What are the Parts of a Research Paper?

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

Parts of a Research Paper

1. Cover page

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

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

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

2. Table of contents

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

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

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

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

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

3. Abstract

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

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

4. Introduction

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

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

5. Background/review of the literature

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

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

6. Methodology

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

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

7. Data analysis

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

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

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

8. Findings and discussion

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

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

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

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

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

9. Conclusion

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

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

10. References

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

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

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

11. Appendix

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

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