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How to Write a Research Paper: Parts of the Paper

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Parts of the Research Paper Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your introductory paragraph should grab the reader's attention, state your main idea, and indicate how you will support it. The body of the paper should expand on what you have stated in the introduction. Finally, the conclusion restates the paper's thesis and should explain what you have learned, giving a wrap up of your main ideas.

1. The Title The title should be specific and indicate the theme of the research and what ideas it addresses. Use keywords that help explain your paper's topic to the reader. Try to avoid abbreviations and jargon. Think about keywords that people would use to search for your paper and include them in your title.

2. The Abstract The abstract is used by readers to get a quick overview of your paper. Typically, they are about 200 words in length (120 words minimum to  250 words maximum). The abstract should introduce the topic and thesis, and should provide a general statement about what you have found in your research. The abstract allows you to mention each major aspect of your topic and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Because it is a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last. 

3. The Introduction The introduction should be designed to attract the reader's attention and explain the focus of the research. You will introduce your overview of the topic,  your main points of information, and why this subject is important. You can introduce the current understanding and background information about the topic. Toward the end of the introduction, you add your thesis statement, and explain how you will provide information to support your research questions. This provides the purpose and focus for the rest of the paper.

4. Thesis Statement Most papers will have a thesis statement or main idea and supporting facts/ideas/arguments. State your main idea (something of interest or something to be proven or argued for or against) as your thesis statement, and then provide your supporting facts and arguments. A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking. It also points toward the paper's development. This statement should be both specific and arguable. Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

Students often learn to write a thesis as a first step in the writing process, but often, after research, a writer's viewpoint may change. Therefore a thesis statement may be one of the final steps in writing. 

Examples of Thesis Statements from Purdue OWL

5. The Literature Review The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and how it specifically relates to the research thesis. 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. You will want  to:

  • Explain how the literature helps the researcher understand the topic.
  • Try to show connections and any disparities between the literature.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research.
  • Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.

More about writing a literature review. . .

6. The Discussion ​The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe what you have learned from your research. Make the reader understand why your topic is important. The discussion should always demonstrate what you have learned from your readings (and viewings) and how that learning has made the topic evolve, especially from the short description of main points in the introduction.Explain any new understanding or insights you have had after reading your articles and/or books. Paragraphs should use transitioning sentences to develop how one paragraph idea leads to the next. The discussion will always connect to the introduction, your thesis statement, and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction. You want to: 

  • Demonstrate critical thinking, not just reporting back facts that you gathered.
  • If possible, tell how the topic has evolved over the past and give it's implications for the future.
  • Fully explain your main ideas with supporting information.
  • Explain why your thesis is correct giving arguments to counter points.

7. The Conclusion A concluding paragraph is a brief summary of your main ideas and restates the paper's main thesis, giving the reader the sense that the stated goal of the paper has been accomplished. What have you learned by doing this research that you didn't know before? What conclusions have you drawn? You may also want to suggest further areas of study, improvement of research possibilities, etc. to demonstrate your critical thinking regarding your research.

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Scientific and Scholarly Writing

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Parts of a Scientific & Scholarly Paper

Introduction.

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Different sections are needed in different types of scientific papers (lab reports, literature reviews, systematic reviews, methods papers, research papers, etc.). Projects that overlap with the social sciences or humanities may have different requirements. Generally, however, you'll need to include:

INTRODUCTION (Background)

METHODS SECTION (Materials and Methods)

What is a title?

Titles have two functions: to identify the main topic or the message of the paper and to attract readers.

The title will be read by many people. Only a few will read the entire paper, therefore all words in the title should be chosen with care. Too short a title is not helpful to the potential reader. Too long a title can sometimes be even less meaningful. Remember a title is not an abstract. Neither is a title a sentence.

What makes a good title?

A good title is accurate, complete, and specific. Imagine searching for your paper in PubMed. What words would you use?

  • Use the fewest possible words that describe the contents of the paper.
  • Avoid waste words like "Studies on", or "Investigations on".
  • Use specific terms rather than general.
  • Use the same key terms in the title as the paper.
  • Watch your word order and syntax.
  • Avoid abbreviations, jargon, and special characters.

The abstract is a miniature version of your paper. It should present the main story and a few essential details of the paper for readers who only look at the abstract and should serve as a clear preview for readers who read your whole paper. They are usually short (250 words or less).

The goal is to communicate:

  •  What was done?
  •  Why was it done?
  •  How was it done?
  •  What was found?

A good abstract is specific and selective. Try summarizing each of the sections of your paper in a sentence two. Do the abstract last, so you know exactly what you want to write.

  • Use 1 or more well developed paragraphs.
  • Use introduction/body/conclusion structure.
  • Present purpose, results, conclusions and recommendations in that order.
  • Make it understandable to a wide audience.

What is an introduction?

The introduction tells the reader why you are writing your paper (ie, identifies a gap in the literature) and supplies sufficient background information that the reader can understand and evaluate your project without referring to previous publications on the topic.

The nature and scope of the problem investigated.

The pertinent literature already written on the subject.

The method of the investigation.

The hypothesized results of the project.

What makes a good introduction?

A good introduction is not the same as an abstract. Where the abstract summarizes your paper, the introduction justifies your project and lets readers know what to expect.

• Keep it brief. You conducted an extensive literature review, so that you can give readers just the relevant information. • Cite your sources using in-text citations. • Use the present tense. Keep using the present tense for the whole paper. • Use the same information that you use in the rest of your paper.

What is a methods section?

Generally a methods section tells the reader how you conducted your project. 

It is also called "Materials and Methods".

The goal is to make your project reproducible.

What makes a good methods section?

A good methods section gives enough detail that another scientist could reproduce or replicate your results.

• Use very specific language, similar to a recipe in a cookbook. • If something is not standard (equipment, method, chemical compound, statistical analysis), then describe it. • Use the past tense. • Subheadings should follow guidelines of a style (APA, Vancouver, etc.) or journal (journals will specify these in their "for authors" section). For medical education writing, refer to the AMA Manual of Style .

  What is a results section?

The results objectively present the data or information that you gathered through your project. The narrative that you write here will point readers to your figures and tables that present your relevant data.

Keep in mind that you may be able to include more of your data in an online journal supplement or research data repository.

What makes a good results section?

A good results section is not the same as the discussion. Present the facts in the results, saving the interpretation for the discussion section. The results section should be written in past tense.

• Make figures and tables clearly labelled and easy to read. If you include a figure or table, explain it in the results section. • Present representative data rather than endlessly repetitive data . • Discuss variables only if they had an effect (positive or negative) • Use meaningful statistics . • Describe statistical analyses you ran on the data.

What is a discussion section?

The discussion section is the answer to the question(s) you posed in the introduction section. It is where you interpret your results. You have a lot of flexibility in this section. In addition to your main findings or conclusions, consider:

• Limitations and strengths of your project. • Directions for future research.

What makes a good  discussion section?

A good discussion section should read very differently than the results section. The discussion is where you interpret the project as a whole.

• Present principles, relationships and generalizations shown by the results. • Discuss the significance or importance of the results. • Discuss the theoretical implications of your work as well as practical applications • Show how your results agree or disagree with previously published works.

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Research Method

Home » Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Paper

Research Paper

Definition:

Research Paper is a written document that presents the author’s original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue.

It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new knowledge or insights to a particular field of study, and to demonstrate the author’s understanding of the existing literature and theories related to the topic.

Structure of Research Paper

The structure of a research paper typically follows a standard format, consisting of several sections that convey specific information about the research study. The following is a detailed explanation of the structure of a research paper:

The title page contains the title of the paper, the name(s) of the author(s), and the affiliation(s) of the author(s). It also includes the date of submission and possibly, the name of the journal or conference where the paper is to be published.

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. The abstract should be written in a concise and clear manner to allow readers to quickly grasp the essence of the research.

Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper provides background information about the research problem, the research question, and the research objectives. It also outlines the significance of the research, the research gap that it aims to fill, and the approach taken to address the research question. Finally, the introduction section ends with a clear statement of the research hypothesis or research question.

Literature Review

The literature review section of a research paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the topic of study. It includes a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature, highlighting the key concepts, themes, and debates. The literature review should also demonstrate the research gap and how the current study seeks to address it.

The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. This section should provide sufficient detail for other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the research, using tables, graphs, and figures to illustrate the data. The findings should be presented in a clear and concise manner, with reference to the research question and hypothesis.

The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. It should also address the limitations of the study and suggest future research directions.

The conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the study, restates the research question and hypothesis, and provides a final reflection on the significance of the research.

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style such as APA, MLA or Chicago.

How to Write Research Paper

You can write Research Paper by the following guide:

  • Choose a Topic: The first step is to select a topic that interests you and is relevant to your field of study. Brainstorm ideas and narrow down to a research question that is specific and researchable.
  • Conduct a Literature Review: The literature review helps you identify the gap in the existing research and provides a basis for your research question. It also helps you to develop a theoretical framework and research hypothesis.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the main argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise and specific to your research question.
  • Plan your Research: Develop a research plan that outlines the methods, data sources, and data analysis procedures. This will help you to collect and analyze data effectively.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Collect data using various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Analyze data using statistical tools or other qualitative methods.
  • Organize your Paper : Organize your paper into sections such as Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Ensure that each section is coherent and follows a logical flow.
  • Write your Paper : Start by writing the introduction, followed by the literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and follows the required formatting and citation styles.
  • Edit and Proofread your Paper: Review your paper for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it is well-structured and easy to read. Ask someone else to review your paper to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Cite your Sources: Ensure that you properly cite all sources used in your research paper. This is essential for giving credit to the original authors and avoiding plagiarism.

Research Paper Example

Note : The below example research paper is for illustrative purposes only and is not an actual research paper. Actual research papers may have different structures, contents, and formats depending on the field of study, research question, data collection and analysis methods, and other factors. Students should always consult with their professors or supervisors for specific guidelines and expectations for their research papers.

Research Paper Example sample for Students:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

Abstract: This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults. A literature review was conducted to examine the existing research on the topic. A survey was then administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Introduction: Social media has become an integral part of modern life, particularly among young adults. While social media has many benefits, including increased communication and social connectivity, it has also been associated with negative outcomes, such as addiction, cyberbullying, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults.

Literature Review: The literature review highlights the existing research on the impact of social media use on mental health. The review shows that social media use is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. The review also identifies the factors that contribute to the negative impact of social media, including social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Methods : A survey was administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The survey included questions on social media use, mental health status (measured using the DASS-21), and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Results : The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Discussion : The study’s findings suggest that social media use has a negative impact on the mental health of young adults. The study highlights the need for interventions that address the factors contributing to the negative impact of social media, such as social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Conclusion : In conclusion, social media use has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. The study’s findings underscore the need for interventions that promote healthy social media use and address the negative outcomes associated with social media use. Future research can explore the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Additionally, longitudinal studies can investigate the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

Limitations : The study has some limitations, including the use of self-report measures and a cross-sectional design. The use of self-report measures may result in biased responses, and a cross-sectional design limits the ability to establish causality.

Implications: The study’s findings have implications for mental health professionals, educators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals can use the findings to develop interventions that address the negative impact of social media use on mental health. Educators can incorporate social media literacy into their curriculum to promote healthy social media use among young adults. Policymakers can use the findings to develop policies that protect young adults from the negative outcomes associated with social media use.

References :

  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 15, 100918.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., … & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among US young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9.
  • Van der Meer, T. G., & Verhoeven, J. W. (2017). Social media and its impact on academic performance of students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 383-398.

Appendix : The survey used in this study is provided below.

Social Media and Mental Health Survey

  • How often do you use social media per day?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • 2 to 4 hours
  • More than 4 hours
  • Which social media platforms do you use?
  • Others (Please specify)
  • How often do you experience the following on social media?
  • Social comparison (comparing yourself to others)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems in the past month?
  • Do you think social media use has a positive or negative impact on your mental health?
  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative
  • In your opinion, which factors contribute to the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Social comparison
  • In your opinion, what interventions could be effective in reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Education on healthy social media use
  • Counseling for mental health problems caused by social media
  • Social media detox programs
  • Regulation of social media use

Thank you for your participation!

Applications of Research Paper

Research papers have several applications in various fields, including:

  • Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by generating new insights, theories, and findings that can inform future research and practice. They help to answer important questions, clarify existing knowledge, and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Informing policy: Research papers can inform policy decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for policymakers. They can help to identify gaps in current policies, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and inform the development of new policies and regulations.
  • Improving practice: Research papers can improve practice by providing evidence-based guidance for professionals in various fields, including medicine, education, business, and psychology. They can inform the development of best practices, guidelines, and standards of care that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • Educating students : Research papers are often used as teaching tools in universities and colleges to educate students about research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills that are essential for success in many careers.
  • Fostering collaboration: Research papers can foster collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers by providing a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas. They can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

When to Write Research Paper

Research papers are typically written when a person has completed a research project or when they have conducted a study and have obtained data or findings that they want to share with the academic or professional community. Research papers are usually written in academic settings, such as universities, but they can also be written in professional settings, such as research organizations, government agencies, or private companies.

Here are some common situations where a person might need to write a research paper:

  • For academic purposes: Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Writing research papers helps students to develop research skills, critical thinking skills, and academic writing skills.
  • For publication: Researchers often write research papers to publish their findings in academic journals or to present their work at academic conferences. Publishing research papers is an important way to disseminate research findings to the academic community and to establish oneself as an expert in a particular field.
  • To inform policy or practice : Researchers may write research papers to inform policy decisions or to improve practice in various fields. Research findings can be used to inform the development of policies, guidelines, and best practices that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • To share new insights or ideas: Researchers may write research papers to share new insights or ideas with the academic or professional community. They may present new theories, propose new research methods, or challenge existing paradigms in their field.

Purpose of Research Paper

The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to communicate new knowledge, ideas, or findings to a specific audience, such as researchers, scholars, practitioners, or policymakers. The primary purposes of a research paper are:

  • To contribute to the body of knowledge : Research papers aim to add new knowledge or insights to a particular field or discipline. They do this by reporting the results of empirical studies, reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, proposing new theories, or providing new perspectives on a topic.
  • To inform or persuade: Research papers are written to inform or persuade the reader about a particular issue, topic, or phenomenon. They present evidence and arguments to support their claims and seek to persuade the reader of the validity of their findings or recommendations.
  • To advance the field: Research papers seek to advance the field or discipline by identifying gaps in knowledge, proposing new research questions or approaches, or challenging existing assumptions or paradigms. They aim to contribute to ongoing debates and discussions within a field and to stimulate further research and inquiry.
  • To demonstrate research skills: Research papers demonstrate the author’s research skills, including their ability to design and conduct a study, collect and analyze data, and interpret and communicate findings. They also demonstrate the author’s ability to critically evaluate existing literature, synthesize information from multiple sources, and write in a clear and structured manner.

Characteristics of Research Paper

Research papers have several characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of academic or professional writing. Here are some common characteristics of research papers:

  • Evidence-based: Research papers are based on empirical evidence, which is collected through rigorous research methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, or interviews. They rely on objective data and facts to support their claims and conclusions.
  • Structured and organized: Research papers have a clear and logical structure, with sections such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. They are organized in a way that helps the reader to follow the argument and understand the findings.
  • Formal and objective: Research papers are written in a formal and objective tone, with an emphasis on clarity, precision, and accuracy. They avoid subjective language or personal opinions and instead rely on objective data and analysis to support their arguments.
  • Citations and references: Research papers include citations and references to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas used in the paper. They use a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, to ensure consistency and accuracy.
  • Peer-reviewed: Research papers are often peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the field before they are published. Peer-review ensures that the research is of high quality, meets ethical standards, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
  • Objective and unbiased: Research papers strive to be objective and unbiased in their presentation of the findings. They avoid personal biases or preconceptions and instead rely on the data and analysis to draw conclusions.

Advantages of Research Paper

Research papers have many advantages, both for the individual researcher and for the broader academic and professional community. Here are some advantages of research papers:

  • Contribution to knowledge: Research papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline. They add new information, insights, and perspectives to existing literature and help advance the understanding of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Opportunity for intellectual growth: Research papers provide an opportunity for intellectual growth for the researcher. They require critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which can help develop the researcher’s skills and knowledge.
  • Career advancement: Research papers can help advance the researcher’s career by demonstrating their expertise and contributions to the field. They can also lead to new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding.
  • Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events. They can also contribute to the researcher’s reputation and standing in the field.
  • Impact on policy and practice: Research papers can have a significant impact on policy and practice. They can inform policy decisions, guide practice, and lead to changes in laws, regulations, or procedures.
  • Advancement of society: Research papers can contribute to the advancement of society by addressing important issues, identifying solutions to problems, and promoting social justice and equality.

Limitations of Research Paper

Research papers also have some limitations that should be considered when interpreting their findings or implications. Here are some common limitations of research papers:

  • Limited generalizability: Research findings may not be generalizable to other populations, settings, or contexts. Studies often use specific samples or conditions that may not reflect the broader population or real-world situations.
  • Potential for bias : Research papers may be biased due to factors such as sample selection, measurement errors, or researcher biases. It is important to evaluate the quality of the research design and methods used to ensure that the findings are valid and reliable.
  • Ethical concerns: Research papers may raise ethical concerns, such as the use of vulnerable populations or invasive procedures. Researchers must adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible and respectful manner.
  • Limitations of methodology: Research papers may be limited by the methodology used to collect and analyze data. For example, certain research methods may not capture the complexity or nuance of a particular phenomenon, or may not be appropriate for certain research questions.
  • Publication bias: Research papers may be subject to publication bias, where positive or significant findings are more likely to be published than negative or non-significant findings. This can skew the overall findings of a particular area of research.
  • Time and resource constraints: Research papers may be limited by time and resource constraints, which can affect the quality and scope of the research. Researchers may not have access to certain data or resources, or may be unable to conduct long-term studies due to practical limitations.

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Writing Research Papers

  • Research Paper Structure

Whether you are writing a B.S. Degree Research Paper or completing a research report for a Psychology course, it is highly likely that you will need to organize your research paper in accordance with American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines.  Here we discuss the structure of research papers according to APA style.

Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style

A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections. 1  Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices.  These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in-depth guide, please refer to " How to Write a Research Paper in APA Style ”, a comprehensive guide developed by Prof. Emma Geller). 2

What is this paper called and who wrote it? – the first page of the paper; this includes the name of the paper, a “running head”, authors, and institutional affiliation of the authors.  The institutional affiliation is usually listed in an Author Note that is placed towards the bottom of the title page.  In some cases, the Author Note also contains an acknowledgment of any funding support and of any individuals that assisted with the research project.

One-paragraph summary of the entire study – typically no more than 250 words in length (and in many cases it is well shorter than that), the Abstract provides an overview of the study.

Introduction

What is the topic and why is it worth studying? – the first major section of text in the paper, the Introduction commonly describes the topic under investigation, summarizes or discusses relevant prior research (for related details, please see the Writing Literature Reviews section of this website), identifies unresolved issues that the current research will address, and provides an overview of the research that is to be described in greater detail in the sections to follow.

What did you do? – a section which details how the research was performed.  It typically features a description of the participants/subjects that were involved, the study design, the materials that were used, and the study procedure.  If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Methods section.  A rule of thumb is that the Methods section should be sufficiently detailed for another researcher to duplicate your research.

What did you find? – a section which describes the data that was collected and the results of any statistical tests that were performed.  It may also be prefaced by a description of the analysis procedure that was used. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Results section.

What is the significance of your results? – the final major section of text in the paper.  The Discussion commonly features a summary of the results that were obtained in the study, describes how those results address the topic under investigation and/or the issues that the research was designed to address, and may expand upon the implications of those findings.  Limitations and directions for future research are also commonly addressed.

List of articles and any books cited – an alphabetized list of the sources that are cited in the paper (by last name of the first author of each source).  Each reference should follow specific APA guidelines regarding author names, dates, article titles, journal titles, journal volume numbers, page numbers, book publishers, publisher locations, websites, and so on (for more information, please see the Citing References in APA Style page of this website).

Tables and Figures

Graphs and data (optional in some cases) – depending on the type of research being performed, there may be Tables and/or Figures (however, in some cases, there may be neither).  In APA style, each Table and each Figure is placed on a separate page and all Tables and Figures are included after the References.   Tables are included first, followed by Figures.   However, for some journals and undergraduate research papers (such as the B.S. Research Paper or Honors Thesis), Tables and Figures may be embedded in the text (depending on the instructor’s or editor’s policies; for more details, see "Deviations from APA Style" below).

Supplementary information (optional) – in some cases, additional information that is not critical to understanding the research paper, such as a list of experiment stimuli, details of a secondary analysis, or programming code, is provided.  This is often placed in an Appendix.

Variations of Research Papers in APA Style

Although the major sections described above are common to most research papers written in APA style, there are variations on that pattern.  These variations include: 

  • Literature reviews – when a paper is reviewing prior published research and not presenting new empirical research itself (such as in a review article, and particularly a qualitative review), then the authors may forgo any Methods and Results sections. Instead, there is a different structure such as an Introduction section followed by sections for each of the different aspects of the body of research being reviewed, and then perhaps a Discussion section. 
  • Multi-experiment papers – when there are multiple experiments, it is common to follow the Introduction with an Experiment 1 section, itself containing Methods, Results, and Discussion subsections. Then there is an Experiment 2 section with a similar structure, an Experiment 3 section with a similar structure, and so on until all experiments are covered.  Towards the end of the paper there is a General Discussion section followed by References.  Additionally, in multi-experiment papers, it is common for the Results and Discussion subsections for individual experiments to be combined into single “Results and Discussion” sections.

Departures from APA Style

In some cases, official APA style might not be followed (however, be sure to check with your editor, instructor, or other sources before deviating from standards of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association).  Such deviations may include:

  • Placement of Tables and Figures  – in some cases, to make reading through the paper easier, Tables and/or Figures are embedded in the text (for example, having a bar graph placed in the relevant Results section). The embedding of Tables and/or Figures in the text is one of the most common deviations from APA style (and is commonly allowed in B.S. Degree Research Papers and Honors Theses; however you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first). 
  • Incomplete research – sometimes a B.S. Degree Research Paper in this department is written about research that is currently being planned or is in progress. In those circumstances, sometimes only an Introduction and Methods section, followed by References, is included (that is, in cases where the research itself has not formally begun).  In other cases, preliminary results are presented and noted as such in the Results section (such as in cases where the study is underway but not complete), and the Discussion section includes caveats about the in-progress nature of the research.  Again, you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first.
  • Class assignments – in some classes in this department, an assignment must be written in APA style but is not exactly a traditional research paper (for instance, a student asked to write about an article that they read, and to write that report in APA style). In that case, the structure of the paper might approximate the typical sections of a research paper in APA style, but not entirely.  You should check with your instructor for further guidelines.

Workshops and Downloadable Resources

  • For in-person discussion of the process of writing research papers, please consider attending this department’s “Writing Research Papers” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos

APA Journal Article Reporting Guidelines

  • Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 3.
  • Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 26.  

External Resources

  • Formatting APA Style Papers in Microsoft Word
  • How to Write an APA Style Research Paper from Hamilton University
  • WikiHow Guide to Writing APA Research Papers
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper with Comments
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper
  • Tips for Writing a Paper in APA Style

1 VandenBos, G. R. (Ed). (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) (pp. 41-60).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

2 geller, e. (2018).  how to write an apa-style research report . [instructional materials]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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  • Formatting Research Papers
  • Using Databases and Finding References
  • What Types of References Are Appropriate?
  • Evaluating References and Taking Notes
  • Citing References
  • Writing a Literature Review
  • Writing Process and Revising
  • Improving Scientific Writing
  • Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Writing Research Papers Videos

Apr 26, 2024

Everything You Need to Know about the Parts of a Research Paper

Not sure where to start with your research paper or how all the parts fit together? Don't worry! From crafting a compelling title page to compiling your references, we'll demystify each section of a research paper.

Learn how to write an attention-grabbing abstract, construct a powerful introduction, and confidently present your results and discussion. With this guide, you'll gain the tools to assemble a polished and impactful piece of work.

What Are Research Papers?

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that presents an original argument or analysis based on independent, in-depth investigation into a specific topic.

Key Characteristics:

Evidence-Driven: Research papers rely on data, analysis, and interpretation of credible sources.

Focused Argument: They develop a clear thesis that is defended with logical reasoning and evidence.

Structured: Research papers follow specific organizational formats and citation styles.

Contribution to Knowledge: They aim to add something new to the existing body of knowledge within a field.

Types of Research Papers

Research papers come in various forms across academic disciplines:

Argumentative Papers : Present a compelling claim and utilize evidence to persuade readers.

Analytical Papers : Break down complex subjects, ideas, or texts, examining their components and implications.

Empirical Studies: Involve collecting and analyzing original data (through experiments, surveys, etc.) to answer specific research questions.

Literature Reviews: Synthesize existing research on a topic, highlighting key findings, debates, and areas for future exploration.

And More! Depending on the field, you may encounter case studies, reports, theoretical proposals, etc.

Defining Research Papers

Here's how research papers stand apart from other forms of writing:

Originality vs. Summary: While essays might recap existing knowledge, research papers offer new insights, arguments, or data.

Depth of Inquiry: Research papers delve deeper, going beyond basic definitions or summaries into a systematic investigation.

Scholarly Audience: Research papers are often written with a specialized academic audience in mind, employing discipline-specific language and conventions.

Important Note: The specific requirements of research papers can vary depending on the subject area, level of study (undergraduate vs. graduate), and the instructor's instructions.

Importance of Research Paper Structure

Think of structure as the backbone of your research paper. Here's why it matters for academic success:

Clarity for the Reader: A logical structure guides the reader through your research journey. They understand your thought process, easily follow your arguments, and grasp the significance of your findings.

Author's Roadmap: Structure serves as your blueprint. It helps you maintain focus, ensures you address all essential elements, and prevents you from veering off-topic.

Enhanced Persuasion: A well-structured paper builds a convincing case. Your ideas flow logically, evidence supports your claims, and your conclusion feels grounded and impactful.

Demonstration of Competence: A clear structure signals to your instructor or peers that you have a thorough understanding of research practices and scholarly writing conventions.

Is a Structured Approach Critical for the Success of Research Papers?

Yes! It's difficult to overstate the importance of structure. Here's why:

Lost in Chaos: Rambling or disorganized papers leave the reader confused and frustrated. Even the most insightful findings risk being overlooked if presented poorly.

Missed Components: Without structure, you might forget to include critical aspects, like a clear methodology section or a thorough literature review, weakening your research.

Hindered Peer Review: Reviewers rely on a standard structure to quickly assess the research's merits. A deviation can make their job harder and might negatively affect how your work is evaluated.

Benefits of a Clear Structure

Enhanced Understanding: Readers can easily follow your chain of reasoning, grasp the connection between your evidence and claims, and critically evaluate your findings.

Efficient Peer Review: A standard structure makes peer review more efficient and focused. Reviewers can easily identify strong points, areas for improvement, and contributions to the field.

Streamlined Writing: Having a structure offers clarity and direction, preventing you from getting stuck mid-flow or overlooking important elements.

Variations of Research Papers

Here's a breakdown of some common types of research papers:

Analytical Papers

Focus: Dissect a complex subject, text, or phenomenon to understand its parts, implications, or underlying meanings.

Structure: Emphasizes a clear thesis statement, systematic analysis, and in-depth exploration of different perspectives.

Example: Examining the symbolism in a literary work or analyzing the economic impact of a policy change.

Argumentative Papers

Focus: Present and defend a specific claim using evidence and logical reasoning.

Structure: Emphasizes a well-defined thesis, persuasive examples, and the anticipation and refutation of counterarguments.

Example: Arguing for the superiority of a particular scientific theory or advocating for a specific social policy.

Experimental Studies (Empirical Research)

Focus: Collect and analyze original data through a designed experiment or methodology.

Structure: Follows scientific practices, including hypothesis, methods, results, discussion, and acknowledgment of limitations.

Example: Measuring the effects of a new drug or conducting psychological experiments on behavior patterns.

Survey-Based Research

Focus: Gather information from a sample population through surveys, questionnaires, or interviews.

Structure: Emphasizes sampling methods, data collection tools, statistical analysis, and cautious interpretation of results.

Example: Investigating public opinion on a political issue or studying consumer preferences for a product.

Do All Research Papers Fit Into Standard Categories?

No. Research is fluid and dynamic. Here's why categorization can get tricky:

Hybrids Exist: Many papers mix elements. An analytical paper might also incorporate arguments to strengthen its interpretation, or an experimental paper might include a review of existing literature to contextualize its findings.

Disciplinary Differences: Fields have specific conventions. A research paper in history differs vastly in style and structure from one in biology.

Innovation: Researchers sometimes develop new structures or methodologies best suited to their unique research questions.

Comparing Research Paper Types

Each type prioritizes different aspects of the research process:

the three main parts of a research paper are

An abstract is like a snapshot of your entire paper, providing a brief but informative overview of your research. It's often the first (and sometimes the only) section readers will engage with.

Key Functions: An effective abstract should:

Briefly state the research problem or topic

Outline your methods (briefly)

Summarize the main findings or results

Highlight the significance or implications of your work

Writing a Compelling Abstract

Here are some guidelines to make your abstract shine:

Concise and Clear: Aim for around 150-250 words. Use direct language and avoid unnecessary jargon.

Structured Approach: Even in its brevity, follow a logical flow (problem, methods, results, significance).

Keywords: Include keywords that accurately describe your research, aiding in discoverability within databases.

Self-Contained: The abstract should make sense on its own, without needing the reader to have read the full paper.

Engaging: While focused, pique the reader's interest and make them want to explore your research further.

Write it Last: Often, it's easiest to write your abstract once the rest of your paper is complete, as you can then distill the most essential elements.

Get Feedback: Ask a peer or instructor to read your abstract to ensure it's clear and accurately represents your research.

Introduction

Think of your introduction as the welcome mat for your research. Here's what it should accomplish:

Establish Context: Provide background information relevant to your specific research question. Orient the reader to the broader field or current debates surrounding the topic.

Define the Problem: Clearly outline the gap in knowledge, issue, or question your research aims to address.

State the Hypothesis: Concisely declare your research hypothesis or thesis statement – the central claim you aim to prove.

Significance: Briefly explain why your research matters. What potential contributions or implications does it hold?

Is the Introduction More Important Than Other Sections?

No. While the introduction plays a big role in initially capturing your reader's attention and setting the stage, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Here's why all sections matter:

Methodology Matters: A sound methodology section is essential for establishing the credibility of your findings. Readers need to trust your process.

Results are Key: The results section presents your hard-earned data. Without it, your research doesn't have a foundation to support your claims.

Discussion is Vital: Here's where you interpret your results, connect them back to your hypothesis, and explore the broader implications of your work.

Conclusion is the Culmination: Your conclusion reinforces your key findings, acknowledges limitations, and leaves the reader with a lasting understanding of your research contribution.

Engaging Your Audience Early

Here are some strategies to capture attention from the start:

Open with a Question: Pose a thought-provoking question directly related to your research.

Surprising Statistic: Share a relevant and eye-opening statistic that highlights the significance of your topic.

Brief anecdote: An illustrative anecdote or a vivid example can provide a compelling hook.

Challenge Assumptions: Question a common belief or assumption within your field to signal that your research offers fresh insights.

Tip: Your opening should be relevant and directly connected to your research topic. Avoid gimmicks that don't authentically lead into your core argument.

Literature Review

A literature review goes beyond simply listing past studies on a topic. It synthesizes existing knowledge, laying the foundation for your own research contribution.

Goals of a Strong Literature Review:

Demonstrate your understanding of the field and its key scholarly conversations.

Identify gaps in current knowledge that your research can address.

Position your research in relation to existing work, showing how it builds upon or challenges previous findings.

Provide theoretical context or support for your chosen methodological approach.

Synthesizing Relevant Studies

Don't just summarize – analyze! Here's how to engage with the literature critically:

Identify Trends: Look for patterns or themes across multiple studies. Are there consistent results or ongoing debates?

Note Inconsistencies: Highlight any contradictions or conflicting findings within the existing research.

Assess Methodology: Consider the strengths and limitations of different research methods used in prior studies. Can you improve upon them in your research?

Connections to Your Work: Show how each source directly relates to your research question. Explain how it supports, challenges, or informs your own study.

Tips for Effective Synthesis:

Organization is Key: Structure your literature review thematically or chronologically to present findings in a logical way.

Your Voice Matters: Avoid stringing together quotes. Analyze the literature and offer your own interpretation of the collective insights.

Cite Accurately: Follow the citation style required by your discipline to give credit and avoid plagiarism.

Methodology

Your methodology section details the step-by-step process of how you conducted your research. It allows others to understand and potentially replicate your study.

Components: A methodology section typically includes:

Research Design: The overall approach (experimental, survey-based, qualitative, etc.)

Data Collection: Description of the tools, procedures, and sources used (experiments, surveys, interviews, archival documents).

Sample Selection: Details on participants (if applicable) and how they were chosen.

Data Analysis: Methods used (statistical tests, qualitative analysis techniques).

Ethical considerations: Explain how you safeguarded participants or addressed any ethical concerns related to your research.

Designing a Robust Methodology

Here's how to make your methodology section shine:

Alignment with Research Question: Your methods should be directly chosen to answer your research question in the most effective and appropriate way.

Rigor: Demonstrate a meticulous approach, considering potential sources of bias or error and outlining steps taken to mitigate them.

Transparency: Provide enough detail for replication. Another researcher should be able to follow your method.

Justification: Explain why you chose specific methods. Connect them to established practices within your field or defend their suitability for your unique research.

Does Methodology Determine the Quality of Research Outcomes?

Absolutely! Here's why a robust methodology is important:

Reliability: A sound methodology ensures your results are consistent. If your study was repeated using your methods, similar results should be attainable.

Validity: Validity ensures you're measuring what you intend to. A strong methodology helps you draw accurate conclusions from your data that address your research question.

Credibility: Your paper will be evaluated based on the thoroughness of your procedures. A clear and rigorous methodology enhances trust in your findings.

Your results section is where you present the data collected from your research. This includes raw data, statistical analyses, summaries of observations, etc.

Key Considerations:

Clarity: Organize results logically. Use tables, graphs, or figures to enhance visual clarity when appropriate.

Objectivity: Present data without bias. Even if findings don't support your initial hypothesis, report them accurately.

Don't Interpret (Yet): Avoid discussing implications here. Focus on a clear presentation of your findings.

Interpreting Data Effectively

Your discussion or analysis section is where you make sense of your results. Here's how to ensure your interpretation is persuasive:

Connect Back to the Hypothesis: State whether your results support, refute, or partially support your hypothesis.

Use Evidence: Reference specific data points, statistics, or observations to back up your claims.

Explanatory Power: Don't merely describe what happened. Explain why you believe your data led to these results.

Context is Key: Relate your findings to the existing literature. Do they align with previous research, or do they raise new questions?

Be Transparent: Acknowledge any limitations of your data or unexpected findings, providing potential explanations.

Tips for Effective Data Discussion:

Visuals as Support: Continue using graphs or figures to illustrate trends or comparisons that reinforce your analysis.

Highlight What Matters: Don't over-discuss insignificant data points. Focus on the results that are most relevant to your research question and contribute to your overall argument.

Tell a Story: Data shouldn't feel disjointed. Weave it into a narrative that addresses your research problem and positions your findings within the broader field.

Your discussion section elevates your findings, moving from simply reporting what you discovered to exploring its significance and potential impact.

Interpret the results in relation to your research question and hypothesis.

Consider alternative explanations for unexpected findings and discuss limitations of the research.

Place your findings in the context of the broader field, connecting them to theories and the existing body of research.

Suggest implications for future research or practical applications.

Linking Results to Theory

Here's how to make your discussion section shine:

Return to the Literature Review: Did your results support a specific theory from your literature review? Challenge it? Offer a nuanced modification?

Contradictions Offer Insights: If your results contradict existing theories, don't dismiss them. Explain possible reasons for the discrepancies and how that pushes your field's understanding further.

Conceptual Contribution: How does your research add to the theoretical frameworks within your area of study?

Building Blocks: Frame your research as one piece of a larger puzzle. Explain how your work contributes to the ongoing scholarly conversation.

Tips for a Strong Discussion:

Avoid Overstating Significance: Maintain a scholarly tone and acknowledge the scope of your research. Don't claim your results revolutionize the field if it's not genuinely warranted.

