Tips for Writing a Research Paper

In general terms, a research paper presents the writer’s viewpoint of a particular topic. Students might be required to submit a research paper (thesis/dissertation) for acquiring some professional qualification or degree. Researchers need to submit their original research or review results to be published in journals. A particular format needs to be followed while writing a research paper. The format might vary depending on the respective journal guidelines.

Problems in Writing a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is considered a complex process by many. They have no idea as to how and from where to start. The most common difficulty is not doing enough research about the study topic. Before you think about how to write a research paper, you need to first decide what to write. So, give yourself ample time to analyze the study topic thoroughly. Another major problem that is frequently faced is proper organization of a research paper. Presenting the facts in an organized manner is of utmost importance. There is often a lack of knowledge of the basic structure of a research paper. Different journals have different formats. That adds to the confusion of the students/researchers. To make things easier, the general format of a research paper is discussed below.

Basic Format of a Research Paper

Title Page

Frame a suitable title for your research paper based on your research objective. It should not be too lengthy. Some journals specify a word limit for titles. Mention the author(s) name(s) with the respective institutional details. Full postal details of the corresponding author should also be mentioned. A short running head may or may not be specified depending on the target journal guidelines.

Abstract

Abstract is a brief summary of the entire paper. Although small, it is a vital aspect of your research paper. People decide whether they want to go through the entire paper or not after reading the Abstract. It should present the research objective, methodology, results and conclusions of the research in brief. Generally, an Abstract can be of 200–300 words. But, some journals specify specific word limits for it.

Introduction

The introduction gives an insight about your research topic to the reader. It should provide the complete background information about your topic. Explain the key terms of your research, and cite relevant information and findings from previous studies. Mention your research objective and hypothesis in this section. You can also list the remaining sections of your paper and mention what they present at the end of this section. This section is generally written in present tense.

Methods

This section should provide sufficient information about the materials and methods that were used to conduct the research. The study environment, strategies, instruments/equipments, data collection and analysis techniques that you used should be listed.

Results

All the results that were obtained in relevance to the research question should be presented in detail. Use figures and tables to illustrate your findings, wherever applicable. Ensure that the results are presented systematically in a sequence, including the figures and tables.

Discussion

In this section, you need to describe the implications or significance of your findings. You have to present your facts that support and refer to the statements made in the Introduction. It should be properly organized as is relevant to your research. You should avoid putting forth new ideas in this section. The effect and contribution of the study should also be mentioned here. Interpret your results properly and mention the supporting data for your conclusion.

Conclusion

This is an overall summary of the paper. Mention your research objective and discuss the points that you covered during your research. Generally, while writing a research paper, it is considered that Conclusion is much easier to write compared to Introduction because, in the former, the memory of the results is still fresh.Your Conclusion should relate directly to the statements that you made in the Introduction. Like Introduction, this section is usually kept in the present tense.

Acknowledgements

In this section, you can thank the individuals or institutions who made your research possible.

References

This section should contain a list of all the references cited in the paper. Ensure that you have cited only credible sources in your paper.

Public Writing on the Web

Multimedia

 

First and foremost, we must keep it in our mind that websites are addressed to users rather than readers. In other words, they must provide information in such a way that it is consistent with the nature of their medium, as well as makes full use of the medium’s resources. Digital capabilities are often grouped under the supportive term multimedia. The multimedia includes text, graphics, sound, video and animation. The potential of multimedia is increasingly being recognized and utilized in most areas of communication, like education, entertainment, business, etc. In fact, new fields of communication have emerged through the use of multimedia applications, such as the creative combination of educational, information and entertainment techniques that has come to be known as edutainment and infotainment. The fact that the digital medium is actually a collection of different media capabilities gives the web designer a singular task to coordinate the different media and produce, through their combination, an effective and compelling result. However, the technology for graphics, sound, video and animation is constantly changing. In this regard, a necessity arises to focus more on the text, about which we will discuss in our next blog.

