Writing a research paper is a complex task. We intend to help you with the process and answer your questions. It addresses common author concerns and the mechanics of writing the paper. If you follow the process and adhere to the correct documentation style, you should end up with a mechanically correct research paper. However, that does not assure a quality research paper. An effective research paper also smoothly integrates the research findings into unified, coherent paragraphs. Like all other well written documents, the research paper needs to be clearly and logically organized. The writing is ought to be focused, accompanied with smooth transitions linking ideas and paragraphs. Grammar, punctuation, usage, and spelling should be near perfect.
Be careful to plan your time wisely. Many authors spend so much time gathering their research and completing note cards that they run out of time at the end. The result is that the final paper is not their best effort. Before you begin the process, set up a time line for completion of each step, and stick to it. You need ample time to write, revise and proofread your paper. It’s easy to get caught up in the research, but you’ll be evaluated on the finished product, so be sure to allow plenty of time to create a quality document. Before you hand it in, proofread the paper carefully, check the documentation for accuracy, be sure that you have adhered to all directions, and finally make certain that the paper looks professional.
The title describes in a logical, rigorous, brief and grammatically sound way the essence of the paper. Sometimes it is made up of two parts, the title and a sub-title, separated by a colon.
Author and affiliation
The name of the author (or authors) is given below the title, followed by the indication of the institution to which the author belongs. The email address of the author is often also required.
The abstract convinces the reader that the paper is worth reading. This is why it should be made as objective, readable and catching as possible, in spite of its small length.
The abstract should not exceed 200 words, and should clarify very concisely, but not telegraphically:
- The work the authors did, which is described in the paper.
- How the authors did it, if relevant (the method).
- The key results (numerically, if possible).
- The relevance and impact of those results.
It should be kept in mind that the abstract is not an introduction to the paper, but a description of its whole in a concise way that highlights all the relevant points. It must be written discursively, rather than as a list of topics, and it should get into the subject straight off, with no introductory circumlocutions or fill-in expressions. It must also be self-contained, so that it can be freely reproduced in collections of abstracts, and it must not include any references.
To facilitate searching online for papers on a topic or set of topics, it is helpful if each paper includes a short list of the keywords, or index terms, that better describe these topics. If you chose a good selection of keywords, your paper will be more easily found on digital libraries and on the Web. For this reason, you should select keywords that are both faithful to the topics of your paper and general enough to be used by anyone looking for your paper. A good rule of thumb is to choose the keywords you would use to find quickly on the Web a paper exactly like yours.
The introduction must be able to grab the interest of the reader, from the very first sentence, into the second sentence, the third, and so on. A dull introduction is halfway to losing the readers even before they start getting to the substance of the paper. To save time and preserve flexibility, it may be useful to write the introduction only when the rest of the text is finished. This is so because writing is, to as large extent, a sort of experimental ground that helps us structure our own thoughts. As we write, the text tends to gain a life of its own, and often ends up becoming much different (and much better) than originally intended. This means that there is no point in writing the introduction (or producing the final version of the abstract) of a text that we do not know yet how it is going to become.The introduction should characterize the context for the proposal you present in your paper and should describe:
- The nature of the problem you address in the paper.
- The essence of the state of the art in the domain of the paper (with bibliographic references).
- The aim of the paper and its relevance to push forward the state of the art.
- The methods used to solve the problem.
- The structure of the paper, describing briefly its successive sections.
Body of the paper
The body of the paper is the description, through various sections and paragraphs, of all the relevant points of the work explained in the paper. The designation “body of the paper” is used to refer to the collection of sections and paragraphs that make up the core of the paper.
The key to an effective research paper is integrating the research into the body of the paper. This is also the most difficult part of writing the paper. The research should support and lend credence to your conclusions, but it should not dominate the paper. Much of the writing should be your own ideas that are supported by research. Transitional words and phrases should be used to connect your thoughts to the references. If that’s not done, the writing will be stilted and contrived; the paper will be choppy, and coherence will be lost. Remember that the research paper is like all other formal essays, and all of the rules of good writing apply. The paper should have an introduction, a body and a conclusion, and it should be focused and fully developed.
Most authors write the conclusions in a hurry, when they are already tired of their paper and anxious to get it out of their sight. This is a bad practice because most of the impression the readers keep in their minds, after reading a paper, is (re)built by the conclusions. The conclusions should, thus, be written with a fresh mind and with the concern of leaving a structured and lasting favourable impression in the mind of the reader.The conclusions must be stated clearly, and should cover:
- A summary of what you have achieved with the work you describe in the paper, stressing its novelty and relevance.
- An assessment of the advantages and limitations of the proposals you have presented in the paper.
- A description of possible applications and implications of the results presented in the paper.
- Recommendations for future work.
This is probably the most variable part of any research paper, and depends upon the results and aims of the experiment. For quantitative research, it is a presentation of the numerical results and data, whereas for qualitative research it should be a broader discussion of trends, without going into too much detail. For research generating a lot of results, then it is better to include tables or graphs of the analyzed data and leave the raw data in the appendix, so that a researcher can follow up and check your calculations. A commentary is essential to linking the results together, rather than displaying isolated and unconnected charts, figures and findings.
It is best to try to find a middle course, where you give a general overview of the data in your article, you should try to keep your own opinions and interpretations out of the results section.
A good paper often results from the commitment of many people beyond the authors (members of the research team and friends who contributed one way or the other), and this commitment should be acknowledged. This polite gesture allows you to thank all of the people who helped you with the project, without falling under the category of citations.
When the research activity leading to the paper is totally or partially financed by external institutions, their support should also be acknowledged, even when they do not explicitly request it.
The references correspond to the list of papers, book chapters, books, and other bibliographic elements that have been referenced throughout the paper. Various referencing guidelines exist, but you must use the guidelines of the journal or conference where you intend to publish.
When you write a research paper, you will have to borrow information from other people in order to prove your points. Any time you borrow information from another source, you must show in your paper where you found the information. This is called "citing" or "referencing." If you do not cite your source, it is called "plagiarism." It is illegal to plagiarize someone else's work or ideas.