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Writing Research Papers

  • Research Paper Structure

Whether you are writing a B.S. Degree Research Paper or completing a research report for a Psychology course, it is highly likely that you will need to organize your research paper in accordance with American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines.  Here we discuss the structure of research papers according to APA style.

Major Sections of a Research Paper in APA Style

A complete research paper in APA style that is reporting on experimental research will typically contain a Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References sections. 1  Many will also contain Figures and Tables and some will have an Appendix or Appendices.  These sections are detailed as follows (for a more in-depth guide, please refer to " How to Write a Research Paper in APA Style ”, a comprehensive guide developed by Prof. Emma Geller). 2

What is this paper called and who wrote it? – the first page of the paper; this includes the name of the paper, a “running head”, authors, and institutional affiliation of the authors.  The institutional affiliation is usually listed in an Author Note that is placed towards the bottom of the title page.  In some cases, the Author Note also contains an acknowledgment of any funding support and of any individuals that assisted with the research project.

One-paragraph summary of the entire study – typically no more than 250 words in length (and in many cases it is well shorter than that), the Abstract provides an overview of the study.


What is the topic and why is it worth studying? – the first major section of text in the paper, the Introduction commonly describes the topic under investigation, summarizes or discusses relevant prior research (for related details, please see the Writing Literature Reviews section of this website), identifies unresolved issues that the current research will address, and provides an overview of the research that is to be described in greater detail in the sections to follow.

What did you do? – a section which details how the research was performed.  It typically features a description of the participants/subjects that were involved, the study design, the materials that were used, and the study procedure.  If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Methods section.  A rule of thumb is that the Methods section should be sufficiently detailed for another researcher to duplicate your research.

What did you find? – a section which describes the data that was collected and the results of any statistical tests that were performed.  It may also be prefaced by a description of the analysis procedure that was used. If there were multiple experiments, then each experiment may require a separate Results section.

What is the significance of your results? – the final major section of text in the paper.  The Discussion commonly features a summary of the results that were obtained in the study, describes how those results address the topic under investigation and/or the issues that the research was designed to address, and may expand upon the implications of those findings.  Limitations and directions for future research are also commonly addressed.

List of articles and any books cited – an alphabetized list of the sources that are cited in the paper (by last name of the first author of each source).  Each reference should follow specific APA guidelines regarding author names, dates, article titles, journal titles, journal volume numbers, page numbers, book publishers, publisher locations, websites, and so on (for more information, please see the Citing References in APA Style page of this website).

Tables and Figures

Graphs and data (optional in some cases) – depending on the type of research being performed, there may be Tables and/or Figures (however, in some cases, there may be neither).  In APA style, each Table and each Figure is placed on a separate page and all Tables and Figures are included after the References.   Tables are included first, followed by Figures.   However, for some journals and undergraduate research papers (such as the B.S. Research Paper or Honors Thesis), Tables and Figures may be embedded in the text (depending on the instructor’s or editor’s policies; for more details, see "Deviations from APA Style" below).

Supplementary information (optional) – in some cases, additional information that is not critical to understanding the research paper, such as a list of experiment stimuli, details of a secondary analysis, or programming code, is provided.  This is often placed in an Appendix.

Variations of Research Papers in APA Style

Although the major sections described above are common to most research papers written in APA style, there are variations on that pattern.  These variations include: 

  • Literature reviews – when a paper is reviewing prior published research and not presenting new empirical research itself (such as in a review article, and particularly a qualitative review), then the authors may forgo any Methods and Results sections. Instead, there is a different structure such as an Introduction section followed by sections for each of the different aspects of the body of research being reviewed, and then perhaps a Discussion section. 
  • Multi-experiment papers – when there are multiple experiments, it is common to follow the Introduction with an Experiment 1 section, itself containing Methods, Results, and Discussion subsections. Then there is an Experiment 2 section with a similar structure, an Experiment 3 section with a similar structure, and so on until all experiments are covered.  Towards the end of the paper there is a General Discussion section followed by References.  Additionally, in multi-experiment papers, it is common for the Results and Discussion subsections for individual experiments to be combined into single “Results and Discussion” sections.