Consider Future Directions: Responsible research isn't just about the past. Discuss what new questions arise based on your findings and offer avenues for potential future study.

Clarity Remains Key: Even when discussing complex ideas, use accessible language. Make your discussion meaningful to a wider audience within the field.

Conclusions

Your conclusion brings your research full circle. It's your chance to re-emphasize the most important takeaways of your work.

A Strong Conclusion Should:

Concisely restate the key research question or problem you sought to address.

Summarize your major findings and the most compelling evidence.

Briefly discuss the broader implications or contributions of your research.

Acknowledge limitations in the study (briefly).

Propose potential avenues for future research.

Can Conclusions Introduce New Research Questions?

Absolutely! Here's why this is valuable:

Sparking Curiosity: Ending with new questions emphasizes the ongoing nature of research and encourages further exploration beyond your own study.

Identifying Limitations: By highlighting where your work fell short, you guide future researchers toward filling those gaps.

Signaling Progress: Research is a continuous process of evolving knowledge. Your conclusion can be a springboard for others to expand upon your findings.

Crafting a Persuasive Conclusion

Here's how to make your conclusion impactful:

Reiterate, Don't Repeat: Remind the reader of your most significant findings, but avoid restating your thesis verbatim.

Confidence: Project a sense of conviction about the value of your work, without overstating its significance.

Clarity: Even in your conclusion, use direct language free of jargon. Leave the reader with a clear and lasting impression.

The Ripple Effect: Briefly highlight the broader relevance of your research. Why should readers beyond your niche field care?

Important: Your conclusion shouldn't introduce entirely new information or analyses. Rather, it should leave the reader pondering the implications of what you've already presented.

Giving Credit Where It's Due: Your references section lists the full details of every source you cited within your paper. This allows readers to locate those sources and acknowledges the intellectual work of others that you built upon.

Supporting Your Arguments: Credible references add weight to your claims, showing that your analysis is informed by established knowledge or reliable data.

Upholding Academic Standards: Accurate citations signal your commitment to scholarly practices and protect you from accusations of plagiarism.

Maintaining Citation Integrity

Here are the main practices to uphold:

Choose the Right Style: Follow the citation style mandated by your discipline (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). They have strict rules on formatting and which elements to include.

Consistency is Key: Use your chosen citation style uniformly throughout your paper. Mixed styles look sloppy and unprofessional.

Accuracy Matters: Double-check the details of each citation (authors, title, publication year, page numbers, etc.). Errors undermine your credibility.

Citation Tools: Use reliable resources like:

Online citation generators

Reference management software (Zotero, EndNote, etc..)

University library guides for your required style

Important Notes:

In-Text vs. References: In-text citations (within your writing) point the reader to the full citation in your references list. Both are needed.

Citation ≠ Bibliography: A bibliography may include sources you consulted but didn't directly cite, while the references list is specifically for cited works.

Writing Effective Research Papers: A Guide

Research papers aren't merely about having brilliant ideas – they're about effectively communicating those ideas. Strong writing allows you to showcase the value and rigor of your work.

Is Effective Writing Alone Sufficient for a Successful Research Paper?

No. Strong writing is vital but not a substitute for the core components of research. Consider this:

Even brilliant findings get lost in poor writing: Disorganized papers, unclear sentences, or misuse of discipline-specific terms hinder the reader from grasping your insights.

Writing is intertwined with research: The process of writing helps you clarify your own thinking, refine your arguments, and identify potential weaknesses in your logic.

Tips for Academic Writing

Here's how to elevate your research paper writing:

Define Your Terms: especially if using specialized jargon or complex concepts.

Favor Active Voice: Use strong verbs and keep the subject of your sentences clear. (Example: "The study demonstrates..." rather than "It is demonstrated...")

Avoid Ambiguity: Choose precise language to leave no room for misinterpretation.

Transitions Are Your Friend: Guide the reader smoothly between ideas and sections using signpost words and phrases.

Logical Structure: Your paper's organization (introduction, methods, etc.) should have an intuitive flow.

One Idea per Paragraph: Avoid overly dense paragraphs. Break down complex points for readability.

Strong Argumentation

Thesis as Roadmap: Your central thesis should be apparent throughout the paper. Each section should clearly connect back to it.

Strong Evidence: Use reliable data and examples to support your claims.

Anticipate Counterarguments: Show you've considered alternative viewpoints by respectfully addressing and refuting them.

Additional Tips

Read widely in your field: Analyze how successful papers are structured and how arguments are developed.

Revise relentlessly: Give yourself time to step away from your draft and return with fresh eyes.

Seek Feedback: Ask peers, instructors, or a writing center tutor to review your work for clarity and logic.

Conclusion: Integrating the Components of Research Papers for Academic Excellence

The journey of writing a research paper is truly transformative. By mastering each component, from a rigorously crafted hypothesis to a meticulously compiled reference list, you develop the essential skills of critical thinking, communication, and scholarly inquiry. It's important to remember that these components are not isolated; they form a powerful, synergistic whole.

Let the process of writing research papers empower you. Embrace the challenge of synthesizing information, developing strong arguments, and communicating your findings with clarity and precision. Celebrate your dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and the contributions you make to your academic community and your own intellectual growth.

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the three main parts of a research paper are

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Parts of a Research Paper

One of the most important aspects of science is ensuring that you get all the parts of the written research paper in the right order.

This article is a part of the guide:

  • Outline Examples
  • Example of a Paper
  • Write a Hypothesis
  • Introduction

Browse Full Outline

  • 1 Write a Research Paper
  • 2 Writing a Paper
  • 3.1 Write an Outline
  • 3.2 Outline Examples
  • 4.1 Thesis Statement
  • 4.2 Write a Hypothesis
  • 5.2 Abstract
  • 5.3 Introduction
  • 5.4 Methods
  • 5.5 Results
  • 5.6 Discussion
  • 5.7 Conclusion
  • 5.8 Bibliography
  • 6.1 Table of Contents
  • 6.2 Acknowledgements
  • 6.3 Appendix
  • 7.1 In Text Citations
  • 7.2 Footnotes
  • 7.3.1 Floating Blocks
  • 7.4 Example of a Paper
  • 7.5 Example of a Paper 2
  • 7.6.1 Citations
  • 7.7.1 Writing Style
  • 7.7.2 Citations
  • 8.1.1 Sham Peer Review
  • 8.1.2 Advantages
  • 8.1.3 Disadvantages
  • 8.2 Publication Bias
  • 8.3.1 Journal Rejection
  • 9.1 Article Writing
  • 9.2 Ideas for Topics

You may have finished the best research project on earth but, if you do not write an interesting and well laid out paper, then nobody is going to take your findings seriously.

The main thing to remember with any research paper is that it is based on an hourglass structure. It begins with general information and undertaking a literature review , and becomes more specific as you nail down a research problem and hypothesis .

Finally, it again becomes more general as you try to apply your findings to the world at general.

Whilst there are a few differences between the various disciplines, with some fields placing more emphasis on certain parts than others, there is a basic underlying structure.

These steps are the building blocks of constructing a good research paper. This section outline how to lay out the parts of a research paper, including the various experimental methods and designs.

The principles for literature review and essays of all types follow the same basic principles.

Reference List

the three main parts of a research paper are

For many students, writing the introduction is the first part of the process, setting down the direction of the paper and laying out exactly what the research paper is trying to achieve.

For others, the introduction is the last thing written, acting as a quick summary of the paper. As long as you have planned a good structure for the parts of a research paper, both approaches are acceptable and it is a matter of preference.

A good introduction generally consists of three distinct parts:

  • You should first give a general presentation of the research problem.
  • You should then lay out exactly what you are trying to achieve with this particular research project.
  • You should then state your own position.

Ideally, you should try to give each section its own paragraph, but this will vary given the overall length of the paper.

1) General Presentation

Look at the benefits to be gained by the research or why the problem has not been solved yet. Perhaps nobody has thought about it, or maybe previous research threw up some interesting leads that the previous researchers did not follow up.

Another researcher may have uncovered some interesting trends, but did not manage to reach the significance level , due to experimental error or small sample sizes .

2) Purpose of the Paper

The research problem does not have to be a statement, but must at least imply what you are trying to find.

Many writers prefer to place the thesis statement or hypothesis here, which is perfectly acceptable, but most include it in the last sentences of the introduction, to give the reader a fuller picture.

3) A Statement of Intent From the Writer

The idea is that somebody will be able to gain an overall view of the paper without needing to read the whole thing. Literature reviews are time-consuming enough, so give the reader a concise idea of your intention before they commit to wading through pages of background.

In this section, you look to give a context to the research, including any relevant information learned during your literature review. You are also trying to explain why you chose this area of research, attempting to highlight why it is necessary. The second part should state the purpose of the experiment and should include the research problem. The third part should give the reader a quick summary of the form that the parts of the research paper is going to take and should include a condensed version of the discussion.

the three main parts of a research paper are

This should be the easiest part of the paper to write, as it is a run-down of the exact design and methodology used to perform the research. Obviously, the exact methodology varies depending upon the exact field and type of experiment .

There is a big methodological difference between the apparatus based research of the physical sciences and the methods and observation methods of social sciences. However, the key is to ensure that another researcher would be able to replicate the experiment to match yours as closely as possible, but still keeping the section concise.

You can assume that anybody reading your paper is familiar with the basic methods, so try not to explain every last detail. For example, an organic chemist or biochemist will be familiar with chromatography, so you only need to highlight the type of equipment used rather than explaining the whole process in detail.

In the case of a survey , if you have too many questions to cover in the method, you can always include a copy of the questionnaire in the appendix . In this case, make sure that you refer to it.

This is probably the most variable part of any research paper, and depends on the results and aims of the experiment.

For quantitative research , it is a presentation of the numerical results and data, whereas for qualitative research it should be a broader discussion of trends, without going into too much detail.

For research generating a lot of results , then it is better to include tables or graphs of the analyzed data and leave the raw data in the appendix, so that a researcher can follow up and check your calculations.

A commentary is essential to linking the results together, rather than just displaying isolated and unconnected charts and figures.

It can be quite difficult to find a good balance between the results and the discussion section, because some findings, especially in a quantitative or descriptive experiment , will fall into a grey area. Try to avoid repeating yourself too often.

It is best to try to find a middle path, where you give a general overview of the data and then expand on it in the discussion - you should try to keep your own opinions and interpretations out of the results section, saving that for the discussion later on.

This is where you elaborate on your findings, and explain what you found, adding your own personal interpretations.

Ideally, you should link the discussion back to the introduction, addressing each point individually.

It’s important to make sure that every piece of information in your discussion is directly related to the thesis statement , or you risk cluttering your findings. In keeping with the hourglass principle, you can expand on the topic later in the conclusion .

The conclusion is where you build on your discussion and try to relate your findings to other research and to the world at large.

In a short research paper, it may be a paragraph or two, or even a few lines.

In a dissertation, it may well be the most important part of the entire paper - not only does it describe the results and discussion in detail, it emphasizes the importance of the results in the field, and ties it in with the previous research.

Some research papers require a recommendations section, postulating the further directions of the research, as well as highlighting how any flaws affected the results. In this case, you should suggest any improvements that could be made to the research design .

No paper is complete without a reference list , documenting all the sources that you used for your research. This should be laid out according to APA , MLA or other specified format, allowing any interested researcher to follow up on the research.

One habit that is becoming more common, especially with online papers, is to include a reference to your own paper on the final page. Lay this out in MLA, APA and Chicago format, allowing anybody referencing your paper to copy and paste it.

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Structure of a Research Paper

Phillips-Wangensteen Building.

Structure of a Research Paper: IMRaD Format

I. The Title Page

  • Title: Tells the reader what to expect in the paper.
  • Author(s): Most papers are written by one or two primary authors. The remaining authors have reviewed the work and/or aided in study design or data analysis (International Committee of Medical Editors, 1997). Check the Instructions to Authors for the target journal for specifics about authorship.
  • Keywords [according to the journal]
  • Corresponding Author: Full name and affiliation for the primary contact author for persons who have questions about the research.
  • Financial & Equipment Support [if needed]: Specific information about organizations, agencies, or companies that supported the research.
  • Conflicts of Interest [if needed]: List and explain any conflicts of interest.

II. Abstract: “Structured abstract” has become the standard for research papers (introduction, objective, methods, results and conclusions), while reviews, case reports and other articles have non-structured abstracts. The abstract should be a summary/synopsis of the paper.

III. Introduction: The “why did you do the study”; setting the scene or laying the foundation or background for the paper.

IV. Methods: The “how did you do the study.” Describe the --

  • Context and setting of the study
  • Specify the study design
  • Population (patients, etc. if applicable)
  • Sampling strategy
  • Intervention (if applicable)
  • Identify the main study variables
  • Data collection instruments and procedures
  • Outline analysis methods

V. Results: The “what did you find” --

  • Report on data collection and/or recruitment
  • Participants (demographic, clinical condition, etc.)
  • Present key findings with respect to the central research question
  • Secondary findings (secondary outcomes, subgroup analyses, etc.)

VI. Discussion: Place for interpreting the results

  • Main findings of the study
  • Discuss the main results with reference to previous research
  • Policy and practice implications of the results
  • Strengths and limitations of the study

VII. Conclusions: [occasionally optional or not required]. Do not reiterate the data or discussion. Can state hunches, inferences or speculations. Offer perspectives for future work.

VIII. Acknowledgements: Names people who contributed to the work, but did not contribute sufficiently to earn authorship. You must have permission from any individuals mentioned in the acknowledgements sections. 

IX. References:  Complete citations for any articles or other materials referenced in the text of the article.

  • IMRD Cheatsheet (Carnegie Mellon) pdf.
  • Adewasi, D. (2021 June 14).  What Is IMRaD? IMRaD Format in Simple Terms! . Scientific-editing.info. 
  • Nair, P.K.R., Nair, V.D. (2014). Organization of a Research Paper: The IMRAD Format. In: Scientific Writing and Communication in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-03101-9_2
  • Sollaci, L. B., & Pereira, M. G. (2004). The introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRAD) structure: a fifty-year survey.   Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA ,  92 (3), 364–367.
  • Cuschieri, S., Grech, V., & Savona-Ventura, C. (2019). WASP (Write a Scientific Paper): Structuring a scientific paper.   Early human development ,  128 , 114–117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2018.09.011

the three main parts of a research paper are

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Parts of a Research Paper

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Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1 Parts of a Research Paper: Definition
  • 3 Research Paper Structure
  • 4 Research Paper Examples
  • 5 Research Paper APA Formatting
  • 6 In a Nutshell

Parts of a Research Paper: Definition

The point of having specifically defined parts of a research paper is not to make your life as a student harder. In fact, it’s very much the opposite. The different parts of a research paper have been established to provide a structure that can be consistently used to make your research projects easier, as well as helping you follow the proper scientific methodology.

This will help guide your writing process so you can focus on key elements one at a time. It will also provide a valuable outline that you can rely on to effectively structure your assignment. Having a solid structure will make your research paper easier to understand, and it will also prepare you for a possible future as a researcher, since all modern science is created around similar precepts.

Have you been struggling with your academic homework lately, especially where it concerns all the different parts of a research paper? This is actually a very common situation, so we have prepared this article to outline all the key parts of a research paper and explain what you must focus as you go through each one of the various parts of a research paper; read the following sections and you should have a clearer idea of how to tackle your next research paper effectively.

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What are the main parts of a research paper?

There are eight main parts in a research paper :

  • Title (cover page)

Introduction

  • Literature review
  • Research methodology
  • Data analysis
  • Reference page

If you stick to this structure, your end product will be a concise, well-organized research paper.

Do you have to follow the exact research paper structure?

Yes, and failing to do so will likely impact your grade very negatively. It’s very important to write your research paper according to the structure given on this article. Follow your research paper outline   to avoid a messy structure. Different types of academic papers have very particular structures. For example, the structure required for a literature review is very different to the structure required for a scientific research paper.

What if I'm having trouble with certain parts of a research paper?

If you’re having problems with some parts of a research paper, it will be useful to look at some examples of finished research papers in a similar field of study, so you will have a better idea of the elements you need to include. Read a step-by-step guide for writing a research paper, or take a look at the section towards the end of this article for some research paper examples. Perhaps you’re just lacking inspiration!

Is there a special formatting you need to use when citing sources?

Making adequate citations to back up your research is a key consideration in almost every part of a research paper. There are various formatting conventions and referencing styles that should be followed as specified in your assignment. The most common is APA formatting, but you could also be required to use MLA formatting. Your professor or supervisor should tell you which one you need to use.

What should I do once I have my research paper outlined?

If you have created your research paper outline, then you’re ready to start writing. Remember, the first copy will be a draft, so don’t leave it until the last minute to begin writing. Check out some tips for overcoming writer’s block if you’re having trouble getting started.

Research Paper Structure

There are 8 parts of a research paper that you should go through in this order:

The very first page in your research paper should be used to identify its title, along with your name, the date of your assignment, and your learning institution. Additional elements may be required according to the specifications of your instructors, so it’s a good idea to check with them to make sure you feature all the required information in the right order. You will usually be provided with a template or checklist of some kind that you can refer to when writing your cover page .

This is the very beginning of your research paper, where you are expected to provide your thesis statement ; this is simply a summary of what you’re setting out to accomplish with your research project, including the problems you’re looking to scrutinize and any solutions or recommendations that you anticipate beforehand.

Literature Review

This part of a research paper is supposed to provide the theoretical framework that you elaborated during your research. You will be expected to present the sources you have studied while preparing for the work ahead, and these sources should be credible from an academic standpoint (including educational books, peer-reviewed journals, and other relevant publications). You must make sure to include the name of the relevant authors you’ve studied and add a properly formatted citation that explicitly points to their works you have analyzed, including the publication year (see the section below on APA style citations ).

Research Methodology

Different parts of a research paper have different aims, and here you need to point out the exact methods you have used in the course of your research work. Typical methods can range from direct observation to laboratory experiments, or statistical evaluations. Whatever your chosen methods are, you will need to explicitly point them out in this section.

Data Analysis

While all the parts of a research paper are important, this section is probably the most crucial from a practical standpoint. Out of all the parts of a research paper, here you will be expected to analyze the data you have obtained in the course of your research. This is where you get your chance to really shine, by introducing new data that may contribute to building up on the collective understanding of the topics you have researched. At this point, you’re not expected to analyze your data yet (that will be done in the subsequent parts of a research paper), but simply to present it objectively.

