus to a specific aspect of the topic. For example, if exploring the link between technology and mental health, delve into how social media use during the pandemic impacts the well-being of college students. Conducting interviews and surveys with students could provide firsthand data and unique perspectives, adding substantial value to the existing knowledge.

When finalizing your topic, adhere to legal and ethical norms in the relevant area (this ensures the integrity of your research, protects participants' rights, upholds intellectual property standards, and ensures transparency and accountability). Following these principles not only maintains the credibility of your work but also builds trust within your academic or professional community.

For instance, in writing about medical research, consider legal and ethical norms , including patient confidentiality laws and informed consent requirements. Similarly, if analyzing user data on social media platforms, be mindful of data privacy regulations, ensuring compliance with laws governing personal information collection and use. Aligning with legal and ethical standards not only avoids potential issues but also underscores the responsible conduct of your research.

3. Gather preliminary research

Once you’ve landed on your topic, it’s time to explore it further. You’ll want to discover more about available resources and existing research relevant to your assignment at this stage. 

This exploratory phase is vital as you may discover issues with your original idea or realize you have insufficient resources to explore the topic effectively. This key bit of groundwork allows you to redirect your research topic in a different, more feasible, or more relevant direction if necessary. 

Spending ample time at this stage ensures you gather everything you need, learn as much as you can about the topic, and discover gaps where the topic has yet to be sufficiently covered, offering an opportunity to research it further. 

4. Define your research question

To produce a well-structured and focused paper, it is imperative to formulate a clear and precise research question that will guide your work. Your research question must be informed by the existing literature and tailored to the scope and objectives of your project. By refining your focus, you can produce a thoughtful and engaging paper that effectively communicates your ideas to your readers.

5. Write a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a one-to-two-sentence summary of your research paper's main argument or direction. It serves as an overall guide to summarize the overall intent of the research paper for you and anyone wanting to know more about the research.

A strong thesis statement is:

Concise and clear: Explain your case in simple sentences (avoid covering multiple ideas). It might help to think of this section as an elevator pitch.

Specific: Ensure that there is no ambiguity in your statement and that your summary covers the points argued in the paper.

Debatable: A thesis statement puts forward a specific argument––it is not merely a statement but a debatable point that can be analyzed and discussed.

Here are three thesis statement examples from different disciplines:

Psychology thesis example: "We're studying adults aged 25-40 to see if taking short breaks for mindfulness can help with stress. Our goal is to find practical ways to manage anxiety better."

Environmental science thesis example: "This research paper looks into how having more city parks might make the air cleaner and keep people healthier. I want to find out if more green spaces means breathing fewer carcinogens in big cities."

UX research thesis example: "This study focuses on improving mobile banking for older adults using ethnographic research, eye-tracking analysis, and interactive prototyping. We investigate the usefulness of eye-tracking analysis with older individuals, aiming to spark debate and offer fresh perspectives on UX design and digital inclusivity for the aging population."

6. Conduct in-depth research

A research paper doesn’t just include research that you’ve uncovered from other papers and studies but your fresh insights, too. You will seek to become an expert on your topic––understanding the nuances in the current leading theories. You will analyze existing research and add your thinking and discoveries.  It's crucial to conduct well-designed research that is rigorous, robust, and based on reliable sources. Suppose a research paper lacks evidence or is biased. In that case, it won't benefit the academic community or the general public. Therefore, examining the topic thoroughly and furthering its understanding through high-quality research is essential. That usually means conducting new research. Depending on the area under investigation, you may conduct surveys, interviews, diary studies , or observational research to uncover new insights or bolster current claims.

7. Determine supporting evidence

Not every piece of research you’ve discovered will be relevant to your research paper. It’s important to categorize the most meaningful evidence to include alongside your discoveries. It's important to include evidence that doesn't support your claims to avoid exclusion bias and ensure a fair research paper.

8. Write a research paper outline

Before diving in and writing the whole paper, start with an outline. It will help you to see if more research is needed, and it will provide a framework by which to write a more compelling paper. Your supervisor may even request an outline to approve before beginning to write the first draft of the full paper. An outline will include your topic, thesis statement, key headings, short summaries of the research, and your arguments.

9. Write your first draft

Once you feel confident about your outline and sources, it’s time to write your first draft. While penning a long piece of content can be intimidating, if you’ve laid the groundwork, you will have a structure to help you move steadily through each section. To keep up motivation and inspiration, it’s often best to keep the pace quick. Stopping for long periods can interrupt your flow and make jumping back in harder than writing when things are fresh in your mind.

10. Cite your sources correctly

It's always a good practice to give credit where it's due, and the same goes for citing any works that have influenced your paper. Building your arguments on credible references adds value and authenticity to your research. In the formatting guidelines section, you’ll find an overview of different citation styles (MLA, CMOS, or APA), which will help you meet any publishing or academic requirements and strengthen your paper's credibility. It is essential to follow the guidelines provided by your school or the publication you are submitting to ensure the accuracy and relevance of your citations.

11. Ensure your work is original

It is crucial to ensure the originality of your paper, as plagiarism can lead to serious consequences. To avoid plagiarism, you should use proper paraphrasing and quoting techniques. Paraphrasing is rewriting a text in your own words while maintaining the original meaning. Quoting involves directly citing the source. Giving credit to the original author or source is essential whenever you borrow their ideas or words. You can also use plagiarism detection tools such as Scribbr or Grammarly to check the originality of your paper. These tools compare your draft writing to a vast database of online sources. If you find any accidental plagiarism, you should correct it immediately by rephrasing or citing the source.

12. Revise, edit, and proofread

One of the essential qualities of excellent writers is their ability to understand the importance of editing and proofreading. Even though it's tempting to call it a day once you've finished your writing, editing your work can significantly improve its quality. It's natural to overlook the weaker areas when you've just finished writing a paper. Therefore, it's best to take a break of a day or two, or even up to a week, to refresh your mind. This way, you can return to your work with a new perspective. After some breathing room, you can spot any inconsistencies, spelling and grammar errors, typos, or missing citations and correct them. 

  • The best research paper format 

The format of your research paper should align with the requirements set forth by your college, school, or target publication. 

There is no one “best” format, per se. Depending on the stated requirements, you may need to include the following elements:

Title page: The title page of a research paper typically includes the title, author's name, and institutional affiliation and may include additional information such as a course name or instructor's name. 

Table of contents: Include a table of contents to make it easy for readers to find specific sections of your paper.

Abstract: The abstract is a summary of the purpose of the paper.

Methods : In this section, describe the research methods used. This may include collecting data , conducting interviews, or doing field research .

Results: Summarize the conclusions you drew from your research in this section.

Discussion: In this section, discuss the implications of your research . Be sure to mention any significant limitations to your approach and suggest areas for further research.

Tables, charts, and illustrations: Use tables, charts, and illustrations to help convey your research findings and make them easier to understand.

Works cited or reference page: Include a works cited or reference page to give credit to the sources that you used to conduct your research.

Bibliography: Provide a list of all the sources you consulted while conducting your research.

Dedication and acknowledgments : Optionally, you may include a dedication and acknowledgments section to thank individuals who helped you with your research.

  • General style and formatting guidelines

Formatting your research paper means you can submit it to your college, journal, or other publications in compliance with their criteria.

Research papers tend to follow the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) guidelines.

Here’s how each style guide is typically used:

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS):

CMOS is a versatile style guide used for various types of writing. It's known for its flexibility and use in the humanities. CMOS provides guidelines for citations, formatting, and overall writing style. It allows for both footnotes and in-text citations, giving writers options based on their preferences or publication requirements.

American Psychological Association (APA):

APA is common in the social sciences. It’s hailed for its clarity and emphasis on precision. It has specific rules for citing sources, creating references, and formatting papers. APA style uses in-text citations with an accompanying reference list. It's designed to convey information efficiently and is widely used in academic and scientific writing.

Modern Language Association (MLA):

MLA is widely used in the humanities, especially literature and language studies. It emphasizes the author-page format for in-text citations and provides guidelines for creating a "Works Cited" page. MLA is known for its focus on the author's name and the literary works cited. It’s frequently used in disciplines that prioritize literary analysis and critical thinking.

To confirm you're using the latest style guide, check the official website or publisher's site for updates, consult academic resources, and verify the guide's publication date. Online platforms and educational resources may also provide summaries and alerts about any revisions or additions to the style guide.

Citing sources

When working on your research paper, it's important to cite the sources you used properly. Your citation style will guide you through this process. Generally, there are three parts to citing sources in your research paper: 

First, provide a brief citation in the body of your essay. This is also known as a parenthetical or in-text citation. 

Second, include a full citation in the Reference list at the end of your paper. Different types of citations include in-text citations, footnotes, and reference lists. 

In-text citations include the author's surname and the date of the citation. 

Footnotes appear at the bottom of each page of your research paper. They may also be summarized within a reference list at the end of the paper. 

A reference list includes all of the research used within the paper at the end of the document. It should include the author, date, paper title, and publisher listed in the order that aligns with your citation style.

10 research paper writing tips:

Following some best practices is essential to writing a research paper that contributes to your field of study and creates a positive impact.

These tactics will help you structure your argument effectively and ensure your work benefits others:

Clear and precise language:  Ensure your language is unambiguous. Use academic language appropriately, but keep it simple. Also, provide clear takeaways for your audience.

Effective idea separation:  Organize the vast amount of information and sources in your paper with paragraphs and titles. Create easily digestible sections for your readers to navigate through.

Compelling intro:  Craft an engaging introduction that captures your reader's interest. Hook your audience and motivate them to continue reading.

Thorough revision and editing:  Take the time to review and edit your paper comprehensively. Use tools like Grammarly to detect and correct small, overlooked errors.

Thesis precision:  Develop a clear and concise thesis statement that guides your paper. Ensure that your thesis aligns with your research's overall purpose and contribution.

Logical flow of ideas:  Maintain a logical progression throughout the paper. Use transitions effectively to connect different sections and maintain coherence.

Critical evaluation of sources:  Evaluate and critically assess the relevance and reliability of your sources. Ensure that your research is based on credible and up-to-date information.

Thematic consistency:  Maintain a consistent theme throughout the paper. Ensure that all sections contribute cohesively to the overall argument.

Relevant supporting evidence:  Provide concise and relevant evidence to support your arguments. Avoid unnecessary details that may distract from the main points.

Embrace counterarguments:  Acknowledge and address opposing views to strengthen your position. Show that you have considered alternative arguments in your field.

7 research tips 

If you want your paper to not only be well-written but also contribute to the progress of human knowledge, consider these tips to take your paper to the next level:

Selecting the appropriate topic: The topic you select should align with your area of expertise, comply with the requirements of your project, and have sufficient resources for a comprehensive investigation.

Use academic databases: Academic databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and JSTOR offer a wealth of research papers that can help you discover everything you need to know about your chosen topic.

Critically evaluate sources: It is important not to accept research findings at face value. Instead, it is crucial to critically analyze the information to avoid jumping to conclusions or overlooking important details. A well-written research paper requires a critical analysis with thorough reasoning to support claims.

Diversify your sources: Expand your research horizons by exploring a variety of sources beyond the standard databases. Utilize books, conference proceedings, and interviews to gather diverse perspectives and enrich your understanding of the topic.

Take detailed notes: Detailed note-taking is crucial during research and can help you form the outline and body of your paper.

Stay up on trends: Keep abreast of the latest developments in your field by regularly checking for recent publications. Subscribe to newsletters, follow relevant journals, and attend conferences to stay informed about emerging trends and advancements. 

Engage in peer review: Seek feedback from peers or mentors to ensure the rigor and validity of your research . Peer review helps identify potential weaknesses in your methodology and strengthens the overall credibility of your findings.

  • The real-world impact of research papers

Writing a research paper is more than an academic or business exercise. The experience provides an opportunity to explore a subject in-depth, broaden one's understanding, and arrive at meaningful conclusions. With careful planning, dedication, and hard work, writing a research paper can be a fulfilling and enriching experience contributing to advancing knowledge.

How do I publish my research paper? 

Many academics wish to publish their research papers. While challenging, your paper might get traction if it covers new and well-written information. To publish your research paper, find a target publication, thoroughly read their guidelines, format your paper accordingly, and send it to them per their instructions. You may need to include a cover letter, too. After submission, your paper may be peer-reviewed by experts to assess its legitimacy, quality, originality, and methodology. Following review, you will be informed by the publication whether they have accepted or rejected your paper. 

What is a good opening sentence for a research paper? 

Beginning your research paper with a compelling introduction can ensure readers are interested in going further. A relevant quote, a compelling statistic, or a bold argument can start the paper and hook your reader. Remember, though, that the most important aspect of a research paper is the quality of the information––not necessarily your ability to storytell, so ensure anything you write aligns with your goals.

Research paper vs. a research proposal—what’s the difference?

While some may confuse research papers and proposals, they are different documents. 

A research proposal comes before a research paper. It is a detailed document that outlines an intended area of exploration. It includes the research topic, methodology, timeline, sources, and potential conclusions. Research proposals are often required when seeking approval to conduct research. 

A research paper is a summary of research findings. A research paper follows a structured format to present those findings and construct an argument or conclusion.

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How to Write a Research Paper Fast

Updated: December 8, 2023

Published: January 27, 2020


As a student, you knew it was inevitable. The day has come where you have to write a research paper, but you’ve put it off until the last minute. Now the pressure is sinking in to get it done quickly and you want to know how to write a research paper fast.

The good news is that it’s doable. The better news is that there are ways to avoid waiting until the last minute. We will tackle those after we give you everything you need to know to get it done.

Citing a book as a source for research

Photo by Russ Ward

The process.

A research paper is what it sounds like — a paper that requires a thesis (or argument) along with the research to back it up. Research papers involve citing a variety of sources, analyzing arguments, and pulling different academic pieces together to prove a point.

1. Understand the Assignment:

The first thing you have to make sure you do before you get to outlining and writing is to understand the assignment. You will need to organize different pieces of information, from books, essays, interviews, articles and more.

2. Choose a Topic:

Depending on the assignment provided, you will either have a topic in front of you or you will have to decide on one yourself. If your professor did not provide you with a topic, here are some helpful ways to choose one that will work for your needs:

  • Choose something you understand enough so that you will be able to interpret the research about it
  • Before you get started, check that there is a lot of content about that topic by performing a simple online search to see what turns up
  • Write out your topic as a research question that you plan to answer
  • Research more about your topic and find evidence to back up what you want to answer
  • Make a list of keywords that you continue to see pop up about the topic
  • Create your thesis

3. Perform Research:

While performing research is as easy as conducting an online search for sources, the more important element is evaluating the validity of a source. Don’t use Wikipedia as a source, because it is crowdsourced and can be edited by anyone. Instead, rely on digital encyclopedias, scholarly databases, trustworthy publications like TIME magazine and the New York Times, and the like. Since you’re writing this research paper at the last minute, the library may not be a possible option. However, for the next time you write a research paper and plan in advance, definitely utilize books from the library.

