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Dependent Variable

The variable that depends on other factors that are measured. These variables are expected to change as
a result of an experimental manipulation of the independent variable or variables. It is the presumed

Independent Variable

The variable that is stable and unaffected by the other variables you are trying to measure. It refers to
the condition of an experiment that is systematically manipulated by the investigator. It is the presumed

Identifying Dependent and Indepent Variables

Don't feel bad if you are confused about what is the dependent variable and what is the independent
variable in social and behavioral sciences research. However, it's important that you know the difference
because framing a study using these variables is a common approach to organizing the elements of a
social sciences research study in order to discover relevant and meaningful results. Specifically, it is
important for these two reasons:

You need to understand and be able to evaluate their application in other people's research.

You need to apply them correctly in your own research.

A variable in research simply refers to a person, place, thing, or phenomenon that you are trying to
measure in some way. The best way to understand the difference between a dependent and
independent variable is that the meaning of each is implied by what the words tell us about the variable
you are using. You can do this with a simple exercise from the website, Graphic Tutorial. Take the
sentence, "The [independent variable] causes a change in [dependent variable] and it is not possible that
[dependent variable] could cause a change in [independent variable]." Insert the names of variables you
are using in the sentence in the way that makes the most sense. This will help you identify each type of
variable. If you're still not sure, consult with your professor before you begin to write.

Structure and Writing Style

The process of examining a research problem in the social and behavioral sciences is often framed
around methods of analysis that compare, contrast, correlate, average, or integrate relationships
between or among variables. Techniques include associations, sampling, random selection, and blind
selection. Designation of the dependent and independent variable involves unpacking the research
problem in a way that identifies a general cause and effect and classifying these variables as either
independent or dependent.

The variables should be outlined in the introduction of your paper and explained in more detail in the
methods section. There are no rules about the structure and style for writing about independent or
dependent variables but, as with any academic writing, clarity and being succinct is most important.

After you have described the research problem and its significance in relation to prior research, explain
why you have chosen to examine the problem using a method of analysis that investigates the
relationships between or among independent and dependent variables. State what it is about the
research problem that lends itself to this type of analysis. For example, if you are investigating the
relationship between corporate environmental sustainability efforts [the independent variable] and
dependent variables associated with measuring employee satisfaction at work using a survey
instrument, you would first identify each variable and then provide background information about the
variables. What is meant by "environmental sustainability"? Are you looking at a particular company
[e.g., General Motors] or are you investigating an industry [e.g., the meat packing industry]? Why is
employee satisfaction in the workplace important? How does a company make their employees aware of
sustainability efforts and why would a company even care that its employees know about these efforts?

Identify each variable for the reader and define each. In the introduction, this information can be
presented in a paragraph or two when you describe how you are going to study the research problem. In
the methods section, you build on the literature review of prior studies about the research problem to
describe in detail background about each variable, breaking each down for measurement and analysis.
For example, what activities do you examine that reflect a company's commitment to environmental
sustainability? Levels of employee satisfaction can be measured by a survey that asks about things like
volunteerism or a desire to stay at the company for a long time.

The structure and writing style of describing the variables and their application to analyzing the research
problem should be stated and unpacked in such a way that the reader obtains a clear understanding of
the relationships between the variables and why they are important. This is also important so that the
study can be replicated in the future using the same variables but applied in a different way.

Importance of Evaluating Sources

Evaluating the authority, usefulness, and reliability of resources is a crucial step in developing a literature
review that effectively covers pertinent research as well as demonstrating to the reader that you know
what you're talking about. The process of evaluating scholarly materials also enhances your general skills
and ability to:

Seek out alternate points of view and differing perspectives,

Identify possible bias in the work of others,

Distinguish between fact, fiction, and opinion,

Develop and strengthen your ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant content,

Draw cogent, well thought out conclusions, and

Synthesize information, extracting meaning through a deliberate process of interpretation and analysis.

Strategies for Critically Evaluating Sources

The act of thinking critically about the validity and reliability of a research resource generally involves
asking yourself a series of questions about the quality of both the item and the content of that item.

Evaluating the Source

Inquiring about the Author

What are the author's credentials, such as, institutional affiliation [where he or she works], educational
background, past writings, or experience? Is the book or article written on a topic in the author's area of
expertise? Has your instructor mentioned this author? Have you seen the author's name cited in other
sources or bibliographies? Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization? What
are the basic values or goals of that organization or institution?

Inquiring about the Date of Publication

When was the source published? Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic?

Inquiring about the Edition or Revision

Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further editions usually indicate a source has been
revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, to include prior omissions, and to better
harmonize the contents with the intended needs of its readers. If you are using a web source, do the
pages indicate last revision dates?

Inquiring about the Publisher

Note the publisher. If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although
the fact that a publisher is reputable does not necessarily guarantee quality, it does show that the
publisher has a high regard for the source being published [their reputation as an academic publisher
relies on it].

Inquiring about the Title of Journal

Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels
of complexity in conveying ideas and the intended readership.

Evaluating the Content

Intended Audience

What type of audience is the author addressing? Is the publication aimed at a specialized or a general
audience? Is this source too elementary, too technical, too advanced, or just right for your needs?


Is the information covered considered to be fact, opinion, or propaganda? It is not always easy to
separate fact from opinion. Facts can usually be verified; opinions, though they may be based on factual
information, evolve from the interpretation of facts. Does the information appear to be valid and well-
researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence? Note errors or omissions. Are the ideas
and arguments advanced more or less in line with other works you have read on the same topic?


Does the work update or clarify prior knowledge, substantiate other materials you have read, or add new
information? Does it extensively or only marginally cover your topic? Does it provide a balanced
perspective? If the item in question does not meet this criteria, you should review enough sources to
obtain a variety of viewpoints.

Writing Style

Is the publication organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to
read, or is it stilted or choppy? Is the author's argument repetitive?

Evaluative Reviews

In the case of books, locate critical reviews of the work in a database such as Book Review Digest. Is the
review positive? Is the book under review considered a valuable contribution to the field? Do reviewers
agree on the value or attributes of the book or are there strong differences of opinion? Does the
reviewer mention other books that might be better? If so, locate these sources for more information on
your topic.

