How to write a research paper? – (Part 2 Of 2)
In part 1 of this article, we talked about what a research paper is and how to get started writing one. Now, you have reviewed the requirements for the paper in detail. You’ve chosen a topic and formulated a thesis statement, which offers a good, controversial statement that can be intensely debated upon. You’ve gone to your school library or institutional database and done some preliminary research, carefully noting your sources and making sure they are reliable. You have collected arguments for and against your thesis. You are ready to begin writing your research paper. But how should it be structured? What information belongs in each section, and how can you make sure your writing is clear and concise? In part 2 of this article, we will discuss the different sections of a research paper and how to write each one of them.
How is a Research Paper Structured?
In general, research papers follow the same structure:
- Tables and figures
Not every research paper will contain every one of these sections. While the majority of science papers or papers for medical journals will follow this format, papers in the humanities may not need tables and figures. Not all papers will have an appendix. Some papers will add a separate literature review between the introduction and methods section.
Introducing Your Topic: The Title, Abstract, and Introduction
The title is the first thing someone will see of your paper, so it must be impactful while also summarizing the topic and main idea of your research. An abstract is a one-page (250 words) summary of your research paper. It should introduce the topic, state your hypothesis, clearly outline your methods, and provide one or two sentences explaining your results and conclusion. Your abstract does not need to go deeply into the history or background of your research topic or detail your entire methodology. Think of it as a preview. It tells a reader whether your topic is relevant to their interests or research.
The introduction to your paper will explain what your topic is and why you believe it is relevant. The introduction should include some background to the issue, what your study is addressing, and summarize the literature that has preceded your paper (if you do not have a separate literature review section). Your introduction will end with your thesis statement. What do you think about the issue and why? As you write your introduction, imagine yourself drawing a map for the reader. They should be able to follow your thought process and understand why you have formulated your hypothesis.
The Meat of the Paper: Methods and Results
Once you have introduced the reader to the topic and your hypothesis, it is time to explain your methods. What did you do and how did you go about it? If you performed original research, this is where you will explain the structure of your study, how you selected your subjects, and what considerations were taken. What materials did you use, and what was the exact procedure you followed? What quantitative or qualitative analysis methods did you use? You should write the methods section in sufficient detail so that another researcher can replicate your study or approach to the topic.
The results section tells us what you learned from your research. What were the results of your experiment or your analysis? While your results section will present and explain the data from your experiment, it is not the place to tell us what you think that data means. That will be saved for the discussion portion of your paper. If you didn’t spend much time describing the analysis method you used in the methods section, then you can elaborate on it more precisely in the results section prior to listing your data.
What Does It All Mean? Discussion, References, Figures, and Appendices
Now that you have told us about the topic, explained your experimental procedure, and detailed your results, it is time to tell us what those results mean! The discussion portion of your paper is critical as it showcases your ability to analyze your results in both the micro and macro frameworks. You should begin by explaining how your results address the questions posed by your hypothesis section and any other questions that are relevant. You should then explain the greater significance of what these results mean in the field. What does this tell us? What doesn’t it tell us? You will end your paper by indicating the directions for future research. What should researchers look into? What is not explained by your results, or what limitations did your experiment face that someone else might be able to overcome?
You will now turn your attention to the references, figures, and appendix portion of your paper. If you were keeping careful track of your sources and citing them well throughout the paper, this should be pretty easy. The references section will list all of the sources you referred to or quoted during your research. The exact formatting will depend on what citation style your assignment calls for. Your life will be much easier if you take advantage of one of the many citation generators out there, which will quickly produce citations in the format you need. Whether or not you have a figures section will depend on the citation style you are following. Some require a separate section for this, while others do not. Finally, if you have any supplemental information that is not critical to understanding your study, you can include it in the appendix. This can be programming code, details of a secondary analysis that you performed, or anything else.
Turning a Good Research Paper into a Great One
Now that you’ve got everything you want to say written down, it’s time to review your paper for grammar, spelling, clarity, vocabulary, and other language details. If you don’t have access to or resources to hire a professional editor or editing service, don’t worry. Technology has brought us numerous AI writing tools that can help you. For academics, there are even specialized tools that are specially tailored for highly technical writing. These AI tools can detect awkward sentence structure and whether specialized words are used correctly, as well as check for appropriate tone and citation style.
Proofreading and revising your writing may seem like unnecessary icing on your beautiful research paper cake. But in fact, making sure your writing is clear and easy to understand is one of the most important aspects of any research paper. If nobody can understand what you did or what you think about your research topic, even the most brilliant research will not matter. So make sure you utilize the powerful AI writing tools that are out there.