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A Helpful Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations

When you are writing research papers, theses and dissertations you need to include the following sections:

  1. Cover page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Literature review/background
  5. Methods and materials
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. References
  10. Appendix

Writing an introduction

Introductions for a large research paper should never exceed one or two pages double spaced. The purpose of your introductory paragraph is to familiarize your reader with the reasoning behind your work. It should set you up for defending the work. You should give you reader the theoretical context it needs to appreciate and understand your objectives.

Writing the Methods section

There is not often a page limit for the methods section but that does not mean you should write your memoirs here. Instead keep the section as concise as possible. People will read this area selectively. Each reader may only be interested in a single part of your procedure or a single formula. The materials you used in your experiment should be included under a subheading in this section.

The purpose of this section is to document all of the materials and the procedures you used in the work. It should be documented so well that another student or teacher could copy your experiment perfectly. It should be written so that other individuals can judge the scientific merit of what you wrote.

Describe your materials used and include any specialized equipment or supplies you used that are not common in a laboratory. Do not include the common items such as a beaker or test tube. Materials need to be in a separate paragraph.

The methods section is where you report on the methodology you used and present how procedures were done. You do not need to include “125 microliters of samples” when “samples” is acceptable. Avoid listing the methods and materials section as a step by step set of instructions and remove any explanatory information as this should be placed in the background or discussion sections.


The results section is where you include concise tables and figures to present your results. The length of this section is set by the type and amount of data you have to report. Your goal here is to illustrate your findings. Leave any interpretation for the next section.


The discussion is where you interpret your results and explain how the evidence from your experiment needs to be accepted or what it means for the bigger picture.

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