A longtime misconception is that writing a research paper is for college students, professors, scientists, and industry professionals. But this simply is not the case.
In this digital age, everyone has access to data and resources that are integral to writing a quality research paper. This is why more and more high school students are choosing to participate in research opportunities.
Writing a research paper can be a phenomenal opportunity to dive deeper into a subject you love while gaining first-hand experience and skills with academic writing and learning about the scientific process of researching.
While more opportunities are available for high school students to conduct research, it is not always clear where to start. How do you find the right opportunity? What research question are you looking to answer? What is a scientific inquiry and how do you begin the work? What information should go in a research paper?
In this article, we cover the important steps on how a student can write a research paper, including how to determine if this is the right choice for you, the resources you will need, the common types of opportunities available, and how to pick the right opportunity for you.
Why Do High School Students Write Research Papers?
The purpose of research is to discover new knowledge that informs other scientific findings. The gold standard is to write a research report or scientific paper that describes the science of the topic in such a way that others will understand it and make conclusions from it.
A research paper is a great way for high school students to explore topics that they are interested in, discover new data and findings, and expand their research skills. However, it is important to know how to identify and select credible research opportunities.
The first step is to ask yourself, are you writing a research paper for the right reasons? Many students pursue research opportunities with the expectation that it will help them gain admission to the college or university of their dreams. While completing a research project may improve your college application, it can also help you gain diligence and skills that can be applied throughout your life, including college and beyond.
Passion for the research subject is integral to the success of the paper. If students have little to no drive for the topic, they may not achieve the best possible results. Students should be personally invested in the research topic and willing to perform deep scientific exploration and analysis. If you are not truly interested in the topic you are researching, a research project can become a long, unpleasant experience, which is not the intent.
To learn more about how to evaluate and conduct research, read the 7 Tips for Finding and Securing Research Opportunities for High School Students.
What Resources Do High School Students Need To Write Research Papers?
There are two levels of research papers that high school students can reach:
- A research paper that leads to a literature review.
- A research paper that creates new knowledge.
Research papers are not made in a vacuum. Students will need various resources to conduct a credible research project and defend their results. Reviewers will determine if adequate references were utilized and if the research methodologies are appropriate. With the right resources at your disposal, you will be better prepared for a successful research experience.
Access to journals and literature
Depending on the research subjects you are interested in, there are some free resources available to consider:
- Google Scholar (comprehensive subjects)
- Directory of Open Access Journals (comprehensive subjects)
- The Public Library of Science (Science)
Resources to learn about research methodologies
By learning different methodologies, students will be able to look at a problem in a variety of ways and consider different perspectives involving the subject. Being focused on only one methodology can cause you to miss certain results.
Research findings can be found everywhere. To begin, try visiting your local library to find free resources about various research methodologies. It could be a journal, a book, or previous research about the subject matter. You can also leverage search engines like Google or participate in an online course.
Access to nearby labs
Access to a laboratory is good to have but not required. Some people may assume that labs are necessary to conduct research, which is not the case. Experience in a lab can be helpful and informative for related research, but there may be limitations. For example, a student who has access to a lab may spend more time assisting another research team instead of focusing on their research project.
A research mentor
Having a mentor to advise you on your research can be very helpful. A good mentor will provide knowledge and guidance, in addition to helping you avoid and resolve roadblocks that you may encounter. Mentors can be found at your high school and nearby colleges and universities.
However, securing a mentor may lead to questions regarding your research accomplishments, such as the extent to which a mentor may have contributed to the research.
An accredited certifying body to approve your research paper
When you complete your research paper, it is best to have a way to validate the research. Peer review is important because it establishes that your paper has other researchers looking into it. Students should look for research opportunities that offer certifying ability. Pioneer Academics is the only online research program qualified and trusted to certify its students’ research papers.
To learn more about the peer review process and how accreditation works, read the Comprehensive Guide to Pioneer Research.
Watch Out for Predatory Academic Journals
Because research opportunities for high school students have been widely commercialized since 2020, ambitious students seeking an edge for their college applications have more options at their disposal. Naturally, students may prioritize getting their research published.
It is important for students to not feel pressured to publish for publicity. Here are some red flags to consider to help identify predatory journals and make informed decisions.
Attending online seminars to enhance your resume
While not inherently bad, the concept of padding your resume with online seminars that are unrelated to your research topic is not advised. Time is precious, especially in research. Teaching students about their specific subject is important to academic writing. If you are asked to spend more time on unrelated seminars than your paper, that is not a good sign.
No organization history or a sketchy website
In the current age of technology, it is easy to create a fake website to get people to submit their payment details and sample work. Be mindful to check the history of your program before providing any personal information.
