Research paper writing checklist

Use this to plan your steps in writing a research paper

Everyone approaches their writing process in different creative ways, but there are some essential steps you have to follow.

No matter your level of familiarity with the topic or the challenges you may encounter along the way, following a strategic approach will help you speed up the process.

Below is a checklist that outlines a simple but effective strategy for writing a research article.

10 steps to writing an impactful paper

Get familiar with your subject and narrow the topic

It is very important to understand what your lecturer, professor, or the journal is asking for before you start writing. It’s easy to ignore this step, but then wonder why you got a low grade or got rejected by a journal.

Take your time to understand your assignment or project. Have a thorough look at the instructions and requirements provided. It might be helpful to take notes and highlight points around the instructions for emphasis.

If you are writing your paper to submit to a journal, make sure you choose your target journal as your first step. This will help you have a good understanding of the journal’s requirements.

Begin your research

After you have decided the direction you want to take your paper, it’s time to research the topic in detail. If you are writing to publish in a journal, then it’s also time to learn more about the journals you’re targeting.

Keep in mind that while you research, you may find information that makes you want to change your focus. In this case, make sure your paper answers the new question and is positioned to address your new focus.

You may not be able to read every material in detail so learn how to identify key points and arguments. Find reliable resources and explore the information you come across.

If you are planning to submit your paper to a journal, make sure you familiarize yourself with its editorial policies and standards of reporting. This will cover everything from how the journal conducts peer review to the process for submitting your article.

Organize your research

At this step you should have a list of sources that have influenced your viewpoint. People have different preferences on how to organize their research. Do what feels most effective for you.

Keep records and copies of all the information you obtain. This is the best step to sort the referencing and bibliographical information in your paper. Make sure you keep notes of where you found the information and how it relates to your research.

Form your thesis

Now that you understand your topic and how it fits your assignment or your target journal, it’s time to compose a thesis statement.

The purpose of your paper is to prove the validity of your thesis, so your thesis statement will provide clarity on how to control your idea. Your thesis statement will also guide your choice of resource materials.

Your thesis statement should be a short sentence that explains and proves the position of your paper to the reader.

Determine your article structure

After you have worked hard to create a specific thesis statement for your article, it may be helpful to organize your research with an outline. Creating an outline is about structuring your paper in a way that makes it easier for readers to understand your work.

Depending on your assignment, subject, research focus, journal choice and any number of considerations, the type of article you write could vary widely. If you were instructed to use a specific outline, be sure to follow the instructions.

Your outline should reflect the organizational format you have chosen for your paper. There’s no set formula for structuring your article, but our Writing your paper free guide has some hints and tips to get your started.

Choose your keywords

Using keywords in your paper helps others find your article easily, in a database or search engine. With ever-increasing volumes of information available digitally, finding relevant sources has become challenging.

So, picking your keywords wisely is worth your while. The more the content of an article reflects the keywords used, the higher it will appear on the results page.

Please read our researcher’s guide to SEO for more information on how to make your work more discoverable and more likely to be read (and perhaps cited) by other researchers.

Write up your draft

After you have completed your final article structure and chosen your keywords, you can start writing your first draft. Remember that you will write multiple drafts, so do not put too much pressure on the first one.

Understand that every step is unique, and as mentioned, the structure of your article and the sections it includes will depend on both the subject of study and the type of article you’re writing.

Read our guides to learn more on how to write a journal article and how to write a review article. Make sure you understand the various different types of research articles.

Edit and refine your paper

After you have completed your initial draft, take some time to congratulate yourself for reaching this significant milestone! But, the work is not finished yet. All writing has to be improved before submission. This is the time to make your paper as perfect as you possibly can.

Your paper will need to be edited for content and for grammar. Learn how to approach editing your paper with our guide on research paper editing.

Also, consider using subject-relevant experts to help edit your paper to improve the quality and help you submit with confidence.

Review your final draft

The making of a good article is effective reviewing and editing, to make sure your ideas and findings are communicated clearly throughout.

For a host of tips on refining and editing your paper to make sure your core ideas and findings are clear, download your Writing your paper free guide.

Check that you have followed instructions and included all requirements

This checklist is to help you along your research paper writing process. Make sure you read and understand the specific requirements and instructions that are specific to your paper.

It is a good idea to have professional paper editors review your work, to make sure you submit original content and that your work is formatted correctly and free of errors.

Expert help for your manuscript

Taylor & Francis Editing Services offers a full range of pre-submission manuscript preparation services to help you improve the quality of your manuscript, so you can submit with confidence.