The research paper gives you the opportunity to think seriously about your topic. Building on the research of others, you have the opportunity to contribute your own research and insights to a particular question of interest to you. It also gives you practice in important academic skills such as:
Organise before you start writing!
Your research will be a collection of a wide range of ideas, however, before you begin writing, it’s critical to your paper’s success if this is organised well. Without it, your paper will lack focus and you’ll spend much more time in the revision process trying to make sense of your jumbled thoughts. A log book may help here.
The title should be as informative of the content of the research project as possible without making it too long.
It should reflect the aim of the research project and be as clear and concise as possible.
Avoid: “An investigation into…”
The abstract should be a clear and concise summary of the whole of the research project. It must, therefore, include the topic area and background, the aim(s) of the work, the methodology utilised, the (main) conclusion(s) and any recommendations.
The purpose of the Abstract is to provide a brief synopsis for the (often busy) reader to assess whether the work is relevant to them and worth reading. For the examiner, it will provide a precise guide to the report for the purpose of assessment. For these reasons, the Abstract should be as brief as possible. It should be on one page only, with a 250 word limit, and written in the past tense. It covers all sections of your study, introduction, method, results, discussion and conclusion.
References should not be used in abstract
The Introduction should outline the focus of the work and set the scene for the reader. It should include a description of the topic area and the background to the problem or issue. You should indicate why you have chosen this particular topic and thereby justify its research. You must end by clearly stating the hypothesis to be tested or the issue to be investigated. You may do this in terms of ‘aims’ and ‘objectives’ if you prefer.
Since most research projects build upon existing knowledge, your Introduction should contain a brief summary of the literature to date. This should examine the main themes that have been pursued by other writers. The review should be constructively critical and should evaluate rather than describe. If the literature review is lengthy, it may be preferable to put it in a separate chapter following the Introduction. Consult your supervisor on this.
In this section, you must state and describe the approach you adopted for fulfilling the aim of your research or testing your hypothesis. You must justify why you have chosen this particular method rather than another. It is important that sufficient information is provided in your method to demonstrate the developmental process and to enable replication. Note that in a literature-based dissertation it is advisable to demonstrate that you have undertaken a methodical approach to the gathering of information.
Any ethical issues involved must be highlighted, together with a description of the steps you took to address them.
The results section presents what you found in terms of the raw data, whether from questionnaires, interviews, samples analysed, etc. If the data are extensive, then the results may justify a separate chapter. Where they are not, it is often preferable to combine the results and their analysis in one chapter.
Remember that results are raw data only and need to be processed by analysis (e.g. statistical or qualitative) in order to be interpreted as meaningful information. To aid understanding, it is important that comments accompany figures, graphs and tables. It is not appropriate to discuss or speculate about the findings in this section.
Make sure that you do not report results that you do not understand!
The discussion section does not present tables of data or produce additional information. Instead, it puts forward the issues which arise from the detailed findings. These should be compared or contrasted to the general findings or comments from previous work and issues which you looked at in your introduction. The sub-headings in this section may closely follow the themes used to organise the review of the literature.
The discussion section will also include some comment on the limitations of the study, e.g., sample size, how representative the sample was, the time period, etc.
You should also provide general evaluations of the work, e.g., are there areas which you would tackle differently with hindsight? What are the most surprising findings?
This section may stand as a separate section or as a sub-heading in the discussion. It is important to return to the hypotheses or aims and demonstrate to what extent these have now been addressed. All the various threads of the report should be clearly brought together, but nothing new should be introduced.
Leading on from the Conclusions, you will often feel the necessity to make Recommendations. As with Results and Analysis, this section may be combined with Conclusions in one chapter.
Recommendations may cover issues such as improved approaches to carrying out the study, further research or steps that could be taken to address problems and issues identified by the study.
All recommendations should follow on from the evidence that has been presented in the Report.
All references must be clearly listed in alphabetical order based on the Harvard Referencing System only.
useful links for referencing
Keep Appendices to a minimum. Ask yourself the question: ‘If I remove this appendix from my report, is the report still valid?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, then remove it from the report. If the answer is ‘no’, then leave it in. Appendices must be necessary and relevant to the research.
Make sure that all Appendices are clearly numbered and labelled, with “Appendix 1” is the first that appears in the text.
A copy of your Ethics approval letter must be included in the Appendices section
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