Email

Email is a very swift method of correspondence. Through an email one can send data or information across the world to multiple recipients in a few seconds, at a fraction of the cost of the courier or postal charges. This is a great advantage but can be a drawback too. As once the sent button is hit there can be no recalling of the information sent. Though some software is found which can retrieve a sent email but it is not popular and easily available.

An email can be seen and read simultaneously by many recipients, open to a more constructive criticism and feedback. Another disadvantage of emails is that due to their ease and simplicity, emails often tend to be associated with speech and casual language rather than formal script, which can lead to miscommunication.

When sending email as part of a professional communication, keep in mind these two points:

  1. An email message is a written text; therefore, it is bound by the conventions of writing. The audience and purpose should determine the relative formality of style and the amount of detail. Ease of transmission and deletion does not justify sloppy composition, wrongly spelt words and ungrammatical sentences. A very common complaint with business emails are that writers seem abrupt and disrespectful and seem written in haste.
  2. Email does not replace hard copy. Printed and signed documents are still considered more binding and formal than soft copy. Therefore, it is always better that even when you email a report for fast transmission, make sure to send a hard copy to formalize the communication. Firstly, it is still easier to lose documents in cyberspace. Secondly, there can be technical glitches’ with electronic communication, whereas print can fall back on the universality and reliability of paper.

The closest hard document to an email message is the memo. Email headers, for instance parallel memo headers, comprising From, To, Subject and Date. Therefore, construct an email message like a memo. This means you should:

  • Begin with an opening address: This could be ‘Dear’ … … for more formal correspondence or ‘Hello … ‘ for less formal. You can omit an opening address if the message is one in a series of reply exchanges on a topic.
  • Place your main message as close to beginning as possible: Give as much information possible in the first paragraph. All details must be given in following paragraphs.
  • Write in full words and paragraphs.
  • Never use uppercase to emphasize anything, its better to italicize the word.
  • End the mail by clear stating the expected response by the person after reading the email.
  • Sign your message with your name and affiliation and contact number.

Other points to be kept in mind while writing an official mail are keep short paragraphs while writing emails. Do not use headings, tables or formatted text in the body of the email. If there is large data then include those in attachments and not in the body of the email.

Use of email is appropriate in cases where even their deletion will not cause any problems. They can be used instead of letters in case of external communication and memos in case of internal communication. It is always better to get a hard copy for binding contracts or information that needs to be recorded.

Print vs. Electronic Writing

Strengths of Print Writing

  • We can read printed documents much easily than electronic ones. Reading online increases reading time by about 25%. This is because the visual resolution of a printed material is about 250 times sharper than the computer screen.
  • Print media offers more portability. We can read a book/newspaper/magazine anywhere without the hassle of hardware.
  • Print materials are faster to skim through. They can also be easily shuffled compared to online pages.
  • It is easier to underline or highlight something on paper.

 

Strengths of Electronic Writing

  • Generally, online publishing is more cost effective than print publishing.
  • Online publishing provides more scope for experimenting with style and space.
  • Colors appear more bright in online pages (use RGB) compared to print pages (use CMYK).
  • It is much easier to edit or update online content. It can be done with just a few clicks. In print media, for updating any information, the whole thing needs to be reprinted, which increases expenditure.
  • The use of multimedia helps to present online materials in a much more pleasing and entertaining manner.

Electronic writing offers more interactivity. For example, in surveys, people respond more readily to online requests.

INTERNET AND WORLD WIDE WEB

In our day-to-day life, we often confuse the Internet with the World Wide Web. However, they both differ to some extent. The internet includes the web, as well as it is the infrastructure level of the medium, including services such as email, etc. On the other hand, the web is the public face of the internet medium, where users access information about products and services by visiting their respective websites.

