A research paper is scientific writing that shapes up an idea into words with solid and verifiable evidence. The main goal of a research paper is to assemble different opinions, perspectives, corroboration, and facts on a subject matter from various resources like articles, books, other research papers, interviews and elucidate the details and findings in one's own words. The most popular types of research papers are argumentative papers, analytical papers, definition papers, compare and contrast papers, cause and effect papers, reports, and interpretive papers.
Guidelines to write a research paper | How to start a research paper?
Before directly jumping into the writing part, one must have a clear idea about the chosen topic of interest, previous works done in your area on the same matter, and the methods planned to set the research towards a conclusion. Google scholar, research gate, academia are some of the best resources on the internet to dig inside your topic. Various books, interviews can also help a lot.
Bloom's Taxonomy best explains the cognitive skills required to write a research paper. From creating an idea to revising the final output, all the six steps included in this scheme (create, evaluate, analyze, apply, understand, remember) are to be followed in an ascending order which is shown in the figure below.
Components of Research Paper
Title | How to choose a title for a research paper?
The title of any research paper is a sign-up to the content of the research. A clear and succinct research title is the basics one must know to attract the readers and make them read further. To stand out in choosing a title, one must ensure four principles given by rhetoric scholars Maxine Hariston and Michael Keene.
- A good title should direct the content of the research paper.
- It should be engrossing and impressive to the readers.
- It should reflect the tone of writing.
- It should contain all the possible keywords such that the paper is easily accessible by a keyword search. Also, it helps to rank ahead in online media.
The world today has shrunken down from a massive globe to a small network due to the information available digitally. The challenge today is finding relevant papers easily. Keywords, hence, help to filter the available resources in terms of the relevancy of the words searched. Being one of the most important parts of a research paper, keywords help indexers and search engines find required papers. If keywords are relevant and wisely written, research papers can reach the readers easily. The more the readers, the more a research paper has a chance to be cited. So, it is important to choose the most relevant keywords related to the topic.
Keywords should be as short as possible varying from 1 to 4 words for a single keyword. Usually, journals ask for around 3-8 keywords and prefer single-word keywords rather than phrases. Keeping in mind what would researchers search the most in search engines for the given topic, one must decide keywords clearly related to their subject matter by exploring various journal and academic databases like Google Scholar. If the results include papers of similar topics then no revision of keywords is required. Also, keyword planners and keyword generators can be used to work out proper keywords.
Abstract | How to write an abstract for a research paper?
The abstract is simply a summary of a research paper that helps the reader to get a quick survey of the content of the paper and judge whether it is pertinent to their research. Search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts to identify key terms for indexing published papers. Hence, whatever is written in the abstract helps other researchers and readers to locate the research paper.
An abstract needs to outline a complete synopsis of the research paper within a tight word limit. It contains brief information about the overall paper including background information of research, its aims, and rationale, methodologies, results, and implications of the findings without repeating verbatim use of words. A maximum of 200 words can be used to write an abstract. Most of the time word limits are given by the journals. The APA Publication Manual describes a good abstract as being accurate, self-contained, concise and specific, non-evaluative, coherent, and readable. Although the abstract appears at the top portion of the paper, it is appropriate to write it at the end after the whole paper is drafted so that summarization becomes easier.
Introduction | How to write an introduction for a research paper?
It is very important that the readers go through the whole research paper so that it is cited as many times as possible. After an effective title and abstract, the introduction ensures that they keep reading the paper and continue with other sections as well. The introduction is an opportunity to show readers and reviewers why the research topic is worth reading and why the research paper vindicates attention. It includes the grounds on which the topic of study is explained, introduces topics and rationales of study, and gives an overview of the research paper.
Content in the introduction should be started broadly and then the information is narrowed down to a particular focus as shown in the figure above. Starting with what is already known about the topic to highlighting less present formation, the introduction should fill the gap between them and taper down to the specific point of the research. Stating the aims of the research and its importance is of much significance as a selection of research papers in journals is based on how impressive the motive of the research is. Explanations based on the most recent literature pertaining to the research topic give an introduction a base to strongly forward the ideas on the basis of relevant research. A claim that is potentially contestable should be backed up by empirical evidence i.e. common logical pitfalls should not be present in the writing. Also, writers of research papers should be aware of grammar and style in order to increase the readability and strength of printed work.