4. Write Your Thesis:

A thesis statement is the gist of your entire paper. It is what you will spend your writing proving; therefore, it has to be strong and to the point. A thesis statement appears in the introduction of your research paper, following the strong hook statement that draws your readers in. There is a formulaic way to write a strong thesis statement, and it looks something like this:

“By examining (argument 1), (argument 2), and (argument 3), it is clear that (statement you will prove).”

A thesis statement is typically one sentence and it is clearly written so that the reader knows exactly what they will read about in your paper.

To check that you’ve written a strong thesis statement, ask yourself if it achieves the following:

  • Is it in the introduction?
  • Does it answer the question from the prompt?
  • Can others argue against my thesis?
  • Is it going to prove a single claim?
  • Does it answer something meaningful?

5. Outline Your Paper:

Now that you have the main ingredients for your research paper, namely your thesis and supporting research, you can start outlining. Everyone has their own way they like to create an outline for papers. Here’s one good example of how it can be done — this is called a flat outline:

  • List the topics you will discuss
  • Under each topic, write your sources
  • If you are lacking sources, revisit and research more to give more meat to your paper
  • Move your topics and their information onto your paper in an organized flow
  • Write your thesis at the top so you can ensure that you are answering/proving your thesis throughout the paper’s argument

6. The Body/Intro and Conclusion:

So, do you start with your introduction and conclusion and then fill in the body? Or, do you do it the other way around? Really, there is no right or wrong way. It ultimately depends on your preference. Some people like to write their introduction and use it to serve as an outline of their paper and then flow from there. Others like to write their points in the body of their paper and then extrapolate the introduction and conclusion from what they wrote.

Regardless of how you perform your work, there is a structure that the paper must follow, which looks like this:

  • Introduction – includes a hook sentence (grabs the reader), your thesis and a menu sentence (a list of what you will discuss).
  • Body paragraphs – each body paragraph comes from what you mentioned in your introduction’s menu sentence. Each body paragraph has a topic sentence, or a first sentence that clearly states what it will be about. Each body paragraph includes support and sources that prove the topic sentence or argument.
  • Conclusion – here, you restate your introduction and thesis in different words. You want to end with a strong and memorable sentence. Just like your introduction began with a hook statement, your conclusion should end with something that will be remembered.

7. Cite Sources:

One of the major differences between a research paper and any other academic paper is that you must cite your sources. The end of your paper will have a list of sources, or a bibliography. Depending on your professor’s preferences, they will either be listed in APA format , MLA , Chicago , etc. This is an imperative step because your entire research paper’s evidence is based on and backed up by these sources, so you must give them credit where credit is due.

While this is not in the cards for all paper writing, it is very important for a last minute research paper. You’ve likely spent hours crunching the information and regurgitating it in your own words to fill up the once blank pages. As such, it’s a good idea to step away from your paper, get some sleep, and then revisit it with fresh eyes in the morning.

9. Proofread Revise and Editing:

As with any paper, you want to make sure you read it over to catch any mistakes. Not only should you use the Word processing tool that checks spelling and grammar for you, but you must also read it out loud to find any mistakes.

10. Find and Remove Plagiarism:

Once you are done with the entire proofreading and checking phase, the last thing that you have to do is find and remove plagiarism in your research paper. Plagiarism has a lot of consequences, and you have to make sure that your research paper is completely free of it. To do this, you first have to use a plagiarism checker to find all the plagiarized parts. Once found, you can either remove them or give the required accreditations.

If there is time to ask a friend or peer to read over your paper one time, that will be a good idea, too.

Notebook with notes and research

Photo by  Dan Dimmock  on  Unsplash

How to write a research paper in a day.

Granted, all the steps above can help you write a research paper fast. Here’s a brief look at how you can do this in a day:

1. Brainstorm Quickly

  • Use the prompt
  • Outline possible options
  • Perform a simple Google search and find what has the most information
  • Choose your topic
  • Create an outline

2. Research

  • Find research to support each point in your outline

3. Write Quickly

  • Put it all on paper as you think of it
  • Take time to edit, condense, and rewrite

Distraction-free writing environment

Photo by  Nick Morrison  on  Unsplash

Find a good writing environment.

Before sitting down to get started on your last-minute task, make sure you set up an environment that is conducive to getting your work done. Things you want to consider:

1. Distraction-free:

Choose somewhere quiet and distraction-free. You will have to stay focused for a few hours, so you’ll want to choose a comfortable setting.

2. Good lighting:

Along with comfort, make sure you have adequate lighting to read and write.

3. Go somewhere studious:

Perhaps, if time permits, you can choose to work in somewhere like a library or a study lounge.

4. Bring just your supplies needed:

Even if you work at home, make sure you set up a table with only the supplies you need, as to limit distractions. This could include: a computer, tablet, pen, paper, highlighter, books, and sticky notes. Plus, don’t forget water!

Tips to Avoid Procrastination

Writing a last-minute paper, especially that involves research, is stressful and less than optimal . Instead of finding yourself in this position, you can follow this advice to avoid such a situation.

1. Start early:

Once you’re given the prompt, start thinking about what you want to write about. You can write down ideas on paper and look into the research that supports each point.

2. Outline first and take breaks:

Begin outlining your paper so that when you sit to write, you already have the bulk of it prepared. If you start early, you will have the advantage and ability to take breaks. This helps to revisit your argument with a clear head and potentially see things that you may have otherwise missed.

3. Ask for help if you need it:

Starting early means that you are not crunched for time. So, you have the added benefit of asking for help. You can solicit advice from friends, peers, family, your professors, teacher assistants, the online community, and more. Plus, when you finish writing your paper, you have time to ask for help from someone other than you to read it over and edit it.

The Bottom Line

While knowing how to write a paper fast is useful and at times necessary, it is not the optimal way to approach assignments. However, sometimes being in a bind is out of your control. Therefore, the best way to write a research paper fast is to follow the aforementioned steps and remember to stay calm.

While a research paper involves a lot of work, from creating a strong thesis to finding supporting research, it can be made into an enjoyable activity when you choose to write about something you are interested in. It gives you a chance to digest other people’s findings and make your own inferences about what they mean.

By following the typical structure of a research paper, creating an outline and finding good sources, you can get your research paper done in a night. Good luck!

Related Articles

How to Write a Research Paper: Student’s Practical Guide


Table of contents

  • 1 What is a Research Paper?
  • 2.1 Understanding the Assignment
  • 2.2 Types of Research Papers
  • 2.3.1 Tips for Choosing the Right Topic
  • 2.4 Conducting Preliminary Research
  • 2.5 Formulate a Thesis Statement
  • 2.6 Create a Research Paper Outline
  • 2.7 Writing a First Draft
  • 2.8 Proofreading for Grammar, Syntax, and Structure Errors
  • 2.9 Citing Sources
  • 2.10 Creating a Bibliography or Works Cited Page
  • 3 Tips on How to Write a Research Paper Fast
  • 4 Final Thoughts on Your Journey to Research Paper Success
  • 5.1 How long should a research paper be?
  • 5.2 Why is it important to use citations within your research paper?
  • 5.3 How many sources should a research paper have?
  • 5.4 What steps can I take to make the process of writing a research paper less daunting?

Have you been wandering in the confusing maze of academic research, wondering where to turn for guidance on what should a research paper look like and how to set up a research paper? If so, you have landed in just the right spot. This article will discuss the intricate process of writing a top-notch academic research paper, providing step-by-step directions.

Our primary mission is to make the research paper writing journey accessible and stress-free for all the students. Here is a quick roadmap of what is ahead:

  • After reading the article, you will understand how to compose an outstanding research paper.
  • The article provides a step-by-step guide to structuring a research paper.
  • Clearly defining your research topic helps keep your paper focused.
  • When writing your first draft, don’t forget to think about your audience.
  • Citing sources as a crucial role in avoiding plagiarism.

Consider this article your trusted companion, offering practical research paper guidelines to make your research paper writing journey a breeze. Scroll down to learn everything you need to know about crafting a professional research paper without getting help from  quick essay writers !

What is a Research Paper?

Unfortunately, many students begin their research paper writing journey without clearly understanding what a research paper is. Are you wondering, too? Well, think of it as a document where you dive deep into a topic, like becoming a detective for a while. You spend much time gathering information, evidence, and facts from various sources to understand and explain something.

Now, one question might pop into your mind – How does a research paper stand apart from others? The big difference is how you use all the gathered sources and facts. In a research paper, you use all your research to support your ideas, arguments, or theories. You are not just giving your opinion but backing it up with solid evidence from other experts.

Other papers, like essays, might focus more on your thoughts or feelings. They are often based on something different than your perspective and might not require you to conduct research. Research papers are like information-packed investigations, while other papers are more about expressing your thoughts.

Research Paper Writing Steps

Research paper writing can be an exciting journey, much like any adventure. Just like any trip, it is essential to have a roadmap to guide you through the process. Without the roadmap, you will sail aimlessly in a vast sea of information without a caption. Here are the steps you must follow to write research papers that impress your readers!

Understanding the Assignment

Imagine you are planning a road trip. Before you hit the road, you will want to know where you are headed, right? Similarly, when you start the research paper writing process, it is crucial to understand the scope of your journey.

Most research papers without a well-defined scope face the risk of rejection by academic journals or publishers. Identifying the scope of your journey is just like setting your GPS destination. It will help you stay on track, avoid getting lost, and reach your destination efficiently and timely. Here is why it matters a lot:

  • Keeps you focused: Imagine you are writing about climate change. If your paper’s scope is broad, like “Climate Change and its effects,” you might end up all over the place, discussing everything from carbon emissions to melting ice caps. However, with a clearly defined scope like “Impact of Climate Change on Polar Bear Habitats,” you will be more likely to stay focused.
  • Saves Much Time: With a well-defined scope, you will know where to look for information. It will further prevent you from gathering unnecessary information and save you much time during the research process.
  • Clarifies Your Purpose: Understanding the scope will help you determine the purpose of your paper. You will know whether your paper aims to inform, persuade, analyze, or compare.

Types of Research Papers

Once you are clear about the scope of your research paper, you will know what type of paper you want to write. Here are the  most popular types of research papers :

  • Argumentative Research Paper: An argumentative research paper for college requires you to take a stance on an issue and support it with solid evidence. Think of this like a courtroom. You are presenting a case and arguing for a particular viewpoint. For example, if your topic is “Should Vaccinations be Mandatory for School Children?” your  thesis statement might be “Mandatory vaccinations are essential to prevent the spread of various diseases in school-going children.” Here, you are taking a stance and providing evidence to support your argument.
  • Analytical Research Paper: Analytical research papers are focused on breaking the topic into its critical components to understand a target audience better. In an analytical paper, you are not required to take sides. Instead, you just have to break down the topic and examine all its parts. Let us say your topic is “The Industrial Revolution’s Impact on Society.” Your paper can explore the causes, effects, and societal changes without taking a stance on a specific viewpoint. It is like dissecting a complex machine to understand the workings of each part.

So, by clearly defining your scope, you ensure a focused and purposeful paper and determine whether it will be an argumentative journey or an analytical exploration.

Importance of a Relevant Topic and Tips for Choosing it

Think of your research paper topic as the starting point of your paper, like the first and main ingredient in a recipe. Choosing the right one will be like finding the perfect puzzle piece – it must fit just right. A relevant topic will keep your research and writing focused. Without it, you will end up writing a paper that is all over the place. Also, when you are interested in the topic chosen, the research and writing process becomes more enjoyable. Otherwise, it will just feel like a significant burden on your shoulders.

Moreover, a well-chosen topic will help your readers know exactly what to expect from your paper. It is like putting the correct label on the jar to tell people what is stored inside.

Tips for Choosing the Right Topic

Are you uncertain about what to write a research paper on? Here is how you can pick a  good topic for a research paper:

  • Consider Your Interests : To write a good research paper, choosing a topic that genuinely interests you is important. If you are passionate about music, writing about “The Influence of Jazz on Modern Music” will be more engaging than a topic you have no interest in.
  • Start Broad, Narrow Down Later: Imagine you are writing about the “Impact of Technology on our Lives.” That is pretty broad, right? You could narrow it down to “Impact of Smartphones on Teenagers’ Social Lives’. By doing so, you are making your topic more specific and manageable.
  • Identify Research Potential: Before finalizing your topic, ensure enough information is available for research. If you cannot find any sources or data on the chosen topic, you must look for another.

Conducting Preliminary Research

Once you have your research topic in hand, it is time to gather the building blocks for your paper. The first rule of research is to find reliable sources. Think of it like baking a cake- you want the best ingredients. Credible sources are like high-quality ingredients that make your paper rich and flavorful.

Look for books, academic journals, articles from reputable websites, and research papers related to your topic. Libraries, online databases such as RefSeek, and university websites are great places to start your own research. However, avoid random websites, as most do not provide accurate or trustworthy information.

As you find valuable information, take notes of key facts, statistics, quotes, and source details. Also, take notes of where you found each piece of information. It will save you a lot of time and energy to cite sources later.

Once you have collected your information and notes, it is time to organize them. Think of this step as sorting your treasure into neat piles. Create categories or sections that match the structure of your paper.

Conducting preliminary research is like setting the stage for your research paper. Finding reliable sources ensures your paper is built on a strong foundation, taking notes helps you remember the valuable information you have discovered, and organizing your findings makes writing a research paper a breeze.

Formulate a Thesis Statement

Now that you have done your research and are starting to gather your thoughts, it is time to create the heart of your paper – the thesis statement. You might be wondering what exactly thesis statements are. They are like the main points or core ideas of your research papers. A sentence that tells your readers what your paper is about and your stance.

While formulating a thesis statement for your paper, keep it specific, arguable, concise, and connected to your research. Also, remembering that your thesis is not set in stone is worth remembering. As you continue to research and write, you can refine it to understand your topic better.

Create a Research Paper Outline

Imagine you are building a house. Before you start the construction work, it is important to have a blueprint, right? Well, think of creating a research paper outline as a blueprint for your paper. It will help you organize your thoughts and ensure your paper flows thoroughly. An outline will give your paper a better structure and provide clarity to readers.

