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Parts of a Research Paper

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

Parts of a Research Paper: Definition

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

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

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

What are the main parts of a research paper?

There are eight main parts in a research paper :

  • Title (cover page)


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

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

Do you have to follow the exact research paper structure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research Paper Structure

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

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

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

Literature Review

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

Research Methodology

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

Data Analysis

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

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

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

Reference Page

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


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Research Paper Examples

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

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

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

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


Research Paper APA Formatting

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

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

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

In a Nutshell

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

Discover more useful articles:


What is works cited? We will give you some information:


In this article we give you information about thesis format:


What you should know about an APA format title page:


This article gives some information about a thesis defense:

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  • Research guides

Writing an Educational Research Paper

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

There is no one right style or manner for writing an education paper. Content aside, the writing style and presentation of papers in different educational fields vary greatly. Nevertheless, certain parts are common to most papers, for example:

Title/Cover Page

Contains the paper's title, the author's name, address, phone number, e-mail, and the day's date.

Not every education paper requires an abstract. However, for longer, more complex papers abstracts are particularly useful. Often only 100 to 300 words, the abstract generally provides a broad overview and is never more than a page. It describes the essence, the main theme of the paper. It includes the research question posed, its significance, the methodology, and the main results or findings. Footnotes or cited works are never listed in an abstract. Remember to take great care in composing the abstract. It's the first part of the paper the instructor reads. It must impress with a strong content, good style, and general aesthetic appeal. Never write it hastily or carelessly.

Introduction and Statement of the Problem

A good introduction states the main research problem and thesis argument. What precisely are you studying and why is it important? How original is it? Will it fill a gap in other studies? Never provide a lengthy justification for your topic before it has been explicitly stated.

Limitations of Study

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


Discuss your research methodology. Did you employ qualitative or quantitative research methods? Did you administer a questionnaire or interview people? Any field research conducted? How did you collect data? Did you utilize other libraries or archives? And so on.

Literature Review

The research process uncovers what other writers have written about your topic. Your education paper should include a discussion or review of what is known about the subject and how that knowledge was acquired. Once you provide the general and specific context of the existing knowledge, then you yourself can build on others' research. The guide Writing a Literature Review will be helpful here.

Main Body of Paper/Argument

This is generally the longest part of the paper. It's where the author supports the thesis and builds the argument. It contains most of the citations and analysis. This section should focus on a rational development of the thesis with clear reasoning and solid argumentation at all points. A clear focus, avoiding meaningless digressions, provides the essential unity that characterizes a strong education paper.

After spending a great deal of time and energy introducing and arguing the points in the main body of the paper, the conclusion brings everything together and underscores what it all means. A stimulating and informative conclusion leaves the reader informed and well-satisfied. A conclusion that makes sense, when read independently from the rest of the paper, will win praise.

Works Cited/Bibliography

See the Citation guide .

Education research papers often contain one or more appendices. An appendix contains material that is appropriate for enlarging the reader's understanding, but that does not fit very well into the main body of the paper. Such material might include tables, charts, summaries, questionnaires, interview questions, lengthy statistics, maps, pictures, photographs, lists of terms, glossaries, survey instruments, letters, copies of historical documents, and many other types of supplementary material. A paper may have several appendices. They are usually placed after the main body of the paper but before the bibliography or works cited section. They are usually designated by such headings as Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on.

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  • Last Updated: Oct 25, 2023 10:42 AM
  • Subjects: Education
  • Tags: education , education_paper , education_research_paper

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Important components of a research paper.

Prof Rajesh K Singh

Prof Rajesh K Singh

The author is a professor, Operations Management, MDI Gurgaon

In present era of globalization, academic institutions are trying hard to get global recognition. For most of the ranking frameworks and global accreditations such as AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA, research is an important component. Therefore, most of the academic institutions have started giving emphasis on quality research by their faculty members. Due to this change in academic environment, for faculty promotions and recruitments, research publications in top ranking journals is becoming an important criterion. 

