Writing the Research Paper
Research papers are usually arranged in the following way with the following section headings:
- Methods and Materials
- Literature Cited
The title must be self-explanatory. That is, anyone reading your title should be able to clearly understand the purpose of your experiment without actually having to read the paper itself.
A one paragraph summary about your entire paper. This would include your hypothesis and your major conclusion. This paragraph is your advertisement and "sells" your paper to the readers.
The introduction is the statement of your hypothesis and contains the background information concerning your problem. This section clearly states your problem or hypothesis so that readers can understand the question or questions that you are trying to answer.
In order to accomplish this, you must provide the reader with the background information or history that goes with your problem. This is usually accomplished by a literature review. And whenever possible, primary sources should be used. All the background information that you include at this point must be properly referenced.
Methods and Materials
This section is a detailed description of how you did your work. This will include a description of the specific materials and methods that were used. Your description must be exact and complete so that anyone who wants to do so can repeat the experiment.
Therefore, this section will include the experimental design, the apparatus, the methods of gathering data, and the control that was used. In addition, if you collected any specimens for the study, you must say where and when the material was collected.
This section describes what happened after you completed your experiment. This is a very straight forward section. The results are simply stated for readers to observe. Do not include any interpretations, conclusions, or value judgments. If possible, the results should be presented in a graph or table. The tables and graphs must be accompanied by narrative text. Each graph or table must contain a self-explanatory title as well as enough information to fully describe the results that are being presented. If tables and graphs are correctly labeled and titled, they should be able to be taken out of the paper and still completely understandable.
In this section, you will explain what you think the results mean. You will describe any patterns that emerged, any relationships that appeared to be meaningful, and any correlations that can be discerned. This can often be accompanied by a statistical analysis of the data.
This section will describe the reasoning and logic that brought you to your conclusion. This includes any explanation as to why you think the results turned out differently (if they did so) from the way you expected, (the timer broke down, you forgot to add a chemical). In addition, the discussion includes any reasons why the results were either different from or similar to any related experiments that have been done by others. This is the time to discuss the complications that arose during your experiment (the cells stopped growing, the silver stain would not take). In this section, you can also include any further research that might be conducted in your general area of experimentation.
This is a summary of the conclusions and important discoveries that you have made while working on your research. In a sense, this section is a recapitulation of the Discussion and Results sections, except that this time you are just making a list of your important conclusions and discoveries without giving the reasons as to why you have reached these conclusions.
In this section, you will list all the references that you have cited in your paper. These references are usually listed in alphabetical order by author. Make sure that you include only those references that were actually cited in your paper.
This section thanks the people who have helped you with your research. This section is not a necessary section, but is always appreciated.