What are the components of a Research Paper?

author By Mary Boies

Students and professionals write research papers and reports, yet a common worry is "what makes a research paper?". A complete research paper structure has different parts that complement one another to make the information and ideas flow so that you can achieve the aim of writing.

A typical research paper will have ten distinct arts in the following order � a cover page, a table of contents, an abstract, an introduction, a background section, a methodology section, a data analysis section, findings and discussion section, a conclusion, a references page, and an appendix section.

The best research papers are those that have all the necessary parts. Of course, they are also well-researched, well-written, and thoroughly proofread, as our research paper writers do. Without wasting time, let's look at some of the most critical parts of a research paper.

Parts of a research paper

A research paper comprises various parts, including the cover or title page, table of contents, abstract, introduction, methodology, data analysis, findings (results) and discussion, references (listed alphabetically in MLA, APA, Harvard, or Chicago), and appendices.

This research paper format is mainly used for scientific research papers and is called the IMRAD format, standing for introduction, methodology, results, and discussion.

Each of the ten parts of a research paper contributes to its flow and must demonstrate a connection with the others to achieve the goal of writing.

1. Cover page

Every research paper must have a cover page. If you write your paper without one, it will not be considered complete. The cover page is usually the first section of a research paper, which is why it contains the cover page. Its purpose is to present the reader with all the important author details. The details typically include the name of the author, the name of the university, the name of the professor, and the date the research paper was completed.

When writing the cover page of your research paper, you must follow the format required by your professor. If you don't, your cover page will be considered incorrect, affecting your grade. While a cover page is important and has details that must be included, it is the easiest part to write when writing a research paper. It shouldn't take you more than a few minutes to complete your cover page.

2. Table of contents

A typical research paper will have a table of contents immediately after the cover page. While a table of contents is usually the second part of a research paper, it is often written last. This is because it doesn't make sense to make it, yet one doesn't know what will be in the paper. Nevertheless, you can create it and update it as you write your paper.

When writing a research paper for the first time, you should create your table of contents at the end. This will reduce the likelihood of confusion and make your work easier. After writing research papers for some time, you will be better off creating a table of contents and updating it as you write your paper. This will make editing and proofreading easier for you after you are done writing your paper.

3. Abstract

The third part or section of a research paper is an abstract. By definition, an abstract is a brief summary of a scholarly work. It usually contains the most important information in the research, including the research question/objective, the data collection, the data analysis, the findings, and the conclusion. A typical research paper abstract is between one hundred to five hundred words long.

When writing an abstract for your paper, you must make sure it is brief and contains all the crucial details about the paper. You must also make sure it has a good structure that follows the structure of your paper. An abstract without a good structure is not good enough, especially for a high-level research paper.

4. Introduction

After creating a cover page, a table of contents, and an abstract, one must create the introduction for their research paper. The introduction is the first major part of a research paper, and it tells the reader what the research paper is all about in a brief and organized manner.

For example, the introduction to a research paper on the "Effects of violent video games on adolescents" should present information that introduces the reader to violent video games and some of the noted effects from literature.

A good research paper introduction begins with an attention grabber or hook that makes your readers instantly interested in reading your paper. In most cases, you can grab the readers' attention through statistics, facts, or statements related to your research paper topic.

Besides, it also contains a thesis statement that appears toward the end of the paragraph. The thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts your position in the paper, and it is the controlling idea or central idea of the paper. It should be specific and arguable, and supported in the entire paper.

Some people do not like writing the introduction first, and they feel they are better off writing the introduction after finishing their papers. This is okay, but it is not the best way to do it. It is best to write an introduction first to follow it and ensure your paper is always focused on what you set out to achieve in your intro.

5. Background/review of literature

A good introduction should only briefly yet concisely present information about the research. In the background section, you, as the researcher, are supposed to present all the information needed to understand the research question and the research paper.

Information found on random sites is not allowed to present background information about your research paper. The correct way to present background information about your paper is to provide a literature review (a detailed scholarly analysis of what the current research says about the topic).

The literature review should be well-done and written in such a way that it shows why the research paper is needed. You can do this by showing a gap in the literature review that your research paper can address. You can also show the critical relationships between variables in your paper.

6. Methodology

Every research paper must have a methodology section. In the section, the researcher must present and explain the research design. Without a proper methodology section, your research paper will be considered incomplete.  

This section of your paper aims to tell your reader the steps you took to do the research. You must present your methodology fully and in a structured way to ensure everything crucial about the paper is easily understood by the reader.

7. Data analysis

The methodology section is crucial to show the reader how the research was done, and the data analysis section provides details about what was discovered. A typical data analysis section will be either quantitative or qualitative.

The analysis will typically begin with explaining the essential data items and must provide details about the most critical data found during the research. The data is sometimes used directly or calculated using statistical methods to provide more insight or a more profound understanding.

Most students don't like data analysis because they feel that it is too hard, especially when it involves using specific statistical methods. Nevertheless, through proper training and practice, it should not be too difficult for anybody to master writing the data analysis section of a research paper with enough practice.

Data analysis must be done carefully to ensure accuracy. If this is not done, the results of the findings could be inaccurate, which could lower the validity and reliability of the paper being written.

8. Findings and discussion

Every research paper must have findings and a discussion section. This is where the researcher presents their findings and then compares them with the existing literature. It is also where the researcher discusses whether the findings they have made the match or do not match what is known or accepted at this time.

