How to Write a Research Paper

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How to Write a Research Paper

A research paper consists of three parts; an introduction, body and conclusion all of which are unified by a main idea or topic. This guide, created using the book The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, & Joseph M. Williams, will discuss how to create and frame a good topic and explain how to write each of the three parts.


When beginning a research paper one of the first steps is to define the topic. A topic is a statement of the concept or overall idea of the paper. A good topic does more than just gather information on a subject; it focuses on the significance of understanding something that was previously unknown or not fully understood. When framing a good topic there are three steps to follow. These steps are to help organize the three parts of a good topic. Later, in the topic sentence and introduction sections of this guide, an explanation on how to write, phrase, and locate these three parts will be discussed.

1. Name your Topic: what you are writing about
I am studying

2. Imply your Question: what you don’t know about the topic because I want to find out who/how/why

3. State the Rationale for the question: why you want to know about it in order to understand how/why/what

A good topic is not only interesting to the writer but is significant to others. This is the importance of step 3, having a rationale explaining why it is important to ask the question (step 2) at all. A good writer needs to be able to communicate the significance of their topic. Step 1 states the area of interest, step 2 implies something that we do not already know and gives the topic a direction to work towards. Step 3 lets the reader know why it is important to answer the question in step 2; step 3 is the significance of the paper.

For example:

1. Name your Topic:
I am studying the connection between architecture and the culture of the city

2. Imply your Question:
because I want to find out how architecture affects the character of the city

3. State the Rationale for the question:
in order to understand how architecture needs to respond to the new cultural climate
To see this how this topic is used in a paper view Example 1.

Topic Sentence[1]

Topic sentences are like the hypothesis of a paper. They set the up the area of study with the problem to be researched and suggest an outcome. When writing the topic sentence it should be specific, substantive, and plausibly contestable. It should announce key concepts that the reader can watch for as they continue through the paper. Missing key concepts in this area of the paper can cause it to appear incoherent or unfocused.

The introduction and conclusion are the only two places that the topic sentence (or main point of the argument) should be located. When the topic sentence is in the introduction it should be the last sentence so the reader knows where the paper is taking them. This is the most preferred location for the topic sentence. The only other option is to place it in the conclusion and reveal the destination to the readers only after all the evidence has been presented.

To see a topic sentence located in the conclusion view Example 2.

For example:

Renzo Piano’s New York Times Building is a first of its kind for him and Manhattan.

This topic sentence is unsubstantial, vague, and uncontestable. It does nothing more than announce I’m going to tell you… The following example is more substantive and specific and more plausibly contestable than the first. It begins to introduce key concepts the reader can look for as they read the rest of the paper.

Situated at the...
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