How To Structure A Good Research Paper
Before working on the content of your paper, you should develop its structure. Here you will find a few tips on defining the research question, you will also learn more about planning the list of main sections. It will help you to get more familiar with writing such documents and learn to create good outlines.
The Research Question
You can’t develop the structure if you don’t have such a question. It defines your goal and what you need to answer by writing your paper, it is also the central principle of your document and each section will be connected with it.
If your paper is well-planned and you have a clear vision of your project, you may already know your research question. But there are cases when students don’t see their objectives clearly. They need to define the main research question after making all the experiments and lab investigations needed for this paper.
You should focus on the one specific question, not a list of them. If your studies have several issues and want to highlight each of them, it is recommended to write several papers, and if there will be two or more objectives, it would be hard for you and your readers to concentrate on them.
Not every question can serve as the main question of your research. It should have these three attributes:
- It should be specific. Make it as clear as possible and any of your readers can understand what you are talking about and what field of science you want to highlight.
- It should be original. If such question was asked in a lot of previous works and it is already answered by other authors, there is no reason for writing it again. The exception is when you want to extend the results of the previous research or show that they are not correct.
- It should have general relevance to a scientific community, and if it doesn’t help in further scientific research and has no practical meaning, you should think about more relevant experiments.
When you have defined your research question, you can start working on your structure. It helps you to write the paper where every section is relevant to your goal and every paragraph is relevant to its section. After finishing your structure, check that each chapter helps you to answer the main research question.
The Basic Elements
Ordinary research papers usually contain the Introduction with the short description of your paper, the Methods with the description of used tools and methodologies, the Results where you show what you have learned, and the Discussion with the summary and analysis. In these chapters, you can write about your preparation, your actions during the experiments, and your findings.
Each of these sections can be divided into smaller parts, it is needed if there is a lot of information and you want to structurize it. The bigger is a section, the more parts it can contain.
This is only the basic list of elements. You can be required by your tutor to add more sections, check your assignment and you will see whether you include each needed chapter to your document.
The Introductory Section
Start with stating the problem studied by this research. Define the scope of work, why you started working on it, and why this paper is crucial for you and the science, there you can also point out the gaps in the current knowledge that can be filled by your studies.
It is hard to read your paper if a reader doesn’t know your objectives. That is why you should define them in this section and describe what lead you to this research.
There you have to describe the context of your study and its settings, what did you have in the beginning, what else you needed, and where you worked on your study. You should describe the people you worked with during your study, the sampling strategy you used, and the intervention if needed.
This section also helps you to identify the main elements of your study and describe how you collected the data and what tools you have used for it. Analysis methods should also be stated in this chapter.
This section contains the report with all the data and information you have collected during the study. Readers can find there the information about participants, key findings, and also other findings that are not much connected with your objectives.
If there are many tables and figures in your results, you should present them in a readable format. It may seem not much necessary when you are working on the structure, but you will understand the necessity of good formatting of the results later. You shouldn’t discuss or interpret any of the information there, because there is an appropriate section for it, you just provide the lists or tables of findings.
This section has the big meaning because you analyze your findings there. State the main things you have found and learned during your study, discuss them and show how you interpret your results. You can also show how these results can be used in practice. Describe the strong sides of your paper and how you could make it better and outline the main directions for further research that your study gives to you and other scientists.
When working on such projects, students often make common mistakes.
Here are a few examples you should know to avoid them in your work:
- Not specifying the main question of the document, this was explained earlier in this article.
- Not following the key instructions for authors, that is why you should check them before writing the document.
- Not following the main requirements.
- Not all key results are reported in the paper, that is why you should work carefully on selecting findings that you will include to the paper
- Many highlighted findings are not connected with the main goal.
- Wrong or outdated references to other works.
- The discussion doesn’t help to answer the defined research question.
- Many of the key arguments are not supported by references, the teacher may even think that these arguments were plagiarized
- Lack of description of the used instruments.
If you avoid these mistakes, you can write a good structure and fill its sections with the content. You are also recommended to read the structure of other similar works to get more experience in it and don’t forget to check the list of sections before you are going to write the content for them.