Components of a Research Paper

Components of a Research Paper

In this segment, the key components of a quality research paper will be identified and discussed.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the components of a research paper.
  • Analyze the components of a research paper.

 

Understanding Scholarly Journal Articles

Once a researcher goes through the process of conducting a research project, it is critical that he or she shares their findings with others through submission of the work to a scholarly journal.  The following video, "Understanding Scholarly Journal Articles", provides an introduction to the process of writing a journal article for submission.  The video discusses the purpose of publication, how scholarly journals differ from other publications, the steps in the publication process, the parts of basic journal article, and tips on writing.

 

Structure of a Research Paper

While academic disciplines vary on the exact format and style of journal articles in their field, most articles contain similar content and are divided in parts that typically follow the same logical flow.  Following is a list of the parts commonly found in research articles.  

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusion
  • References/Bibliography

Research papers are organized so that the information flow resembles an hourglass in that it goes from general  to specific and then back to general again.  The introduction and literature review sections will introduce the problem and provide general information. The methods and results will provide specific, detailed information about this research project and the discussion/conclusion will discuss the findings in a larger context. The following section will describe each of these parts in more detail.  Additional information can be found in the Resources section of this module and in the Suggested Readings.

Title

The title should be specific and indicate the problem the research project addresses using keywords that will be helpful in literature reviews in the future.

Abstract

The abstract is used by readers to quickly review the overall content of the paper.  Journals typically place strict word limits on abstracts, such as 200 words, making them a challenge to write.  The abstract should provide a complete synopsis of the research paper and should introduce the topic and the specific research question, provide a statement regarding methodology and should provide a general statement about the results and the findings.  Because it is really a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last.

Introduction

The introduction begins by introducing the broad overall topic and providing basic background information.  It then narrows down to the specific research question relating to this topic.  It provides the purpose and focus for the rest of the paper and sets up the justification for the research.

Literature Review

The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and it relate it specifically to the research problem.  It should be a synthesis of the previous literature and the new idea being researched.  The review should examine the major theories related to the topic to date and their contributors.  It should include all relevant findings from credible sources, such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Methods

The methods section will describe the research design and methodology used to complete to the study.  The general rule of thumb is that readers should be provided with enough detail to replicate the study.

Results

In this section, the results of the analysis are presented.  How the results are presented will depend upon whether the research study was quantitative or qualitative in nature.  This section should focus only on results that are directly related to the research or the problem. Graphs and tables should only be used when there is too much data to efficiently include it within the text.  This section should present the results, but not discuss their significance.

Discussion/Conclusion

This section should be a discussion of the results and the implications on the field, as well as other fields. The hypothesis should be answered and validated by the interpretation of the results.  This section should also discuss how the results relate to previous research mentioned in the literature review, any cautions about the findings, and potential for future research.

References/Bibliography

The research paper is not complete without the list of references. This section should be an alphabetized list of all the academic sources of information utilized in the paper.  The format of the references will match the format and style used in the paper.  Common formats include APA, MLA, Harvard and so forth.

Resource Links

Parts of a Research Paper - The parts of a typical research paper are described in these two links and the sites also provide links for additional resources, including the APA style manual. 

How to Write a Scientific Research Paper - The following links are a three part YouTube series on writing a scientific research paper.  The series of videos provide a comprehensive, in-depth look at why publishing is important, how to get started, what are the parts of the paper and what order should they be written in, tips on how to write each section and additional suggestions that will assist writers in getting their work published.

Publishing Your Research 101 - The website provides a series of 10 video episodes by the American Chemical Society that address all aspects of writing a journal article for submission and tips on how to improve your writing. 

The Literature Review - Researchers are required to know the research that has already been done in their field. The Literature Reviews examine previous related research. This video lecture explains how to write a Literature Review, and examines which elements are required in one.

Sample Research Paper  - APA Style - The sample research paper shown here provides information regarding content, formatting, and style.  There is also a link for exploring alternate formatting options.

How to Avoid Plagiarism Tutorial - This comprehensive guide provides information on citation rules, examples of citations, and guidelines for paraphrasing, summarizing and using quotations. 

Other Resources on CIRT:

Suggested Readings

  • Belcher, W. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
  • Brookfield, S. D. (2011). Addressing feedback from reviewers and editors. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Ellinger, A.D. (2011). Creating a whole from the parts: Qualities of good writing. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Epstein,  (2011). Writing with authority: Pitfalls and pitstops. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Imel, S. Writing a literature review. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Jacobs,R. L. (2011). Developing a research problem and purpose statement. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Lee, M. Finding voice. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Lindholm, J. A., Szelenyi, K., Hurtado, S., & Korn, W.S. (2005). The American college teacher: National norms ofr the 2004-2005 HERI Faculty Survey. Los Angeles: UCLA Higher Education Research Institute.
  • Rocco, T. S. (2011). Reasons to write, writing opportunities, and other considerations. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Wallace and Wray (2011). Scholary reading as a model for scholarly writing. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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