It is quite necessary to remember that the internet is just a medium and not a document type. It provides the means of transmission and exchange of information presented in different document types. For example, we can’t sent a report via email as an attachment, or post it as a portable document format (pdf) on a site. The document would still be a report, regardless of its medium of transmission. In other words, while composing it, we should follow the conventions and expectations of report writing. Microsoft word, for instance, creates documents that are generally intended to be read in printed form or hard copy, even though they have been created and maybe even sent in a digital medium.

Digital media

Internet provides high visibility at very low cost, making it the most effective and fastest means of global communication. In the age of internet communication, a basic knowledge of the workings of the computer and internet is very necessary for all business environments.

The internet is a storehouse of information and a powerful medium of information distribution. In the present world of information technology knowledge of how the computer works is very important.

The computer is divided into three parts, the hardware, the operating system and software.

The hardware is the actual electronic part of the computer which includes memory, hard drive capacity, different drives or storage space (e.g. CD-ROM, DVD, etc.) and screen.

The powerful the hardware the higher level of work the computer can perform for e.g. for multimedia applications, one needs a computer with large hard drive and minimum megabytes (MB) of memory.

The operating system (OS), or platform, determines general functionality (how the computer works) and interface ( what the design of the screen looks like) It also determines the kind of software that can be installed and run in the computer.

To connect to the Internet, one needs a browser and an ISP (Internet Service Provider). The browser is the software that allows the computer to access data on the World Wide Web; for example, Internet Explorer, Firefox , Google chrome are very popular browsers. The Internet is actually a huge centreless network of computers connected through individual servers – the part of a company’s computer network that connects directly to the Internet. For an individual user, one needs a provider that has a server in order to connect (usually at a set fee). Companies and institutions have their own servers. The web address or URL, Uniform Resource Locator is actually a link to a server. If one wants to publish any material on the Internet, such as a website, one needs a server to host your site.

Submitting Articles for Online Publication

Writing for online magazines is somewhat similar to print journalism, particularly the inverted pyramid format. Also, as in print publishing, it is essential that you should be an avid reader of your magazine before becoming one of its writers. Going through recent articles of the magazine can provide you invaluable tips regarding the expectations of the editors and readers. Another way to analyze the readers of a magazine is through its advertisers. Many online magazines contain ads at the top or the sides of their page. The types of ads that are displayed there throw light on the demographics and psychographics of the target audience.

Browsing various sites will eventually make you familiar with the electronic magazines that might be a good choice for your article. In many sites, there is a link ‘About Us’, which gives information about the editorial angle, audience, and article submission requirements. In order to be on safer grounds, it is always beneficial to email the editor to present your idea and to determine the fee (if applicable), deadlines, and other relevant issues.

With regard to style, online articles are written in a more casual style than print publications. Online articles tend to be a mix of different genres and styles and allow more experimentation in word choice compared to print publications. Also, they should contain shorter sentences and paragraphs because of the restrictions of the screen-based interface. To sum it up, electronic articles have an economy of style in addition to attention-grabbing punches, which is not often expected for print publications.

Leads, hooks and ties in professional writing

Scientific and business magazines do not develop in a linear fashion like a news report. These articles differ from a news report in that they need not provide background or justify assertions. These articles are subjective and tell describe to the readers what the writer wants to say about a topic.

A magazine article plunges straight into the description of the product or discovery without wasting too much time in building the background.

The scientific and business article, discusses, immediately showing its relevance to the interests or needs of the reader. It then goes on to present different angles of the topic, starting with the most important and continuing in lessening in importance. It may end abruptly, or with one or two sentences with a comment, opinion or evaluative remark to the preceding discussion.

A magazine reader wants to be slowly pulled into reading an article. The lead is the opening statement that should attract the reader to the article. Its job is to relate the main topic to the reader’s general interests and experience.

A hook is similar to a lead, although it is usually more ‘spicy’ or provocative than a lead. A hook is like a bait to tempt the reader to carry on reading. Avoid abstractions and technical jargon.