From all the parts of a research paper, this is the one where you’re expected to actually analyze the data you have gathered while researching. This analysis should align with your previously stated methodology, and it should both point out any implications suggested by your data that might be relevant to different fields of study, as well as any shortcomings in your approach that would allow you to improve you results if you were to repeat the same type of research.

As you conclude your research paper, you should succinctly reiterate your thesis statement along with your methodology and analyzed data – by drawing all these elements together you will reach the purpose of your research, so all that is left is to point out your conclusions in a clear manner.

Reference Page

The very last section of your research paper is a reference page where you should collect the academic sources along with all the publications you consulted, while fleshing out your research project. You should make sure to list all these references according to the citation format specified by your instructor; there are various formats now in use, such as MLA, Harvard and APA, which although similar rely on different citation styles that must be consistently and carefully observed.

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Research Paper Examples

When you’re still learning about the various parts that make up a research paper, it can be useful to go through some examples of actual research papers from your exact field of study. This is probably the best way to fully grasp what is the purpose of all the different parts.

We can’t provide you universal examples of all the parts of a research paper, since some of these parts can be very different depending on your field of study.

To get a clear sense of what you should cover in each part of your paper, we recommend you to find some successful research papers in a similar field of study. Often, you may be able to refer to studies you have gathered during the initial literature review.

There are also some templates online that may be useful to look at when you’re just getting started, and trying to grasp the exact requirements for each part in your research paper:

Research Paper APA Formatting

When you write a research paper for college, you will have to make sure to add relevant citation to back up your major claims. Only by building up on the work of established authors will you be able to reach valuable conclusions that can be taken seriously on a academic context. This process may seem burdensome at first, but it’s one of the essential parts of a research paper.

The essence of a citation is simply to point out where you learned about the concepts and ideas that make up all the parts of a research paper. This is absolutely essential, both to substantiate your points and to allow other researchers to look into those sources in cause they want to learn more about some aspects of your assignment, or dig deeper into specific parts of a research paper.

There are several citation styles in modern use, and APA citation is probably the most common and widespread; you must follow this convention precisely when adding citations to the relevant part of a research paper. Here is how you should format a citation according to the APA style.

In a Nutshell

  • There are eight different parts of a research paper that you will have to go through in this specific order.
  • Make sure to focus on the different parts of a research paper one at a time, and you’ll find it can actually make the writing process much easier.
  • Producing a research paper can be a very daunting task unless you have a solid plan of action; that is exactly why most modern learning institutions now demand students to observe all these parts of a research paper.
  • These guidelines are not meant to make student’s lives harder, but actually to help them stay focused and produce articulate and thoughtful research that could make an impact in their fields of study.

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  • Research guides

Writing an Educational Research Paper

Research paper sections, customary parts of an education research paper.

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:

Title/Cover Page

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

Indicate as soon as possible what you intend to do, and what you are not going to attempt. You may limit the scope of your paper by any number of factors, for example, time, personnel, gender, age, geographic location, nationality, and so on.

Methodology

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.

Literature Review

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.

Works Cited/Bibliography

See the Citation guide .

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.

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Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Parts of a Paper

Parts of a Paper

Learn about the different parts of a research paper and how you can use them to write your best paper yet.

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  • How to Write an Essay Outline
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How to Write a Body of a Research Paper

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The main part of your research paper is called “the body.” To write this important part of your paper, include only relevant information, or information that gets to the point. Organize your ideas in a logical order—one that makes sense—and provide enough details—facts and examples—to support the points you want to make.

Logical Order

Transition words and phrases, adding evidence, phrases for supporting topic sentences.

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How to Make Effective Transitions

Examples of effective transitions, drafting your conclusion, writing the body paragraphs.

How to Write a Body of a Research Paper

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  • The third and fourth paragraphs follow the same format as the second:
  • Transition or topic sentence.
  • Topic sentence (if not included in the first sentence).
  • Supporting sentences including a discussion, quotations, or examples that support the topic sentence.
  • Concluding sentence that transitions to the next paragraph.

The topic of each paragraph will be supported by the evidence you itemized in your outline. However, just as smooth transitions are required to connect your paragraphs, the sentences you write to present your evidence should possess transition words that connect ideas, focus attention on relevant information, and continue your discussion in a smooth and fluid manner.

You presented the main idea of your paper in the thesis statement. In the body, every single paragraph must support that main idea. If any paragraph in your paper does not, in some way, back up the main idea expressed in your thesis statement, it is not relevant, which means it doesn’t have a purpose and shouldn’t be there.

Each paragraph also has a main idea of its own. That main idea is stated in a topic sentence, either at the beginning or somewhere else in the paragraph. Just as every paragraph in your paper supports your thesis statement, every sentence in each paragraph supports the main idea of that paragraph by providing facts or examples that back up that main idea. If a sentence does not support the main idea of the paragraph, it is not relevant and should be left out.

A paper that makes claims or states ideas without backing them up with facts or clarifying them with examples won’t mean much to readers. Make sure you provide enough supporting details for all your ideas. And remember that a paragraph can’t contain just one sentence. A paragraph needs at least two or more sentences to be complete. If a paragraph has only one or two sentences, you probably haven’t provided enough support for your main idea. Or, if you have trouble finding the main idea, maybe you don’t have one. In that case, you can make the sentences part of another paragraph or leave them out.

Arrange the paragraphs in the body of your paper in an order that makes sense, so that each main idea follows logically from the previous one. Likewise, arrange the sentences in each paragraph in a logical order.

If you carefully organized your notes and made your outline, your ideas will fall into place naturally as you write your draft. The main ideas, which are building blocks of each section or each paragraph in your paper, come from the Roman-numeral headings in your outline. The supporting details under each of those main ideas come from the capital-letter headings. In a shorter paper, the capital-letter headings may become sentences that include supporting details, which come from the Arabic numerals in your outline. In a longer paper, the capital letter headings may become paragraphs of their own, which contain sentences with the supporting details, which come from the Arabic numerals in your outline.

In addition to keeping your ideas in logical order, transitions are another way to guide readers from one idea to another. Transition words and phrases are important when you are suggesting or pointing out similarities between ideas, themes, opinions, or a set of facts. As with any perfect phrase, transition words within paragraphs should not be used gratuitously. Their meaning must conform to what you are trying to point out, as shown in the examples below:

  • “Accordingly” or “in accordance with” indicates agreement. For example :Thomas Edison’s experiments with electricity accordingly followed the theories of Benjamin Franklin, J. B. Priestly, and other pioneers of the previous century.
  • “Analogous” or “analogously” contrasts different things or ideas that perform similar functions or make similar expressions. For example: A computer hard drive is analogous to a filing cabinet. Each stores important documents and data.
  • “By comparison” or “comparatively”points out differences between things that otherwise are similar. For example: Roses require an alkaline soil. Azaleas, by comparison, prefer an acidic soil.
  • “Corresponds to” or “correspondingly” indicates agreement or conformity. For example: The U.S. Constitution corresponds to England’s Magna Carta in so far as both established a framework for a parliamentary system.
  • “Equals,”“equal to,” or “equally” indicates the same degree or quality. For example:Vitamin C is equally as important as minerals in a well-balanced diet.
  • “Equivalent” or “equivalently” indicates two ideas or things of approximately the same importance, size, or volume. For example:The notions of individual liberty and the right to a fair and speedy trial hold equivalent importance in the American legal system.
  • “Common” or “in common with” indicates similar traits or qualities. For example: Darwin did not argue that humans were descended from the apes. Instead, he maintained that they shared a common ancestor.
  • “In the same way,”“in the same manner,”“in the same vein,” or “likewise,” connects comparable traits, ideas, patterns, or activities. For example: John Roebling’s suspension bridges in Brooklyn and Cincinnati were built in the same manner, with strong cables to support a metallic roadway. Example 2: Despite its delicate appearance, John Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge was built as a suspension bridge supported by strong cables. Example 3: Cincinnati’s Suspension Bridge, which Roebling also designed, was likewise supported by cables.
  • “Kindred” indicates that two ideas or things are related by quality or character. For example: Artists Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin are considered kindred spirits in the Impressionist Movement. “Like” or “as” are used to create a simile that builds reader understanding by comparing two dissimilar things. (Never use “like” as slang, as in: John Roebling was like a bridge designer.) For examples: Her eyes shone like the sun. Her eyes were as bright as the sun.
  • “Parallel” describes events, things, or ideas that occurred at the same time or that follow similar logic or patterns of behavior. For example:The original Ocktoberfests were held to occur in parallel with the autumn harvest.
  • “Obviously” emphasizes a point that should be clear from the discussion. For example: Obviously, raccoons and other wildlife will attempt to find food and shelter in suburban areas as their woodland habitats disappear.
  • “Similar” and “similarly” are used to make like comparisons. For example: Horses and ponies have similar physical characteristics although, as working farm animals, each was bred to perform different functions.
  • “There is little debate” or “there is consensus” can be used to point out agreement. For example:There is little debate that the polar ice caps are melting.The question is whether global warming results from natural or human-made causes.

Other phrases that can be used to make transitions or connect ideas within paragraphs include:

  • Use “alternately” or “alternatively” to suggest a different option.
  • Use “antithesis” to indicate a direct opposite.
  • Use “contradict” to indicate disagreement.
  • Use “on the contrary” or “conversely” to indicate that something is different from what it seems.
  • Use “dissimilar” to point out differences between two things.
  • Use “diverse” to discuss differences among many things or people.
  • Use “distinct” or “distinctly” to point out unique qualities.
  • Use “inversely” to indicate an opposite idea.
  • Use “it is debatable,” “there is debate,” or “there is disagreement” to suggest that there is more than one opinion about a subject.
  • Use “rather” or “rather than” to point out an exception.
  • Use “unique” or “uniquely” to indicate qualities that can be found nowhere else.
  • Use “unlike” to indicate dissimilarities.
  • Use “various” to indicate more than one kind.

Writing Topic Sentences

Remember, a sentence should express a complete thought, one thought per sentence—no more, no less. The longer and more convoluted your sentences become, the more likely you are to muddle the meaning, become repetitive, and bog yourself down in issues of grammar and construction. In your first draft, it is generally a good idea to keep those sentences relatively short and to the point. That way your ideas will be clearly stated.You will be able to clearly see the content that you have put down—what is there and what is missing—and add or subtract material as it is needed. The sentences will probably seem choppy and even simplistic.The purpose of a first draft is to ensure that you have recorded all the content you will need to make a convincing argument. You will work on smoothing and perfecting the language in subsequent drafts.

Transitioning from your topic sentence to the evidence that supports it can be problematic. It requires a transition, much like the transitions needed to move from one paragraph to the next. Choose phrases that connect the evidence directly to your topic sentence.

  • Consider this: (give an example or state evidence).
  • If (identify one condition or event) then (identify the condition or event that will follow).
  • It should go without saying that (point out an obvious condition).
  • Note that (provide an example or observation).
  • Take a look at (identify a condition; follow with an explanation of why you think it is important to the discussion).
  • The authors had (identify their idea) in mind when they wrote “(use a quotation from their text that illustrates the idea).”
  • The point is that (summarize the conclusion your reader should draw from your research).
  • This becomes evident when (name the author) says that (paraphrase a quote from the author’s writing).
  • We see this in the following example: (provide an example of your own).
  • (The author’s name) offers the example of (summarize an example given by the author).

If an idea is controversial, you may need to add extra evidence to your paragraphs to persuade your reader. You may also find that a logical argument, one based solely on your evidence, is not persuasive enough and that you need to appeal to the reader’s emotions. Look for ways to incorporate your research without detracting from your argument.

Writing Transition Sentences

It is often difficult to write transitions that carry a reader clearly and logically on to the next paragraph (and the next topic) in an essay. Because you are moving from one topic to another, it is easy to simply stop one and start another. Great research papers, however, include good transitions that link the ideas in an interesting discussion so that readers can move smoothly and easily through your presentation. Close each of your paragraphs with an interesting transition sentence that introduces the topic coming up in the next paragraph.

Transition sentences should show a relationship between the two topics.Your transition will perform one of the following functions to introduce the new idea:

  • Indicate that you will be expanding on information in a different way in the upcoming paragraph.
  • Indicate that a comparison, contrast, or a cause-and-effect relationship between the topics will be discussed.
  • Indicate that an example will be presented in the next paragraph.
  • Indicate that a conclusion is coming up.

Transitions make a paper flow smoothly by showing readers how ideas and facts follow one another to point logically to a conclusion. They show relationships among the ideas, help the reader to understand, and, in a persuasive paper, lead the reader to the writer’s conclusion.

Each paragraph should end with a transition sentence to conclude the discussion of the topic in the paragraph and gently introduce the reader to the topic that will be raised in the next paragraph. However, transitions also occur within paragraphs—from sentence to sentence—to add evidence, provide examples, or introduce a quotation.

The type of paper you are writing and the kinds of topics you are introducing will determine what type of transitional phrase you should use. Some useful phrases for transitions appear below. They are grouped according to the function they normally play in a paper. Transitions, however, are not simply phrases that are dropped into sentences. They are constructed to highlight meaning. Choose transitions that are appropriate to your topic and what you want the reader to do. Edit them to be sure they fit properly within the sentence to enhance the reader’s understanding.

Transition Phrases for Comparisons:

  • We also see
  • In addition to
  • Notice that
  • Beside that,
  • In comparison,
  • Once again,
  • Identically,
  • For example,
  • Comparatively, it can be seen that
  • We see this when
  • This corresponds to
  • In other words,
  • At the same time,
  • By the same token,

Transition Phrases for Contrast:

  • By contrast,
  • On the contrary,
  • Nevertheless,
  • An exception to this would be …
  • Alongside that,we find …
  • On one hand … on the other hand …
  • [New information] presents an opposite view …
  • Conversely, it could be argued …
  • Other than that,we find that …
  • We get an entirely different impression from …
  • One point of differentiation is …
  • Further investigation shows …
  • An exception can be found in the fact that …

Transition Phrases to Show a Process:

  • At the top we have … Near the bottom we have …
  • Here we have … There we have …
  • Continuing on,
  • We progress to …
  • Close up … In the distance …
  • With this in mind,
  • Moving in sequence,
  • Proceeding sequentially,
  • Moving to the next step,
  • First, Second,Third,…
  • Examining the activities in sequence,
  • Sequentially,
  • As a result,
  • The end result is …
  • To illustrate …
  • Subsequently,
  • One consequence of …
  • If … then …
  • It follows that …
  • This is chiefly due to …
  • The next step …
  • Later we find …

Phrases to Introduce Examples:

  • For instance,
  • Particularly,
  • In particular,
  • This includes,
  • Specifically,
  • To illustrate,
  • One illustration is
  • One example is
  • This is illustrated by
  • This can be seen when
  • This is especially seen in
  • This is chiefly seen when

Transition Phrases for Presenting Evidence:

  • Another point worthy of consideration is
  • At the center of the issue is the notion that
  • Before moving on, it should be pointed out that
  • Another important point is
  • Another idea worth considering is
  • Consequently,
  • Especially,
  • Even more important,
  • Getting beyond the obvious,
  • In spite of all this,
  • It follows that
  • It is clear that
  • More importantly,
  • Most importantly,

How to make effective transitions between sections of a research paper? There are two distinct issues in making strong transitions:

  • Does the upcoming section actually belong where you have placed it?
  • Have you adequately signaled the reader why you are taking this next step?

The first is the most important: Does the upcoming section actually belong in the next spot? The sections in your research paper need to add up to your big point (or thesis statement) in a sensible progression. One way of putting that is, “Does the architecture of your paper correspond to the argument you are making?” Getting this architecture right is the goal of “large-scale editing,” which focuses on the order of the sections, their relationship to each other, and ultimately their correspondence to your thesis argument.

It’s easy to craft graceful transitions when the sections are laid out in the right order. When they’re not, the transitions are bound to be rough. This difficulty, if you encounter it, is actually a valuable warning. It tells you that something is wrong and you need to change it. If the transitions are awkward and difficult to write, warning bells should ring. Something is wrong with the research paper’s overall structure.

After you’ve placed the sections in the right order, you still need to tell the reader when he is changing sections and briefly explain why. That’s an important part of line-by-line editing, which focuses on writing effective sentences and paragraphs.

Effective transition sentences and paragraphs often glance forward or backward, signaling that you are switching sections. Take this example from J. M. Roberts’s History of Europe . He is finishing a discussion of the Punic Wars between Rome and its great rival, Carthage. The last of these wars, he says, broke out in 149 B.C. and “ended with so complete a defeat for the Carthaginians that their city was destroyed . . . .” Now he turns to a new section on “Empire.” Here is the first sentence: “By then a Roman empire was in being in fact if not in name.”(J. M. Roberts, A History of Europe . London: Allen Lane, 1997, p. 48) Roberts signals the transition with just two words: “By then.” He is referring to the date (149 B.C.) given near the end of the previous section. Simple and smooth.

Michael Mandelbaum also accomplishes this transition between sections effortlessly, without bringing his narrative to a halt. In The Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets , one chapter shows how countries of the North Atlantic region invented the idea of peace and made it a reality among themselves. Here is his transition from one section of that chapter discussing “the idea of warlessness” to another section dealing with the history of that idea in Europe.

The widespread aversion to war within the countries of the Western core formed the foundation for common security, which in turn expressed the spirit of warlessness. To be sure, the rise of common security in Europe did not abolish war in other parts of the world and could not guarantee its permanent abolition even on the European continent. Neither, however, was it a flukish, transient product . . . . The European common security order did have historical precedents, and its principal features began to appear in other parts of the world. Precedents for Common Security The security arrangements in Europe at the dawn of the twenty-first century incorporated features of three different periods of the modern age: the nineteenth century, the interwar period, and the ColdWar. (Michael Mandelbaum, The Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets . New York: Public Affairs, 2002, p. 128)

It’s easier to make smooth transitions when neighboring sections deal with closely related subjects, as Mandelbaum’s do. Sometimes, however, you need to end one section with greater finality so you can switch to a different topic. The best way to do that is with a few summary comments at the end of the section. Your readers will understand you are drawing this topic to a close, and they won’t be blindsided by your shift to a new topic in the next section.