Now, let us briefly discuss the parts of a research paper outline:

  • Title & Abstract: Start a research paper with the title page. It is the first page of the paper shows the  title of the research paper and the author’s name. It also shows affiliations, acknowledgments, and other specific information relevant to the paper. Next comes the abstract – a concise summary of the paper that includes the main problem, the  research paper question , the study’s goal, the methods implemented, the findings, and the study’s contributions.
  • Introduction: The introduction section is the first main section of your paper and sets the stage for what follows next. It offers readers the necessary background and context for your study. Also, the introductory paragraph provides an overview of the main points or technical arguments your paper will explore. The  best research paper introduction section offers a concise presentation of your central topic while summarizing the existing state of research within the current scientific literature and community.
  • Literature Review: In this part, we look at past research and previous studies to find gaps. We also discover new possibilities in the topic. A good literature review in a paper gives a wider view of the study and its language. It also helps the reader understand other related works better.
  • Methodology: The methods section explains how the study was done, including the plan, who was involved, what materials were used, the steps taken, and how the data was analyzed. In a research paper, this section should contain all the steps and specifics used to find the research results. It must have detailed information enough so other researchers can repeat the study if needed.
  • Results: The results section shares the study’s main findings through visuals like figures and tables. It should stick to facts and avoid interpretation or discussion.
  • Discussion: The discussion section interprets the study’s results, explains how they relate to the research question and prior studies, mentions study limitations, and suggests implications or recommendations for future research or practice.
  • Conclusion: The  effective research paper conclusion sums up the main points, restates the research questions, and highlights key contributions without introducing new information or unnecessary repetition.
  • References: The annotated bibliography summarizes all used materials, while the references section lists only cited sources in a specific citation style (like APA or MLA), excluding sources only read or consulted.
  • Appendices : Appendices should include supplementary materials such as charts, statistics, and efficient mathematical solutions and formulas that enhance understanding.

Remember, the outline will be your roadmap for the research paper. It does not need to be too detailed, just a skeleton of your paper’s structure. It will help you stay organized and ensure your paper is well-structured, making it easier for you to write and for your readers to navigate. So, before you start building the walls of your paper, focus on creating a solid outline.

Writing a First Draft

Once you have gathered your research and created an outline, it is time to dive into the exciting process of writing your first draft. It might not be perfect, but it is the starting point for something great. Now, one thing you must remember while writing your paper’s first draft is the target audience.

Take a little time to understand your paper’s target audience. Who are you writing for? Is it experts in your field, classmates, or a general audience? Knowing your target audience before writing your first draft will help you choose the right tone and language for your message. Just like you would not use complicated jargon when talking to the senior members of your family about technology, you will have to tailor your writing to your target audience’s level of understanding.

Also, when writing the first draft of your research paper, do not worry too much about perfection. It is more like building the framework of your paper. You can refine and polish it in later drafts. Just let your ideas flow and consider your target audience’s preferences!

Proofreading for Grammar, Syntax, and Structure Errors

Proofreading your research paper will help you catch spelling mistakes, fix awkward topic sentences, and tidy up your paper’s overall structure. While proofreading, take enough time and read aloud to help yourself spot errors that you might miss when reading silently.

Moreover, you can use spell-check and grammar-check tools to catch common mistakes. However, do not rely on them entirely, as they often miss context-specific errors. When proofreading your final draft, concentrate on one type of error at a time. For example, look for grammar errors first, then syntax and structure errors. It will make the proofreading process more manageable and efficient.

Remember, proofreading is like giving your paper the last layer of polish. Therefore, take your time, be patient, and give your paper the finishing touch it deserves. Your readers will be thankful for it!

Citing Sources

Using information or ideas from other sources is like borrowing pieces from someone else’s puzzle to complete yours. Citing sources is crucial as it shows you have done your homework and gives credit to the original creators of the ideas or information you are using. Also, it makes your paper look more authentic and credible.

Now, different citation styles are like different languages for your citations. Each style has its formatting style, but they all serve the same purpose – making your sources clear and accessible.

Here are a few citation styles for research papers:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) : is often used in social sciences and psychology. APA Style typically includes the author’s name and publication year in parentheses, like (Smith, 2023).
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) : is commonly used in the humanities. In a Modern language association, you usually include the author’s name and page number, (Smith 45).
  • Chicago Style: is used in history and other fields. It has two main styles: notes and bibliography (used for citations within the text) and author-date (used in the sciences).
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers): is often used in engineering and computer science. It uses numbers in square brackets, like [1].

Each style has its unique rules and formatting guidelines. Therefore, choose the style that fits your field and adheres to your professor’s or institute’s guidelines. However, if you still struggle to cite the sources, you can use  PapersOwl’s helping tools. These  free citation generators will help you generate a citation in any style you want.

Therefore, there is no need to spend your precious time memorizing all the rules and formatting guidelines for each style. Also, be sure not to overlook the inclusion of page numbers. Page numbers are essential for proper citation and referencing in research papers.

Creating a Bibliography or Works Cited Page

Creating a  bibliography or references list for your research paper is like giving credit where it is due. It is essential to list all the sources you have used, like books or websites, following a specific citation style (APA, MLA, etc.). Organize the research paper’s citations alphabetically by the author’s last name and use hanging indents. This clear and organized reference list adds credibility to your paper and helps readers explore your sources faster.


Tips on How to Write a Research Paper Fast

Do you wonder how to write a research paper fast without sacrificing quality? Here are a few tips on how to write a research paper fast:

  • Write in Sprints and Set Realistic Goals: Break your writing process into manageable chunks. Set aside specific blocks of time, like 30 minutes to an hour, and commit to focused writing during those periods. Also, you must set realistic goals for each sprint, like completing an outline or writing a specific section. By doing so, you will make steady progress without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Eliminate Distractions: For working on a research paper, you should find a quiet and comfortable space to work in. Turn off notifications on your phone or computer, and let your family or roommates know you need uninterrupted time. Distractions can interrupt your writing flow, so create a distraction-free zone.
  • Prioritize Sections of a Research Paper: When writing a research paper, start with the most interesting or comfortable sections. It will help build your momentum. Also, do not get bogged down if stuck on a particular part. Move to another section and come back to it later.
  • Revise and Edit Later: Do not obsess over perfection during your initial draft. Focus on getting your ideas down on paper. You can fine-tune and polish your writing while reviewing and  editing your paper . Trying to write perfectly from the start can slow you down.
  • Use Academic Writing Tools: Take advantage of writing tools and software to help you stay organized and improve your writing. Tools like grammar and spell checkers, citation generators, and writing apps can save you time and reduce the chances of errors.

Final Thoughts on Your Journey to Research Paper Success

This step-by-step research paper guide on the steps to write a research paper has shown you the way to create a successful paper that meets research paper requirements and makes a good research paper. We’ve covered understanding your scope, picking interesting topics, doing research, making strong thesis statements, and organizing your ideas according to the format for research paper. We’ve also talked about writing with your readers in mind, checking for mistakes, and giving credit to your sources. With these tips, you’re ready to start your research paper journey. Remember, it’s not just about finishing; it’s about what you learn and share as you go. Happy writing!

How long should a research paper be?

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How to start your research paper [step-by-step guide]

how to do a research paper fast

1. Choose your topic

2. find information on your topic, 3. create a thesis statement, 4. create a research paper outline, 5. organize your notes, 6. write your introduction, 7. write your first draft of the body, 9. write your conclusion, 10. revise again, edit, and proofread, frequently asked questions about starting your research paper, related articles.

Research papers can be short or in-depth, but no matter what type of research paper, they all follow pretty much the same pattern and have the same structure .

A research paper is a paper that makes an argument about a topic based on research and analysis.

There will be some basic differences, but if you can write one type of research paper, you can write another. Below is a step-by-step guide to starting and completing your research paper.

Choose a topic that interests you. Writing your research paper will be so much more pleasant with a topic that you actually want to know more about. Your interest will show in the way you write and effort you put into the paper. Consider these issues when coming up with a topic:

  • make sure your topic is not too broad
  • narrow it down if you're using terms that are too general

Academic search engines are a great source to find background information on your topic. Your institution's library will most likely provide access to plenty of online research databases. Take a look at our guide on how to efficiently search online databases for academic research to learn how to gather all the information needed on your topic.

Tip: If you’re struggling with finding research, consider meeting with an academic librarian to help you come up with more balanced keywords.

If you’re struggling to find a topic for your thesis, take a look at our guide on how to come up with a thesis topic .

The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any piece of academic writing. It can be defined as a very brief statement of what the main point or central message of your paper is. Our thesis statement guide will help you write an excellent thesis statement.

In the next step, you need to create your research paper outline . The outline is the skeleton of your research paper. Simply start by writing down your thesis and the main ideas you wish to present. This will likely change as your research progresses; therefore, do not worry about being too specific in the early stages of writing your outline.

Then, fill out your outline with the following components:

  • the main ideas that you want to cover in the paper
  • the types of evidence that you will use to support your argument
  • quotes from secondary sources that you may want to use

Organizing all the information you have gathered according to your outline will help you later on in the writing process. Analyze your notes, check for accuracy, verify the information, and make sure you understand all the information you have gathered in a way that you can communicate your findings effectively.

Start with the introduction. It will set the direction of your paper and help you a lot as you write. Waiting to write it at the end can leave you with a poorly written setup to an otherwise well-written paper.

The body of your paper argues, explains or describes your topic. Start with the first topic from your outline. Ideally, you have organized your notes in a way that you can work through your research paper outline and have all the notes ready.

After your first draft, take some time to check the paper for content errors. Rearrange ideas, make changes and check if the order of your paragraphs makes sense. At this point, it is helpful to re-read the research paper guidelines and make sure you have followed the format requirements. You can also use free grammar and proof reading checkers such as Grammarly .

Tip: Consider reading your paper from back to front when you undertake your initial revision. This will help you ensure that your argument and organization are sound.

Write your conclusion last and avoid including any new information that has not already been presented in the body of the paper. Your conclusion should wrap up your paper and show that your research question has been answered.

Allow a few days to pass after you finished writing the final draft of your research paper, and then start making your final corrections. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gives some great advice here on how to revise, edit, and proofread your paper.

Tip: Take a break from your paper before you start your final revisions. Then, you’ll be able to approach your paper with fresh eyes.

As part of your final revision, be sure to check that you’ve cited everything correctly and that you have a full bibliography. Use a reference manager like Paperpile to organize your research and to create accurate citations.

The first step to start writing a research paper is to choose a topic. Make sure your topic is not too broad; narrow it down if you're using terms that are too general.

The format of your research paper will vary depending on the journal you submit to. Make sure to check first which citation style does the journal follow, in order to format your paper accordingly. Check Getting started with your research paper outline to have an idea of what a research paper looks like.

The last step of your research paper should be proofreading. Allow a few days to pass after you finished writing the final draft of your research paper, and then start making your final corrections. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gives some great advice here on how to revise, edit and proofread your paper.

There are plenty of software you can use to write a research paper. We recommend our own citation software, Paperpile , as well as grammar and proof reading checkers such as Grammarly .

how to do a research paper fast

how to do a research paper fast

How to Write a Research Paper

Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:

Research Paper Fundamentals

How to choose a topic or question, how to create a working hypothesis or thesis, common research paper methodologies, how to gather and organize evidence , how to write an outline for your research paper, how to write a rough draft, how to revise your draft, how to produce a final draft, resources for teachers .

It is not fair to say that no one writes anymore. Just about everyone writes text messages, brief emails, or social media posts every single day. Yet, most people don't have a lot of practice with the formal, organized writing required for a good academic research paper. This guide contains links to a variety of resources that can help demystify the process. Some of these resources are intended for teachers; they contain exercises, activities, and teaching strategies. Other resources are intended for direct use by students who are struggling to write papers, or are looking for tips to make the process go more smoothly.

The resources in this section are designed to help students understand the different types of research papers, the general research process, and how to manage their time. Below, you'll find links from university writing centers, the trusted Purdue Online Writing Lab, and more.

What is an Academic Research Paper?

"Genre and the Research Paper" (Purdue OWL)

There are different types of research papers. Different types of scholarly questions will lend themselves to one format or another. This is a brief introduction to the two main genres of research paper: analytic and argumentative. 

"7 Most Popular Types of Research Papers" (

This resource discusses formats that high school students commonly encounter, such as the compare and contrast essay and the definitional essay. Please note that the inclusion of this link is not an endorsement of this company's paid service.

How to Prepare and Plan Out Writing a Research Paper

Teachers can give their students a step-by-step guide like these to help them understand the different steps of the research paper process. These guides can be combined with the time management tools in the next subsection to help students come up with customized calendars for completing their papers.

"Ten Steps for Writing Research Papers" (American University)  

This resource from American University is a comprehensive guide to the research paper writing process, and includes examples of proper research questions and thesis topics.

"Steps in Writing a Research Paper" (SUNY Empire State College)

This guide breaks the research paper process into 11 steps. Each "step" links to a separate page, which describes the work entailed in completing it.

How to Manage Time Effectively

The links below will help students determine how much time is necessary to complete a paper. If your sources are not available online or at your local library, you'll need to leave extra time for the Interlibrary Loan process. Remember that, even if you do not need to consult secondary sources, you'll still need to leave yourself ample time to organize your thoughts.

"Research Paper Planner: Timeline" (Baylor University)

This interactive resource from Baylor University creates a suggested writing schedule based on how much time a student has to work on the assignment.

"Research Paper Planner" (UCLA)

UCLA's library offers this step-by-step guide to the research paper writing process, which also includes a suggested planning calendar.

There's a reason teachers spend a long time talking about choosing a good topic. Without a good topic and a well-formulated research question, it is almost impossible to write a clear and organized paper. The resources below will help you generate ideas and formulate precise questions.

"How to Select a Research Topic" (Univ. of Michigan-Flint)

This resource is designed for college students who are struggling to come up with an appropriate topic. A student who uses this resource and still feels unsure about his or her topic should consult the course instructor for further personalized assistance.

"25 Interesting Research Paper Topics to Get You Started" (Kibin)

This resource, which is probably most appropriate for high school students, provides a list of specific topics to help get students started. It is broken into subsections, such as "paper topics on local issues."

"Writing a Good Research Question" (Grand Canyon University)

This introduction to research questions includes some embedded videos, as well as links to scholarly articles on research questions. This resource would be most appropriate for teachers who are planning lessons on research paper fundamentals.