Strategies for Critically Evaluating Web Content

Web Content Requires Additional Methods of Evaluation

A report from the Stanford University Graduate School of Education found that students evaluating
information that flows across social media channels or retrieved from online search engines like Google
or Bing, have difficulty distinguishing advertisements from news articles or how to identity where the
content came from. In general, the principles that guide your evaluation of print materials are the same
that apply to evaluating online resources. However, unlike print materials that have certain features that
help determine their scholarly integrity, the interactive and multimedia dynamics of digital sources
requires additional attention to the content in order to obtain confidence that what you are viewing is
valid and credible.

Additional things to look for when considering using an online resource include:

Source of the content is stated -- determine whether the content is original or borrowed, quoted, or
imported from elsewhere. Note that content imported from another source via RSS feed can be difficult
to identify, as this material can be incorporated into other content on the page without being
appropriately labeled.
Don't be fooled by an attractive, professional-looking presentation -- just because a site looks
professional doesn't mean that it is. However, poorly organized web page designs or poorly written
content is easy to recognize and can be a signal that you should carefully scrutinize the material.

Site is currently being maintained -- check for last posting dates or last revised dates. Most scholarly
websites show a date when the content was last posted or revised. Note if no date is indicated, this does
not mean its content is invalid. However, it may indicate that the content is out-of-date and does not
reflect current information about the topic.

Links are relevant and appropriate, and are in working order -- a site with a lot of broken links is an
indication of neglect and out-of-date content.

Clearly states authorship -- if a site is produced anonymously, you cannot verify the legitimacy of its
creator. Note that an author of a site can be either a person or an organization.

The site includes contact information -- if you have questions about the site, contact information is an
important indicator that the site is well-maintained.

Domain location in the site address (URL) is relevant to the focus of the material [e.g., .edu for
educational or research materials; .org for non-profit organizations; .gov for government sites; .com for
business sites]. Note that the domain is not necessarily a primary indicator of site content. For example,
some authors post their content on blog or wiki platforms hosted by companies with .com addresses.
Also note that the tilde (~) in the URL usually indicates a personal page.

Detecting Author Bias

Detecting Bias

Bias, whether done intentionally or not, occurs when a statement reflects a partiality, preference, or
prejudice for or against an object, person, place, or idea. Listed below are problems to look for when
determining if the source is biased.

Distortion or Stretching of the Facts -- this refers to the act of making issues, problems, or arguments
appear more extreme by using misinformation or exaggerated and/or imprecise language to describe
research outcomes [e.g., “Everyone agreed the policy was a complete disaster.” Who's everyone? How
was data gathered to come to this conclusion? And, how does one specifically define something as a
"disaster"? Is there sufficient evidence to support such a broad statement?].

Flawed Research Design -- bias can enter the narrative as a result of a poorly designed study; this may
include a claim or generalization about the findings based upon too small a sample, manipulating
statistics, omitting contrary conclusions from other studies, or failing to recognize negative results
[results that do not support your hypothesis].

Lack of Citations -- it is acceptable to issue a broad declarative statement if it is clearly supported and
linked to evidence from your study [e.g., "Testimony during Congressional hearings shows that the
Department of Education is reluctant to act so teachers must do so"]. This problem refers to statements
or information presented as fact that does not include proper citation to a source or to sources that
support the researcher's position, or that are not statements explicitly framed as the author's opinion.

Misquoting a Source -- this is when an author rewords, paraphrases, or manipulates a statement, the
information about a source is incomplete, or a quote is presented in such a way that it misleads or
conveys a false impression. This is important when paraphrasing another author. If you cannot adequate
summarize a specific statement, finding, or recommendation, use a direct quote to avoid any ambiguity.

Persuasive or Inflammatory Language -- using words and phrases intended to elicit a positive or negative
response from the reader or that leads the reader to arrive at a specific conclusion [e.g., referring to one
group in an armed conflict as “terrorists” and the other group as “peace-loving”].

Selective Facts -- taking information out of context or selectively choosing information that only supports
the argument while omitting the overall context or vital supporting evidence.

NOTE: The act of determining bias in scholarly research is also an act of constant self-reflection.
Everyone has biases. Therefore, it is important that you minimize the influence of your own biases by
approaching the assessment of another person's research introspectively and with a degree of self-

Purpose of Article: Why was the article written? To:

persuade the reader to do something? For example: vote a certain way, purchase an item, attend an

inform the reader? For example: results of a study/experiment, what happened at an event

prove something? For example: that a behavior is bad/good, a method works/doesn't work

Type of Journal: For college papers, information should be obtained mainly from scholarly journals.

Scholarly Journals contain articles describing high quality research that has been reviewed by experts in
the field prior to publication.
Trade magazines are important for professionals and students preparing to enter an industry. For
academic projects, they can be useful for industry information or economic data.

Popular magazines, such as Time, People, Bon Appetit, should be used sparingly, or not at all.

Organization and Content: Is the material organized and focused? Is the argument or presentation
understandable? Is this original research, a review of previous research, or an informative piece?

Bias: Some publications have an inherent bias that will impact articles printed in them. Is the journal:


an alternative press?

sponsored by a company or an industry lobby, such as a pharmaceutical company or a marketing board?

Date of Article: Some topics, such as those in the sciences, require current information. Other subjects,
such as history, value older material as well as current. Know the time needs of your topic and examine
the timeliness of the article; is it:


out-of-date, or


Bibliography: Scholarly works always contain a bibliography of the resources that were consulted. The
references in this list should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for the content. Look for:

if a bibliography exists

if the bibliography is short or long

if the references are original journal articles or only summaries from encyclopedias, etc.
if the references are contemporary to the article or much older

if the citation style is clear and consistent

Usefulness: Is the article relevant to the current research project? A well-researched, well-written article
is not going to be helpful if it does not address the topic at hand. Ask, "is this article useful to me?" If it is
a useful article, does it:

support an argument?

refute an argument?

give examples (survey results, primary research findings, case studies, incidents)?

provide "wrong" information that can be challenged or disagreed with productively?

Authority: Is the author an expert in this field? Where is s/he employed? What else has s/he written?

Coverage: Does the article cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?

Audience: For what type of reader is the author writing? This ties in with the type of journal, as popular
magazine are geared to the general reader, while trade magazines are for the specialist and scholarly
journals are directed at researchers, scholars or experts in the field. Is the article for:

general readers?

students (high school, college, graduate)?

specialists or professional?

researchers or scholars?
Illustrations: Are charts, graphs, maps, photographs, etc. used to illustrate concepts? Are the illustrations
relevant? Are they clear and professional-looking?

