- By Jason Bacot
- Published 11/29/2010
Research is the inquiry into a particular topic with the aim of discovering new facts, interpreting existing facts, or even revising the accepted wisdom on that topic. Research may also involve the application of new theories to older collections of facts. A good research paper should have a defined topic, a hypothesis, evidence, analysis, and conclusions, and it should present these logically, clearly, and as concisely as possible. A hypothesis is a strong claim that is debatable, but that you support with your evidence. It will give your reader the purpose of your paper, and should be written with a specific audience in mind. Valid evidence in a research paper includes statistics, facts gained from reliable sources, direct quotes, testimony, paraphrased data, and other details. Evidence answers the question, “How do you know this?” in relation to your hypothesis. Good research papers effectively connect the evidence to the claim or claims made in the hypothesis. Though this should not be taken as a boilerplate, a research paper can be thought of as having five sections. The first section is the introduction. In this first section, you’ll make a fairly general introduction. Other paragraphs in the first section are the introductory paragraphs that state the problem, delineate the purpose of your research, and posit the significance of the study. It also raises your research questions and state your hypothesis.
The second section of a research paper offers your background information. If you are writing for a general audience, this section will be more extensive and general.
But if you are writing for an audience that is expected to already be educated on your topic, it will be shorter. Your background section will contain a review of the literature on the topic, and a definition of the terms you use throughout your research. The third section of your research paper outlines your research methodology. It will restate your research purposes, and the questions you’re hoping to answer. Information in this section may include such things as a population that was sampled statistically, what instruments you used in your research, procedures you used, the time frame covered, and other specifics. This will also outline your plan for analysis, and will address the validity and reliability of your results. It will also state assumptions and limitations of the research. The fourth section of the paper should thoroughly document the results of your research. This is where many of the graphs, charts, and other graphical aids will show up in your research paper. The final section of a good research paper is about conclusions and recommendations. It summarizes what you did and what you found out from your research. It also includes a discussion section explaining your findings and contains recommendations based on what you found in your research. It should bring the paper full-circle, right back to your hypothesis, and will state whether the evidence supported your hypothesis or not.
Whatever your research paper topic is, knowing your audience is critical so that you can write it in a way that will maintain their interest. Ultimately, what makes a research paper good is its ability to ask a question, propose a hypothetical answer, detail results and analysis, and come to a reasonable conclusion.