Publication in top journals has now become very tough due to exponential growth in research papers submissions. In most of the top ranking journals of ABDC, ABS, FT 50, UT Dallas, acceptance rate is lesser than five percent. Most of the research papers submitted to such top ranking journals are desk rejected by Editors. Major reason for rejection of manuscript is unstructured presentation. Usually, research paper should describe all components of research in comprehensive manner and in a simple language for easy understanding of audience. Major components of research paper are selection of title, abstract, introduction, literature review, research methodology, results, discussion, managerial implications, conclusion, limitations and future scope.

Title selection is first step for writing a quality research paper. Usually title should specifically predict about content of the manuscript.  Second component of research paper is abstract. Abstract should be crisp. Usually size of abstract should be around 200 words. It should be able to provide maximum information in limited words. Abstract should briefly describe objectives of study, research methods used in the study, major findings and implications. At the end of abstract, authors should give four to five keywords. Key words facilitate searching of articles by other researchers. After abstract, next component of research paper is introduction. Introduction should set the initial tone for research paper. Introduction should provide background information about the topic of research, reasons why present study is being carried out based on significant research gaps, research objectives and research questions, scope of research, uniqueness and novelty of study and last paragraph of introduction should be on organization of complete paper. Length of introduction should not exceed one fifth of total size of the research paper. 

Next component of research paper is literature review. Purpose of literature review is to synthesize prior research related to topic of the paper. Based on previous studies, authors should try to identify research gaps to prove uniqueness of the study. Most of the researchers make mistake in this part, as problem of study is not identified based on research gaps and papers get desk rejected by editors.  Authors should prefer to refer latest research papers at least for ten years. If authors are targeting to a particular journal, it should be ensured that no paper from that journal in identified research area is left for review. Next component of paper is research methodology. It should be well-written, clear, and logically organized. It should be tied up with research objectives of the paper. There may be different kind of research methods such as case study based, empirical studies or modelling based. Authors should clearly justify use of specific methodology. It is also desirable that different steps of research methodology are given in form of a flow chart.

After research methodology, results section should be described. Results section should clearly describe all findings in sequential manner.  As far as possible findings should be presented in the form of tables and figures without any repetition. Authors should describe the results honestly without distortion of the data. After results section, discussion of findings is done. Findings should be interpreted in context to research questions mentioned in the paper. Findings should be also compared with previous studies done in the same area. Usually authors ignore the discussion section after describing the results. After discussion, authors should also give managerial implications of findings.  If implications of study are not significant for academia and industry, chances of paper acceptance are usually less. Lastly authors should give conclusion of study. In this section, authors should briefly restate about objectives, major findings, unique contribution, limitations and future scope of the study. At the end, it is recommended that authors should try to maintain flow of contents in the whole paper for better readability. 

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The key ingredients of an academic paper

It’s writing season!! Or at least, it seems to be in my group.

Writing is not easy. I LOVE writing, but this is after many years of trying, doing, getting feedback, rewriting, and getting more feedback. Bizarrely, I was never taught how to write, and I have the impression that it’s still not generally taught very well, because a lot of students hate writing, and because of the common – but easy to avoid – mistakes that they make.

There are a lot of fantastic resources on how to write well. I have Josh Schimel’s as well as Stephen Heard’s books on my bookshelf, and I recommend my students to read this useful post on Dynamic Ecology , and the British Ecological Society’s guide to scientific writing .

But I still feel that while these resources are very good, they might be too lengthy or too detailed for some of my students, and I end up explaining the most important ingredients of a good article or thesis again and again.

(OK, so this post turned out to be quite lengthy, but you can just skip it and jump to the pictures.)