In this section, the researcher is also expected to talk about the significance of the findings they have made. They need to explain whether the findings match the study objectives and if they can be used for policymaking. The discussion section is also where the researcher needs to discuss any gaps they may have identified for future researchers to focus on.

Last but not least, it is also in the discussion section that the researcher needs to explain the limitations of their research. All research papers have limitations, and explaining them helps the reader to understand the current research much better.

9. Conclusion

For most students, the conclusion paragraph is perhaps the easiest part to write, and this is because writing a research paper conclusion is all about summarizing the vital information in the paper.

While a conclusion is easy to write, it must not be taken lightly. It must be written in such a way that it provides the reader with a clear and concise presentation of what the research paper has just presented. It must also clearly present the researcher's final thoughts as to the importance of the study, the usefulness of the methodology, the validity of the findings, and the significance of the research. It must also present the researcher's thoughts on areas that may need further research.

Of course, the main thing educated readers to look for in a research paper conclusion is whether the research question was successfully answered. So while there are many things to talk about in a research paper conclusion, it is crucial not to lose focus is most important.

10. References

A well-written research paper must have a references section immediately after the conclusion, and the section must include all the sources utilized in the research paper. Its purpose is to make it easy for the reader to find out more about the sources and where to find them. By presenting information about the sources used, the researcher makes it easier for the reader to assess the validity of the findings they have made in their research paper.

The references section for your research paper must begin on a separate page after the conclusion. All the sources you have used in your research must appear in your references list. The more sources you use, the longer your references section/list will be.

When creating the references section for your research paper, you must create it as per the referencing style you have been told to use. Because different referencing styles have slightly different rules for presenting references. The way, you present references for an APA research paper differs from that for an MLA research paper.

11. Appendix

Many students end their research papers after completing the references section, and they do not know that for a research paper to be truly complete, it must have an appendix. This is especially true for research papers written by senior college students.

The appendix section of a research paper is the last part of a research paper, and it presents extra information important to the research. It can include stats, figures, images, photos, raw data, interview questions, etc.

While it is imperative to include an appendix in a research paper, most professors usually don't penalize students if they do not include one. This is especially true if there is little or no information to be presented in the appendix. However, if required by your professor or as part of school policy, you must include an appendix in your research paper.

Depending on what type of research paper you are writing, you can forgo some parts. For instance, if your paper is written based on a review of literature published on a given topic and does not present new empirical research, you will forego the methodology and results section. Instead, you will extensively review the information from the literature and present a case for your topic before concluding. If in doubt, check the rubric and instructions or consult with your instructor for further guidelines.

Dos and don'ts when writing a research paper

As you can see in the section above, a research paper is something with multiple important parts. Each part is unique and presents a different aspect of the research paper. What is required in one part of the paper is very different from what is required in another.

The section above explains what is required from the cover page to the appendix. This section will discover the dos and don'ts of research paper writing. This information, plus the information in the section above, should help you to write the perfect research paper.


  1. Conduct thorough research. Doing good research is key to ensuring your research paper gets a good grade, and facts and sound research should inform your paper. If you do not do good research, your paper will be ordinary and misleading. If you are writing a nursing research paper, ensure that you use peer-reviewed scholarly sources.
  2. Create an outline. It is crucial to create an outline for your paper from the onset, and failure to do so could result in a poorly structured paper or missing some key elements. So make sure you create an outline before starting to write your paper.
  3. Pick a good methodology. It is vital to pick a good methodology (research design) for your paper. The trick to picking a good methodology for your paper is to look at the methodologies commonly used to investigate questions similar to the question you want to investigate. A suitable methodology will help you to answer your research question, and a poor one will make it difficult or impossible to answer your research question.
  4. Start early. Sometimes we underestimate the amount of work needed to complete a research paper, and therefore, we wait until the deadline is too close to start the research work. This is not wise, and it is much better to start your research work so that you have ample time to complete it and do thorough editing before submission.
  5. Proofread your work. Word's spellcheck will not help you to discover all the errors in your work. So while it may tell you that you are good to go, it doesn't mean you are. You need to proofread your work twice or thrice to ensure it is error-free and easy to read and understand. Use advanced grammar checkers such as Grammarly to polish your work further.
  6. Consult frequently. Whenever you feel stuck, you should consult your professor. Your professor is paid to educate you. So, do not be shy about asking them for help when you need it. Just make sure you can quickly discover more about what you want to ask them using a simple Google search.
  7. Use formal language. You must use formal language from the start to the end of your research paper, and failure to do so will make your paper sound informal and make it feel and look unprofessional. If you want to be well-understood by your professor, make sure you write in a language they are familiar with � formal language.


  1. Don't use random websites. You can get all the info you want from credible websites, journals, and books. Therefore, you should never use random websites like Wikipedia to get information for your research papers. The information on such websites is not always credible, and citing such websites usually results in penalties.
  2. Don't make unnecessary generalizations. You should not make generalizations when writing a high-level academic paper such as a research paper. Because if you do, you will reduce the significance of the points you are making.
  3. Don't plagiarize. When creating any scholarly work, you should research and cite all the sources you end up using. If you don't correctly cite your sources or cite them poorly, it is considered plagiarism and is often punishable in most colleges. So avoid plagiarism in your research paper.

Final Remarks

In this post, you discovered the parts of a research paper and the dos and don'ts of research paper writing. We hope the information we have shared with you here can help you write a research paper on any topic.

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