handout gives students guidelines for writing research papers based
on inquiry and critical analysis.
Guidelines for Writing the Research Paper
length of the paper is not so important, but it should be somewhere
between 10 and 15 pages of text, typed and double-spaced. In general,
you should follow the pattern that many of the journal articles
that you have read do. A research paper consists usually of the
Background or literature review on the broad area within which your
research is related
Focus of the research project
-description of the research design used by other scientists
-analysis of the data generated by scientists in
-the interpretations of the data
-what are the specific strengths and weaknesses of studies?
-what are the gaps in this general area of study?
-are there contradictions or areas of argument among the
different people studying this topic?
Summary and conclusions
-what where your findings?
-what did you learn?
-what are some common problems or gaps in the research?
-what would you do differently and how would you extend or
continue the research?
-why do people care about this topic? How is it related to
other areas of interest?
-complete references using a standard citation method
-should be a mix of journal articles with data and books and
secondary literature that is compilation of other
introduction should explicitly describe the focus and purpose of
your paper. Often your purpose can be best posed as a question.
You should also describe in the introduction why your topic is important,
how you will present your topic (the format and structure of the
body of your paper), and your major conclusions. A research paper
is not a mystery -- the reader should not have to read to the very
end to see what some of the conclusions are.
largest portion of your paper should present the information you
have collected from your research in a logical and orderly way.
You should use subtitles to separate subtopics into smaller units
for good organization. No one likes reading one, long paper! If
there is a controversy, consider presenting alternative views first,
then discuss your own interpretations or point of view. Do not use
very many long quotes. Summarize and condense the information from
your sources and cite them. A quote should only be used when someone
says something so elegantly that to paraphrase it would lose meaning
and destroy it, which is very rare. Be sure that facts, interpretations,
and opinions are clearly distinguished -- if they are not physically
separated into different sections then be sure that there is no
doubt about which is which by citing where information came from.