Basic Parts of a Research Paper for Publication or Course Credit
The parts of a research paper tend to vary according to the discipline and content of the paper as well as the requirements of the venue or audience for which it is written. When designing the parts of a research paper, an academic or scientist should therefore aim to create a structure that will enable the clear and logical communication of the research material. Consulting the instructions or guidelines for the research paper is also essential because these will usually offer helpful organisational advice and in some cases will contain strict requirements that determine exactly what the parts of a research paper should be. Such specific guidelines should always take precedence over more general advice, but if detailed guidance for the parts of a research paper is lacking, the following list can be used to design a structure that includes all the required parts of a research paper intended for publication or course credit.
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Every research paper requires a concise and informative title that encapsulates the content and purpose of the paper. Although brief, the title is among the most important parts of a research paper and should be written with the anticipated audience and the search terms they are likely to use firmly in mind.
Author Name(s) & Affiliation(s)
The author(s) of a research paper must be identified along with relevant professional affiliations and contact information. For research papers with more than one author, a corresponding author should be indicated and in some cases the contributions of each author should be described.
An abstract summarising the research and highlighting key findings usually precedes the main body of an academic or scientific research paper. An abstract may be a single paragraph or a series of short paragraphs that focus on the different parts of a research paper, but the abstract always plays a vital role in attracting readers, so it should be both interesting and extremely well written.
Although a relatively recent addition to the standard parts of a research paper, keywords or key phrases are now essential for scientific or academic publication. Along with the title and abstract, they increase the discoverability of a research paper, but care must be taken to provide the appropriate number, kind and format of keywords, as these vary among publishers.
Introduction or Background
The introduction or background to a research paper is always necessary to introduce the research and provide context for the reader. Beginning with a particularly engaging idea or situation is a good strategy for hooking an audience. Research objectives, questions and hypotheses are often presented in the introduction and then revisited in later parts of a research paper.
A review of the published scholarship relevant to a research topic is required for most research papers. The review may be very short and appear within the introduction, but it usually forms one of the separate parts of a research paper. A particular citation style is almost always required, so guidelines should be consulted carefully while writing the literature review.
Methods and Materials
A clear description of the research methods used is a basic requirement of scientific research papers and is usually numbered among the essential parts of a research paper in other fields as well. The key is to ensure that readers understand exactly what was done and how information was collected so that the research can be effectively evaluated and perhaps replicated.
Results or Findings
Considered by many readers to be the most important of the parts of a research paper, the section dedicated to results or findings should offer a factual report of what was discovered during the research. Analysis and explanation that make sense of raw data for readers can certainly be included, but interpretation and discussion of the research findings should usually be avoided.
Perhaps the most interesting of the parts of a research paper to write, the discussion can also be the most challenging. Here the researcher applies experience, logic and creativity to interpret and discuss the research findings. A return to the research objectives, questions and hypotheses is often necessary, and the limitations and implications of the research as well as future directions for investigation and practice should be addressed
Sometimes conclusions are included in the discussion, but they generally form one of the separate parts of a research paper. Key contributions and primary implications might be reiterated, with the goal being to provide readers with important and memorable take-home messages about the theoretical and practical value of the research.
References, Works Cited or Bibliography
Every research paper requires a list of the sources cited in the paper. Instructor or publisher guidelines usually indicate the style of references required and may also restrict the number and kind of sources that can be used in a particular paper. The references must be prepared with special care to ensure accuracy and scholarly respect for the intellectual property of others.
Tables and Figures
Tables and figures may be embedded at appropriate places in the main text of a research paper or tacked on at the end, but as tools that enhance reader comprehension, they are certainly among the most important parts of a research paper. Clarity in every aspect of tables and figures is essential, and so too is meeting the design specifications provided by an instructor or publisher.
Disclosures, Acknowledgements & Ethical Considerations
Most academic and scientific journals will require authors to disclose any potential conflicts of interest, identify sources of funding, list necessary permissions, acknowledge significant contributions to the research, and provide evidence of ethical compliance and approval. These bits of information may appear in separate parts of a research paper depending on the guidelines.
Appendices and Supplementary Materials
Appendices, archives and other kinds of supplementary materials often feature as additional parts of a research paper. They enable authors to offer supportive information without making a paper too long or veering from the main argument. Electronic publishing venues and digital archives provide numerous options for the effective presentation of all kinds of supplementary materials.
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