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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing a Research Paper

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The pages in this section provide detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

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.

The pages in this section cover the following topic areas 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 themselves.
  • 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.
  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Academic Writing Style
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise. Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Like specialist languages adopted in other professions, such as, law or medicine, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts within a community of scholarly experts and practitioners.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020.

Importance of Good Academic Writing

The accepted form of academic writing in the social sciences can vary considerable depending on the methodological framework and the intended audience. However, most college-level research papers require careful attention to the following stylistic elements:

I.  The Big Picture Unlike creative or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohesive and possess a logically organized flow of ideas; this means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be narrative links between sentences and paragraphs so that the reader is able to follow your argument. The introduction should include a description of how the rest of the paper is organized and all sources are properly cited throughout the paper.

II.  Tone The overall tone refers to the attitude conveyed in a piece of writing. Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate narrative tone. When presenting a position or argument that you disagree with, describe this argument accurately and without loaded or biased language. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. You should, therefore, state the strengths of your arguments confidently, using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.

III.  Diction Diction refers to the choice of words you use. Awareness of the words you use is important because words that have almost the same denotation [dictionary definition] can have very different connotations [implied meanings]. This is particularly true in academic writing because words and terminology can evolve a nuanced meaning that describes a particular idea, concept, or phenomenon derived from the epistemological culture of that discipline [e.g., the concept of rational choice in political science]. Therefore, use concrete words [not general] that convey a specific meaning. If this cannot be done without confusing the reader, then you need to explain what you mean within the context of how that word or phrase is used within a discipline.

IV.  Language The investigation of research problems in the social sciences is often complex and multi- dimensional . Therefore, it is important that you use unambiguous language. Well-structured paragraphs and clear topic sentences enable a reader to follow your line of thinking without difficulty. Your language should be concise, formal, and express precisely what you want it to mean. Do not use vague expressions that are not specific or precise enough for the reader to derive exact meaning ["they," "we," "people," "the organization," etc.], abbreviations like 'i.e.'  ["in other words"], 'e.g.' ["for example"], or 'a.k.a.' ["also known as"], and the use of unspecific determinate words ["super," "very," "incredible," "huge," etc.].

V.  Punctuation Scholars rely on precise words and language to establish the narrative tone of their work and, therefore, punctuation marks are used very deliberately. For example, exclamation points are rarely used to express a heightened tone because it can come across as unsophisticated or over-excited. Dashes should be limited to the insertion of an explanatory comment in a sentence, while hyphens should be limited to connecting prefixes to words [e.g., multi-disciplinary] or when forming compound phrases [e.g., commander-in-chief]. Finally, understand that semi-colons represent a pause that is longer than a comma, but shorter than a period in a sentence. In general, there are four grammatical uses of semi-colons: when a second clause expands or explains the first clause; to describe a sequence of actions or different aspects of the same topic; placed before clauses which begin with "nevertheless", "therefore", "even so," and "for instance”; and, to mark off a series of phrases or clauses which contain commas. If you are not confident about when to use semi-colons [and most of the time, they are not required for proper punctuation], rewrite using shorter sentences or revise the paragraph.

VI.  Academic Conventions Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references as either footnotes or endnotes is a key feature of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, data, paraphrased, or quoted text that you have used in your paper as a defense against allegations of plagiarism. Even more important, the scholarly convention of citing sources allow readers to identify the resources you used in writing your paper so they can independently verify and assess the quality of findings and conclusions based on your review of the literature. Examples of other academic conventions to follow include the appropriate use of headings and subheadings, properly spelling out acronyms when first used in the text, avoiding slang or colloquial language, avoiding emotive language or unsupported declarative statements, avoiding contractions [e.g., isn't], and using first person and second person pronouns only when necessary.

VII.  Evidence-Based Reasoning Assignments often ask you to express your own point of view about the research problem. However, what is valued in academic writing is that statements are based on evidence-based reasoning. This refers to possessing a clear understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that exist within, and often external to, your discipline concerning the topic. You need to support your arguments with evidence from scholarly [i.e., academic or peer-reviewed] sources. It should be an objective stance presented as a logical argument; the quality of the evidence you cite will determine the strength of your argument. The objective is to convince the reader of the validity of your thoughts through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing. This is particularly important when proposing solutions to problems or delineating recommended courses of action.

VIII.  Thesis-Driven Academic writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or position applied to the chosen topic of investigation, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions applied to investigating the research problem. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how you will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects you believe are most critical, or suggest a method for gathering information or data to better understand the problem.

IX.  Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking Academic writing addresses complex issues that require higher-order thinking skills applied to understanding the research problem [e.g., critical, reflective, logical, and creative thinking as opposed to, for example, descriptive or prescriptive thinking]. Higher-order thinking skills include cognitive processes that are used to comprehend, solve problems, and express concepts or that describe abstract ideas that cannot be easily acted out, pointed to, or shown with images. Think of your writing this way: One of the most important attributes of a good teacher is the ability to explain complexity in a way that is understandable and relatable to the topic being presented during class. This is also one of the main functions of academic writing--examining and explaining the significance of complex ideas as clearly as possible.  As a writer, you must adopt the role of a good teacher by summarizing complex information into a well-organized synthesis of ideas, concepts, and recommendations that contribute to a better understanding of the research problem.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Roy. Improve Your Writing Skills . Manchester, UK: Clifton Press, 1995; Nygaard, Lynn P. Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard . Second edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2015; Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007; Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice. Writing Center, Wheaton College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Strategies for...

Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon

The very definition of research jargon is language specific to a particular community of practitioner-researchers . Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to words and phrases specific to a discipline or area of study. For example, the idea of being rational may hold the same general meaning in both political science and psychology, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research domain of a each discipline may have subtle differences based upon how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.

Given this, it is important that specialist terminology [i.e., jargon] must be used accurately and applied under the appropriate conditions . Subject-specific dictionaries are the best places to confirm the meaning of terms within the context of a specific discipline. These can be found by either searching in the USC Libraries catalog by entering the disciplinary and the word dictionary [e.g., sociology and dictionary] or using a database such as Credo Reference [a curated collection of subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, guides from highly regarded publishers] . It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but you should avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.

Problems with Opaque Writing

A common criticism of scholars is that they can utilize needlessly complex syntax or overly expansive vocabulary that is impenetrable or not well-defined. When writing, avoid problems associated with opaque writing by keeping in mind the following:

1.   Excessive use of specialized terminology . Yes, it is appropriate for you to use specialist language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of complex or obscure words or writing complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your paper is more about style than substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about. Focus on creating clear, concise, and elegant prose that minimizes reliance on specialized terminology.

2.   Inappropriate use of specialized terminology . Because you are dealing with concepts, research, and data within your discipline, you need to use the technical language appropriate to that area of study. However, nothing will undermine the validity of your study quicker than the inappropriate application of a term or concept. Avoid using terms whose meaning you are unsure of--do not just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or the Credo Reference database [see above].

Additional Problems to Avoid

In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should be aware of. These problems include:

  • Personal nouns . Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. These words can be interpreted as being used only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem. Limit the use of personal nouns to descriptions of things you actually did [e.g., "I interviewed ten teachers about classroom management techniques..."]. Note that personal nouns are generally found in the discussion section of a paper because this is where you as the author/researcher interpret and describe your work.
  • Directives . Avoid directives that demand the reader to "do this" or "do that." Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations or goals leading to specific outcomes. Note that an exception to this can be found in various forms of action research that involve evidence-based advocacy for social justice or transformative change. Within this area of the social sciences, authors may offer directives for action in a declarative tone of urgency.
  • Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms . Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they can be open to interpretation. Your writing should be direct and concise using standard English.
  • Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and developing a narrative that does not have confusing language . By doing so, you  help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the design and purpose of your study.
  • Vague expressions (e.g., "they," "we," "people," "the company," "that area," etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper, be sure to look for and edit any vague or imprecise statements that lack context or specificity.
  • Numbered lists and bulleted items . The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, "The four main problems with hedge funds are:" and then list them as 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing, this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item arranged in separate paragraphs? Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols.
  • Descriptive writing . Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study. In fact, some description or background information may be needed because you can not assume the reader knows the key aspects of the topic. However, the content of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem rather than background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
  • Personal experience. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease] can be an effective way of introducing the research problem or engaging your readers in understanding its significance. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.

NOTE:   Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone.  A quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it or using a different quote to convey the same meaning. Consider inserting the term "sic" in brackets after the quoted text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source had grammar, spelling, or other errors. The adverb sic informs the reader that the errors are not yours.

Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Eileen S. “Action Research.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education . Edited by George W. Noblit and Joseph R. Neikirk. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students' Research Proposals. English Education Department. Yogyakarta State University; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Structure and Writing Style

I. Improving Academic Writing

To improve your academic writing skills, you should focus your efforts on three key areas: 1.   Clear Writing . The act of thinking about precedes the process of writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from the literature they have reviewed before creating their work. Writing detailed outlines can help you clearly organize your thoughts. Effective academic writing begins with solid planning, so manage your time carefully. 2.  Excellent Grammar . Needless to say, English grammar can be difficult and complex; even the best scholars take many years before they have a command of the major points of good grammar. Take the time to learn the major and minor points of good grammar. Spend time practicing writing and seek detailed feedback from professors. Take advantage of the Writing Center on campus if you need help. Proper punctuation and good proofreading skills can significantly improve academic writing [see sub-tab for proofreading you paper ].

Refer to these three basic resources to help your grammar and writing skills:

  • A good writing reference book, such as, Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style or the St. Martin's Handbook ;
  • A college-level dictionary, such as, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ;
  • The latest edition of Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form .

3.  Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor expresses a preference to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or not, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide rules on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to a style of writing helps with the narrative flow of your paper and improves its readability. Note that some disciplines require a particular style [e.g., education uses APA] so as you write more papers within your major, your familiarity with it will improve.