Departures from APA Style

In some cases, official APA style might not be followed (however, be sure to check with your editor, instructor, or other sources before deviating from standards of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association).  Such deviations may include:

  • Placement of Tables and Figures  – in some cases, to make reading through the paper easier, Tables and/or Figures are embedded in the text (for example, having a bar graph placed in the relevant Results section). The embedding of Tables and/or Figures in the text is one of the most common deviations from APA style (and is commonly allowed in B.S. Degree Research Papers and Honors Theses; however you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first). 
  • Incomplete research – sometimes a B.S. Degree Research Paper in this department is written about research that is currently being planned or is in progress. In those circumstances, sometimes only an Introduction and Methods section, followed by References, is included (that is, in cases where the research itself has not formally begun).  In other cases, preliminary results are presented and noted as such in the Results section (such as in cases where the study is underway but not complete), and the Discussion section includes caveats about the in-progress nature of the research.  Again, you should check with your instructor, supervisor, or editor first.
  • Class assignments – in some classes in this department, an assignment must be written in APA style but is not exactly a traditional research paper (for instance, a student asked to write about an article that they read, and to write that report in APA style). In that case, the structure of the paper might approximate the typical sections of a research paper in APA style, but not entirely.  You should check with your instructor for further guidelines.

Workshops and Downloadable Resources

  • For in-person discussion of the process of writing research papers, please consider attending this department’s “Writing Research Papers” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos

APA Journal Article Reporting Guidelines

  • Appelbaum, M., Cooper, H., Kline, R. B., Mayo-Wilson, E., Nezu, A. M., & Rao, S. M. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for quantitative research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 3.
  • Levitt, H. M., Bamberg, M., Creswell, J. W., Frost, D. M., Josselson, R., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2018). Journal article reporting standards for qualitative primary, qualitative meta-analytic, and mixed methods research in psychology: The APA Publications and Communications Board task force report . American Psychologist , 73 (1), 26.  

External Resources

  • Formatting APA Style Papers in Microsoft Word
  • How to Write an APA Style Research Paper from Hamilton University
  • WikiHow Guide to Writing APA Research Papers
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper with Comments
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper
  • Tips for Writing a Paper in APA Style

1 VandenBos, G. R. (Ed). (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) (pp. 41-60).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

2 geller, e. (2018).  how to write an apa-style research report . [instructional materials]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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  • Formatting Research Papers
  • Using Databases and Finding References
  • What Types of References Are Appropriate?
  • Evaluating References and Taking Notes
  • Citing References
  • Writing a Literature Review
  • Writing Process and Revising
  • Improving Scientific Writing
  • Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Writing Research Papers Videos

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Writing a research paper: Is there a preferred sequence for writing?

Discover the most effective sequence for writing a research paper. Join us for expert insights and valuable tips on optimizing your paper's structure and content.


  • Introduction

In this episode of the Trinka podcast, Dr. KK takes us through the conventional sequence for writing a research paper which is usually structured with a title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion (sometimes with a standalone conclusion section), and references. The acronym IMRAD is often used to refer to this sequence. Writing a research paper in this sequence ensures that the writing has a continuity and flow that is appropriate for the eventual output of the research paper.

Meet the Host


About the Speaker

Dr. krishna kumar venkitachalam.

The Trinka Podcast is hosted by Dr Krishna Kumar Venkitachalam, who prefers to be referred as Dr KK. He is a surgeon by qualification, but is very passionate about science, communication and languages. Also, he has been in the academic publication industry for the last 15 years.

The Usual Sequence of a Research Paper

When it comes to writing a research paper, there are typically two ways to approach it: the usual sequence and the alternative sequence. The usual sequence is the conventional way that most researchers follow, while the alternative sequence is a recommended method that is gaining popularity. In this article, we will explore both sequences in detail.

The usual sequence for writing a research paper is as follows:

  • Methodology

Title: The title is the first thing readers see when they come across a research paper. A good title should be clear, concise, and informative. It should give readers an idea of what the research paper is about without being too long or complicated. A title should also be relevant to the research field in question.

Abstract: The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper. It should include a statement of the research problem, the methods used to address the problem, the main results of the research, and the conclusions drawn from the results. The abstract should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. A well-written abstract can help readers decide whether they want to read the entire research paper or not.

Introduction: The introduction section of a research paper should provide an overview of the research problem and why it is important. It should also include a brief literature review that discusses the previous research that has been done in the area and identifies any gaps that the current research aims to fill. The introduction should end with a clear statement of the research question or hypothesis.

