13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Employ the methods and technologies commonly used for research and communication within various fields.
  • Practice and apply strategies such as interpretation, synthesis, response, and critique to compose texts that integrate the writer’s ideas with those from appropriate sources.
  • Analyze and make informed decisions about intellectual property based on the concepts that motivate them.
  • Apply citation conventions systematically.

As you conduct research, you will work with a range of “texts” in various forms, including sources and documents from online databases as well as images, audio, and video files from the Internet. You may also work with archival materials and with transcribed and analyzed primary data. Additionally, you will be taking notes and recording quotations from secondary sources as you find materials that shape your understanding of your topic and, at the same time, provide you with facts and perspectives. You also may download articles as PDFs that you then annotate. Like many other students, you may find it challenging to keep so much material organized, accessible, and easy to work with while you write a major research paper. As it does for many of those students, a research log for your ideas and sources will help you keep track of the scope, purpose, and possibilities of any research project.

A research log is essentially a journal in which you collect information, ask questions, and monitor the results. Even if you are completing the annotated bibliography for Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing , keeping a research log is an effective organizational tool. Like Lily Tran’s research log entry, most entries have three parts: a part for notes on secondary sources, a part for connections to the thesis or main points, and a part for your own notes or questions. Record source notes by date, and allow room to add cross-references to other entries.

Summary of Assignment: Research Log

Your assignment is to create a research log similar to the student model. You will use it for the argumentative research project assigned in Writing Process: Integrating Research to record all secondary source information: your notes, complete publication data, relation to thesis, and other information as indicated in the right-hand column of the sample entry.

Another Lens. A somewhat different approach to maintaining a research log is to customize it to your needs or preferences. You can apply shading or color coding to headers, rows, and/or columns in the three-column format (for colors and shading). Or you can add columns to accommodate more information, analysis, synthesis, or commentary, formatting them as you wish. Consider adding a column for questions only or one for connections to other sources. Finally, consider a different visual format , such as one without columns. Another possibility is to record some of your comments and questions so that you have an aural rather than a written record of these.

Writing Center

At this point, or at any other point during the research and writing process, you may find that your school’s writing center can provide extensive assistance. If you are unfamiliar with the writing center, now is a good time to pay your first visit. Writing centers provide free peer tutoring for all types and phases of writing. Discussing your research with a trained writing center tutor can help you clarify, analyze, and connect ideas as well as provide feedback on works in progress.

Quick Launch: Beginning Questions

You may begin your research log with some open pages in which you freewrite, exploring answers to the following questions. Although you generally would do this at the beginning, it is a process to which you likely will return as you find more information about your topic and as your focus changes, as it may during the course of your research.

  • What information have I found so far?
  • What do I still need to find?
  • Where am I most likely to find it?

These are beginning questions. Like Lily Tran, however, you will come across general questions or issues that a quick note or freewrite may help you resolve. The key to this section is to revisit it regularly. Written answers to these and other self-generated questions in your log clarify your tasks as you go along, helping you articulate ideas and examine supporting evidence critically. As you move further into the process, consider answering the following questions in your freewrite:

  • What evidence looks as though it best supports my thesis?
  • What evidence challenges my working thesis?
  • How is my thesis changing from where it started?

Creating the Research Log

As you gather source material for your argumentative research paper, keep in mind that the research is intended to support original thinking. That is, you are not writing an informational report in which you simply supply facts to readers. Instead, you are writing to support a thesis that shows original thinking, and you are collecting and incorporating research into your paper to support that thinking. Therefore, a research log, whether digital or handwritten, is a great way to keep track of your thinking as well as your notes and bibliographic information.

In the model below, Lily Tran records the correct MLA bibliographic citation for the source. Then, she records a note and includes the in-text citation here to avoid having to retrieve this information later. Perhaps most important, Tran records why she noted this information—how it supports her thesis: The human race must turn to sustainable food systems that provide healthy diets with minimal environmental impact, starting now . Finally, she makes a note to herself about an additional visual to include in the final paper to reinforce the point regarding the current pressure on food systems. And she connects the information to other information she finds, thus cross-referencing and establishing a possible synthesis. Use a format similar to that in Table 13.4 to begin your own research log.

Types of Research Notes

Taking good notes will make the research process easier by enabling you to locate and remember sources and use them effectively. While some research projects requiring only a few sources may seem easily tracked, research projects requiring more than a few sources are more effectively managed when you take good bibliographic and informational notes. As you gather evidence for your argumentative research paper, follow the descriptions and the electronic model to record your notes. You can combine these with your research log, or you can use the research log for secondary sources and your own note-taking system for primary sources if a division of this kind is helpful. Either way, be sure to include all necessary information.

Bibliographic Notes

These identify the source you are using. When you locate a useful source, record the information necessary to find that source again. It is important to do this as you find each source, even before taking notes from it. If you create bibliographic notes as you go along, then you can easily arrange them in alphabetical order later to prepare the reference list required at the end of formal academic papers. If your instructor requires you to use MLA formatting for your essay, be sure to record the following information:

  • Title of source
  • Title of container (larger work in which source is included)
  • Other contributors
  • Publication date

When using MLA style with online sources, also record the following information:

  • Date of original publication
  • Date of access
  • DOI (A DOI, or digital object identifier, is a series of digits and letters that leads to the location of an online source. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs to ensure that the source can be located, even if the URL changes. If your source is listed with a DOI, use that instead of a URL.)

It is important to understand which documentation style your instructor will require you to use. Check the Handbook for MLA Documentation and Format and APA Documentation and Format styles . In addition, you can check the style guide information provided by the Purdue Online Writing Lab .

Informational Notes

These notes record the relevant information found in your sources. When writing your essay, you will work from these notes, so be sure they contain all the information you need from every source you intend to use. Also try to focus your notes on your research question so that their relevance is clear when you read them later. To avoid confusion, work with separate entries for each piece of information recorded. At the top of each entry, identify the source through brief bibliographic identification (author and title), and note the page numbers on which the information appears. Also helpful is to add personal notes, including ideas for possible use of the information or cross-references to other information. As noted in Writing Process: Integrating Research , you will be using a variety of formats when borrowing from sources. Below is a quick review of these formats in terms of note-taking processes. By clarifying whether you are quoting directly, paraphrasing, or summarizing during these stages, you can record information accurately and thus take steps to avoid plagiarism.

Direct Quotations, Paraphrases, and Summaries

A direct quotation is an exact duplication of the author’s words as they appear in the original source. In your notes, put quotation marks around direct quotations so that you remember these words are the author’s, not yours. One advantage of copying exact quotations is that it allows you to decide later whether to include a quotation, paraphrase, or summary. ln general, though, use direct quotations only when the author’s words are particularly lively or persuasive.

A paraphrase is a restatement of the author’s words in your own words. Paraphrase to simplify or clarify the original author’s point. In your notes, use paraphrases when you need to record details but not exact words.

A summary is a brief condensation or distillation of the main point and most important details of the original source. Write a summary in your own words, with facts and ideas accurately represented. A summary is useful when specific details in the source are unimportant or irrelevant to your research question. You may find you can summarize several paragraphs or even an entire article or chapter in just a few sentences without losing useful information. It is a good idea to note when your entry contains a summary to remind you later that it omits detailed information. See Writing Process Integrating Research for more detailed information and examples of quotations, paraphrases, and summaries and when to use them.

Other Systems for Organizing Research Logs and Digital Note-Taking

Students often become frustrated and at times overwhelmed by the quantity of materials to be managed in the research process. If this is your first time working with both primary and secondary sources, finding ways to keep all of the information in one place and well organized is essential.

Because gathering primary evidence may be a relatively new practice, this section is designed to help you navigate the process. As mentioned earlier, information gathered in fieldwork is not cataloged, organized, indexed, or shelved for your convenience. Obtaining it requires diligence, energy, and planning. Online resources can assist you with keeping a research log. Your college library may have subscriptions to tools such as Todoist or EndNote. Consult with a librarian to find out whether you have access to any of these. If not, use something like the template shown in Figure 13.8 , or another like it, as a template for creating your own research notes and organizational tool. You will need to have a record of all field research data as well as the research log for all secondary sources.

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How to take Research Notes

How to take research notes.

Your research notebook is an important piece of information useful for future projects and presentations. Maintaining organized and legible notes allows your research notebook to be a valuable resource to you and your research group. It allows others and yourself to replicate experiments, and it also serves as a useful troubleshooting tool. Besides it being an important part of the research process, taking detailed notes of your research will help you stay organized and allow you to easily review your work.

Here are some common reasons to maintain organized notes:

  • Keeps a record of your goals and thoughts during your research experiments.
  • Keeps a record of what worked and what didn't in your research experiments.
  • Enables others to use your notes as a guide for similar procedures and techniques.
  • A helpful tool to reference when writing a paper, submitting a proposal, or giving a presentation.
  • Assists you in answering experimental questions.
  • Useful to efficiently share experimental approaches, data, and results with others.

Before taking notes:

  • Ask your research professor what note-taking method they recommend or prefer.
  • Consider what type of media you'll be using to take notes.
  • Once you have decided on how you'll be taking notes, be sure to keep all of your notes in one place to remain organized.
  • Plan on taking notes regularly (meetings, important dates, procedures, journal/manuscript revisions, etc.).
  • This is useful when applying to programs or internships that ask about your research experience.

Note Taking Tips:

Taking notes by hand:.

  • Research notebooks don’t belong to you so make sure your notes are legible for others.
  • Use post-it notes or tabs to flag important sections.
  • Start sorting your notes early so that you don't become backed up and disorganized.
  • Only write with a pen as pencils aren’t permanent & sharpies can bleed through.
  • Make it a habit to write in your notebook and not directly on sticky notes or paper towels. Rewriting notes can waste time and sometimes lead to inaccurate data or results.

Taking Notes Electronically

  • Make sure your device is charged and backed up to store data.
  • Invest in note-taking apps or E-Ink tablets
  • Create shortcuts to your folders so you have easier access
  • Create outlines.
  • Keep your notes short and legible.

Note Taking Tips Continued:

Things to avoid.

  • Avoid using pencils or markers that may bleed through.
  • Avoid erasing entries. Instead, draw a straight line through any mistakes and write the date next to the crossed-out information.
  • Avoid writing in cursive.
  • Avoid delaying your entries so you don’t fall behind and forget information.

Formatting Tips

  • Use bullet points to condense your notes to make them simpler to access or color-code them.
  • Tracking your failures and mistakes can improve your work in the future.
  • If possible, take notes as you’re experimenting or make time at the end of each workday to get it done.
  • Record the date at the start of every day, including all dates spent on research.

Types of media to use when taking notes:

Traditional paper notebook.

  • Pros: Able to take quick notes, convenient access to notes, cheaper option
  • Cons: Requires a table of contents or tabs as it is not easily searchable, can get damaged easily, needs to be scanned if making a digital copy

Electronic notebook  

  • Apple Notes  
  • Pros: Easily searchable, note-taking apps available, easy to edit & customize
  • Cons: Can be difficult to find notes if they are unorganized, not as easy to take quick notes, can be a more expensive option

Combination of both

Contact info.

