After conducting preliminary research, you should be able to identity a specific area or issue that needs further development.
The first thing you need is a topic. Unlike a book, a research paper should not aim to tackle a whole academic discipline. Instead the topic needs to be focused and narrow. Potential discussion might focus on an underused source base, a particular debate, or a new development.
Once you have decided upon a topic, you will need to identify a source base. Like the topic, this needs to be focused and narrow.
This is the stage in which you will conduct the bulk of your research. Ask yourself, what are the sources telling you? Do they change your idea in any way? And, are there any additional sources you might have missed that could be important to your topic?
After completing a significant amount of research, you should be able to form an argument. What does your evidence suggest? How does this contribute to the debates you originally intended to address? This is a good time to start listing the relevant points you’ll want to cover in the body.
It can also be helpful to write your argument down. While it might change in the process of writing, or after further research, it’s good to have a focus. A research paper should not be descriptive and so it can be helpful to have a preliminary argument written to keep your writing focused.
Choosing a publisher
Lastly, before writing you should identify which journal you want to submit to. It’s important to pick a journal that covers your field of study as this will give you a greater chance of publication. It will also mean that assigned reviewers will be more knowledgeable on your current academic discipline and so will offer better guidance in their feedback.
A good method is to check your own secondary research. Which are the most common journals you use? Then you can use their websites to assess whether your topic and methodology fits their style guidelines. Sometimes it might be worth emailing the journal editor with a brief summary of your article to enquire if it would be something of interest.