When reading through a few student papers, it suddenly dawned on me that what I really need is not a lengthy or detailed explanation of how to write an article, but a brief and intuitive overview that shows the key ingredients, and the links between them, at a glance ( similar to this graphic that I made about the ingredients for a proposal ). Because yes, writing gets easier the more often you do it, but it is also crucial to know the ‘recipe’ of what makes a good introduction and discussion. And yes, also what makes a good methods and results section.

So, I made the following overview of what are, in my opinion, the key paragraphs in the introduction and discussion of a scientific paper or thesis, and the links between them. I also made one for the methods and results sections – this one is less prescriptive, but it does include some important do’s and don’ts, and there are some links between these two sections – for example, I like to structure my results roughly similar to my methods section. 

it is a key part of a research academic paper

The introduction 

An introduction doesn’t have to be long. It just needs to introduce the knowledge gap – the why of the study – and the key relevant concepts and current knowledge. The introduction is really there to introduce your study! One very frequent mistake that I see is that not all parts of a hypothesis are introduced – after reading the introduction, it should be very obvious what your hypothesis will be. Really, there should only be one possibility. Given the information in your introduction, how could the hypothesis be ANYTHING else? For example, when you hypothesise that soil microbial communities underneath slow-growing plants will be better able to cope with drought than those under fast-growing plants, you need to introduce all those aspects in the introduction, and explain the links between them. So, you’ll need to talk about microbial communities, about slow-growing vs. fast-growing plants, about their response to drought, and about the links between microbial communities and plant growth strategies. You should not have any part of your hypothesis unexplained.

It’s important not only that the introduction starts broad, highlighting the major problem and knowledge gap, and then increasingly goes into detail about specific information and knowledge gaps, but also that the paragraphs link together. It needs to have flow, and for that, you need to incorporate logical transitions from one paragraph to the next. It’s too much to also give examples of these transitions here, so I might write a next post about this.

Another of my pet peeves is that the hypothesis needs to have a direction. So, for the example hypothesis in the previous paragraph, don’t say “microbial communities under slow-growing plants will respond differently to drought than those under fast-growing plants”. Instead say “microbial communities will be better able to cope with drought under slow-growing plants than under fast-growing plants”. 

And then another of my pet peeves: don’t be vague. No handwaving. Be clear, and be specific, throughout your writing. And that’s especially true for the discussion. Really, if you don’t understand what you are writing, and you try to get away with being vague, do you think the reader will get it? There is simply no place for fuzzy and vague writing. 

The discussion

I’m not going through these sections in chronological order! I think that the introduction and the discussion should really map directly onto each other, and that’s why I put them in one graph.

I like it when the discussion very briefly reiterates the aim of the study, and, in the first paragraph, directly outlines the main findings and whether they support the hypotheses that you wrote in the final paragraphs of the introduction. Then, you can discuss the findings in more detail in the following paragraphs, starting with the most important findings, and ging into more and more specific findings, along with explaining them and putting them into context. 

Don’t just end your manuscript abruptly! Include a concluding paragraph that – VERY – briefly summarises the main findings and  what they mean . How does this knowledge help us, and what are the implications? This doesn’t have to be world-changing! It could also simply be an advance in our understanding, which will inform future work.

it is a key part of a research academic paper

The methods

The methods and the results are the most technical part of a paper, and in that sense they should be easier to write. It’s all very factual and there are no arguments or interpretations to be made. But they are very important! Your methods need to be written in such a way that the reader can repeat your experiment. They need to be clearly and intuitively structured, and it helps the reader if your results section broadly follows the same structure. 

When writing about your statistical methods and models, it greatly helps if you specify what each model is used for. For example, you can write “The effect of individual glacier and time since deglaciation (soil age, this excluded the never-glaciated Reference sites), and their interaction, on soil, vegetation, microbial properties, and 15N pools was tested using linear mixed effects models with an error term for block to account for the non-independence of the five replicate samples per soil age. This was done using the function lme in the R package nlme (Pinheiro et al., 2020).” (Text taken from De Vries et al. 2021 .) In my opinion, you can never really be specific enough, and of course, you will make your code and data available when the manuscript is published, for example through a repository such as Figshare. 