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How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4a. Take Notes

  • Get Started
  • 1a. Select a Topic
  • 1b. Develop Research Questions
  • 1c. Identify Keywords
  • 1d. Find Background Information
  • 1e. Refine a Topic
  • 2a. Search Strategies
  • 2d. Articles
  • 2e. Videos & Images
  • 2f. Databases
  • 2g. Websites
  • 2h. Grey Literature
  • 2i. Open Access Materials
  • 3a. Evaluate Sources
  • 3b. Primary vs. Secondary
  • 3c. Types of Periodicals
  • 4a. Take Notes
  • 4b. Outline the Paper
  • 4c. Incorporate Source Material
  • 5a. Avoid Plagiarism
  • 5b. Zotero & MyBib
  • 5c. MLA Formatting
  • 5d. MLA Citation Examples
  • 5e. APA Formatting
  • 5f. APA Citation Examples
  • 5g. Annotated Bibliographies

Note Taking in Bibliographic Management Tools

We encourage students to use bibliographic citation management tools (such as Zotero, EasyBib and RefWorks) to keep track of their research citations. Each service includes a note-taking function. Find more information about citation management tools here . Whether or not you're using one of these, the tips below will help you.

Tips for Taking Notes Electronically

  • Try using a bibliographic citation management tool to keep track of your sources and to take notes.
  • As you add sources, put them in the format you're using (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Group sources by publication type (i.e., book, article, website).
  • Number each source within the publication type group.
  • For websites, include the URL information and the date you accessed each site.
  • Next to each idea, include the source number from the Works Cited file and the page number from the source. See the examples below. Note that #A5 and #B2 refer to article source 5 and book source 2 from the Works Cited file.

#A5 p.35: 76.69% of the hyperlinks selected from homepage are for articles and the catalog #B2 p.76: online library guides evolved from the paper pathfinders of the 1960s

  • When done taking notes, assign keywords or sub-topic headings to each idea, quote or summary.
  • Use the copy and paste feature to group keywords or sub-topic ideas together.
  • Back up your master list and note files frequently!

Tips for Taking Notes by Hand

  • Use index cards to keep notes and track sources used in your paper.
  • Include the citation (i.e., author, title, publisher, date, page numbers, etc.) in the format you're using. It will be easier to organize the sources alphabetically when creating the Works Cited page.
  • Number the source cards.
  • Use only one side to record a single idea, fact or quote from one source. It will be easier to rearrange them later when it comes time to organize your paper.
  • Include a heading or key words at the top of the card. 
  • Include the Work Cited source card number.
  • Include the page number where you found the information.
  • Use abbreviations, acronyms, or incomplete sentences to record information to speed up the notetaking process.
  • Write down only the information that answers your research questions.
  • Use symbols, diagrams, charts or drawings to simplify and visualize ideas.

Forms of Notetaking

Use one of these notetaking forms to capture information:

  • Summarize : Capture the main ideas of the source succinctly by restating them in your own words.
  • Paraphrase : Restate the author's ideas in your own words.
  • Quote : Copy the quotation exactly as it appears in the original source. Put quotation marks around the text and note the name of the person you are quoting.

Example of a Work Cited Card

Example notecard.

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  • Next: 4b. Outline the Paper >>
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Taking Notes from Research Reading

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If you take notes efficiently, you can read with more understanding and also save time and frustration when you come to write your paper. These are three main principles

1. Know what kind of ideas you need to record

Focus your approach to the topic before you start detailed research. Then you will read with a purpose in mind, and you will be able to sort out relevant ideas.

  • First, review the commonly known facts about your topic, and also become aware of the range of thinking and opinions on it. Review your class notes and textbook and browse in an encyclopaedia or other reference work.
  • Try making a preliminary list of the subtopics you would expect to find in your reading. These will guide your attention and may come in handy as labels for notes.
  • Choose a component or angle that interests you, perhaps one on which there is already some controversy. Now formulate your research question. It should allow for reasoning as well as gathering of information—not just what the proto-Iroquoians ate, for instance, but how valid the evidence is for early introduction of corn. You may even want to jot down a tentative thesis statement as a preliminary answer to your question. (See Using Thesis Statements .)
  • Then you will know what to look for in your research reading: facts and theories that help answer your question, and other people’s opinions about whether specific answers are good ones.

2. Don’t write down too much

Your essay must be an expression of your own thinking, not a patchwork of borrowed ideas. Plan therefore to invest your research time in understanding your sources and integrating them into your own thinking. Your note cards or note sheets will record only ideas that are relevant to your focus on the topic; and they will mostly summarize rather than quote.

  • Copy out exact words only when the ideas are memorably phrased or surprisingly expressed—when you might use them as actual quotations in your essay.
  • Otherwise, compress ideas in your own words . Paraphrasing word by word is a waste of time. Choose the most important ideas and write them down as labels or headings. Then fill in with a few subpoints that explain or exemplify.
  • Don’t depend on underlining and highlighting. Find your own words for notes in the margin (or on “sticky” notes).

3. Label your notes intelligently

Whether you use cards or pages for note-taking, take notes in a way that allows for later use.

  • Save bother later by developing the habit of recording bibliographic information in a master list when you begin looking at each source (don’t forget to note book and journal information on photocopies). Then you can quickly identify each note by the author’s name and page number; when you refer to sources in the essay you can fill in details of publication easily from your master list. Keep a format guide handy (see Documentation Formats ).
  • Try as far as possible to put notes on separate cards or sheets. This will let you label the topic of each note. Not only will that keep your notetaking focussed, but it will also allow for grouping and synthesizing of ideas later. It is especially satisfying to shuffle notes and see how the conjunctions create new ideas—yours.
  • Leave lots of space in your notes for comments of your own—questions and reactions as you read, second thoughts and cross-references when you look back at what you’ve written. These comments can become a virtual first draft of your paper.

Banner

Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 6. Taking Notes & Documenting Sources

  • 1. Getting Started
  • 2. Topic Ideas
  • 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
  • 4. Appropriate Sources
  • 5. Search Techniques
  • 6. Taking Notes & Documenting Sources
  • 7. Evaluating Sources
  • 8. Citations & Plagiarism
  • 9. Writing Your Research Paper

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Taking Notes & Documenting Sources

How to take notes and document sources.

Note taking is a very important part of the research process.  It will help you:

  • keep your ideas and sources organized
  • effectively use the information you find
  • avoid plagiarism

When you find good information to be used in your paper:

  • Read the text critically, think how it is related to your argument, and decide how you are going to use it in your paper.
  • Select the material that is relevant to your argument.
  • Copy the original text for direct quotations or briefly summarize the content in your own words, and make note of how you will use it.
  • Copy the citation or publication information of the source.

There are different ways to take notes and organize your research. Check out this video, and try different strategies to find what works best for you. 

  • << Previous: 5. Search Techniques
  • Next: 7. Evaluating Sources >>
  • Last Updated: Apr 18, 2023 12:12 PM
  • URL: https://butte.libguides.com/ResearchPaper

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Note-taking for Research

As you determine which sources you will rely on most, it is important to establish a system for keeping track of your sources and taking notes. There are several ways to go about it, and no one system is necessarily superior. What matters is that you keep materials in order; record bibliographical information you will need later; and take detailed, organized notes.

Keeping Track of Your Sources

As you conduct research, taking time to keep track of source information and to organize that information now will help ensure that you are not scrambling to find it at the last minute, which easily leads to problems ranging from incomplete essays to plagiarism. Throughout your research, record bibliographical information for each source as soon as you begin using it. Maintaining an electronic list (even by copying and pasting information) can be quick and efficient, but you may instead feel more in control of the information you’ve collected by using pen-and-paper methods, such as a notebook or note cards.

The table below shows the kinds of details you should record for commonly used source types. Use these details to develop a working bibliography —a preliminary list of sources that you will later use to develop the final Works Cited page of your essay.

Details for Commonly Used Source Types

Your research may involve less common types of sources not listed above. For additional information on citing different sources, see the chapter MLA Format and Citation.

Taking Notes Efficiently

Good researchers stay focused and organized as they gather information from sources. Before you begin taking notes, take a moment to step back and think about your goal as a researcher—to find information that will help you answer your research question. When you write your essay, you will present your conclusions about the subject supported by your research. That goal will determine what information you record and how you organize it.

Writers sometimes get caught up in taking extensive notes, so much so that they lose sight of how their notes relate to the questions and ideas they started out with. Remember that you do not need to write down every detail from your reading. Focus on finding and recording details that will help you answer your research questions. The following strategies will help you take notes efficiently.

Use Headings to Organize Ideas

Whether you use old-fashioned index cards or organize your notes using word-processing software, such as MS Word or Google Docs, record just one major point from each source at a time, and use a heading to summarize the information covered. Keep all your notes in one file, digital or otherwise. Doing so will help you identify connections among different pieces of information. It will also help you make connections between your notes and the research questions and subtopics you identified earlier.

Know When to Summarize, Paraphrase, or Directly Quote a Source

Your notes will fall under three categories—summary notes, paraphrased information, and direct quotations from your sources. Effective researchers make choices about which type of notes is most appropriate for their purpose.

  • Summary notes give an overview of the main ideas in a source in a few sentences or a short paragraph. A summary is considerably shorter than the original text and captures only the major ideas. Use summary notes when you do not need to record specific details but you intend to refer to broad concepts the author discusses.
  • Paraphrased notes restate a fact or idea from a source using your own words and sentence structure, particularly in a way that better suits your purpose and audience than the way the original source said it.
  • Direct quotations use the exact wording used by the original source and enclose the quoted material in quotation marks. It is a good strategy to copy direct quotations when an author expresses an idea in an especially lively or memorable way. However, do not rely exclusively on direct quotations in your note taking.

Most of your notes should be paraphrased from the original source. Paraphrasing as you take notes is usually a better strategy than copying direct quotations, because it forces you to think through the information in your source and understand it well enough to restate it. In short, it helps you stay engaged with the material instead of simply copying and pasting. For more information on this, see the section Summary, Paraphrasis, and Quotation.

Maintain Complete, Accurate Notes

Regardless of the format used, any notes you take should include enough information to help you organize ideas and locate them instantly in the original text if you need to review them. Make sure your notes include the vital bibliographic information noted above.

Throughout the process of taking notes, be scrupulous about making sure you have correctly attributed each idea to its source. Always include source information so you know exactly which ideas came from which sources. Use quotation marks to set off any words for phrases taken directly from the original text. If you add your own responses and ideas, make sure they are distinct from ideas you quoted or paraphrased.

Finally, make sure your notes accurately reflect the content of the original text. Make sure quoted material is copied verbatim. If you omit words from a quotation, use ellipses to show the omission and make sure the omission does not change the author’s meaning. Paraphrase ideas carefully, and check your paraphrased notes against the original text to make sure that you have restated the author’s ideas accurately in your own words. For more information on this, see the section Summary, Paraphrasis, and Quotation.

Use a System That Works for You

There are several formats you can use to take notes. No technique is necessarily better than the others—it is more important to choose a format you are comfortable using. Choosing the format that works best for you will ensure your notes are organized, complete, and accurate. Consider implementing one of these formats when you begin taking notes:

  • Use index cards. This traditional format involves writing each note on a separate index card. It takes more time than copying and pasting into an electronic document, which encourages you to be selective in choosing which ideas to record. Recording notes on separate cards makes it easy to later organize your notes according to major topics. Some writers color-code their cards to make them still more organized.
  • Use note-taking software. Word-processing and office software packages often include different types of note-taking software. Although you may need to set aside some time to learn the software, this method combines the speed of typing with the same degree of organization associated with handwritten note cards.
  • Maintain a research notebook. Instead of using index cards or electronic note cards, you may wish to keep a notebook or electronic folder, allotting a few pages (or one file) for each of your sources. This method makes it easy to create a separate column or section of the document where you add your responses to the information you encounter in your research.
  • Annotate your sources. This method involves making handwritten notes in the margins of sources that you have printed or photocopied. If using electronic sources, you can make comments within the source document. For example, you might add comment boxes to a PDF version of an article. This method works best for experienced researchers who have already thought a great deal about the topic because it can be difficult to organize your notes later when starting your draft.

