9 Steps to Writing a Good Research Paper

by Mary Oommen
9 Steps to writing a good research paper

Writing a good research paper is not easy, but it is a crucial skill that PhD students and early career researcher need to develop. While the research, analysis, and field work may seem exciting and interesting many academics struggle with writing a good research paper. This is because knowing how to write your first research paper means mastering a long, complex process that involves several key steps. Conveying your research accurately, clearly and in an engaging manner while following academic writing conventions also requires a certain proficiency in language coupled with knowledge of a specific subject. In this article, we will outline how to write a good research paper that will impress journal editors and reviewers.

How to write a good research paper

Writing a good research paper for a high-impact journal is different from writing a PhD thesis or dissertation. If you’re unsure where to proceed, these simple steps will help you with how to write a good research paper.

1. Choose a research paper topic

One of the first steps in writing a good research paper is to finalize the right research topic. Start with a broad vision, then refine the topic and narrow it down to something that you are completely happy with. Select a topic that is not only original, can add to existing knowledge in your field and is interesting for your intended audience, but one that you are passionate about. This will keep you focused on achieving your goal even when you’re feeling unsure about how to write a good research paper. Finally, make sure your topic is practical enough to pursue, with scope to uncover new evidence and data to prove your point.

2. Identify journal/s for submission

Many budding academics neglect this step as they’re consumed with learning how to write a good research paper. However, finding the right journal for your research can define how you conduct your research and helps you understand how to set up a research paper. Data shows that over 21% of manuscripts submitted to journals are desk rejected, while another 40% are rejected after peer review.1 Often the main reason for rejection is the fact that the submission does not meet the aims and scope of the journal. This makes it critical to identify the best journal for your work early, ideally before you start writing a good research paper.

3. Create a strong research paper outline

Figuring out how to write a good research paper gets easier once you have a strong research paper outline. This helps you organize your thoughts coherently, structure your manuscript with key elements to include in each section, and simplifies the process of writing a good research paper. This is a necessary step to plan your work efficiently, stay on top of your schedule, and don’t spend more time than estimated for each stage. Remember to factor in some flexibility to allow for last-minute changes based on unforeseen circumstances or key feedback from supervisors and co-authors.

4. Structure your research paper

Another key tip on how to write a good research paper is structuring your manuscript based on the journal rules. Most journals recommend authors use the IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) structure to present their research in clear, logical sections. Start by outlining the main points and sub-points in the paper and arrange them in order of relevance and importance. This will point you in the right direction when writing a good research paper.

Common writing errors in academic writing

5. Write the all-important first draft

Getting started on the first draft can be daunting; it is often the most intensive and time-consuming part of writing a good research paper. This is why many researchers put off the writing process until after they’re done with their research. However, a handy tip on how to write a good research paper is starting your manuscript while you’re in the zone and working on your project. Begin with the Methods and Results, which are usually easier to write, before moving on to the Introduction and finally the Conclusion to wrap it up.

6. Present complex ideas using visuals

Most PhD students and early career researchers get so involved in writing a good research paper, they don’t realize their work has become complex, text-heavy, and boring. If you are wondering how to write a good research paper that is engaging, we suggest using visual elements like tables, figures, charts, schematics, and photographs to quickly convey complex concepts. Not only is this a great way to shorten your paper to meet recommended word counts, but it also makes your research process and findings easier for readers to understand. 

7. Add citations and references

As researchers learning how to write a good research paper, you may refer to sources such as journals, books, magazines, newspapers, and websites to gather information and steer your research in the desired direction. It is important to ensure that any information you include when writing a good research paper are drawn from credible and authoritative sources and cited correctly. Make sure to add the relevant citations and list the corresponding references in your research paper in the format recommended by your target journal.

8. Adhere to submission guidelines

Most publishers and high-impact journals have their own specific style guides and authors are expected to know and follow these to the letter when writing a good research paper. There are rules for the right fonts and sizes, word counts, accepted paper structure, ethical requirements, and formatting of citations, references, endnotes, footnotes, bibliography and more. Knowing how to write a good research paper means checking and revising your work to create a strong manuscript that meets all the requirements before you submit.

9. Proofread and finalize your paper

Early career researchers and PhD students consumed with writing a good research paper and submitting it within tight deadlines may overlook minor mistakes. In fact, poor language, incorrect word choice, grammatical errors, and flaws in sentence construction are among the top reasons for manuscript rejection. It always helps to double-check the data presented and proofread the manuscript thoroughly. Taking a break will help you return with a fresh mind, which will allow you to identify any errors, inconsistencies, and gaps you may have missed out on earlier. Another great tip is to read the manuscript out loud as this helps to weed out inadvertent errors. You can ask a colleague or mentor to check your paper or use AI editing tools like Paperpal to create a submission ready manuscript.

In conclusion, writing a good research paper is a complex multi-step process that many researchers find challenging. While the information in this article can help you improve your research paper writing skills, the key is to stay focused and organized when writing a good research paper to increase your chance of publication success.


  1. Eassom, H. 5 Options to Consider After Article Rejection. The Wiley Network. https://www.wiley.com/network/researchers/submission-and-navigating-peer-review/5-options-to-consider-after-article-rejection

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