Guide adapted from: Colorado State University Libraries How To Do Library Research / How to Evaluate
Journal Articles

Using a Scientific Journal Article to Write a Critical Review

Library & Learning Commons Logo

Writing a critical review of a journal article can help to improve your research skills. By assessing the
work of others, you develop skills as a critical reader and become familiar with the types of evaluation
criteria that will be applied to research in your field and thus your own research.

You are expected to read the article carefully, analyse it, and evaluate the quality and originality of the
research, as well as its relevance and presentation. Its strengths and weaknesses are assessed, followed
by its overall value. Do not be confused by the term critique: it does not mean that you only look at the
negative aspects of what the researcher has done. You should address both the positive and negative

If your lecturer has given you specific advice on how to write a critical review, follow that advice. If not,
the following steps may help you. These steps are based on a detailed description of how to analyse and
evaluate a research article provided by Wood (2003) in her lab guide.

This guide is divided into two parts. The first part, "Researching the Critique," outlines the steps involved
in selecting and evaluating a research article. The second part, "Writing your Critique," discusses two
possible ways to structure your critique paper.

A. Researching the Critique

The questions listed under many of the subheadings in this section may provide you with a good place to
begin understanding what you are looking for and what form your critique might take.
1. Select a Topic

If your lecturer does not assign a topic or a particular article for you to review, and you must choose a
topic yourself, try using a review article from your field. Review articles summarize and evaluate current
studies (research articles) on a particular topic. Select a review article on a topic that interests you and
that is written clearly so you can understand it.

2. Select a Research Article

Use the review article to select a research article. This can be very useful in writing your critique. The
review article will provide background information for your analysis, as well as establishing that the
research paper you are critiquing is significant: if the paper was not so highly regarded, it would not have
been selected to be reviewed.

When choosing a research article, examine the Materials & Methods section closely and make sure you
have a good grasp of the techniques and methods used. If you don't, you may have difficulty evaluating

3. Analyse the Text

Read the article(s) carefully. As you read the article(s) use the following questions to help you
understand how and why the research was carried out.

What is the author's central purpose? Look at INTRODUCTION.

What methods were used to accomplish this purpose (systematic recording of observations, analysis and
evaluation of published research, assessment of theory)? Look at METHODS.

What were the techniques used? and how was each technique performed?

What kind of data can be obtained using each technique?

How are such data interpreted?

What kind of information is produced by using the technique?

What objective evidence was obtained from the author's efforts (observations, measurements etc.)?
What were the results of the study? Look at RESULTS.

How was each technique used to obtain each result?

What statistical tests were used to evaluate the significance of the conclusions based on numeric or
graphic data?

How did each result contribute to answering the question or testing the hypothesis raised in the

How were the results interpreted? How were they related to the original problem (author's view of
evidence rather than objective findings)? Look at DISCUSSION.

Were the author(s) able to answer the question (test the hypothesis) raised?

Did the research provide new factual information, a new understanding of a phenomenon in the field, a
new research technique?

How was the significance of the work described?

Did the reported observations/interpretations support or refute observations or interpretations made by

other researchers?

(Adapted with permission of Professor Susan Lollis, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of
Guelph. Source of questions in each section Wood, 2003)

4. Establish the Research Context

Once you are reasonably familiar with the article, it is important to gain an understanding of the
research context, both societal and intellectual. To establish the research context, questions such as the
following should be addressed:

Who conducted the research? What were/are their interests?

When and where was the research conducted?

Why did they do this research?

Was this research pertinent only within the authors' geographic locale, or did it have broader (even
global) relevance?

Were many other laboratories pursuing related research when the reported work was done? If so, why?

For experimental research, what funding sources met the costs of the research?

Was the selection of the research topic influenced by the source of research funding?

On what prior observations was the research based? What was and was not known at the time?

How important was the research question posed by the researcher?

For more detailed information on how to answer these questions, see Labs 4 and 5 (Wood, 2003).

5. Evaluate the Text

After you have read the article and answered the questions in the previous section, you should have a
good understanding of the research undertaken. You can now begin to evaluate the author's research.
Making judgements about someone else's work is often the most difficult part of writing the review.
Many students feel that, because they are new to a discipline, they do not have enough knowledge to
make judgements of other people's work.

The following checklist may assist you:


Read the statement of purpose at the end of the introduction. What was the objective of the study?

Consider the title. Does it precisely state the subject of the paper?

Read the statement of purpose in the abstract. Does it match the one in the introduction?

Check the sequence of statements in the introduction. Does all the information lead coherently to the
purpose of the study?

Review all methods in relation to the objective(s) of the study. Are the methods valid for studying the

Check the methods for essential information. Could the study be duplicated from the methods and
information given?

Check the methods for flaws. Is the sample selection adequate? Is the experimental design sound?

Check the sequence of statements in the methods. Does all the information belong there? Is the
sequence of methods clear and pertinent?


Examine carefully the data as presented in the tables and diagrams. Does the title or legend accurately
describe the content? Are column headings and labels accurate? Are the data organized for ready
comparison and interpretation? (A table should be self-explanatory, with a title that accurately and
concisely describes content and column headings that accurately describe information in the cells.)

Review the results as presented in the text while referring to the data in the tables and diagrams. Does
the text complement, and not simple repeat, data? Are there discrepancies between the results in the
text and those in the tables?

Check all calculations and presentation of data.

Review the results in light of the stated objectives. Does the study reveal what the researcher intended?


Check the interpretation against the results. Does the discussion merely repeat the results? Does the
interpretation arise logically from the data or is it too far-fetched? Have the faults/flaws/shortcomings of
the research been addressed?

Is the interpretation supported by other research cited in the study?

Does the study consider key studies in the field?

Are there other research possibilities/directions suggested?


Reread the abstract. Does it accurately summarize the article?

Check the structure of the article (first headings and then paragraphing). Is all the material organized
under the appropriate headings? Are sections divided logically into subsections or paragraphs?

Are stylistic concerns, logic, clarity and economy of expression addressed?

(adapted from Kuyper, 1991)

6. Establish the Significance of the Research

Finally, it is important to establish whether the research has been successful – has it led to new
questions being asked, new ways of using existing knowledge? Are other researchers citing this paper?

The following questions should be answered:

How did other researchers view the significance of the research reported by your authors?

Did the research reported in your article result in the formulation of new questions or hypotheses (by
the authors, by other researchers)?