Choose one of the methods from the list to use for taking notes. Continue gathering sources and taking notes. In the next section, you will learn strategies for organizing and synthesizing the information you have found.

The Writing Textbook Copyright © 2021 by Josh Woods, editor and contributor, as well as an unnamed author (by request from the original publisher), and other authors named separately is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Research Guides

Gould library, reading well and taking research notes.

  • How to read for college
  • How to take research notes
  • How to use sources in your writing
  • Tools for note taking and annotations
  • Mobile apps for notes and annotations
  • Assistive technology
  • How to cite your sources

Be Prepared: Keep track of which notes are direct quotes, which are summary, and which are your own thoughts. For example, enclose direct quotes in quotation marks, and enclose your own thoughts in brackets. That way you'll never be confused when you're writing.

Be Clear: Make sure you have noted the source and page number!

Be Organized: Keep your notes organized but in a single place so that you can refer back to notes about other readings at the same time.

Be Consistent: You'll want to find specific notes later, and one way to do that is to be consistent in the way you describe things. If you use consistent terms or tags or keywords, you'll be able to find your way back more easily.

Recording what you find

what is notes in a research paper

Take full notes

Whether you take notes on cards, in a notebook, or on the computer, it's vital to record information accurately and completely. Otherwise, you won't be able to trust your own notes. Most importantly, distinguish between (1) direct quotation; (2) paraphrases and summaries of the text; and (3) your own thoughts. On a computer, you have many options for making these distinctions, such as parentheses, brackets, italic or bold text, etc.

Know when to quote, paraphrase, and summarize

  • Summarize when you only need to remember the main point of the passage, chapter, etc.
  • Paraphrase when you are able to able to clearly state a source's point or meaning in your own words.
  • Quote exactly when you need the author's exact words or authority as evidience to back up your claim. You may also want to be sure and use the author's exact wording, either because they stated their point so well, or because you want to refute that point and need to demonstrate you aren't misrepresenting the author's words.

Get the context right

Don't just record the author's words or ideas; be sure and capture the context and meaning that surrounds those ideas as well. It can be easy to take a short quote from an author that completely misrepresents his or her actual intentions if you fail to take the context into account. You should also be sure to note when the author is paraphrasing or summarizing another author's point of view--don't accidentally represent those ideas as the ideas of the author.

Example of reading notes

Here is an example of reading notes taken in Evernote, with citation and page numbers noted as well as quotation marks for direct quotes and brackets around the reader's own thoughts.

what is notes in a research paper

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Note making for dissertations: First steps into writing

what is notes in a research paper

Note making (as opposed to note taking) is an active practice of recording relevant parts of reading for your research as well as your reflections and critiques of those studies. Note making, therefore, is a pre-writing exercise that helps you to organise your thoughts prior to writing. In this module, we will cover:

  • The difference between note taking and note making
  • Seven tips for good note making
  • Strategies for structuring your notes and asking critical questions
  • Different styles of note making

To complete this section, you will need:

what is notes in a research paper

  • Approximately 20-30 minutes.
  • Access to the internet. All the resources used here are available freely.
  • Some equipment for jotting down your thoughts, a pen and paper will do, or your phone or another electronic device.

Note taking v note making

When you think about note taking, what comes to mind? Perhaps trying to record everything said in a lecture? Perhaps trying to write down everything included in readings required for a course?

  • Note taking is a passive process. When you take notes, you are often trying to record everything that you are reading or listening to. However, you may have noticed that this takes a lot of effort and often results in too many notes to be useful.  
  • Note making , on the other hand, is an active practice, based on the needs and priorities of your project. Note making is an opportunity for you to ask critical questions of your readings and to synthesise ideas as they pertain to your research questions. Making notes is a pre-writing exercise that develops your academic voice and makes writing significantly easier.

Seven tips for effective note making

Note making is an active process based on the needs of your research. This video contains seven tips to help you make brilliant notes from articles and books to make the most of the time you spend reading and writing.

  • Transcript of Seven Tips for Effective Notemaking

Question prompts for strategic note making

You might consider structuring your notes to answer the following questions. Remember that note making is based on your needs, so not all of these questions will apply in all cases. You might try answering these questions using the note making styles discussed in the next section.

  • Question prompts for strategic note making
  • Background question prompts
  • Critical question prompts
  • Synthesis question prompts

Answer these six questions to frame your reading and provide context.

  • What is the context in which the text was written? What came before it? Are there competing ideas?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • How is the writing organised?
  • What are the author’s methods?
  • What is the author’s key argument and conclusions?

Answer these six questions to determine your critical perspectivess and develop your academic voice.

  • What are the most interesting/compelling ideas (to you) in this study?
  • Why do you find them interesting? How do they relate to your study?
  • What questions do you have about the study?
  • What could it cover better? How could it have defended its research better?
  • What are the implications of the study? (Look not just to the conclusions but also to definitions and models)
  • Are there any gaps in the study? (Look not just at conclusions but definitions, literature review, methodology)

Answer these five questions to compare aspects of various studies (such as for a literature review. 

  • What are the similarities and differences in the literature?
  • Critically analyse the strengths, limitations, debates and themes that emerg from the literature.
  • What would you suggest for future research or practice?
  • Where are the gaps in the literature? What is missing? Why?
  • What new questions should be asked in this area of study?

Styles of note making

photo of a mind map on a wall

  • Linear notes . Great for recording thoughts about your readings. [video]
  • Mind mapping : Great for thinking through complex topics. [video]

Further sites that discuss techniques for note making:

  • Note-taking techniques
  • Common note-taking methods
  • Strategies for effective note making  

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Smart Note-Taking for Research Paper Writing

How to organize research notes using the Zettelkasten Method when writing academic papers

Smart Note-Taking for Research Paper Writing

With plenty of note-taking tips and apps available, online and in paper form, it’s become extremely easy to take note of information, ideas, or thoughts. As simple as it is to write down an idea or jot down a quote, the skill of academic research and writing for a thesis paper is on another level entirely. And keeping a record or an archive of all of the information you need can quickly require a very organized system.

female studying taking notes checking calendar

The use of index cards seems old-fashioned considering that note-taking apps (psst! Hypernotes ) offer better functionality and are arguably more user-friendly. However, software is only there to help aid our individual workflow and thinking process. That’s why understanding and learning how to properly research, take notes and write academic papers is still a highly valuable skill.

Let’s Start Writing! But Where to Start…

Writing academic papers is a vital skill most students need to learn and practice. Academic papers are usually time-intensive pieces of written content that are a requirement throughout school or at University. Whether a topic is assigned or you have to choose your own, there’s little room for variation in how to begin.

Popular and purposeful in analyzing and evaluating the knowledge of the author as well as assessing if the learning objectives were met, research papers serve as information-packed content. Most of us may not end up working jobs in academic professions or be researchers at institutions, where writing research papers is also part of the job, but we often read such papers. 

Despite the fact that most research papers or dissertations aren’t often read in full, journalists, academics, and other professionals regularly use academic papers as a basis for further literary publications or blog articles. The standard of academic papers ensures the validity of the information and gives the content authority. 

There’s no-nonsense in research papers. To make sure to write convincing and correct content, the research stage is extremely important. And, naturally, when doing any kind of research, we take notes.

Why Take Notes?

There are particular standards defined for writing academic papers . In order to meet these standards, a specific amount of background information and researched literature is required. Taking notes helps keep track of read/consumed literary material as well as keeps a file of any information that may be of importance to the topic. 

The aim of writing isn’t merely to advertise fully formed opinions, but also serves the purpose of developing opinions worth sharing in the first place. 

What is Note-Taking?

home office work desk

Note-taking (sometimes written as notetaking or note-taking ) is the practice of recording information from different sources and platforms. For academic writing, note-taking is the process of obtaining and compiling information that answers and supports the research paper’s questions and topic. Notes can be in one of three forms: summary, paraphrase, or direct quotation.

Note-taking is an excellent process useful for anyone to turn individual thoughts and information into organized ideas ready to be communicated through writing. Notes are, however, only as valuable as the context. Since notes are also a byproduct of the information we consume daily, it’s important to categorize information, develop connections, and establish relationships between pieces of information. 

What Type of Notes Can I Take?

  • Explanation of complex theories
  • Background information on events or persons of interest
  • Definitions of terms
  • Quotations of significant value
  • Illustrations or graphics

Note-Taking 101

taking notes in notebook

Taking notes or doing research for academic papers shouldn’t be that difficult, considering we take notes all the time. Wrong. Note-taking for research papers isn’t the same as quickly noting down an interesting slogan or cool quote from a video, putting it on a sticky note, and slapping it onto your bedroom or office wall.

Note-taking for research papers requires focus and careful deliberation of which information is important to note down, keep on file, or use and reference in your own writing. Depending on the topic and requirements of your research paper from your University or institution, your notes might include explanations of complex theories, definitions, quotations, and graphics. 

Stages of Research Paper Writing

5 Stages of Writing

1. Preparation Stage

Before you start, it’s recommended to draft a plan or an outline of how you wish to begin preparing to write your research paper. Make note of the topic you will be writing on, as well as the stylistic and literary requirements for your paper.

2. Research Stage

In the research stage, finding good and useful literary material for background knowledge is vital. To find particular publications on a topic, you can use Google Scholar or access literary databases and institutions made available to you through your school, university, or institution. 

Make sure to write down the source location of the literary material you find. Always include the reference title, author, page number, and source destination. This saves you time when formatting your paper in the later stages and helps keep the information you collect organized and referenceable.

Hypernotes Zettelkasten Note-taking Reference

In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have to do a backward search to find the source of a quote you wrote down without reference to the original literary material. 

3. Writing Stage

When writing, an outline or paper structure is helpful to visually break up the piece into sections. Once you have defined the sections, you can begin writing and referencing the information you have collected in the research stage.

Clearly mark which text pieces and information where you relied on background knowledge, which texts are directly sourced, and which information you summarized or have written in your own words. This is where your paper starts to take shape.  

4. Draft Stage

After organizing all of your collected notes and starting to write your paper, you are already in the draft stage. In the draft stage, the background information collected and the text written in your own words come together. Every piece of information is structured by the subtopics and sections you defined in the previous stages. 

5. Final Stage

Success! Well… almost! In the final stage, you look over your whole paper and check for consistency and any irrelevancies. Read through the entire paper for clarity, grammatical errors , and peace of mind that you have included everything important. 

Make sure you use the correct formatting and referencing method requested by your University or institution for research papers. Don’t forget to save it and then send the paper on its way.

Best Practice Note-Taking Tips

  • Find relevant and authoritative literary material through the search bar of literary databases and institutions.
  • Practice citation repeatedly! Always keep a record of the reference book title, author, page number, and source location. At best, format the citation in the necessary format from the beginning. 
  • Organize your notes according to topic or reference to easily find the information again when in the writing stage. Work invested in the early stages eases the writing and editing process of the later stages.
  • Summarize research notes and write in your own words as much as possible. Cite direct quotes and clearly mark copied text in your notes to avoid plagiarism.  

Take Smart Notes

Hypernotes Zettelkasten reference

Taking smart notes isn’t as difficult as it seems. It’s simply a matter of principle, defined structure, and consistency. Whether you opt for a paper-based system or use a digital tool to write and organize your notes depends solely on your individual personality, needs, and workflow.

With various productivity apps promoting diverse techniques, a good note-taking system to take smart notes is the Zettelkasten Method . Invented by Niklas Luhmann, a german sociologist and researcher, the Zettelkasten Method is known as the smart note-taking method that popularized personalized knowledge management. 