II. Evaluating Quality of Writing

A useful approach for evaluating the quality of your academic writing is to consider the following issues from the perspective of the reader. While proofreading your final draft, critically assess the following elements in your writing.

  • It is shaped around one clear research problem, and it explains what that problem is from the outset.
  • Your paper tells the reader why the problem is important and why people should know about it.
  • You have accurately and thoroughly informed the reader what has already been published about this problem or others related to it and noted important gaps in the research.
  • You have provided evidence to support your argument that the reader finds convincing.
  • The paper includes a description of how and why particular evidence was collected and analyzed, and why specific theoretical arguments or concepts were used.
  • The paper is made up of paragraphs, each containing only one controlling idea.
  • You indicate how each section of the paper addresses the research problem.
  • You have considered counter-arguments or counter-examples where they are relevant.
  • Arguments, evidence, and their significance have been presented in the conclusion.
  • Limitations of your research have been explained as evidence of the potential need for further study.
  • The narrative flows in a clear, accurate, and well-organized way.

Boscoloa, Pietro, Barbara Arféb, and Mara Quarisaa. “Improving the Quality of Students' Academic Writing: An Intervention Study.” Studies in Higher Education 32 (August 2007): 419-438; Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; Candlin, Christopher. Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach . Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style . College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Writing Tip

Considering the Passive Voice in Academic Writing

In the English language, we are able to construct sentences in the following way: 1.  "The policies of Congress caused the economic crisis." 2.  "The economic crisis was caused by the policies of Congress."

The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether you want to focus on “Congress” and what they did, or on “the economic crisis” and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice. When you want your readers to focus on the "doer" of an action, you can make the "doer"' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb. When you want readers to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence by using the passive form of the verb.

Often in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is doing an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action. The passive voice is useful in academic writing because it allows writers to highlight the most important participants or events within sentences by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.

Use the passive voice when:

  • You want to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself;
  • It is not important who or what did the action;
  • You want to be impersonal or more formal.

Form the passive voice by:

  • Turning the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence.
  • Changing the verb to a passive form by adding the appropriate form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of the main verb.

NOTE: Consult with your professor about using the passive voice before submitting your research paper. Some strongly discourage its use!

Active and Passive Voice. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Diefenbach, Paul. Future of Digital Media Syllabus. Drexel University; Passive Voice. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.  

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  • 08 May 2019

Toolkit: How to write a great paper

A clear format will ensure that your research paper is understood by your readers. Follow:

1. Context — your introduction

2. Content — your results

3. Conclusion — your discussion

Plan your paper carefully and decide where each point will sit within the framework before you begin writing.

rules for research paper writing

Collection: Careers toolkit

Straightforward writing

Scientific writing should always aim to be A, B and C: Accurate, Brief, and Clear. Never choose a long word when a short one will do. Use simple language to communicate your results. Always aim to distill your message down into the simplest sentence possible.

Choose a title

A carefully conceived title will communicate the single core message of your research paper. It should be D, E, F: Declarative, Engaging and Focused.


Add a sentence or two at the end of your concluding statement that sets out your plans for further research. What is next for you or others working in your field?

Find out more

See additional information .

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01362-9

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  • A step-by-step guide to the writing process

The Writing Process | 5 Steps with Examples & Tips

Published on April 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 8, 2023.

The writing process steps

Good academic writing requires effective planning, drafting, and revision.

The writing process looks different for everyone, but there are five basic steps that will help you structure your time when writing any kind of text.

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

  • Academic style
  • Vague sentences
  • Style consistency

See an example

rules for research paper writing

Table of contents

Step 1: prewriting, step 2: planning and outlining, step 3: writing a first draft, step 4: redrafting and revising, step 5: editing and proofreading, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the writing process.

Before you start writing, you need to decide exactly what you’ll write about and do the necessary research.

Coming up with a topic

If you have to come up with your own topic for an assignment, think of what you’ve covered in class— is there a particular area that intrigued, interested, or even confused you? Topics that left you with additional questions are perfect, as these are questions you can explore in your writing.

The scope depends on what type of text you’re writing—for example, an essay or a research paper will be less in-depth than a dissertation topic . Don’t pick anything too ambitious to cover within the word count, or too limited for you to find much to say.

Narrow down your idea to a specific argument or question. For example, an appropriate topic for an essay might be narrowed down like this:

Doing the research

Once you know your topic, it’s time to search for relevant sources and gather the information you need. This process varies according to your field of study and the scope of the assignment. It might involve:

  • Searching for primary and secondary sources .
  • Reading the relevant texts closely (e.g. for literary analysis ).
  • Collecting data using relevant research methods (e.g. experiments , interviews or surveys )

From a writing perspective, the important thing is to take plenty of notes while you do the research. Keep track of the titles, authors, publication dates, and relevant quotations from your sources; the data you gathered; and your initial analysis or interpretation of the questions you’re addressing.

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing

Especially in academic writing , it’s important to use a logical structure to convey information effectively. It’s far better to plan this out in advance than to try to work out your structure once you’ve already begun writing.

Creating an essay outline is a useful way to plan out your structure before you start writing. This should help you work out the main ideas you want to focus on and how you’ll organize them. The outline doesn’t have to be final—it’s okay if your structure changes throughout the writing process.

Use bullet points or numbering to make your structure clear at a glance. Even for a short text that won’t use headings, it’s useful to summarize what you’ll discuss in each paragraph.

An outline for a literary analysis essay might look something like this:

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question: How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

Once you have a clear idea of your structure, it’s time to produce a full first draft.

This process can be quite non-linear. For example, it’s reasonable to begin writing with the main body of the text, saving the introduction for later once you have a clearer idea of the text you’re introducing.

To give structure to your writing, use your outline as a framework. Make sure that each paragraph has a clear central focus that relates to your overall argument.

Hover over the parts of the example, from a literary analysis essay on Mansfield Park , to see how a paragraph is constructed.

The character of Mrs. Norris provides another example of the performance of morals in Mansfield Park . Early in the novel, she is described in scathing terms as one who knows “how to dictate liberality to others: but her love of money was equal to her love of directing” (p. 7). This hypocrisy does not interfere with her self-conceit as “the most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world” (p. 7). Mrs. Norris is strongly concerned with appearing charitable, but unwilling to make any personal sacrifices to accomplish this. Instead, she stage-manages the charitable actions of others, never acknowledging that her schemes do not put her own time or money on the line. In this way, Austen again shows us a character whose morally upright behavior is fundamentally a performance—for whom the goal of doing good is less important than the goal of seeming good.

When you move onto a different topic, start a new paragraph. Use appropriate transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas.

The goal at this stage is to get a draft completed, not to make everything perfect as you go along. Once you have a full draft in front of you, you’ll have a clearer idea of where improvement is needed.

Give yourself a first draft deadline that leaves you a reasonable length of time to revise, edit, and proofread before the final deadline. For a longer text like a dissertation, you and your supervisor might agree on deadlines for individual chapters.

Now it’s time to look critically at your first draft and find potential areas for improvement. Redrafting means substantially adding or removing content, while revising involves making changes to structure and reformulating arguments.

Evaluating the first draft

It can be difficult to look objectively at your own writing. Your perspective might be positively or negatively biased—especially if you try to assess your work shortly after finishing it.

It’s best to leave your work alone for at least a day or two after completing the first draft. Come back after a break to evaluate it with fresh eyes; you’ll spot things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

When evaluating your writing at this stage, you’re mainly looking for larger issues such as changes to your arguments or structure. Starting with bigger concerns saves you time—there’s no point perfecting the grammar of something you end up cutting out anyway.

Right now, you’re looking for:

  • Arguments that are unclear or illogical.
  • Areas where information would be better presented in a different order.
  • Passages where additional information or explanation is needed.
  • Passages that are irrelevant to your overall argument.

For example, in our paper on Mansfield Park , we might realize the argument would be stronger with more direct consideration of the protagonist Fanny Price, and decide to try to find space for this in paragraph IV.

For some assignments, you’ll receive feedback on your first draft from a supervisor or peer. Be sure to pay close attention to what they tell you, as their advice will usually give you a clearer sense of which aspects of your text need improvement.

Redrafting and revising

Once you’ve decided where changes are needed, make the big changes first, as these are likely to have knock-on effects on the rest. Depending on what your text needs, this step might involve:

  • Making changes to your overall argument.
  • Reordering the text.
  • Cutting parts of the text.
  • Adding new text.

You can go back and forth between writing, redrafting and revising several times until you have a final draft that you’re happy with.

Think about what changes you can realistically accomplish in the time you have. If you are running low on time, you don’t want to leave your text in a messy state halfway through redrafting, so make sure to prioritize the most important changes.

Editing focuses on local concerns like clarity and sentence structure. Proofreading involves reading the text closely to remove typos and ensure stylistic consistency. You can check all your drafts and texts in minutes with an AI proofreader .

Editing for grammar and clarity

When editing, you want to ensure your text is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. You’re looking out for:

  • Grammatical errors.
  • Ambiguous phrasings.
  • Redundancy and repetition .

In your initial draft, it’s common to end up with a lot of sentences that are poorly formulated. Look critically at where your meaning could be conveyed in a more effective way or in fewer words, and watch out for common sentence structure mistakes like run-on sentences and sentence fragments:

  • Austen’s style is frequently humorous, her characters are often described as “witty.” Although this is less true of Mansfield Park .
  • Austen’s style is frequently humorous. Her characters are often described as “witty,” although this is less true of Mansfield Park .

To make your sentences run smoothly, you can always use a paraphrasing tool to rewrite them in a clearer way.

Proofreading for small mistakes and typos

When proofreading, first look out for typos in your text:

  • Spelling errors.
  • Missing words.
  • Confused word choices .
  • Punctuation errors .
  • Missing or excess spaces.

Use a grammar checker , but be sure to do another manual check after. Read through your text line by line, watching out for problem areas highlighted by the software but also for any other issues it might have missed.

