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Research Paper

A research paper is the result of a period of research using critical thinking, evaluation and organization of ideas and evidence. A research paper is not a summary of information about a topic; instead, it is the result of investigative and evaluative techniques. There are several sections in a research paper, which include an abstract, an introduction, a literature review, a methods section, results and discussion section(s), and a conclusion.

Abstract

An abstract may or may not be required for your research paper. The abstract serves as a short summary of a study. It should contain a description of the problem you investigated, the methods you used to conduct your research, the results of your research, and the implications of your findings. An abstract is different than an introduction because it contains the conclusions of your research, rather than encouraging the reader to read through the complete paper for answers.

The writing in the abstract should be concise and straightforward.

Introduction

The introduction tells the reader what you are going to discuss in your paper: purpose, thesis, and an overview of supporting evidence. You can think of your introduction as an inverted triangle, with the most general information at the beginning. Your introduction should gradually become more focused until you state your thesis, which identifies the specific problem or argument you researched.

The introduction serves as an overview and provides the reader with the theoretical framework of your writing, which provides the context for your arguments. Sometimes, it helps to write a draft of your introduction after you have written the draft of your body. Your introduction may change a few times as you rewrite your drafts and change the organizational patterns in your essay.

Literature review

The literature review is an overview of the existing research published about your topic. Its purpose is to summarize, analyze and synthesize the arguments of others on your topic. A literature review allows you to discuss any controversies, weaknesses, strengths, and gaps in the research that currently exist. It also allows you the chance to explain the significance of your research. You should establish your research as either personally, socially, or theoretically significant.

Personal significance can be established by explaining why the project is important to you.

Social significance can be established by explaining why the research is important on a wider scale; perhaps your research will address a common problem in society or propose a solution.

Theoretical significance can be established by explaining how your research will contribute to the existing body of research by testing an existing theory or developing a new theory.

The literature review section also includes your hypothesis (prediction about your findings) or research question (the question your study intends to answer).

When planning the layout of your literature review, try to avoid simply organizing your sources chronologically or by author. Look for themes or patterns in research, and use these to organize your literature in interesting ways.

Method

The method section should contain a description of the exact way you conducted your research. It is important to fully describe your research methods so that the research could potentially be duplicated by someone else. You should describe your data collection method and your rationale for choosing that particular method. You should also describe the method you used to analyze the data you collected. Your method section must be very specific; for example, if your study involved participants, you should include the number of people and the rationale behind choosing this particular sample. If you performed a content analysis, you should fully describe the codes you used to categorize the content. Finally, you must include any problems or limitations you anticipated and the methods you employed to avoid them.

Results and discussion

In quantitative research, these sections may be separate. The results section summarizes the numerical data obtained through the research and presents it using tables and statistical symbols so that others may analyze your data.

The discussion section contains your key findings and discusses how they relate back to your hypothesis or answer your research questions. You should include the implications and limitations of the study, and a recommendation for how the topic could be researched or expanded upon in future studies.

Conclusion

The conclusion of your essay brings together all your ideas in a concise manner. It is a synthesis of your ideas, not a summary of what you just said. Do not add new information in the conclusion. If it is important, go back and revise to ensure all new information is included in the body of the essay.

Although your conclusion will reiterate what has been said, it should not be the same as the introduction. The conclusion gives you another chance to state your key findings and demonstrate their importance in your field of research. Your conclusion should address any implications or limitations (if this has not already been done) and discuss the importance of your topic or issue.

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