Have other researchers subsequently supported or refuted the observations/interpretations of these


Did the research make a significant contribution to human knowledge?

Did the research produce any practical applications?

What are the social, political, technological, medical implications of this research?

How do you evaluate the significance of the research?

To answer these questions look at review articles to find out how reviewers see this piece of research.
Look at research articles to see how other people have used this work; what range of journals have cited
this article? For more detailed information on how to answer these questions, see Lab. 8 (Wood, 2003).

B. Writing your Critique

Two possible approaches

You have completed your analysis and evaluation of the journal article. How do you then put all this
information together? If your instructor has not provided a format for your critique, there are two
possible ways you might present it.

Approach (A)

If your instructor is concerned that that the article be clearly situated within the social and intellectual
research context, then you might present it in the following way:


In the introduction, cite the journal article in full and then provide the background to this piece of
research, establishing its place within the field. Use the answers to the questions in Establish the
Research Context to develop this section.


Follow the structure of the journal article. Evaluate each section of the article — Introduction, Methods,
Results, Discussion — highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each section. Use the answers to the
questions in Evaluate the Text to develop this section.


In this section, sum up the strengths and weaknesses of the research as a whole. Establish its practical
and theoretical significance. Use the answers to questions Establish the Significance of the Research to
develop this section.

Approach (B)
Another common way to structure a journal article critique is the following:


In the introduction, cite the journal article in full and provide a summary of the journal article. Use the
answers to the questions in the section Analyze the Text to develop the summary.


Follow the structure of the journal article. Evaluate each section of the article – Introduction, Methods,
Results, Discussion – highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each section. Use the answers to the
questions in Evaluate the Text to develop this section.


In this section, sum up the strengths and weaknesses of the research as a whole. Establish its practical
and theoretical significance. Use the answers to questions Establish the Significance of the Research to
develop this section.


Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250.

Wood, J.M. (2003).Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site.
Retrieved July 31, 2006, from
How To Read A Research Article and Evaluate The Research

In your text and on this site you will read a great deal about social psychology research. Indeed, research
is the basis for your textbook. This site features Evaluating Research activities, in which you are
presented with either short research articles or summaries of research and asked to make some
conclusions about the research findings and methods.

Reading longer research articles is more of a challenge (a challenge the textbook authors have had to
master in order to write the text). Here are a few suggestions for how to read a research article, followed
by a link to a recent research article and a step-by-step guide to reading and understanding it.

Tips for Reading a Research Article

Read the Abstract. It consists of a brief summary of the research questions and methods. It may also
state the findings. Because it is short and often written in dense psychological language, you may need to
read it a couple of times. Try to restate the abstract in your own nontechnical language.

Read the Introduction. This is the beginning of the article, appearing first after the Abstract. This contains
information about the authors' interest in the research, why they chose the topic, their hypothesis, and
methods. This part also sets out the operational definitions of variables.

Read the Discussion section. Skip over the Methods section for the time being. The Discussion section
will explain the main findings in great detail and discuss any methodological problems or flaws that the
researchers discovered.

Read the Methods section. Now that you know the results and what the researchers claim the results
mean, you are prepared to read about the Methods. This section explains the type of research and the
techniques and assessment instruments used. If the research utilized self-reports and questionnaires,
the questions and statements used may be set out either in this section or in an appendix that appears
at the end of the report.

Read the Results section. This is the most technically challenging part of a research report. But you
already know the findings (from reading about them in the Discussion section). This section explains the
statistical analyses that led the authors to their conclusions. It will test your knowledge of statistics, as
well as research terms such as correlation coefficient, dependent and independent variables, subject
variables, main effect, interaction, and interrater reliability, to name a few.

Read the Conclusion. The last section of the report (before any appendices) summarizes the findings,
but, more important for social research, it sets out what the researchers think is the value of their
research for real-life application and for public policy. This section often contains suggestions for future
research, including issues that the researchers became aware of in the course of the study. Following the
conclusions are appendices, usually tables of findings, presentations of questions and statements used in
self-reports and questionnaires, and examples of forms used (such as forms for behavioral assessments).

Evaluating the Research

With these suggestions in mind, read a report about the relationship between socioeconomic status,
ethnicity, and other parental factors and discipline style in the September 2000 issue of Journal of Family
Psychology: "Discipline Responses Influences of Parents' Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, Beliefs About
Parenting, Stress, and Cognitive-Emotional Processes."

To read the article, go to the link below.

Netlab Questions for "How to Read a Research Article and Evaluate the Research"

Answer the questions and then compare your answers with the answer key, which is merely a guide. If
required by your instructor you can print out your answers and hand them in.

Look at the References section at the end of the article and note the format for citing journal articles
such as this one. Using the same format, write the complete citation for this article, including authors,
year of publication, title of the article, name of the journal, volume number of the journal, and page
numbers of the article. Note: You will find all of the information you need about the article on the first
page of the web site.

Who were the participants in the study, how many were there, what was the sex and ethnicity of the
parents, and how did the authors find them? Note: This will be in the Methods section.

What question did the researchers want to answer? Note: You will find this in the first paragraph of the

What methods did the researchers use in the study to try to answer their questions? Note: This is found
in the Methods section.
How did the results answer the researchers' questions about discipline style and its relationship to (a)
socioeconomic status

(b) ethnicity

(c) sex of parent

(d) parenting beliefs

and (e) cognitive-emotional processes? Note: You will find this in the Discussion section. There are
several findings, each set out with different headings.
What are the policy implications of the research findings and what future research do the authors
suggest to contribute to this goal? Note:You will find this in the Conclusion section.

Did you find the research interesting? What did you learn from it? What more would you like to know?


When considering a research idea, we are bound to rely on previous findings on the topic. Work done in
the field constructs the foundation for our research and determines its course and value. Inaccurate
findings may lead to imprecise applications and end in further fallacies in your own new scientific
knowledge that you construct. In order to set a solid basis for research on any topic and to prevent
multiplication of misinformation, it is crucial to to critically evaluate existing scientific evidence. It is
important to know which information can be regarded as plausible.

So what’s the criteria to determine whether a result can be trusted? As it is taught in the first classes in
psychology, errors may emerge from any phase of the research process. Therefore, it all boils down to
how the research has been conducted and the results presented.