For example, in the following phrase we notice several errors:

  • Mary Crawfords character is a complicate one and her relationships with Fanny and Edmund undergoes several transformations through out the novel.
  • Mary Crawford’s character is a complicated one, and her relationships with both Fanny and Edmund undergo several transformations throughout the novel.

Proofreading for stylistic consistency

There are several issues in academic writing where you can choose between multiple different standards. For example:

  • Whether you use the serial comma .
  • Whether you use American or British spellings and punctuation (you can use a punctuation checker for this).
  • Where you use numerals vs. words for numbers.
  • How you capitalize your titles and headings.

Unless you’re given specific guidance on these issues, it’s your choice which standards you follow. The important thing is to consistently follow one standard for each issue. For example, don’t use a mixture of American and British spellings in your paper.

Additionally, you will probably be provided with specific guidelines for issues related to format (how your text is presented on the page) and citations (how you acknowledge your sources). Always follow these instructions carefully.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy
  • Deep learning
  • Generative AI
  • Machine learning
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Supervised vs. unsupervised learning

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

Revising, proofreading, and editing are different stages of the writing process .

  • Revising is making structural and logical changes to your text—reformulating arguments and reordering information.
  • Editing refers to making more local changes to things like sentence structure and phrasing to make sure your meaning is conveyed clearly and concisely.
  • Proofreading involves looking at the text closely, line by line, to spot any typos and issues with consistency and correct them.

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

  • Take a break : Set your work aside for at least a few hours so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Proofread a printout : Staring at a screen for too long can cause fatigue – sit down with a pen and paper to check the final version.
  • Use digital shortcuts : Take note of any recurring mistakes (for example, misspelling a particular word, switching between US and UK English , or inconsistently capitalizing a term), and use Find and Replace to fix it throughout the document.

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

If you’ve gone over the word limit set for your assignment, shorten your sentences and cut repetition and redundancy during the editing process. If you use a lot of long quotes , consider shortening them to just the essentials.

If you need to remove a lot of words, you may have to cut certain passages. Remember that everything in the text should be there to support your argument; look for any information that’s not essential to your point and remove it.

To make this process easier and faster, you can use a paraphrasing tool . With this tool, you can rewrite your text to make it simpler and shorter. If that’s not enough, you can copy-paste your paraphrased text into the summarizer . This tool will distill your text to its core message.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, December 08). The Writing Process | 5 Steps with Examples & Tips. Scribbr. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-writing/writing-process/

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Basic Rules of APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

rules for research paper writing

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

rules for research paper writing

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

  • Major Sections
  • In-Text Citations
  • Important Tips

Helpful Resources

Are you writing a paper for a psychology class? If so, you will likely need to use APA format to organize your paper and list the sources you used.

APA format is quite different from some of the other typical academic writing styles and guidelines you may used in the past. And, while it may take some getting used to, learning how to write an APA paper is a useful skill for anyone, whether you are a psychology major or just taking some social science classes for fun.

What Is APA Format?

APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology , education, and the social sciences. APA style originated in a 1929 article published in Psychological Bulletin that laid out the basic guidelines for academic writing in this genre. These guidelines were eventually expanded into the APA Publication Manual .

Why is APA format so important in psychology and other social sciences? Because, by using APA style, researchers and students writing about psychology can communicate information about their ideas and experiments in a consistent format. Consistency ensures readers know what to look for as they read journal articles and other forms of psychological writing.

If you have never taken a psychology or social science class before, then you are probably accustomed to using a different style guide, such as MLA or Chicago style.

New college students are often surprised to find that, after spending years having another formatting style drilled into their heads, many university-level classes instead require APA style.

It can be a difficult transition, especially if you have to bounce back and forth between different styles for different classes. However, getting a solid grasp of the basics and bookmarking a few key resources can make this new format a bit easier.

How to Section Your Paper

In most cases, your paper should include four main sections: a title page, abstract, main section, and reference list.

Your title page should contain your title, name, and school affiliation. The page should also display the course number and name, the instructor's name, and the due date of your paper. The purpose of your title page is to let the reader know what your paper is about and who it was written by.

An abstract is a brief summary of your paper that immediately follows your title page. According to APA format, your abstract should be about 100 to 200 words although this can vary depending upon the specific publication or instructor requirements.

For an essay type paper, the main body of your paper will include the essay itself. If you are writing a lab report , then your main body will be broken down into further sections. The four main components of a lab report include the introduction , method , results , and discussion sections.

The reference section of your paper will include a list of all of the sources that you used in your paper. If you cited information anywhere in your paper, it needs to be properly referenced in this section.

One rule of thumb to remember is any source cited in your paper needs to be included in your reference section. And any source listed in your reference section must also be mentioned somewhere in your paper.

How to Handle In-Text Citations

As you are writing your paper, it is important to include citations in your text to identify where you found the information you are using. Such notations are called in-text citations. APA format dictates that in-text citations in APA format should include the author's name followed by the date of publication.

For example, if you were to cite Sigmund Freud's book The Interpretation of Dreams , you would use the following format: (Freud, 1900). The extended information on the source should then appear in your reference section.

Important Tips for Reference Pages

The exact format of each reference will vary depending on whether you are referencing an author or authors , a book or journal article , or an electronic source .

It pays to spend some time looking at the specific requirements for each type of reference before formatting your source list. Here are some useful tips for incorporating reference pages into your document.

  • Start a new page for your references titled "References."
  • Center title text at the top of the page.
  • Put references should be in alphabetical order.
  • Align the first line of a reference flush with the left margin and indent each additional line beneath it (usually accomplished by using the TAB key).
  • Double-spaced the text
  • Use italics for titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Any reference that appears in the text of your report or article must be cited on the reference page, and any item appearing on your reference page must be also included somewhere in the body of your text.

If you are struggling with APA format or are looking for a good way to collect and organize your references as you work on your research, consider using a free APA citation machine . These online tools can quickly generate an APA style for most sources but should be double-checked for accuracy.

Purchasing a copy of the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is a great way to learn more about APA format and to have as a resource when writing in APA format. Looking at examples of APA format can also be very helpful.

While APA format may seem complex, it will become easier when you familiarize yourself with the rules and format.

It is also important to remember that, while the overall format may be similar for most papers, your instructor may have specific requirements. These can vary depending on whether you are writing an essay or a research paper. Your instructor may also require you to maintain and turn in an APA format bibliography .

American Psychological Association. About APA Style .

Nagda S. How to write a scientific abstract. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2013;13(3):382-383. doi:10.1007/s13191-013-0299-x

Masic I. The importance of proper citation of references in biomedical articles. Acta Inform Med. 2013;21(3):148-55. doi:10.5455/aim.2013.21.148-155

American Psychological Association.  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association  (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2019.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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rules for research paper writing

  • December 1, 2022
  • Academic Advice

How To Write a Research Paper: The Ultimate Guide

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Regardless of the degree or program, you enroll in, writing research papers is inevitable. The process can seem daunting due to the time and effort it takes. But with the proper approach, you’ll make it. 

This article will guide you on how to write a research paper perfectly, including how to write a thesis statement for a research paper, how to write a conclusion for a research paper, etc. More specifically, there are nine steps you need to follow to pave the way to a successfully written research paper.

But before that, let’s learn what a research paper is.

What Is a Research Paper?

A research paper can be considered an extended version of an essay . The research paper aims to present your interpretation, argument, or evaluation. In contrast to essays, research papers are more complex and require deep research on a particular matter. Research papers are characterized by the inclusivity of the presentation of other scientists’ opinions.

A research paper is more than a summary, collection of other sources, or literature review. At its core, the research paper analyzes and argues your point of view, further backed up by other studies. 

Completing a research paper is a challenging task. But, with our help, you can start and build your way to a good end. Let’s get started!

How To Write a Research Paper

Writing a research paper sounds easy; you pick the topic, develop your argument, research what other studies have said, and conclude it. Those are the general rules. But writing a successful research paper requires you to be more attentive, consistent, and detailed. 

The following steps will guide you through a more detailed process of writing a research paper. 

Get familiar with the assignment

Writing a research paper takes more than just listening to the instruction while your professor explains. Because many students are not cautious enough to carefully listen and analyze every given step, they end up with a poorly graded assignment or, in the worst case, even fail. 

Spend some time reading every instruction, and when in doubt, ask questions! Professors are always open to answering any questions you might have.

Choose a topic for your research paper

Deciding on a topic is usually time-consuming since there are so many topics available. If you need help deciding on a topic, think about what you are passionate about, but always remember to stay within the lines of the instructions. When choosing a topic, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a topic relevant to the length of the paper: If your professor has instructed a longer paper than usual, keep your topic broad, for example, “Internships.” On the other hand, if it’s shorter, try to narrow your topic to something more specific such as “Internship’s impact on interpersonal skills.”
  • Consider topics that allow you to discuss or analyze rather than summarize: If you’re writing anything literature related, focus on how, for example, a particular scene leads to a specific theme. Avoid choosing a topic that plainly describes scenes or characters. 
  • Find a topic with many previous studies available: Since research papers mainly focus on your research, you must ensure plenty of studies can support your arguments.

Do the research and take notes

Now it’s time to research what different scholars have written about the topic. Since this step requires a lot of reading and comprehension, it’s crucial to know how to read scholarly articles effectively and efficiently. The pieces you will go through will be lengthy, and sometimes only a few parts within those papers will be helpful. That’s why it is essential to skim and scan. 

Secondly, find reliable sources. Visit sites such as Google Scholar, and focus on peer-reviewed articles since they contain information that has been reviewed and evaluated. 

Next, keep track of what you have read so far. It’s vital to save everything you have read and consider influential in one place. Instead of going back and forth between different sites, you can have everything in one place. You can bookmark the sources or link those sources to a document. That will save you valuable time when you start writing. 

And remember: always stay focused and within your topic area.