Lack of mentors during the program
A mentor is someone who should be helping you develop your idea into a quality research paper. If the program you are in does not provide worthwhile mentorship, you should reconsider. Mentors should be able to help guide you through the research process and help you explore other avenues that you may have missed. When evaluating a program, ask for the credentials and accomplishments of potential mentors to make an informed decision.
Why Should High School Students Not Stress About Getting Published?
The next question asked after finishing your paper is how to get it published. This is understandable, especially considering the phrase in academia, “Publish or Perish”.
This aphorism describes the pressure to publish academic work to succeed in an academic career. It is the idea that for your paper to have merit, it must be published. Published research is to be expected among college and university professors. However, for high school students starting out, focusing on the pressure of publication can have two negative effects:
- It can lead to stagnation and fear of writing the paper as students become obsessed with writing the perfect paper. This can create a more stressful experience.
- Some students may complete interesting and valuable research but view the experience and the result negatively until it’s published in research journals.
The key takeaway for writing a research paper is being able to use your knowledge and resources to formulate your scientific conclusions. If you learn how to write a thesis statement, gain new skills for conducting research, and develop a better understanding of how to design experiments, then your paper is a significant accomplishment!
How To Find Research Opportunities
Many high school students may feel the expectation to be excellent in everything they do before college. Some students aim for the class presidency, club activities, and internships to get a leg up. By creating your research, you will be showing colleges that you are ready for the rigorous process involved in peer-reviewed papers.
While this might seem overly complex, we have broken down the three types of research you can do to improve your college application.
Three types of research
Online Research – The newest of the three types, online research became more prominent during the Coronavirus pandemic. This combines the flexibility of remote learning with the expertise of people from prominent fields like STEM research.
University/College Programs – Some colleges and universities may allow high school students to experience their programs through access to college-level subjects. Depending on the competitive nature of your program, these may be difficult to access.
Internships – The oldest of the three, internships involve high school students working for companies that are relevant to their field of interest. Such on-the-job experience can be helpful, but also taxing as you will be expected to learn everything at a fast pace. However, internships can also connect students with potential mentors.
Evaluating the research experience
Students should consider several criteria to choose the right program. Not all programs are alike, so here are some things to look for:
Accreditation – Accreditation is the most important sign of a good program. It shows that the program was reviewed by a committee and has met the standards to provide this service. Pioneer provides the world’s only online research program granting U.S. college credit for high school students through its unique partnership with Oberlin College.
Academic Oversight – This pertains to the teachers, mentors, and scientific methods that are used in the research program. There has to be a group of professionals who can oversee your work to make sure it meets the standards of the program.
Reputation – Reputation is critical, especially in today’s digital age. By checking reviews, you can learn how a program works and how it has been received. A poor reputation can suggest a potentially low return on investment.
Authentic Interest Available – Making sure your subject matter and program are in line can give you the boost to keep going. Your paper might be about science, so applying for a program that focuses mainly on the arts might not be the best choice. Being around other students who share the same research interest can help you get through difficult processes such as constructive criticism of your work, first drafts, and presenting.
Curriculum Quality and Rigor – The quality of your program can change your perspective on your paper. This can lead you to better conclusions as it forces you to think beyond your first understanding of your paper. By having a program that drives you to work harder, the output will be reviewed multiple times, thus leading to a more coherent paper that can be presented.
Resources for Students – Having resources for students is integral for them to be able to go through the rigorous process of writing a research paper. Without it, you will be working at a disadvantage as you will spend more time getting the information and resources you need.
Original Research – Do you want to be part of an innovative program? Everything is changing in this digital landscape, and using antiquated ideas will only lead to an outdated conclusion. Strive to find programs that are pushing the boundaries of your chosen field. Your teachers need to know the latest innovations to help your writing.
What Does a Research Paper Look Like?
A research paper has the following main components: Abstract introduction, literature review, research methodology, findings, analysis discussion, limitations, and scope. These are integral to showing legitimacy to your process when creating your research paper. By having a scientific method in presenting your work, you can showcase your skills to other scientists.
The ultimate goal here is to show the reviewer that your research paper went through a rigorous process and was peer-reviewed.
When you submit your research paper, it should:
- Be presented with your complete findings, whether positive or negative, including everything you gathered from your note cards to your final manuscript.
- Be formatted correctly with no spelling or grammatical errors.
- Have a section with the names of your participants and mentors for review.
- Have a section with the relevant citations and sources you used.
Learn More About Pioneer Academics
Now that you know more about the ins and outs of high school research opportunities, you may be interested in beginning your own research experience.
Pioneer Academics strives to provide its students with the resources to succeed in the competitive college market. Pioneer Academics chooses students using a rigorous assessment process. By doing so, they can match students with professionals that can help them come up with their original research topics.
To learn more about Pioneer Academics, register for an online information session today!