Here’s an example from economic historian Joel Mokyr’s book The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress . Mokyr is completing a section on social values in early industrial societies. The next section deals with a quite different aspect of technological progress: the role of property rights and institutions. So Mokyr needs to take the reader across a more abrupt change than Mandelbaum did. Mokyr does that in two ways. First, he summarizes his findings on social values, letting the reader know the section is ending. Then he says the impact of values is complicated, a point he illustrates in the final sentences, while the impact of property rights and institutions seems to be more straightforward. So he begins the new section with a nod to the old one, noting the contrast.

In commerce, war and politics, what was functional was often preferred [within Europe] to what was aesthetic or moral, and when it was not, natural selection saw to it that such pragmatism was never entirely absent in any society. . . . The contempt in which physical labor, commerce, and other economic activity were held did not disappear rapidly; much of European social history can be interpreted as a struggle between wealth and other values for a higher step in the hierarchy. The French concepts of bourgeois gentilhomme and nouveau riche still convey some contempt for people who joined the upper classes through economic success. Even in the nineteenth century, the accumulation of wealth was viewed as an admission ticket to social respectability to be abandoned as soon as a secure membership in the upper classes had been achieved. Institutions and Property Rights The institutional background of technological progress seems, on the surface, more straightforward. (Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress . New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 176)

Note the phrase, “on the surface.” Mokyr is hinting at his next point, that surface appearances are deceiving in this case. Good transitions between sections of your research paper depend on:

  • Getting the sections in the right order
  • Moving smoothly from one section to the next
  • Signaling readers that they are taking the next step in your argument
  • Explaining why this next step comes where it does

Every good paper ends with a strong concluding paragraph. To write a good conclusion, sum up the main points in your paper. To write an even better conclusion, include a sentence or two that helps the reader answer the question, “So what?” or “Why does all this matter?” If you choose to include one or more “So What?” sentences, remember that you still need to support any point you make with facts or examples. Remember, too, that this is not the place to introduce new ideas from “out of the blue.” Make sure that everything you write in your conclusion refers to what you’ve already written in the body of your paper.

Back to How To Write A Research Paper .

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  • Online Guide to Writing

Structuring the Research Paper

Formal research structure.

These are the primary purposes for formal research:

enter the discourse, or conversation, of other writers and scholars in your field

learn how others in your field use primary and secondary resources

find and understand raw data and information

Top view of textured wooden desk prepared for work and exploration - wooden pegs, domino, cubes and puzzles with blank notepads,  paper and colourful pencils lying on it.

For the formal academic research assignment, consider an organizational pattern typically used for primary academic research.  The pattern includes the following: introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusions/recommendations.

Usually, research papers flow from the general to the specific and back to the general in their organization. The introduction uses a general-to-specific movement in its organization, establishing the thesis and setting the context for the conversation. The methods and results sections are more detailed and specific, providing support for the generalizations made in the introduction. The discussion section moves toward an increasingly more general discussion of the subject, leading to the conclusions and recommendations, which then generalize the conversation again.

Sections of a Formal Structure

The introduction section.

Many students will find that writing a structured  introduction  gets them started and gives them the focus needed to significantly improve their entire paper. 

Introductions usually have three parts:

presentation of the problem statement, the topic, or the research inquiry

purpose and focus of your paper

summary or overview of the writer’s position or arguments

In the first part of the introduction—the presentation of the problem or the research inquiry—state the problem or express it so that the question is implied. Then, sketch the background on the problem and review the literature on it to give your readers a context that shows them how your research inquiry fits into the conversation currently ongoing in your subject area. 

In the second part of the introduction, state your purpose and focus. Here, you may even present your actual thesis. Sometimes your purpose statement can take the place of the thesis by letting your reader know your intentions. 

The third part of the introduction, the summary or overview of the paper, briefly leads readers through the discussion, forecasting the main ideas and giving readers a blueprint for the paper. 

The following example provides a blueprint for a well-organized introduction.

Example of an Introduction

Entrepreneurial Marketing: The Critical Difference

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, John A. Welsh and Jerry F. White remind us that “a small business is not a little big business.” An entrepreneur is not a multinational conglomerate but a profit-seeking individual. To survive, he must have a different outlook and must apply different principles to his endeavors than does the president of a large or even medium-sized corporation. Not only does the scale of small and big businesses differ, but small businesses also suffer from what the Harvard Business Review article calls “resource poverty.” This is a problem and opportunity that requires an entirely different approach to marketing. Where large ad budgets are not necessary or feasible, where expensive ad production squanders limited capital, where every marketing dollar must do the work of two dollars, if not five dollars or even ten, where a person’s company, capital, and material well-being are all on the line—that is, where guerrilla marketing can save the day and secure the bottom line (Levinson, 1984, p. 9).

By reviewing the introductions to research articles in the discipline in which you are writing your research paper, you can get an idea of what is considered the norm for that discipline. Study several of these before you begin your paper so that you know what may be expected. If you are unsure of the kind of introduction your paper needs, ask your professor for more information.  The introduction is normally written in present tense.

THE METHODS SECTION

The methods section of your research paper should describe in detail what methodology and special materials if any, you used to think through or perform your research. You should include any materials you used or designed for yourself, such as questionnaires or interview questions, to generate data or information for your research paper. You want to include any methodologies that are specific to your particular field of study, such as lab procedures for a lab experiment or data-gathering instruments for field research. The methods section is usually written in the past tense.

THE RESULTS SECTION

How you present the results of your research depends on what kind of research you did, your subject matter, and your readers’ expectations. 

Quantitative information —data that can be measured—can be presented systematically and economically in tables, charts, and graphs. Quantitative information includes quantities and comparisons of sets of data. 

Qualitative information , which includes brief descriptions, explanations, or instructions, can also be presented in prose tables. This kind of descriptive or explanatory information, however, is often presented in essay-like prose or even lists.

There are specific conventions for creating tables, charts, and graphs and organizing the information they contain. In general, you should use them only when you are sure they will enlighten your readers rather than confuse them. In the accompanying explanation and discussion, always refer to the graphic by number and explain specifically what you are referring to; you can also provide a caption for the graphic. The rule of thumb for presenting a graphic is first to introduce it by name, show it, and then interpret it. The results section is usually written in the past tense.

THE DISCUSSION SECTION

Your discussion section should generalize what you have learned from your research. One way to generalize is to explain the consequences or meaning of your results and then make your points that support and refer back to the statements you made in your introduction. Your discussion should be organized so that it relates directly to your thesis. You want to avoid introducing new ideas here or discussing tangential issues not directly related to the exploration and discovery of your thesis. The discussion section, along with the introduction, is usually written in the present tense.

THE CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS SECTION

Your conclusion ties your research to your thesis, binding together all the main ideas in your thinking and writing. By presenting the logical outcome of your research and thinking, your conclusion answers your research inquiry for your reader. Your conclusions should relate directly to the ideas presented in your introduction section and should not present any new ideas.

You may be asked to present your recommendations separately in your research assignment. If so, you will want to add some elements to your conclusion section. For example, you may be asked to recommend a course of action, make a prediction, propose a solution to a problem, offer a judgment, or speculate on the implications and consequences of your ideas. The conclusions and recommendations section is usually written in the present tense.

Key Takeaways

  • For the formal academic research assignment, consider an organizational pattern typically used for primary academic research. 
  •  The pattern includes the following: introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusions/recommendations.

Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783 This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License . © 2022 UMGC. All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMGC is not responsible for the validity or integrity of information located at external sites.

Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing

Chapter 1: College Writing

How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

What Is College Writing?

Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?

Chapter 2: The Writing Process

Doing Exploratory Research

Getting from Notes to Your Draft

Introduction

Prewriting - Techniques to Get Started - Mining Your Intuition

Prewriting: Targeting Your Audience

Prewriting: Techniques to Get Started

Prewriting: Understanding Your Assignment

Rewriting: Being Your Own Critic

Rewriting: Creating a Revision Strategy

Rewriting: Getting Feedback

Rewriting: The Final Draft

Techniques to Get Started - Outlining

Techniques to Get Started - Using Systematic Techniques

Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Freewriting

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Summarizing Your Ideas

Writing: Outlining What You Will Write

Chapter 3: Thinking Strategies

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone: Style Through Vocabulary and Diction

Critical Strategies and Writing

Critical Strategies and Writing: Analysis

Critical Strategies and Writing: Evaluation

Critical Strategies and Writing: Persuasion

Critical Strategies and Writing: Synthesis

Developing a Paper Using Strategies

Kinds of Assignments You Will Write

Patterns for Presenting Information

Patterns for Presenting Information: Critiques

Patterns for Presenting Information: Discussing Raw Data

Patterns for Presenting Information: General-to-Specific Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Specific-to-General Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Summaries and Abstracts

Supporting with Research and Examples

Writing Essay Examinations

Writing Essay Examinations: Make Your Answer Relevant and Complete

Writing Essay Examinations: Organize Thinking Before Writing

Writing Essay Examinations: Read and Understand the Question

Chapter 4: The Research Process

Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Ask a Research Question

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Cite Sources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Collect Evidence

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Decide Your Point of View, or Role, for Your Research

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Draw Conclusions

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Find a Topic and Get an Overview

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Manage Your Resources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Survey the Literature

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Work Your Sources into Your Research Writing

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Human Resources

Research Resources: What Are Research Resources?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Electronic Resources

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Print Resources

Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure

Structuring the Research Paper: Informal Research Structure

The Nature of Research

The Research Assignment: How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?

The Research Assignment: When Is Research Needed?

The Research Assignment: Why Perform Research?

Chapter 5: Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Giving Credit to Sources

Giving Credit to Sources: Copyright Laws

Giving Credit to Sources: Documentation

Giving Credit to Sources: Style Guides

Integrating Sources

Practicing Academic Integrity

Practicing Academic Integrity: Keeping Accurate Records

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Paraphrasing Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Quoting Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Summarizing Your Sources

Types of Documentation

Types of Documentation: Bibliographies and Source Lists

Types of Documentation: Citing World Wide Web Sources

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - APA Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - CSE/CBE Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - Chicago Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - MLA Style

Types of Documentation: Note Citations

Chapter 6: Using Library Resources

Finding Library Resources

Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing

How Is Writing Graded?

How Is Writing Graded?: A General Assessment Tool

The Draft Stage

The Draft Stage: The First Draft

The Draft Stage: The Revision Process and the Final Draft

The Draft Stage: Using Feedback

The Research Stage

Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing

Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Article and Book Reviews

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Reaction Papers

Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Adapting the Argument Structure

Writing Arguments: Purposes of Argument

Writing Arguments: References to Consult for Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Anticipate Active Opposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Determine Your Organization

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Develop Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Introduce Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - State Your Thesis or Proposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Write Your Conclusion

Writing Arguments: Types of Argument

Appendix A: Books to Help Improve Your Writing

Dictionaries

General Style Manuals

Researching on the Internet

Special Style Manuals

Writing Handbooks

Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing

Collaborative Writing: Assignments to Accompany the Group Project

Collaborative Writing: Informal Progress Report

Collaborative Writing: Issues to Resolve

Collaborative Writing: Methodology

Collaborative Writing: Peer Evaluation

Collaborative Writing: Tasks of Collaborative Writing Group Members

Collaborative Writing: Writing Plan

General Introduction

Peer Reviewing

Appendix C: Developing an Improvement Plan

Working with Your Instructor’s Comments and Grades

Appendix D: Writing Plan and Project Schedule

Devising a Writing Project Plan and Schedule

Reviewing Your Plan with Others

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Research Writing ~ How to Write a Research Paper

  • Choosing A Topic
  • Critical Thinking
  • Domain Names
  • Starting Your Research
  • Writing Tips
  • Parts of the Paper
  • Edit & Rewrite
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Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your introductory paragraph should grab the reader's attention, state your main idea and how you will support it. The body of the paper should expand on what you have stated in the introduction. Finally, the conclusion restates the paper's thesis and should explain what you have learned, giving a wrap up of your main ideas.   

1. The Title The title should be specific and indicate the theme of the research and what ideas it addresses. Use keywords that help explain your paper's topic to the reader. Try to avoid  abbreviations  and  jargon.  Think about keywords that people would use to search for your paper and include them in your title. 

2. The Abstract The abstract is used by readers to get a quick overview of your paper. Typically, they are about 200 words in length (120 words minimum to  250 words maximum). The abstract should introduce the topic and thesis, and should provide a general statement about what you have found in your research. The abstract allows you to mention each major aspect of you topic and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Because it is a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last. 

3. The Introduction The introduction should be designed to attract the reader's attention and explain the focus of the research. You will introduce your overview of the topic, your main points of information, and why this subject is important. You can introduce the current understanding and background information about the topic. Toward the end of the introduction, you add your thesis statement, and explain how you will provide information to support your research questions. This provides the purpose, focus, and structure for the rest of the paper.

4. Thesis Statement Most papers will have a thesis statement or main idea and supporting facts/ideas/arguments. State your main idea (something of interest or something to be proven or argued for or against) as your thesis statement, and then provide  supporting facts and arguments. A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking. It also points toward the paper's development. This statement should be both specific and arguable. Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

Students often learn to write a thesis as a first step in the writing process, but often, after research, a writers viewpoint may change. Therefore a thesis statement may be one of the final steps in writing. 

Examples of thesis statements from Purdue OWL. . .

5. The Literature Review The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and how it specifically relates to the research thesis. 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. You will want  to:

  • Explain how the literature helps the researcher understand the topic.
  • Try to show connections and any disparities between the literature.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research.
  • Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.

More about writing a literature review. . .  from The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill More about summarizing. . . from the Center for Writing Studies at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

6. The Discussion ​The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe what you have learned from your research. Make the reader understand why your topic is important. The discussion should always demonstrate what you have learned from your readings (and viewings) and how that learning has made the topic evolve, especially from the short description of main points in the introduction. Explain any new understanding or insights you have had after reading your articles and/or books. Paragraphs should use transitioning sentences to develop how one paragraph idea leads to the next. The discussion will always connect to the introduction, your thesis statement, and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction. You want to: 

  • Demonstrate critical thinking, not just reporting back facts that you gathered.
  • If possible, tell how the topic has evolved over the past and give it's implications for the future.
  • Fully explain your main ideas with supporting information.
  • Explain why your thesis is correct giving arguments to counter points.

​7. The Conclusion A concluding paragraph is a brief summary of your main ideas and restates the paper's main thesis, giving the reader the sense that the stated goal of the paper has been accomplished. What have you learned by doing this research that you didn't know before? What conclusions have you drawn? You may also want to suggest further areas of study, improvement of research possibilities, etc. to demonstrate your critical thinking regarding your research.

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Research Paper Structure – Main Sections and Parts of a Research Paper

PhD students are expected to write and publish research papers to validate their research work and findings. Writing your first research paper  can seem like a daunting task at the start but must be done to validate your work. If you are a beginner writer new to academic writing or a non-native English speaker then it might seem like a daunting process at inception. The best way to begin writing a research paper is to learn about the research paper structure needed in your field, as this may vary between fields. Producing a research paper structure first with various headings and subheadings will significantly simplify the writing process. In this blog, we explain the basic structure of a research paper and explain its various components. We elaborate on various parts and sections of a research paper. We also provide guidance to produce a research paper structure for your work through word cloud diagrams that illustrate various topics and sub-topics to be included under each section. We recommend you to refer to our other blogs on  academic writing tools ,   academic writing resources , and  academic phrase-bank , which are relevant to the topic discussed in this blog. 

1. Introduction

The Introduction section is one of the most important sections of a research paper. The introduction section should start with a brief outline of the topic and then explain the nature of the problem at hand and why it is crucial to resolve this issue. This section should contain a literature review that provides relevant background information about the topic. The literature review should touch upon seminal and pioneering works in the field and the most recent studies pertinent to your work. 

Research paper structure for introduction section

The  literature review  should end with a few lines about the research gap in the chosen domain. This is where you explain the lack of adequate research about your chosen topic and make a case for the need for more research. This is an excellent place to define the research question or hypothesis. The last part of the introduction should be about your work. Having established the research gap now, you have to explain how you intend to solve the problem and subsequently introduce your approach. You should provide a clear outline that includes both the primary and secondary aims/objectives of your work. You can end the section by providing how the rest of the paper is organized.  When you are working on the research paper structure use the word cloud diagrams as a guidance.

2. Material and Methods

The Materials and methods section of the research paper should include detailed information about the implementation details of your method. This should be written in such a way that it is reproducible by any person conducting research in the same field. This section should include all the technical details of the experimental setup, measurement procedure, and parameters of interest. It should also include details of how the methods were validated and tested prior to their use. It is recommended to use equations, figures, and tables to explain the workings of the method proposed. Add placeholders for figures and tables with dummy titles while working on the research paper structure.

Research paper structure for material and methods section

Suppose your methodology involves data collection and recruitment. In that case, you should provide information about the sample size, population characteristics, interview process, and recruitment methods. It should also include the details of the consenting procedure and inclusion and exclusion criteria. This section can end with various statistical methods used for data analysis and significance testing.

3. Results and Discussion

Results and Discussion section of the research paper should be the concluding part of your research paper. In the results section, you can explain your experiments’ outcome by presenting adequate scientific data to back up your conclusions. You must interpret the scientific data to your readers by highlighting the key findings of your work. You also provide information on any negative and unexpected findings that came out of your work. It is vital to present the data in an unbiased manner. You should also explain how the current results compare with previously published data from similar works in the literature. 

Research paper structure for results and discussion section

In the discussion section, you should summarize your work and explain how the research work objectives were achieved. You can highlight the benefits your work will bring to the overall scientific community and potential practical applications. You must not introduce any new information in this section; you can only discuss things that have already been mentioned in the paper. The discussion section must talk about your work’s limitations; no scientific work is perfect, and some drawbacks are expected. If there are any inconclusive results in your work, you can present your theories about what might have caused it. You have to end your paper with conclusions and future work . In conclusion, you can restate your aims and objectives and summarize your main findings, preferably in two or three lines. You should also lay out your plans for future work and explain how further research will benefit the research domain. Finally, you can also add ‘Acknowledgments’ and ‘References’ sections to the research paper structure for completion.