The results

It should not come as a surprise that the results should clearly describe your… results! But the devil is in the detail. I find it extremely important that you are specific, refer to the specific figures and tables that support your statements, and include the relevant statistics. So, never say “drought had an effect on root exudation”, but say “drought decreased root exudation across species (ANOVA, main effect of drought F 1,24  = 7.8,  P  = 0.002, Fig. 1). 

It helps the reader if you structure your results clearly, either following your main questions/ processes, going from the most general ones to the more detailed or complicated ones (from main effects to interactive effects), or following the same structure as your Methods. 

You should number your figures and tables as they appear in the text, and everything you say needs to be supported by your display items (figures and tables together). If you can only include a certain number of display items, you can include more in the Supplementary Material, and also number these as they appear in the text. Be aware though that for the reader it’s not very nice if entire sections in your results rely on Supplementary Material (many readers will not go through the effort of looking at those!) – if this is the case, you might consider moving those display items to the main text.

Make sure your figures are clear, intuitive (don’t make the control treatment red and the drought treatment green, for example!), visible for colour blind people, and (ideally) understandable on their own without having to read the main text. 

Also – bar plots are a thing of the past! Use a box plot or overlay the actual data points to show the spread of your data.

A good, beautiful, intuitive figure says more than a 1000 words, and also, you can use it in a graphical abstract or in your tweets about the paper!

I think I forgot one thing.  The abstract!

Well, I always write this at the very end, because only then you need the final contents, the final conclusions, of your manuscript. How to write an abstract? I think that might be my next post!

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A Complete Guide on Components of A Research Paper In 2023

components of a research paper

Want to know the components of a research paper, don’t worry you are at the right place. Here in this post we will tell you a complete guide on the components of a research paper. A research paper is a written document that is created by a researcher, in which they present their findings on a particular topic. The primary aim of a research paper is to communicate the results of a study or investigation to an audience in a clear and concise manner. 

A well-written research paper follows a specific structure that helps the reader to understand the content easily. In this article, we will discuss the components of a research paper that are necessary to create a successful and effective document.

What is a Research Paper?

Table of Contents

A research paper is a written document that presents the findings of a study or investigation conducted by a researcher or group of researchers. 

The purpose of a research paper is to communicate the results of the study to a specific audience, such as academics, practitioners, or policymakers, in a clear and concise manner. 

Research papers are often used to contribute to the knowledge in a particular field or to provide solutions to a particular problem. They are typically based on primary or secondary research and may involve various methods, such as surveys, experiments, case studies, or literature reviews. 

Research papers follow a specific structure and formatting guidelines and are often published in academic journals, conferences, or other scholarly publications. 

This will be clear once we will understand the components of a research paper.

Significance of Research Paper

Research papers have significant importance in various fields and disciplines. Some of the key significance of research papers are:

Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by providing new insights, perspectives, and discoveries in a particular field. They often build upon previous research and provide a foundation for future studies.

Validating theories: Research papers provide empirical evidence that supports or refutes existing theories, which helps to establish their validity or accuracy.

Providing solutions: Research papers may provide practical solutions to real-world problems or challenges in various fields, such as healthcare, education, or business.

Enhancing critical thinking: Research papers require critical thinking and analysis, which helps researchers develop their analytical skills and improve their ability to evaluate information objectively.

Improving decision-making: Research papers can provide decision-makers, such as policymakers or business leaders, with evidence-based insights and recommendations to inform their decisions.

Establishing credibility: Research papers help researchers establish their credibility and reputation within their field by demonstrating their expertise, knowledge, and contributions to the field.

Understanding of the components of a research paper will give a better overview of its significance.