The introduction is usually written in around 1000-1500 words. But the restriction of the words solely depends on the criteria of the journal in which the research paper is to be published and hence varies from one journal to another.
Literature Review | How to do a literature review for a research paper?
A literature review is a portion of a research paper on its own as it is more informative than including it in the introduction itself. It is an evaluative link that connects the present research with previous existing research, scholarly articles, books, and other relevant sources on a particular research topic. It basically comprises contrasting arguments, disagreements, theories, and approaches, criticizing research methodology, indicating a connection between the present study and previous studies, and highlighting gaps.
Before writing a literature review, keywords should be identified so that the most relevant papers or study materials can be searched accordingly for further process. Abstract of those relevant papers is studied thoroughly and other sections are further read if the abstract is relevant to the research topic. Important points are jotted down and summarized to write this section. As more publications are read, add-ups can be done in the literature review accordingly. Common logical pitfalls should not be included. Also, this section should be critically correct and non-biased as readers can easily feel if any cherry-picking prevails in the research paper.
Materials and Methods
The materials and methods section describes the chronological sequence of procedures taken to collect empirical data including all the materials used for the research. This portion consists of three components; description of the experimental set-up, experimental steps, and data analysis procedure. It enables readers to get a closer overview of the appropriateness of research and the validity of the results.
This portion is the easiest section to be written as the experimental setup is to be explained exactly as done. So, it is written after the experiments have been done, be it lab experiments or mathematical relations of physical sciences and social sciences. Using concise terms, description of and sampling procedures used, methods of data collection, identification of dependent, independent and controlled variables and justification of methodological approach and research design should be written. Also, it should be explained in detail such that other researchers can replicate the setup and perform experiments to substantiate results.
Results and Discussions
Results and discussions is the main part of any research paper as it includes findings of the study based on the information gathered in the methodological process and interpretation and significance of those findings. It is a presentation of numerical results and data for quantitative research and a discussion of trends for qualitative research. It can be written separately under different headings or combine under a single heading depending on the criteria set by the journals.
This section is an answer to all the research questions. The results obtained can be presented in figures, tables, charts, graphs to make it easier for readers to understand the gist of the research by giving a proper technical or mathematical explanation of the research. The obtained results should be compared to previous studies to show consistency or inconsistency with a proper explanation. Results and discussion can be presented in the following two ways.
1. Sequential Pattern:
In this arrangement, all the findings are kept together followed by the interpretation of the findings in the same section or different. The sequential pattern follows an arrangement of 'R1, R2, R3,... D' where R stands for result and D for discussion. It is a better method to follow if there are several different results to which one discussion is enough.
2. Alternating Pattern:
The next way of ordering results and discussions is to write the finding and then discuss it for each finding. The pattern it follows is 'R1, D1, R2, D2, R3, D3...' where R and D represent results and discussion respectively. This method is best applied when there are several different results to which respective discussions are required.
A well-written result and discussion aid the readers to understand the theme of the paper in a crystal clear way. To make sure it happens, writers must ensure that there are no loopholes and common logical pitfalls like the false analogy, post hoc, and false dilemmas. It is important to link the discussion back to the introduction or aims of the research. Following the hourglass principle, this section should hence start with specific information or result and then broaden down by explaining the required explications of those results.
Conclusion | How to conclude a research paper?
The conclusion is the last major section of a research paper stating the importance of that particular research and its practical implications. It is the closure to the research aims stated in the introduction part summarizing important findings of the study. Also, this section comprises any limitations of the research and alternatives to solve them as well. Areas for future research and opportunities are pointed out to give ideas for future researchers who will work on the same topic.
Reference | How to write references for a research paper?
Documentation of all the sources used to build up a research paper is done in the section of the reference. There are various formats like MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago, or any other formats specified by journals to cite the sources. Citations make the readers know about the location of materials used. It also indicates that one has gone through other literature to build up the idea of research. The acknowledgment of other sources helps to avoid plagiarism issues too. Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are the three methods to incorporate others' writings and findings in the research paper.