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the three main parts of a research paper are

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Parts Of A Research Paper

  • June 26, 2020
  • Essay Guides and Topics

Here's What We'll Cover

You can only write an irrefutable research paper after acknowledging all the parts. How many parts are available in a research paper? It deems fit that you understand all the parts in depth.

No matter how excellent your writing skills are, it takes acknowledging the different parts of a research paper to keep the readers hooked. A research paper follows the hourglass structure.

The paper must present some general information first before you can add a literature review, hypothesis , or even your problem statement.

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Why do I say this?

There is no definite manner or style of crafting and writing research papers. The field of study dictates the style of the paper. However, there are commonly known parts of a research paper and are pinpointed below.

Format On How To Write Parts Of A Research Paper

Introduction, limitations of the study, methodology, literature review, the main body.

  • List of references

The cover page is also known as the title page. The page presents information about the research paper’s title.

The name of the student authoring the paper is always available on this page, the course unit, and the professor tutoring the course.

The dates when the research paper was presented must appear on the page as well.

An abstract is necessary to present a general overview of the research paper. Nonetheless, not all academic research papers necessitate an abstract.

Where one is required, it sticks within a word limit of 100-300 words. Through the abstract, readers grasp the central theme of the research and its essence.

When crafting the abstract , you should avoid using footnotes. Instead, you should present the significance of the research, the method used, the research questions , and the results of your research and findings.

Most importantly,

The abstract must be crafted carefully hence recording no mistakes. The abstract must appeal to the instructor as it’s the first thing they read apart from the title.

Your introduction helps the reader understand everything about the paper. You need to snatch the attention of the readers through your statement of the problem.

The thesis statement creates a trajectory that your research and paper follow. Endeavour to make readers understand what your topic focuses on and why it’s of great relevance to you.

How broad is the scope of your research paper? Readers ought to understand the areas that your paper focuses on and the ones it discounts.

There are so many factors that might limit your study from geographical location, time, gender, nationality, and many other factors.

As a research paper author, there is a need for you to make your research methodologies known. There are instances when you follow quantitative or qualitative research methods, and discussing the methods used makes your paper engaging.

How did you collect data? Some students interview people randomly, and others prepare and give out questionnaires.

Other researchers have written about the topic before. A literature review helps uncover what other researchers have identified.

Therefore, have a segment that presents what is already known and documented about the topic or subject matter.

The body of your research paper is the longest and showcases your arguments and findings. Therefore, when crafting the main body, you need to keep the thesis as your central area of focus.

The last thing that you need is missing the point or giving distorted and confusing information. Maintain a rational and sober argument .

The main body contains numerous citations in support of your arguments. To present a top-notch research paper, ensure to abhor meaningless parentheses.

 Conclusion

You need to give your arguments and paper a conclusive underscore. The conclusion part must be informative and extensively stimulating.

Your hypothesis and questions appearing in your introduction must receive an answer at this point. Readers may forget the words used in the body but never on the conclusion. Therefore, endeavor to maintain an exciting conclusion.

Here’s the point,

As a result, the readers will get contented by your arguments and the research paper at large.

For the sake of your readers, you should consider adding several appendices. The appendices help readers enlarge their understanding.

The appendices materials that you can avail include questionnaires, tables, maps, a list of terms, images, lengthy statistics, charts, letters, and any other supplementary information or material relevant to the topic.

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  List of references

Finally, you need to have your list of references. The citations available in your paper must be cited as per their recommendations. Therefore, ensure to avail details of all your sources following alphabetical order. Ensure to follow the reference format demanded by your tutor.

Lets not forget,

Understanding the parts that make a research paper helps sharpen your skills. Therefore, understand and master all the above sections. Nonetheless, ensure to consider working on the components required by your tutor for your research paper.

An Example Showing Parts Of A Research Paper

An examples showing parts of a research paper

What are the main parts of a research paper?

The mains parts of a research paper include; Abstract, Introduction, Limitation of the study, methodology, literature review, research findings and analysis, the discussion then finally bibliography/ references.

What are the parts of research introduction?

The research introduction should have the topic sentence, which presents the main idea of your paper, thesis statement, which states the primary purpose clearly, supporting sentences then finally a conclusion statement.

What are the parts of thesis?

The thesis has a basic structure, and it includes; an abstract, research methods and discussions, conclusion then finally references/ bibliography.

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Research Guide

Chapter 5 sections of a paper.

Now that you have identified your research question, have compiled the data you need, and have a clear argument and roadmap, it is time for you to write. In this Module, I will briefly explain how to develop different sections of your research paper. I devote a different chapter to the empirical section. Please take into account that these are guidelines to follow in the different section, but you need to adapt them to the specific context of your paper.

5.1 The Abstract

The abstract of a research paper contains the most critical aspects of the paper: your research question, the context (country/population/subjects and period) analyzed, the findings, and the main conclusion. You have about 250 characters to attract the attention of the readers. Many times (in fact, most of the time), readers will only read the abstract. You need to “sell” your argument and entice them to continue reading. Thus, abstracts require good and direct writing. Use journalistic style. Go straight to the point.

There are two ways in which an abstract can start:

By introducing what motivates the research question. This is relevant when some context may be needed. When there is ‘something superior’ motivating your project. Use this strategy with care, as you may confuse the reader who may have a hard time understanding your research question.

By introducing your research question. This is the best way to attract the attention of your readers, as they can understand the main objective of the paper from the beginning. When the question is clear and straightforward this is the best method to follow.

Regardless of the path you follow, make sure that the abstract only includes short sentences written in active voice and present tense. Remember: Readers are very impatient. They will only skim the papers. You should make it simple for readers to find all the necessary information.

5.2 The Introduction

The introduction represents the most important section of your research paper. Whereas your title and abstract guide the readers towards the paper, the introduction should convince them to stay and read the rest of it. This section represents your opportunity to state your research question and link it to the bigger issue (why does your research matter?), how will you respond it (your empirical methods and the theory behind), your findings, and your contribution to the literature on that issue.

I reviewed the “Introduction Formulas” guidelines by Keith Head , David Evans and Jessica B. Hoel and compiled their ideas in this document, based on what my I have seen is used in papers in political economy, and development economics.

This is not a set of rules, as papers may differ depending on the methods and specific characteristics of the field, but it can work as a guideline. An important takeaway is that the introduction will be the section that deserves most of the attention in your paper. You can write it first, but you need to go back to it as you make progress in the rest of teh paper. Keith Head puts it excellent by saying that this exercise (going back and forth) is mostly useful to remind you what are you doing in the paper and why.

5.2.1 Outline

What are the sections generally included in well-written introductions? According to the analysis of what different authors suggest, a well-written introduction includes the following sections:

  • Hook: Motivation, puzzle. (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Research Question: What is the paper doing? (1 paragraph)
  • Antecedents: (optional) How your paper is linked to the bigger issue. Theory. (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Empirical approach: Method X, country Y, dataset Z. (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Detailed results: Don’t make the readers wait. (2-3 paragraphs)
  • Mechanisms, robustness and limitations: (optional) Your results are valid and important (1 paragraph)
  • Value added: Why is your paper important? How is it contributing to the field? (1-3 paragraphs)
  • Roadmap A convention (1 paragraph)

Now, let’s describe the different sections with more detail.

5.2.1.1 1. The Hook

Your first paragraph(s) should attract the attention of the readers, showing them why your research topic is important. Some attributes here are:

  • Big issue, specific angle: This is the big problem, here is this aspect of the problem (that your research tackles)
  • Big puzzle: There is no single explanation of the problem (you will address that)
  • Major policy implemented: Here is the issue and the policy implemented (you will test if if worked)
  • Controversial debate: some argue X, others argue Y

5.2.1.2 2. Research Question

After the issue has been introduced, you need to clearly state your research question; tell the reader what does the paper researches. Some words that may work here are:

  • I (We) focus on
  • This paper asks whether
  • In this paper,
  • Given the gaps in knoweldge, this paper
  • This paper investigates

5.2.1.3 3. Antecedents (Optional section)

I included this section as optional as it is not always included, but it may help to center the paper in the literature on the field.

However, an important warning needs to be placed here. Remember that the introduction is limited and you need to use it to highlight your work and not someone else’s. So, when the section is included, it is important to:

  • Avoid discussing paper that are not part of the larger narrative that surrounds your work
  • Use it to notice the gaps that exist in the current literature and that your paper is covering

In this section, you may also want to include a description of theoretical framework of your paper and/or a short description of a story example that frames your work.

5.2.1.4 4. Empirical Approach

One of the most important sections of the paper, particularly if you are trying to infer causality. Here, you need to explain how you are going to answer the research question you introduced earlier. This section of the introduction needs to be succint but clear and indicate your methodology, case selection, and the data used.

5.2.1.5 5. Overview of the Results

Let’s be honest. A large proportion of the readers will not go over the whole article. Readers need to understand what you’re doing, how and what did you obtain in the (brief) time they will allocate to read your paper (some eager readers may go back to some sections of the paper). So, you want to introduce your results early on (another reason you may want to go back to the introduction multiple times). Highlight the results that are more interesting and link them to the context.

According to David Evans , some authors prefer to alternate between the introduction of one of the empirical strategies, to those results, and then they introduce another empirical strategy and the results. This strategy may be useful if different empirical methodologies are used.

5.2.1.6 6. Mechanisms, Robustness and Limitations (Optional Section)

If you have some ideas about what drives your results (the mechanisms involved), you may want to indicate that here. Some of the current critiques towards economics (and probably social sciences in general) has been the strong focus on establishing causation, with little regard to the context surrounding this (if you want to hear more, there is this thread from Dani Rodrick ). Agency matters and if the paper can say something about this (sometimes this goes beyond our research), you should indicate it in the introduction.

You may also want to briefly indicate how your results are valid after trying different specifications or sources of data (this is called Robustness checks). But you also want to be honest about the limitations of your research. But here, do not diminish the importance of your project. After you indicate the limitations, finish the paragraph restating the importance of your findings.

5.2.1.7 7. Value Added

A very important section in the introduction, these paragraphs help readers (and reviewers) to show why is your work important. What are the specific contributions of your paper?

This section is different from section 3 in that it points out the detailed additions you are making to the field with your research. Both sections can be connected if that fits your paper, but it is quite important that you keep the focus on the contributions of your paper, even if you discuss some literature connected to it, but always with the focus of showing what your paper adds. References (literature review) should come after in the paper.

5.2.1.8 8. Roadmap

A convention for the papers, this section needs to be kept short and outline the organization of the paper. To make it more useful, you can highlight some details that might be important in certain sections. But you want to keep this section succint (most readers skip this paragraph altogether).

5.2.2 In summary

The introduction of your paper will play a huge role in defining the future of your paper. Do not waste this opportunity and use it as well as your North Star guiding your path throughout the rest of the paper.

5.3 Context (Literature Review)

Do you need a literature review section?

5.4 Conclusion

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the three main parts of a research paper are

Your Ultimate Guide To Parts of a Research Paper

parts of a research paper

Students should know the different parts of a research paper before they start the writing process. Research paper writing is an important task in the academic world. But, many learners don’t know much about the research paper structure when asked to complete this task. Essentially, many learners don’t know about the components of a research paper. Unfortunately, this can ruin the overall quality of their work.

So, what are the basic parts of a research paper? Well, there are five major sections of a research paper. These are the parts that you will find in any paper. However, the number of research paper parts can always vary depending on the nature and length of the work.

The Basic Parts of a Research Paper

Perhaps, you’re wondering, what are the 5 parts of research paper? Well, this article will answer your question. The basic parts to a research paper are the introduction, method, results, discussion, and conclusion. However, a research paper can include other parts like the abstract, discussion, and reference list.

Although a student can be writing on a single topic, each part of research paper requires specific information. That’s why different research paper sections exist. It’s, therefore, important that students learn about the information that should go to different sections of research paper.

Research Paper Introduction

The introduction is one of the most important parts of an APA research paper. This is the section that gives the paper a direction. It tells the readers what the paper will attempt to achieve. The introduction of a research paper is the section where the writer states their thesis argument and research problem. What do you intend to study and what makes it important?

An ideal introduction of a research paper should: Provide a general research problem presentation Layout what you will try to achieve with your work State your position on the topic

Perhaps, you may have always wondered, what are the major parts of an argumentative research paper? Well, the introduction is one of these sections because it tells the readers about your position on the topic.

The Methods Section of a Research Paper

This is also called the methodology part of a research paper. It states the methodology and design used to conduct research. The methodology used in every paper will vary depending on the research type and field.

For instance, social sciences use observation methods to collect data while physical sciences may use apparatus. Such variations should be considered when learning how to write a methods section of a research paper. However, the most important thing is to ensure that other researchers can replicate the performed research using similar methods for verification purposes.

The assumption is that the person that will read the paper knows the basic research methods that you use to gather information and write the paper. Therefore, don’t go into detail trying to explain the methods. For instance, biochemists or organic chemists are familiar with methods like chromatography. Therefore, you should just highlight the equipment that you used instead of explaining the entire process.

If you did a survey, include a questionnaire copy in the appendix if you included too many questions. Nevertheless, refer your readers to the questionnaire in the appendix section whenever you think it’s necessary. Use the internet to learn how to write the methods section of a research paper if still unsure about the best way to go about this section. You can also c ontact us to get professional writing help  online.  

The Results Section of a Research Paper

The content that you include in this section will depend on the aims and results of your research. If you’re writing a quantitative research paper, this section will include a presentation of numerical data and results. When writing a qualitative research paper, this section should include discussions of different trends. However, you should not go into details.

A good results section of a research paper example will include graphs or tables of analyzed data. Raw data can also be included in the appendix to enable other researchers to follow it up and check calculations. Commentary can also be included to link results together instead of displaying unconnected and isolated figures and charts. Striking a balance between the results section and the discussion section can be difficult for some students. That’s because some of the findings, especially in descriptive or quantitative research fall into the grey area. Additionally, you should avoid repetition in your results section.

Therefore, find a middle ground where you can provide a general overview of your data so that you can expand it in your discussion section. Additionally, avoid including personal interpretations and opinions into this section and keep it for the discussion part.

The Discussion Section of a Research Paper

Some people confuse the results section with the discussion section. As such, they wonder what goes in the discussion section of a research paper. Essentially, elaborating your findings in the results section will leave you with nothing to include in the discussion section. Therefore, try to just present your findings in the result section without going into details.

Just like the name suggests, the discussion section is the place where you discuss or explain your findings or results. Here, you tell readers more about what you found. You can also add personal interpretations. Your discussion should be linked to the introduction and address every initial point separately.

It’s also crucial to ensure that the information included in the discussion section is related to your thesis statement. If you don’t do that, you can cloud your findings. Essentially, the discussion section is the place where you show readers how your findings support your argument or thesis statement.

Do you want to write a paper that will impress the tutor to award you the top grade? This section should feature the most analysis and citations. It should also focus on developing your thesis rationally with a solid argument of all major points and clear reasoning. Therefore, avoid unnecessary and meaningless digressions and maintain a clear focus. Provide cohesion and unity to strengthen your research paper.

Research Paper Conclusion

This is the last major part of any research paper. It’s the section where you should build upon the discussion and refer the findings of your research to those of other researchers. The conclusion can have a single paragraph or even two. However, the conclusion can be the most important section of an entire paper when writing a dissertation. That’s because it can describe results while discussing them in detail. It can also emphasize why the results of the research project are important to the field. What’s more, it can tie the paper with previous studies.

In some papers, this section provides recommendations while calling for further research and highlighting flaws that may have affected the results of the study. Thus, this can be the section where the writer suggests improvements that can make the research design better.

Parts Of A Research Paper Explained

Though these are the major sections of a research paper, the reference list or bibliography is also very important. No research paper can be complete without a bibliography or reference list that documents the used sources. These sources should be documented according to the specified format. Thus, the format of the reference list can vary from APA to MLA, Chicago to Harvard, and other formats. Nevertheless, a research paper that features the five major sections and a reference list will be considered complete in most institutions even without the acknowledgment and abstract parts. The best way to get a high grade is to ask professionals ‘Can someone do my assignment for me now?’ and get your papers done on time. 

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Types of research papers

the three main parts of a research paper are

Analytical research paper

Argumentative or persuasive paper, definition paper, compare and contrast paper, cause and effect paper, interpretative paper, experimental research paper, survey research paper, frequently asked questions about the different types of research papers, related articles.

There are multiple different types of research papers. It is important to know which type of research paper is required for your assignment, as each type of research paper requires different preparation. Below is a list of the most common types of research papers.

➡️ Read more:  What is a research paper?

In an analytical research paper you:

  • pose a question
  • collect relevant data from other researchers
  • analyze their different viewpoints

You focus on the findings and conclusions of other researchers and then make a personal conclusion about the topic. It is important to stay neutral and not show your own negative or positive position on the matter.

The argumentative paper presents two sides of a controversial issue in one paper. It is aimed at getting the reader on the side of your point of view.

You should include and cite findings and arguments of different researchers on both sides of the issue, but then favor one side over the other and try to persuade the reader of your side. Your arguments should not be too emotional though, they still need to be supported with logical facts and statistical data.

Tip: Avoid expressing too much emotion in a persuasive paper.

The definition paper solely describes facts or objective arguments without using any personal emotion or opinion of the author. Its only purpose is to provide information. You should include facts from a variety of sources, but leave those facts unanalyzed.

Compare and contrast papers are used to analyze the difference between two:

Make sure to sufficiently describe both sides in the paper, and then move on to comparing and contrasting both thesis and supporting one.

Cause and effect papers are usually the first types of research papers that high school and college students write. They trace probable or expected results from a specific action and answer the main questions "Why?" and "What?", which reflect effects and causes.

In business and education fields, cause and effect papers will help trace a range of results that could arise from a particular action or situation.

An interpretative paper requires you to use knowledge that you have gained from a particular case study, for example a legal situation in law studies. You need to write the paper based on an established theoretical framework and use valid supporting data to back up your statement and conclusion.

This type of research paper basically describes a particular experiment in detail. It is common in fields like:

Experiments are aimed to explain a certain outcome or phenomenon with certain actions. You need to describe your experiment with supporting data and then analyze it sufficiently.

This research paper demands the conduction of a survey that includes asking questions to respondents. The conductor of the survey then collects all the information from the survey and analyzes it to present it in the research paper.

➡️ Ready to start your research paper? Take a look at our guide on how to start a research paper .