Components of A Research Paper – That You Must Know

Here is the complete list of the components of a research paper that you must know:

The title of a research paper is the first thing that readers see. It should be clear, concise, and informative. A good title should provide the reader with an idea of what the paper is about. The title should also be relevant to the research topic and capture the attention of the reader. The title should be centered on the page and in bold letters.

2. Abstract

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper. It is usually a paragraph or two that provides a summary of the study’s purpose, methods, results, and conclusions. The abstract should be informative, clear, and concise. It should include the research question, the methodology used, the findings, and the conclusions drawn from the study. The abstract should be written in a way that is easy to understand for readers who may not have a background in the field.

3. Introduction

The introduction is the first section of the research paper. It provides background information on the research topic and establishes the context for the study. The introduction should provide an overview of the research question, the purpose of the study, and the significance of the research. It should also include a brief review of the literature on the topic and a statement of the hypothesis or research question.

4. Literature review

The literature review provides an overview of the existing research on the topic. It summarizes and synthesizes the relevant literature to establish the need for the current study. The literature review should include a critical analysis of the literature, highlighting any gaps in the research that the current study will address. It should also provide a theoretical framework for the study.

5. Methodology

The methodology section describes the methods used in the study. It provides a detailed description of the study design, sample selection, data collection, and data analysis procedures. The methodology should be written in a way that is clear and concise, allowing other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the study. It should be written in a way that is clear and easy to understand. The results should be presented in a logical and organized manner, using tables, graphs, and charts where appropriate. The results should also be discussed in relation to the research question and the literature review.

7. Discussion

The discussion section interprets the results and draws conclusions based on the findings. It should relate the results to the research question and the literature review. The discussion should also highlight the implications of the findings for future research in the field. It should be written in a way that is clear and concise, presenting the key points of the study.

8. Conclusion

The conclusion provides a summary of the research findings and the implications of the study. It should also provide recommendations for future research in the field. The conclusion should be written in a way that is clear and concise, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

9. References

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the research paper. The references should be formatted according to the guidelines provided by the journal or publication.

10. Appendices

The appendices section contains any additional information that is relevant to the study but not included in the main body of the paper. This may include raw data, additional tables or graphs, or survey instruments used in the study.

  • Elements of Research
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How To Effectively Write A Research Paper?

After understanding the components of a research paper, let us determine the proper way of writing a research paper which can be a challenging task. But, there are some key steps you can take to help ensure that you write an effective paper. Here are some tips on how to write a research paper:

1. Choose a topic

Select a topic that is interesting and relevant to your field of study. Make sure that your topic is specific and well-defined, and that there is enough research available on the topic to support your paper.

2. Conduct research

Once you have chosen a topic, conduct thorough research using a variety of sources, including books, scholarly articles, and online databases. Make sure that you take detailed notes on the sources you consult, including the author, title, and publication date.

3. Create an outline

Organize your research into a logical structure by creating an outline for your paper. This will help you to ensure that your paper is well-organized and flows logically.

4. Write a strong introduction

Your introduction should grab the reader’s attention and provide background information on your topic. It should also clearly state your research question or thesis statement.

5. Develop your argument

Use the body of your paper to develop your argument and provide evidence to support your thesis statement. Make sure that you use clear and concise language and avoid jargon or overly technical terms.

6. Use proper citation

Make sure that you cite all of your sources properly using the appropriate citation style for your field of study. This will help you to avoid plagiarism and ensure that your paper is credible and well-researched.

7. Revise and edit

Once you have completed a draft of your paper, take the time to revise and edit it thoroughly. Make sure that your paper is well-organized, free of grammatical errors, and that your argument is clear and compelling.

A research paper is a complex document that requires careful planning and attention to detail. Each component of a research paper plays a crucial role in communicating the findings of the study to the audience. The title, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, references, and appendices are all necessary components of a research paper.