Methods: The methods section should provide a detailed description of the research methodology used in the research. It should describe the participants, materials, and procedures used in the study. This section should be written in enough detail so that other researchers can replicate the study if they wish to do so.

Results: The results section should present the findings of the research in a clear and concise manner. It should include tables, graphs, and other visual aids to help readers understand the data. The results section should also include a discussion of any statistical analyses that were conducted.

Discussion: The discussion section is where the results of the research are interpreted and discussed. The discussion should be focused on answering the research question or hypothesis that was stated in the introduction. It should also discuss the implications of the research and any limitations of the study. Finally, the discussion should end with a clear conclusion that summarizes the main findings of the research.

References: The references section should list all of the sources that were cited in the research paper. It should be formatted according to the citation style used in the research field.

An Alternative Sequence for Writing a Research Paper

While the conventional sequence for writing a research paper is widely used, there are some cases where an alternative sequence may be more appropriate. For example, if the research is focused on a new methodology or technique, it may be more appropriate to start with the methods section before moving on to the introduction and other sections. Alternatively, if the research is focused on a new concept or theory, it may be more appropriate to start with the introduction before moving on to the methods and results sections.

The decision to use an alternative sequence should be based on the specific needs of the research project and the research field in question. It is important to consider the needs of the audience and to ensure that the writing flows smoothly and logically.

The alternative sequence starts with the methodology section, which outlines what will be done, how it will be done, and the tools and techniques that will be used. In medicine, for example, the methodology section is often the first consolidated aspect of any research paper because of the strict adherence to the methodology in clinical trials. The results section explains what was found using the methods outlined in the methodology section.

After the methodology and results sections are completed, the introduction section is written. This approach allows the researcher to write an introduction that accurately reflects the research that has been done, as opposed to guessing what the research will be about before it is conducted. The discussion section follows, putting the findings of the research in the context of the research field. The references section is completed next, followed by the abstract and title.

Advantages of the Alternative Sequence

There are several advantages to using the alternative sequence for writing a research paper. Firstly, starting with the methodology section ensures that the research paper accurately reflects the research that has been conducted. Secondly, completing the results section early on provides a clear picture of what the research paper will ultimately be about. Finally, writing the introduction and discussion sections after the methodology and results sections ensures that they accurately reflect the research that has been conducted.

Marking for Edit and Making the Decision

Once the research paper has been written, it is important to mark it for editing. This means going through the paper and identifying any errors or areas that need improvement. Editing can be done by the author themselves or by a professional editor.

When deciding which sequence to use for writing a research paper, it is important to consider the specific needs of the research project and the research field in question. The conventional sequence is widely used for a reason, but there are cases where an

Both the usual sequence and alternative sequence for writing a research paper have their advantages. The usual sequence follows a more conventional approach, while the alternative sequence takes a more structured approach that ensures that the research paper accurately reflects the research that has been conducted. Ultimately, it is up to the researcher to decide which sequence is best suited for their needs.

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What are the Parts of a Research Paper?

A research paper consists of 10 parts: cover page, table of content, abstract, introduction, methodology, data analysis, findings and discussion, conclusion, reference, and appendix section. All these parts of research paper are arranged in a way that shows flow of the paper from one section to the other.

Parts of a Research Paper

1. cover page.

A great research paper format begins with a cover page. The cover page is the first page of the research paper and contains details of the writer/author of the piece. These details include title of the paper, name of author, name of university/affiliated institution, name of professor, year, and acknowledgement if applicable.

The structure of a research paper is not complete without cover page.

Writing the cover page is quite straight forward. Look at this example of research paper cover page below. You will notice that this first page is seemingly the simplest part of writing a scholarly piece.

enumerate the contents of a research paper in proper order

2. Table of contents

Writing a table of content usually comes after the paper is complete but the author can decide to update it while typing the different the contents.

Tables of content as as research paper parts all depend on the preference of the author. Some like inserting table of contents after completing an entire research paper. Others love to see their table of contents updated frequently to avoid too much work on editing and last-minute pressure to complete the task.

Table of contents provides a list of all items in a research paper. The list of items include all main headings and sub-headings. Level I, II, III, and IV headings are written included.

There is no limit in how many levels of headings are allowed in a research paper. Depending on the formatting style, each paper may vary based on heading levels. However, the table of contents section is usually filled in a similar manner.