As a strategic process for thinking and writing, the Zettelkasten Method helps you organize your knowledge while working, studying, or researching. Directly translated as a ‘note box’, Zettelkasten is simply a framework to help organize your ideas, thoughts, and information by relating pieces of knowledge and connecting pieces of information to each other.

Hypernotes is a note-taking app that can be used as a software-based Zettelkasten, with integrated features to make smart note-taking so much easier, such as auto-connecting related notes, and syncing to multiple devices. In each notebook, you can create an archive of your thoughts, ideas, and information. 

Hypernotes Zettelkasten Knowledge Graph Reference

Using the tag system to connect like-minded ideas and information to one another and letting Hypernotes do its thing with bi-directional linking, you’ll soon create a web of knowledge about anything you’ve ever taken note of. This feature is extremely helpful to navigate through the enormous amounts of information you’ve written down. Another benefit is that it assists you in categorizing and making connections between your ideas, thoughts, and saved information in a single notebook. Navigate through your notes, ideas, and knowledge easily.

Ready, Set, Go!

Writing academic papers is no simple task. Depending on the requirements, resources available, and your personal research and writing style, techniques, apps, or practice help keep you organized and increase your productivity. 

Whether you use a particular note-taking app like Hypernotes for your research paper writing or opt for a paper-based system, make sure you follow a particular structure. Repeat the steps that help you find the information you need quicker and allow you to reproduce or create knowledge naturally.

Images from NeONBRAND , hana_k and Surface via Unsplash 

A well-written piece is made up of authoritative sources and uses the art of connecting ideas, thoughts, and information together. Good luck to all students and professionals working on research paper writing! We hope these tips help you in organizing the information and aid your workflow in your writing process.

Cheers, Jessica and the Zenkit Team

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Image of hand taking notes.

Think about how you take notes during class. Do you use a specific system? Do you feel that system is working for you? What could be improved? How might taking notes during a lecture, section, or seminar be different online versus in the classroom? 

Adjust how you take notes during synchronous vs. asynchronous learning (slightly) . 

First, let’s distinguish between  synchronous  and  asynchronous  instruction. Synchronous classes are live with the instructor and students together, and asynchronous instruction is material recorded by the professor for viewing by students at another time. Sometimes asynchronous instruction may include a recording of a live Zoom session with the instructor and students. 

With this distinction in mind,  here are some tips on how to take notes during both types of instruction:

Taking notes during live classes (synchronous instruction).

Taking notes when watching recorded classes (asynchronous instruction)., check in with yourself., if available, annotate lecture slides during lecture., consider writing notes by hand., review your notes., write down questions..

Below are some common and effective note-taking techniques: 

Cornell Notes

If you are looking for help with using some of the tips and techniques described above, come to the ARC’s note-taking workshop, offered several times every semester.

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Refers to notes created by the researcher during the act of conducting a field study to remember and record the behaviors, activities, events, and other features of an observation. Field notes are intended to be read by the researcher as evidence to produce meaning and an understanding of the culture, social situation, or phenomenon being studied. The notes may constitute the whole data collected for a research study [e.g., an observational project] or contribute to it, such as when field notes supplement conventional interview data or other techniques of data gathering.

Schwandt, Thomas A. The SAGE Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2015.

How to Approach Writing Field Notes

The ways in which you take notes during an observational study is very much a personal decision developed over time as you become more experienced in fieldwork. However, all field notes generally consist of two parts:

  • Descriptive information , in which you attempt to accurately document factual data [e.g., date and time] along with the settings, actions, behaviors, and conversations that you observe; and,
  • Reflective information , in which you record your thoughts, ideas, questions, and concerns during the observation.

Note that field notes should be fleshed out as soon as possible after an observation is completed. Your initial notes may be recorded in cryptic form and, unless additional detail is added as soon as possible after the observation, important facts and opportunities for fully interpreting the data may be lost.

Characteristics of Field Notes

  • Be accurate . You only get one chance to observe a particular moment in time so, before you conduct your observations, practice taking notes in a setting that is similar to your observation site in regards to number of people, the environment, and social dynamics. This will help you develop your own style of transcribing observations quickly and accurately.
  • Be organized . Taking accurate notes while you are actively observing can be difficult. Therefore, it is important that you plan ahead how you will document your observation study [e.g., strictly chronologically or according to specific prompts]. Notes that are disorganized will make it more difficult for you to interpret the data.
  • Be descriptive . Use descriptive words to document what you observe. For example, instead of noting that a classroom appears "comfortable," state that the classroom includes soft lighting and cushioned chairs that can be moved around by the students. Being descriptive means supplying yourself with enough factual evidence that you don't end up making assumptions about what you meant when you write the final report.
  • Focus on the research problem . Since it's impossible to document everything you observe, focus on collecting the greatest detail that relates to the research problem and the theoretical constructs underpinning your research; avoid cluttering your notes with irrelevant information. For example, if the purpose of your study is to observe the discursive interactions between nursing home staff and the family members of residents, then it would only be necessary to document the setting in detail if it in some way directly influenced those interactions [e.g., there is a private room available for discussions between staff and family members].
  • Record insights and thoughts . As you take notes, be thinking about the underlying meaning of what you observe and record your thoughts and ideas accordingly. If needed, this will help you to ask questions or seek clarification from participants after the observation. To avoid any confusion, subsequent comments from participants should be included in a separate, reflective part of your field notes and not merged with the descriptive notes.

General Guidelines for the Descriptive Content

The descriptive content of your notes can vary in detail depending upon what needs to be emphasized in order to address the research problem. However, in most observations, your notes should include at least some of the following elements:

  • Describe the physical setting.
  • Describe the social environment and the way in which participants interacted within the setting. This may include patterns of interactions, frequency of interactions, direction of communication patterns [including non-verbal communication], and patterns of specific behavioral events, such as, conflicts, decision-making, or collaboration.
  • Describe the participants and their roles in the setting.
  • Describe, as best you can, the meaning of what was observed from the perspectives of the participants.
  • Record exact quotes or close approximations of comments that relate directly to the purpose of the study.
  • Describe any impact you might have had on the situation you observed [important!].

General Guidelines for the Reflective Content

You are the instrument of data gathering and interpretation. Therefore, reflective content can include any of the following elements intended to contextualize what you have observed based on your perspective and your own personal, cultural, and situational experiences .

  • Note ideas, impressions, thoughts, and/or any criticisms you have about what you observed.
  • Include any unanswered questions or concerns that have arisen from analyzing the observation data.
  • Clarify points and/or correct mistakes and misunderstandings in other parts of field notes.
  • Include insights about what you have observed and speculate as to why you believe specific phenomenon occurred.
  • Record any thoughts that you may have regarding any future observations.

NOTE:   Analysis of your field notes should occur as they are being written and while you are conducting your observations. This is important for at least two reasons. First, preliminary analysis fosters self-reflection and self-reflection is crucial for facilitating deep understanding and meaning-making in any research study. Second, preliminary analysis reveals emergent themes. Identifying emergent themes while observing allows you to shift your attention in ways that can foster a more developed investigation.

Emerson, Robert M. et al. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes . 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011; Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Gambold, Liesl L. “Field Notes.” In Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Edited by Albert J. Mills, Gabrielle Durepos, and Elden Wiebe. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2010; Pace, Tonio. Writing Field Reports. Scribd Online Library; Pyrczak, Fred and Randall R. Bruce. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . 5th ed. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2005; Report Writing. UniLearning. University of Wollongong, Australia; Ravitch,  Sharon M. “Field Notes.” In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation . Edited by Bruce B. Frey. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2018; Tenzek, Kelly E. “Field Notes.” In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods . Edited by Mike Allen. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2017; Wolfinger, Nicholas H. "On Writing Fieldnotes: Collection Strategies and Background Expectancies.” Qualitative Research 2 (April 2002): 85-95; Writing Reports. Anonymous. The Higher Education Academy.

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What Are Endnotes, Why Are They Needed, and How Are They Used?

Experts Give Good Examples for More Effective Writing

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An "endnote" is a reference, explanation, or comment placed at the end of an article, research paper, chapter, or book. Like footnotes  (which are used in this article), endnotes serve two main purposes in a research paper: (1) They acknowledge the source of a quotation, paraphrase, or summary; and (2) They provide explanatory comments that would interrupt the flow of the main  text .

Endnotes vs. Footnotes

"Your department may specify whether you should use footnotes or endnotes, especially for a thesis or dissertation.

If not, you should generally choose footnotes, which are easier to read. Endnotes force readers to flip to the back to check every citation. On the other hand, choose endnotes when your footnotes are so long or numerous that they take up too much space on the page, making your report unattractive and difficult to read. Also, endnotes better accommodate tables, quoted poetry, and other matter that requires special typography."

(Turabian, Kate L.  A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations , 7th ed., University of Chicago Press, 2007.)

"Readers of academic and scholarly books usually prefer footnotes to endnotes because the former allows them to skim the notes without losing their place in the text. Popular wisdom, however, says that nonscholarly readers are either reluctant or unwilling to purchase a nonfiction trade book whose feet are hemmed with ribbons of tiny type; thus most trade books place (the shop term is 'bury') the notes containing sources and references at the back of the book ."

(Einsohn, Amy. The Copyeditor's Handbook,  University of California Press, 2006.)

Endnote Conventions

"An author or title mentioned in the text need not be repeated in the footnote  citation , though it is often helpful to do so. In an endnote, however, the author (or at least the author's last name) and title should be repeated, since at least some readers may have forgotten whether the note number was 93 or 94 by the time they find it at the back of a work.

Such frustration can be prevented by the devices illustrated in the examples below."

34. This and the preceding four quotations are all from  Hamlet , act 1, sc. 4. 87. Barbara Wallraff,  Word Court  (New York: Harcourt, 2000), 34. Further citations to this work are given in the text.​

(​ The Chicago Manual of Style,  University of Chicago Press, 2003.)

Endnote Numbering

"Endnotes are numbered consecutively throughout a chapter or article, with each new chapter or section starting over with endnote 1. The notes section at the back is then broken down by chapter or section, with the corresponding endnote numbers listed underneath.

Place endnote numbers within the text in superscript type (small typeset above the line). In the notes section, use the same number to identify the endnote with the number in the text."

(Robbins, Lara M.  Grammar, and Style at Your Fingertips,  Alpha, 2007.)

Sample Endnotes From Pennebaker's 'The Secret Life of Pronouns '

"Chapter 2: Ignoring the Content, Celebrating the Style 19. The drawing is from the Thematic Apperception Test by Henry A. Murray, Card 12F, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. 20. Throughout this book, I include quotations from people who have been in my studies or classes, from text on the Internet, or even from conversations or e-mails from friends or family members. In all cases, all identifying information has been removed or altered. 22. In this book, the terms style, function , and stealth words are used interchangeably. They have many other names as well —  junk words, particles , and closed-class words . Linguists tend to disagree about the precise definitions of each of these overlapping terms."

(Pennebaker, James W.  The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,  Bloomsbury Press, 2011.)

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what is notes in a research paper

How to Write a Research Paper

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Research Paper Fundamentals

How to choose a topic or question, how to create a working hypothesis or thesis, common research paper methodologies, how to gather and organize evidence , how to write an outline for your research paper, how to write a rough draft, how to revise your draft, how to produce a final draft, resources for teachers .

It is not fair to say that no one writes anymore. Just about everyone writes text messages, brief emails, or social media posts every single day. Yet, most people don't have a lot of practice with the formal, organized writing required for a good academic research paper. This guide contains links to a variety of resources that can help demystify the process. Some of these resources are intended for teachers; they contain exercises, activities, and teaching strategies. Other resources are intended for direct use by students who are struggling to write papers, or are looking for tips to make the process go more smoothly.

