5 Major Sections Of A Research Paper

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Let's examine the content in each section of a scientific paper, and discuss why each section may be useful to you as a reader.

TITLE. The title will help you to determine if an article is interesting or relevant for your project.

Well-written titles give a reasonably complete description of the study that was conducted, and sometimes even foreshadow the findings. Included in a title are the species studied, the kinds of experiments performed, and perhaps a brief indication of the results obtained.

ABSTRACT. Abstracts provide you with a complete, but very succinct summary of the paper.

An abstract contains brief statements of the purpose, methods, results, and conclusions of a study. Abstracts are often included in article databases, and are usually free to a large audience. Thus, they may be the most widely read portions of scientific papers.

INTRODUCTION. You will find background information and a statement of the author's hypothesis in the introduction.

An introduction usually describes the theoretical background, indicates why the work is important, states a specific research question, and poses a specific hypothesis to be tested.

METHODS. The methods section will help you determine exactly how the authors performed the experiment.

The methods describes both specific techniques and the overall experimental strategy used by the scientists. Generally, the methods section does not need to be read in detail. Refer to this section if you have a specific question about the experimental design.

RESULTS. The results section contains the data collected during experimention.

The results section is the heart of a scientific paper. In this section, much of the important information may be in the form of tables or graphs. When reading this section, do not readily accept an author's statements about the results. Rather, carefully analyze the raw data in tables and figures to draw your own conclusions.

DISCUSSION. The discussion section will explain the authors interpret their data and how they connect it to other work.

Authors often use the discussion to describe what their work suggests and how it relates to other studies. In this section, authors can anticipate and address any possible objections to their work. The discussion section is also a place where authors can suggest areas of improvement for future research.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.The acknowledgments tell you what people or institutions (in addition to the authors) contributed to the work.

In reading the acknowledgments, you can see what sources provided financial support for the study. You might want to know an industry group or the federal government funded the study.

LITERATURE CITED. This section provides the sources cited throughout the paper.

This section offers information on the range of other studies cited: Does the author cite only his or her previous studies? Are both classic and modern sources influencing this work? Does the author look to the work of scientists in other disciplines? The literature cited section is also helpful for generating a list of background reading on the topic under study.

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 Bibliography section.

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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