Formulate your thesis statement

Research until you reach your own opinion or argument on the topic, otherwise known as a thesis statement. A thesis statement is an introductory statement that puts forward your explanation or point within the paper. When formulating a thesis statement, remember the following:

  • Don’t be vague.
  • Make a strong statement.
  • Make it arguable.

Checking in with your professor after you have developed a clear, persuasive thesis statement can be helpful. Ask them whether they agree your thesis statement is the right one. And if you get a positive answer, you’re ready for the next step.

Create an outline for your research paper


Even if it’s not required by your instructor, creating an outline will help you greatly in the long run. A structure will simplify the writing process, regardless of length or complexity. It should contain detailed information for the arrangement of each paragraph and identify the smaller components per each paragraph in order, such as the introductory sentence and the supporting evidence. 

The outline will create a visual board and help you define what to include and where. And most importantly, in this part, you can identify possible mistakes and not have them in your drafts.

Write your first draft

And now you’ve made it to the real deal. The work you’ve done till this point matters a lot. If you succeed in having a good topic, a strong thesis with backup evidence, and an already structured paper, half of the job is already done—you just have to fill in the blanks at this point. 

As you first start writing, remember that this is the first draft. Trust your memory and avoid going between sources and your paper. This way, you can prevent plagiarism and be original instead. Start with the introduction and the body, and work through a conclusion.

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Introductions to research papers are always unique. It is the part where you set up the topic and hook your reader. Additionally, you must provide background to the existing research, position your approach, and put forward the thesis statement. Furthermore, you need to explain why your topic deserves immediate attention.

An introduction highlights all you’ve gathered from your research. While it may seem fine to write the introduction first, we suggest you focus on the body of the paper first. Then you’ll find it simple to build a clear summary.

This is the longest part of the research paper. You are required to support your thesis and build the argument, followed by citations and analysis.

Place the paragraphs in a logical arrangement so each key point flows naturally to the next one. Similarly, organize the sentences in each paragraph in an organic structure. If you have carefully arranged your notes and created an outline, your thoughts will automatically fall into place when you write your draft.

After introducing your topic and arguing your points, the conclusion will bring everything together. Focus on developing a stimulating and informative conclusion. Make it possible for readers to understand it independently from the rest of the paper.

These are some of the suggestions that will lead to a well-written conclusion:

  • Provide a clear summary 
  • Emphasize issues raised and possible solutions

Write your second draft

Usually, the first draft is followed by a second one. However, before proceeding with the process, highlight the errors and points you would prefer to avoid including in the final draft. With the help of a second draft, you will be able to notice mistakes and create a definitive outline for the final draft. Furthermore, you can communicate your ideas more clearly and effectively by creating multiple drafts.

Cite sources and prepare a bibliography

Citations are what characterize the research paper. The importance of citations lies in reliability: citing sources will make your writing more reliable. But how do you cite correctly? The problem is that there is more than just a set of rules. If your professor has set no rules, you can ask them. After being given the right instructions on what citation style to use, do plenty of research and make sure to cite correctly. 

Edit, edit, and edit some more


Now it’s time to strive for perfection. Start editing with a fresh perspective. Firstly, focus on the content. It would be beneficial to create a checklist you can follow. You can produce a list that follows the instructions of your professor. If everything checks right, you can submit it. Otherwise, you’ll need to work toward perfecting the paper. Here are some things you need to check: 

  • Are you within the lines of the assignment?
  • Have you achieved the right length? 
  • Do sentences communicate your ideas? 
  • Is the supporting evidence conducted correctly?

It is also crucial to edit for grammar. Plenty of online tools, such as Grammarly and Hemingway Editor, can help you during the process. You can also ask your peers to check it after you’ve done your part. Their fresh perspective will pick up on many things you might have missed.

The Bottom Line

Writing a research paper is one of the essential parts of academics. The process might seem straightforward, but there are many steps you should carefully follow. And remember: always stay on track with your progress; otherwise, you will get lost in tasks. 

We hope by the time you have read this guide, you’ve been able to pick up the essential parts. But if you haven’t, you can go through it again.

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Essential Guide to Manuscript Writing for Academic Dummies: An Editor's Perspective

Syed sameer aga.

1 Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Quality Assurance Unit, College of Medicine, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC), Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs (MNGHA), King Abdulaziz Medical City, Jeddah 21423, Saudi Arabia

2 Molecular Diseases & Diagnostics Division, Infinity Biochemistry Pvt. Ltd, Sajad Abad, Chattabal, Srinagar, Kashmir 190010, India

Saniya Nissar

Associated data.

No data were used in this review.

Writing an effective manuscript is one of the pivotal steps in the successful closure of the research project, and getting it published in a peer-reviewed and indexed journal adds to the academic profile of a researcher. Writing and publishing a scientific paper is a tough task that researchers and academicians must endure in staying relevant in the field. Success in translating the benchworks into the scientific content, which is effectively communicated within the scientific field, is used in evaluating the researcher in the current academic world. Writing is a highly time-consuming and skill-oriented process that requires familiarity with the numerous publishing steps, formatting rules, and ethical guidelines currently in vogue in the publishing industry. In this review, we have attempted to include the essential information that novice authors in their early careers need to possess, to be able to write a decent first scientific manuscript ready for submission in the journal of choice. This review is unique in providing essential guidance in a simple point-wise manner in conjunction with easy-to-understand illustrations to familiarize novice researchers with the anatomy of a basic scientific manuscript.

1. Background

Communication is the pivotal key to the growth of scientific literature. Successfully written scientific communication in the form of any type of paper is needed by researchers and academicians alike for various reasons such as receiving degrees, getting a promotion, becoming experts in the field, and having editorships [ 1 , 2 ].

Here, in this review, we present the organization and anatomy of a scientific manuscript enlisting the essential features that authors should keep in their mind while writing a manuscript.

2. Types of Manuscripts

Numerous types of manuscripts do exist, which can be written by the authors for a possible publication ( Figure 1 ). Primarily, the choice is dependent upon the sort of communication authors want to make. The simplest among the scientific manuscripts is the “Letter to an Editor,” while “Systematic Review” is complex in its content and context [ 3 ].

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Types of manuscripts based on complexity of content and context.

3. Anatomy of the Manuscript

Writing and publishing an effective and well-communicative scientific manuscript is arguably one of the most daunting yet important tasks of any successful research project. It is only through publishing the data that an author gets the recognition of the work, gets established as an expert, and becomes citable in the scientific field [ 4 ]. Among the numerous types of scientific manuscripts which an author can write ( Figure 1 ), original research remains central to most publications [ 4 – 10 ].

A good scientific paper essentially covers the important criteria, which define its worth such as structure, logical flow of information, content, context, and conclusion [ 5 ]. Among various guidelines that are available for the authors to follow, IMRAD scheme is the most important in determining the correct flow of content and structure of an original research paper [ 4 , 11 – 13 ]. IMRAD stands for introduction, methods, results, and discussion ( Figure 2 ). Besides these, other parts of the manuscript are equally essential such as title, abstract, keywords, and conclusion ( Figure 3 ).

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Generalized anatomy of manuscript based on IMRAD format.

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Three important contents of the title page—title, abstract, and keywords.

IMRAD scheme was introduced in the early 1900 by publishers to standardize the single format of the scientific manuscript and since then is the universal format used by most the publishing houses [ 6 , 14 – 17 ]. In the next sections, the contents and criteria of each of them are explained in detail. A list of the most common mistakes, which the author makes in these sections, is also provided in the tabulated form [ 18 ] ( Table 1 ).

Common mistakes authors make in their manuscripts.

  • The title is the most important element of the paper, the first thing readers encounter while searching for a suitable paper [ 1 ]. It reflects the manuscript's main contribution and hence should be simple, appealing, and easy to remember [ 7 ].
  • A good title should not be more than 15 words or 100 characters. Sometimes journals ask for a short running title, which should essentially be no more than 50% of the full title. Running titles need to be simple, catchy, and easy to remember [ 19 , 20 ].
  • Keeping the titles extremely long can be cumbersome and is suggestive of the authors' lack of grasp of the true nature of the research done.
  • It usually should be based on the keywords, which feature within the main rationale and/or objectives of the paper. The authors should construct an effective title from keywords existing in all sections of the main text of the manuscript [ 19 ].
  • Having effective keywords within the title helps in the easy discovery of the paper in the search engines, databases, and indexing services, which ultimately is also reflected by the higher citations they attract [ 1 ].
  • It is always better for the title to reflect the study's design or outcome [ 21 ]; thus, it is better for the authors to think of a number of different titles proactively and to choose the one, which reflects the manuscript in all domains, after careful deliberation. The paper's title should be among the last things to be decided before the submission of the paper for publication [ 20 ].
  • Use of abbreviations, jargons, and redundancies such as “a study in,” “case report of,” “Investigations of,” and passive voice should be avoided in the title.

5. Abstract

  • The abstract should essentially be written to answer the three main questions—“What is new in this study?” “What does it add to the current literature?” and “What are the future perspectives?”
  • A well-written abstract is a pivotal part of every manuscript. For most readers, an abstract is the only part of the paper that is widely read, so it should be aimed to convey the entire message of the paper effectively [ 1 ].

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Two major types of abstract—structured and unstructured. Structured abstracts are piecemealed into five different things, each consisting of one or two sentences, while unstructured abstracts consist of single paragraph written about the same things.

  • An effective abstract is a rationalized summary of the whole study and essentially should contain well-balanced information about six things: background, aim, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion [ 6 , 19 ].

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Three C concept followed while writing the manuscript.

  • An abstract should be written at the end, after finishing the writing of an entire manuscript to be able to stand-alone from the main text. It should reflect your study completely without any reference to the main paper [ 19 ].
  • The authors need to limit/write their statements in each section to two or three sentences. However, it is better to focus on results and conclusions, as they are the main parts that interest the readers and should include key results and conclusions made thereof.
  • Inclusion of excessive background information, citations, abbreviations, use of acronyms, lack of rationale/aim of the study, lack of meaningful data, and overstated conclusions make an abstract ineffective.

