How to Start a Research Paper: Guide with Examples

How to Start a Research Paper: Guide with Examples

What is a good way to start a research paper? Many students ask that question every single time they are assigned this homework. Such a thing happens for a good reason. Sometimes, starting the writing process is the hardest part of the entire work. How do you start a research paper? Where should you start? What comes first? How to approach the task you were given? It can be really hard to approach an assignment when you are unsure how you should make your first steps. 

Luckily, you are not the first who’s wondering about all these questions. The journey from your research paper cover page to the reference page is a tough one. Thousands of students have been there before. It means that someone has already discovered the answers to these questions. If you want to learn how to start a research paper, you are in the right place. Here’s the guide on how you can start a paper with these simple few steps. 

Plan on How to Start a Research Paper

Starting off a research paper can be a challenging (if not intimidating) task on its own. You have to think of so many things, like searching for materials and picking the interesting theme for writing. It can be confusing to think about how to make the first move. Here is the right order of steps that you need to do to start a research paper:

  1. Read the instructions carefully.
  2. Ask for a consultation with an instructor in case of any questions.
  3. Choose a topic.
  4. Start reading information on the theme of your writing.
  5. Pick interesting and valuable sources.
  6. Think of the purpose of your work. 
  7. Start developing a scope of your work.
  8. Decide on the thesis statement.
  9. Start with an outline.

Once you have your outline ready, feel free to write the whole essay. Afterward, all that is left for you is to read and edit your work until it’s perfect. However, before you can move on to this part, you should still complete a lot of steps. So, let’s take a closer look at the elements of the work you must complete. 

Read the Instructions

Any plan on how to start a research essay should begin with getting to know your instructor's requirements and how you can meet them. You have to make sure that you understand the given assignment. Don’t start any further work until you are certain that you know what you are doing. Read the requirements and start your plan from there. See how many sources you are allowed to use and what kind of them are expected. Make sure you understand the type of your paper and the general writing requirements you need to follow. The given instructions can often ease your future work as they give you a solid starting point, stating what you should do. 

Choose a Topic

When it comes to picking a topic, you can go with several methods. First, you can ask your instructor for help. Often, instructors would give you a theme for your work, which you can further elaborate on in the essay. Sometimes, they are very specific about what you should be writing. However, if this is not the case here, you should start choosing a topic on your own. Hence, here you can start by analyzing your interests. See what topics will be interesting for you to work on and still relevant to your classes’ theme. 

Next, see what topics can give you more space for interpretation, research, and creativity. You need to pick something interesting, original, yet common enough that you can find plenty of sources to work with. Don’t pick a theme that doesn’t have much work written on it. You will overcomplicate your task and make it much harder for yourself. 

Overall, you should dedicate enough time to choosing a good topic. You can’t even have a title page for a research paper without a topic, right? So it’s definitely a crucial starting point for you. 


There is no other way of how to start research other than by just reading everything you can on the chosen topic. In general, it’s best if you try to learn as much as possible on the topic of your work before you move on to choosing final sources for your work. This way, you get to educate yourself on the theme of your writing. Hence, you will feel more confident about picking the most relevant and appropriate articles. 

When it comes to choosing the right sources for your essay, you should also see your requirements one more time. Often, instructors don’t allow non-academic sources in papers. Sometimes, they will mention very specific requirements such as particular libraries, authors, textbooks, etc. Of course, you have to comply with those requirements. 

Form an Angle and a Statement

As you have learned enough information on the topic, you can decide on the scope of your future work. You have to narrow down your search and choose a particular angle in your future discussion. Pick a topic that is too broad, and you will struggle to define a thesis statement and limit your arguments. A too narrow theme will leave you hanging for more information on the topic. Hence, at this stage, you can make adjustments to your topic, if necessary. For instance, the title page of a research paper should hint at the scope of your text. It should suggest what theme and topic you have chosen and how you have approached it. 

Next, see what areas of this topic have not been covered enough. See where you can add something new and interesting to the discussion. Choosing an angle for the paper can be a challenge. However, once you form a vision of your future work, you will feel much more confident writing it. The thing is, as soon as you have formed a scope for your future work, you know what sources and ideas will help you deliver your message. Hence, you can speed up your search for references and limit your arguments to the necessary minimum. 

Lastly, think about your thesis statement. This element can be the most important one to get right. A thesis should offer your readers a premise of your work. it should state what you are planning to research and why. It will also serve you as the glue that will bring your arguments together. They all should strive to answer the thesis statement you set at the beginning of your work. 


Once again, it’s time to check out your instructions to learn how to do a title page for a research paper. Before starting with the writing, you should see what format you need to use in the given essay. Formatting tells you how to do a cover page for a research paper, cite references, and do the layout on a page. Overall, it is responsible for the layout and overall look of your work. For instance, title pages for research papers will look very different in MLA and APA formatting styles. Hence, you have to pay attention to the formatting from the very beginning. 


There can be multiple ways of how to open a research paper. You should pick one to your taste and the general tone of your work. Overall, often, students start their introductions with a hook. A hook is a sentence that should interest and engage your audience. Hence, they are willing to read your text further. You can start with anything from interesting data, facts, quotations of famous authors, or else. Sometimes, you can even start with a thesis statement. Overall, you should figure out how to start a research paper introduction based on the nature of your research and the general theme of writing. 


At last, once you have completed all the previous steps, you can move on to writing an essay outline. An outline is the last stage of your preparations. Here, you should decide on how to place all your main ideas, arguments, and evidence. You should see how many sections and paragraphs you will have and in what order to put them. Additionally, you should just organize your flow of thought in an orderly and efficient manner. Thus, based on your outline, you decide how to start a research paper intro, what main arguments should follow next, and how to transition from one idea to the next one. 

When you start writing, an outline will help you stay focused and organized. It will guide you through all the ideas and arguments that you should use in your work. What’s more, it will also help you see the plan of your work, so you will always know how much is still left for you to do. 

The Bottom Line

Starting an essay should not be as scary as one may think. All you need is to stay open-minded and have some fun with the ideas, topics, and arguments you can present to the readers. It’s okay if you move slowly here. However, be sure to follow each step of this guide as they make the foundation of your future work. 

Also, don’t ever be afraid to make adjustments in your work. You should feel free to change anything that doesn’t serve you at the early stages of your work. You will soon learn that it’s better to listen to your guts and make changes when you feel like it than struggle for the rest of your paper. The further you go from the starting point, the harder it gets to adjust your text and the nature of the work. Hence, it’s always best to show flexibility at the early stages and stay open for changes up until you actually start writing your text.