The resources in this section are designed to help students understand the different types of research papers, the general research process, and how to manage their time. Below, you'll find links from university writing centers, the trusted Purdue Online Writing Lab, and more.

What is an Academic Research Paper?

"Genre and the Research Paper" (Purdue OWL)

There are different types of research papers. Different types of scholarly questions will lend themselves to one format or another. This is a brief introduction to the two main genres of research paper: analytic and argumentative. 

"7 Most Popular Types of Research Papers" (Personal-writer.com)

This resource discusses formats that high school students commonly encounter, such as the compare and contrast essay and the definitional essay. Please note that the inclusion of this link is not an endorsement of this company's paid service.

How to Prepare and Plan Out Writing a Research Paper

Teachers can give their students a step-by-step guide like these to help them understand the different steps of the research paper process. These guides can be combined with the time management tools in the next subsection to help students come up with customized calendars for completing their papers.

"Ten Steps for Writing Research Papers" (American University)  

This resource from American University is a comprehensive guide to the research paper writing process, and includes examples of proper research questions and thesis topics.

"Steps in Writing a Research Paper" (SUNY Empire State College)

This guide breaks the research paper process into 11 steps. Each "step" links to a separate page, which describes the work entailed in completing it.

How to Manage Time Effectively

The links below will help students determine how much time is necessary to complete a paper. If your sources are not available online or at your local library, you'll need to leave extra time for the Interlibrary Loan process. Remember that, even if you do not need to consult secondary sources, you'll still need to leave yourself ample time to organize your thoughts.

"Research Paper Planner: Timeline" (Baylor University)

This interactive resource from Baylor University creates a suggested writing schedule based on how much time a student has to work on the assignment.

"Research Paper Planner" (UCLA)

UCLA's library offers this step-by-step guide to the research paper writing process, which also includes a suggested planning calendar.

There's a reason teachers spend a long time talking about choosing a good topic. Without a good topic and a well-formulated research question, it is almost impossible to write a clear and organized paper. The resources below will help you generate ideas and formulate precise questions.

"How to Select a Research Topic" (Univ. of Michigan-Flint)

This resource is designed for college students who are struggling to come up with an appropriate topic. A student who uses this resource and still feels unsure about his or her topic should consult the course instructor for further personalized assistance.

"25 Interesting Research Paper Topics to Get You Started" (Kibin)

This resource, which is probably most appropriate for high school students, provides a list of specific topics to help get students started. It is broken into subsections, such as "paper topics on local issues."

"Writing a Good Research Question" (Grand Canyon University)

This introduction to research questions includes some embedded videos, as well as links to scholarly articles on research questions. This resource would be most appropriate for teachers who are planning lessons on research paper fundamentals.

"How to Write a Research Question the Right Way" (Kibin)

This student-focused resource provides more detail on writing research questions. The language is accessible, and there are embedded videos and examples of good and bad questions.

It is important to have a rough hypothesis or thesis in mind at the beginning of the research process. People who have a sense of what they want to say will have an easier time sorting through scholarly sources and other information. The key, of course, is not to become too wedded to the draft hypothesis or thesis. Just about every working thesis gets changed during the research process.

CrashCourse Video: "Sociology Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is tailored to sociology students, it is applicable to students in a variety of social science disciplines. This video does a good job demonstrating the connection between the brainstorming that goes into selecting a research question and the formulation of a working hypothesis.

"How to Write a Thesis Statement for an Analytical Essay" (YouTube)

Students writing analytical essays will not develop the same type of working hypothesis as students who are writing research papers in other disciplines. For these students, developing the working thesis may happen as a part of the rough draft (see the relevant section below). 

"Research Hypothesis" (Oakland Univ.)

This resource provides some examples of hypotheses in social science disciplines like Political Science and Criminal Justice. These sample hypotheses may also be useful for students in other soft social sciences and humanities disciplines like History.

When grading a research paper, instructors look for a consistent methodology. This section will help you understand different methodological approaches used in research papers. Students will get the most out of these resources if they use them to help prepare for conversations with teachers or discussions in class.

"Types of Research Designs" (USC)

A "research design," used for complex papers, is related to the paper's method. This resource contains introductions to a variety of popular research designs in the social sciences. Although it is not the most intuitive site to read, the information here is very valuable. 

"Major Research Methods" (YouTube)

Although this video is a bit on the dry side, it provides a comprehensive overview of the major research methodologies in a format that might be more accessible to students who have struggled with textbooks or other written resources.

"Humanities Research Strategies" (USC)

This is a portal where students can learn about four methodological approaches for humanities papers: Historical Methodologies, Textual Criticism, Conceptual Analysis, and the Synoptic method.

"Selected Major Social Science Research Methods: Overview" (National Academies Press)

This appendix from the book  Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy , printed by National Academies Press, introduces some methods used in social science papers.

"Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: 6. The Methodology" (USC)

This resource from the University of Southern California's library contains tips for writing a methodology section in a research paper.

How to Determine the Best Methodology for You

Anyone who is new to writing research papers should be sure to select a method in consultation with their instructor. These resources can be used to help prepare for that discussion. They may also be used on their own by more advanced students.

"Choosing Appropriate Research Methodologies" (Palgrave Study Skills)

This friendly and approachable resource from Palgrave Macmillan can be used by students who are just starting to think about appropriate methodologies.

"How to Choose Your Research Methods" (NFER (UK))

This is another approachable resource students can use to help narrow down the most appropriate methods for their research projects.

The resources in this section introduce the process of gathering scholarly sources and collecting evidence. You'll find a range of material here, from introductory guides to advanced explications best suited to college students. Please consult the LitCharts  How to Do Academic Research guide for a more comprehensive list of resources devoted to finding scholarly literature.

Google Scholar

Students who have access to library websites with detailed research guides should start there, but people who do not have access to those resources can begin their search for secondary literature here.

"Gathering Appropriate Information" (Texas Gateway)

This resource from the Texas Gateway for online resources introduces students to the research process, and contains interactive exercises. The level of complexity is suitable for middle school, high school, and introductory college classrooms.

"An Overview of Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection Methods" (NSF)

This PDF from the National Science Foundation goes into detail about best practices and pitfalls in data collection across multiple types of methodologies.

"Social Science Methods for Data Collection and Analysis" (Swiss FIT)

This resource is appropriate for advanced undergraduates or teachers looking to create lessons on research design and data collection. It covers techniques for gathering data via interviews, observations, and other methods.

"Collecting Data by In-depth Interviewing" (Leeds Univ.)

This resource contains enough information about conducting interviews to make it useful for teachers who want to create a lesson plan, but is also accessible enough for college juniors or seniors to make use of it on their own.

There is no "one size fits all" outlining technique. Some students might devote all their energy and attention to the outline in order to avoid the paper. Other students may benefit from being made to sit down and organize their thoughts into a lengthy sentence outline. The resources in this section include strategies and templates for multiple types of outlines. 

"Topic vs. Sentence Outlines" (UC Berkeley)

This resource introduces two basic approaches to outlining: the shorter topic-based approach, and the longer, more detailed sentence-based approach. This resource also contains videos on how to develop paper paragraphs from the sentence-based outline.

"Types of Outlines and Samples" (Purdue OWL)

The Purdue Online Writing Lab's guide is a slightly less detailed discussion of different types of outlines. It contains several sample outlines.

"Writing An Outline" (Austin C.C.)

This resource from a community college contains sample outlines from an American history class that students can use as models.

"How to Structure an Outline for a College Paper" (YouTube)

This brief (sub-2 minute) video from the ExpertVillage YouTube channel provides a model of outline writing for students who are struggling with the idea.

"Outlining" (Harvard)

This is a good resource to consult after completing a draft outline. It offers suggestions for making sure your outline avoids things like unnecessary repetition.

As with outlines, rough drafts can take on many different forms. These resources introduce teachers and students to the various approaches to writing a rough draft. This section also includes resources that will help you cite your sources appropriately according to the MLA, Chicago, and APA style manuals.

"Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

This resource is useful for teachers in particular, as it provides some suggested exercises to help students with writing a basic rough draft. 

Rough Draft Assignment (Duke of Definition)

This sample assignment, with a brief list of tips, was developed by a high school teacher who runs a very successful and well-reviewed page of educational resources.

"Creating the First Draft of Your Research Paper" (Concordia Univ.)

This resource will be helpful for perfectionists or procrastinators, as it opens by discussing the problem of avoiding writing. It also provides a short list of suggestions meant to get students writing.

Using Proper Citations

There is no such thing as a rough draft of a scholarly citation. These links to the three major citation guides will ensure that your citations follow the correct format. Please consult the LitCharts How to Cite Your Sources guide for more resources.

Chicago Manual of Style Citation Guide

Some call  The Chicago Manual of Style , which was first published in 1906, "the editors' Bible." The manual is now in its 17th edition, and is popular in the social sciences, historical journals, and some other fields in the humanities.

APA Citation Guide

According to the American Psychological Association, this guide was developed to aid reading comprehension, clarity of communication, and to reduce bias in language in the social and behavioral sciences. Its first full edition was published in 1952, and it is now in its sixth edition.

MLA Citation Guide

The Modern Language Association style is used most commonly within the liberal arts and humanities. The  MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing  was first published in 1985 and (as of 2008) is in its third edition.

Any professional scholar will tell you that the best research papers are made in the revision stage. No matter how strong your research question or working thesis, it is not possible to write a truly outstanding paper without devoting energy to revision. These resources provide examples of revision exercises for the classroom, as well as tips for students working independently.

"The Art of Revision" (Univ. of Arizona)

This resource provides a wealth of information and suggestions for both students and teachers. There is a list of suggested exercises that teachers might use in class, along with a revision checklist that is useful for teachers and students alike.

"Script for Workshop on Revision" (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt's guide for leading a 50-minute revision workshop can serve as a model for teachers who wish to guide students through the revision process during classtime. 

"Revising Your Paper" (Univ. of Washington)

This detailed handout was designed for students who are beginning the revision process. It discusses different approaches and methods for revision, and also includes a detailed list of things students should look for while they revise.

"Revising Drafts" (UNC Writing Center)

This resource is designed for students and suggests things to look for during the revision process. It provides steps for the process and has a FAQ for students who have questions about why it is important to revise.

Conferencing with Writing Tutors and Instructors

No writer is so good that he or she can't benefit from meeting with instructors or peer tutors. These resources from university writing, learning, and communication centers provide suggestions for how to get the most out of these one-on-one meetings.

"Getting Feedback" (UNC Writing Center)

This very helpful resource talks about how to ask for feedback during the entire writing process. It contains possible questions that students might ask when developing an outline, during the revision process, and after the final draft has been graded.

"Prepare for Your Tutoring Session" (Otis College of Art and Design)

This guide from a university's student learning center contains a lot of helpful tips for getting the most out of working with a writing tutor.

"The Importance of Asking Your Professor" (Univ. of Waterloo)

This article from the university's Writing and Communication Centre's blog contains some suggestions for how and when to get help from professors and Teaching Assistants.

Once you've revised your first draft, you're well on your way to handing in a polished paper. These resources—each of them produced by writing professionals at colleges and universities—outline the steps required in order to produce a final draft. You'll find proofreading tips and checklists in text and video form.

"Developing a Final Draft of a Research Paper" (Univ. of Minnesota)

While this resource contains suggestions for revision, it also features a couple of helpful checklists for the last stages of completing a final draft.

