you read through the large number of published
studies, you will likely notice that the reports
tend to follow both a topical pattern and a style of
professional journals require both in order to
maintain consistency within the journal and to
assure that information is organized in an
Imagine reading an article that begins with
the actual experiment but in the middle begins to
justify why the experiment was conducted.
The article then reviews a limited number of
articles and then jumps back to a discussion of how
they chose their subjects.
In the middle of all of this is a running
critique of their methods along with haphazardly
Finally, the report ends with a list of
articles but no reference is found as to the
importance or use of these articles in the current
type of report is likely to be discarded well before
the end. If
it had contained important new knowledge this
information never made it to its intended
journal would likely not publish it and had it
gotten published, would have frustrated the reader
to the point of confusion and disregard. Therefore, we follow a specific writing style to avoid this
type of mess. And,
while following a style may seem time consuming and
frustrating in itself, it helps assure that your
newfound knowledge makes its way into the world.
American Psychological Association [APA] has
developed what is the most well known and most used
manual of publication style in any of the social
most recent version was published in 2002 and marks
the fifth edition.
While the text is somewhat daunting at first
glance, the style does assure that your knowledge
will be disseminated in an organized and understood
research reports follow a specific list a sections
as recommended by this manual.
These sections include: Title Page, Abstract,
Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion,
References, Appendices, and Author Note.
Each of these areas will be summarized below,
but for any serious researcher understanding the
specifics of the APA manual is imperative.
The title page of a research report serves
two important functions.
First, it provides a quick summary of the
research, including the title of the article,
authors’ names, and affiliation.
Second, it provides a means for a blind
submitted to a professional journal, a short title
is placed on the title page and carried throughout
the remainder of the paper. Since the authors’ names and affiliation are only on the
title page, removing this page prior to review
reduces the chance of bias by the journal reviewers.
Once the reviews are complete, the title page
is once again attached and the recommendations of
the reviewers can be returned to the authors.
The abstract is the second page of the
research report. Consider the abstract a short summary of the article.
It is typically between 100 and 150 words and
includes a summary of the major areas of the paper.
Often included in an abstract are the problem
or original theory, a one or two sentence
explanation of previous research in this area, the
characteristics of the present study, the results,
and a brief discussion statement.
An abstract allows the reader to quickly
understand what the article is about and help him or
her decide if further reading will be helpful.
Introduction. The main body of the paper has four sections, with the introduction
being the first.
The purpose of the introduction is to introduce
the reader to the topic and discuss the background
of the issue at hand.
For instance, in our article on work experience,
the introduction would likely include a statement
of the problem, for example: “prior work experience
may play an important role in student achievement
introduction also includes a literature review,
which typically follows the introduction of the
of the research you completed while developing your
study goes here.
It is important to bring the reader up to
date and lead them into why you decided to conduct
this study. You
may cite research related to motivation and success
after college and argue that gaining prior work
experience may delay college graduation but also
helps to improve the college experience and may
ultimately further an individual’s career.
You may also review research that argues
against your theory.
The goal of the introduction is to lead the
reader into your study so that he has a solid
background of the material and an understanding of
The methods section is the second part of the
body of the article.
Methods refers to the actual procedures used
to perform the research.
Areas discussed will usually include subject
recruitment and assignment to groups, subject
attributes, and possibly pretest findings. Any surveys or treatments will also be discussed in this
main point of the methods section is to allow others
to critique your research and replicate it if
methods section is often the most systematic section
in that small details are typically included in
order to help others critique, evaluate, and/or
replicate the research process.
Most experimental studies include a
statistical analysis of the results, which is the
major focus of the results section. Included here are the procedures and statistical analyses
performed, the rationale for choosing specific
procedures, and ultimately the results.
Charts, tables, and graphs are also often
included to better explain the treatment effects or
the differences and similarities between groups.
Ultimately, the end of the results section
reports the acceptance or rejection of the null
example, is there a difference between the grades of
students with prior work experience and students
without prior work experience?
While the first three sections of the body
are specific in terms of what is included, the
discussion section can be less formal.
This section allows the authors to critique
the research, discuss how the results are applicable
to real life or even how they don’t support the
Discussion refers to the authors opportunity
to discuss in a less formal manner the results and
implications of the research and is often used to
suggest needs for additional research on specific
areas related to the current study.
Throughout the paper and especially in the
introduction section, articles from other authors
are cited. The
references section includes a list of all articles
used in the development of the hypothesis that were
cited in the literature review section.
You many also see a sections that includes
recommended readings, referring to important
articles related to the topic that were not cited in
the actual paper.
Appendices are always included at the end of
the paper. Graphs,
charts, and tables are also included at the end, in
part due to changes that may take place when the
paper is formatted for publication.
Appendices should include only material that
is relevant and assists the reader in understanding
the current study.
Actual raw data is rarely included in a
Finally, the authors are permitted to include
a short note at the end of the paper.
This note is often personal and may be used
to thank colleagues who assisted in the research but
not to the degree of warranting co-authorship.
This section can also be used to inform the
reader that the current study is part of a larger
study or represents the results of a dissertation.
The author note is very short, usually no more
than a few sentences.