An example of a table of contents is shown below. This article also has a list of contents at the beginning and that can be used to give a hint.

3. Abstract

An abstract is a concise summary of a research paper. It details the research methodology including sampling methods, data collection, data analysis, results and findings, and conclusions.

Usually, a research paper will provide a one sentence objective or goal followed by methodology in the abstract. The length of the abstract ranges from 100 – 450 words depending on topic or genre of writing.

4. Introduction

In the introduction section of a research paper, the writer focusses on the topic of interest.

For instance, a research paper examining the “Effects of fast food industry on childhood obesity,” the introduction could explain the fast food industry, prevalence of childhood obesity, and other additional basic information about the topic.

5. Background/review of the literature

The background section of provides current literature findings regarding the topic or thesis. Here, the researcher reviews literature to justify why their proposed study is needed.

Perhaps there is a literature gap and further research is needed to explain the relationship between the variables of the research.

6. Methodology

The structure of a research paper is not complete without methodology (research design). Sampling methods, data collection criteria, data analysis, findings and discussion sections make up the body of a research paper.

The purpose of this section is usually to describe the steps you undertook and the participants you recruited to carry out the study.

7. Data analysis

Data analysis can be qualitative or quantitative depending on your study design. Analysis involves drawing inferences from your data by performing manipulations through statistical methods or any other approach to data analysis.

Most students usually feel that data analysis is the most complex part of a research paper because it requires accuracy and working with complex formulas.

Poor methods of data analysis could lead to inaccurate findings thus lowering the validity and reliability of your research.

8. Findings and discussion

Discussing the findings of a research study requires comparison of the outcomes with existing literature. Do the results support or disprove existing knowledge on the field? That is the main purpose of new research.

The authors can also include the relevance of the findings. Explaining what can be draw from the study outcomes and its usefulness to policymaking is needed.

Other than the two issues identified, the discussion section of a research paper also explains potential future research that new researchers may want to consider.

It is also usually important to discuss the limitations of a research paper to allow other researchers understand the context of the study findings.

Explaining the limitations of a paper shows that the outcomes of the findings might have been influence by other external factors and to what extent?

9. Conclusion

Research paper parts in the correct order are not complete without a conclusion.

The conclusion section summarizes the findings of a study and explains the researchers’ final remarks. Were the findings valid? What is the overall implication of the paper? What next for future research? Could the outcomes shape policymaking? These are some of the questions a research paper conclusion need to answer.

10. References

The reference list is provided on a fresh new page after conclusion. The more number of sources cited, the longer the list and the more rigorous the study can be considered.

Read more on different referencing styles: How to format a research paper in APA referencing style

References in an article depends on the journal publication preferences. Referencing style is also based on individual university guidelines to their students.

11. Appendix

A less fancied research paper part is the appendix. The appendix is the section containing figures and statistical information that might have been used in the research study.

It comes at the very last section of a research paper. A research paper format can be complete without appendices if the research decides to include the figures within the other earlier sections.

enumerate the contents of a research paper in proper order

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Table of Contents

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A guide to the table of contents page



  • 1 Definition: Table of Contents
  • 3 Everything for Your Thesis
  • 5 Create in Microsoft Word
  • 6 In a Nutshell

Definition: Table of Contents

The table of contents is an organized listing of your document’s chapters, sections and, often, figures, clearly labelled by page number. Readers should be able to look at your table of contents page and understand immediately how your paper is organized, enabling them to skip to any relevant section or sub-section. The table of contents should list all front matter, main content and back matter, including the headings and page numbers of all chapters and the bibliography . A good table of contents should be easy to read, accurately formatted and completed last so that it is 100% accurate. Although you can complete a table of contents manually, many word processing tools like Microsoft Word enable you to format your table of contents automatically.

When adding the finishing touches to your dissertation, the table of contents is one of the most crucial elements. It helps the reader navigate (like a map) through your argument and topic points. Adding a table of contents is simple and it can be inserted easily after you have finished writing your paper. In this guide, we look at the do’s and don’ts of a table of contents; this will help you process and format your dissertation in a professional way.

When adding the finishing touches to your dissertation, the table of contents is one of the most crucial elements. It helps the reader navigate (like a map) through your argument and topic points. Adding a table of contents is simple and can be inserted easily after you have finished writing your paper. In this guide, we look at the do’s and don’ts of a table of contents; this will help you process and format your dissertation in a professional way.