6. Keywords

  • Keywords are the important words, which feature repeatedly in the study or else cover the main theme/idea/subject of the manuscript. They are used by indexing databases such as PubMed, Scopus, and Embase in categorizing and cross-indexing the published article.
  • It is always wise to enlist those words which help the paper to be easily searchable in the databases.
  • Keywords can be of two types: (a) general ones that are provided by the journal or indexing services called as medical subject headings (MeSH) as available in NCBI ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/mesh/ ) and (b) custom ones made by authors themselves based on the subject matter of the study [ 6 , 20 ].
  • Upon submission, journals do usually ask for the provision of five to ten keywords either to categorize the paper into the subject areas or to assign it to the subspecialty for its quick processing.

7. Introduction

  • (i) The whole idea of writing this section is to cover two important questions—“What are the gaps present in the current literature?” and “Why is the current study important?”
  • (ii) Introduction provides an opportunity for the authors to highlight their area of study and provide rationale and justification as to why they are doing it [ 20 , 22 , 23 ].
  • (iii) An effective introduction usually constitutes about 10–15% of the paper's word count [ 22 ].
  • The first paragraph of the introduction should always cover “What is known about the area of study?” or “What present/current literature is telling about the problem?” All relevant and current literature/studies, i.e., original studies, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews, should be covered in this paragraph.
  • The second paragraph should cover “What is unknown or not done about this issue/study area?” The authors need to indicate the aspects of what has not been answered about the broader area of the study until now.
  • The third paragraph should identify the gaps in the current literature and answer “What gaps in the literature would be filled by their current study?” This part essentially identifies the shortcoming of the existing studies.
  • The fourth paragraph should be dedicated to effectively writing “What authors are going to do to fill the gaps?” and “Why do they want to do it?” This paragraph contains two sections—one explains the rationale of the study and introduces the hypothesis of the study in form of questions “What did authors do? and Why they did do so?” and the second enlists specific objectives that the authors are going to explore in this study to answer “Why this study is going to be important?” or “What is the purpose of this study?”.

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Funnel-down scheme followed while writing the introduction section of manuscript, moving from broader to specific information.

  • (v) Introduction is regarded as the start of the storyline of manuscript, and hence, the three Cs' scheme ( Figure 5 ) becomes more relevant while writing it: the context in terms of what has been published on the current idea/problem around the world, content as to what you are going to do about the problem in hand (rationale), and conclusion as to how it is going to be done (specific objective of the study) [ 1 , 23 ].
  • (vi) Introduction is the first section of the main manuscript, which talks about the story; therefore, while writing it authors should always try to think that “would this introduction be able to convince my readers?” [ 25 ]. To emphasize on the importance of the study in filling the knowledge gap is pivotal in driving the message through [ 23 ].
  • (vii) Introduction should never be written like a review, any details, contexts, and comparisons should be dealt within the discussion part [ 16 ].
  • (viii) While choosing the papers, it is wise to include the essential and recent studies only. Studies more than 10 years old should be avoided, as editors are inclined towards the recent and relevant ones only [ 20 , 22 ].
  • (ix) In the last paragraph, enlisting the objectives has a good impact on readers. A clear distinction between the primary and secondary objectives of the study should be made while closing the introduction [ 22 ].
  • (i) It is regarded as the skeleton of the manuscript as it contains information about the research done. An effective methods section should provide information about two essential aspects of the research—(a) precise description of how experiments were done and (b) rationale for choosing the specific experiments.
  • Study Settings: describing the area or setting where the study was conducted. This description should cover the details relevant to the study topic.

Different guidelines available for perusal of the authors for writing an effective manuscript.

  • Sample Size and Sampling Technique: mentioning what number of samples is needed and how they would be collected.
  • Ethical Approvals: clearly identifying the study approval body or board and proper collection of informed consent from participants.
  • Recruitment Methods: using at least three criteria for the inclusion or exclusion of the study subjects to reach an agreed sample size.
  • Experimental and Intervention Details: exhaustively describing each and every detail of all the experiments and intervention carried out in the study for the readers to reproduce independently.
  • Statistical Analysis: mentioning all statistical analysis carried out with the data which include all descriptive and inferential statistics and providing the analysis in meaningful statistical values such as mean, median, percent, standard deviation (SD), probability value (p), odds ratio (OR), and confidence interval (CI).

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Methods and the seven areas which it should exhaustively describe.

  • (iii) Methods should be elaborative enough that the readers are able to replicate the study on their own. If, however, the protocols are frequently used ones and are already available in the literature, the authors can cite them without providing any exhaustive details [ 26 ].
  • (iv) Methods should be able to answer the three questions for which audience reads the paper—(1) What was done? (2) Where it was done? and (3) How it was done? [ 11 ].
  • (v) Remember, methods section is all about “HOW” the data were collected contrary to “WHAT” data were collected, which should be written in the results section. Therefore, care should be taken in providing the description of the tools and techniques used for this purpose.
  • (vi) Writing of the methods section should essentially follow the guidelines as per the study design right from the ideation of the project. There are numerous guidelines available, which author's must make use of, to streamline the writing of the methods section in particular (see Table xx for details).
  • (vii) Provision of the information of the equipment, chemicals, reagents, and physical conditions is also vital for the readers for replication of the study. If any software is used for data analysis, it is imperative to mention it. All manufacturer's names, their city, and country should also be provided [ 6 , 11 ].
  • The purpose of the results section of the manuscript is to present the finding of the study in clear, concise, and objective manner to the readers [ 7 , 27 , 28 ].
  • Results section makes the heart of the manuscript, as all sections revolve around it. The reported findings should be in concordance with the objectives of the study and be able to answer the questions raised in the introduction [ 6 , 20 , 27 ].
  • Results should be written in past tense without any interpretation [ 6 , 27 ].

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Interdependence between methods and results of the manuscript.

  • It is always better to take refuge in tables and figures to drive the exhaustive data through. Repetition of the data already carried in tables, figures, etc., should be avoided [ 4 , 6 , 20 ].
  • Proper positioning and citations of the tables and figures within the main text are also critical for the flow of information and quality of the manuscript [ 6 , 11 ].
  • Results section should carry clear descriptive and inferential statistics in tables and/or figures, for ease of reference to readers.
  • Provision of the demographic data of the study participants takes priority in the results section; therefore, it should be made as its first paragraph. The subsequent paragraphs should introduce the inferential analysis of the data based on the rationale and objectives of the study. The last paragraphs mention what new results the study is going to offer [ 6 , 11 , 20 ].
  • authors should not attempt to report all analysis of the data. Discussing, interpreting, or contextualizing the results should be avoided [ 20 ].

10. Discussion

  • (i) The main purpose of writing a discussion is to fill the gap that was identified in the introduction of the manuscript and provide true interpretations of the results [ 6 , 11 , 20 ].

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Pyramid scheme followed while writing the discussion section of manuscript, moving from the key results of the study to the specific conclusions.

  • (iii) Discussion section toggles between two things—content and context. The authors need to exhaustively describe their interpretation of the analyzed data (content) and then compare it with the available relevant literature (context) [ 1 , 29 ]. Finally, it should justify everything in conclusion as to what all this means for the field of study.
  • (iv) The comparison can either be concordant or discordant, but it needs to highlight the uniqueness and importance of the study in the field. Care should be taken not to cover up any deviant results, which do not gel with the current literature [ 30 ].
  • (v) In discussion it is safe to use words such as “may,” “might,” “show,” “demonstrate,” “suggest,” and “report” while impressing upon your study's data and analyzed results.
  • (vi) Putting results in context helps in identifying the strengths and weakness of the study and enables readers to get answers to two important questions—one “what are the implications of the study?” Second “how the study advance the field further?” [ 1 , 30 ].
  • The first paragraph of the discussion is reserved for highlighting the key results of the study as briefly as possible [ 4 , 6 ]. However, care should be taken not to have any redundancy with the results section. The authors should utilize this part to emphasize the originality and significance of their results in the field [ 1 , 4 , 11 , 20 ].
  • The second paragraph should deal with the importance of your study in relationship with other studies available in the literature [ 4 ].
  • Subsequent paragraphs should focus on the context, by describing the findings in comparison with other similar studies in the field and how the gap in the knowledge has been filled [ 1 , 4 ].
  • In the penultimate paragraph, authors need to highlight the strengths and limitations of the study [ 4 , 6 , 30 ].
  • Final paragraph of the discussion is usually reserved for drawing the generalized conclusions for the readers to get a single take-home message.
  • (viii) A well-balanced discussion is the one that effectively addresses the contribution made by this study towards the advancement of knowledge in general and the field of research in particular [ 7 ]. It essentially should carry enough information that the audience knows how to apply the new interpretation presented within that field.

11. Conclusion

  • It usually makes the last part of the manuscript, if not already covered within the discussion part [ 6 , 20 ].
  • Being the last part of the main text, it has a long-lasting impact on the reader and hence should be very clear in presenting the chief findings of the paper as per the rationale and objectives of the study [ 4 , 20 ].

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Crux of the conclusion section.

12. References or Bibliography

  • Every article needs a suitable and relevant citation of the available literature to carry the contextual message of their results to the readers [ 31 ].
  • Inclusion of proper references in the required format, as asked by the target journal, is necessary.

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A Google Scholar screenshot of different styles of formatting of references.

  • Depending upon the journal and publishing house, usually, 30–50 citations are allowed in an original study, and they need to be relevant and recent.