The title and abstract provide a brief summary of the research topic and the key findings of the study. The introduction and literature review establish the context for the research and highlight the need for the study. The methodology section provides a detailed description of the methods used in the study, and the results section presents the findings in a clear and organized manner. The discussion section interprets the findings and draws conclusions, while the conclusion provides a summary of the study and recommendations for future research.

The references section and appendices provide additional information that supports the findings of the study. Proper formatting of these components is crucial to ensure that the research paper adheres to the guidelines provided by the journal or publication.

In summary, a well-written research paper follows a specific structure that includes several components. Each component plays an essential role in communicating the findings of the study to the audience. By paying careful attention to each component of the research paper, researchers can create an effective document that contributes to the field’s knowledge and advances future research.

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Writing Research Papers

  • Research Paper Structure

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

Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tables and Figures

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

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

Variations of Research Papers in APA Style

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

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

Departures from APA Style

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

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

Workshops and Downloadable Resources

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

Downloadable Resources

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

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos

APA Journal Article Reporting Guidelines

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

External Resources

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

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

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

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  • Formatting Research Papers
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Scientific and Scholarly Writing

  • Literature Searches
  • Tracking and Citing References

Parts of a Scientific & Scholarly Paper


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


METHODS SECTION (Materials and Methods)

What is a title

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

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

What makes a good title?

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

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

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

The goal is to communicate:

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

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

  • Use 1 or more well developed paragraphs.
  • Use introduction/body/conclusion structure.
  • Present purpose, results, conclusions and recommendations in that order.
  • Make it understandable to a wide audience.
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Organizing Academic Research Papers: 8. The Discussion

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Executive Summary
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tertiary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • How to Manage Group Projects
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Essays
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Acknowledgements

The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe the significance of your findings in light of what was already known about the research problem being investigated, and to explain any new understanding or fresh insights about the problem after you've taken the findings into consideration. The discussion will always connect to the introduction by way of the research questions or hypotheses you posed and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction; the discussion should always explain how your study has moved the reader's understanding of the research problem forward from where you left them at the end of the introduction.

Importance of a Good Discussion

This section is often considered the most important part of a research paper because it most effectively demonstrates your ability as a researcher to think critically about an issue, to develop creative solutions to problems based on the findings, and to formulate a deeper, more profound understanding of the research problem you are studying.

The discussion section is where you explore the underlying meaning of your research , its possible implications in other areas of study, and the possible improvements that can be made in order to further develop the concerns of your research.

This is the section where you need to present the importance of your study and how it may be able to contribute to and/or fill existing gaps in the field. If appropriate, the discussion section is also where you state how the findings from your study revealed new gaps in the literature that had not been previously exposed or adequately described.

This part of the paper is not strictly governed by objective reporting of information but, rather, it is where you can engage in creative thinking about issues through evidence-based interpretation of findings. This is where you infuse your results with meaning.

Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing to Writing an Effective Discussion Section . San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  General Rules

These are the general rules you should adopt when composing your discussion of the results :

  • Do not be verbose or repetitive.
  • Be concise and make your points clearly.
  • Avoid using jargon.
  • Follow a logical stream of thought.
  • Use the present verb tense, especially for established facts; however, refer to specific works and references in the past tense.
  • If needed, use subheadings to help organize your presentation or to group your interpretations into themes.

II.  The Content

The content of the discussion section of your paper most often includes :

  • Explanation of results : comment on whether or not the results were expected and present explanations for the results; go into greater depth when explaining findings that were unexpected or especially profound. If appropriate, note any unusual or unanticipated patterns or trends that emerged from your results and explain their meaning.
  • References to previous research : compare your results with the findings from other studies, or use the studies to support a claim. This can include re-visiting key sources already cited in your literature review section, or, save them to cite later in the discussion section if they are more important to compare with your results than being part of the general research you cited to provide context and background information.
  • Deduction : a claim for how the results can be applied more generally. For example, describing lessons learned, proposing recommendations that can help improve a situation, or recommending best practices.
  • Hypothesis : a more general claim or possible conclusion arising from the results [which may be proved or disproved in subsequent research].