Meltzoff (2007) emphasizes the key issues that can produce flawed results and interpretations and
should therefore be carefully considered when reading articles. Here is a reminder on what to bear in
mind when reading a research article:
Research question

The research must be clear in informing the reader of its aims. Terms should be clearly defined, even
more so if they’re new or used in specific non-spread ways. You as a reader should pay particular
attention should to errors in logic, especially those regarding causation, relationship or association.


To provide trustworthy conclusions, a sample needs to be representative and adequate.

Representativeness depends on the method of selection as well as the assignment. For example,
random assignment has its advantages in front of systematic assignment in establishing group
equivalence. The sample can be biased when researchers used volunteers or selective attrition. The
adequate sample size can be determined by employing power analysis.

Control of confounding variables

Extraneous variation can influence research findings, therefore methods to control relevant confounding
variables should be applied.

Research designs

The research design should be suitable to answer the research question. Readers should distinguish true
experimental designs with random assignment from pre-experimental research designs.

Criteria and criteria measures

The criteria measures must demonstrate reliability and validity for both, the independent and
dependent variable.

Data analysis

Appropriate statistical tests should be applied for the type of data obtained, and assumptions for their
use met. Post hoc tests should be applied when multiple comparisons are performed. Tables and figures
should be clearly labelled. Ideally, effect sizes shou

ld be included throughout giving a clear indication of the variables’ impact.

Discussion and conclusions

Does the study allow generalization? Also, limitations of the study should be mentioned. The discussion
and conclusions should be consistent with the study’s results. It’s a common mistake to emphasizing the
results that are in accordance with the researcher’s expectations while not focusing on the ones that are
not. Do the authors of the article you hold in hand do the same?


Last but not least, ere the ethical standards met? For more information, refer to the APA’s Ethical
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (2010).


American Psychological Association (2010, June 1). American Psychological Association Ethical Principles
of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Retrieved July 28, 2011 from

Meltzoff, J. (2007). Critical Thinking About Research. Washington, DC: American Psychological


When studying at higher levels of school and throughout college, you will likely be asked to prepare
research papers. A research paper can be used for exploring and identifying scientific, technical and
social issues. If it's your first time writing a research paper, it may seem daunting, but with good
organization and focus of mind, you can make the process easier on yourself. Writing a research paper
involves four main stages: choosing a topic, researching your topic, making an outline, and doing the
actual writing. The paper won't write itself, but by planning and preparing well, the writing practically
falls into place. Also, try to avoid plagiarism.

Method One of Four:

Choosing Your Topic


Image titled Write a Research Paper Step 1

Ask yourself important questions. Although you may be limited by specific classroom or work related
guidelines, choosing your topic is the first and most important step in your research paper project.
Regardless of whether your topic can be anything you want or has rigid requirements, it is important to
keep a few questions in mind: Is there enough research available on this topic? Is the topic new and
unique enough that I can offer fresh opinions? Is it pertinent to my class/occupation?

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Pick something you love. Whenever possible, choose a topic that you feel passionate about. Writing
about something you enjoy certainly shows in the final product, making it more likely that you will be
successful writing a paper about something you enjoy.

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Stay original. If you are writing a research paper for a class, consider the other students. Is it likely that
they will also be writing about your topic? How can you keep your paper unique and interesting if
everyone is writing about the same thing?

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Get advice. If you are struggling to come up with a topic that feels “just right,” ask your professor or
coworkers/classmates for advice. They will likely have great ideas that, even if they aren’t options for you
to choose, can inspire you with new ideas. Asking a professor for help may seem frightening, but if they
are worth anything as a professor, they want you to be successful with your work, and will do what they
can to make that happen.

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Don’t be afraid to change your topic. If you choose a topic, begin researching, and realize that it isn’t the
right decision for you for some reason, don’t fret! Although it requires a bit more time, you have the
ability to change your topic even after you begin researching others.


Was this method helpful?

Choosing Your Topic


Method Two of Four:



Image titled Write a Research Paper Step 3

Begin your research. With a topic selected, the next step is to begin research. Research comes in
numerous forms including web pages, journal articles, books, encyclopedias, interviews, and blog posts,
among others. Take time to look for professional resources who offer valid research and insight into your
topic. Try to use a minimum of five sources to vary your information; never rely on only 1-2 sources.[1]

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Look for empirical research. Whenever possible, look for peer-reviewed empirical research. These are
articles or books written by experts in your field of interest, whose work has been read and vouched for
by other experts in the same field. These can be found in scientific journals or via an online search.

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Visit the library. Take a trip to your local library or university library. Although it may seem old fashioned,
libraries are chock full of helpful research materials from books to newspapers and magazines to
journals. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarian for help either - they are trained in research and know
where everything about your topic is located.

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Look online. Using a search engine and picking the top three results isn’t necessarily the best method of
researching; use critical thinking to thoroughly read every source and determine if it is legitimate.
Websites, blogs, and forums online aren’t required to publish facts only, so make sure that the
information you find is trustworthy.

Typically, websites that end with .edu, .gov, or .org contain information that is safe to use. That is
because these websites belong to schools, the government, or organizations dealing with your topic.

Try changing your search query often to find different search results for your topic. If nothing seems to
be coming up, it could just be that your search query isn’t matched well with the titles of most articles
dealing with your subject.

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Use academic databases. There are special search engines and academic databases available that search
through thousands of peer-reviewed or scientifically published journals, magazines, and books. Although
many of these require a paid membership to use, if you are a current student in college you have free
access through your university’s membership.

Look for databases that cover your subject only. For example, PsycINFO is an academic database that
holds nothing but works done by authors in the field of psychology and sociology. This will help you to
get more tailored results than a very general search would.[2]

Most academic databases give you the ability to ask for very specific information by presenting multiple
search query boxes as well as archives containing only a single type of resource (such as only journal
articles or only newspapers). Take advantage of this ability to ask for specific information by using as
many of the query boxes as you can.

Visit your school library and ask the librarian for a full list of the academic databases they subscribe to, as
well as the passwords for each.

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Get creative with your research. If you find one really awesome book or journal that fits your topic
perfectly, try looking in the works cited/bibliography/reference list at the end of it. This should contain
many more books and journals that are about your topic as well.


Was this method helpful?



Method Three of Four:

Making an Outline


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Annotate your research. Once you’ve gathered all your research, print it out (if it is an online source) and
gather post-its or anything you need to mark notes in the books/magazines you are using. This step is
very important: read through your research, take notes on what you think is important, and highlight key
facts and phrases. Write directly on copies you’ve made, or use slips of paper tucked into pages to mark
places of importance.[3]

Do a thorough job annotating to make your outlining and paper-writing easier in the end. Make marks
on anything that you think might be remotely important or that could be put to use in your paper.