What is a table of contents?

A table of contents is a list, usually on a page at the beginning of a piece of academic writing , which outlines the chapters or sections names with their corresponding page numbers. In addition to chapter names, it includes bullet points of the sub-chapter headings or subsection headings. It usually comes right after the title page of a research paper.

How do you write a table of contents

To write a table of contents, you first write the title or chapter names of your research paper in chronological order. Secondly, you write the subheadings or subtitles, if you have them in your paper. After that, you write the page numbers for the corresponding headings and subheadings. You can also very easily set up a table of contents in Microsoft Word.

Where do you put a table of contents?

The table of contents is found on a page right at the beginning of an academic writing project. It comes specifically after the title page and acknowledgements, but before the introductory page of a writing project. This position at the beginning of an academic piece of writing is universal for all academic projects.

What to include in a table of contents?

A sample table of contents includes the title of the paper at the very top, followed by the chapter names and subtitles in chronological order. At the end of each line, is the page number of the corresponding headings. Examples of chapter names can be: executive summary,  introduction, project description, marketing plan, summary and conclusion. The abstract and acknowledgments are usually not included in the table of contents, however this could depend on the formatting that is required by your institution. Scroll down to see some examples.

How important is a table of contents?

A table of contents is very important at the beginning of a writing project for two important reasons. Firstly, it helps the reader easily locate contents of particular topics itemized as chapters or subtitles. Secondly, it helps the writer arrange their work and organize their thoughts so that important sections of an academic project are not left out. This has the extra effect of helping to manage the reader’s expectation of any academic essay or thesis right from the beginning.

Everything for Your Thesis

A table of contents is a crucial component of an academic thesis. Whether you’re completing a Bachelor’s or a postgraduate degree, the table of contents is a requirement for dissertation submissions. As a rule of thumb, your table of contents will usually come after your title page , abstract, acknowledgement or preface. Although it’s not necessary to include a reference to this front matter in your table of contents, different universities have different policies and guidelines.

Although the table of contents is best completed after you have finished your thesis, it’s a good idea to draw up a mock table of contents in the early stages of writing. This allows you to formulate a structure and think through your topic and how you are going to research, answer and make your argument. Think of this as a form of “reverse engineering”. Knowing how your chapters are going to be ordered and what topics or research questions are included in each will help immensely when it comes to your writing.

The table of contents is not just an academic formality, it allows your examiner to quickly get a feel for your topic and understand how your dissertation will be presented. An unclear or sloppy table of contents may even have an adverse effect on your grade because the dissertation is difficult to follow.

Examiners are readers, after all, and a dissertation is an exercise in producing an argument. A clear table of contents will give both a good impression and provide an accurate roadmap to make the examiner’s job easier and your argument more persuasive.

Your table of contents section will come after your acknowledgements and before your introduction. It includes a list of all your headers and their respective pages and will also contain a sub-section listing your tables, figures or illustrations (if you are using them). In general, your thesis can be ordered like this:

1. Title Page 2. Copyright / Statement of Originality 3. Abstract 4. Acknowledgement, Dedication and Preface (optional) 5. Table of Contents 6. List of Figures/Tables/Illustrations 7. Chapters 8. Appendices 9. Endnotes (depending on your formatting) 10. Bibliography / References

The formatting of your table of contents will depend on your academic field and thesis length. Some disciplines, like the sciences, have a methodical structure which includes recommended subheadings on methodology, data results, discussion and conclusion. Humanities subjects, on the other hand, are far more varied. Whichever discipline you are working in, you need to create an organized list of all chapters in their order of appearance, with chapter subheadings clearly labelled.

Sample table of contents for a short dissertation:

Abstract ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ii Acknowledgements ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. iii Dedication ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. iv List of Tables ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. x List of Figures ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. xi Chapter 1: Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1 Chapter 2: Literature Survey ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13 Chapter 3: Methodology ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 42 Chapter 4: Analysis ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 100 Chapter 5: Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 129 Appendices ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 169 References ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 172

When producing a more significant and longer dissertation, say for a Master’s degree or even a PhD, your chapter descriptions should contain all subheadings. These are listed with the chapter number, followed by a decimal point and the subheading number.

Sample table of contents for a PhD dissertation:

Chapter 1 1.1 Introduction 1.2 Literature Review 1.3 Data 1.4 Findings 1.5 Conclusion

Chapter 2, and so on.

The key to writing a good table of contents is consistency and accuracy. You cannot list subheadings for one chapter and forget them for another. Subheadings are not always required but they can be very helpful if you are dealing with a detailed topic. The page numbers in the table of contents must match with the respective pages in your thesis or manuscript.

What’s more, chapter titles and subheading titles must match their corresponding pages. If your first chapter is called “Chapter 1: The Beginning”, it must be written as such on both the table of contents and first chapter page. So long as you remain both accurate and consistent, your table of contents will be perfect.


Create in Microsoft Word

Fortunately, the days of manually writing a contents page are over. You can still produce a contents page manually with Microsoft Word, but consider using their automatic feature to guarantee accuracy and save time.

To produce an automatically-generated table of contents, you must first work with heading styles. These can be found in the home tab under “Styles”. Select top-level headings (your chapter titles) and apply the Heading 1 style. This ensures that they will be formatted as main headings. Second-level headings (subheadings) can be applied with the Heading 2 style. This will place them underneath and within each main heading.

Once you have worked with heading styles, simply click on the “References” tab and select “Table of Contents”. This option will allow you to automatically produce a page with accurate page links to your document. To customize the format and style applied to your table of contents, select “Custom Table of Contents” at the bottom of the tab. Remember to update your table of contents by selecting the table and choosing “Update” from the drop-down menu. This will ensure that your headings, sub-headings and page numbers all add up.


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In a Nutshell

  • The table of contents is a vital part of any academic thesis or extensive paper.
  • It is an accurate map of your manuscript’s content – its headings, sub-headings and page numbers.
  • It shows how you have divided your thesis into more manageable chunks through the use of chapters.
  • By breaking apart your thesis into discrete sections, you make your argument both more persuasive and easier to follow.
  • What’s more, your contents page should produce an accurate map of your thesis’ references, bibliography, illustrations and figures.
  • It is an accurate map of the chapters, references, bibliography, illustrations and figures in your thesis.

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How to Structure the Table of Contents for a Research Paper

How to Structure the Table of Contents for a Research Paper

4-minute read

  • 16th July 2023

So you’ve made it to the important step of writing the table of contents for your paper. Congratulations on making it this far! Whether you’re writing a research paper or a dissertation , the table of contents not only provides the reader with guidance on where to find the sections of your paper, but it also signals that a quality piece of research is to follow. Here, we will provide detailed instructions on how to structure the table of contents for your research paper.

Steps to Create a Table of Contents

  • Insert the table of contents after the title page.

Within the structure of your research paper , you should place the table of contents after the title page but before the introduction or the beginning of the content. If your research paper includes an abstract or an acknowledgements section , place the table of contents after it.

  • List all the paper’s sections and subsections in chronological order.

Depending on the complexity of your paper, this list will include chapters (first-level headings), chapter sections (second-level headings), and perhaps subsections (third-level headings). If you have a chapter outline , it will come in handy during this step. You should include the bibliography and all appendices in your table of contents. If you have more than a few charts and figures (more often the case in a dissertation than in a research paper), you should add them to a separate list of charts and figures that immediately follows the table of contents. (Check out our FAQs below for additional guidance on items that should not be in your table of contents.)

  • Paginate each section.

Label each section and subsection with the page number it begins on. Be sure to do a check after you’ve made your final edits to ensure that you don’t need to update the page numbers.

  • Format your table of contents.

The way you format your table of contents will depend on the style guide you use for the rest of your paper. For example, there are table of contents formatting guidelines for Turabian/Chicago and MLA styles, and although the APA recommends checking with your instructor for formatting instructions (always a good rule of thumb), you can also create a table of contents for a research paper that follows APA style .

  • Add hyperlinks if you like.

Depending on the word processing software you’re using, you may also be able to hyperlink the sections of your table of contents for easier navigation through your paper. (Instructions for this feature are available for both Microsoft Word and Google Docs .)

To summarize, the following steps will help you create a clear and concise table of contents to guide readers through your research paper :

1. Insert the table of contents after the title page.

2. List all the sections and subsections in chronological order.

3. Paginate each section.

4. Format the table of contents according to your style guide.

5. Add optional hyperlinks.

If you’d like help formatting and proofreading your research paper , check out some of our services. You can even submit a sample for free . Best of luck writing your research paper table of contents!

What is a table of contents?