III. Organization and Structure

Keep the following sequential points in mind as you organize and write the discussion section of your paper:

  • Think of your discussion as an inverted pyramid. Organize the discussion from the general to the specific, linking your findings to the literature, then to theory, then to practice [if appropriate].
  • Use the same key terms, mode of narration, and verb tense [present] that you used when when describing the research problem in the introduction.
  • Begin by briefly re-stating the research problem you were investigating and answer all of the research questions underpinning the problem that you posed in the introduction.
  • Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships shown by each major findings and place them in proper perspective. The sequencing of providing this information is important; first state the answer, then the relevant results, then cite the work of others. If appropriate, refer the reader to a figure or table to help enhance the interpretation of the data. The order of interpreting each major finding should be in the same order as they were described in your results section.
  • A good discussion section includes analysis of any unexpected findings. This paragraph should begin with a description of the unexpected finding, followed by a brief interpretation as to why you believe it appeared and, if necessary, its possible significance in relation to the overall study. If more than one unexpected finding emerged during the study, describe each them in the order they appeared as you gathered the data.
  • Before concluding the discussion, identify potential limitations and weaknesses. Comment on their relative importance in relation to your overall interpretation of the results and, if necessary, note how they may affect the validity of the findings. Avoid using an apologetic tone; however, be honest and self-critical.
  • The discussion section should end with a concise summary of the principal implications of the findings regardless of statistical significance. Give a brief explanation about why you believe the findings and conclusions of your study are important and how they support broader knowledge or understanding of the research problem. This can be followed by any recommendations for further research. However, do not offer recommendations which could have been easily addressed within the study. This demonstrates to the reader you have inadequately examined and interpreted the data.

IV.  Overall Objectives

The objectives of your discussion section should include the following: I.  Reiterate the Research Problem/State the Major Findings

Briefly reiterate for your readers the research problem or problems you are investigating and the methods you used to investigate them, then move quickly to describe the major findings of the study. You should write a direct, declarative, and succinct proclamation of the study results.

II.  Explain the Meaning of the Findings and Why They are Important

No one has thought as long and hard about your study as you have. Systematically explain the meaning of the findings and why you believe they are important. After reading the discussion section, you want the reader to think about the results [“why hadn’t I thought of that?”]. You don’t want to force the reader to go through the paper multiple times to figure out what it all means. Begin this part of the section by repeating what you consider to be your most important finding first.

III.  Relate the Findings to Similar Studies

No study is so novel or possesses such a restricted focus that it has absolutely no relation to other previously published research. The discussion section should relate your study findings to those of other studies, particularly if questions raised by previous studies served as the motivation for your study, the findings of other studies support your findings [which strengthens the importance of your study results], and/or they point out how your study differs from other similar studies. IV.  Consider Alternative Explanations of the Findings

It is important to remember that the purpose of research is to discover and not to prove . When writing the discussion section, you should carefully consider all possible explanations for the study results, rather than just those that fit your prior assumptions or biases.

V.  Acknowledge the Study’s Limitations

It is far better for you to identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor! Describe the generalizability of your results to other situations, if applicable to the method chosen, then describe in detail problems you encountered in the method(s) you used to gather information. Note any unanswered questions or issues your study did not address, and.... VI.  Make Suggestions for Further Research

Although your study may offer important insights about the research problem, other questions related to the problem likely remain unanswered. Moreover, some unanswered questions may have become more focused because of your study. You should make suggestions for further research in the discussion section.

NOTE: Besides the literature review section, the preponderance of references to sources in your research paper are usually found in the discussion section . A few historical references may be helpful for perspective but most of the references should be relatively recent and included to aid in the interpretation of your results and/or linked to similar studies. If a study that you cited disagrees with your findings, don't ignore it--clearly explain why the study's findings differ from yours.

