Elements of a Research Paper
Set the stage; state the problem (introduction)
generally describe the topic and how it fits into your field of study
- Set the scene
Describe the environment and its conditions
Get permission before using personal information
- Introduce and describe the problem
Describe what you intend to show/argue and why
What is its significance?
Illustrate the problem with an interesting example
(Remember you are writing for an audience and want to capture their interest)
- Begin to define terms, concepts, vocabulary
If possible, use one authoritative source or combine definitions and footnote your sources
Later in the development of your paper, be conscious of using new terms and their definitions
- Since tasks begun well, likely have good finishes (Sophocles)
review the topic, scene, and problem with your teacher or supervisor to verify if you are on the right path
Review the Literature
What research is relevant?
How is it organized? c.f.: Writing Center/University of Wisconsin's Review of literature
Develop your Hypotheses
Your hypothesis is your proposed explanation that you will test to determine whether it is true or false
It will contain measurable variables (those that change or can be manipulated)
with results that can be compared with each other.
Avoid over-generalizing, and reference the research findings of others to support why you think this will work
C.F. National Health Museum's Writing Hypotheses: a student lesson
Give enough information so that others can follow your procedure,
and can replicate it (and hopefully come up with the same findings and conclusions as you did!)
- Describe your procedure as completely as possible so that someone can duplicate it completely
- Define your sample and its characteristics
These should be consistent throughout the test
- List the variables used
These are what change, or that you manipulate, throughout the test
- Try to anticipate criticism that affects either your internal or external validity
These might be considered "flaws"
This is descriptive and numeric data
Develop your argument based upon your findings.
While the data may read for itself, you will need to interpret
- how it validates your hypothesis
- what falls outside of validity
- how it impacts the literature you cited
- where further research is needed
Restate and summarize your findings and discussion either in order to simply complexity or to provide a summary for those who skip to it!
Verify with your teacher the proper format
A research paper is not an essay, an editorial, or a story.
All assertions of fact must be documented.
Be careful of any generalizations that you make.
Strive to be value-free in your inquiry.
Review our Guide on the Scientific Method
Writing for the "Web" | The five-paragraph essay | Essays for a literature class |See also:
Expository essays | Persuasive essays | Position papers | Open book exams |
Essay Exams | White papers | Lab reports/scientific papers |
Research proposals | Elements of a Research Paper
Seven stages of writing assignments
1. Kearl, Michael, The Research Paper, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, (September 17, 2004)
2. Online Writing Lab, Writing a Research Paper, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, (September 17, 2004)
There is no one right style or manner for writing an education paper. Content aside, the writing style and presentation of papers in different educational fields vary greatly. Nevertheless, certain parts are common to most papers, for example:
Contains the paper's title, the author's name, address, phone number, e-mail, and the day's date.
Not every education paper requires an abstract. However, for longer, more complex papers abstracts are particularly useful. Often only 100 to 300 words, the abstract generally provides a broad overview and is never more than a page. It describes the essence, the main theme of the paper. It includes the research question posed, its significance, the methodology, and the main results or findings. Footnotes or cited works are never listed in an abstract. Remember to take great care in composing the abstract. It's the first part of the paper the instructor reads. It must impress with a strong content, good style, and general aesthetic appeal. Never write it hastily or carelessly.
Introduction and Statement of the Problem
A good introduction states the main research problem and thesis argument. What precisely are you studying and why is it important? How original is it? Will it fill a gap in other studies? Never provide a lengthy justification for your topic before it has been explicitly stated.
Limitations of Study
Discuss your research methodology. Did you employ qualitative or quantitative research methods? Did you administer a questionnaire or interview people? Any field research conducted? How did you collect data? Did you utilize other libraries or archives? And so on.
The research process uncovers what other writers have written about your topic. Your education paper should include a discussion or review of what is known about the subject and how that knowledge was acquired. Once you provide the general and specific context of the existing knowledge, then you yourself can build on others' research. The guide Writing a Literature Review will be helpful here.
Main Body of Paper/Argument
This is generally the longest part of the paper. It's where the author supports the thesis and builds the argument. It contains most of the citations and analysis. This section should focus on a rational development of the thesis with clear reasoning and solid argumentation at all points. A clear focus, avoiding meaningless digressions, provides the essential unity that characterizes a strong education paper.
After spending a great deal of time and energy introducing and arguing the points in the main body of the paper, the conclusion brings everything together and underscores what it all means. A stimulating and informative conclusion leaves the reader informed and well-satisfied. A conclusion that makes sense, when read independently from the rest of the paper, will win praise.
See the Bibliography section.
Education research papers often contain one or more appendices. An appendix contains material that is appropriate for enlarging the reader's understanding, but that does not fit very well into the main body of the paper. Such material might include tables, charts, summaries, questionnaires, interview questions, lengthy statistics, maps, pictures, photographs, lists of terms, glossaries, survey instruments, letters, copies of historical documents, and many other types of supplementary material. A paper may have several appendices. They are usually placed after the main body of the paper but before the bibliography or works cited section. They are usually designated by such headings as Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on.