As you mark off important pieces in the research, add your own commentary and notes explaining to
yourself where you might use it in your paper. Writing down your ideas as you have them will make
writing your paper much easier and give you something to refer back to.

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Organize your notes. Annotating your research can take quite a bit of time, but needs to be taken one
step further in order to add a bit more clarity for the outlining process. Organize your notes by collecting
all of your highlighted phrases and ideas into categories based on topic. For example, if you are writing a
paper analyzing a famous work of literature, you could organize your research into a list of notes on the
characters, a list of references to certain points in the plot, a list of symbols the author presents, et

Try writing each quote or item that you marked onto an individual note card. That way, you can
rearrange and lay out your cards however you would like.
Color code your notes to make it easier. Write down a list of all the notes you are using from each
individual resource, and then highlight each category of information in a different color. For example,
write everything from a particular book or journal on a single sheet of paper in order to consolidate the
notes, and then everything that is related to characters highlight in green, everything related to the plot
mark in orange, et cetera.

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Construct a preliminary bibliography/references page. As you go through your notes, mark down the
author, page number, title, and publishing information for each resource. This will come in handy when
you craft your bibliography or works cited page later in the game.

Image titled Write a Research Paper Step 2

Identify the goal of the paper. Generally, speaking, there are two types of research paper: an
argumentative research paper or an analytic research paper. Each requires a slightly different focus and
writing style which should be identified prior to starting a rough draft.

An argumentative research paper takes a position on a contentious issue and argues for one point of
view. The issue should be debatable with a logical counter argument.

An analytic research paper offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be
controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit. This is not
simply a regurgitation of ideas from your research, but an offering of your own unique ideas based on
what you have learned through research.

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Determine your audience. Who would be reading this paper, should it be published? Although you want
to write for your professor or other superior, it is important that the tone and focus of your paper reflect
the audience who will be reading it. If you’re writing for academic peers, then the information you
include should reflect the information you already know; you don’t need to explain basic ideas or
theories. On the other hand, if you are writing for an audience who doesn’t know much about your
subject, it will be important to include explanations and examples of more fundamental ideas and
theories related to your research.[4]

Image titled Write a Research Paper Step 4

Develop your thesis. The thesis statement is a 1-2 sentence statement at the beginning of your paper
that states the main goal or argument of your paper. Although you can alter the wording of your thesis
statement for the final draft later, coming up with the main goal of your essay must be done in the
beginning. All of your body paragraphs and information will revolve around your thesis, so make sure
that you are clear on what your thesis is.[5]

An easy way to develop your thesis is to make it into a question that your essay will answer. What is the
primary question or hypothesis that you are going to go about proving in your paper? For example, your
thesis question might be “how does cultural acceptance change the success of treatment for mental
illness?” This can then determine what your thesis is - whatever your answer to the question is, is your
thesis statement.

Your thesis should express the main idea of your paper without listing all of your reasons or outline your
entire paper. It should be a simple statement, rather than a list of support; that’s what the rest of your
paper is for!

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Determine your main points. The body of your essay will revolve around the ideas that you judge to be
most important. Go through your research and annotations to determine what points are the most
pivotal in your argument or presentation of information. What ideas can you write whole paragraphs
about? Which ideas to you have plenty of firm facts and research to back with evidence? Write your
main points down on paper, and then organize the related research under each.

When you outline your main ideas, putting them in a specific order is important. Place your strongest
points at the beginning and end of your essay, with more mediocre points placed in the middle or near
the end of your essay.

A single main point doesn’t have to be kept to a single paragraph, especially if you are writing a relatively
long research paper. Main ideas can be spread out over as many paragraphs as you deem necessary.

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Consider formatting guidelines. Depending on your paper rubric, class guidelines, or formatting
guidelines, you may have to organize your paper in a specific way. For example, when writing in APA
format you must organize your paper by headings including the introduction, methods, results, and
discussion. These guidelines will alter the way you craft your outline and final paper.[6]

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Finalize your outline. With the aforementioned tips taken into consideration, organize your entire
outline. Justify main points to the left, and indent subsections and notes from your research below each.
The outline should be an overview of your entire paper in bullet points. Make sure to include in-text
citations at the end of each point, so that you don’t have to constantly refer back to your research when
writing your final paper.



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Making an Outline


Method Four of Four:

Writing Your Paper


Image titled 9768 21

Write your body paragraphs. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, writing your introduction first may
be more difficult to accomplish than starting with the meat of your paper. Starting by writing the main
points (focusing on supporting your thesis) allows you to slightly change and manipulate your ideas and

Support every statement you make with evidence. Because this is a research paper, there shouldn’t be
any remarks that you make that cannot be supported by facts directly from your research.

Supply ample explanations for your research. The opposite of stating opinions without facts is stating
facts with no commentary. Although you certainly want to present plenty of evidence, make sure that
your paper is uniquely your own by adding commentary in whenever possible.

Avoid using many long, direct quotes. Although your paper is based on research, the point is for you to
present your own ideas. Unless the quote you intend on using is absolutely necessary, try paraphrasing
and analyzing it in your own words instead.
Use clear segues into adjacent points in your paper. Your essay should flow well, rather than stopping
and starting in a blunt fashion. Make sure that each of your body paragraphs flows nicely into the one
after it.

Image titled Write a Research Paper Step 7

Write the conclusion. Now that you have carefully worked through your evidence, write a conclusion
that briefly summarizes your findings for the reader and provides a sense of closure. Start by briefly
restating the thesis statement, then remind the reader of the points you covered over the course of the
paper. Slowly zoom out of the topic as you write, ending on a broad note by emphasizing the larger
implication of your findings.

The goal of the conclusion, in very simplified terms, is to answer the question, “So what?” Make sure the
reader feels like (s)he’s come away with something.

It’s a good idea to write the conclusion before the introduction for several reasons. First of all, the
conclusion is easier to write when the evidence is still fresh in your mind. On top of that, it’s
recommended that you use up your most choice language in the conclusion and then re-word these
ideas less strongly in the introduction, not the other way around; this will leave a more lasting
impression on the reader.

