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How to Write a Research Paper

A general process for writing a research paper at the college level.

Step 10

Morpheus from the Matrix meme. What if I told you editing makes you not suck at writing papers.
[Morpheus. The Matrix (1999)]. Retrieved from


Proofread your paper. Don’t do it immediately after you write it, because you just wrote it, and you’ll miss things. (Again, you just wrote it!). Let the draft sit for a while before you try to digest it again. If having your paper actually printed on paper helps, do it.

Then come back to it and take a very critical look at it. Check sentence structures, citations (both in-text and reference page), tense, punctuation, spacing, EVERYTHING. This is where the devil is in the details. Make sure you get your details correct here.

Read your paper in ways you ordinarily wouldn’t:

  • Read it backwards, sentence by sentence. You can often find errors when you’re looking at things in small snippets.
  • Read it out loud to see how your words sound. If you find yourself stumbling over phrases or sentences, restructure them.

Then, have someone you trust (if you trust someone) do the same thing. Be prepared for criticism. You might be thinking, "Oh, man, I suck at this." But you should be thinking, "Awesome! More things to fix so I don’t hand in a paper that might go on my prof's toilet roll." Then, do that all over again with ANOTHER person. The more you do this, the better. (This is especially true if the people looking over the paper are taking it seriously and/or are English majors.)

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