13. Organization of the Manuscript Package

Ideally, all manuscripts, no matter where they have to be submitted, should follow an approved organization, which is universally used by all publication houses. “Ready to submit” manuscript package should include the following elements:

  • (i) Cover letter, addressed to the chief editor of the target journal.
  • (ii) Authorship file, containing the list of authors, their affiliations, emails, and ORCIDs.
  • (iii) Title page, containing three things—title, abstract, and keywords.
  • Main text structured upon IMRAD scheme.
  • References as per required format.
  • Legends to all tables and figures.
  • Miscellaneous things such as author contributions, acknowledgments, conflicts of interest, funding body, and ethical approvals.
  • (v) Tables as a separate file in excel format.
  • (vi) Figures or illustrations, each as a separate file in JPEG or TIFF format [ 32 ].
  • (vii) Reviewers file, containing names of the suggested peer reviewers working or publishing in the same field.
  • (viii) Supplementary files, which can be raw data files, ethical clearance from Institutional Review Board (IRBs), appendixes, etc.

14. Overview of an Editorial Process

Each scientific journal has a specific publication policies and procedures, which govern the numerous steps of the publication process. In general, all publication houses process the submission of manuscripts via multiple steps tightly controlled by the editors and reviewers [ 33 ]. Figure 12 provides general overview of the six-step editorial process of the scientific journal.

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An overview of the journal's editorial process.

15. Summary

The basic criteria for writing any scientific communication are to know how to communicate the information effectively. In this review, we have provided the critical information of do's and don'ts for the naive authors to follow in making their manuscript enough impeccable and error-free that on submission manuscript is not desk rejected at all. but this goes with mentioning that like any other skill, and the writing is also honed by practicing and is always reflective of the knowledge the writer possesses. Additionally, an effective manuscript is always based on the study design and the statistical analysis done. The authors should always bear in mind that editors apart from looking into the novelty of the study also look at how much pain authors have taken in writing, following guidelines, and formatting the manuscript. Therefore, the organization of the manuscript as per provided guidelines such as IMRAD, CONSORT, and PRISMA should be followed in letter and spirit. Care should be taken to avoid the mistakes, already enlisted, which can be the cause of desk rejection. As a general rule, before submission of the manuscript to the journal, sanitation check involving at least two reviews by colleagues should be carried out to ensure all general formatting guidelines are followed.


The authors would like to thank all academicians and researchers who have actively participated in the “Writing Manuscript Workshops” at the College of Medicine, KSAU-HS, Jeddah, which prompted them to write this review.

Data Availability

Conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Authors' Contributions

Both authors have critically reviewed and approved the final draft and are responsible for the content and similarity index of the manuscript. SSA conceptualized the study, designed the study, surveyed the existing literature, and wrote the manuscript. SN edited, revised, and proofread the final manuscript.

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10 Basic Rules You Must Follow when Writing a Research Paper

rules for research paper writing

To write a good and effective research paper, proper knowledge of the subject and in-depth research of the topic is necessary.

If you are a university graduate, postgraduate, and Ph.D. student or research scholar and writing a research paper for the first time, then it may seem a scary and difficult task. If you prepare a rough draft of this, then the process of writing the research paper using such services as buyessayclub or not will become easy. There are many such rules which if you follow, you can easily write an excellent research paper. You can get to know more about it at grademiners.com

Below mentioned are the basic rules which you must follow when writing a research paper.

Create a draft

rules for research paper writing

Create a draft or a blueprint before starting your research. This blueprint will establish your search; that is, you will define the research topic. It will give you an idea of ​​the materials you should have and the resources needed to access these materials. This step is important because, in this way, you will not be surprised if you cannot access the requested information. The draft should be written in the grammatically correct language. A research paper that is full of grammatical errors will create a negative impression among readers. Also, the writing style needs to be interactive. A bland writing style will make the readers indifferent to it.

Create Segments

rules for research paper writing

A good paper needs to have sections like Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion and Abstracts, Conclusions, and References. It would be like building a house and dividing it into several segments (rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, etc.). In all these segments, start writing in your research and try to write as much as you can about the topic. If the topic is divided into several sub-headings, it will be easier to follow. The readers will be able to pick up from where they left off earlier. The text should at least be divided into relevant paragraphs. Each paragraph should not be cramped with information. A sub-heading also makes it easier to categorize the information.

Start the investigation phase

rules for research paper writing

This step requires a thorough review of bibliographic material . To avoid getting into the problem of additional information, you have to define your search in the following aspects: the concepts examined in the topic or problem, pre-existing work on the topic, using different methods to solve it. All the stages of the investigation should be properly defined and explained.

Choose the correct audience

rules for research paper writing

A research paper on a particular topic will make sense only to a group of audience. E.g., if the research topic is the computational study of marine biology, it will only make sense to marine biologists and computer scientists. The research topic will sound incomprehensive to experts in other fields.

rules for research paper writing

The research scholars should follow the principle of “Less is more” when writing their research paper. This principle means they should only present a minimum number of papers with maximum information.

Evaluate what you write

rules for research paper writing

When it comes to research and writing, patience and a composed mind are key in forming a hypothesis . Rushing through the process will not yield the best results. Take your time and approach the task methodically, allowing the hypothesis to develop organically as you delve into the subject matter. After drafting your work, review it multiple times, making necessary adjustments along the way to refine and strengthen the hypothesis. Utilize the word file’s preview option to track the changes and improvements made during your writing process, ensuring that your evolving hypothesis aligns with your initial intentions.

When starting, employ straightforward language to convey your ideas effectively, helping readers understand the hypothesis clearly. Avoid overly complex language that might confuse your audience and detract from the central idea. As you delve into the research, keep a keen eye on references and sources, noting them down diligently for accurate citations in your final research paper, further supporting your hypothesis with credible evidence.

Most importantly, never resort to copying and pasting from other sources, as it can lead to plagiarism, undermining the integrity of your work and the hypothesis itself. Always produce original content and give credit where it is due. By following these guidelines, you can produce well-crafted research papers that stand on a foundation of authenticity and diligent effort, strengthening the validity of your hypothesis. Remember, quality work takes time and dedication, so stay focused and be proud of your final output, backed by a well-formed hypothesis.

Story-like Flow

rules for research paper writing

Now, start writing the introduction and write it like a story like why you choose to research a specific topic , what importance it has on the world and nation level, what work has a lack of research, etc. Write the importance of your work in clear words.

Similarly, write your research descriptively. Discuss each objective and parameter individually. Effectively write the main points and new results. You should try to squeeze the whole research as compactly as possible. Also, do not repeat the words written in the paper. In the end, just give a summary here and talk in the future perspective.

rules for research paper writing

Read the paper several times before sending it for publication in any research journal or newspaper . You can send it to the fellow researchers or professors and include their suggestions in the research paper very seriously.

Do not forget that your writing should be very clean, as your document will become a research material for other people. Compatibility in writing, clarity, and correct spellings are very important.

When a phrase is long or complex, you should try to make it short and crisp because the idea it represents is long and complex. Keep in mind that scientific facts should be written in an active and impersonal voice, so avoid value judgment.

Never submit a paper in haste, read the guidelines of the journals you are sending before submitting and format the paper accordingly. Remember that even a slight mistake can cause your paper to be rejected. Therefore, when you are sure, submit the paper in journals.

Write a good cover letter

rules for research paper writing

Many journals ask for a cover letter. It should be written in very few words with very important findings. Not having a good cover letter can also lead to rejections. Finally, check all the required points in the checklist and only then go to the editorial manager’s submission software. Format and submit the files as per the requirement.

Beware of frauds

rules for research paper writing

Avoid fake or fraud journals, check the indexing of the journal before submission. Many websites can help you with this. If there is a link, then you can be sure and submit your paper. Hopefully, this article will help you in writing your research paper.

Final Words

Here mentioned are some of the important rules which you must adhere to while writing your paper. Make sure you follow all of them to write a crisp and clear paper easily accepted by the journals and publications. Remember that even the slightest mistake can result in your paper getting canceled. Hence, give in your best and proofread again and again before submitting it.

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Open Access

Ten simple rules for structuring papers

Affiliations Optimize Science, Mill Valley, California, United States of America, Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, United States of America

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* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliations University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States of America

  • Brett Mensh, 
  • Konrad Kording


Published: September 28, 2017

  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005619
  • See the preprint
  • Reader Comments

9 Nov 2017: The PLOS Computational Biology Staff (2017) Correction: Ten simple rules for structuring papers. PLOS Computational Biology 13(11): e1005830. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005830 View correction

Fig 1

Citation: Mensh B, Kording K (2017) Ten simple rules for structuring papers. PLoS Comput Biol 13(9): e1005619. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005619

Editor: Scott Markel, Dassault Systemes BIOVIA, UNITED STATES

Copyright: © 2017 Mensh, Kording. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Good scientific writing is essential to career development and to the progress of science. A well-structured manuscript allows readers and reviewers to get excited about the subject matter, to understand and verify the paper’s contributions, and to integrate these contributions into a broader context. However, many scientists struggle with producing high-quality manuscripts and are typically untrained in paper writing. Focusing on how readers consume information, we present a set of ten simple rules to help you communicate the main idea of your paper. These rules are designed to make your paper more influential and the process of writing more efficient and pleasurable.


Writing and reading papers are key skills for scientists. Indeed, success at publishing is used to evaluate scientists [ 1 ] and can help predict their future success [ 2 ]. In the production and consumption of papers, multiple parties are involved, each having their own motivations and priorities. The editors want to make sure that the paper is significant, and the reviewers want to determine whether the conclusions are justified by the results. The reader wants to quickly understand the conceptual conclusions of the paper before deciding whether to dig into the details, and the writer wants to convey the important contributions to the broadest audience possible while convincing the specialist that the findings are credible. You can facilitate all of these goals by structuring the paper well at multiple scales—spanning the sentence, paragraph, section, and document.

Clear communication is also crucial for the broader scientific enterprise because “concept transfer” is a rate-limiting step in scientific cross-pollination. This is particularly true in the biological sciences and other fields that comprise a vast web of highly interconnected sub-disciplines. As scientists become increasingly specialized, it becomes more important (and difficult) to strengthen the conceptual links. Communication across disciplinary boundaries can only work when manuscripts are readable, credible, and memorable.