In an analytical research paper, you pose a question and then collect relevant data from other researchers to analyze their different viewpoints. You focus on the findings and conclusions of other researchers and then make a personal conclusion about the topic.

The definition paper solely describes facts or objective arguments without using any personal emotion or opinion of the author. Its only purpose is to provide information.

Cause and effect papers are usually the first types of research papers that high school and college students are confronted with. The answer questions like "Why?" and "What?", which reflect effects and causes. In business and education fields, cause and effect papers will help trace a range of results that could arise from a particular action or situation.

This type of research paper describes a particular experiment in detail. It is common in fields like biology, chemistry or physics. Experiments are aimed to explain a certain outcome or phenomenon with certain actions.

the three main parts of a research paper are

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Trump and biden: the national debt.

The national debt is on course to reach a record share of the economy under the next presidential administration, due in part to policies approved by Presidents Trump and Biden during their time in office, including executive actions and legislation passed by Congress. 

While it is important to understand the fiscal impact of the promises candidates make on the campaign trail – particularly because they reflect the candidates’ own policy preferences and are not impacted by unexpected external events or the actions of Congress – the fact that both leading candidates have served as President also allows for a comparison of their actual fiscal records. This analysis focuses on the estimated ten-year debt impact of policies approved by Presidents Trump and Biden around the time of enactment. 1 In this analysis, we find:

  • President Trump  approved $8.4 trillion of new ten-year borrowing during his full term in office, or $4.8 trillion excluding the CARES Act and other COVID relief.
  • President Biden , in his first three years and five months in office, approved $4.3 trillion of new ten-year borrowing, or $2.2 trillion excluding the American Rescue Plan.
  • President Trump approved $8.8 trillion  of gross new borrowing and $443 billion  of deficit reduction during his full presidential term. 
  • President Biden has so far approved $6.2 trillion of gross new borrowing and $1.9 trillion of deficit reduction.

the three main parts of a research paper are

In companion analyses, we will show:

  • Roughly 77 percent  of President Trump’s approved ten-year debt came from bipartisan legislation, and 29 percent  of the net ten-year debt President Biden has approved thus far came from bipartisan legislation. The rest was from partisan actions.
  • President Trump approved $2.2 trillion of debt in his first two years in office and $6.2 trillion  ($2.6 trillion non-COVID) in his second two years. President Biden approved $4.9 trillion ($2.9 trillion non-COVID) in his first two years in office and has so far approved over $600 billion of net ten-year deficit reduction since. 
  • President Trump approved $5.9 trillion of net spending increases including interest ($2.8 trillion non-COVID) and $2.5 trillion of net tax cuts ($2.0 trillion non-COVID). President Biden has approved $4.3 trillion of net spending increases including interest ($2.3 trillion non-COVID) and roughly $0 of net tax changes ($60 billion revenue increase non-COVID).
  • Debt held by the public rose by $7.2 trillion during President Trump’s term including $5.9 trillion in the first three years and five months. Debt held by the public has grown by $6.0 trillion during President Biden’s term so far. 
  • President Trump’s executive actions added less than $20 billion to ten-year debt on net. President Biden’s executive actions have added $1.2 trillion to ten-year debt so far. 
  • The President’s budget was on average 39 days late under President Trump and 58 days late under President Biden. 

Summary Table: Executive Actions & Legislation Approved by Presidents Trump & Biden

Tax Cuts & Jobs Act +$1.9 trillion Partisan
Bipartisan Budget Acts of 2018 & 2019 +$2.1 trillion Bipartisan
ACA Tax Delays & Repeals +$539 billion Bipartisan
Health Executive Actions +$456 billion Partisan (Executive Action)
Other Legislation +$310 billion Bipartisan
New & Increased Tariffs -$443 billion Partisan (Executive Action)
CARES Act +$1.9 trillion Bipartisan
Response & Relief Act +$983 billion Bipartisan
Other COVID Relief +$756 billion Bipartisan*

     
Appropriations for FY 2022 & 2023 +$1.4 trillion Bipartisan
Honoring Our PACT Act +$520 billion Bipartisan
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law +$439 billion Bipartisan
Other Legislation +$422 billion Bipartisan
Student Debt Actions +$620 billion Partisan (Executive Action)
Other Executive Actions +$548 billion Partisan (Executive Action)
Fiscal Responsibility Act -$1.5 trillion Bipartisan
Inflation Reduction Act -$252 billion Partisan
Deficit-Reducing Executive Actions -$129 billion Partisan (Executive Action)
American Rescue Plan Act +$2.1 trillion Partisan

Note: bipartisan indicates legislation passed with votes from both political parties in either chamber of Congress. *Includes $23 billion of executive actions in the form of student debt payment pauses. 

How Much Debt Did President Trump Approve?

During his four-year term in office, President Trump approved $8.4 trillion  of new ten-year borrowing above prior law, or $4.8 trillion  when excluding the bipartisan COVID relief bills and COVID-related executive actions. Looking at all legislation and executive actions with meaningful fiscal impact, the full amount of approved ten-year borrowing includes $8.8 trillion of deficit-increasing laws and actions offset by $443 billion of deficit-reducing actions. 2

These estimates are based on scores of legislation and executive actions rather than retrospective estimates. Scores are generally made on a conventional basis, though the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is scored dynamically. The actual debt impact of the policies was likely somewhat higher than these scores. In particular, the TCJA likely reduced revenue more than projected and saved less from repealing the individual health care mandate penalty, 3 while the Employee Retention Credit was likely far more expensive than originally estimated.

the three main parts of a research paper are

Sources: CRFB estimates based on CBO and OMB projections.

The major actions approved by President Trump (and ten-year impact with interest) include:

  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ( $1.9 trillion debt increase )
  • The Bipartisan Budget Acts of 2018 and 2019 ( $2.1 trillion debt increase ) 
  • ACA Tax Delays and Repeals ( $539 billion debt increase )
  • Health Executive Actions ( $456 billion debt increase ) 
  • Other Legislation ( $310 billion debt increase )  
  • New and Increased Tariffs ( $443 billion debt reduction )
  • The CARES Act ( $1.9 trillion debt increase ) 
  • The Response & Relief Act ( $983 billion debt increase ) 
  • Other COVID Relief ( $756 billion debt increase )

How Much Debt Has President Biden Approved?

Over his first three years and five months in office, President Biden has approved $4.3 trillion  of new ten-year borrowing, or $2.2 trillion  when excluding the American Rescue Plan Act. This includes $6.2 trillion of deficit-increasing legislation and actions, offset by $1.9 trillion of legislation and actions scored as reducing the deficit.

These estimates are based on scores of legislation and executive actions rather than retrospective estimates and do not include preliminary rules, unexecuted “side deals,” or actions ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. Updated scores and in-process actions would increase the total. For example, an updated estimate would likely wipe away the $252 billion of scored savings from the Inflation Reduction Act, 4 the informal FRA side deals would reduce its savings by  about $500 billion , and the new student debt cancellation plan could cost  $250 to $750 billion .

the three main parts of a research paper are

The major actions approved by President Biden so far (and ten-year impact with interest) include:

  • Appropriations for FY 2022 and 2023 ( $1.4 trillion debt increase ) 
  • The Honoring Our PACT Act ( $520 billion debt increase )
  • The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ( $439 billion debt increase ) 
  • Other Legislation ( $422 billion debt increase )
  • Student Debt Actions ( $620 billion debt increase )
  • Other Executive Actions ( $548 billion debt increase ) 
  • The Fiscal Responsibility Act ( $1.5 trillion debt reduction )
  • The Inflation Reduction Act ( $252 billion debt reduction )
  • Deficit-Reducing Executive Actions ( $129 billion debt reduction )
  • The American Rescue Plan Act ( $2.1 trillion debt increase )

The next presidential term will present significant fiscal challenges. While past performance is not necessarily indicative of future actions, it is helpful to examine the fiscal performance from each President’s time in office for clues as to how they plan to confront these challenges or how high of a priority fiscal responsibility will be on their agendas.

Both candidates approved substantial amounts of new borrowing in their first term. President Trump approved $8.4 trillion in borrowing over a decade, while President Biden has approved $4.3 trillion so far in his first three years and five months in office. Of course, accountability also rests with Congress as a co-equal branch of government, which passed legislation constituting the majority of the fiscal impact under both presidents.

Some of this borrowing was clearly justified, particularly in the early parts of the COVID-19 pandemic when joblessness was rising rapidly and large parts of the economy were effectively shut down. However, funding classified as COVID relief explains less than half of the borrowing authorized by either President, and arguably, a meaningful portion of this COVID relief was either extraneous, excessive, poorly targeted, or otherwise unnecessary. 5

In supplemental analyses, we will compare a number of other aspects of the candidates’ fiscal records. 

During the next presidential term, the national debt is projected to reach a record share of the economy, interest costs are slated to surge, the debt limit will re-emerge, discretionary spending caps and major tax cuts are scheduled to expire, and major trust funds will be hurtling toward insolvency. 

Adding trillions more to the national debt will only worsen these challenges, just as both Presidents Trump and Biden did during their terms along with lawmakers in Congress. The country would be better served if the candidates put forward and stuck to plans to reduce the national debt, secure the trust funds, and put the budget on a sustainable long-term path.

Appendix I : Details of Policies Approved by President Trump

  • Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ( $1.9 trillion debt increase )   – The TCJA included several tax cuts and reforms. Among those changes, the law reduced individual and corporate income tax rates, virtually eliminated the alternative minimum taxes, repealed or limited numerous deductions and tax breaks, replaced personal and dependent exemptions with an expanded standard deduction and Child Tax Credit, established a new deduction for pass-through business income, shrunk the estate tax, offered full expensing of equipment purchases, and reformed the tax treatment of international income. Most individual and estate tax changes were temporary while most corporate changes were permanent. The legislation also repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty. As a result of these policy changes, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the TCJA would boost output by roughly 1 percent at peak and 0.6 percent after a decade. The estimate incorporated in this analysis includes the dynamic feedback effects of this faster growth, based on CBO’s April 2018 analysis of the bill. While it is impossible to know exactly how the bill’s fiscal impact compared to this prospective estimate, a number of factors point towards it adding significantly more to the debt, including: higher-than-expected inflation and nominal incomes and profits leading to higher revenue loss; SALT cap workarounds; increased use of bonus depreciation; and lower than expected revenue from limiting the use of pass-through losses. As a reference point, CBO’s latest estimate for extending the expiring elements of the TCJA is almost  50 percent higher than its 2018 estimate. In addition, the budgetary savings from the individual mandate penalty repeal were likely less than originally projected.
  • The Bipartisan Budget Acts of 2018 and 2019  ( $2.1 trillion debt increase )   – The Bipartisan Budget Acts (BBA) of 2018 and 2019 increased the caps on defense and nondefense discretionary spending set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and further reduced through a ‘sequester’ activated after the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. BBA 2018  increased the caps in FY 2018 and 2019 by a combined $296 billion,  effectively repealing the $91 billion per year sequester and further increasing spending above the BCA caps. BBA 2019 essentially codified these increases by  boosting the FY 2020 and 2021 caps by a combined $320 billion. Because the 2021 cap was the final year of the BCA caps, BBA 2019 increased baseline discretionary spending levels beyond 2021 to the new 2021 level plus inflation. Both bills also included smaller additional policies, including some partial offsets. In total, BBA 2018 added $418 billion to the ten-year debt and BBA 2019 added $1.7 trillion.
  • ACA Tax Delays and Repeals  ( $539 billion debt increase )   – Three taxes enacted by the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) – the health insurer tax, the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health insurance, and the medical device excise tax – were delayed in a 2018 continuing resolution. They were subsequently repealed in one of the full-year funding bills for FY 2020. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the health insurer tax would have raised about $150 billion over a decade, the Cadillac tax would have raised $200 billion, and the medical device excise tax would have raised $25 billion. In addition to these tax repeals, policymakers enacted roughly $70 billion of other unpaid-for policies related to health care, retirement savings, and other priorities in these two bills. Interest costs added $64 billion more.
  • Health Executive Actions  ( $456 billion debt increase )   – President Trump approved two health-related executive actions with significant costs over his term. Ending federal appropriations for the  ACA’s cost-sharing reduction payments in 2017 led insurers to raise premiums on “silver” ACA plans to fund low-income cost sharing subsidies, ultimately increasing the cost of federal subsidies by an estimated $220 billion. Meanwhile, a  2020 rule to restrict prescription drug rebates paid to pharmacy benefit managers and insurer plans was estimated to cost $177 billion. Interest costs added $59 billion more. Importantly, the rebate rule was delayed and ultimately repealed by Congress under President Biden.
  • Other Legislation ( $310 billion debt increase )   – President Trump signed a number of other deficit-increasing bills into law over the course of his term. This includes several appropriations bills for disaster relief as well as the changes to mandatory programs (CHIMPs) that boosted spending in the full-year appropriations bills enacted in his term. Additionally, President Trump signed a permanent extension of several tax “extenders,” which are tax policies that have been routinely extended for short periods. Finally, he signed the Great American Outdoors Act, which transferred certain offsetting receipts and authorized them to be spent without appropriation, and the permanent authorization of the 9/11 victims fund, which authorized funds to pay out claims to 9/11 victims.
  • Tariffs  ( $443 billion debt reduction )   – Over the course of his presidency, President Trump used his authority under the Trade Act of 1974 and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1978 to increase a number of import tariffs through executive action. Beginning in 2018, the Trump Administration announced the imposition or increase to a variety of tariffs, including on washing machines, solar panels, and steel and aluminum products. In 2019, the tariff rate on many Chinese imports was increased from 10 percent to 25 percent. Based on CBO’s estimates at the time, we estimate these tariffs will have generated over $440 billion of revenue and interest savings over a decade.
  • The CARES Act  ( $1.9 trillion debt increase ) – Enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the bipartisan CARES Act included expanded and extended unemployment benefits, economic relief checks of $1,200 per eligible adult and $500 per child, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide support to small businesses to keep employees on payroll, and emergency disaster loans and grants to businesses, industries, health care facilities, educational institutions, state and local governments, and others, among many other provisions. Based on our ongoing  tracking , the actual fiscal impact of the CARES Act was likely similar to the initial score though perhaps slightly higher overall.
  • The Response & Relief Act  ( $983 billion debt increase )   – Enacted in December 2020 as part of the omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, the  Response & Relief Act included funding for a second tranche of PPP payments and small business grants, an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, economic relief checks of $600 per eligible person, funding support for schools and higher education institutions, vaccine and testing funding, targeted support to industries greatly impacted by COVID-19, an extension and expansion of the Employee Retention Credit, and an extension of various other COVID-related tax and spending relief programs. Based on our ongoing  tracking , the actual fiscal impact of the Response & Relief Act was likely higher than the initial score due to the significantly higher-than-expected deficit increase from the  Employee Retention Credit .
  • Other COVID Relief  ( $756 billion debt increase )   – President Trump approved several other measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. This includes the three other COVID relief laws enacted in March and April 2020: the  Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act , the  Families First Coronavirus Response Act , and the  Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act . It also includes the student loan repayment pauses enacted at the onset of COVID and extended after the CARES Act’s pause ended in October 2020. President Trump also approved  other executive actions that resulted in little deficit impact. Based on our ongoing  tracking , the actual fiscal impact of these bills were likely much higher than the initial score due to the significantly higher-than-expected revenue loss from the  Employee Retention Credit and the higher Medicaid and SNAP costs resulting from a longer-than-projected public health emergency.