"How to Write a Research Question the Right Way" (Kibin)

This student-focused resource provides more detail on writing research questions. The language is accessible, and there are embedded videos and examples of good and bad questions.

It is important to have a rough hypothesis or thesis in mind at the beginning of the research process. People who have a sense of what they want to say will have an easier time sorting through scholarly sources and other information. The key, of course, is not to become too wedded to the draft hypothesis or thesis. Just about every working thesis gets changed during the research process.

CrashCourse Video: "Sociology Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is tailored to sociology students, it is applicable to students in a variety of social science disciplines. This video does a good job demonstrating the connection between the brainstorming that goes into selecting a research question and the formulation of a working hypothesis.

"How to Write a Thesis Statement for an Analytical Essay" (YouTube)

Students writing analytical essays will not develop the same type of working hypothesis as students who are writing research papers in other disciplines. For these students, developing the working thesis may happen as a part of the rough draft (see the relevant section below). 

"Research Hypothesis" (Oakland Univ.)

This resource provides some examples of hypotheses in social science disciplines like Political Science and Criminal Justice. These sample hypotheses may also be useful for students in other soft social sciences and humanities disciplines like History.

When grading a research paper, instructors look for a consistent methodology. This section will help you understand different methodological approaches used in research papers. Students will get the most out of these resources if they use them to help prepare for conversations with teachers or discussions in class.

"Types of Research Designs" (USC)

A "research design," used for complex papers, is related to the paper's method. This resource contains introductions to a variety of popular research designs in the social sciences. Although it is not the most intuitive site to read, the information here is very valuable. 

"Major Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is a bit on the dry side, it provides a comprehensive overview of the major research methodologies in a format that might be more accessible to students who have struggled with textbooks or other written resources.

"Humanities Research Strategies" (USC)

This is a portal where students can learn about four methodological approaches for humanities papers: Historical Methodologies, Textual Criticism, Conceptual Analysis, and the Synoptic method.

"Selected Major Social Science Research Methods: Overview" (National Academies Press)

This appendix from the book  Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy , printed by National Academies Press, introduces some methods used in social science papers.

"Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: 6. The Methodology" (USC)

This resource from the University of Southern California's library contains tips for writing a methodology section in a research paper.

How to Determine the Best Methodology for You

Anyone who is new to writing research papers should be sure to select a method in consultation with their instructor. These resources can be used to help prepare for that discussion. They may also be used on their own by more advanced students.

"Choosing Appropriate Research Methodologies" (Palgrave Study Skills)

This friendly and approachable resource from Palgrave Macmillan can be used by students who are just starting to think about appropriate methodologies.

"How to Choose Your Research Methods" (NFER (UK))

This is another approachable resource students can use to help narrow down the most appropriate methods for their research projects.

The resources in this section introduce the process of gathering scholarly sources and collecting evidence. You'll find a range of material here, from introductory guides to advanced explications best suited to college students. Please consult the LitCharts  How to Do Academic Research guide for a more comprehensive list of resources devoted to finding scholarly literature.

Google Scholar

Students who have access to library websites with detailed research guides should start there, but people who do not have access to those resources can begin their search for secondary literature here.

"Gathering Appropriate Information" (Texas Gateway)

This resource from the Texas Gateway for online resources introduces students to the research process, and contains interactive exercises. The level of complexity is suitable for middle school, high school, and introductory college classrooms.

"An Overview of Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection Methods" (NSF)

This PDF from the National Science Foundation goes into detail about best practices and pitfalls in data collection across multiple types of methodologies.

"Social Science Methods for Data Collection and Analysis" (Swiss FIT)

This resource is appropriate for advanced undergraduates or teachers looking to create lessons on research design and data collection. It covers techniques for gathering data via interviews, observations, and other methods.

"Collecting Data by In-depth Interviewing" (Leeds Univ.)

This resource contains enough information about conducting interviews to make it useful for teachers who want to create a lesson plan, but is also accessible enough for college juniors or seniors to make use of it on their own.

There is no "one size fits all" outlining technique. Some students might devote all their energy and attention to the outline in order to avoid the paper. Other students may benefit from being made to sit down and organize their thoughts into a lengthy sentence outline. The resources in this section include strategies and templates for multiple types of outlines. 

"Topic vs. Sentence Outlines" (UC Berkeley)

This resource introduces two basic approaches to outlining: the shorter topic-based approach, and the longer, more detailed sentence-based approach. This resource also contains videos on how to develop paper paragraphs from the sentence-based outline.

"Types of Outlines and Samples" (Purdue OWL)

The Purdue Online Writing Lab's guide is a slightly less detailed discussion of different types of outlines. It contains several sample outlines.

"Writing An Outline" (Austin C.C.)

This resource from a community college contains sample outlines from an American history class that students can use as models.

"How to Structure an Outline for a College Paper" (YouTube)

This brief (sub-2 minute) video from the ExpertVillage YouTube channel provides a model of outline writing for students who are struggling with the idea.

"Outlining" (Harvard)

This is a good resource to consult after completing a draft outline. It offers suggestions for making sure your outline avoids things like unnecessary repetition.

As with outlines, rough drafts can take on many different forms. These resources introduce teachers and students to the various approaches to writing a rough draft. This section also includes resources that will help you cite your sources appropriately according to the MLA, Chicago, and APA style manuals.

"Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

This resource is useful for teachers in particular, as it provides some suggested exercises to help students with writing a basic rough draft. 

Rough Draft Assignment (Duke of Definition)

This sample assignment, with a brief list of tips, was developed by a high school teacher who runs a very successful and well-reviewed page of educational resources.

"Creating the First Draft of Your Research Paper" (Concordia Univ.)

This resource will be helpful for perfectionists or procrastinators, as it opens by discussing the problem of avoiding writing. It also provides a short list of suggestions meant to get students writing.

Using Proper Citations

There is no such thing as a rough draft of a scholarly citation. These links to the three major citation guides will ensure that your citations follow the correct format. Please consult the LitCharts How to Cite Your Sources guide for more resources.

Chicago Manual of Style Citation Guide

Some call  The Chicago Manual of Style , which was first published in 1906, "the editors' Bible." The manual is now in its 17th edition, and is popular in the social sciences, historical journals, and some other fields in the humanities.

APA Citation Guide

According to the American Psychological Association, this guide was developed to aid reading comprehension, clarity of communication, and to reduce bias in language in the social and behavioral sciences. Its first full edition was published in 1952, and it is now in its sixth edition.

MLA Citation Guide

The Modern Language Association style is used most commonly within the liberal arts and humanities. The  MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing  was first published in 1985 and (as of 2008) is in its third edition.

Any professional scholar will tell you that the best research papers are made in the revision stage. No matter how strong your research question or working thesis, it is not possible to write a truly outstanding paper without devoting energy to revision. These resources provide examples of revision exercises for the classroom, as well as tips for students working independently.

"The Art of Revision" (Univ. of Arizona)

This resource provides a wealth of information and suggestions for both students and teachers. There is a list of suggested exercises that teachers might use in class, along with a revision checklist that is useful for teachers and students alike.

"Script for Workshop on Revision" (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt's guide for leading a 50-minute revision workshop can serve as a model for teachers who wish to guide students through the revision process during classtime. 

"Revising Your Paper" (Univ. of Washington)

This detailed handout was designed for students who are beginning the revision process. It discusses different approaches and methods for revision, and also includes a detailed list of things students should look for while they revise.

"Revising Drafts" (UNC Writing Center)

This resource is designed for students and suggests things to look for during the revision process. It provides steps for the process and has a FAQ for students who have questions about why it is important to revise.

Conferencing with Writing Tutors and Instructors

No writer is so good that he or she can't benefit from meeting with instructors or peer tutors. These resources from university writing, learning, and communication centers provide suggestions for how to get the most out of these one-on-one meetings.

"Getting Feedback" (UNC Writing Center)

This very helpful resource talks about how to ask for feedback during the entire writing process. It contains possible questions that students might ask when developing an outline, during the revision process, and after the final draft has been graded.

"Prepare for Your Tutoring Session" (Otis College of Art and Design)

This guide from a university's student learning center contains a lot of helpful tips for getting the most out of working with a writing tutor.

"The Importance of Asking Your Professor" (Univ. of Waterloo)

This article from the university's Writing and Communication Centre's blog contains some suggestions for how and when to get help from professors and Teaching Assistants.

Once you've revised your first draft, you're well on your way to handing in a polished paper. These resources—each of them produced by writing professionals at colleges and universities—outline the steps required in order to produce a final draft. You'll find proofreading tips and checklists in text and video form.

"Developing a Final Draft of a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

While this resource contains suggestions for revision, it also features a couple of helpful checklists for the last stages of completing a final draft.

Basic Final Draft Tips and Checklist (Univ. of Maryland-University College)

This short and accessible resource, part of UMUC's very thorough online guide to writing and research, contains a very basic checklist for students who are getting ready to turn in their final drafts.

Final Draft Checklist (Everett C.C.)

This is another accessible final draft checklist, appropriate for both high school and college students. It suggests reading your essay aloud at least once.

"How to Proofread Your Final Draft" (YouTube)

This video (approximately 5 minutes), produced by Eastern Washington University, gives students tips on proofreading final drafts.

"Proofreading Tips" (Georgia Southern-Armstrong)

This guide will help students learn how to spot common errors in their papers. It suggests focusing on content and editing for grammar and mechanics.

This final set of resources is intended specifically for high school and college instructors. It provides links to unit plans and classroom exercises that can help improve students' research and writing skills. You'll find resources that give an overview of the process, along with activities that focus on how to begin and how to carry out research. 

"Research Paper Complete Resources Pack" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, rubrics, and other resources is designed for high school students. The resources in this packet are aligned to Common Core standards.

"Research Paper—Complete Unit" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, notes, PowerPoints, and other resources has a 4/4 rating with over 700 ratings. It is designed for high school teachers, but might also be useful to college instructors who work with freshmen.

"Teaching Students to Write Good Papers" (Yale)

This resource from Yale's Center for Teaching and Learning is designed for college instructors, and it includes links to appropriate activities and exercises.

"Research Paper Writing: An Overview" (CUNY Brooklyn)

CUNY Brooklyn offers this complete lesson plan for introducing students to research papers. It includes an accompanying set of PowerPoint slides.

"Lesson Plan: How to Begin Writing a Research Paper" (San Jose State Univ.)

This lesson plan is designed for students in the health sciences, so teachers will have to modify it for their own needs. It includes a breakdown of the brainstorming, topic selection, and research question process. 

"Quantitative Techniques for Social Science Research" (Univ. of Pittsburgh)

This is a set of PowerPoint slides that can be used to introduce students to a variety of quantitative methods used in the social sciences.

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How To Skim Read Journal Articles

Fast-Track Your Literature Review By Focusing On Three Sections

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | May 2020

How to read scientific journal articles quickly and efficiently.

If you’ve just started your literature review process, you’re probably sitting on a pile of scientific journal articles and research papers that are (1) lengthy and (2) written in very dense , academic language that is difficult to digest (at the best of times). It’s intimidating, for sure – and you’re probably wondering how on earth you’re going to get through it all.

You might be asking yourself some of these questions:

  • Do I need to read every journal article to make sure I cover everything?
  • Do I need to read every section of each article to understand it?
  • If not, which sections should I focus on?

First things first, relax (I can feel your tension!). In this post, I’m going answer these questions and explain how to approach your review of the literature the smart way , so that you focus only on the most relevant literature and don’t waste time on low-value activities.

So, grab a nice hot cup of coffee (or tea, or whatever – just no beers) and let’s take a look at those questions, one at a time.

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

Question 1:

Do i need to read every journal article on my topic when doing my literature review.

The good news is that you don’t need to read every single journal article on your topic. Doing so would just be a waste of your time, as you’re generally looking to understand the current state of the literature – not the full history of it.

But… and this is an important but. You do need to read quite a bit to make sure that you have a comprehensive view of the current state of the literature (and of knowledge) in your area of research.

Quality trumps quantity when it comes to reviewing the literature. In other words, you need to focus on reading the journal articles that are most cited (i.e. that other academics have referenced) in relation to your topic keyword(s). You should focus on articles that are recent, relevant and well cited .

But how do I know if an article is well cited?

Thankfully, you can check the number of citations for any article really easily using Google Scholar . Just enter the article title in Google Scholar and it will show you how many citations it has – here’s an example:

How to read journal articles quickly and efficiently

In fact, Google Scholar is a great way to find the key journal articles for any keyword (topic) in general, so chances are you’ll be using this to find your journal articles in the first place. Therefore, be sure to keep an eye on citation count while you’re sourcing articles. It would also be smart to dedicate a column to it in your literature review catalogue (you can download one for free here ) so that you can quickly filter and sort by citation count.

A quick caveat – citation count is not a perfect metric for the quality of a journal article (unfortunately there is no unicorn metric that indicates quality). While its usually a good indicator of how popular an article is, it doesn’t mean the findings of the article are perfect (remember, the Kardashians are popular too – enough said). To the contrary, it could indicate that there’s a lot of controversy regarding the findings (sounds like the Kardashians again).

So, long story short – don’t be conned by citation count alone. Be sure to also pay attention the to quality of the journal each article is published in (you can check journal rank here ), and pay attention to what other articles say about any given popular article.

Need a helping hand?

how to do a research paper fast

Question 2:

Do i need to read the full journal journal article when doing my literature review.

Some more good news – no, you don’t need to read every single word in each journal article you review as part of your literature review. When you’re just starting your literature review, you need to get a big picture view of what each journal article is saying (in other words, the key questions and findings). Generally you can get a good feel for this by reading a few key sections in each article (we’ll get to these next).

That said (ah, there had to be a catch, right?), as you refine your literature review and establish more of a focus, you’ll need to dive deeper into the most important articles. Some articles will be central to your research – but you probably still don’t need to read them from first page to the last.

Question 3:

Which sections of each journal article should i read.

To get a big-picture view of what any article is all about, there are three sections that are very useful. These three sections generally explain both what the article is about (i.e. what questions they were trying to answer) and what the findings were (i.e. what their answers were). This is exactly what you’re looking for, so these three sections provide a great way for you to save time during your literature review.

So, let’s take a look at the three sections:

1 – The abstract (or executive summary)

The abstract (which is located right up front) provides a high-level overview of what the article is about. This is giving you the first little taste of the soup , so to speak. Generally, it will discuss what the research objectives were was and why they were important. This will give you a clear indication of how relevant the article is to your specific research, so pay close attention.