Image titled Write a Research Paper Step 8

Write the introduction. The introduction is, in many respects, the conclusion written in reverse: start by
generally introducing the larger topic, then orient the reader in the area you’ve focused on, and finally,
supply the thesis statement. Avoid repeating exact phrases that you already used in the conclusion.

Image titled 9768 24

Document your paper. All research essays must be documented in certain ways in order to avoid
plagiarism. Depending on the topic of your research and your field of study, you will have to use different
styles of formatting. MLA, APA, and Chicago are the three most common citation formats and determine
the way in-text citations or footnotes should be used, as well as the order of information in your paper.

MLA format is typically used for literary research papers and uses a ‘works cited’ page at the end. This
format requires in-text citations.

APA format is used by researchers in the social sciences field, and requires in-text citations as well. It
ends the paper with a “references” page, and may also have section headers between body paragraphs.
Chicago formatting is used mainly for historical research papers and uses footnotes at the bottom of
each page rather than in-text citations and works cited or references page.

Image titled Write a Research Paper Step 10

Edit your rough draft. Although it is tempting to simply read over your essay and use the spell-check tool,
editing your paper should be a bit more in-depth. Have at least one, but preferably two or more,
person/people look over your essay. Have them edit for basic grammatical and spelling errors as well as
the persuasiveness of your essay and the flow and form of your paper.

If you edit your own paper, wait at least three days before returning to it. Studies show that your writing
is still fresh in your mind for 2-3 days after finishing, and so you are more likely to skim over basic
mistakes that you would otherwise catch.

Don’t ignore edits by others just because they require a bit more work. If they suggest that you rewrite a
section of your paper, there is probably a valid reason for their request. Take the time to edit your paper

Image titled 9768 26

Create the final draft. When you have edited and re-edited your paper, formatted your work according to
the subject matter, and finalized all the main points, you are ready to create the final draft. Go through
your paper and fix all mistakes, rearranging information if necessary. Adjust the font, line spacing, and
margins to meet the requirements set by your professor or profession. If necessary, create an
introduction page and a works cited or references page to bookend your paper. The completion of these
tasks finalizes your paper! Make sure to save the paper (in multiple places, for extra security) and print
out your final draft.



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Writing Your Paper


Sample Research Papers and Outlines


Sample Scientific Research Paper

Sample Environmental Research Paper

Sample Research Paper Outline

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Community Q&A

Does making a research paper require me to invent something new or it is just about gathering
information? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

It can be for the both, whether you invent something new to implement or you gather some sort of data
based valuable information and synthesize it.

73 11

What about can I write for the introduction? Answered by wikiHow Contributor
The introduction should set out what you intend to discuss and prove in the research paper, and outline
the approaches per topic or heading section. It is also nice to open the topic and lead into it in an
interesting way that helps the reader to want to read on.

67 18

How do we know what topic is better than the other ones? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

To be honest there is no rule book or a set of formulas which will give you the best or better topic. Once
you have a number of topics in hand you need to evaluate as to which topic interests you and your
audience more.

33 10

How do I make a questionnaire? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

See Make a Questionnaire for the method needed.

39 15

Where can I go for publishing a research paper? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

You can publish a research paper through established journals or you can use open source online
publishing sites, such as SSRN or Researchgate. If your research paper is long enough, you could also
publish it as a small book or an ebook, and disseminate it via book sales sites and stores.

39 16

Do you need to number the second and third pages? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

If you are numbering the pages, then yes, the second and third pages should be numbered.

31 15

Can you use contractions in a research paper? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

Yes, but it is best to write a research paper without contractions. If you must use them, make sure they
are spelled correctly and used in the right places.

21 9

What should be the length of the research paper? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

Long enough to strongly answer your thesis. If you can cover it in 10 pages wonderful. If you need to
utilize 50 pages that is great too. If you are forcing a specific number of pages than your work may come
off as too repetitive or poorly written. You don't want to over exhaust the topics or include unless
information just to get a page count.
25 12

Where should we attach our questionnaire in the research paper? Answered by wikiHow Contributor

I believe that the questionnaires are attached in the appendix section of the paper with the survey
forms, raw data, documentations and other tables.

9 3

How can I write correct English words for other languages such as Thai? Answered by wikiHow

There should be a standardized way of writing Thai words in English. If there is more than one
convention, you can choose one and state which one you're going to use in the preface to your paper.

Show more answers

Does doing research need to have a site visit or questionnaire? Can i just refer to the rules or
classification society?


Can I write a paper based on a hypothetical condition? The condition may never come true but it is


My research paper is on a specific animal species and I need to answer given areas. Should I use a
headline above the paragraphs when I address these?


How to get the main idea in research?


How is essay writing used in the academic setting?


Show more unanswered questions

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Quick Summary

To write a research paper, start by researching your topic at the library, online, or using an academic
database. Once you've found at least 5 reputable sources, outline the information you've learned
through your research. Then, come up with a 1-2 sentence thesis to base your paper off of. Include the
information you found through your research in your paper to back up your thesis statement. For more
help writing a research paper, like how to organize it, read the article!



Be sure to get your assignments done on time.

How to Evaluate a Research Paper

While writing a research paper can be tough, it can be even tougher to evaluate the strength of one.
Whether you’re giving feedback to a fellow student or learning how to grade, you can judge a paper’s
content and formatting to determine its excellence. By looking at the key attributes of successful
research papers in the humanities and sciences, you can evaluate a given work work against high

Method One of Three:

Examining a Humanities Research Paper

Look for the thesis statement on page 1 of the paper. Read the first page of the paper, and look for a
thesis. The thesis should be 1-2 sentences and contain 2 parts. The first part should outline what the
author is going to prove in the paper, and the second should outline how the author is going to make
their argument.[1]

A strong thesis statement might be: “Single-sex education helps girls develop more self-confidence than
co-education. Using scholarly research, I will illustrate how young girls develop greater self-confidence in
single-sex schools, why their self-confidence becomes more developed in this setting, and what this
means for the future of education in America.”
A poor thesis statement might be: “Single-sex education is a schooling choice that separates the sexes.”
This is a description of single-sex education rather than an opinion that can be supported with research.

Judge if the thesis is debatable. Determine if a thesis is debatable—and therefore a strong choice—by
making up an opposing point of view. If a thesis has two sides or can be seen from multiple perspectives,
that is a sign that the thesis statement is complex and a worthy topic for exploration.[2]

In the example outlined above, one could theoretically create a valid argument for single-sex education
negatively impacting the self-esteem of girls. This depth makes the topic worthy of examination.