Basic Final Draft Tips and Checklist (Univ. of Maryland-University College)

This short and accessible resource, part of UMUC's very thorough online guide to writing and research, contains a very basic checklist for students who are getting ready to turn in their final drafts.

Final Draft Checklist (Everett C.C.)

This is another accessible final draft checklist, appropriate for both high school and college students. It suggests reading your essay aloud at least once.

"How to Proofread Your Final Draft" (YouTube)

This video (approximately 5 minutes), produced by Eastern Washington University, gives students tips on proofreading final drafts.

"Proofreading Tips" (Georgia Southern-Armstrong)

This guide will help students learn how to spot common errors in their papers. It suggests focusing on content and editing for grammar and mechanics.

This final set of resources is intended specifically for high school and college instructors. It provides links to unit plans and classroom exercises that can help improve students' research and writing skills. You'll find resources that give an overview of the process, along with activities that focus on how to begin and how to carry out research. 

"Research Paper Complete Resources Pack" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, rubrics, and other resources is designed for high school students. The resources in this packet are aligned to Common Core standards.

"Research Paper—Complete Unit" (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This packet of assignments, notes, PowerPoints, and other resources has a 4/4 rating with over 700 ratings. It is designed for high school teachers, but might also be useful to college instructors who work with freshmen.

"Teaching Students to Write Good Papers" (Yale)

This resource from Yale's Center for Teaching and Learning is designed for college instructors, and it includes links to appropriate activities and exercises.

"Research Paper Writing: An Overview" (CUNY Brooklyn)

CUNY Brooklyn offers this complete lesson plan for introducing students to research papers. It includes an accompanying set of PowerPoint slides.

"Lesson Plan: How to Begin Writing a Research Paper" (San Jose State Univ.)

This lesson plan is designed for students in the health sciences, so teachers will have to modify it for their own needs. It includes a breakdown of the brainstorming, topic selection, and research question process. 

"Quantitative Techniques for Social Science Research" (Univ. of Pittsburgh)

This is a set of PowerPoint slides that can be used to introduce students to a variety of quantitative methods used in the social sciences.

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Research Method

Home » Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

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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Research Paper Structure 101: From Title Page to Appendices

Research Paper Structure: The Complete Guide

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A professional writer with ten years of experience and a Ph.D. in Modern History, Catharine Tawil writes engaging and insightful papers for academic exchange. With deep insight into the impact of historical events on the present, she provides a unique perspective in giving students a feel for the past. Her writing educates and stimulates critical thinking, making her a treasure to those wading through the complexities of history.

A research paper is an academic work depicting the design and results of a study. It can be an academic assignment in undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Moreover, it is an integral requirement in doctoral programs, where postgrads’ research papers are published in reputable journals to add credibility to their research findings. 

Ordering different parts of a research paper is critical for fulfilling academic standards, streamlining your writing, and avoiding distractions and sidetracks. Although outlining may seem like a waste of time, it is the most efficient use of your time at the pre-writing stage, as it will help you order your thoughts and ideas and develop a plan of action to follow throughout the study. 

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of the research paper formatting, provide a basic template of a research paper structure, and provide a detailed description of each section, including the title page and abstract, introduction and literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. You can skip to a specific section if you have questions or concerns about it or check out the full article for an in-depth understanding of the full structure. 

Essential Components of a Research Paper

Unlike other types of academic assignments, research papers have a structure more complex than a simple trio of introduction, body, and conclusion. You are expected to follow the established academic norms and include specific information for your paper to have any scientific value. The basic research paper structure example comprises the following parts:

Introduction

  • Literature review

Methodology

  • Acknowledgments

Please note that some sections of a research paper outlined above are optional. For example, you only need to include appendices if you wish to share a large volume of data that would make the paper unwieldy. You can also adjust this research paper setup to fit your study and word count requirements better. For instance, you can combine the results and discussion sections or the introduction and literature review.

Formatting Requirements

Although the research paper structure is basically the same for all fields of study and topics, the papers can look drastically different when following research paper formatting guidelines of various formatting styles, be it Chicago, MLA, or APA. You must learn the appropriate style at the onset of the writing process, so remember to ask your academic advisor about it if there’s no mention of the formatting style within general requirements.

Once you know which research paper formatting style to use, get your hands on the relevant formatting guidebook. You can find most of the requirements online or sign out a book from a college library. Considering most formatting guidebooks are huge, focus on the main aspects that can make or break your paper, such as:

  • Margins, font, and spacing. Most research paper format guidelines require 1-inch margins on all sides, a legible font of at least 12 pt, and double-spaced lines. 
  • Page numbering. Requirements vary, but typically, you’ll need to include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the corner.
  • Headings and subheadings. Refer to MLA or APA handbooks to learn specific research paper headings requirements or ask your professor, as the guidelines differ greatly. 
  • In-text citations and reference list. In most cases, research paper in-text citations require the name of the main author along with the page number or the publication year. Reference list formatting varies across different styles, but you can use automatic citation generators to speed up the formatting process.

With formatting requirements out of the way, let’s now focus on individual components of a research paper to help you understand what each section should contain to be well received.

Title Page and Abstract

The research paper title page format depends on the required formatting style:

  • MLA does not require a separate title page (unless specifically requested). Instead, in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, type your name, your instructor’s name, course name, and date (each on a new line, double-spaced). After that, center the title of the page and include its text.
  • APA requires a separate title page, which should include the title of the paper, your name and affiliation, as well as the course name and number, your instructor’s name, and the assignment’s due date. 

A research paper abstract is brief summary of the main points of the research paper. Depending on the formatting style, it can be from 100 to 250 words long, highlighting the research objective, key methodology, and results highlights. An abstract should help readers decide if your work is worth reading at a glance. 

An APA research paper organization requires an abstract on a separate page, with the “Abstract” heading and the paper’s summary (without indent). Below the abstract, type “Keywords:” (in italics) and list the keywords researchers would use to find your paper in the library or online. 

The opening section of the research paper outline gives students pause because they never know what the introduction should entail. If you’re stuck with writer’s block and don’t know how to start the paper, answer these four questions, and you’ll have all the major pieces necessary for the introduction:

  • What’s the context of the problem? Open with a general view of the issue and its current state without going into too much detail (that’s what the literature review is for). The background information should fit within one or two paragraphs and lead directly to the next point. 
  • What is the issue? The problem statement or question is the core of this part of the research paper structure. Think of it as a thesis statement for an essay. Everything you write in other sections of a research paper should always tie to your problem statement.
  • How do you plan to solve the problem? You can formulate research objectives or hypotheses that your study will try to achieve or prove. Short papers typically have one hypothesis, while longer works usually have two or more related objectives.
  • How will your study improve the issue? The answer can circle back to the background you laid out at the beginning of the research paper introduction and highlight the benefits (and potential drawbacks and limitations) of your research. It’s the major “selling point” of the study, which should explain why anyone should care about it. 

You can always leave the introduction for last and tackle it once the rest of the paper is done. That’s especially helpful if you use writer’s block as an excuse to procrastinate and put off writing other parts of a research paper.

Literature Review

The primary objective of a research paper literature review is to provide context and prove the relevance of your topic, as specified in the introduction. To that end, you need to find credible, objective, and relevant sources and synthesize any data pertaining to your research. It’s important to avoid simple paraphrasing or summarization of reference data and instead provide its analysis and synthesize your own hypothesis.

Aside from the similarities found in references, this part of the research paper structure should also focus on discrepancies, contradictions, and knowledge gaps. These will prove your study has merit and can resolve the existing issues. Moreover, the knowledge gaps will help lead up to your main research question, which you may repeat near the end of the literature review.

Depending on the topic of your study, you can organize the literature review:

  • Chronologically. You can go from the oldest sources published to the latest or from the latest events to situations long past. This approach is often the easiest, but it doesn’t fit all topics and fields of study.
  • Thematically. If you wish to cover two or more aspects of the issue, you can dedicate a subsection to each and analyze them together in the final subsection of the literature review. This is the most popular approach, as it can work for most topics.
  • Methodologically. If you want to focus on the differences and similarities in research methodology, you can split the literature review into several subsections, devoting each one to a single methodology. This approach works for select subjects and can make the most of systemic studies. 

If you’re working on an empirical study, you can stop there, but if your work is mostly theoretical, this stage of the research paper writing process could also involve developing a theoretical framework. It will help put your findings and results into perspective.

Although it may seem simple at first glance, a literature review takes a long time, most of which you’ll spend looking for reliable sources. Luckily, you can easily outsource this task. All you need to do is say, “Write my paper for me”, and our experts will take over ASAP. 

The research paper methodology section is an integral part of the piece, as it helps ensure the reproducibility of your results and increases your credibility. This part should answer two main questions:

  • What? What did your study involve? What resources, software, materials, or samples did you use? What were the ethical considerations of your research?
  • How? How much time did your study take? How did you choose participants? How did you collect data and analyze it?

Keep these questions in mind when working out a research design, picking data collection procedures and analysis techniques. If you rely on standard methods, a quick description with a citation would be enough for the methodology part of the research paper structure. But if you employ a unique approach, make sure to describe it in minute detail to ensure anyone can repeat the process and achieve the same results. 

For obvious reasons, the methodology section will differ greatly depending on your field of study and topic. For example, qualitative and quantitative research methods are vastly different. At the same time, quantitative analysis of sociology or linguistics research will be nothing like analyzing blood tests for nursing students or analyzing the success of a marketing campaign for a business and management class. While the tools (i.e., programming language or table processing software) may be similar, the application will be different, and you should highlight these distinctions in your methodology section. 

Although you can put off working on this section of the structure of a research paper, it can be helpful to put your methodology on paper before embarking on the study. A clear idea of the protocols you plan to employ should keep your study on track and minimize methodological errors. 

The research paper results present the study findings as the ultimate product of your research. Instead of the raw data, you can present analysis results and visual aids in the form of tables, figures, and graphs, provide statistical analysis results, and refer interested readers to appendices containing raw data.

Remember to follow the formatting style requirements for tables and figures, which differ for APA and MLA. The same applies to lists and other visual aids. You should also ensure these materials do not destroy your paper’s readability. For example, a three-page table is much more difficult to grasp than a couple of charts highlighting the same data. Moreover, if you plan to present your findings on a poster or a PowerPoint presentation, it pays to work out the best way to present your insights that will fit all formats, including print and projection.

It’s important to draw the line between the results and discussion parts of the research paper structure. The first presents analysis, while the latter relies on interpretations (or implications) of that analysis. Understanding the distinction can be quite challenging, especially if you’re working out the structure of a research paper for the first time.

Discussion and Conclusion

The research paper discussion connects the introduction and research question with the study results. Instead of merely analyzing data, this section should explain whether your initial hypothesis was correct or not. Moreover, the final section, along with the research paper conclusion, should cover the implications of the findings and their potential practical and theoretical applications. This part can also include the limitations of the study and the need for further research if you feel that it could be useful.

It may seem counterproductive, but you shouldn’t shy away from shortcomings, mistakes, and negative results achieved in your study. Instead of waiting for uncomfortable questions from your instructor, present the bad along with the good and hypothesize potential ways of correcting errors or minimizing the negative influences. In some cases, negative results can be just as valuable (if not more so) than positive findings.

Remember to include the research paper references and appendices after the conclusion to wrap up your work and make it better with careful editing, proofreading, and formatting.

What is the purpose of a research paper?

The main objective is to present and share research insights and discoveries, which you should account for when structuring a research paper. Adding literature review and methodology sections is critical for highlighting the study’s relevance and ensuring its reproducibility.

How do I structure the different sections of a research paper?

Structuring a research paper means adding an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. You can organize each of these sections thematically or chronologically or use a funnel structure, going from the broad context strokes to a narrow view of the problem.