A good lead starts by stating a fact and then asking a question about this fact from the reader’s point of view. It then goes on to overview the specifics of what the article will discuss and ends with a statement on the purpose of the article.

Sometimes a short narrative is also used as a lead. The rest of the article is a detailed description of the topic to be discussed.

The tie is an optional device at the end of the article with a comment or question summing up the writer’s attitude towards the topic.

Integrating Quotations in Professional Writing

Quotations are key elements in any kind of writing. In formal writing, they may have a secondary function, but, in journalistic writing, facts and ideas revolve around quotations. Journalists aim to report stories, which are of importance and interest to the readers. Quotations lend credibility to their writing, give voice to the people represented, and add color to the facts. In formal writing, a sentence begins in normal tone and ends with a quotation. In journalistic writing, sentence begins with a quotation and ends with a comment on it. There is another notable difference between formal and journalistic writing. In formal writing, the sources (full references) of the quotations are placed either as footnotes (bottom of each page) or at the end of the text as a Reference List. On the other hand, in journalistic writing, the person’s name and affiliation are preferably mentioned in the sentence itself. Each quotation should be followed by its analysis, usually in one or more sentences, explaining why it is interesting and its significance. If the quotation is quite long and complex, it should be followed-up with a brief summary, which explains in what manner it helps your cause. Quotations (when used in a proper way) lend persuasion and strength to your main argument. However, one thing must be kept in mind; quotations can only supplement your argument, they should not be treated as the main argument.

DEVELOPING A FEATURE ARTICLE

A feature article is composed in order to explain how something works or is developed over time, informing the public of something new and/or important, and interpreting complex information in an understandable and appealing way. Basically, you may be doing one or more of the following:

  • describing the parts of your object and their interrelationships,
  • tracing the history of the object and describing its changes,
  • describing the object’s qualities and characteristics, and
  • analysing the object’s value.

To achieve this effectively, use a combination of the following strategies.

(1) Define terms and differentiate them from other similar ones. This is very useful while writing about a large topic with many subdivisions, aspects and categories. By defining it, you are specifying the parameters in which you will explain it. Consider using sentence or paragraph-length definitions for complicated topics, and parenthetical definitions for less complicated ones.

(2) Give an analogy. For example, using the same principle as an overhead projector, an epidiascope projects three-dimensional images onto a screen using a magnified beam of light. This gives the reader the gist of what you are saying and makes complicated terms and processes easier to grasp. In the same light, you can contrast the term to what it is opposite to or different from.

(3) Give examples that illustrate the functions or properties of the topic you are explaining. This helps the reader put the topic in context and thus relate to it better.

(4) Compare the topic with others to show its special features or common attributes. As with analogies, comparisons are useful in helping the reader classify the topic in a category with which s/he is familiar, and/or to understand the innovation or specific nature of the described object.

(5) Describe the properties/qualities of an object or situation and detail how it works or how it occurs and under what circumstances.

(6) Suggest reasons for a situation or development. This is useful when you think the reader is likely to ask the question ‘why’. It justifies a current state of affairs by explaining what caused it to come into being.

(7) Tell a story that illustrates your discussion. This is useful in making conceptual information more concrete by describing a ‘physical’ situation where the ideas you are talking about were at play. Stories are very effective in assisting the reader to visualise and, therefore, to better understand, your description.

(8) Describe a process. This is a way to show how something is done, a protocol or procedure. Describing processes also comes into play when giving instructions on how to conduct a task.

(9) Describe applications. This emphasises the practical aspects of research, by showing how inventions and discoveries can be used in everyday life.

(10) Use visual aids, such as a diagram or photograph. If you choose this strategy, make sure you explain in your text what the visual is intended to show and how it fits in your written explanation. To avoid digressing from your text to explain a diagram, consider using side-bars that contain visuals and text, and provide self-sufficient information that complements the information presented in the body of the article.