Writing a research paper might sound like a daunting task to many, but there are certain basic principlesto follow when writing one for publication. You are expected to use both primary and secondary sources to validate your central arguments and flesh out your ideas, so the way you structure your ideas and materials is of great importance. While various journals vary in their formats and guidelines, by and large, the overall structure remains the same.Here is a quick overview of how to structure your research paper:
The title should be informative and compelling enough for the reader to flip the pages of your paper and read on. The title you choose should indicate what your paper contains and have relevance to the topic you are dealing with. It is better to avoid vague, complex or excessively lengthy titles.
The abstract is a critical part of a research paper, no matter what discipline you belong to. To put it simply, an abstract is a short synopsis which gives readers a snapshot of your paper. The whole point of an abstract is to let the reader have a bird's eye view of your research questions, thesis statement, approach, methodology, and conclusion, all in a single paragraph. While word economy should be kept in mind, the readability of your paper should not be compromised to attain brevity.
The introduction, as the name suggests, does the job of introducing your research to the readers, and should ideally be less than two pages. It must give your readers the background and context of your work and convince them about its objectives. It should also contain your thesis statement - a sentence or two explaining what your central argument is and how you are going to prove it. An important point to keep in mind is that your introduction should contain a hook, something that catches the attention of your readers and keeps them interested to read on. Similarly, you should ensure that the transition between introductory paragraphs and the main body is smooth.
After the introduction, you should write the main body of your paper using the data you collected, grouped and sequenced during the research phase. An outline of your paper should be prepared beforehand so that you have a better grip over your sources. You should also map your ideas and arguments, and come up with a structure for each paragraph in the main body. Many researchers make the mistake of structuring the paper around their sources. This, however, should be avoided; you need to build your paper based on the key arguments you are making, rather than allowing your sources to determine the direction or structure. Secondary sources should be analyzed, interpreted and summarized before you integrate them into your paper.
In this section, a researcher presents a set of observations based on the results. Since most of your readers would be keen on this section, it should be concise and draw inferences from your hypothesis. It should be followed by the discussion, which is the formal conclusion of the study. You aim here is to highlight the interpretation of the results and discuss the significance of your findings. Instead of leaving your research question unanswered, you need to tie this section to the thesis statement and research questions stated in the introduction. Most importantly, you should avoid giving irrelevant information or bringing any new material in this section.
Finally, cite your sources using a standard citation style such as the APA, MLA or Chicago manual. All the sources you used in your paper should be given due credit lest you invite charges of plagiarism. Likewise, the bibliography given at the end of the paper should correspond to the sources cited in the paper.
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