The claim that gives significance to your work has to be supported by data and by a logic that gives it credibility. Without carefully planning the paper’s logic, writers will often be missing data or missing logical steps on the way to the conclusion. While these lapses are beyond our scope, your scientific logic must be crystal clear to powerfully make your claim.

Here we present ten simple rules for structuring papers. The first four rules are principles that apply to all the parts of a paper and further to other forms of communication such as grants and posters. The next four rules deal with the primary goals of each of the main parts of papers. The final two rules deliver guidance on the process—heuristics for efficiently constructing manuscripts.

Principles (Rules 1–4)

Writing is communication. Thus, the reader’s experience is of primary importance, and all writing serves this goal. When you write, you should constantly have your reader in mind. These four rules help you to avoid losing your reader.

Rule 1: Focus your paper on a central contribution, which you communicate in the title

Your communication efforts are successful if readers can still describe the main contribution of your paper to their colleagues a year after reading it. Although it is clear that a paper often needs to communicate a number of innovations on the way to its final message, it does not pay to be greedy. Focus on a single message; papers that simultaneously focus on multiple contributions tend to be less convincing about each and are therefore less memorable.

The most important element of a paper is the title—think of the ratio of the number of titles you read to the number of papers you read. The title is typically the first element a reader encounters, so its quality [ 3 ] determines whether the reader will invest time in reading the abstract.

The title not only transmits the paper’s central contribution but can also serve as a constant reminder (to you) to focus the text on transmitting that idea. Science is, after all, the abstraction of simple principles from complex data. The title is the ultimate refinement of the paper’s contribution. Thinking about the title early—and regularly returning to hone it—can help not only the writing of the paper but also the process of designing experiments or developing theories.

This Rule of One is the most difficult rule to optimally implement because it comes face-to-face with the key challenge of science, which is to make the claim and/or model as simple as the data and logic can support but no simpler. In the end, your struggle to find this balance may appropriately result in “one contribution” that is multifaceted. For example, a technology paper may describe both its new technology and a biological result using it; the bridge that unifies these two facets is a clear description of how the new technology can be used to do new biology.

Rule 2: Write for flesh-and-blood human beings who do not know your work

Because you are the world’s leading expert at exactly what you are doing, you are also the world’s least qualified person to judge your writing from the perspective of the naïve reader. The majority of writing mistakes stem from this predicament. Think like a designer—for each element, determine the impact that you want to have on people and then strive to achieve that objective [ 4 ]. Try to think through the paper like a naïve reader who must first be made to care about the problem you are addressing (see Rule 6) and then will want to understand your answer with minimal effort.

Define technical terms clearly because readers can become frustrated when they encounter a word that they don’t understand. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms so that readers do not have to go back to earlier sections to identify them.

The vast knowledge base of human psychology is useful in paper writing. For example, people have working memory constraints in that they can only remember a small number of items and are better at remembering the beginning and the end of a list than the middle [ 5 ]. Do your best to minimize the number of loose threads that the reader has to keep in mind at any one time.

Rule 3: Stick to the context-content-conclusion (C-C-C) scheme

The vast majority of popular (i.e., memorable and re-tellable) stories have a structure with a discernible beginning, a well-defined body, and an end. The beginning sets up the context for the story, while the body (content) advances the story towards an ending in which the problems find their conclusions. This structure reduces the chance that the reader will wonder “Why was I told that?” (if the context is missing) or “So what?” (if the conclusion is missing).

There are many ways of telling a story. Mostly, they differ in how well they serve a patient reader versus an impatient one [ 6 ]. The impatient reader needs to be engaged quickly; this can be accomplished by presenting the most exciting content first (e.g., as seen in news articles). The C-C-C scheme that we advocate serves a more patient reader who is willing to spend the time to get oriented with the context. A consequent disadvantage of C-C-C is that it may not optimally engage the impatient reader. This disadvantage is mitigated by the fact that the structure of scientific articles, specifically the primacy of the title and abstract, already forces the content to be revealed quickly. Thus, a reader who proceeds to the introduction is likely engaged enough to have the patience to absorb the context. Furthermore, one hazard of excessive “content first” story structures in science is that you may generate skepticism in the reader because they may be missing an important piece of context that makes your claim more credible. For these reasons, we advocate C-C-C as a “default” scientific story structure.

The C-C-C scheme defines the structure of the paper on multiple scales. At the whole-paper scale, the introduction sets the context, the results are the content, and the discussion brings home the conclusion. Applying C-C-C at the paragraph scale, the first sentence defines the topic or context, the body hosts the novel content put forth for the reader’s consideration, and the last sentence provides the conclusion to be remembered.

Deviating from the C-C-C structure often leads to papers that are hard to read, but writers often do so because of their own autobiographical context. During our everyday lives as scientists, we spend a majority of our time producing content and a minority amidst a flurry of other activities. We run experiments, develop the exposition of available literature, and combine thoughts using the magic of human cognition. It is natural to want to record these efforts on paper and structure a paper chronologically. But for our readers, most details of our activities are extraneous. They do not care about the chronological path by which you reached a result; they just care about the ultimate claim and the logic supporting it (see Rule 7). Thus, all our work must be reformatted to provide a context that makes our material meaningful and a conclusion that helps the reader to understand and remember it.

Rule 4: Optimize your logical flow by avoiding zig-zag and using parallelism

Avoiding zig-zag..

Only the central idea of the paper should be touched upon multiple times. Otherwise, each subject should be covered in only one place in order to minimize the number of subject changes. Related sentences or paragraphs should be strung together rather than interrupted by unrelated material. Ideas that are similar, such as two reasons why we should believe something, should come one immediately after the other.

Using parallelism.

Similarly, across consecutive paragraphs or sentences, parallel messages should be communicated with parallel form. Parallelism makes it easier to read the text because the reader is familiar with the structure. For example, if we have three independent reasons why we prefer one interpretation of a result over another, it is helpful to communicate them with the same syntax so that this syntax becomes transparent to the reader, which allows them to focus on the content. There is nothing wrong with using the same word multiple times in a sentence or paragraph. Resist the temptation to use a different word to refer to the same concept—doing so makes readers wonder if the second word has a slightly different meaning.

The components of a paper (Rules 5–8)

The individual parts of a paper—abstract, introduction, results, and discussion—have different objectives, and thus they each apply the C-C-C structure a little differently in order to achieve their objectives. We will discuss these specialized structures in this section and summarize them in Fig 1 .


  • PPT PowerPoint slide
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  • TIFF original image

Note that the abstract is special in that it contains all three elements (Context, Content, and Conclusion), thus comprising all three colors.


Rule 5: Tell a complete story in the abstract

The abstract is, for most readers, the only part of the paper that will be read. This means that the abstract must convey the entire message of the paper effectively. To serve this purpose, the abstract’s structure is highly conserved. Each of the C-C-C elements is detailed below.

The context must communicate to the reader what gap the paper will fill. The first sentence orients the reader by introducing the broader field in which the particular research is situated. Then, this context is narrowed until it lands on the open question that the research answered. A successful context section sets the stage for distinguishing the paper’s contributions from the current state of the art by communicating what is missing in the literature (i.e., the specific gap) and why that matters (i.e., the connection between the specific gap and the broader context that the paper opened with).

The content (“Here we”) first describes the novel method or approach that you used to fill the gap or question. Then you present the meat—your executive summary of the results.

Finally, the conclusion interprets the results to answer the question that was posed at the end of the context section. There is often a second part to the conclusion section that highlights how this conclusion moves the broader field forward (i.e., “broader significance”). This is particularly true for more “general” journals with a broad readership.

This structure helps you avoid the most common mistake with the abstract, which is to talk about results before the reader is ready to understand them. Good abstracts usually take many iterations of refinement to make sure the results fill the gap like a key fits its lock. The broad-narrow-broad structure allows you to communicate with a wider readership (through breadth) while maintaining the credibility of your claim (which is always based on a finite or narrow set of results).

Rule 6: Communicate why the paper matters in the introduction

The introduction highlights the gap that exists in current knowledge or methods and why it is important. This is usually done by a set of progressively more specific paragraphs that culminate in a clear exposition of what is lacking in the literature, followed by a paragraph summarizing what the paper does to fill that gap.

As an example of the progression of gaps, a first paragraph may explain why understanding cell differentiation is an important topic and that the field has not yet solved what triggers it (a field gap). A second paragraph may explain what is unknown about the differentiation of a specific cell type, such as astrocytes (a subfield gap). A third may provide clues that a particular gene might drive astrocytic differentiation and then state that this hypothesis is untested (the gap within the subfield that you will fill). The gap statement sets the reader’s expectation for what the paper will deliver.

The structure of each introduction paragraph (except the last) serves the goal of developing the gap. Each paragraph first orients the reader to the topic (a context sentence or two) and then explains the “knowns” in the relevant literature (content) before landing on the critical “unknown” (conclusion) that makes the paper matter at the relevant scale. Along the path, there are often clues given about the mystery behind the gaps; these clues lead to the untested hypothesis or undeveloped method of the paper and give the reader hope that the mystery is solvable. The introduction should not contain a broad literature review beyond the motivation of the paper. This gap-focused structure makes it easy for experienced readers to evaluate the potential importance of a paper—they only need to assess the importance of the claimed gap.

The last paragraph of the introduction is special: it compactly summarizes the results, which fill the gap you just established. It differs from the abstract in the following ways: it does not need to present the context (which has just been given), it is somewhat more specific about the results, and it only briefly previews the conclusion of the paper, if at all.

Rule 7: Deliver the results as a sequence of statements, supported by figures, that connect logically to support the central contribution

The results section needs to convince the reader that the central claim is supported by data and logic. Every scientific argument has its own particular logical structure, which dictates the sequence in which its elements should be presented.