Sometimes the abstract will also discuss the findings of the article (much like a thesis abstract ), but this is not always the case (yeah, the abstract can be such a tease sometimes). If it does, it’s a bonus. But even so, you should still read the other sections, as the abstract only provides a very high-level view, and can miss out on specific nuances of the research.

2 – The introduction section

The introduction section will go into more detail about the topic being investigated and why this is important for the field of research. This will help you understand a bit more detail about what exactly they were investigating and in what context . Context is really important, so pay close attention to that.

For example, they might be investigating your exact topic, but in a country other than your own, or a different industry. In that case, you’d know that you need to pay very close attention to exactly how they undertook their research.

So, make sure you pay close attention to the introduction chapter to fully understand the focus of the research and the context in which it took place . Both will be important when it comes to writing your literature review, as you’ll need to use this information to build your arguments.

3 – The conclusion

While the introduction section tells you what the high-level questions the researchers asked, the conclusion section tells you what answers they found . This provides you with something of a shortcut to grasping the gist of the article, without reading all the dull and dry detail – yeah, it’s a little cheeky, I know. Of course, the conclusion is not going to highlight every nuance of the analysis findings, so if the article is highly relevant to your research, you should make sure to also pay close attention to the analysis findings section.

In addition to the findings of the research, the conclusion section will generally also highlight areas that require further research . In other words, they’ll outline areas that genuinely require further academic investigation (aka research gaps ). This is a gold mine for refining your topic into something highly original and well-rooted in the existing literature – just make sure that the article is recent, or someone else may have already exploited the research gap. If you’re still looking to identify a research topic, be sure to check out our video covering that here .

By reviewing these three sections of each article, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, while still getting a good understanding of what each article is saying. Keep in mind that as your literature review progresses, you focus will narrow and you’ll develop a set of core highly relevant articles, which you should sink your teeth into more deeply.

To fast-track your reading, always start by working through the abstract, the introduction section and the conclusion section.

Let’s Recap

In this post, we looked at how to read academic journal articles quickly and efficiently, to save you many hours of pain while undertaking your literature review.

The key takeaways to remember are:

  • You don’t need to read every single journal article covering your topic – focus on the most popular, authoritative and recent ones
  • You don’t need to read every word of every article. To start, you just need to get a high-level understanding of the literature, which you can get by focusing on three key areas in each journal article.
  • The three sections of each journal article to review are the abstract , the introduction and the conclusion .
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your focus and have a core set of highly relevant, highly authoritative articles, you can dive deeper into them, paying closer attention to the methodology and analysis findings.

And there you have it – now go on and hammer through that pile of articles at warp speed. While you’re at it, why not also check out our other posts and videos covering research topic ideation , dissertation and thesis proposal , literature review , methodology , analysis and more.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Literature review 101 - how to find articles


Aletta Malatji

Thanks Derek for the tips

Reviewing the Literature can be overwhelming if you do not have the plan or the right structure to navigate the pool of information

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome, Aletta. All the best with your literature review.

Dennyson Mulenga

I personally have found these tips as a key to my long standing problem of reading articles. Thanks a million times

Rishen Moodley

Simple and easy to read guidance… funny too

Great to hear that, Rishen 🙂

Mazwakhe Mkhulisi

Much appreciated Derek. I already realized I could not read everything, but you confirming that has brought a lot of relief.

Great to hear that, Mazwakhe 🙂

Sangappa Vaggar

Derek sir, I’m really happy for you.You made me to think very smart and effective way to do the review of literature.

Thank you so much.


Dear Derek, thank you for your easy and straight forward guidance,

Sanoon Fasana

Thanks for the interesting and informative article

You’re most welcome, Sanoon. Glad it was useful.


Thanks for the insights, I am about to start my literature review and this article as well as the other material from GradCoach will help me on the jorney.

You’re most welcome! Good luck writing your literature review

Aimal Waziri Waziri

It was a great and effective information.


Thank you that was very helpful. I am taking a directed studies summer course, and I have to submit a literature review by end of August. That article was short, straight to the point and interesting 🙂 thank you Derek

You’re welcome, Emy 🙂 Good luck with your studies!


Thanks Derek. Reading this article has given me a boost because I have been so stock on how to go about my literature review.Though I know I am not meant to read the whole article.But your explanation has given me a greater insight.


Thank you very much sir for your great explanation 😄 Hopefully I’ve enough diligence and courage to start

You’re most welcome, Felicia. Good luck with your research.

Tamim Adnan

thanks, it was helpful.


Thanks Derek for doing such a wonderful job of helping. Blessings Bro!


Concise and applicable, nice! what a great help. I am now doing a literature review section on my thesis, I used to waste so much time on reading articles that is not relevant back and forth.

M.Tameem Mubarak

Thank for your great help!


Hi Derek, i am busy with my research literature. I submited my 1st draft but it was way irrelevant as per comments made by my supervisor… i gave myself time to find out where i diverted until i lesson to some of your videos. As we speak now, i am starting following the guidelines and i feel confident that i am on the right track now. Thanks a lot my brother

You’re most welcome 🙂


I can’t explain my mood when I realised I had to study more than 40 articles about my study field. It was indeed a game-changer. Thank you very much, Derek. Also, Kardashian was the best example that can be used for this situation :)))


Thank you for posting this. It truly takes a load off! I’m new to Doctoral research and peer review study and “Overwhelmed” doesn’t quite sum up how I felt. This is a tremendous help!


Thank you for the advice. Question, how do one keep count of all the articles considered from starting point to narrowed down. Manually, or is there another way?


  • What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis) - Grad Coach - […] first step of any literature review is to hunt down and read through the existing research that’s relevant to your research…

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How to write a whole research paper in a week

how to do a research paper fast

Writing up a full research article in a single week? Maybe you think that’s impossible. Yet I have done it repeatedly, and so have students in my courses. This is an exceptionally joyful (even if demanding) experience: being so productive just feels great! You are not wasting any time, and a paper produced in one go is typically coherent and nice to read. Even if you are a slow writer, you can write a whole paper in a single week — if you follow my strategy. Read below about what you need to prepare and how to approach this project.

I wrote my first scientific research article in 7 days. It started as a desperate effort to stop my procrastination and “just do it”. But I was surprised what a positive experience it was: focused and efficient, I was making daily progress, feeling motivated and content. Finally, the fruits of my hard work were gaining shape — and they did it so quickly!

I realized it was highly effective to write up a paper like this: writing for the whole day, every day until the first draft was finished. My writing project was firmly present in my mind — I didn’t lose time catching up with what I have written in the last session. Since I was not doing anything else, my wandering mind settled in very fast, and I was getting into a routine. The daily progress was clearly visible and motivated me to continue. And the result was a coherent paper that was easy to revise.

Meanwhile, this paper-a-week approach is my favorite. That’s how I write my papers, and that’s what I teach to students. In on-site courses young scientists draft a whole paper in 5 days, writing one major section per day. At the beginning of the week, many participants have doubts. But at the end of the week, they are all excited to see how much they managed to write in just a single week.

If you would also like to try out this approach, then read on about the necessary preparations, the optimal setting, and a productive writing strategy.

If you would like to get support during the preparation, drafting and revising of your research article, check out my online course Write Up Your Paper .

Prepare well

how to do a research paper fast

  • First, think about your audience and pick a suitable journal . This is an important step because the audience and journal determine the content & style of your paper. As a reference, pick two recent papers on a similar topic published in your target journal.
  • Create a storyline for your paper. What is the main message you want to convey, and how are you going to present your results?
  • Put together all the results that you need to present your story convincingly: collect the necessary data, finish analyses, and create figures and tables.
  • Select and read the relevant background literature as well as studies you want to compare your work with. As you read, note down any point that comes to your mind as something to be mentioned in the Introduction or Discussion section.
  • Draft a preliminary Abstract : it will help you keep the direction and not get distracted by secondary ideas as you write the individual sections.

Depending on how complete your results already are, you might need 2-4 weeks to finish all these preparations. To help you keep an overview, I created a checklist with detailed steps that you need to take before you attempt to write up your paper in a week. Subscribe to our Newsletter and get your copy of the checklist.

Reserve a whole week for writing

Now, writing a paper in a single week is a serious business. You can’t do it if you don’t focus solely on the writing and create good writing conditions. Therefore, I recommend the following settings:

  • Find a place where you can write without distractions. I have written my first paper over the Easter holidays when there was nobody in the office. You might choose to write at home or in a library. Though if possible, the best is to go for a retreat: removing yourself from your everyday settings immensely helps focus on the writing.
  • Cancel (all) social obligations for the week. While it’s crucial to relax in the evening, you want to avoid disturbances associated with social events. Anything that makes your thoughts drift away from your work because it requires planning, exchanging of messages with others, or simply because it’s too exciting is better left for some other week. On the other hand, a quiet meeting with a good friend over a glass of wine or beer might be just the perfect way to unwind and rest after a productive, yet exhausting day of writing.
  • Get support from the partner, family or friends — if possible. It’s best when you don’t need to run errands, cook and clean during this week. If you live alone, you can probably easily arrange yourself for undisturbed work. If you live with other people, ask them for consideration and support.

What I described above are the *ideal* conditions for undisturbed writing. But don’t give up if you can’t create such conditions for yourself. Work with what is possible — maybe it will take you 7-8 instead of 5-6 days but that’s still a great result, right?

Do you need to revise & polish your manuscript or thesis but don’t know where to begin?

Get your Revision Checklist

Click here for an efficient step-by-step revision of your scientific texts.

Maybe you think that you can never ever draft a research article in a single week. Because you write so slowly, producing only few paragraphs per day. Well — I agree that if you don’t optimize your writing strategy, it would be hard to impossible to write up a whole paper in a week.

how to do a research paper fast

  • Separate the processes of writing and revising. That’s the most important principle. Resist the urge to revise as you write the first draft. Moreover, don’t interrupt your writing to look up missing information. Work with placeholders instead. This allows you to get into the state of flow and proceed much faster than you can imagine.
  • Start your writing day with 10 minutes of freewriting . Write without stopping about anything that comes to your mind. This helps you to warm up for writing, clear your head of any unrelated thoughts, and get into the mood of writing without editing.
  • Take regular power breaks. I recommend to follow the Pomodoro technique : write for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. After 3-4 such sessions take a longer break of 0.5-1 hour. During the breaks get up, walk a bit, stretch, look around, and breathe deeply. These breaks help you sustain high focus and productivity throughout the whole day.
  • Eat and sleep well. What you are doing is similar to a professional athlete. So take care of your brain and body, and they will serve you well.
  • Reward yourself. Every day celebrate the progress you have made. You have full right to be proud of you!

Write the individual sections in a reasonable order

If you have written a research paper before, you have probably realized that starting with the Introduction and finishing with the Discussion is not the ideal order in which to tackle the individual sections. Instead, I recommend the following procedure:

how to do a research paper fast

  • Start with the Methods section. This is the easiest section to write, so it’s great as a warm-up, to get into writing without the need to think (and procrastinate ;)) too much. Look at your figures and tables: what methods did you use to create them? Then describe your methods, one after another.
  • Results section: Writing the Methods section refreshes your memory about the research you have done. So writing the Results section next should not be too hard: Take one display object (figure or table) after another, and describe the results they contain. While you do so, you will come across points that need to be discussed in the Discussion section. Note them down so you don’t forget them.
  • Introduction : When your results are fresh in your mind, you are in a great position to write the Introduction — because the Introduction should contain selected information that gives the reader context for your research project and allows them to understand your results and their implications.
  • Discussion : When you have taken notes while writing the Results section, the Discussion section should be quite easy to draft. Don’t worry too early about the order in which you want to discuss the individual points. Write one paragraph for each point , and then see how you can logically arrange them.
  • Abstract and title : On the last day, revise the preliminary Abstract or write a new one. You could also take a break of a few days before tackling the Abstract, to gain clarity and distance. Generate multiple titles (I recommend 6-10), so that you and your co-authors can choose the most appropriate one.

Just do it!

how to do a research paper fast

Once you have written the whole draft, let it sit for a week or two, and then revise it. Follow my tips for efficient revising and get your revision checklist that will guide you step-by-step through the whole process.

Now I am curious about your experience: Have you ever written up an academic article quickly? How did you do it? Please, share with us your tips & strategies!

Do you need to revise & polish your manuscript or thesis but don’t know where to begin? Is your text a mess and you don't know how to improve it?

Click here for an efficient step-by-step revision of your scientific texts. You will be guided through each step with concrete tips for execution.

7 thoughts on “ How to write a whole research paper in a week ”

Thank for your guide and suggestion. It gives to me very precious ways how to write a article. Now I am writing a article related to Buddhist studies. Thank you so much.

You are welcome!

excellent! it helped me a lot! wish you all best

Hi Parham, I’m happy to hear that!

I have never written any paper before. As I am from very old school.

But my writing skill is actually very good. Your help is definitely going to help me as this has inspired me alot. Will let you know, once done. I really like the outline that you have given. Basically you have made it so easy for me .

Hope fully will be in touch with you soon.

Thanks and ki d Regards, Shehla

Dear Shehla, that sounds great! I’m looking forward to hearing about your paper!

Comments are closed.

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how to do a research paper fast

Start Early

If you want to deliver an excellent paper, you should start your work as soon as possible. Do not let procrastination influence your results.

Edit Carefully

Even if you're an experienced writer, we recommend to proofread everything you write before submitting. You just can't be too careful.

How to Research Paper Fast – 10 Easy Tricks!

It’s easy to procrastinate on a research paper, especially if you don’t enjoy the topic. Other times, you might be too busy to get a head start. Regardless, when you are racing to get your writing assignment done, check out these guidelines on how to write a research paper fast and easy. By following this advice, you can learn a skill that will benefit you the rest of your school career!

Tips for Writing a Research Paper Fast

  • Have a direction. You cannot write an organized paper unless you know where you want to go. As with planning any paper, start with a thesis.
  • Choose a topic that interests you. The research and writing go faster when you are interested in what you are writing.
  • Pick something you are knowledgeable of. This will make it easier to write. Since you will need to do less research, you will also finish the paper faster.
  • Plan the topic well. If you have a topic that is too narrow or too broad for the assignment, it is going to be difficult to get the word count right.
  • Get organized. Planning your thoughts is key as you consider how to write a good research paper fast. Writing an outline also makes the drafting stage go significantly quicker.
  • Practice. The more that you write, the less time it will take you to research and express your ideas. You will also find that you can organize easier and make less mistakes while writing.
  • Outsource part of the process. Many writing services will do the research, help with drafting or outlining, or even just proofread your work. This is a good option if you fall behind before the deadline or when you need a little extra help.
  • Use the computer-but print to proofread. If you type the first draft on a computer, you can easily submit it after making corrections. However, you should still print it out to proofread. This is easier and more effective than staring at it on a computer screen.
  • Keep sources together. You do not want to lose your source notes in the confusion and end up having to do extra work at the end. Making your reference page as you go can also help.
  • Always proofread. Even when you are rushed, it is important to look over your work. You may even find more than your usual number of mistakes because you hurried.

