Different Part Of Research Paper


The six components of a research report are as follows:  An abstractintroduction, methodology, results, discussion, and references.

The Abstract

The abstract is an overview of the research study and is typically two to four paragraphs in length.  Think of it as an executive summary that distills the key elements of the remaining sections into a few sentences.

An abstract will look similar to the following:


In many cases, you can determine what is interesting about a study by analyzing the abstract (see article by Noah Gray in The Huffington Post).


The introduction provides the key question that the researcher is attempting to answer and a review of any literature that is relevant.  In addition, the researcher will provide a rationale for why the research is important and will present a hypothesis that attempts to answer the key question.  Lastly, the introduction should summarize the state of the key question following the completion of the research.  For example, are there any important issues or questions still open?


The methodology section of the research report is arguably the most important for two reasons.  First it allows readers to evaluate the quality of the research and second, it provides the details by which another researcher may replicate and validate the findings. (1)

Typically the information in the methodology section is arranged in chronological order with the most important information at the top of each section. (2)

Ideally the description of the methodology doesn’t force you to refer to other documents; however if the author is relying on existing methods, they will be referenced.


In longer research papers, the results section contains the data and perhaps a short introduction.  Typically the interpretation of the data and the analysis is reserved for the discussion section.


The discussion section is where the results of the study are interpreted and evaluated against the existing body or research literature.  In addition, should there be any anomalies found in the results, this is where the authors will point them out.  Lastly the discussion section will attempt to connect the results to the bigger picture and show how the results might be applied. (3)


This section provides a list of each author and paper cited in the research report.  Any fact, idea, or direct quotation used in the report should be cited and referenced.

Types of Research Studies

Research can be classified into two categories:  Basic research, which is done in a lab or a clinical setting and applied research, which is done with real subjects in real-world situations.  (4)  And from these categories of research, we have the following general types of studies:

Animal Study:  An animal or in vivo study is a study in which animals are used as subjects.  A common use of an animal study is with a clinical trial (see below) and as a precursor to evaluating a medical intervention on humans.  However, it is critical to recognize that results from animal studies should not be extrapolated to draw conclusions on what WILL happen in humans.

Case Study:  A case study provides significant and detailed information about a single participant or a small group of participants.  “Case studies are often referred to interchangeably with ethnography, field study, and participant observation.” (5)  Unlike other studies which rely heavily on statistical analysis, the case study is often undertaken to identify areas for additional research and exploration.

Clinical Trial Study:  A clinical trial study is often used in the areas of health and medical treatments that will presumably yield a positive effect.  Typically a small group of people or animals are selected based upon the presence of a specific medical condition.  This group is used to evaluate the effectiveness of a new medication or treatment, differing dosages, new applications of existing treatments.  Due to the risk involved with many new medical treatments, the initial subjects in a clinical trial may be animals and not humans.  After positive outcomes are obtained, research then can proceed to a human study where the treatment is compared against results from the existing standard of care.

Correlational Study:   Correlational studies evaluate the relationship between variables and determine if there is a positive correlation, a negative correlation, or no correlation.  Please note, a positive correlation does not mean one thing causes another.   Correlational studies are typically used in naturalistic observations, surveys, and with archival research.  (6)

Cross-sectional Survey:  Also know as the synchronic study, a cross-sectional survey collects data at a single point in time but the questions asked of a participant may be about current and past experiences.  They are often done to evaluate some aspect of public health policy. (7)

Epidemiological Study:  Epidemiological studies evaluate the factors and associations linked to diseases.  Types of epidemiological studies include case series studies, case control studies, cohort studies, longitudinal studies, and outbreak investigations.

Epidemiological studies are often beneficial in identifying areas for a more control research evaluation; however all to often, readers of epidemiological research miscategorize links and associations as causes.  In addition, a common problem with epidemiological studies is that they rely on memory recall which can be quite unreliable.

Experimental Study:  In an experimental study, specific treatments are applied to a sample or group and the results are observed.  (8)

Literature Review:  A literature review is an exhaustive search of all of the relevant literature related to a specific research topic.

Longitudinal Study:  A specific type of epidemiological study, the longitudinal study follows subjects over a long period of time, asking a specific research question with repeated samples of data gathered across the duration of the study.  These studies are often used as the basis for specific experimental studies.  For example, the Framingham Heart Study has evaluated people from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948 looking for patterns in heart disease.

Meta-analysis:  A meta-analysis is a statistical process in which the results of multiple studies evaluating a similar research objective are collected and pooled together.   They are often used to determine the effectiveness of healthcare interventions and experiments. (9)


Additional Reading: To explore this topic in greater depth, please see The Craft of Research.




copyright (c) 2016  My Athletic Life – All rights reserved.  Part of the Scientific Research 101 series. 

Structure of a Research Paper

While academic disciplines vary on the exact format and style of journal articles in their field, most articles contain similar content and are divided in parts that typically follow the same logical flow.  Following is a list of the parts commonly found in research articles.  

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusion
  • References/Bibliography

Research papers are organized so that the information flow resembles an hourglass in that it goes from general  to specific and then back to general again.  The introduction and literature review sections will introduce the problem and provide general information. The methods and results will provide specific, detailed information about this research project and the discussion/conclusion will discuss the findings in a larger context. The following section will describe each of these parts in more detail.  Additional information can be found in the Resources section of this module and in the Suggested Readings.


The title should be specific and indicate the problem the research project addresses using keywords that will be helpful in literature reviews in the future.


The abstract is used by readers to quickly review the overall content of the paper.  Journals typically place strict word limits on abstracts, such as 200 words, making them a challenge to write.  The abstract should provide a complete synopsis of the research paper and should introduce the topic and the specific research question, provide a statement regarding methodology and should provide a general statement about the results and the findings.  Because it is really a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last.


The introduction begins by introducing the broad overall topic and providing basic background information.  It then narrows down to the specific research question relating to this topic.  It provides the purpose and focus for the rest of the paper and sets up the justification for the research.

Literature Review

The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and it relate it specifically to the research problem.  It should be a synthesis of the previous literature and the new idea being researched.  The review should examine the major theories related to the topic to date and their contributors.  It should include all relevant findings from credible sources, such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles.


The methods section will describe the research design and methodology used to complete to the study.  The general rule of thumb is that readers should be provided with enough detail to replicate the study.


In this section, the results of the analysis are presented.  How the results are presented will depend upon whether the research study was quantitative or qualitative in nature.  This section should focus only on results that are directly related to the research or the problem. Graphs and tables should only be used when there is too much data to efficiently include it within the text.  This section should present the results, but not discuss their significance.


This section should be a discussion of the results and the implications on the field, as well as other fields. The hypothesis should be answered and validated by the interpretation of the results.  This section should also discuss how the results relate to previous research mentioned in the literature review, any cautions about the findings, and potential for future research.


The research paper is not complete without the list of references. This section should be an alphabetized list of all the academic sources of information utilized in the paper.  The format of the references will match the format and style used in the paper.  Common formats include APA, MLA, Harvard and so forth.


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