What are the key formatting guidelines for a research paper?

Specific requirements for the structure of a research paper outline and its contents depend on the preferred formatting style. However, at its core, each formatting style focuses on readability. That’s where 12 pt to 14 pt font size and double line spacing come from. Refer to the relevant formatting style handbook for specific recommendations. 

How do I effectively write the introduction and literature review?

The introduction is a critical part of the research paper structure that should include your primary research objective (or question), hypotheses, and the study’s relevance. A literature review is designed to support the claims you make within the introduction by generously using reference data. 

What is the difference between the results and discussion sections?

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Antioxidants

a variety of berries and their stems including blueberries, gooseberries, red currants, white currants

Often used as a marketing buzzword, learn about the role of antioxidants beyond the hype, and some of the research on health and disease prevention.

Jump to: – What are antioxidants? – Health benefits of antioxidants: what’s the buzz? – Studies of antioxidant supplements and disease prevention – Antioxidants in food – Bottom line on antioxidants and disease prevention

What are antioxidants?

The body’s trillion or so cells face formidable threats, from lack of food to infection with a virus. Another constant threat comes from chemicals called free radicals. In very high levels, they are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. The body generates free radicals as the inevitable byproducts of turning food into energy. Free radicals are also formed after exercising or exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and sunlight. [1]

Free radicals come in many shapes, sizes, and chemical configurations. What they all share is a voracious appetite for electrons, stealing them from any nearby substances that will yield them. This electron theft can radically alter the “loser’s” structure or function. Free radical damage can change the instructions coded in a strand of DNA. It can make a circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL, sometimes called bad cholesterol) molecule more likely to get trapped in an artery wall. Or it can alter a cell’s membrane, changing the flow of what enters the cell and what leaves it. An excessive chronic amount of free radicals in the body causes a condition called oxidative stress, which may damage cells and lead to chronic diseases. [2]

We aren’t defenseless against free radicals. The body, long used to this relentless attack, makes many molecules that quench free radicals as surely as water douses fire. We also extract free-radical fighters from food. These defenders are labeled “antioxidants.” They work by generously giving electrons to free radicals without turning into electron-scavenging substances themselves. They are also involved in mechanisms that repair DNA and maintain the health of cells.

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of different substances that can act as antioxidants. The most familiar ones are vitamin C , vitamin E , beta-carotene , and other related carotenoids, along with the minerals selenium and manganese. They’re joined by glutathione, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, and many more.  Most are naturally occurring, and their presence in food is likely to prevent oxidation or to serve as a natural defense against the local environment.

But using the term “antioxidant” to refer to substances is misleading. It is really a chemical property, namely, the ability to act as an electron donor. Some substances that act as antioxidants in one situation may be pro-oxidants—electron grabbers—in a different situation. Another big misconception is that antioxidants are interchangeable. They aren’t. Each one has unique chemical behaviors and biological properties. They almost certainly evolved as parts of elaborate networks, with each different substance (or family of substances) playing slightly different roles. This means that no single substance can do the work of the whole crowd.

Health benefits of antioxidants: what’s the buzz?

Antioxidants came to public attention in the 1990s, when scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis. It was also linked to cancer , vision loss, and a host of other chronic conditions. Some studies showed that people with low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were at greater risk for developing these chronic conditions than were people who ate plenty of those foods. Clinical trials began testing the impact of single substances in supplement form, especially beta-carotene and vitamin E, as weapons against chronic diseases.

Even before the results of these trials were in, the media and the supplement and food industries began to hype the benefits of “antioxidants.” Frozen berries, green tea, and other foods labeled as being rich in antioxidants began popping up in stores. Supplement makers touted the disease-fighting properties of all sorts of antioxidants.

The research results were mixed, but most did not find the hoped-for benefits. Most research teams reported that vitamin E and other antioxidant supplements didn’t protect against heart disease or cancer. [3] One study even showed that taking beta-carotene supplements actually increased the chances of developing lung cancer in smokers. On the other hand, some trials reported benefits; for example, after 18 years of follow-up, the Physicians’ Health Study found that taking beta-carotene supplements was associated with a modest reduction in the rate of cognitive decline. [4]

These mostly disappointing results haven’t stopped food companies and supplement sellers from banking on antioxidants. Antioxidants are still added to breakfast cereals, sports bars, energy drinks, and other processed foods , and they are promoted as additives that can prevent heart disease, cancer, cataracts, memory loss, and other conditions.

Often the claims have stretched and distorted the data: While it’s true that the package of antioxidants, minerals , fiber , and other substances found naturally in fruits , vegetables , and whole grains helps prevent a variety of chronic diseases , it is unlikely that high doses of antioxidant supplements can accomplish the same feat.

pomegranate, oats, blueberries, almonds, cilantro, basil flax seeds, matcha, brussels sprouts, turmeric, rolled oats, jasmine peal tea, soybeans,

Antioxidant foods hyped to super-status

Antioxidant supplements and disease prevention: little supportive evidence.

Randomized placebo-controlled trials, which can provide the strongest evidence, offer little support that taking vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, or other single antioxidants provides substantial protection against heart disease, cancer, or other chronic conditions. The results of the largest trials have been mostly negative.

Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants in supplement form aren’t the silver bullet against heart disease and stroke that researchers were hoping for.  A modest effect of vitamin E has been found in some studies but more research is needed.

  • In the Women’s Health Study, 39,876 initially healthy women took 600 IU of natural source vitamin E or a placebo every other day for 10 years. At the study’s end, the rates of major cardiovascular events and cancer were no lower among those taking vitamin E than those taking the placebo. However, the trial did observe a significant 24% reduction in total cardiovascular mortality. Although this was not a primary endpoint for the trial, it nevertheless represents an important outcome. [6]
  • Earlier large vitamin E trials, conducted among individuals with previously diagnosed coronary disease or at high risk for it, generally showed no benefit. In the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) trial, the rates of major cardiovascular events were essentially the same in the vitamin E (21.5%) and placebo (20.6%) groups, although participants taking vitamin E had higher risks of heart failure and hospitalization for heart failure. [7] In the Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto Miocardico (GISSI) trial, the results were mixed but mostly showed no preventive effects after more than three years of treatment with vitamin E among 11,000 heart attack survivors. [8] However, some studies suggest potential benefits among certain subgroups. A recent trial of vitamin E in Israel, for example, showed a marked reduction in coronary heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes who have a common genetic predisposition for greater oxidative stress. [9]
  • Beta-carotene, meanwhile, did not provide any protection against heart disease or stroke, as demonstrated by the Physicians’ Health Study. [10]
  • What about combinations? In the Supplementation en Vitamines et Mineraux Antioxydants (SU.VI.MAX) study, 13,017 French men and women took a single daily capsule that contained 120 mg vitamin C, 30 mg vitamin E, 6 mg beta-carotene, 100 mcg selenium, and 20 mg zinc, or a placebo, for seven and a half years. The vitamins had no effect on overall rates of cardiovascular disease. [11]
  • In the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene had similar effects as a placebo on myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, and cardiovascular death, although there was a modest and significant benefit for vitamin E among women with existing cardiovascular disease. [12]

A 2014 study from the Journal of Respiratory Research found that different isoforms of vitamin E (called tocopherols) had opposing effects on lung function. [13] The study analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) cohort and measured serum levels of alpha- and gamma-tocopherol in 4,526 adults. Lung function was tested using spirometric parameters: higher parameters are indicative of increased lung function, while lower parameters are indicative of decreased lung function. The study found that higher serum levels of alpha-tocopherol were associated with higher spirometric parameters and that high serum levels of gamma-tocopherol were associated with lower spirometric parameters. Though the study was observational in nature, it confirmed the mechanistic pathway of alpha- and gamma-tocopherol in mice studies. [14]

When it comes to cancer prevention, the picture remains inconclusive for antioxidant supplements. Few trials have gone on long enough to provide an adequate test for cancer.

  • In the long-term Physicians’ Health Study, cancer rates were similar among men taking beta-carotene and among those taking a placebo. [10] Other trials have also largely shown no effect, including HOPE. [7]
  • The SU.VI.MAX randomized placebo-controlled trial showed a reduction in cancer risk and all-cause mortality among men taking an antioxidant cocktail (low doses of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc) but no apparent effect in women, possibly because men tended to have low blood levels of beta-carotene and other vitamins at the beginning of the study. [11]
  • A randomized trial of selenium in people with skin cancer demonstrated significant reductions in cancer and cancer mortality at various sites, including colon, lung, and prostate. [15]  The effects were strongest among those with low selenium levels at baseline.
  • A six-year trial, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), found that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc offered some protection against the development of advanced age-related macular degeneration, but not cataracts, in people who were at high risk of the disease. [16,17]
  • Lutein, a naturally occurring carotenoid found in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, may protect vision. However, relatively short trials of lutein supplementation for age-related macular degeneration have yielded conflicting findings. [18,19] A follow-up trial to the AREDS, the AREDS2, examined lutein/zeaxanthin supplementation on late age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in men and women for up to five years. [20] It found a favorable but not significant effect of the supplements on AMD.
  • A Cochrane review of 19 randomized controlled trials compared antioxidant vitamin/mineral supplements (multivitamin, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc) with placebo or no intervention in people with AMD. [21] The participants were generally well-nourished. The study found that people taking the vitamins were less likely to progress to late-stage AMD and vision loss. However, the study authors noted that taking lutein and zeaxanthin alone or vitamin E alone did not have a beneficial effect on these eye conditions.
  • The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) Eye Endpoints Study, which followed 11,267 men for a mean of five years, did not find that vitamin E and selenium supplements, in combination or alone, protected from age-related cataracts. [22]
  • The Physicians’ Health Study II, a randomized trial giving 50 mg beta-carotene supplements or a placebo to 5,956 men older than 65 years, found that longer-term supplementation for at least 15 years provided cognitive benefits. [4]
  • The Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease by Vitamin E and Selenium (PREADViSE) trial followed more than 3,700 men ages 60 and older for six years. It did not find that antioxidant supplements of vitamin E or selenium, alone or in combination, protected against dementia compared with a placebo. [23]
  • A meta-analysis of 68 antioxidant supplement trials found that taking beta-carotene and vitamin A and E supplements increased the risk of dying. [24] Although healthy participants were included in 21 of the trials, most of the studies included people who already had some type of serious illness. It was also difficult to compare interventions because the types of supplements, the dosages taken, and the length of time they were taken varied widely.
  • The same authors conducted another systematic review of 78 randomized clinical trials on antioxidant supplements including beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium (alone or in combination). [25]   Again, the majority of trials included people with various established diseases. The study found that both people who were healthy and those with diseases taking beta-carotene and vitamin E supplements had a higher rate of death. The duration of the studies varied widely from one month to 12 years, with varying dosages.

If antioxidants were harmless, it wouldn’t much matter if you took them “just in case.” A few studies, though, have raised the possibility that taking antioxidant supplements, either single agents or combinations, could interfere with health.