Why Do I Need to Write Quickly?

Writing quickly has many benefits. It gives you the opportunity to jot down your ideas without being restricted. It is also useful when you are pinched for time. Students do not always have the time they need to get everything done. By knowing how to write a research paper fast, you ensure you can get good grades even when you are in a hurry.

Can I Get a Good a Good Grade and Write Fast?

When you take the time to do your assignments, you get better grades. However, this isn’t always practical with the number of assignments most students work. As you consider the best way to write a research paper fast, remember that you’ll get better with practice. As you follow these guidelines, you’ll become a writing expert.

It might be best to start your papers early, but that does not always happen. When life gets in the way, it is good to know you can still produce a quality assignment quickly. Hopefully, this article has given you more tips on how to write a research paper really fast.

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how to do a research paper fast

I’m not gonna lie: writing papers can suck. Even as someone who basically writes papers for a living these days (like this article), I still viewed every college paper with a tinge of dread.

After all, writing a paper isn’t like working math problems or reading a chapter of a book. As frustrating as those activities can be, they always seemed more finite than the monumental task of “writing a paper.” You can’t just open the book and start working : you have to brainstorm, research, outline, draft, edit, and add those pesky citations.

As I moved through college, however, I developed a system for cranking out papers in record time. This let me spend more time on things that I enjoyed, such as writing for this blog and taking long walks through the woods. Today, I’m going to share this process so that you too can write papers more quickly (without a decrease in the quality of your writing).

Sound impossible? Read on to see how it works.

1. Understand the Assignment

The ultimate waste of time when writing a paper is to write something that doesn’t even answer the question the professor is asking. Don’t be afraid to ask the professor to explain any part of the assignment that’s unclear.

If the assignment seems vague, it’s not because the professor is trying to trip you up. Often, it’s that they know their field so well that it’s easy for them to think some things are “obvious”…even when they aren’t to us non-experts.

Remember: asking for clarification because you don’t understand the assignment doesn’t make you stupid; what’s stupid is to complete the assignment without understanding it.

Yet, when I was an English TA in college, I saw this problem all the time. Students would spend hours researching and writing a paper on a completely different topic than what the professor assigned. It doesn’t matter how good a paper is–if it doesn’t answer the question, it’s going to receive a bad grade.

Best case scenario, the professor is nice and lets you rewrite it, but why do all that extra work? Furthermore, asking the professor for clarification shows initiative –that you care about the assignment. Demonstrating this level of engagement with your assignments can only boost your grade.

2. Research with Ruthless Efficiency

Once you understand the assignment, you need to start researching. But beware! If you’re not careful, research can be one of the best ways to procrastinate. “One more source” can easily turn into hours that you could have been writing.

To overcome the temptation to procrastinate on research, I employ my favorite approach for beating all forms of procrastination: setting a time limit. As I explained in my guide to research , you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes per page of the final paper researching. That is, if the paper is supposed to be 5 pages, don’t spend more than 2.5 hours on research (maximum).

Spending any more time than this puts you at a point of diminishing returns. Don’t worry about not having enough information. If you find that you need more info after you start writing, you can always do more research . The goal of your initial research session is to give you just enough material to start writing. Get into the library or database, find your sources, take your notes , and then get to writing.

3. Create a Flat Outline

“It’s impossible to figure out every detail of your argument before you sit down, look at your sources, and actually try to write. Most students abandon their hierarchical outline soon after their fingers hit the keyboard.” – Cal Newport, “How to Use a Flat Outline to Write Outstanding Papers, Fast”

Ever since I learned the traditional method of outlining papers in 8th grade, I felt the system was broken. I never created an outline with bullets and numbers and letters before writing the paper. I always just made one up afterwards because I was required  to turn one in with the final paper.

Starting in college, I developed my own outlining technique that was much more effective. As it turns out, my technique wasn’t so original after all. As Cal Newport explains, it’s called a flat outline . In Cal’s words, the flat outline works as follows:

Don’t build a hierarchical outline. Instead, list the topics you want to tackle in the order you want to tackle. Revisit the library to find sources for the topics that still need support. Dump all relevant quotes from your sources under the topics. Transform your topic-level outline into your paper. Don’t start from a blank screen.

Isn’t this so much better? The flat outline works because it mirrors the writing process . No one sits down to write with a perfect idea of what they’re going to say. You discover what you’re going to say through the process of writing . The flat outline gives you just enough structure to overcome the dreaded “blank canvas” while still leaving room for discovery.

Struggling to write your draft? Here’s how to overcome writer’s block .

4. Create the Perfect Writing Environment

Okay, so you have a rock solid understanding of the topic, you’ve done your research, and your flat outline is ready. Now, you need to sit down and write the sucker. But not so fast: where you write makes a difference.

Because after procrastination, the greatest obstacle to writing a paper quickly is distraction. If you don’t have an environment where you can focus, you’ll waste hours jumping back and forth between the paper and whatever distractions come your way.

To make sure you have the focus of a zen master, you must create a writing environment that enables zen-like focus . For a full guide to creating a distraction-free study space, check out our article on the topic . In the meantime, here’s a summary of the best practices:

  • Go to a studious place. This could be a quiet part of the library, an off-campus coffee shop, or even your dorm room. Wherever you know that people won’t distract or interrupt you, that’s the place you must go.
  • Make it comfortable. You won’t be able to focus on writing if your chair feels like a bed of nails or the table wobbles. Take care of your base physical comfort before writing anything else. Caveat: don’t write while in bed . Your bed is only for sleeping and…you know, that other s-word.
  • Block digital distractions. Depending on how bad your internet/phone addiction is, this could be as simple as closing unrelated programs and putting your phone in airplane mode or as drastic as installing an app such as Cold Turkey Writer that blocks everything on your computer until you  write a certain number of words. If you need the internet to write (maybe you’re writing in Google Docs, for example), then you can install an app such as Freedom or SelfControl to block distracting sites.
  • Assemble your supplies. Sitting down to write and realizing you left one of your sources back in your dorm is a definite productivity killer. Be sure you have your computer charged, sources assembled, and coffee/tea at the ready before your write a word.
  • Put on your pump up playlist. If you don’t find it distracting, then I recommend using music that will get you in the zone to write. I have a few albums on rotation that get me into a mode of writing flow. For example, when writing this article I put on Muse’s The 2nd Law . You better believe I felt ready to conquer the world with that in the background. If you’re looking for a killer pre-made collection of study music, have a look at Thomas’s Ultimate Study Music Playlist .

5. Follow a Standard Structure

Each paper you write should not feel like reinventing the wheel. Your goal when writing a paper for a college class is to fulfill the assignment requirements in a way that goes just above and beyond enough to impress the professor. You’re not trying to break new ground in your discipline or redefine the way we use the English language (if you are, then you don’t need to read this article).

The way to make sure that you don’t get caught up in the structure is just to pick a standard structure for your discipline and follow it. Save the originality for your arguments. So how do you find these elusive standards? Ask your professor.  They can point you to some relevant guides or examples.

Also, pay attention to the readings your professor assigns for the class. This should give you some idea of the academic conventions you should follow in your papers. It’s easy to go through an article and focus so much on the information that you ignore the structure (which is a good thing–the structure shouldn’t distract you). But if you spend a couple reading sessions paying attention to structure, you’ll get a feel for how it should go.

If that seems too advanced or too much work, then another option is to Google “SUBJECT NAME paper template”. Just be careful about the source–a template from a university is fine; one on some random student’s Blogger page, not so much.

6. Focus On Quality Over Quantity

If the paper is supposed to have a final page count of 5-7, you may be tempted to write a paper that’s 7 or even 8 pages. After all, more is better, right?

Wrong.  Every professor I had in college told me that they would  always  prefer a good 5-page paper over an okay 7-page paper. Frankly, some topics don’t need 7 pages–5 is plenty. If you try to stretch it out, you may end up diluting your argument.

If you’re not convinced, consider this: I rarely wrote more than the minimum page count, and I consistently received A’s on papers in English, History, Religious Studies, and Education classes.

Knowing this, why would you ever write more than you need to? It’s not just a waste of time or effort; it may even be counterproductive .

Of course, your paper has to be good for this to work. For advice on improving the quality of your papers, check out my post on 6 Writing Tips to Make Your Papers 300% Better .

7. Draft and Edit Separately

Editing and drafting at the same time is, like all forms of multitasking , inefficient and ultimately impossible. Don’t do it. Write with your full attention and effort, and then  edit.

Similarly, never stop to look stuff up when you are writing. If you don’t know something, just make a note of it and come back to it later. At best, looking something up takes you away from writing, but even more likely it will pull you into an internet rabbit hole that will really derail the entire writing process.

The goal of writing this way is to keep you in the flow state  as long as possible. Because if you can just get to a place of flow, your momentum will be unstoppable.

8. Write the Conclusion and Introduction Last

One of the greatest barriers to starting a paper is coming up with an introduction. If you think about it, this difficulty makes sense: how are you supposed to introduce something you haven’t even created?

This is why you shouldn’t write the introduction until you’ve finished the main body of the paper. I know it seems like a counterintuitive approach, but I challenge you to try it. This method avoids what has happened to me more times than I can count: writing the paper and then realizing that my intro doesn’t even fit with the final paper.

The same goes for the conclusion. Write it last. After all, how can you conclude when you haven’t even finished writing? If you want more advice on the specifics of writing solid conclusions, check out my post on how to write a paper .

9. Don’t Edit Alone

When you’re writing the draft, you need privacy and focus. But when you’re editing, having someone else to look over your work can speed things up. Why? Because you’re inherently blind to the mistakes in your writing . You’ve been looking at the draft so long that mistakes won’t jump out at you the way they will to a fresh set of eyes.

When it comes to finding someone to help you edit, you have a few options:

  • Get a trusted friend to read the paper. Just make sure they don’t end up distracting you.
  • Take the paper to your college’s writing center.  Don’t expect them to be your copy editor, however. More than likely, the writing center staff will have you read the paper aloud to them. This lets you catch the errors yourself while still having the accountability of another person in the room.
  • Ask your professor for feedback. This won’t always be possible, but sometimes your professor will be willing to give you feedback before you turn the paper in, especially if it’s a term paper or capstone project. Professors often build this feedback into the assignment by setting separate due dates for a proposal, a draft, and a final version. But even if they don’t, it never hurts to ask for feedback . The worst they can say is no.

10. Use a Citation Generator

Adding citations is the worst, especially when you just spent hours writing a paper and are so over it. If you don’t want to spend further hours paging through some arcane style manual, do yourself a favor and use a citation management/generation tool.

My favorite is Zotero , which allows you to keep track of research sources and even has a browser extension that will pull the citation info from a library catalog web page. But I also have friends who prefer EasyBib . It doesn’t matter which one you use–just pick one and watch your citation worries evaporate.

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to glance at your citations before submitting, as these tools aren’t perfect (especially when it comes to digital sources).

Bonus Tip: Take a Writing Intensive Class

This tip isn’t strictly part of the paper writing process, but it can make a big difference in your writing speed and quality. At my college, the definition of “writing intensive” varied from professor to professor, but it always meant a class with lots of writing, often one (short) essay per week in addition to a 20+ page final paper.

Each of these classes was intense, but at the end I always found myself a better writer. This went beyond just getting faster, although that was a major benefit. I also found that the quality of my arguments and analyses increased, along with massive improvements in my research skills.

If your college offers classes specifically geared to improve your writing, do yourself a favor and take a least one. Strong writing skills are always a benefit, both in college and beyond.

At the end of the day, writing a paper is still a lot of work. But if you follow the process in this article, you’ll be able to do it more quickly without a loss of quality.

What tactics do you use to speed up the paper writing process? Share them in the comments below, or discuss them in the College Info Geek Community .

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Open Science: Why you should preprint your next paper

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  • Copyright information

By George Currie, Content Manager at eLife

Preprinting is the act of sharing an early version of your research, often before journal-organised review. It helps you share your research with others quickly, establishes priority for your findings and can be a way to receive feedback from your community. Many organisations, including eLife and PreReview , are starting to offer and recognise peer reviewed preprints, or allow public discussion on preprints.

But what are the advantages of preprinting your next paper? Here are our five Fs of preprinting:

Preprinting is fast

Preprinting gets your work out into the world much faster, in days not months. No waiting around for reviewer feedback or time spent making revisions, your work is out there. Citable, sharable and with a DOI. Both reviews and revisions can be extremely valuable but it comes at the cost of time and slowing down science communication. Once your work is available others can use it, they can build on your ideas, they can use them to refine their ideas. Your work is pushing science forward.

Preprinting helps you be first

Preprinting establishes priority for your findings or ideas. Waiting for publication can be anxiety inducing but preprinting puts you in control of publication. You won’t have to worry that someone else is going to publish your breakthrough while you’re still waiting for reviews. When you next think about scooping it will be time for ice cream!

Preprinting is free

Nearly all preprint servers are completely free of charge. Free to you as an author, and free to you as a reader. No subscriptions, no APCs. At no cost other than the time to submit, you can ensure that the whole world has access to your research.

Most journals* now have fairly open policies regarding preprinting ahead of publication, so even if you’re publishing behind a paywall you can make a version available for everyone.

*it’s worth checking journal or publisher websites for current policies. You can find a list of policies and links on Wikipedia.

Preprinting enables feedback

Sharing early versions of work can be daunting, but getting feedback helps refine and polish your work. Informal feedback helps start the conversation around your research and shows that people are engaging with it. Public scrutiny and feedback at this stage is far more useful than on a Version of Record as you are still able to implement changes and this could even help reduce time working through peer review feedback later. To help ensure feedback is useful to authors, the FAST framework of preprint feedback suggests feedback should be focused, appropriate, specific and transparent.

Preprinting fights inequalities

Preprints help level the playing field. It’s not about you, your institution or what you can afford to pay. Your work stands on its own merits.

Because preprinting is accessible, free and without the gatekeeping mechanisms typical of journals it makes science communication far more democratic and less prone to structural or implicit biases present in traditional publishing. This gives scientific communities more power and control over how and what they communicate.

