writing a research essay
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Writing a Research Essay: Steps and Concepts

Written by Saira Naeem

Research is a systematic and scientific endeavor. So, when you take up a topic for writing a research essay, there would be some necessary steps and concepts that you have to follow. Writing a research essay for the first time means that you should first get familiar with these terms, concepts, and steps that you have to undertake while writing a research essay.

Steps in writing a research essay

Following are the steps involved in writing a research essay:

Key terms and concepts

While writing up a research essay the beginner researcher will encounter some terms that need clarification.

Research paper

A research paper is a piece of academic writing which contains substantial, theoretical and informative knowledge.

Research objectives

Research objectives are specific goals expressed in the form of statements in the beginning which the researcher hopes to achieve at the end or completion of the research project.

Research problem

Anything that is the basis of your research, it may be a question or an issue. Its what you are aiming to find or establish through your research.

Research design

A research design spells out what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. It is a procedural plan which is adopted to answer questions in a logical, valid, accurate and economic way. A research design you communicate to yourself as well as to others

  • how you are going to decide what your population and sample is going to be
  • how you are going to collect your data
  • How you are going to analyse that data and
  • How you are going to communication your findings and research to others etc.


A variable is something that can be measured, it can take on different values such as high, medium, low or none at all. A variable thus may be an image, perception or a concept having the capacity to be measured.


Are logical reflectors. Sometimes the image, perception or concept is incapable of measurement directly and therefore has to be indirectly measured through other means that are logically reflective of the concept.


An article is a writing that conveys information about a certain topic.

Peer reviewed article

Peer reviewed articles are also called scholarly, juried or referred. They are specialized in nature and are authoritative about the subject because they have been verified and fact checked by scholars, professionals and editors etc.

Key word

This is a word that summarizes the main idea or major concept of the text. It is often used to search online electronic resources.


A citation is a reference to a source. Researchers use in text citations to explain where  a fact, statistic, theory etc was found.


A thesis/dissertation is a piece of detailed writing on a particular subject written mostly for the purposes of obtaining a college or university degree. It documents the author’s research and findings on a particular subject, the difference between the two being only the academic level. A thesis is mostly done for a masters degree while the dissertation is written at the PhD level.


A Journal is a collection of articles published regularly by professional associations aimed towards researchers who are writing about or exploring a particular topic.


Also called foreword, an abstract is something that gives you an overview of the entire research. It highlights the main points of the research in the beginning and gives the reader a general idea of what to expect.


A hypothesis is a testable assumption, it is a supposition, a hunch, a calculated and educated guess on part of the researcher about a phenomenon, relation or situation. The reality or truth of this is unknown and therefore you set up your study to verify or test it. It is a sentence or two long and  when subjected to a statistical test a hypothesis is either accepted or rejected.

Literature review

Literature review would be a detailed study of all relevant researches done by other people on your particular topic of inter and using these as the background for doing additional research work in the relevant field.

Theoretical framework

A theoretical framework is the measurement and analysis of your data with the help of an existing and established scientific theory.


A population would be the complete set of people or objects from which you are planning to collect your required information. A population can be homogenous or heterogeneous.


Sometimes the population you choose is much too large to investigate. The research therefore decides to use a sample instead. A sample is a subset or a group taken from the main population through predefined methods. If chosen carefully the results from the sample are representative of the entire population.

Probability/non probability sampling

Probability sampling is a method of sample selection used for quantitative research. It is further subdivided into random, stratified, cluster and systematic sampling. In probability sampling methods each unit of analysis has an equal or known chance of being selected.

Non probability sampling is used for qualitative research and has snowball,  convenience, quota, consecutive, purposive or judgemental sampling as its sub categories. In non probability sampling the chance for each unit of analysis being selected is not known.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is open to enquiry, flexible and unstructured. The basis of this research is empiricism. Instead of facts and figures the researcher studies perceptions and feelings, uses smaller samples. Its aim is to describe not measure.

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is rigid, structured, uses predefined methodology. The basis of this research is rationalism, it aims to quantify variations in phenomenon and makes generalizations for total population using relatively larger samples then the ones used in qualitative research.




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