Appendix II : Details of Policies Approved by President Biden So Far

  • Appropriations for FY 2022 and 2023  ( $1.4 trillion debt increase )   –President Biden signed full-year omnibus appropriations bills for  FY 2022 and  2023 , boosting nominal appropriations by 6 percent and then 9 percent. While those bills only set funding for those specific years, future-year projected levels are calculated by assuming continued inflation growth. This is consistent with the reality that appropriators generally work from the prior year’s spending levels. Based on CBO, we estimate the FY 2022 omnibus directly increased spending by $50 billion and indirectly by $519 billion above baseline, while the FY 2023 omnibus increased spending directly by $58 billion and base discretionary spending indirectly by $511 billion. Interest costs added $175 billion more. Both laws’ impacts on baseline deficits would be substantially smaller had they been scored against an updated CBO baseline that reflected actual inflation rather than projections – the bulk of the increases under both laws kept spending apace with the very-high rate of inflation for those years.
  • The Honoring Our PACT Act ( $520 billion debt increase )   – Enacted in August 2022, the PACT Act created new benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their tours of duty, expanded existing health and disability benefits, and modified eligibility tests that allowed more veterans to automatically qualify for benefits. Although veterans’ health spending is generally discretionary, the PACT Act allowed the cost of the expansion to be classified as mandatory spending and allowed lawmakers to  shift existing discretionary costs to the mandatory side of the budget. Based on CBO’s score, the PACT Act increased spending by between $277 billion and $667 billion, depending on how much funding was reclassified. Our estimate reflects the midpoint (plus interest), which policymakers effectively codified in the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023. 
  • The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law  ( $439 billion debt increase )   – The 2021  Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized more than $500 billion of direct spending and tax breaks related to surface transportation, broadband, energy and water, transit, and other infrastructure. The law also increased baseline levels of highway spending, translating to more than $50 billion in indirect costs. While lawmakers claimed that it was fully paid for at the time of passage, CBO determined that it only contained $173 billion of scorable savings, leading to $439 billion of new borrowing when interest is included.
  • Other Legislation  ( $422 billion debt increase )  –  President Biden signed several other bipartisan pieces of legislation during his first term. This includes  several   packages   of aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza, additional emergency spending related to disaster relief and military readiness, $80 billion of investments and tax credits to encourage onshoring manufacturing facilities for semiconductors in the CHIPS and Science Act, and additional FY 2024 appropriations spending based on  “side deals” to the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
  • Student Debt Actions ( $620 billion debt increase )   – The Biden Administration has instituted several changes to the federal student loan program through executive actions. Most significantly, the Education Department introduced the Savings on a Valuable Education (SAVE)  income-driven repayment (IDR) program , which reduced required payments and interest accrual for those enrolled, among other changes – estimated to cost $276 billion. In addition, President Biden extended the  pause of student debt repayments and cancellation of interest for 31 months at a cost of $146 billion. And finally, President Biden enacted a number of targeted debt cancellation measures, including expansions of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and cancellation of debt borrowed for institutions that closed or were found to be fraudulent, at a cost of $145 billion. President Biden also enacted a policy to cancel up to $20,000 per borrower of student debt that would have cost an additional $330 billion (after interactions with the SAVE plan), but this was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. Recently, the Administration introduced  an alternative debt cancellation plan that could cost between $250 and $750 billion, though it has yet to be implemented and is not counted here because our estimates only include regulations that have been finalized through the full rulemaking process.
  • Other Executive Actions  ( $548 billion debt increase )   – President Biden has also expanded deficits through other executive actions. Most significantly, he approved over $200 billion of borrowing by  changing the way Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – also known as food stamps – are calculated and adjusted. More recently, the Administration announced a rule to limit vehicle emissions, which we estimate will add nearly $170 billion to the debt by boosting the cost of electric vehicle tax credits expanded under the IRA and reducing gas tax revenue. Other executive actions will add a combined $180 billion to the debt by expanding Medicaid enrollment, changing the way prescription drug price concessions are considered by Medicare plans, addressing the ACA’s “family glitch,” allowing states to boost Medicaid payments to managed care plans to pull in additional federal dollars, and an expansion of allowed income for Supplemental Security Income recipient households.
  • Fiscal Responsibility Act ( $1.5 trillion debt reduction )   – In June 2023, President Biden signed the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), which capped discretionary spending for FY 2024 and 2025, among other changes. The FRA set 2024 nondefense discretionary levels to 5 percent below the 2023 level, set defense to be 3 percent higher, and set both to grow by 1 percent between 2024 and 2025. These  caps, along with other measures, were scored to generate over $250 billion of direct savings and also reduce the baseline for future spending to generate an additional $1.1 trillion of additional savings. With interest, the FRA was estimated to reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over a decade. Importantly, negotiators at the time agreed to a number of  “side deals” mentioned above that would reduce the FRA’s savings to roughly $1 trillion if enacted in full in future appropriations bills. A different but similar set of side deals were enacted for FY 2024 and added about $85 billion to deficits – these are included in the “other legislation” category. Additional side deals will not be counted until enacted.
  • Inflation Reduction Act  ( $252 billion debt reduction )   – In August 2022, President Biden signed the  Inflation Reduction Act (IRA ) into law, a reconciliation bill focused on energy, health care, and tax changes. The IRA established new and increased existing energy- and climate-related spending and tax credits, expanded ACA health insurance subsidies, required prescription drug negotiations and other drug pricing reforms, introduced a 15 percent corporate “book minimum tax,” established an excise tax on stock buybacks, increased funding to the IRS to close the tax gap, and made other changes. At the time of passage,  CBO and JCT estimated the IRA’s tax breaks and spending would reduce revenue and increase spending by about $500 billion, while its offsets would generate almost $740 billion. Recent estimates of the impact of repealing the IRA tax credits suggest these provisions will reduce revenue and increase spending by $260 billion higher than the official score; at the same time, the IRA’s offsets are also likely to raise more in revenue. On net, we expect a full re-estimate of the IRA would score as roughly budget neutral through 2031, excluding effects related to subsequent regulatory changes. This analysis attributes the additional cost of these regulations as executive actions.
  • Deficit-Reducing Executive Actions  ( $129 billion debt reduction )   –President Biden approved two other executive actions that would result in savings over a decade, including changes to payments for Medicare Advantage plans and a temporary stay of the subsequently repealed Trump prescription drug rebate rule.
  • American Rescue Plan Act  ( $2.1 trillion debt increase )  –  Enacted in the Spring of 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act was the final piece of legislation that contained many major components designed to provide COVID relief. It included several extensions of enhanced unemployment benefits, additional relief checks of $1,400 per person, and a slew of funding for state and local governments, educational institutions, health care providers, public health agencies, and others. The legislation also included  about $300 billion of policies that we have described as extraneous to the COVID crisis – including a pension bailout and expansions of the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, health insurance subsidies, and child care tax credit – and roughly $100 billion of offsets.

Appendix III: Methodology 

This analysis estimates the additional borrowing approved by Presidents Trump and Biden through tax and spending changes passed by Congress or contained in executive actions from their administrations. It does not estimate the amount of debt that accumulated over their terms, which partially reflects actions taken prior to their time in office and does not account for the fiscal impact of the actions approved by the President but incurred outside of his four-year term. We will publish changes in debt during their terms in a supplemental analysis.

Our analysis incorporates all major pieces of legislation and executive actions – those with more than $10 billion of ten-year budget impact – approved by Presidents Trump and Biden. Estimates rely on ten-year budget scores, as under standard convention. In order to rely on official scores wherever possible, however, all estimates are based on the ten-year budget window at the time of enactment – meaning different policies cover different time frames and thus are not purely additive or comparable.

In general, estimates rely on official estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) presented prospectively. When such scores are not available or not comprehensive, we may use estimates from the Office of Management and Budget, the regulatory agencies, or our own estimates. 

Estimates are not updated to incorporate data and results made available well after implementation; no legislation signed by either President Trump or President Biden has been re-estimated in full to incorporate observed costs or effects, and partial updates would bias the overall numbers. However, possible differences between initial scores and actual costs, including from the TCJA, the IRA, and COVID relief, are discussed throughout this paper.

Estimates incorporate impact on interest costs, which we calculate using the most recent CBO debt service tool at the time of enactment, unless interest impact is included in the estimate. Estimates are generally based on conventional scoring, but in the case of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we incorporate macroeconomic impacts as estimated by CBO shortly after enactment.

All estimates are in nominal dollars at the time of approval, which means deficit impact from earlier budget windows generally represent a larger share of GDP per dollar due to higher price levels and output over time. 

Finally, the estimates are based on the policies as written and do not try to correct for arbitrary cliffs, side agreements, or other budget gimmicks that may create a misleading picture of the intended fiscal impact of the policy.

1 Our estimates compare ten-year estimates of each action before implementation, generally using prospective scores of policies and adding them together despite being over different windows. Although this is not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison for a variety of reasons, it allows us to rely on official numbers and continue to compare over time. See the methodology section for a more detailed explanation.

2 Many pieces of legislation with fiscal impact include tax and spending changes that both add to and reduce projected deficits. The $8.8 trillion figure is based on the net deficit impact of deficit-increasing bills, rather than the gross deficit increases within those bills. For example, the $1.9 trillion impact of the TCJA represents the combination of tax cuts, base broadening, lower spending as a result of repealing the individual mandate penalty, interest, and dynamic effects on revenue and spending.

3 The larger deficit impact from the TCJA is due to a combination of a larger nominal tax base, lower health savings from individual mandate repeal, the unexpected use of a SALT cap workaround, reduced revenue collection from the limit on pass-through losses, higher revenue loss related to bonus depreciation, and other factors.

4 Due to higher prices and output, greater demand for subsidized activities, and laxer-than-expected regulations, the IRA’s energy provisions are now expected to have a fiscal impact of  $660 billion – about two-thirds more than the original estimate of roughly $400 billion. This excludes the effects of the Administration’s vehicle emissions rule, which we’ve scored separately. At the same time, revenue collection under the IRA is also likely to be higher in light of  higher-than-projected nominal corporate profits , greater expected  voluntary tax compliance , and less-than-expected responsiveness to the buyback tax. Overall, we believe a re-estimate of the IRA would be roughly budget neutral. The emissions rule approved by President Biden would increase deficits by about $170 billion – mainly by further increasing the fiscal impact of the IRA tax credits – and is included in our tally of his executive actions.

5 In a previous analysis, we estimated that  $500 to 650 billion of COVID relief was extraneous – unrelated to the pandemic or subsequent economic fallout – including $300 to $335 billion enacted under President Trump and $200 to $315 billion under President Biden. These prior estimates are not perfectly comparable to estimates in this paper but give a sense of scale. In additional analyses, we estimated that the American Rescue plan likely  significantly overshot the output gap it was aiming to close while providing excessive relief to a number of sectors. There were also excesses and lack of targeting in earlier COVID relief packages, including as it related to  stimulus checks , the additional $600 of weekly  unemployment benefits , and the  Paycheck Protection Program.

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Methodology

Research Methods | Definitions, Types, Examples

Research methods are specific procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Developing your research methods is an integral part of your research design . When planning your methods, there are two key decisions you will make.

First, decide how you will collect data . Your methods depend on what type of data you need to answer your research question :

  • Qualitative vs. quantitative : Will your data take the form of words or numbers?
  • Primary vs. secondary : Will you collect original data yourself, or will you use data that has already been collected by someone else?
  • Descriptive vs. experimental : Will you take measurements of something as it is, or will you perform an experiment?

Second, decide how you will analyze the data .

  • For quantitative data, you can use statistical analysis methods to test relationships between variables.
  • For qualitative data, you can use methods such as thematic analysis to interpret patterns and meanings in the data.

Table of contents

Methods for collecting data, examples of data collection methods, methods for analyzing data, examples of data analysis methods, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research methods.

Data is the information that you collect for the purposes of answering your research question . The type of data you need depends on the aims of your research.

Qualitative vs. quantitative data

Your choice of qualitative or quantitative data collection depends on the type of knowledge you want to develop.

For questions about ideas, experiences and meanings, or to study something that can’t be described numerically, collect qualitative data .

If you want to develop a more mechanistic understanding of a topic, or your research involves hypothesis testing , collect quantitative data .

Qualitative to broader populations. .
Quantitative .

You can also take a mixed methods approach , where you use both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Primary vs. secondary research

Primary research is any original data that you collect yourself for the purposes of answering your research question (e.g. through surveys , observations and experiments ). Secondary research is data that has already been collected by other researchers (e.g. in a government census or previous scientific studies).

If you are exploring a novel research question, you’ll probably need to collect primary data . But if you want to synthesize existing knowledge, analyze historical trends, or identify patterns on a large scale, secondary data might be a better choice.

Primary . methods.
Secondary

Descriptive vs. experimental data

In descriptive research , you collect data about your study subject without intervening. The validity of your research will depend on your sampling method .

In experimental research , you systematically intervene in a process and measure the outcome. The validity of your research will depend on your experimental design .

To conduct an experiment, you need to be able to vary your independent variable , precisely measure your dependent variable, and control for confounding variables . If it’s practically and ethically possible, this method is the best choice for answering questions about cause and effect.

Descriptive . .
Experimental

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Research methods for collecting data
Research method Primary or secondary? Qualitative or quantitative? When to use
Primary Quantitative To test cause-and-effect relationships.
Primary Quantitative To understand general characteristics of a population.
Interview/focus group Primary Qualitative To gain more in-depth understanding of a topic.
Observation Primary Either To understand how something occurs in its natural setting.
Secondary Either To situate your research in an existing body of work, or to evaluate trends within a research topic.
Either Either To gain an in-depth understanding of a specific group or context, or when you don’t have the resources for a large study.

Your data analysis methods will depend on the type of data you collect and how you prepare it for analysis.

Data can often be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. For example, survey responses could be analyzed qualitatively by studying the meanings of responses or quantitatively by studying the frequencies of responses.

Qualitative analysis methods

Qualitative analysis is used to understand words, ideas, and experiences. You can use it to interpret data that was collected:

  • From open-ended surveys and interviews , literature reviews , case studies , ethnographies , and other sources that use text rather than numbers.
  • Using non-probability sampling methods .

Qualitative analysis tends to be quite flexible and relies on the researcher’s judgement, so you have to reflect carefully on your choices and assumptions and be careful to avoid research bias .

Quantitative analysis methods

Quantitative analysis uses numbers and statistics to understand frequencies, averages and correlations (in descriptive studies) or cause-and-effect relationships (in experiments).

You can use quantitative analysis to interpret data that was collected either:

  • During an experiment .
  • Using probability sampling methods .

Because the data is collected and analyzed in a statistically valid way, the results of quantitative analysis can be easily standardized and shared among researchers.

Research methods for analyzing data
Research method Qualitative or quantitative? When to use
Quantitative To analyze data collected in a statistically valid manner (e.g. from experiments, surveys, and observations).
Meta-analysis Quantitative To statistically analyze the results of a large collection of studies.

Can only be applied to studies that collected data in a statistically valid manner.

Qualitative To analyze data collected from interviews, , or textual sources.

To understand general themes in the data and how they are communicated.

Either To analyze large volumes of textual or visual data collected from surveys, literature reviews, or other sources.

Can be quantitative (i.e. frequencies of words) or qualitative (i.e. meanings of words).

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Chi square test of independence
  • Statistical power
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Pearson correlation
  • Null hypothesis
  • Double-blind study
  • Case-control study
  • Research ethics
  • Data collection
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Structured interviews

Research bias

  • Hawthorne effect
  • Unconscious bias
  • Recall bias
  • Halo effect
  • Self-serving bias
  • Information bias

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

In mixed methods research , you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question .

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how it is generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyze data (for example, experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).

In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .

In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.

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  1. How to Write a Research Paper: Parts of the Paper

    Writing Your Paper. Parts of the Research Paper. Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your introductory paragraph should grab the reader's attention, state your main idea, and indicate how you will support it. The body of the paper should expand on what you have stated in the introduction. Finally, the conclusion restates the ...

  2. Parts of the paper

    A good title is accurate, complete, and specific. Imagine searching for your paper in PubMed. What words would you use? Use the fewest possible words that describe the contents of the paper. Avoid waste words like "Studies on", or "Investigations on". Use specific terms rather than general. Use the same key terms in the title as the paper.

  3. PDF The Structure of an Academic Paper

    The thesis is generally the narrowest part and last sentence of the introduction, and conveys your position, the essence of your argument or idea. See our handout on Writing a Thesis Statement for more. The roadmap Not all academic papers include a roadmap, but many do. Usually following the thesis, a roadmap is a

  4. Research Paper

    Definition: Research Paper is a written document that presents the author's original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue. It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new ...

  5. Research Paper Structure

    A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections. 1 Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices. These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in ...

  6. How to Write a Research Paper

    Choose a research paper topic. There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.. You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

  7. Everything You Need to Know about the Parts of a Research Paper

    Here's a breakdown of some common types of research papers: Analytical Papers. Focus: Dissect a complex subject, text, or phenomenon to understand its parts, implications, or underlying meanings. Structure: Emphasizes a clear thesis statement, systematic analysis, and in-depth exploration of different perspectives.

  8. Parts of a Research Paper

    Introduction. For many students, writing the introduction is the first part of the process, setting down the direction of the paper and laying out exactly what the research paper is trying to achieve.. For others, the introduction is the last thing written, acting as a quick summary of the paper. As long as you have planned a good structure for the parts of a research paper, both approaches ...

  9. Research Guides: Structure of a Research Paper : Home

    II. Abstract: "Structured abstract" has become the standard for research papers (introduction, objective, methods, results and conclusions), while reviews, case reports and other articles have non-structured abstracts. The abstract should be a summary/synopsis of the paper. III. Introduction: The "why did you do the study"; setting the ...

  10. Parts of a Research Paper

    This part of a research paper is supposed to provide the theoretical framework that you elaborated during your research. You will be expected to present the sources you have studied while preparing for the work ahead, and these sources should be credible from an academic standpoint (including educational books, peer-reviewed journals, and other relevant publications).

  11. Writing an Educational Research Paper

    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.

  12. Parts of a Paper

    Parts of a Paper. Share to Google Classroom. 3.1. ( 16) Learn about the different parts of a research paper and how you can use them to write your best paper yet.

  13. How to Write a Body of a Research Paper

    The main part of your research paper is called "the body.". To write this important part of your paper, include only relevant information, or information that gets to the point. Organize your ideas in a logical order—one that makes sense—and provide enough details—facts and examples—to support the points you want to make.

  14. Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure

    Formal Research Structure. These are the primary purposes for formal research: enter the discourse, or conversation, of other writers and scholars in your field. learn how others in your field use primary and secondary resources. find and understand raw data and information. For the formal academic research assignment, consider an ...

  15. Parts of the Paper

    The body of the paper should expand on what you have stated in the introduction. Finally, the conclusion restates the paper's thesis and should explain what you have learned, giving a wrap up of your main ideas. 1. The Title The title should be specific and indicate the theme of the research and what ideas it addresses.

  16. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  17. Research Paper Structure

    1. Introduction. The Introduction section is one of the most important sections of a research paper. The introduction section should start with a brief outline of the topic and then explain the nature of the problem at hand and why it is crucial to resolve this issue. This section should contain a literature review that provides relevant ...

  18. Parts Of A Research Paper

    The main body. The body of your research paper is the longest and showcases your arguments and findings. Therefore, when crafting the main body, you need to keep the thesis as your central area of focus. Finally, The last thing that you need is missing the point or giving distorted and confusing information. Maintain a rational and sober argument.

  19. Chapter 5 Sections of a Paper

    5.1 The Abstract. The abstract of a research paper contains the most critical aspects of the paper: your research question, the context (country/population/subjects and period) analyzed, the findings, and the main conclusion. You have about 250 characters to attract the attention of the readers. Many times (in fact, most of the time), readers ...

  20. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    A decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline, but with a different numbering system: 1, 1.1, 1.2, etc. Text is written as short notes rather than full sentences. Example: 1 Body paragraph one. 1.1 First point. 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point. 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point.

  21. Major Parts of a Research Paper & How to Write Them

    The basic parts to a research paper are the introduction, method, results, discussion, and conclusion. However, a research paper can include other parts like the abstract, discussion, and reference list. Although a student can be writing on a single topic, each part of research paper requires specific information.

  22. What are the different types of research papers?

    Experimental research paper. This type of research paper basically describes a particular experiment in detail. It is common in fields like: biology. chemistry. physics. Experiments are aimed to explain a certain outcome or phenomenon with certain actions. You need to describe your experiment with supporting data and then analyze it sufficiently.

  23. Trump and Biden: The National Debt

    In companion analyses, we will show: Roughly 77 percent of President Trump's approved ten-year debt came from bipartisan legislation, and 29 percent of the net ten-year debt President Biden has approved thus far came from bipartisan legislation.The rest was from partisan actions. President Trump approved $2.2 trillion of debt in his first two years in office and $6.2 trillion ($2.6 trillion ...

  24. Research Methods

    Research methods are specific procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Developing your research methods is an integral part of your research design. When planning your methods, there are two key decisions you will make. First, decide how you will collect data. Your methods depend on what type of data you need to answer your research question: