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How to Write a Research Paper
Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write a research paper.
Start the Research Process
Before you begin writing the research paper, you must do your research. It is important that you understand the subject matter, formulate the ideas of your paper, create your thesis statement and learn how to speak about your given topic in an authoritative manner. You’ll be looking through online databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, periodicals, books, newspapers, government publications, reports, guides and scholarly resources. Take notes as you discover new information about your given topic. Also keep track of the references you use so you can build your bibliography later and cite your resources.
Develop Your Thesis Statement
When organizing your research paper, the thesis statement is where you explain to your readers what they can expect, present your claims, answer any questions that you were asked or explain your interpretation of the subject matter you’re researching. Therefore, the thesis statement must be strong and easy to understand. Your thesis statement must also be precise. It should answer the question you were assigned, and there should be an opportunity for your position to be opposed or disputed. The body of your manuscript should support your thesis, and it should be more than a generic fact.
Create an Outline
Many professors require outlines during the research paper writing process. You’ll find that they want outlines set up with a title page, abstract, introduction, research paper body and reference section. The title page is typically made up of the student’s name, the name of the college, the name of the class and the date of the paper. The abstract is a summary of the paper. An introduction typically consists of one or two pages and comments on the subject matter of the research paper. In the body of the research paper, you’ll be breaking it down into materials and methods, results and discussions. Your references are in your bibliography. Use a research paper example to help you with your outline if necessary.
Organize Your Notes
When writing your first draft, you’re going to have to work on organizing your notes first. During this process, you’ll be deciding which references you’ll be putting in your bibliography and which will work best as in-text citations. You’ll be working on this more as you develop your working drafts and look at more white paper examples to help guide you through the process.
Write Your Final Draft
After you’ve written a first and second draft and received corrections from your professor, it’s time to write your final copy. By now, you should have seen an example of a research paper layout and know how to put your paper together. You’ll have your title page, abstract, introduction, thesis statement, in-text citations, footnotes and bibliography complete. Be sure to check with your professor to ensure if you’re writing in APA style, or if you’re using another style guide.
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How to write and structure a journal article
Sharing your research data can be hugely beneficial to your career , as well as to the scholarly community and wider society. But before you do so, there are some important ethical considerations to remember.
What are the rules and guidance you should follow, when you begin to think about how to write and structure a journal article? Ruth First Prize winner Steven Rogers, PhD said the first thing is to be passionate about what you write.
Steven Nabieu Rogers, Ruth First Prize winner.
Let’s go through some of the best advice that will help you pinpoint the features of a journal article, and how to structure it into a compelling research paper.
Planning for your article
When planning to write your article, make sure it has a central message that you want to get across. This could be a novel aspect of methodology that you have in your PhD study, a new theory, or an interesting modification you have made to theory or a novel set of findings.
2018 NARST Award winner Marissa Rollnick advised that you should decide what this central focus is, then create a paper outline bearing in mind the need to:
Isolate a manageable size
Create a coherent story/argument
Make the argument self-standing
Target the journal readership
Change the writing conventions from that used in your thesis
Get familiar with the journal you want to submit to
It is a good idea to choose your target journal before you start to write your paper. Then you can tailor your writing to the journal’s requirements and readership, to increase your chances of acceptance.
When selecting your journal think about audience, purposes, what to write about and why. Decide the kind of article to write. Is it a report, position paper, critique or review? What makes your argument or research interesting? How might the paper add value to the field?
If you need more guidance on how to choose a journal, here is our guide to narrow your focus.
Once you’ve chosen your target journal, take the time to read a selection of articles already published – particularly focus on those that are relevant to your own research.
This can help you get an understanding of what the editors may be looking for, then you can guide your writing efforts.
The Think. Check. Submit. initiative provides tools to help you evaluate whether the journal you’re planning to send your work to is trustworthy.
The journal’s aims and scope is also an important resource to refer back to as you write your paper – use it to make sure your article aligns with what the journal is trying to accomplish.
Keep your message focused
The next thing you need to consider when writing your article is your target audience. Are you writing for a more general audience or is your audience experts in the same field as you? The journal you have chosen will give you more information on the type of audience that will read your work.
When you know your audience, focus on your main message to keep the attention of your readers. A lack of focus is a common problem and can get in the way of effective communication.
Stick to the point. The strongest journal articles usually have one point to make. They make that point powerfully, back it up with evidence, and position it within the field.
How to format and structure a journal article
The format and structure of a journal article is just as important as the content itself, it helps to clearly guide the reader through.
How do I format a journal article?
Individual journals will have their own specific formatting requirements, which you can find in the instructions for authors.
You can save time on formatting by downloading a template from our library of templates to apply to your article text. These templates are accepted by many of our journals. Also, a large number of our journals now offer format-free submission, which allows you to submit your paper without formatting your manuscript to meet that journal’s specific requirements.
General structure for writing an academic journal article
The title of your article is one of the first indicators readers will get of your research and concepts. It should be concise, accurate, and informative. You should include your most relevant keywords in your title, but avoid including abbreviations and formulae.
Keywords are an essential part of producing a journal article. When writing a journal article you must select keywords that you would like your article to rank for.
Keywords help potential readers to discover your article when conducting research using search engines.
The purpose of your abstract is to express the key points of your research, clearly and concisely. An abstract must always be well considered, as it is the primary element of your work that readers will come across.
An abstract should be a short paragraph (around 300 words) that summarizes the findings of your journal article. Ordinarily an abstract will be comprised of:
What your research is about
What methods have been used
What your main findings are
Acknowledgements can appear to be a small aspect of your journal article, however it is still important. This is where you acknowledge the individuals who do not qualify for co-authorship, but contributed to your article intellectually, financially, or in some other manner.
When you acknowledge someone in your academic texts, it gives you more integrity as a writer as it shows that you are not claiming other academic’s ideas as your own intellectual property. It can also aid your readers in their own research journeys.
An introduction is a pivotal part of the article writing process. An introduction not only introduces your topic and your stance on the topic, but it also (situates/contextualizes) your argument in the broader academic field.
The main body is where your main arguments and your evidence are located. Each paragraph will encapsulate a different notion and there will be clear linking between each paragraph.
Your conclusion should be an interpretation of your results, where you summarize all of the concepts that you introduced in the main body of the text in order of most to least important. No new concepts are to be introduced in this section.
References and citations
References and citations should be well balanced, current and relevant. Although every field is different, you should aim to cite references that are not more than 10 years old if possible. The studies you cite should be strongly related to your research question.
Clarity is key
Make your writing accessible by using clear language. Writing that is easy to read, is easier to understand too.
You may want to write for a global audience – to have your research reach the widest readership. Make sure you write in a way that will be understood by any reader regardless of their field or whether English is their first language.
Write your journal article with confidence, to give your reader certainty in your research. Make sure that you’ve described your methodology and approach; whilst it may seem obvious to you, it may not to your reader. And don’t forget to explain acronyms when they first appear.
Engage your audience. Go back to thinking about your audience; are they experts in your field who will easily follow technical language, or are they a lay audience who need the ideas presented in a simpler way?
Be aware of other literature in your field, and reference it
Make sure to tell your reader how your article relates to key work that’s already published. This doesn’t mean you have to review every piece of previous relevant literature, but show how you are building on previous work to avoid accidental plagiarism.
When you reference something, fully understand its relevance to your research so you can make it clear for your reader. Keep in mind that recent references highlight awareness of all the current developments in the literature that you are building on. This doesn’t mean you can’t include older references, just make sure it is clear why you’ve chosen to.
How old can my references be?
Your literature review should take into consideration the current state of the literature.
There is no specific timeline to consider. But note that your subject area may be a factor. Your colleagues may also be able to guide your decision.
Grasian Mkodzongi, Ruth First Prize Winner
Top tips to get you started
Communicate your unique point of view to stand out. You may be building on a concept already in existence, but you still need to have something new to say. Make sure you say it convincingly, and fully understand and reference what has gone before.
Professor Len Barton, Founding Editor of Disability and Society
Now you know the features of a journal article and how to construct it. This video is an extra resource to use with this guide to help you know what to think about before you write your journal article.
Expert help for your manuscript
Taylor & Francis Editing Services offers a full range of pre-submission manuscript preparation services to help you improve the quality of your manuscript and submit with confidence.
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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper in 7 Steps
What comes next after you're done with your research? Publishing the results in a journal of course! We tell you how to present your work in the best way possible.
This post is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.
Things have gotten busy in scholarly publishing: These days, a new article gets published in the 50,000 most important peer-reviewed journals every few seconds, while each one takes on average 40 minutes to read. Hundreds of thousands of papers reach the desks of editors and reviewers worldwide each year and 50% of all submissions end up rejected at some stage.
In a nutshell: there is a lot of competition, and the people who decide upon the fate of your manuscript are short on time and overworked. But there are ways to make their lives a little easier and improve your own chances of getting your work published!
Well, it may seem obvious, but before submitting an academic paper, always make sure that it is an excellent reflection of the research you have done and that you present it in the most professional way possible. Incomplete or poorly presented manuscripts can create a great deal of frustration and annoyance for editors who probably won’t even bother wasting the time of the reviewers!
This post will discuss 7 steps to the successful publication of your research paper:
- Check whether your research is publication-ready
- Choose an article type
- Choose a journal
- Construct your paper
- Decide the order of authors
- Check and double-check
- Submit your paper
1. Check Whether Your Research Is Publication-Ready
Should you publish your research at all?
If your work holds academic value – of course – a well-written scholarly article could open doors to your research community. However, if you are not yet sure, whether your research is ready for publication, here are some key questions to ask yourself depending on your field of expertise:
- Have you done or found something new and interesting? Something unique?
- Is the work directly related to a current hot topic?
- Have you checked the latest results or research in the field?
- Have you provided solutions to any difficult problems?
- Have the findings been verified?
- Have the appropriate controls been performed if required?
- Are your findings comprehensive?
If the answers to all relevant questions are “yes”, you need to prepare a good, strong manuscript. Remember, a research paper is only useful if it is clearly understood, reproducible and if it is read and used .
2. Choose An Article Type
The first step is to determine which type of paper is most appropriate for your work and what you want to achieve. The following list contains the most important, usually peer-reviewed article types in the natural sciences:
Full original research papers disseminate completed research findings. On average this type of paper is 8-10 pages long, contains five figures, and 25-30 references. Full original research papers are an important part of the process when developing your career.
Review papers present a critical synthesis of a specific research topic. These papers are usually much longer than original papers and will contain numerous references. More often than not, they will be commissioned by journal editors. Reviews present an excellent way to solidify your research career.
Letters, Rapid or Short Communications are often published for the quick and early communication of significant and original advances. They are much shorter than full articles and usually limited in length by the journal. Journals specifically dedicated to short communications or letters are also published in some fields. In these the authors can present short preliminary findings before developing a full-length paper.
3. Choose a Journal
Are you looking for the right place to publish your paper? Find out here whether a De Gruyter journal might be the right fit.
Submit to journals that you already read, that you have a good feel for. If you do so, you will have a better appreciation of both its culture and the requirements of the editors and reviewers.
Other factors to consider are:
- The specific subject area
- The aims and scope of the journal
- The type of manuscript you have written
- The significance of your work
- The reputation of the journal
- The reputation of the editors within the community
- The editorial/review and production speeds of the journal
- The community served by the journal
- The coverage and distribution
- The accessibility ( open access vs. closed access)
4. Construct Your Paper
Each element of a paper has its purpose, so you should make these sections easy to index and search.
Don’t forget that requirements can differ highly per publication, so always make sure to apply a journal’s specific instructions – or guide – for authors to your manuscript, even to the first draft (text layout, paper citation, nomenclature, figures and table, etc.) It will save you time, and the editor’s.
Also, even in these days of Internet-based publishing, space is still at a premium, so be as concise as possible. As a good journalist would say: “Never use three words when one will do!”
Let’s look at the typical structure of a full research paper, but bear in mind certain subject disciplines may have their own specific requirements so check the instructions for authors on the journal’s home page.
4.1 The Title
It’s important to use the title to tell the reader what your paper is all about! You want to attract their attention, a bit like a newspaper headline does. Be specific and to the point. Keep it informative and concise, and avoid jargon and abbreviations (unless they are universally recognized like DNA, for example).
4.2 The Abstract
This could be termed as the “advertisement” for your article. Make it interesting and easily understood without the reader having to read the whole article. Be accurate and specific, and keep it as brief and concise as possible. Some journals (particularly in the medical fields) will ask you to structure the abstract in distinct, labeled sections, which makes it even more accessible.
A clear abstract will influence whether or not your work is considered and whether an editor should invest more time on it or send it for review.
Keywords are used by abstracting and indexing services, such as PubMed and Web of Science. They are the labels of your manuscript, which make it “searchable” online by other researchers.
Include words or phrases (usually 4-8) that are closely related to your topic but not “too niche” for anyone to find them. Make sure to only use established abbreviations. Think about what scientific terms and its variations your potential readers are likely to use and search for. You can also do a test run of your selected keywords in one of the common academic search engines. Do similar articles to your own appear? Yes? Then that’s a good sign.
This first part of the main text should introduce the problem, as well as any existing solutions you are aware of and the main limitations. Also, state what you hope to achieve with your research.
Do not confuse the introduction with the results, discussion or conclusion.
Every research article should include a detailed Methods section (also referred to as “Materials and Methods”) to provide the reader with enough information to be able to judge whether the study is valid and reproducible.
Include detailed information so that a knowledgeable reader can reproduce the experiment. However, use references and supplementary materials to indicate previously published procedures.
In this section, you will present the essential or primary results of your study. To display them in a comprehensible way, you should use subheadings as well as illustrations such as figures, graphs, tables and photos, as appropriate.
Here you should tell your readers what the results mean .
Do state how the results relate to the study’s aims and hypotheses and how the findings relate to those of other studies. Explain all possible interpretations of your findings and the study’s limitations.
Do not make “grand statements” that are not supported by the data. Also, do not introduce any new results or terms. Moreover, do not ignore work that conflicts or disagrees with your findings. Instead …
Be brave! Address conflicting study results and convince the reader you are the one who is correct.
Your conclusion isn’t just a summary of what you’ve already written. It should take your paper one step further and answer any unresolved questions.
Sum up what you have shown in your study and indicate possible applications and extensions. The main question your conclusion should answer is: What do my results mean for the research field and my community?
4.9 Acknowledgments and Ethical Statements
It is extremely important to acknowledge anyone who has helped you with your paper, including researchers who supplied materials or reagents (e.g. vectors or antibodies); and anyone who helped with the writing or English, or offered critical comments about the content.
Learn more about academic integrity in our blog post “Scholarly Publication Ethics: 4 Common Mistakes You Want To Avoid” .
Remember to state why people have been acknowledged and ask their permission . Ensure that you acknowledge sources of funding, including any grant or reference numbers.
Furthermore, if you have worked with animals or humans, you need to include information about the ethical approval of your study and, if applicable, whether informed consent was given. Also, state whether you have any competing interests regarding the study (e.g. because of financial or personal relationships.)
The end is in sight, but don’t relax just yet!
De facto, there are often more mistakes in the references than in any other part of the manuscript. It is also one of the most annoying and time-consuming problems for editors.
Remember to cite the main scientific publications on which your work is based. But do not inflate the manuscript with too many references. Avoid excessive – and especially unnecessary – self-citations. Also, avoid excessive citations of publications from the same institute or region.
5. Decide the Order of Authors
In the sciences, the most common way to order the names of the authors is by relative contribution.
Generally, the first author conducts and/or supervises the data analysis and the proper presentation and interpretation of the results. They put the paper together and usually submit the paper to the journal.
Co-authors make intellectual contributions to the data analysis and contribute to data interpretation. They review each paper draft. All of them must be able to present the paper and its results, as well as to defend the implications and discuss study limitations.
Do not leave out authors who should be included or add “gift authors”, i.e. authors who did not contribute significantly.
6. Check and Double-Check
As a final step before submission, ask colleagues to read your work and be constructively critical .
Make sure that the paper is appropriate for the journal – take a last look at their aims and scope. Check if all of the requirements in the instructions for authors are met.
Ensure that the cited literature is balanced. Are the aims, purpose and significance of the results clear?
Conduct a final check for language, either by a native English speaker or an editing service.
7. Submit Your Paper
When you and your co-authors have double-, triple-, quadruple-checked the manuscript: submit it via e-mail or online submission system. Along with your manuscript, submit a cover letter, which highlights the reasons why your paper would appeal to the journal and which ensures that you have received approval of all authors for submission.
It is up to the editors and the peer-reviewers now to provide you with their (ideally constructive and helpful) comments and feedback. Time to take a breather!
If the paper gets rejected, do not despair – it happens to literally everybody. If the journal suggests major or minor revisions, take the chance to provide a thorough response and make improvements as you see fit. If the paper gets accepted, congrats!
It’s now time to get writing and share your hard work – good luck!
If you are interested, check out this related blog post
[Title Image by Nick Morrison via Unsplash]
David Sleeman worked as Senior Journals Manager in the field of Physical Sciences at De Gruyter.
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Writing a Research Paper for an Academic Journal: A Five-step Recipe for Perfection
The answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a step-by-step recipe. Here we bring to you a recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article.
Updated on March 15, 2022
As a young researcher, getting your paper published as a journal article is a huge milestone; but producing it may seem like climbing a mountain compared to, perhaps, the theses, essays, or conference papers you have produced in the past.
You may feel overwhelmed with the thought of carrying innumerable equipment and may feel incapable of completing the task. But, in reality, the answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a recipe with step-by-step instructions.
In this blog, I aim to bring to you the recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article. I will give you the essential information, key points, and resources to keep in mind before you begin the writing process for your research papers.
Secret ingredient 1: Make notes before you begin the writing process
Because I want you to benefit from this article on a personal level, I am going to give away my secret ingredient for producing a good research paper right at the beginning. The one thing that helps me write literally anything is — cue the drum rolls — making notes.
Yes, making notes is the best way to remember and store all that information, which is definitely going to help you throughout the process of writing your paper. So, please pick up a pen and start making notes for writing your research paper.
Step 1. Choose the right research topic
Although it is important to be passionate and curious about your research article topic, it is not enough. Sometimes the sheer excitement of having an idea may take away your ability to focus on and question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research topic.
On the contrary, the first thing that you should do when you write a journal paper is question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research question.
It is also important to remember that your research, along with the aforementioned points, must be original and relevant: It must benefit and interest the scientific community.
All you have to do is perform a thorough literature search in your research field and have a look at what is currently going on in the field of your topic of interest. This step in academic writing is not as daunting as it may seem and, in fact, is quite beneficial for the following reasons:
- You can determine what is already known about the research topic and the gaps that exist.
- You can determine the credibility and novelty of your research question by comparing it with previously published papers.
- If your research question has already been studied or answered before your first draft, you first save a substantial amount of time by avoiding rejections from journals at a much later stage; and second, you can study and aim to bridge the gaps of previous studies, perhaps, by using a different methodology or a bigger sample size.
So, carefully read as much as you can about what has already been published in your field of research; and when you are doing so, make sure that you make lots of relevant notes as you go along in the process. Remember, your study does not necessarily have to be groundbreaking, but it should definitely extend previous knowledge or refute existing statements on the topic.
Secret ingredient 2: Use a thematic approach while drafting your manuscript
For instance, if you are writing about the association between the level of breast cancer awareness and socioeconomic status, open a new Word or Notes file and create subheadings such as “breast cancer awareness in low- and middle-income countries,” “reasons for lack of awareness,” or “ways to increase awareness.”
Under these subheadings, make notes of the information that you think may be suitable to be included in your paper as you carry out your literature review. Ensure that you make a draft reference list so that you don't miss out on the references.
Step 2: Know your audience
Finding your research topic is not synonymous with communicating it, it is merely a step, albeit an important one; however, there are other crucial steps that follow. One of which is identifying your target audience.
Now that you know what your topic of interest is, you need to ask yourself “Who am I trying to benefit with my research?” A general mistake is assuming that your reader knows everything about your research topic. Drafting a peer reviewed journal article often means that your work may reach a wide and varied audience.
Therefore, it is a good idea to ponder over who you want to reach and why, rather than simply delivering chunks of information, facts, and statistics. Along with considering the above factors, evaluate your reader's level of education, expertise, and scientific field as this may help you design and write your manuscript, tailoring it specifically for your target audience.
Here are a few points that you must consider after you have identified your target audience:
- Shortlist a few target journals: The aims and scope of the journal usually mention their audience. This may help you know your readers and visualize them as you write your manuscript. This will further help you include just the right amount of background and details.
- View your manuscript from the reader's perspective: Try to think about what they might already know or what they would like more details on.
- Include the appropriate amount of jargon: Ensure that your article text is familiar to your target audience and use the correct terminology to make your content more relatable for readers - and journal editors as your paper goes through the peer review process.
- Keep your readers engaged: Write with an aim to fill a knowledge gap or add purpose and value to your reader's intellect. Your manuscript does not necessarily have to be complex, write with a simple yet profound tone, layer (or sub-divide) simple points and build complexity as you go along, rather than stating dry facts.
- Be specific: It is easy to get carried away and forget the essence of your study. Make sure that you stick to your topic and be as specific as you can to your research topic and audience.
Secret ingredient 3: Clearly define your key terms and key concepts
Do not assume that your audience will know your research topic as well as you do, provide compelling details where it is due. This can be tricky. Using the example from “Secret ingredient 2,” you may not need to define breast cancer while writing about breast cancer awareness. However, while talking about the benefits of awareness, such as early presentation of the disease, it is important to explain these benefits, for instance, in terms of superior survival rates.
Step 3: Structure your research paper with care
After determining the topic of your research and your target audience, your overflowing ideas and information need to be structured in a format generally accepted by journals.
Most academic journals conventionally accept original research articles in the following format: Abstract, followed by the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections, also known as the IMRaD, which is a brilliant way of structuring a research paper outline in a simplified and layered format. In brief, these sections comprise the following information:
In closed-access journals, readers have access to the abstract/summary for them to decide if they wish to purchase the research paper. It's an extremely important representative of the entire manuscript.
All information provided in the abstract must be present in the manuscript, it should include a stand-alone summary of the research, the main findings, the abbreviations should be defined separately in this section, and this section should be clear, decluttered, and concise.
This section should begin with a background of the study topic, i.e., what is already known, moving on to the knowledge gaps that exist, and finally, end with how the present study aims to fill these gaps, or any hypotheses that the authors may have proposed.
This section describes, with compelling details, the procedures that were followed to answer the research question.
The ultimate factor to consider while producing the methods section is reproducibility; this section should be detailed enough for other researchers to reproduce your study and validate your results. It should include ethical information (ethical board approval, informed consent, etc.) and must be written in the past tense.
This section typically presents the findings of the study, with no explanations or interpretations. Here, the findings are simply stated alongside figures or tables mentioned in the text in the correct sequential order. Because you are describing what you found, this section is also written in the past tense.
Discussion and conclusion
This section begins with a summary of your findings and is meant for you to interpret your results, compare them with previously published papers, and elaborate on whether your findings are comparable or contradictory to previous literature.
This section also contains the strengths and limitations of your study, and the latter can be used to suggest future research. End this section with a conclusion paragraph, briefly summarizing and highlighting the main findings and novelty of your study.
Step 4: Cite credible research sources
Now that you know who and what you are writing for, it's time to begin the writing process for your research paper. Another crucial factor that determines the quality of your manuscript is the detailed information within. The introduction and discussion sections, which make a massive portion of the manuscript, majorly rely on external sources of information that have already been published.
Therefore, it is absolutely indispensable to extract and cite these statements from appropriate, credible, recent, and relevant literature to support your claims. Here are a few pointers to consider while choosing the right sources:
Cite academic journals
These are the best sources to refer to while writing your research paper, because most articles submitted to top journals are rejected, resulting in high-quality articles being filtered-out. In particular, peer reviewed articles are of the highest quality because they undergo a rigorous process of editorial review, along with revisions until they are judged to be satisfactory.
But not just any book, ideally, the credibility of a book can be judged by whether it is published by an academic publisher, is written by multiple authors who are experts in the field of interest, and is carefully reviewed by multiple editors. It can be beneficial to review the background of the author(s) and check their previous publications.
Cite an official online source
Although it may be difficult to judge the trustworthiness of web content, a few factors may help determine its accuracy. These include demographic data obtained from government websites (.gov), educational resources (.edu), websites that cite other pertinent and trustworthy sources, content meant for education and not product promotion, unbiased sources, or sources with backlinks that are up to date. It is best to avoid referring to online sources such as blogs and Wikipedia.
Do not cite the following sources
While citing sources, you should steer clear from encyclopedias, citing review articles instead of directly citing the original work, referring to sources that you have not read, citing research papers solely from one country (be extensively diverse), anything that is not backed up by evidence, and material with considerable grammatical errors.
Although these sources are generally most appropriate and valid, it is your job to critically read and carefully evaluate all sources prior to citing them.
Step 5: Pick the correct journal
Selecting the correct journal is one of the most crucial steps toward getting published, as it not only determines the weightage of your research but also of your career as a researcher. The journals in which you choose to publish your research are part of your portfolio; it directly or indirectly determines many factors, such as funding, professional advancement, and future collaborations.
The best thing you can do for your work is to pick a peer-reviewed journal. Not only will your paper be polished to the highest quality for editors, but you will also be able to address certain gaps that you may have missed out.
Besides, it always helps to have another perspective, and what better than to have it from an experienced peer?
A common mistake that researchers tend to make is leave the task of choosing the target journal after they have written their paper.
Now, I understand that due to certain factors, it can be challenging to decide what journal you want to publish in before you start drafting your paper, therefore, the best time to make this decision is while you are working on writing your manuscript. Having a target journal in mind while writing your paper has a great deal of benefits.
- As the most basic benefit, you can know beforehand if your study meets the aims and scope of your desired journal. It will ensure you're not wasting valuable time for editors or yourself.
- While drafting your manuscript, you could keep in mind the requirements of your target journal, such as the word limit for the main article text and abstract, the maximum number of figures or tables that are allowed, or perhaps, the maximum number of references that you may include.
- Also, if you choose to submit to an open-access journal, you have ample amount of time to figure out the funding.
- Another major benefit is that, as mentioned in the previous section, the aims and scope of the journal will give you a fair idea on your target audience and will help you draft your manuscript appropriately.
It is definitely easier to know that your target journal requires the text to be within 3,500 words than spending weeks writing a manuscript that is around, say, 5,000 words, and then spending a substantial amount of time decluttering. Now, while not all journals have very specific requirements, it always helps to short-list a few journals, if not concretely choose one to publish your paper in.
AJE also offers journal recommendation services if you need professional help with finding a target journal.
Secret ingredient 4: Follow the journal guidelines
Perfectly written manuscripts may get rejected by the journal on account of not adhering to their formatting requirements. You can find the author guidelines/instructions on the home page of every journal. Ensure that as you write your manuscript, you follow the journal guidelines such as the word limit, British or American English, formatting references, line spacing, line/page numbering, and so on.
Our ultimate aim is to instill confidence in young researchers like you and help you become independent as you write and communicate your research. With the help of these easy steps and secret ingredients, you are now ready to prepare your flavorful manuscript and serve your research to editors and ultimately the journal readers with a side of impact and a dash of success.
Lubaina Koti, BS
- Step 1: Sections in a Research Paper
- Step 2: Order for Preparation
- Step 3: Conceptualizing an Attractive Title
- Step 4: Effectively Reviewing Literature
- Step 5: Drafting the Abstract
- Step 6: Drafting Introduction
- Step 7: Drafting Materials and Methods
- Step 8: Drafting Results
- Step 9: Drafting Discussion
- Step 10: Drafting the Conclusion
- Step 11: Citing and Referencing
- Step 12: Preparing Figures
- Step 13: Preparing Tables
- Step 14: Assigning Authorship
- Step 15: Acknowledgements Section
- Step 16: Checking the Author Guidelines
- Step 17: Proofreading and Editing
- Step 18: Pre-submission Peer-Review
- Step 1: How to Structure a Research Paper?
- Step 3: How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
- Step 4: How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
- Step 5: How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
- Step 6: How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
- Step 7: How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
- Step 8: How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
- Step 9: How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
- Step 10: How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
- Step 15: How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper
How to Write a Research Paper – A to Z of Academic Writing
Part of a scientist’s job is to publish research. In fact, some would argue that your experiment is only complete once you have published the results. This makes it available to the scientific community for authentication and the advancement of science. In addition, publishing is essential for a researcher’s career as it validates the research and opens doors for funding and employment. In this section, we give you a step-by-step guide to help you write an effective research paper. So, remember to set aside half an hour each day to write. This habit will make your writing manageable and keep you focused.
There are different types of research papers. The most common ones include:
Original research paper, rapid communication or letter, review article, meeting abstract, paper, and proceedings.
This is a full report written by researchers covering the analysis of their experimental study from start to finish. It is the most common type research manuscript that is published in academic journals. Original articles are expected to follow the IMRAD format.
These are usually written to publish results urgently in rapidly changing or highly competitive fields. They will be brief and may not be separated by headings.It consists of original preliminary results that are likely to have a significant impact in the respective field.
This is a comprehensive summary of a certain topic. It is usually requested by a journal editor and written by a leader in the field. It includes current assessment, latest findings, and future directions of the field. It is a massive undertaking in which approximately 100 research articles are cited. Uninvited reviews are published too, but it is best to send a pre-submission enquiry letter to the journal editor first.
This is mostly used in the medical field to report interesting occurrences such as previously unknown or emerging pathologies. It could be a report of a single case or multiple cases and will include a short introduction, methods, results, and discussion.
This is a brief report of research presented at an organized meeting such as a conference. These range from an abstract to a full report of the research. It needs to be focused and clear in explaining your topic and the main points of the study that will be shared with the audience.
- STEP 1: How to Structure a Research Paper?
- STEP 2: Order for Preparation of the Manuscript
- STEP 3: How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
- STEP 4: How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
- STEP 5: How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
- STEP 6: How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
- STEP 7: How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
- STEP 8: How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
- STEP 9: How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
- STEP 10: How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
- STEP 11: Effectively Citing and Referencing Your Sources
- STEP 12: Preparing Figures
- STEP 13: Preparing Tables
- STEP 14: Assigning Authorship
- STEP 15: How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper
- STEP 16: Checking the Author Guidelines Before Preparing the Manuscript
- STEP 17: Proofreading and Editing Your Manuscript
- STEP 18: Pre-submission Peer-Review
How to Structure a Research Paper?
Your research paper should tell a story of how you began your research, what you found, and how it advances your research field. It is important to structure your research paper so that editors and readers can easily find information. The widely adopted structure that research papers mostly follow is the IMRaD format . IMRaD stands for Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Additional requirements from journals include an abstract, keywords, acknowledgements, and references. This format helps scientists to tell their story in an organized manner. Authors often find it easier to write the IMRaD sections in a different order. However, the final paper should be collated in the IMRaD format as follows:
Case studies follow a slightly different format to the traditional IMRAD format. They include the following extra sections:
- History and physical examination: Details of the patient’s history. It provides the story of when a patient first sought medical care.
- Diagnostic focus and assessment : Describe the steps taken that lead to a diagnosis and any test results.
- Therapeutic focus and assessment: Explain therapies tried and any other recommendations from consultants. Assess the efficacy of the treatments given.
- Follow-up and outcome: Provide results and state the patient adhered to treatment. Include any side effects.
- Patient perspective: Describe the patient’s experience.
- Patient consent: State that informed consent was obtained from the patient.
Order for Preparation of the Manuscript
As mentioned above, most research publications follow the IMRAD format. However, it is often easier to write each section in a different order than that of the final paper.
Authors recommend you organize the data first and then write the sections as follows:
- Figures and tables: Decide how your data should be presented. You can use graphics, tables or describe it in the text.
- Methods: It is important that anyone can use your methods to reproduce your experiments.
- Results: Here you write only what the results of your experiments were. You do not discuss them here.
- Discussion: This section requires analysis, thought, and a thorough understanding of the literature. You need to discuss your results without repeating the results section.
- Conclusion: This section can either be under a sub-heading or the last paragraph of the discussion. It should inform the reader how your results advance the field.
- Introduction: Now that you have thought about your results in the context of the literature, you can write your introduction.
- Abstract: This is an overview of your paper. Give a concise background of the problem and how you tried to solve it. Next state your main findings.
- Title: As discussed above, this needs to be concise as well as informative. Ensure that it makes sense.
- Keywords: These are used for indexing. Keywords need to be specific. Often you are not allowed to use words that appear in the journal name. Use abbreviations with care and only well-established ones.
- Acknowledgements: This section is to thank anyone involved in the research that does not qualify as an author.
- References: Check the “Guide for authors” for the formatting style. Be accurate and do not include unnecessary references.
How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
Your research title is the first impression of your paper. A good research paper title is a brief description of the topic, method, sample, and results of your study. A useful formula you could use is:
There are different ways to write a research paper title :
State the main conclusions. Example: Mixed strains of probiotics improve antibiotic associated diarrhea.
Describe the subject. Example: Effects of mixed strains of probiotics on antibiotic associated diarrhea.
Use a question for the subject. Example: Do mixed strains of probiotics improve antibiotic associated diarrhea?
We recommend the following five top tips to conceptualize an attractive research title:
- Be descriptive
- Use a low word count (5-15 words)
- Check journal guidelines
- Avoid jargon and symbols
How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
The process of conducting a literature review can be overwhelming. However, if you start with a clear research question, you can stay focused.
- Literature search: Search for articles related to your research question. Keep notes of the search terms and keywords you use. A list of databases to search and notes of the ones you have searched will prevent duplicate searches.
- What is their research question?
- Are there potential conflicts of interest such as funders who may want a particular result?
- Are their methods sufficient to test the objectives?
- Can you identify any flaws in the research?
- Do their results make sense, or could there be other reasons for their conclusion?
- Are the authors respected in the field?
- Has the research been cited?
- Introduction: Here you introduce the topic. The introduction describes the problem and identifies gaps in knowledge. It also rationalizes your research.
- Discussion: Here you support and compare your results. Use the literature to put your research in context with the current state of knowledge. Furthermore, show how your research has advanced the field.
How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
The importance of research paper abstracts cannot be emphasized enough.
- They are used by online databases to index large research works. Therefore, critical keywords must be used.
- Editors and reviewers read an abstract to decide whether an article is worth considering for publication.
- Readers use an abstract to decide whether the research is relevant to them.
A good research paper abstract is a concise and appealing synopsis of your research. There are two ways to write an abstract: structured and unstructured research abstracts . The author guidelines of the journal you are submitting your research to will tell you the format they require.
- The structured abstract has distinct sections with headings. This style enables a reader to easily find the relevant information under clear headings (objective, methods, results, and conclusion). Think of each section as a question and provide a concise but detailed answer under each heading.
- The unstructured abstract is a narrative paragraph of your research. It is similar to the structured abstract but does not contain headings. It gives the context, findings, conclusion, and implications of your paper.
How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
The Introduction section of your research paper introduces your research in the context of the knowledge in the field. First introduce the topic including the problem you are addressing, the importance of solving this problem, and known research and gaps in the knowledge. Then narrow it down to your research questions and hypothesis.
Tips to write an effective introduction for your research paper :
- Give broad background information about the problem.
- Write it in a logical manner so that the reader can follow your thought process.
- Focus on the problem you intend to solve with your research
- Note any solutions in the literature thus far.
- Propose your solution to the problem with reasons.
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How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
When writing the Materials and Methods section of a research paper, you need to give enough detail in your methods so that others can reproduce your experiments. However, there is no need to detail established experiments. Readers can find these details in the previously published references you refer to in the methods. Follow these tips to write the Materials and Methods section of your research paper: :
- Write in the past tense because you are reporting on procedures you carried out.
- Avoid unnecessary details that disrupts the flow.
- Materials and equipments should be mentioned throughout the procedure, rather than listed at the beginning of a section.
- Detail any ethics or consent requirements if your study included humans or animal subjects.
- Use standard nomenclature and numbers.
- Ensure you have the correct control experiments.
- Methods should be listed logically.
- Detail statistical methods used to analyze your data.
Here is a checklist of things that should be in your Materials and Methods:
- References of previously published methods.
- Study settings : If the research involves studying a population, give location and context of the site.
- Cell lines : Give their source and detail any contamination tests performed.
- Antibodies : Give details such as catalogue numbers, citations, dilutions used, and batch numbers.
- Animal models : Species, age, and sex of animals as well as ethical compliance information.
- Human subjects : Ethics committee requirements and a statement confirming you received informed consent. If relevant, clinical trial registration numbers and selection criteria.
- Data accession codes for data you deposited in a repository.
- Software : Where you obtained the programs and their version numbers.
- Statistics : Criteria for including or excluding samples or subjects, randomisation methods, details of investigator blinding to avoid bias, appropriateness of statistical tests used for your study.
- Timeframes if relevant.
How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
Some journals combine the results and discussion section, whereas others have separate headings for each section. If the two sections are combined, you state the results of your research and discuss them immediately afterwards, before presenting your next set of results. The challenge is to present your data in a way that is logical and accurate. Set out your results in the same order as you set out your methods.
When writing the Results section of your research paper remember to include:
- Control group data.
- Relevant statistical values such as p-values.
- Visual illustrations of your results such as figures and tables.
Things that do not belong in the results section:
- Speculation or commentary about the results.
- References – you are reporting your own data.
- Do not repeat data in text if it has been presented in a table or graph.
Keep the discussion section separate . Keep explanations, interpretations, limitations, and comparisons to the literature for the discussion.
How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
The discussion section of your research paper answers several questions such as: did you achieve your objectives? How do your results compare to other studies? Were there any limitations to your research? Start discussing your data specifically and then broaden out to how it furthers your field of interest.
Questions to get you started:
- How do your results answer your objectives?
- Why do you think your results are different to published data?
- Do you think further research would help clarify any issues with your data?
The aim is to tell the reader what your results mean. Structure the discussion section of your research paper in a logical manner. Start with an introductory paragraph where you set out the context and main aims of the study. Do this without repeating the introduction. Some authors prefer starting with the major findings first to keep the readers interested.
The next paragraph should discuss what you found, how it compares to other studies, any limitations, your opinion, and what they mean for the field.
The concluding paragraph should talk about the major outcomes of the study. Be careful not to write your conclusion here. Merely highlight the main themes emerging from your data.
Tips to write an effective discussion:
- It is not a literature review. Keep your comments relevant to your results.
- Interpret your results.
- Be concise and remove unnecessary words.
- Do not include results not presented in the result section.
- Ensure your conclusions are supported by your data.
How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
While writing the conclusion for your research paper, give a summary of your research with emphasis on your findings. Again, structuring the conclusion section of your research paper will make it easier to draft this section. Here are some tips when writing the conclusion of your paper:
- State what you set out to achieve.
- Tell the reader what your major findings were.
- How has your study contributed to the field?
- Mention any limitations.
- End with recommendations for future research.
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Effectively Citing and Referencing Your Sources
You need to acknowledge the original work that you talk about in your write-up. There are two reasons for this. First, cite someone’s idea to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is when you use words or ideas of others without acknowledging them and this is a serious offence. Second, readers will be able to source the literature you cited easily.
This is done by citing works in your text and providing the full reference for this citation in a reference list at the end of your document.
Tips for effective refencing/citations:
- Keep a detailed list of your references including author(s), publication, year of publication, title, and page numbers.
- Insert a citation (either a number or author name) in-text as you write.
- List the full reference in a reference list according to the style required by the publication.
- Pay attention to details as mistakes will misdirect readers.
Try referencing software tools “cite while you write”. Examples of such referencing software programs include: Mendeley , Endnote , Refworks and Zotero .
Some quick tips about figures:
- Legends of graphs and tables must be self-explanatory.
- Use easily distinguishable symbols.
- Place long tables of data in the supplementary material.
- Include a scale bar in photographs.
Important pointers for tables:
- Check the author guidelines for table formatting requirements.
- Tables do not have vertical lines in publications.
- Legends must be self-explanatory.
To qualify as an author on a paper, an individual must:
- Make substantial contributions to all stages of the research.
- Draft or revise the manuscript.
- Approve the final version of the article.
- Be accountable for the accuracy and integrity of the research.
Unethical and unprofessional authorships have emerged over the years. These include:
- Gift authorship : An individual is listed as a co-author in lieu of funding or supervision.
- Ghost authorship : An author is paid to write an article but does not contribute to the article in any other way.
- Guest authorship : An individual who is given authorship because they are well known and respected in the field, or they are senior members of staff.
These authors pose a threat to research. Readers may override their concerns with an article if it includes a well-respected co-author. This is especially problematic when decisions about medical interventions are concerned.
How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper
Those who do not qualify as authors but have contributed to the research should be given credit in the acknowledgements section of your research paper . These include funders, supervisors, administrative supporters, writing, editing, and proofreading assistance .
The contributions made by these individuals should be stated and sometimes their written permission to be acknowledged is required by editors.
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Points to Note from the Author Instructions Before Preparing the Manuscript
Check the author guidelines for your chosen publication before submission. Publishers mostly have a “House Style” that ensures all their manuscripts are consistent with regards to language, formatting, and style. For example, these guidelines will tell you whether to use UK or US English, which abbreviations are allowed, and how to format figures and tables. They are also especially important for the references section as each journal has their own style.
Proofreading/Editing your Manuscript
Ensure that your manuscript is structured correctly, clearly written, contains the correct technical language, and supports your claims with proper evidence. To ensure the structure is correct, it is essential to edit your paper .
Once you are happy with the manuscript, proofread for small errors. These could be spelling, consistency, spacing, and so forth. Importantly, check that figures and tables include all the necessary data and statistical values. Seek assistance from colleagues or professional editing companies to edit and proofread your manuscript too.
Pre-submission Peer-Review of Your Manuscript
A pre-submission peer-review could improve the quality of articles submitted to journals in general. The benefits include:
- A fresh eye to spot gaps or errors.
- Receiving constructive feedback on your work and writing.
- Improves the clarity of your paper.
You could ask experienced colleagues, supervisors or even professional editing services to review your article.
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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal
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- Published: 30 April 2020
- volume 36 , pages 909–913 ( 2021 )
You have full access to this open access article
- Clara Busse ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0178-1000 1 &
- Ella August ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-5151-1036 1 , 2
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Cite this article
Communicating research findings is an essential step in the research process. Often, peer-reviewed journals are the forum for such communication, yet many researchers are never taught how to write a publishable scientific paper. In this article, we explain the basic structure of a scientific paper and describe the information that should be included in each section. We also identify common pitfalls for each section and recommend strategies to avoid them. Further, we give advice about target journal selection and authorship. In the online resource 1 , we provide an example of a high-quality scientific paper, with annotations identifying the elements we describe in this article.
Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript.
Writing a scientific paper is an important component of the research process, yet researchers often receive little formal training in scientific writing. This is especially true in low-resource settings. In this article, we explain why choosing a target journal is important, give advice about authorship, provide a basic structure for writing each section of a scientific paper, and describe common pitfalls and recommendations for each section. In the online resource 1 , we also include an annotated journal article that identifies the key elements and writing approaches that we detail here. Before you begin your research, make sure you have ethical clearance from all relevant ethical review boards.
Select a Target Journal Early in the Writing Process
We recommend that you select a “target journal” early in the writing process; a “target journal” is the journal to which you plan to submit your paper. Each journal has a set of core readers and you should tailor your writing to this readership. For example, if you plan to submit a manuscript about vaping during pregnancy to a pregnancy-focused journal, you will need to explain what vaping is because readers of this journal may not have a background in this topic. However, if you were to submit that same article to a tobacco journal, you would not need to provide as much background information about vaping.
Information about a journal’s core readership can be found on its website, usually in a section called “About this journal” or something similar. For example, the Journal of Cancer Education presents such information on the “Aims and Scope” page of its website, which can be found here: https://www.springer.com/journal/13187/aims-and-scope .
Peer reviewer guidelines from your target journal are an additional resource that can help you tailor your writing to the journal and provide additional advice about crafting an effective article [ 1 ]. These are not always available, but it is worth a quick web search to find out.
Identify Author Roles Early in the Process
Early in the writing process, identify authors, determine the order of authors, and discuss the responsibilities of each author. Standard author responsibilities have been identified by The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) [ 2 ]. To set clear expectations about each team member’s responsibilities and prevent errors in communication, we also suggest outlining more detailed roles, such as who will draft each section of the manuscript, write the abstract, submit the paper electronically, serve as corresponding author, and write the cover letter. It is best to formalize this agreement in writing after discussing it, circulating the document to the author team for approval. We suggest creating a title page on which all authors are listed in the agreed-upon order. It may be necessary to adjust authorship roles and order during the development of the paper. If a new author order is agreed upon, be sure to update the title page in the manuscript draft.
In the case where multiple papers will result from a single study, authors should discuss who will author each paper. Additionally, authors should agree on a deadline for each paper and the lead author should take responsibility for producing an initial draft by this deadline.
Structure of the Introduction Section
The introduction section should be approximately three to five paragraphs in length. Look at examples from your target journal to decide the appropriate length. This section should include the elements shown in Fig. 1 . Begin with a general context, narrowing to the specific focus of the paper. Include five main elements: why your research is important, what is already known about the topic, the “gap” or what is not yet known about the topic, why it is important to learn the new information that your research adds, and the specific research aim(s) that your paper addresses. Your research aim should address the gap you identified. Be sure to add enough background information to enable readers to understand your study. Table 1 provides common introduction section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.
The main elements of the introduction section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap
The purpose of the methods section is twofold: to explain how the study was done in enough detail to enable its replication and to provide enough contextual detail to enable readers to understand and interpret the results. In general, the essential elements of a methods section are the following: a description of the setting and participants, the study design and timing, the recruitment and sampling, the data collection process, the dataset, the dependent and independent variables, the covariates, the analytic approach for each research objective, and the ethical approval. The hallmark of an exemplary methods section is the justification of why each method was used. Table 2 provides common methods section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.
The focus of the results section should be associations, or lack thereof, rather than statistical tests. Two considerations should guide your writing here. First, the results should present answers to each part of the research aim. Second, return to the methods section to ensure that the analysis and variables for each result have been explained.
Begin the results section by describing the number of participants in the final sample and details such as the number who were approached to participate, the proportion who were eligible and who enrolled, and the number of participants who dropped out. The next part of the results should describe the participant characteristics. After that, you may organize your results by the aim or by putting the most exciting results first. Do not forget to report your non-significant associations. These are still findings.
Tables and figures capture the reader’s attention and efficiently communicate your main findings [ 3 ]. Each table and figure should have a clear message and should complement, rather than repeat, the text. Tables and figures should communicate all salient details necessary for a reader to understand the findings without consulting the text. Include information on comparisons and tests, as well as information about the sample and timing of the study in the title, legend, or in a footnote. Note that figures are often more visually interesting than tables, so if it is feasible to make a figure, make a figure. To avoid confusing the reader, either avoid abbreviations in tables and figures, or define them in a footnote. Note that there should not be citations in the results section and you should not interpret results here. Table 3 provides common results section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.
Opposite the introduction section, the discussion should take the form of a right-side-up triangle beginning with interpretation of your results and moving to general implications (Fig. 2 ). This section typically begins with a restatement of the main findings, which can usually be accomplished with a few carefully-crafted sentences.
Major elements of the discussion section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap
Next, interpret the meaning or explain the significance of your results, lifting the reader’s gaze from the study’s specific findings to more general applications. Then, compare these study findings with other research. Are these findings in agreement or disagreement with those from other studies? Does this study impart additional nuance to well-accepted theories? Situate your findings within the broader context of scientific literature, then explain the pathways or mechanisms that might give rise to, or explain, the results.
Journals vary in their approach to strengths and limitations sections: some are embedded paragraphs within the discussion section, while some mandate separate section headings. Keep in mind that every study has strengths and limitations. Candidly reporting yours helps readers to correctly interpret your research findings.
The next element of the discussion is a summary of the potential impacts and applications of the research. Should these results be used to optimally design an intervention? Does the work have implications for clinical protocols or public policy? These considerations will help the reader to further grasp the possible impacts of the presented work.
Finally, the discussion should conclude with specific suggestions for future work. Here, you have an opportunity to illuminate specific gaps in the literature that compel further study. Avoid the phrase “future research is necessary” because the recommendation is too general to be helpful to readers. Instead, provide substantive and specific recommendations for future studies. Table 4 provides common discussion section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.
Follow the Journal’s Author Guidelines
After you select a target journal, identify the journal’s author guidelines to guide the formatting of your manuscript and references. Author guidelines will often (but not always) include instructions for titles, cover letters, and other components of a manuscript submission. Read the guidelines carefully. If you do not follow the guidelines, your article will be sent back to you.
Finally, do not submit your paper to more than one journal at a time. Even if this is not explicitly stated in the author guidelines of your target journal, it is considered inappropriate and unprofessional.
Your title should invite readers to continue reading beyond the first page [ 4 , 5 ]. It should be informative and interesting. Consider describing the independent and dependent variables, the population and setting, the study design, the timing, and even the main result in your title. Because the focus of the paper can change as you write and revise, we recommend you wait until you have finished writing your paper before composing the title.
Be sure that the title is useful for potential readers searching for your topic. The keywords you select should complement those in your title to maximize the likelihood that a researcher will find your paper through a database search. Avoid using abbreviations in your title unless they are very well known, such as SNP, because it is more likely that someone will use a complete word rather than an abbreviation as a search term to help readers find your paper.
After you have written a complete draft, use the checklist (Fig. 3 ) below to guide your revisions and editing. Additional resources are available on writing the abstract and citing references [ 5 ]. When you feel that your work is ready, ask a trusted colleague or two to read the work and provide informal feedback. The box below provides a checklist that summarizes the key points offered in this article.
Checklist for manuscript quality
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Ella August is grateful to the Sustainable Sciences Institute for mentoring her in training researchers on writing and publishing their research.
Authors and affiliations.
Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, 135 Dauer Dr, 27599, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Clara Busse & Ella August
Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109-2029, USA
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Correspondence to Ella August .
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Busse, C., August, E. How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal. J Canc Educ 36 , 909–913 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z
Published : 30 April 2020
Issue Date : October 2021
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z
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This document originally came from the Journal of Mammalogy courtesy of Dr. Ronald Barry, a former editor of the journal.
Learn how to write a research paper in 5 steps
In this article you will learn what a research paper is, its structure and how to produce one. Check out our tips 😉
Table of contents :
What is a research paper?
Why is it important to write research papers.
- How to write a research paper — step by step — Defining the core elements of a scientific research — Bibliographic review and empirical investigation — Choose a journal or a scientific event to submit your research paper — Structure your research paper — Don’t forget to review the whole paper
Format your research paper in APA style with Mettzer
The research paper is one of the main types of academic papers, mostly made by postgraduate students and scientists.
Through the publication of these papers, scientific knowledge is build.
Writing a research paper is an important step of a scientific career. To make this path more enjoyable we have selected the best tips for you.
One of the central characteristics of a research paper is its originality. That is, it must be the result of a scientifically grounded authorial research — plagiarism in no way!
Publishing papers is a central step towards a scientific career, but also a good research exercise for undergraduate students.
The publication of research papers enables the circulation and debate between different ideas, which must be organized within the standards of science. That is, with theoretical rigor and scientific methodology.
In order for this scientific rigor to be certified, a research paper will only be published after peer review, i.e. the reading and approval of other researchers.
Therefore, the publication of research papers is carried out by academic journals or scientific events and congresses. In these journals, the paper must go through a revision process, in which suggestions or changes may be requested until it reaches its final version – ready for publication!
Now that you know what it is and what its importance is for the academic world, let’s move on to a practical guide on how to write one.
How to write a research paper — step by step
Do you have to write a research paper and don’t know how to start?
Check out this step-by-step that we have prepared for you.
1. Defining the core elements of a scientific research
Before starting the research you need to define what will be the theme studied. It is important to choose something that arouses your curiosity and mobilizes the research process 🙂
After choosing the theme, you must delineate the scope of the research, that is, formulate the research problem, objectives and methodology.
This is a central step, because it is the moment when you define the bases that will structure the entire research.
2. Bibliographic review and empirical investigation
After defining the basic structure of the research it is time to collect the data – theoretical and empirical.
You have already chosen the theme and what you seek with the research (research problem), now is the time to select bibliographic references and read a lot about the research theme.
Take care to select reliable theoretical and bibliographical references . For this, choose to search in reliable portals such as Google Scholar.
If your research has empirical data collection, this is when you go to the field or laboratory to apply the methodology you have chosen – conducting tests and observations or applying interviews, questionnaires, etc.
That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? Doing research is a complex and detailed work.
Now that you have done the research, collected the data, and immersed yourself in the theoretical framework, it is time to organize all of this in the format of a research paper.
3. Choose a journal or a scientific event to submit your research paper
Before you start writing the article you need to decide where you want to publish it. This decision is crucial because each journal or scientific event has specific submission requirements.
Defining this before you start writing saves you time and optimizes the development of the paper. This is because, by directing your writing from the journal or event rules requirements, you do not need to go back and change it after you have everything ready. Great tip, right?!
4. Structure your research paper
Typically, the length of a research paper varies between 15 and 25 pages. Its structure is composed of: title, abstract, keywords, introduction, methodology, discussion and results, conclusion, and references.
In the title you can use creativity to instigate the reading of the paper, but do not run away from the theme and scientific rigor. The title should be consistent with the research content and written objectively.
The abstract should present the structure of the research and its main results in a concise way.
Keywords are words that summarize your research. That is, central concepts or ideas worked on in the paper.
In this part, you present in an orderly way what will be developed in-depth along the paper. It is the moment to contextualize the research for the person who will read the paper – talking about the theme, objectives, problem, and methodology and also the importance of the research.
In this part of the paper, you should detail how the research was conducted. Which methods were used? What are the main theoretical references? How was the data collected?
Discussion and results
How do you interpret the data you have collected through the methodology applied? The results presented must always be in dialog with the bibliographic references on the subject. In this way, you demonstrate you are updated on the subject and bring new interpretations to the debate.
To conclude you must briefly review what was presented throughout the article, highlighting the main results obtained and the contributions of the research to science. It is also interesting to point out possible gaps in the study and questions that remain open and can be answered in future research.
Reference all documents used to produce the research according to the required scientific standards — in most cases APA style.
5. Don’t forget to review the whole paper
With the paper already written according to the structure and standards of the journal you have chosen, the last step is the review. It is a very important step, ok?!
The revision – both the spelling and the content of the paper – is essential to make the text cohesive and check for possible errors.
This is the time to carefully read the whole paper, string the argumentation and format the text according to the required scientific standards – in most cases, the APA standard is used.
You can ask a colleague or teacher to support you in this process. A look from another person may be able to verify errors that go unnoticed by our reading.
Science is a collective practice! We produce and publicize it for the scientific community and society as a whole 🙂
Correctly formatting references ensures your paper is respecting academic standards.
In fact, formatting is not a very simple step. But Mettzer can help you with it 🙂
Mettzer is the first and only digital platform that integrates – in one place the entire cycle of academic work . From planning your research, formatting in APA style to plagiarism checking.
Mettzer’s text editor formats any academic work in APA style . It automatically generates citations and bibliographical references for you.
Besides automatically citations and references, Mettzer’s text editor has a Plagiarism Checker to ensure the originality of your academic works.
You can even start your academic paper from a pre-ready template !
With Mettzer’s technology you save time to focus exclusively on what matters, which is the content of your research.
Check out this powerful tool!
You can take a free trial for 7 days 🙂
Doutoranda em Sociologia pela UFSC. Acredita no poder transformador das trocas e afetos que circulam no ambiente científico. Comprometida com a construção de uma ciência mais plural, humana e socialmente justa.
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