Assess whether the thesis is original. Do an online search of other scholarly material about the thesis at
hand. If the thesis has already been discussed by others many times over, it is probably not very original
or exciting. The best research papers make new contributions to the scholarly dialogue about a topic. [3]

Ask yourself if the thesis feels obvious. If it does, it is probably not a strong choice.

Find at least 3 points supporting the thesis statement. Read the research paper, and look for at least 3
supporting points for the main thesis the author has put forward. Each supporting point should be
reinforced by research and have at least one paragraph or set of paragraphs devoted to it.[4]

The paragraphs should each start with a topic sentence so you feel introduced to the research at hand.

A typical 5-paragraph essay will have 3 supporting points of 1 paragraph each. Most good research
papers are longer than 5 paragraphs, though, and may have multiple paragraphs about just one point of
many that support the thesis.

The more points and correlating research that support the thesis statement, the better.

Identify research quotations that reinforce the points. As you read, mark quotations from scholarly
research that strengthen each supporting idea. Lots of supporting research helps illustrate that the
author’s thesis is true.[5]

A paper with little supporting research to bolster its points likely falls short of adequately illustrating its

Quotations longer than 4 lines should be set off in block format for readability.

Identify context and analysis for each research quotation. Look to see if the author has provided context
to understand each quotation fully. The author should introduce the text the quote comes from as well
as explain how the quotation helps illustrate their point and greater thesis.[6]

For example, if a thesis statement were that cats are smarter than dogs. A good supporting point might
be that cats are better hunters than dogs. The author could introduce a source well in support of this by
saying, “In animal expert Linda Smith’s book Cats are King, Smith describes cats’ superior hunting
abilities. On page 8 she says, ‘Cats are the most developed hunters in the civilized world.’ Because
hunting requires incredible mental focus and skill, this statement supports my view that cats are smarter
than dogs.”

Any quotations that are used to summarize a text are likely not pulling their weight in the research
paper. All quotations should serve as direct supports.

Find an acknowledgement of potential objections. In either the argument or conclusion of the research
paper, look for an acknowledgement—and address—of any potential counterpoints. The author should
recognize any bodies of thought that don’t agree with their thesis and provide a reason or two why the
counterpoint of view is incorrect or misguided.[7]

Doing this is a mark of a strong research paper and helps convince the reader that the author’s thesis is
good and valid.

Look for a conclusion that discusses larger implication of the thesis. Read the conclusion of the essay,
and examine whether the thesis is considered in greater terms. Depending upon the subject of the
research paper, the author could consider how the thesis affects an academic discipline on a greater
level or how it shapes current events.[8]

A good research paper shows that the thesis is important beyond just the narrow context of its question.


Method Two of Three:

Evaluating a Sciences Research Paper

Look for an abstract of 300 words or less. Identify an abstract that describes the purpose of the research
being conducted as well as the problem the paper is attempting to resolve. A strong abstract will clearly
describe the design of the research—especially if a study was conducted—as well as the results.[9]

An effective abstract should also include a brief interpretation of those results, which will be explored
further later.

The author should note any overall trends or major revelations discovered in their research.

Identify an introduction that provides a guide for the reader. Look for an introduction that summarizes
any relevant past research that exists. The author should also explain how their research paper
addresses shortcomings in the current research landscape on this topic. If there are broader implications
of the research question, the author should acknowledge them.[10]

The author of a successful scientific research paper should note any boundaries that limit their research.

For example: If the author conducted a study of pregnant women, but only women over 35 responded to
a call for participants, the author should mention it. An element like this could affect the conclusions the
author draws from their research.

Look for a methodology section that describes the author’s approach. Read for a methodology section
that explains how the author obtained and analyzed their results. A good methodology section should
easily allow you to determine if the results of the research are valid and reliable based on the methods.
An effective methodology section should be written in the past tense, as the author has already decided
and executed their research.

Read for a results section that confirms or rejects the original theory. Look for a results section that
states the findings of any research conducted. The author should explain how these results illustrate the
validity of or weaken the case for the original question that prompted their research.[12]

A good results section shouldn’t include raw data from the research; it should explain the findings of the

Look for a discussion section that illuminates new insights. Read for a discussion section that attempts to
place the author’s research within greater preexisting research. A good discussion shouldn’t restate the
information in the introduction but reassess how the findings have perhaps changed the essential
research question.[13]

A strong discussion section could present new solutions to the original problem or suggest further areas
of study given the results.

A good discussion moves beyond interpreting findings and offers some subjective analysis.

Read for a conclusion that demonstrates the importance of the findings. Look for a conclusion that
synthesizes and reiterates the larger significance of this author’s research. A strong conclusion elaborates
on the value of any new information the research has brought to light and presents a final mediation on
the research question.[14]

The author might think about the potential real-world consequences of ignoring the research results, for


Method Three of Three:

Checking the Formatting of a Research Paper


Check for the author’s name, course, instructor name, and date. Look for the important information that
helps identify the paper’s owner and intended recipient on page 1. This information helps both the
author and instructor keep track of the research paper.[15]

Look for an intriguing title on the first page. Check for an engaging title that explains the topic of the
research paper. A strong research title should reflect the tone of the paper, serious or casual, and include
important thesis keywords.[16]

For example: “Growing up Stronger: Why Girls’ Schools Create More Confident Women” is more
interesting and concise than “Single-Sex Schools are Better than Co-Ed Schools at Developing Self
Confidence for Girls.”

Verify that the font is standard and readable. Look for a common, easily readable font, such as Cambria
or Times New Roman. Wacky fonts can be distracting, and the author may be using them to lengthen the
paper to make a page count. The font should typically be 12-point for easy readability.[17]

Look for 1 inch (2.5 cm) page margins and double spacing. Confirm that the paper is double-spaced for
ease of reading. Margins should also be standardized to 1 inch (2.5 cm). Larger margins may be an
attempt to alter the length of the paper.[18]

Crosscheck cited sources against the required style guide. Consult the syllabus to ensure that the author
has adhered to the required formatting guidelines for cited works. It may help to check the citations one-
by-one with a copy of the guide nearby to ensure they are structured properly.[19]

The author should clearly identify any ideas that are not their own and reference other works that make
up the research landscape for context.

Common style guides for research papers include the APA style guide, the Chicago Manual of Style, the
MLA Handbook, and the Turabian citation guide.