A table of contents is a listing of each section of a document in chronological order, accompanied by the page number where the section begins. A table of contents gives the reader an overview of the contents of a document, as well as providing guidance on where to find each section.

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What should I include in my table of contents?

If your paper contains any of the following sections, they should be included in your table of contents:

●  Chapters, chapter sections, and subsections

●  Introduction

●  Conclusion

●  Appendices

●  Bibliography

Although recommendations may differ among institutions, you generally should not include the following in your table of contents:

●  Title page

●  Abstract

●  Acknowledgements

●  Forward or preface

If you have several charts, figures, or tables, consider creating a separate list for them that will immediately follow the table of contents. Also, you don’t need to include the table of contents itself in your table of contents.

Is there more than one way to format a table of contents?

Yes! In addition to following any recommendations from your instructor or institution, you should follow the stipulations of your style guide .

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  • Research Paper >

Parts of a Research Paper

One of the most important aspects of science is ensuring that you get all the parts of the written research paper in the right order.

This article is a part of the guide:

  • Outline Examples
  • Example of a Paper
  • Write a Hypothesis
  • Introduction

Browse Full Outline

  • 1 Write a Research Paper
  • 2 Writing a Paper
  • 3.1 Write an Outline
  • 3.2 Outline Examples
  • 4.1 Thesis Statement
  • 4.2 Write a Hypothesis
  • 5.2 Abstract
  • 5.3 Introduction
  • 5.4 Methods
  • 5.5 Results
  • 5.6 Discussion
  • 5.7 Conclusion
  • 5.8 Bibliography
  • 6.1 Table of Contents
  • 6.2 Acknowledgements
  • 6.3 Appendix
  • 7.1 In Text Citations
  • 7.2 Footnotes
  • 7.3.1 Floating Blocks
  • 7.4 Example of a Paper
  • 7.5 Example of a Paper 2
  • 7.6.1 Citations
  • 7.7.1 Writing Style
  • 7.7.2 Citations
  • 8.1.1 Sham Peer Review
  • 8.1.2 Advantages
  • 8.1.3 Disadvantages
  • 8.2 Publication Bias
  • 8.3.1 Journal Rejection
  • 9.1 Article Writing
  • 9.2 Ideas for Topics

You may have finished the best research project on earth but, if you do not write an interesting and well laid out paper, then nobody is going to take your findings seriously.

The main thing to remember with any research paper is that it is based on an hourglass structure. It begins with general information and undertaking a literature review , and becomes more specific as you nail down a research problem and hypothesis .

Finally, it again becomes more general as you try to apply your findings to the world at general.

Whilst there are a few differences between the various disciplines, with some fields placing more emphasis on certain parts than others, there is a basic underlying structure.

These steps are the building blocks of constructing a good research paper. This section outline how to lay out the parts of a research paper, including the various experimental methods and designs.

The principles for literature review and essays of all types follow the same basic principles.

Reference List

enumerate the contents of a research paper in proper order

For many students, writing the introduction is the first part of the process, setting down the direction of the paper and laying out exactly what the research paper is trying to achieve.

For others, the introduction is the last thing written, acting as a quick summary of the paper. As long as you have planned a good structure for the parts of a research paper, both approaches are acceptable and it is a matter of preference.

A good introduction generally consists of three distinct parts:

  • You should first give a general presentation of the research problem.
  • You should then lay out exactly what you are trying to achieve with this particular research project.
  • You should then state your own position.

Ideally, you should try to give each section its own paragraph, but this will vary given the overall length of the paper.

1) General Presentation

Look at the benefits to be gained by the research or why the problem has not been solved yet. Perhaps nobody has thought about it, or maybe previous research threw up some interesting leads that the previous researchers did not follow up.

Another researcher may have uncovered some interesting trends, but did not manage to reach the significance level , due to experimental error or small sample sizes .

2) Purpose of the Paper

The research problem does not have to be a statement, but must at least imply what you are trying to find.

Many writers prefer to place the thesis statement or hypothesis here, which is perfectly acceptable, but most include it in the last sentences of the introduction, to give the reader a fuller picture.

3) A Statement of Intent From the Writer

The idea is that somebody will be able to gain an overall view of the paper without needing to read the whole thing. Literature reviews are time-consuming enough, so give the reader a concise idea of your intention before they commit to wading through pages of background.

