TL;DR Science: How to Write a Research Paper
By Shang Chen
June 24, 2020 · 4 minute read
From formulating a research question to developing a testable hypothesis, there are many challenges that one may face when writing their first research paper. While the paper as a whole may seem daunting, breaking it down and focusing on individual parts is an effective way to write a successful research paper.
What are the Components of a Research Paper?
A research paper varies slightly depending on what topic you are trying to research as well as how you are trying to present your information but in general, a good research paper will have the following components:
While may seem like an easy thing to overlook, a clear title is key to ensuring that your research paper reaches its target audience may that be your teachers, fellow students, or even experts. A research paper's title should make it very clear what your research question is and what type of content the paper will contain. This is not the time to be creative and having a concise and appropriate title is necessary to ensure your paper and its results are taken seriously.
We've already covered what goes into a good abstract in the past in the post: https://sciteens.org/blog/tldr-science-abstracts so go ahead and check that out if you need a refresher. An introduction is slightly different than an abstract as it's less about what the paper is about and more of what inspired you to undertake the research in the first place. An introduction can include a variety of things such as personal anecdotes that sparked your interest in the research topic or why your research is important and valuable to the scientific community. This part of the research paper should not be too long with most introductions ranging from one to four paragraphs.
The methodology section of a research paper is perhaps the most important part of all as it not only explains how you conducted your research but also gives others the ability to replicate and tweak your experiments. In STEM, the peer-review is the gold standard of ensuring the conclusions of research paper are valid and this is only possible with a well written method. In general, a method should including things such as how you conducted the experiment and how you analyzed the data drawn from said experiment. The results of any experiment are only as good as how well the experiment was designed so it's important to note things like control variables, random sampling, and other considerations that would impact the quality of the data collected.
For a deeper look at what makes a great method, check out our blog post: https://sciteens.org/blog/tldr-science-method
After designing your experiment and collecting your data, it's important to represent your data in an effective fashion within the research paper. Now the way we represent data in research papers changes depending on what type of data was collected. The most common way we see data synthesized is through graphs. Graphs allow us to show the results of our data without overwhelming readers with hundreds and sometimes thousands of data points. Line graphs offer clear insight into trends in longitudinal studies that track a certain variable over a prolonged period of time. Bar graphs allow cross-sectional data from different groups to be compared quickly and easily. It's up to you as the researcher to best decide which way your data is best represented and communicate your results to your readers in an efficient way.
This is where you are able to reflect on the findings of your experiment and draw conclusions from your data. Often times, this part of the paper will circle back to your original research question and the hypothesis presented at the start. A conclusion should do two main things:
- Explain how the data collected either supported or rejected the initial hypothesis
- Draw broader implications for the results and further applications for the topic you are researching
The first point is pretty simple. Using the methods outlined in your paper, explain if the results of your research aligned with your expectations. Even if your hypothesis was wrong, it doesn't mean that you should be discouraged. In some cases, analyzing why your hypothesis was wrong can be more insightful than if your hypothesis was right.
The second goal of the conclusion is to apply the results of your experiment to a wider context. A good research paper should discuss some of the possible future applications of the conclusions of your study. All scientific innovations are built on past discoveries and who knows, perhaps your research paper is the final piece of the puzzle to solving a major disease!
For more information and a great infographic on writing a conclusion check out our post: https://sciteens.org/blog/tldr-science-conclusion
A research paper may seem like a daunting task but with careful planning and a well thought out method, a well written research paper is never out of reach. Remember to include the five key components: Abstract, Introduction, Methodology, Data, and Conclusion and be mindful in the way you present your findings be it through text, graph, or any other format. Remember to check out Sciteens.org for useful resources and tips to help if you are stuck or need inspiration with your next research paper!
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