V.  Problems to Avoid

  • Do not waste entire sentences restating your results . Should you need to remind the reader of the finding to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation. An example would be: “The lack of available housing to single women with children in rural areas of Texas suggests that...[then move to the interpretation of this finding].”
  • Recommendations for further research can be included in either the discussion or conclusion of your paper but do not repeat your recommendations in the both sections.
  • Do not introduce new results in the discussion. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a specific finding for an interpretation.
  • Use of the first person is acceptable, but too much use of the first person may actually distract the reader from the main points.

Analyzing vs. Summarizing. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University; Discussion . The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Hess, Dean R. How to Write an Effective Discussion. Respiratory Care 49 (October 2004); Kretchmer, Paul. Fourteen Steps to Writing to Writing an Effective Discussion Section . San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; The Lab Report . University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Summary: Using it Wisely . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Schafer, Mickey S. Writing the Discussion . Writing in Psychology course syllabus. University of Florida; Yellin, Linda L. A Sociology Writer's Guide. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2009.

Writing Tip

Don’t Overinterpret the Results!

Interpretation is a subjective exercise. Therefore, be careful that you do not read more into the findings than can be supported by the evidence you've gathered. Remember that the data are the data: nothing more, nothing less.

Another Writing Tip

Don't Write Two Results Sections!

One of the most common mistakes that you can make when discussing the results of your study is to present a superficial interpretation of the findings that more or less re-states the results section of your paper. Obviously, you must refer to your results when discussing them, but focus on the interpretion of those results, not just the data itself.

Azar, Beth. Discussing Your Findings.  American Psychological Association gradPSYCH Magazine (January 2006)

Yet Another Writing Tip

Avoid Unwarranted Speculation!

The discussion section should remain focused on the findings of your study. For example, if you studied the impact of foreign aid on increasing levels of education among the poor in Bangladesh, it's generally not appropriate to speculate about how your findings might apply to populations in other countries without drawing from existing studies to support your claim. If you feel compelled to speculate, be certain that you clearly identify your comments as speculation or as a suggestion for where further research is needed. Sometimes your professor will encourage you to expand the discussion in this way, while others don’t care what your opinion is beyond your efforts to interpret the data.

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    In the world of academia, publishing research papers in reputable academic journals is a crucial step towards advancing one’s career and contributing to the body of knowledge in a particular field.

  3. What Are the Main Characteristics of a Research Paper?

    A research paper should contain the title, the abstract, methods and results, in addition to a discussion section, literature review and citation of sources. The basic characteristics of a research paper are the same regardless of academic ...

  4. Parts of a Research Paper

    What are the main parts of a research paper? · Title (cover page) · Introduction · Literature review · Research methodology · Data analysis · Results

  5. Key components of a research paper

    A good literature review provides recent and relevant citations that reference empirical* scientific studies. Research design. • Research design is the

  6. Writing an Educational Research Paper

    It includes the research question posed, its significance, the methodology, and the main results or findings. Footnotes or cited works are never

  7. Important components of a research paper

    Major components of research paper are selection of title, abstract, introduction, literature review, research methodology, results, discussion

  8. The key ingredients of an academic paper

    The introduction is really there to introduce your study! One very frequent mistake that I see is that not all parts of a hypothesis are

  9. A Complete Guide on Components of a Research Paper In 2023

    The title, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, references, and appendices are all necessary

  10. Research Paper Structure

    A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results

  11. What is a research paper? What are its important parts?

    Peer review and quality control: Research papers are typically subject to peer review, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the

  12. Parts of the paper

    Introduction · The nature and scope of the problem investigated. · The pertinent literature already written on the subject. · The method of the

  13. Organizing Academic Research Papers: 8. The Discussion

    Importance of a Good Discussion. This section is often considered the most important part of a research paper because it most effectively demonstrates your

  14. What Is a Research Methodology?

    A key part of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, the ... Academic style guides in your field may provide detailed guidelines on