In this section, you look to give a context to the research, including any relevant information learned during your literature review. You are also trying to explain why you chose this area of research, attempting to highlight why it is necessary. The second part should state the purpose of the experiment and should include the research problem. The third part should give the reader a quick summary of the form that the parts of the research paper is going to take and should include a condensed version of the discussion.

enumerate the contents of a research paper in proper order

This should be the easiest part of the paper to write, as it is a run-down of the exact design and methodology used to perform the research. Obviously, the exact methodology varies depending upon the exact field and type of experiment .

There is a big methodological difference between the apparatus based research of the physical sciences and the methods and observation methods of social sciences. However, the key is to ensure that another researcher would be able to replicate the experiment to match yours as closely as possible, but still keeping the section concise.

You can assume that anybody reading your paper is familiar with the basic methods, so try not to explain every last detail. For example, an organic chemist or biochemist will be familiar with chromatography, so you only need to highlight the type of equipment used rather than explaining the whole process in detail.

In the case of a survey , if you have too many questions to cover in the method, you can always include a copy of the questionnaire in the appendix . In this case, make sure that you refer to it.

This is probably the most variable part of any research paper, and depends on the results and aims of the experiment.

For quantitative research , it is a presentation of the numerical results and data, whereas for qualitative research it should be a broader discussion of trends, without going into too much detail.

For research generating a lot of results , then it is better to include tables or graphs of the analyzed data and leave the raw data in the appendix, so that a researcher can follow up and check your calculations.

A commentary is essential to linking the results together, rather than just displaying isolated and unconnected charts and figures.

It can be quite difficult to find a good balance between the results and the discussion section, because some findings, especially in a quantitative or descriptive experiment , will fall into a grey area. Try to avoid repeating yourself too often.

It is best to try to find a middle path, where you give a general overview of the data and then expand on it in the discussion - you should try to keep your own opinions and interpretations out of the results section, saving that for the discussion later on.

This is where you elaborate on your findings, and explain what you found, adding your own personal interpretations.

Ideally, you should link the discussion back to the introduction, addressing each point individually.

It’s important to make sure that every piece of information in your discussion is directly related to the thesis statement , or you risk cluttering your findings. In keeping with the hourglass principle, you can expand on the topic later in the conclusion .

The conclusion is where you build on your discussion and try to relate your findings to other research and to the world at large.

In a short research paper, it may be a paragraph or two, or even a few lines.

In a dissertation, it may well be the most important part of the entire paper - not only does it describe the results and discussion in detail, it emphasizes the importance of the results in the field, and ties it in with the previous research.

Some research papers require a recommendations section, postulating the further directions of the research, as well as highlighting how any flaws affected the results. In this case, you should suggest any improvements that could be made to the research design .

No paper is complete without a reference list , documenting all the sources that you used for your research. This should be laid out according to APA , MLA or other specified format, allowing any interested researcher to follow up on the research.

One habit that is becoming more common, especially with online papers, is to include a reference to your own paper on the final page. Lay this out in MLA, APA and Chicago format, allowing anybody referencing your paper to copy and paste it.

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Sequence of a Research Report

According to Technical Writing and Reporting by Igoy, Saymo and Esperon, research report is a careful, systematic, methodical and objective inquiry that leads to the development of generalization and theories.  To present the result of the experiment or study, a scientific writing called the research report should be made.

The following are the sequence of a Research Report.  This outline follows the usual sequence in research reports.

A.    Preliminary Section or Front Matter 1.    Title Page 2.    Acknowlegement (if any) 3.    Table of Contents 4.    List of Tables (if any) 5.    List of Figures (if any)

B.    Main Body of the Report 1.    Introduction a.    Statement of the Problem – specific questions to be answered- hypothesis tested b.    Significance of the Problem c.    Purposes of the Study d.    Assumptions, Limitations and Delimitations e.    Definition of Important Terms

2.    Review of Related Literature or Analysis of Previous Research

3.    Design of the Study a.    Procedures Used b.    Sources of Data c.    Methods of Gathering Data d.    Description of Data-gathering Instruments Used

4.    Presentation and Analysis of Data a.    Text b.    Table c.    Figures

5.    Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations a.    Restatement of the Problem b.    Description of Procedures Used c.    Principal Findings and Conclusions d.    Recommendation for Further Research

C.    Reference Section 1.    Bibliography 2.    Appendix


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