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Research Paper Guideline

Writing a Research Paper


This handout provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

Contributors: Jack Raymond Baker, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez
Last Edited: 2018-02-14 03:36:12

The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

This handout will include the following sections related to the process of writing a research paper:

  • Genre- This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
  • Choosing a Topic- This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses himself.
  • Identifying an Audience- This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
  • Where Do I Begin- This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.

The neuroscience research paper should be in journal article format and should include each of the sections below. There is no page limit. Your paper should be grammatically correct, concise, and properly referenced. If you do not see it yourself, say it yourself, think it yourself, or do it yourself, reference it!

Your lab supervisor needs to sign the front of the paper indicating that he/she has read the paper; no grade assignment is necessary.

Paper Sections

Title: The title should be a concise description of the project.

Abstract: The abstract is a brief summary of the project that you are working on—an overview.

Introduction: This section includes the questions that the project(s) addresses—the hypothesis. It should also include a background, with references, that informs the reader about why the hypothetical questions are being asked. Everyone should be able to write this section. You need to ask questions and get papers the lab has previously published. You should understand the project that you are working on, even if your job is only one aspect of the project. This section should be well referenced.

Methods: What techniques are being used to answer the questions? Why are these techniques being used? What protocols are being used? What experimental subjects and groups? Again, you need to understand this component even if you are not actually using the techniques. You can also reference other papers that have used these methods so you do not need to write out the methods.

Results: What data have you collected? If none, what are the results you might see?

Discussion: What do the results, either obtained or speculated, mean to the questions that you set out to answer? How will this advance the field?

Reference List: List your references that you have used.

Additional Tips

Think of your paper as a work in progress. Talk to people in your lab about the project. When you are just starting out in a lab, the most you may be able to complete is the introduction. You should, however, be able to speculate on what the expected results are and then write how these results, if obtained, would address the questions the project addresses. Each semester that you work on the project, you should be able to add to the paper you are writing.

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