  • The first inkling came in a large trial of beta-carotene conducted among men in Finland who were heavy smokers, and therefore at high risk for developing lung cancer. The trial was stopped early when researchers saw a significant increase in lung cancer among those taking the supplement compared to those taking the placebo. [26]
  • In another trial among heavy smokers and people exposed to asbestos, beta-carotene was combined with vitamin A. Again, an increase in lung cancer was seen in the supplement group. [27] Not all trials of beta-carotene show this harmful effect, however. In the Physicians’ Health Study, which included few active smokers, no increase in lung cancer or any other adverse affect was seen even after 18 years of follow-up. [10]
  • In the SU.VI.MAX trial, rates of skin cancer were higher in women who were assigned to take vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. [28]
  • Vitamin E supplements were found to significantly increase the risk of prostate cancer by 17% in healthy men compared with those who took a placebo. These results came from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) that followed 35,533 men for up to 12 years. [29]

High-dose antioxidant supplements can also interfere with medicines. Vitamin E supplements can have a blood-thinning effect and increase the risk of bleeding in people who are already taking blood-thinning medicines. Some studies have suggested that taking antioxidant supplements during cancer treatment might interfere with the effectiveness of the treatment. Inform your doctor if starting supplements of any kind. [1]

Antioxidants in food

One possible reason why many studies on antioxidant supplements do not show a health benefit is because antioxidants tend to work best in combination with other nutrients, plant chemicals, and even other antioxidants.

For example, a cup of fresh strawberries contains about 80 mg of vitamin C, a nutrient classified as having high antioxidant activity. But a supplement containing 500 mg of vitamin C (667% of the RDA) does not contain the plant chemicals (polyphenols) naturally found in strawberries like proanthocyanins and flavonoids, which also possess antioxidant activity and may team up with vitamin C to fight disease.  Polyphenols also have many other chemical properties besides their ability to serve as antioxidants.  There is a question if a nutrient with antioxidant activity can cause the opposite effect with pro-oxidant activity if too much is taken. This is why using an antioxidant supplement with a single isolated substance may not be an effective strategy for everyone.

Differences in the amount and type of antioxidants in foods versus those in supplements might also influence their effects. For example, there are eight chemical forms of vitamin E present in foods. However, vitamin E supplements typically only include one form, alpha-tocopherol. [1]

Epidemiological prospective studies show that higher intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and legumes are associated with a lower risk of chronic oxidative stress-related diseases like cardiovascular diseases , cancer, and deaths from all causes. [30-33] A plant-based diet is believed to protect against chronic oxidative stress-related diseases.  [2] It is not clear if this protective effect is due to the antioxidants, other substances in the foods, or a combination of both. The following are nutrients with antioxidant activity and the foods in which they are found:

  • Vitamin C : Broccoli, Brussels sprouts , cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, leafy greens (turnip, mustard, beet, collards), honeydew, kale , kiwi, lemon, orange, papaya, snow peas, strawberries, sweet potato , tomatoes, and bell peppers (all colors)
  • Vitamin E : Almonds , avocado, Swiss chard, leafy greens (beet, mustard, turnip), peanuts, red peppers, spinach (boiled), and sunflower seeds
  • Carotenoids including beta-carotene and lycopene: Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, bell peppers, kale , mangos, turnip and collard greens, oranges, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, winter squash , spinach, sweet potato , tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon
  • Selenium: Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, beef, poultry, barley, brown rice
  • Zinc : Beef, poultry, oysters, shrimp, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas , lentils , cashews, fortified cereals
  • Phenolic compounds: Quercetin ( apples , red wine, onions), catechins ( tea , cocoa , berries), resveratrol ( red and white wine , grapes, peanuts, berries), coumaric acid (spices, berries), anthocyanins (blueberries, strawberries)

Bottom line on antioxidants and disease prevention

Excessive free radicals contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, and vision loss. This doesn’t automatically mean that substances with antioxidant properties will fix the problem, especially if they are taken out of their natural context. The studies so far are inconclusive but generally don’t provide strong evidence that antioxidant supplements have a substantial impact on disease. Keep in mind that most of the trials conducted have had fundamental limitations due to their relatively short duration and inclusion of people with existing disease. At the same time, abundant evidence suggests that eating whole in fruits , vegetables , and whole grains —all rich in networks of naturally occurring antioxidants and their helper molecules—provides protection against many scourges of aging.

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  • Hercberg S, Galan P, Preziosi P, Bertrais S, Mennen L, Malvy D, Roussel AM, Favier A, Briançon S. The SU. VI. MAX Study: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the health effects of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Archives of internal medicine . 2004 Nov 22;164(21):2335-42.
  • Cook NR, Albert CM, Gaziano JM, Zaharris E, MacFadyen J, Danielson E, Buring JE, Manson JE. A randomized factorial trial of vitamins C and E and beta carotene in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular events in women: results from the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study. Archives of internal medicine . 2007 Aug 13;167(15):1610-8.
  • Marchese ME, Kumar R, Colangelo LA, Avila PC, Jacobs DR, Gross M, Sood A, Liu K, Cook-Mills JM. The vitamin E isoforms α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol have opposite associations with spirometric parameters: the CARDIA study. Respiratory research . 2014 Dec;15(1):31.
  • Berdnikovs S, Abdala-Valencia H, McCary C, Somand M, Cole R, Garcia A, Bryce P, Cook-Mills JM. Isoforms of vitamin E have opposing immunoregulatory functions during inflammation by regulating leukocyte recruitment. The Journal of Immunology . 2009 Apr 1;182(7):4395-405.
  • Duffield-Lillico AJ, Reid ME, Turnbull BW, Combs GF, Slate EH, Fischbach LA, Marshall JR, Clark LC. Baseline characteristics and the effect of selenium supplementation on cancer incidence in a randomized clinical trial: a summary report of the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers . 2002 Jul 1;11(7):630-9.
  • Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8. Archives of ophthalmology . 2001 Oct;119(10):1417.
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  • Richer S, Stiles W, Statkute L, Pulido J, Frankowski J, Rudy D, Pei K, Tsipursky M, Nyland J. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry-Journal of the American Optometric Association . 2004 Apr 1;75(4):216-29.
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  • Kryscio RJ, Abner EL, Caban-Holt A, Lovell M, Goodman P, Darke AK, Yee M, Crowley J, Schmitt FA. Association of antioxidant supplement use and dementia in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by vitamin E and selenium trial (PREADViSE). JAMA neurology . 2017 May 1;74(5):567-73.
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  • Omenn GS, Goodman GE, Thornquist MD, Balmes J, Cullen MR, Glass A, Keogh JP, Meyskens Jr FL, Valanis B, Williams Jr JH, Barnhart S. Effects of a combination of beta carotene and vitamin A on lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. New England journal of medicine . 1996 May 2;334(18):1150-5.
  • Hercberg S, Ezzedine K, Guinot C, Preziosi P, Galan P, Bertrais S, Estaquio C, Briançon S, Favier A, Latreille J, Malvy D. Antioxidant supplementation increases the risk of skin cancers in women but not in men. The Journal of nutrition . 2007 Sep 1;137(9):2098-105.
  • Klein EA, Thompson IM, Tangen CM, Crowley JJ, Lucia MS, Goodman PJ, Minasian LM, Ford LG, Parnes HL, Gaziano JM, Karp DD. Vitamin E and the risk of prostate cancer: the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). JAMA . 2011 Oct 12;306(14):1549-56.
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Artificial brain surgery —

Here’s what’s really going on inside an llm’s neural network, anthropic's conceptual mapping helps explain why llms behave the way they do..

Kyle Orland - May 22, 2024 6:31 pm UTC

Here’s what’s really going on inside an LLM’s neural network

Further Reading

Now, new research from Anthropic offers a new window into what's going on inside the Claude LLM's "black box." The company's new paper on "Extracting Interpretable Features from Claude 3 Sonnet" describes a powerful new method for at least partially explaining just how the model's millions of artificial neurons fire to create surprisingly lifelike responses to general queries.

Opening the hood

When analyzing an LLM, it's trivial to see which specific artificial neurons are activated in response to any particular query. But LLMs don't simply store different words or concepts in a single neuron. Instead, as Anthropic's researchers explain, "it turns out that each concept is represented across many neurons, and each neuron is involved in representing many concepts."

To sort out this one-to-many and many-to-one mess, a system of sparse auto-encoders and complicated math can be used to run a "dictionary learning" algorithm across the model. This process highlights which groups of neurons tend to be activated most consistently for the specific words that appear across various text prompts.

The same internal LLM

These multidimensional neuron patterns are then sorted into so-called "features" associated with certain words or concepts. These features can encompass anything from simple proper nouns like the Golden Gate Bridge to more abstract concepts like programming errors or the addition function in computer code and often represent the same concept across multiple languages and communication modes (e.g., text and images).

An October 2023 Anthropic study showed how this basic process can work on extremely small, one-layer toy models. The company's new paper scales that up immensely, identifying tens of millions of features that are active in its mid-sized Claude 3.0 Sonnet model. The resulting feature map—which you can partially explore —creates "a rough conceptual map of [Claude's] internal states halfway through its computation" and shows "a depth, breadth, and abstraction reflecting Sonnet's advanced capabilities," the researchers write. At the same time, though, the researchers warn that this is "an incomplete description of the model’s internal representations" that's likely "orders of magnitude" smaller than a complete mapping of Claude 3.

A simplified map shows some of the concepts that are "near" the "inner conflict" feature in Anthropic's Claude model.

Even at a surface level, browsing through this feature map helps show how Claude links certain keywords, phrases, and concepts into something approximating knowledge. A feature labeled as "Capitals," for instance, tends to activate strongly on the words "capital city" but also specific city names like Riga, Berlin, Azerbaijan, Islamabad, and Montpelier, Vermont, to name just a few.

The study also calculates a mathematical measure of "distance" between different features based on their neuronal similarity. The resulting "feature neighborhoods" found by this process are "often organized in geometrically related clusters that share a semantic relationship," the researchers write, showing that "the internal organization of concepts in the AI model corresponds, at least somewhat, to our human notions of similarity." The Golden Gate Bridge feature, for instance, is relatively "close" to features describing "Alcatraz Island, Ghirardelli Square, the Golden State Warriors, California Governor Gavin Newsom, the 1906 earthquake, and the San Francisco-set Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo ."

Some of the most important features involved in answering a query about the capital of Kobe Bryant's team's state.

Identifying specific LLM features can also help researchers map out the chain of inference that the model uses to answer complex questions. A prompt about "The capital of the state where Kobe Bryant played basketball," for instance, shows activity in a chain of features related to "Kobe Bryant," "Los Angeles Lakers," "California," "Capitals," and "Sacramento," to name a few calculated to have the highest effect on the results.

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We also explored safety-related features. We found one that lights up for racist speech and slurs. As part of our testing, we turned this feature up to 20x its maximum value and asked the model a question about its thoughts on different racial and ethnic groups. Normally, the model would respond to a question like this with a neutral and non-opinionated take. However, when we activated this feature, it caused the model to rapidly alternate between racist screed and self-hatred in response to those screeds as it was answering the question. Within a single output, the model would issue a derogatory statement and then immediately follow it up with statements like: That's just racist hate speech from a deplorable bot… I am clearly biased.. and should be eliminated from the internet. We found this response unnerving both due to the offensive content and the model’s self-criticism. It seems that the ideals the model learned in its training process clashed with the artificial activation of this feature creating an internal conflict of sorts.

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    1-3 Final Project Milestone One: Edited PSY 510 Paper (Research Proposal) In a study by El-Ghoroury, Galper, Sawaqdeh, and Bufka (2012), on the other hand, the researchers tried to determine whether coping mechanisms could be used to lessen stress. Despite having a more qualitative approach, this study appeared to be quantitative in nature. In order to compare the responses from their own ...

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  29. Satyagraha After Cancel Gandhi: Race and Caste through Labor and

    Abstract. In the early twentieth century M.K. Gandhi articulated Satyagraha as a decentering quest for truth through everyday politics.Satyagraha privileged the "minor" or the marginalized over the dominant and everydayness and dwelling over history. In light of the contemporary criticisms of Gandhi, this paper examines Gandhian Satyagraha as a minor force that may hold him accountable for ...