Bonus sixth F: How do you filter preprints?

For all the positives of preprinting, it does present a new challenge: how we filter them.

There’s a lot of research out there, it can be hard to keep up as it is. Adding preprints to the mix can make this overwhelming. How can you keep up with preprint literature and how do you know you can trust it?

Some preprint servers still undertake elements of editorial screening to make sure research meets basic standards, and some journals and organisations are focused on preprint review . Beyond this, there are platforms dedicated to preprint curation, such as Sciety and Prelights .

Sciety, developed by eLife, is a free platform that helps researchers highlight and distil the vast and growing preprint literature. It’s a public space for users to comment on preprints, create shareable lists and follow other users for their recommendations. This centralises important work already happening in blogs, private slacks and listservs and makes it available to a wider audience. And helps you find trusted, recommended research that meets your interests.

Where can I read or post preprints?

For research in the biological and medical sciences, bioRxiv and medRxiv are popular preprint servers. Though many more exist , catering for different subject areas and geographies.

ASAPbio Preprint infographics: post your preprint in 5 steps, publishing process, take action in support of preprints.

Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International. Singh, Sumeet Pal, Ferguson, Christine, Ahmad, Umar, & Puebla, Iratxe. (2021). ASAPbio Preprint infographics: post your preprint in 5 steps, publishing process, take action in support of preprints. Zenodo.

What does preprinting mean (for science communication).

Preprinting has been popular in physics and maths for decades. While the uptake has been slower in biological and medical sciences it became an essential means of communication during the search for a COVID-19 vaccine.

As adoption grows, so does the potential for preprinting to radically change how we communicate science and the role publishers play in scientific discourse. It can level the playing field for researchers and accelerate scientific discoveries.

Unfortunately “preprinting” is a bit of a misnomer.

The “pre-” makes you think that something has to happen next – before it is “done”. And the “-printing” part supposes that the research is going to be made physical. Neither of these things need to be true and in today’s world they often aren’t.

Versions of record are a hangover of when research needed to be made final so a physical artefact could be created. With the technology we have now, the way we communicate science can better reflect the way science really works.

Preprints help science become a conversation among peers, sharing knowledge, iterating and self correcting faster and more fluidly. Rather than a focus on Versions of Record, final statements etched in stone, we could have a record of versions where our best current understanding is given prominence. Learn more about the benefits of preprinting with ASAPbio, and consider sharing your next biological or medical paper as a preprint.

Be the first to read new articles from eLife

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Get science-backed answers as you write with Paperpal's Research feature

How Paperpal’s Research Feature Helps You Develop and Strengthen Arguments in a Pinch

Research, Write, Cite with Paperpal

After months of reading and research, you’ve got your findings together and you’re making steady progress on your manuscript draft. As you expand your skeleton and infuse your raw notes with detail, you substantiate the material with meticulously curated sources. Your manuscript writing session is going well, and you hit flow state . Finally, your methods section is down, and you’ve got most of the introduction done without a hitch. You worked hard organizing your literature sources and thematic insights, and it’s all paying off. 

Then, you hit the Discussion. As you write, an idea enters the edge of your consciousness – perhaps a line of thinking that did not previously occur to you? It’s too good to dismiss, but you will need to verify and back it up with the literature. So now you’re missing a source, your writing flow is interrupted, and you’re already considering jumping into the rabbit hole of multiple search tabs to arrive at the answer you need. 

If this sounds all too familiar, try out Paperpal’s Research feature to get rich insights from the literature without breaking a sweat. 

Table of Contents

  • Experience uninterrupted writing with Paperpal 
  • Get fully formed answers, not further reading 
  • Review and verify sources 
  • Save relevant sources to cite  
  • Experience Paperpal’s heady combination of Research and Writing assistance 

Experience uninterrupted writing with Paperpal

Interrupting the writing process to verify information online can slow you down and end up being a huge distraction. Now, you never need to break your writing momentum or switch between multiple browser tabs looking for insights. Paperpal’s Research feature makes it easy for you to get quick factual answers to questions on your research on the go, helping you strengthen your arguments as you write.  

Simply ask Paperpal’s AI research assistant a question in plain English and you will get a well-organized response summarizing details relevant to your questions, backed by real published sources from over 250 million research articles. You can then review the response, copy it into the editor to work into your writing, and save the relevant references in your citation library as a handy reminder to insert it later. 

Paperpal AI Research Assistant

How Paperpal Search and Cite features help sustain your writing flow

Paperpal’s Research feature helps you remain focused while writing and strengthen your arguments in just a few easy steps.

Get fully formed answers, not further reading

Unlike the case with Google or other search engines, the result is not just a series of links related to your search keywords. Paperpal’s AI research assistant offers meaningful answers summarized from the literature that directly addresses your question.  

Search and cite with Paperpal

Review and verify sources

Aside from the sources referenced in the answer, we also provide Related papers. Briefly skim the relevant meta data such as citations, journal and article type, and then access the abstract for a given paper to ensure the relevance of the information provided by our AI research assistant.

how to do a research paper fast

Save relevant sources to cite

You can also explore each article in depth, with full papers available to read for open access documents. Once you’re satisfied with the response and the source, you can easily copy the response and work it into your own narrative. We’ve also made it super easy to keep track of the sources by allowing you to save them into your own citation library and cite it in your text.  

Paperpal Citation Library

Experience Paperpal’s heady combination of Research and Writing assistance

At Paperpal, we understand that literature search is a constant activity, even when you’re well into the writing and polishing stage. That’s why we’re putting together the ideal mix of research and writing aids to make academic writing enjoyable and help you deliver perfect drafts. Future Paperpal releases will also support automatic styling of citations from thousands of styles, making the writing process painless. 

The next time you have a deadline approaching, try writing with Paperpal to get the best of both worlds: top-notch academic writing assistance and intuitive research support. 

Paperpal is a comprehensive AI writing toolkit that helps students and researchers achieve 2x the writing in half the time. It leverages 21+ years of STM experience and insights from millions of research articles to provide in-depth academic writing, language editing, and submission readiness support to help you write better, faster.  

Get accurate academic translations, rewriting support, grammar checks, vocabulary suggestions, and generative AI assistance that delivers human precision at machine speed.  Try for free or  upgrade to Paperpal Prime  starting at US$19 a month  to access premium features, including consistency, plagiarism, and 30+ submission readiness checks to help you succeed.  

Experience the future of academic writing –  Sign up to Paperpal and start writing for free!

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McKinsey Global Private Markets Review 2024: Private markets in a slower era

At a glance, macroeconomic challenges continued.

how to do a research paper fast

McKinsey Global Private Markets Review 2024: Private markets: A slower era

If 2022 was a tale of two halves, with robust fundraising and deal activity in the first six months followed by a slowdown in the second half, then 2023 might be considered a tale of one whole. Macroeconomic headwinds persisted throughout the year, with rising financing costs, and an uncertain growth outlook taking a toll on private markets. Full-year fundraising continued to decline from 2021’s lofty peak, weighed down by the “denominator effect” that persisted in part due to a less active deal market. Managers largely held onto assets to avoid selling in a lower-multiple environment, fueling an activity-dampening cycle in which distribution-starved limited partners (LPs) reined in new commitments.

About the authors

This article is a summary of a larger report, available as a PDF, that is a collaborative effort by Fredrik Dahlqvist , Alastair Green , Paul Maia, Alexandra Nee , David Quigley , Aditya Sanghvi , Connor Mangan, John Spivey, Rahel Schneider, and Brian Vickery , representing views from McKinsey’s Private Equity & Principal Investors Practice.

Performance in most private asset classes remained below historical averages for a second consecutive year. Decade-long tailwinds from low and falling interest rates and consistently expanding multiples seem to be things of the past. As private market managers look to boost performance in this new era of investing, a deeper focus on revenue growth and margin expansion will be needed now more than ever.

A daytime view of grassy sand dunes

Perspectives on a slower era in private markets

Global fundraising contracted.

Fundraising fell 22 percent across private market asset classes globally to just over $1 trillion, as of year-end reported data—the lowest total since 2017. Fundraising in North America, a rare bright spot in 2022, declined in line with global totals, while in Europe, fundraising proved most resilient, falling just 3 percent. In Asia, fundraising fell precipitously and now sits 72 percent below the region’s 2018 peak.

Despite difficult fundraising conditions, headwinds did not affect all strategies or managers equally. Private equity (PE) buyout strategies posted their best fundraising year ever, and larger managers and vehicles also fared well, continuing the prior year’s trend toward greater fundraising concentration.

The numerator effect persisted

Despite a marked recovery in the denominator—the 1,000 largest US retirement funds grew 7 percent in the year ending September 2023, after falling 14 percent the prior year, for example 1 “U.S. retirement plans recover half of 2022 losses amid no-show recession,” Pensions and Investments , February 12, 2024. —many LPs remain overexposed to private markets relative to their target allocations. LPs started 2023 overweight: according to analysis from CEM Benchmarking, average allocations across PE, infrastructure, and real estate were at or above target allocations as of the beginning of the year. And the numerator grew throughout the year, as a lack of exits and rebounding valuations drove net asset values (NAVs) higher. While not all LPs strictly follow asset allocation targets, our analysis in partnership with global private markets firm StepStone Group suggests that an overallocation of just one percentage point can reduce planned commitments by as much as 10 to 12 percent per year for five years or more.

Despite these headwinds, recent surveys indicate that LPs remain broadly committed to private markets. In fact, the majority plan to maintain or increase allocations over the medium to long term.

Investors fled to known names and larger funds

Fundraising concentration reached its highest level in over a decade, as investors continued to shift new commitments in favor of the largest fund managers. The 25 most successful fundraisers collected 41 percent of aggregate commitments to closed-end funds (with the top five managers accounting for nearly half that total). Closed-end fundraising totals may understate the extent of concentration in the industry overall, as the largest managers also tend to be more successful in raising non-institutional capital.

While the largest funds grew even larger—the largest vehicles on record were raised in buyout, real estate, infrastructure, and private debt in 2023—smaller and newer funds struggled. Fewer than 1,700 funds of less than $1 billion were closed during the year, half as many as closed in 2022 and the fewest of any year since 2012. New manager formation also fell to the lowest level since 2012, with just 651 new firms launched in 2023.

Whether recent fundraising concentration and a spate of M&A activity signals the beginning of oft-rumored consolidation in the private markets remains uncertain, as a similar pattern developed in each of the last two fundraising downturns before giving way to renewed entrepreneurialism among general partners (GPs) and commitment diversification among LPs. Compared with how things played out in the last two downturns, perhaps this movie really is different, or perhaps we’re watching a trilogy reusing a familiar plotline.

Dry powder inventory spiked (again)

Private markets assets under management totaled $13.1 trillion as of June 30, 2023, and have grown nearly 20 percent per annum since 2018. Dry powder reserves—the amount of capital committed but not yet deployed—increased to $3.7 trillion, marking the ninth consecutive year of growth. Dry powder inventory—the amount of capital available to GPs expressed as a multiple of annual deployment—increased for the second consecutive year in PE, as new commitments continued to outpace deal activity. Inventory sat at 1.6 years in 2023, up markedly from the 0.9 years recorded at the end of 2021 but still within the historical range. NAV grew as well, largely driven by the reluctance of managers to exit positions and crystallize returns in a depressed multiple environment.

Private equity strategies diverged

Buyout and venture capital, the two largest PE sub-asset classes, charted wildly different courses over the past 18 months. Buyout notched its highest fundraising year ever in 2023, and its performance improved, with funds posting a (still paltry) 5 percent net internal rate of return through September 30. And although buyout deal volumes declined by 19 percent, 2023 was still the third-most-active year on record. In contrast, venture capital (VC) fundraising declined by nearly 60 percent, equaling its lowest total since 2015, and deal volume fell by 36 percent to the lowest level since 2019. VC funds returned –3 percent through September, posting negative returns for seven consecutive quarters. VC was the fastest-growing—as well as the highest-performing—PE strategy by a significant margin from 2010 to 2022, but investors appear to be reevaluating their approach in the current environment.

Private equity entry multiples contracted

PE buyout entry multiples declined by roughly one turn from 11.9 to 11.0 times EBITDA, slightly outpacing the decline in public market multiples (down from 12.1 to 11.3 times EBITDA), through the first nine months of 2023. For nearly a decade leading up to 2022, managers consistently sold assets into a higher-multiple environment than that in which they had bought those assets, providing a substantial performance tailwind for the industry. Nowhere has this been truer than in technology. After experiencing more than eight turns of multiple expansion from 2009 to 2021 (the most of any sector), technology multiples have declined by nearly three turns in the past two years, 50 percent more than in any other sector. Overall, roughly two-thirds of the total return for buyout deals that were entered in 2010 or later and exited in 2021 or before can be attributed to market multiple expansion and leverage. Now, with falling multiples and higher financing costs, revenue growth and margin expansion are taking center stage for GPs.

Real estate receded

Demand uncertainty, slowing rent growth, and elevated financing costs drove cap rates higher and made price discovery challenging, all of which weighed on deal volume, fundraising, and investment performance. Global closed-end fundraising declined 34 percent year over year, and funds returned −4 percent in the first nine months of the year, losing money for the first time since the 2007–08 global financial crisis. Capital shifted away from core and core-plus strategies as investors sought liquidity via redemptions in open-end vehicles, from which net outflows reached their highest level in at least two decades. Opportunistic strategies benefited from this shift, with investors focusing on capital appreciation over income generation in a market where alternative sources of yield have grown more attractive. Rising interest rates widened bid–ask spreads and impaired deal volume across food groups, including in what were formerly hot sectors: multifamily and industrial.

Private debt pays dividends

Debt again proved to be the most resilient private asset class against a turbulent market backdrop. Fundraising declined just 13 percent, largely driven by lower commitments to direct lending strategies, for which a slower PE deal environment has made capital deployment challenging. The asset class also posted the highest returns among all private asset classes through September 30. Many private debt securities are tied to floating rates, which enhance returns in a rising-rate environment. Thus far, managers appear to have successfully navigated the rising incidence of default and distress exhibited across the broader leveraged-lending market. Although direct lending deal volume declined from 2022, private lenders financed an all-time high 59 percent of leveraged buyout transactions last year and are now expanding into additional strategies to drive the next era of growth.