For example, a paper may set up a hypothesis, verify that a method for measurement is valid in the system under study, and then use the measurement to disprove the hypothesis. Alternatively, a paper may set up multiple alternative (and mutually exclusive) hypotheses and then disprove all but one to provide evidence for the remaining interpretation. The fabric of the argument will contain controls and methods where they are needed for the overall logic.

In the outlining phase of paper preparation (see Rule 9), sketch out the logical structure of how your results support your claim and convert this into a sequence of declarative statements that become the headers of subsections within the results section (and/or the titles of figures). Most journals allow this type of formatting, but if your chosen journal does not, these headers are still useful during the writing phase and can either be adapted to serve as introductory sentences to your paragraphs or deleted before submission. Such a clear progression of logical steps makes the paper easy to follow.

Figures, their titles, and legends are particularly important because they show the most objective support (data) of the steps that culminate in the paper’s claim. Moreover, figures are often viewed by readers who skip directly from the abstract in order to save time. Thus, the title of the figure should communicate the conclusion of the analysis, and the legend should explain how it was done. Figure making is an art unto itself; the Edward Tufte books remain the gold standard for learning this craft [ 7 , 8 ].

The first results paragraph is special in that it typically summarizes the overall approach to the problem outlined in the introduction, along with any key innovative methods that were developed. Most readers do not read the methods, so this paragraph gives them the gist of the methods that were used.

Each subsequent paragraph in the results section starts with a sentence or two that set up the question that the paragraph answers, such as the following: “To verify that there are no artifacts…,” “What is the test-retest reliability of our measure?,” or “We next tested whether Ca 2+ flux through L-type Ca 2+ channels was involved.” The middle of the paragraph presents data and logic that pertain to the question, and the paragraph ends with a sentence that answers the question. For example, it may conclude that none of the potential artifacts were detected. This structure makes it easy for experienced readers to fact-check a paper. Each paragraph convinces the reader of the answer given in its last sentence. This makes it easy to find the paragraph in which a suspicious conclusion is drawn and to check the logic of that paragraph. The result of each paragraph is a logical statement, and paragraphs farther down in the text rely on the logical conclusions of previous paragraphs, much as theorems are built in mathematical literature.

Rule 8: Discuss how the gap was filled, the limitations of the interpretation, and the relevance to the field

The discussion section explains how the results have filled the gap that was identified in the introduction, provides caveats to the interpretation, and describes how the paper advances the field by providing new opportunities. This is typically done by recapitulating the results, discussing the limitations, and then revealing how the central contribution may catalyze future progress. The first discussion paragraph is special in that it generally summarizes the important findings from the results section. Some readers skip over substantial parts of the results, so this paragraph at least gives them the gist of that section.

Each of the following paragraphs in the discussion section starts by describing an area of weakness or strength of the paper. It then evaluates the strength or weakness by linking it to the relevant literature. Discussion paragraphs often conclude by describing a clever, informal way of perceiving the contribution or by discussing future directions that can extend the contribution.

For example, the first paragraph may summarize the results, focusing on their meaning. The second through fourth paragraphs may deal with potential weaknesses and with how the literature alleviates concerns or how future experiments can deal with these weaknesses. The fifth paragraph may then culminate in a description of how the paper moves the field forward. Step by step, the reader thus learns to put the paper’s conclusions into the right context.

Process (Rules 9 and 10)

To produce a good paper, authors can use helpful processes and habits. Some aspects of a paper affect its impact more than others, which suggests that your investment of time should be weighted towards the issues that matter most. Moreover, iteratively using feedback from colleagues allows authors to improve the story at all levels to produce a powerful manuscript. Choosing the right process makes writing papers easier and more effective.

Rule 9: Allocate time where it matters: Title, abstract, figures, and outlining

The central logic that underlies a scientific claim is paramount. It is also the bridge that connects the experimental phase of a research effort with the paper-writing phase. Thus, it is useful to formalize the logic of ongoing experimental efforts (e.g., during lab meetings) into an evolving document of some sort that will ultimately steer the outline of the paper.

You should also allocate your time according to the importance of each section. The title, abstract, and figures are viewed by far more people than the rest of the paper, and the methods section is read least of all. Budget accordingly.

The time that we do spend on each section can be used efficiently by planning text before producing it. Make an outline. We like to write one informal sentence for each planned paragraph. It is often useful to start the process around descriptions of each result—these may become the section headers in the results section. Because the story has an overall arc, each paragraph should have a defined role in advancing this story. This role is best scrutinized at the outline stage in order to reduce wasting time on wordsmithing paragraphs that don’t end up fitting within the overall story.

Rule 10: Get feedback to reduce, reuse, and recycle the story

Writing can be considered an optimization problem in which you simultaneously improve the story, the outline, and all the component sentences. In this context, it is important not to get too attached to one’s writing. In many cases, trashing entire paragraphs and rewriting is a faster way to produce good text than incremental editing.

There are multiple signs that further work is necessary on a manuscript (see Table 1 ). For example, if you, as the writer, cannot describe the entire outline of a paper to a colleague in a few minutes, then clearly a reader will not be able to. You need to further distill your story. Finding such violations of good writing helps to improve the paper at all levels.



Successfully writing a paper typically requires input from multiple people. Test readers are necessary to make sure that the overall story works. They can also give valuable input on where the story appears to move too quickly or too slowly. They can clarify when it is best to go back to the drawing board and retell the entire story. Reviewers are also extremely useful. Non-specific feedback and unenthusiastic reviews often imply that the reviewers did not “get” the big picture story line. Very specific feedback usually points out places where the logic within a paragraph was not sufficient. It is vital to accept this feedback in a positive way. Because input from others is essential, a network of helpful colleagues is fundamental to making a story memorable. To keep this network working, make sure to pay back your colleagues by reading their manuscripts.

This paper focused on the structure, or “anatomy,” of manuscripts. We had to gloss over many finer points of writing, including word choice and grammar, the creative process, and collaboration. A paper about writing can never be complete; as such, there is a large body of literature dealing with issues of scientific writing [ 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 ].

Personal style often leads writers to deviate from a rigid, conserved structure, and it can be a delight to read a paper that creatively bends the rules. However, as with many other things in life, a thorough mastery of the standard rules is necessary to successfully bend them [ 18 ]. In following these guidelines, scientists will be able to address a broad audience, bridge disciplines, and more effectively enable integrative science.


We took our own advice and sought feedback from a large number of colleagues throughout the process of preparing this paper. We would like to especially thank the following people who gave particularly detailed and useful feedback:

Sandra Aamodt, Misha Ahrens, Vanessa Bender, Erik Bloss, Davi Bock, Shelly Buffington, Xing Chen, Frances Cho, Gabrielle Edgerton, multiple generations of the COSMO summer school, Jason Perry, Jermyn See, Nelson Spruston, David Stern, Alice Ting, Joshua Vogelstein, Ronald Weber.

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  • 7. Tufte ER (1990) Envisioning information. Graphics Press.
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  • 12. Day R (1988) How to write and publish a scientific paper. Phoenix: Oryx.
  • 13. Lester JD, Lester J (1967) Writing research papers. Scott, Foresman.
  • 14. Dumont J-L (2009) Trees, Maps, and Theorems. Principiae. http://www.treesmapsandtheorems.com/ [cited 2017 Sep 9].
  • 15. Pinker S (2014) The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Viking Adult.
  • 18. Strunk W (2007) The elements of style. Penguin.


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    The reader wants to quickly understand the conceptual conclusions of the paper before deciding whether to dig into the details, and the writer wants to convey the important contributions to the broadest audience possible while convincing the specialist that the findings are credible.


    exceptions to the rules in academic writing. - Practicums: These boxes give step-by-step instructions to help you build ideas and write papers. - The Writing Process: These features show all the steps taken to write a paper, allowing you to follow it from initial idea to published article.

  15. Ten simple rules for good research practice

    The 10 rules are grouped according to planning (5 rules), execution (3 rules), and reporting of research (2 rules); see Fig 1. These principles can (and should) be implemented as a habit in everyday research, just like toothbrushing. ... - Writing a study protocol and preregistration ... a research paper can link to data and analysis code ...

  16. APA Format: Basic Rules You Must Follow

    Abstract. An abstract is a brief summary of your paper that immediately follows your title page. According to APA format, your abstract should be no more than 100 to 200 words although this can vary depending upon the specific publication or instructor requirements. A Table of Contents in APA Format.

  17. How To Write a Research Paper: The Ultimate Guide

    The following steps will guide you through a more detailed process of writing a research paper. This is the longest part of the research paper. You are required to support your thesis and build the argument, followed by citations and analysis. Place the paragraphs in a logical arrangement so each key point flows naturally to the next one.

  18. Essential Guide to Manuscript Writing for Academic Dummies: An Editor's

    Abstract. Writing an effective manuscript is one of the pivotal steps in the successful closure of the research project, and getting it published in a peer-reviewed and indexed journal adds to the academic profile of a researcher. Writing and publishing a scientific paper is a tough task that researchers and academicians must endure in staying ...

  19. (PDF) Ten Simple Rules for Writing Research Papers

    Ten Simple Rules for Writing Research Papers CC BY 4.0 Authors: Weixiong Zhang Abstract The importance of writing well can never be overstated for a successful professional career, and the...

  20. How to write a research paper

    Common errors in student research papers; Selected writing rules (somewhat less serious than the other resources) For Biosciences majors the general guidelines apply to future course work, as can be seen by examining the guidelines for the advanced experimental sciences research paper (Bioc 311). General form of a research paper. An objective ...

  21. 10 Basic Rules You Must Follow when Writing a Research Paper

    Below mentioned are the basic rules which you must follow when writing a research paper. Create a draft Source: pexels.com Create a draft or a blueprint before starting your research. This blueprint will establish your search; that is, you will define the research topic.

  22. Ten simple rules for structuring papers

    A paper about writing can never be complete; as such, there is a large body of literature dealing with issues of scientific writing [9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17]. Personal style often leads writers to deviate from a rigid, conserved structure, and it can be a delight to read a paper that creatively bends the rules.