A good research paper is one that is clearly, precisely and attractively
written such that the reader is not only enticed to read it, but
can also easily understand the contents. Here are some guidelines
when writing different sections of a scientific research paper:
Title: Make the title short, attention
grabbing, and above all, reflect the central theme of the paper.
It should not claim generality when the paper is specific in nature.
Abstract: People make a decision to
read or not to read the rest of the paper based on the abstract.
So summarise concisely the main claims (and secondary claims, if
any) of the paper and the conclusions drawn from the study. Limit
the number of claims to prevent confusing the reader as to what
the key message of the paper is. Reserve other major claims for
future papers. Do not include references, figures and equations
in this section.
Introduction: Describe briefly the importance
of the area of study. State what is so special about your paper
(e.g. explain how your work fills an important lacuna in existing
knowledge or provides new methods for solving difficult problems).
Provide the background of the current work (e.g. review existing
literature or give an overview/history of the problem).
Problem Definition: Define the problem/topic
studied, explain basic terminology, and establish clearly both the
objectives and hypothesis/assumptions of your paper.
Theoretical Formulation, Materials and Methods:
Present the theoretical formulations and assumptions plainly. List
comprehensively all materials and methodology used so that readers
are able to reproduce your study. For experimental studies, do not
describe everything through a diary of events; instead, reorganise
details into a coherent account. Use more efficient and accurate
methods, rather than outdated techniques. Give credit to other people’s
work through references: furnish details of concepts discussed and/or
refer to sources.
Results: Tabulate results, but withhold
the inferences for the ‘Discussion’ section. As papers
with tabulated results will be useful for comparative purposes,
compose tables well with proper headings for rows and columns. If
possible, use attractive figures, graphs and other diagrammatic
representations to illustrate data clearly—well-designed figures
make the paper come alive. Common faults in research papers include
inappropriate usage of tables and figures that confuse readers,
display of wrong statistical tests, and/or lack of sound statistical
Discussion: Examiners/reviewers will
be more at ease if they are convinced that your results are valid.
So provide adequate and convincing arguments, mathematical proofs,
examples, equations, statistics, patterns/trends, opinions and ideas
beyond the collection of tabulated and graphed numbers. Make comparisons
with previous researchers’ results (if any). Suggest applications
for your work. Propose future work, but be frank and realistic about
what needs to be done as a continuation.
Conclusion: Summarise/highlight and
stress main ideas and contributions.
Acknowledgements: Give credit to persons
and organisations for any technical help you received while completing
the study. Also acknowledge any copyrighted material for which you
have permission to use.
References: Give complete information
Appendices: Insert, as appendices, information
that is not provided in the main text (e.g. questionnaires and software