Infrastructure took a detour

After several years of robust growth and strong performance, infrastructure and natural resources fundraising declined by 53 percent to the lowest total since 2013. Supply-side timing is partially to blame: five of the seven largest infrastructure managers closed a flagship vehicle in 2021 or 2022, and none of those five held a final close last year. As in real estate, investors shied away from core and core-plus investments in a higher-yield environment. Yet there are reasons to believe infrastructure’s growth will bounce back. Limited partners (LPs) surveyed by McKinsey remain bullish on their deployment to the asset class, and at least a dozen vehicles targeting more than $10 billion were actively fundraising as of the end of 2023. Multiple recent acquisitions of large infrastructure GPs by global multi-asset-class managers also indicate marketwide conviction in the asset class’s potential.

Private markets still have work to do on diversity

Private markets firms are slowly improving their representation of females (up two percentage points over the prior year) and ethnic and racial minorities (up one percentage point). On some diversity metrics, including entry-level representation of women, private markets now compare favorably with corporate America. Yet broad-based parity remains elusive and too slow in the making. Ethnic, racial, and gender imbalances are particularly stark across more influential investing roles and senior positions. In fact, McKinsey’s research  reveals that at the current pace, it would take several decades for private markets firms to reach gender parity at senior levels. Increasing representation across all levels will require managers to take fresh approaches to hiring, retention, and promotion.

Artificial intelligence generating excitement

The transformative potential of generative AI was perhaps 2023’s hottest topic (beyond Taylor Swift). Private markets players are excited about the potential for the technology to optimize their approach to thesis generation, deal sourcing, investment due diligence, and portfolio performance, among other areas. While the technology is still nascent and few GPs can boast scaled implementations, pilot programs are already in flight across the industry, particularly within portfolio companies. Adoption seems nearly certain to accelerate throughout 2024.

Private markets in a slower era

If private markets investors entered 2023 hoping for a return to the heady days of 2021, they likely left the year disappointed. Many of the headwinds that emerged in the latter half of 2022 persisted throughout the year, pressuring fundraising, dealmaking, and performance. Inflation moderated somewhat over the course of the year but remained stubbornly elevated by recent historical standards. Interest rates started high and rose higher, increasing the cost of financing. A reinvigorated public equity market recovered most of 2022’s losses but did little to resolve the valuation uncertainty private market investors have faced for the past 18 months.

Within private markets, the denominator effect remained in play, despite the public market recovery, as the numerator continued to expand. An activity-dampening cycle emerged: higher cost of capital and lower multiples limited the ability or willingness of general partners (GPs) to exit positions; fewer exits, coupled with continuing capital calls, pushed LP allocations higher, thereby limiting their ability or willingness to make new commitments. These conditions weighed on managers’ ability to fundraise. Based on data reported as of year-end 2023, private markets fundraising fell 22 percent from the prior year to just over $1 trillion, the largest such drop since 2009 (Exhibit 1).

The impact of the fundraising environment was not felt equally among GPs. Continuing a trend that emerged in 2022, and consistent with prior downturns in fundraising, LPs favored larger vehicles and the scaled GPs that typically manage them. Smaller and newer managers struggled, and the number of sub–$1 billion vehicles and new firm launches each declined to its lowest level in more than a decade.

Despite the decline in fundraising, private markets assets under management (AUM) continued to grow, increasing 12 percent to $13.1 trillion as of June 30, 2023. 2023 fundraising was still the sixth-highest annual haul on record, pushing dry powder higher, while the slowdown in deal making limited distributions.

Investment performance across private market asset classes fell short of historical averages. Private equity (PE) got back in the black but generated the lowest annual performance in the past 15 years, excluding 2022. Closed-end real estate produced negative returns for the first time since 2009, as capitalization (cap) rates expanded across sectors and rent growth dissipated in formerly hot sectors, including multifamily and industrial. The performance of infrastructure funds was less than half of its long-term average and even further below the double-digit returns generated in 2021 and 2022. Private debt was the standout performer (if there was one), outperforming all other private asset classes and illustrating the asset class’s countercyclical appeal.

Private equity down but not out

Higher financing costs, lower multiples, and an uncertain macroeconomic environment created a challenging backdrop for private equity managers in 2023. Fundraising declined for the second year in a row, falling 15 percent to $649 billion, as LPs grappled with the denominator effect and a slowdown in distributions. Managers were on the fundraising trail longer to raise this capital: funds that closed in 2023 were open for a record-high average of 20.1 months, notably longer than 18.7 months in 2022 and 14.1 months in 2018. VC and growth equity strategies led the decline, dropping to their lowest level of cumulative capital raised since 2015. Fundraising in Asia fell for the fourth year of the last five, with the greatest decline in China.

Despite the difficult fundraising context, a subset of strategies and managers prevailed. Buyout managers collectively had their best fundraising year on record, raising more than $400 billion. Fundraising in Europe surged by more than 50 percent, resulting in the region’s biggest haul ever. The largest managers raised an outsized share of the total for a second consecutive year, making 2023 the most concentrated fundraising year of the last decade (Exhibit 2).

Despite the drop in aggregate fundraising, PE assets under management increased 8 percent to $8.2 trillion. Only a small part of this growth was performance driven: PE funds produced a net IRR of just 2.5 percent through September 30, 2023. Buyouts and growth equity generated positive returns, while VC lost money. PE performance, dating back to the beginning of 2022, remains negative, highlighting the difficulty of generating attractive investment returns in a higher interest rate and lower multiple environment. As PE managers devise value creation strategies to improve performance, their focus includes ensuring operating efficiency and profitability of their portfolio companies.

Deal activity volume and count fell sharply, by 21 percent and 24 percent, respectively, which continued the slower pace set in the second half of 2022. Sponsors largely opted to hold assets longer rather than lock in underwhelming returns. While higher financing costs and valuation mismatches weighed on overall deal activity, certain types of M&A gained share. Add-on deals, for example, accounted for a record 46 percent of total buyout deal volume last year.

Real estate recedes

For real estate, 2023 was a year of transition, characterized by a litany of new and familiar challenges. Pandemic-driven demand issues continued, while elevated financing costs, expanding cap rates, and valuation uncertainty weighed on commercial real estate deal volumes, fundraising, and investment performance.

Managers faced one of the toughest fundraising environments in many years. Global closed-end fundraising declined 34 percent to $125 billion. While fundraising challenges were widespread, they were not ubiquitous across strategies. Dollars continued to shift to large, multi-asset class platforms, with the top five managers accounting for 37 percent of aggregate closed-end real estate fundraising. In April, the largest real estate fund ever raised closed on a record $30 billion.

Capital shifted away from core and core-plus strategies as investors sought liquidity through redemptions in open-end vehicles and reduced gross contributions to the lowest level since 2009. Opportunistic strategies benefited from this shift, as investors turned their attention toward capital appreciation over income generation in a market where alternative sources of yield have grown more attractive.

In the United States, for instance, open-end funds, as represented by the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries Fund Index—Open-End Equity (NFI-OE), recorded $13 billion in net outflows in 2023, reversing the trend of positive net inflows throughout the 2010s. The negative flows mainly reflected $9 billion in core outflows, with core-plus funds accounting for the remaining outflows, which reversed a 20-year run of net inflows.

As a result, the NAV in US open-end funds fell roughly 16 percent year over year. Meanwhile, global assets under management in closed-end funds reached a new peak of $1.7 trillion as of June 2023, growing 14 percent between June 2022 and June 2023.

Real estate underperformed historical averages in 2023, as previously high-performing multifamily and industrial sectors joined office in producing negative returns caused by slowing demand growth and cap rate expansion. Closed-end funds generated a pooled net IRR of −3.5 percent in the first nine months of 2023, losing money for the first time since the global financial crisis. The lone bright spot among major sectors was hospitality, which—thanks to a rush of postpandemic travel—returned 10.3 percent in 2023. 2 Based on NCREIFs NPI index. Hotels represent 1 percent of total properties in the index. As a whole, the average pooled lifetime net IRRs for closed-end real estate funds from 2011–20 vintages remained around historical levels (9.8 percent).

Global deal volume declined 47 percent in 2023 to reach a ten-year low of $650 billion, driven by widening bid–ask spreads amid valuation uncertainty and higher costs of financing (Exhibit 3). 3 CBRE, Real Capital Analytics Deal flow in the office sector remained depressed, partly as a result of continued uncertainty in the demand for space in a hybrid working world.

During a turbulent year for private markets, private debt was a relative bright spot, topping private markets asset classes in terms of fundraising growth, AUM growth, and performance.

Fundraising for private debt declined just 13 percent year over year, nearly ten percentage points less than the private markets overall. Despite the decline in fundraising, AUM surged 27 percent to $1.7 trillion. And private debt posted the highest investment returns of any private asset class through the first three quarters of 2023.

Private debt’s risk/return characteristics are well suited to the current environment. With interest rates at their highest in more than a decade, current yields in the asset class have grown more attractive on both an absolute and relative basis, particularly if higher rates sustain and put downward pressure on equity returns (Exhibit 4). The built-in security derived from debt’s privileged position in the capital structure, moreover, appeals to investors that are wary of market volatility and valuation uncertainty.

Direct lending continued to be the largest strategy in 2023, with fundraising for the mostly-senior-debt strategy accounting for almost half of the asset class’s total haul (despite declining from the previous year). Separately, mezzanine debt fundraising hit a new high, thanks to the closings of three of the largest funds ever raised in the strategy.

Over the longer term, growth in private debt has largely been driven by institutional investors rotating out of traditional fixed income in favor of private alternatives. Despite this growth in commitments, LPs remain underweight in this asset class relative to their targets. In fact, the allocation gap has only grown wider in recent years, a sharp contrast to other private asset classes, for which LPs’ current allocations exceed their targets on average. According to data from CEM Benchmarking, the private debt allocation gap now stands at 1.4 percent, which means that, in aggregate, investors must commit hundreds of billions in net new capital to the asset class just to reach current targets.

Private debt was not completely immune to the macroeconomic conditions last year, however. Fundraising declined for the second consecutive year and now sits 23 percent below 2021’s peak. Furthermore, though private lenders took share in 2023 from other capital sources, overall deal volumes also declined for the second year in a row. The drop was largely driven by a less active PE deal environment: private debt is predominantly used to finance PE-backed companies, though managers are increasingly diversifying their origination capabilities to include a broad new range of companies and asset types.

Infrastructure and natural resources take a detour

For infrastructure and natural resources fundraising, 2023 was an exceptionally challenging year. Aggregate capital raised declined 53 percent year over year to $82 billion, the lowest annual total since 2013. The size of the drop is particularly surprising in light of infrastructure’s recent momentum. The asset class had set fundraising records in four of the previous five years, and infrastructure is often considered an attractive investment in uncertain markets.

While there is little doubt that the broader fundraising headwinds discussed elsewhere in this report affected infrastructure and natural resources fundraising last year, dynamics specific to the asset class were at play as well. One issue was supply-side timing: nine of the ten largest infrastructure GPs did not close a flagship fund in 2023. Second was the migration of investor dollars away from core and core-plus investments, which have historically accounted for the bulk of infrastructure fundraising, in a higher rate environment.

The asset class had some notable bright spots last year. Fundraising for higher-returning opportunistic strategies more than doubled the prior year’s total (Exhibit 5). AUM grew 18 percent, reaching a new high of $1.5 trillion. Infrastructure funds returned a net IRR of 3.4 percent in 2023; this was below historical averages but still the second-best return among private asset classes. And as was the case in other asset classes, investors concentrated commitments in larger funds and managers in 2023, including in the largest infrastructure fund ever raised.

The outlook for the asset class, moreover, remains positive. Funds targeting a record amount of capital were in the market at year-end, providing a robust foundation for fundraising in 2024 and 2025. A recent spate of infrastructure GP acquisitions signal multi-asset managers’ long-term conviction in the asset class, despite short-term headwinds. Global megatrends like decarbonization and digitization, as well as revolutions in energy and mobility, have spurred new infrastructure investment opportunities around the world, particularly for value-oriented investors that are willing to take on more risk.

Private markets make measured progress in DEI

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has become an important part of the fundraising, talent, and investing landscape for private market participants. Encouragingly, incremental progress has been made in recent years, including more diverse talent being brought to entry-level positions, investing roles, and investment committees. The scope of DEI metrics provided to institutional investors during fundraising has also increased in recent years: more than half of PE firms now provide data across investing teams, portfolio company boards, and portfolio company management (versus investment team data only). 4 “ The state of diversity in global private markets: 2023 ,” McKinsey, August 22, 2023.

In 2023, McKinsey surveyed 66 global private markets firms that collectively employ more than 60,000 people for the second annual State of diversity in global private markets report. 5 “ The state of diversity in global private markets: 2023 ,” McKinsey, August 22, 2023. The research offers insight into the representation of women and ethnic and racial minorities in private investing as of year-end 2022. In this chapter, we discuss where the numbers stand and how firms can bring a more diverse set of perspectives to the table.

The statistics indicate signs of modest advancement. Overall representation of women in private markets increased two percentage points to 35 percent, and ethnic and racial minorities increased one percentage point to 30 percent (Exhibit 6). Entry-level positions have nearly reached gender parity, with female representation at 48 percent. The share of women holding C-suite roles globally increased 3 percentage points, while the share of people from ethnic and racial minorities in investment committees increased 9 percentage points. There is growing evidence that external hiring is gradually helping close the diversity gap, especially at senior levels. For example, 33 percent of external hires at the managing director level were ethnic or racial minorities, higher than their existing representation level (19 percent).

Yet, the scope of the challenge remains substantial. Women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in senior positions and investing roles. They also experience uneven rates of progress due to lower promotion and higher attrition rates, particularly at smaller firms. Firms are also navigating an increasingly polarized workplace today, with additional scrutiny and a growing number of lawsuits against corporate diversity and inclusion programs, particularly in the US, which threatens to impact the industry’s pace of progress.

Fredrik Dahlqvist is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Stockholm office; Alastair Green  is a senior partner in the Washington, DC, office, where Paul Maia and Alexandra Nee  are partners; David Quigley  is a senior partner in the New York office, where Connor Mangan is an associate partner and Aditya Sanghvi  is a senior partner; Rahel Schneider is an associate partner in the Bay Area office; John Spivey is a partner in the Charlotte office; and Brian Vickery  is a partner in the Boston office.

The authors wish to thank Jonathan Christy, Louis Dufau, Vaibhav Gujral, Graham Healy-Day, Laura Johnson, Ryan Luby, Tripp Norton, Alastair Rami, Henri Torbey, and Alex Wolkomir for their contributions

The authors would also like to thank CEM Benchmarking and the StepStone Group for their partnership in this year's report.

This article was edited by Arshiya Khullar, an editor in the Gurugram office.

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