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Research Papers

What is the goal of a research paper?

A research paper is a form of academic writing, in which the author discusses research that he has conducted by providing an interpretation and analysis of his research results.


General Structure of Research Papers:

Abstract (optional):

The abstract refers to a summary of the paper that consists of 100-300 words. Databases usually only show the abstract when listing search results; as such, this section should be a concise but complete summary of the paper. Usually includes the following: motivation, problem, approach, results, conclusion. The abstract hould include keywords relevant to the paper topic (to make it easy to search for). It should also clearly convey limitations of the research results (e.g. by using works like “may”, “might”, etc.). The abstract must be self-contained (i.e. it must make sense by itself).

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The introduction provides a background and context for the research paper and explains to the audience why the work described in the paper is relevant and is of interest to the field. This section consists of a summary of previous studies that have been conducted in the same field. Citing existing research helps build your credibility. The introduction should be kept short and concise in order to keep the audience’s attention. In addition, it should define the problem that will be discussed in the paper.

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Hypothesis (Optional):

A hypothesis is a statement that is an educated guess about the relationship between variables being discussed in the research paper. It must be testable.

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The methodology provides techniques and methods used in the study as well as the reasoning for their application. Reasoning may include citing literature. When describing methods, there should be enough details for future researchers to be able to replicate the study; however, the author should avoid explaining basic or well-known procedures. This section allows readers to verify the credibility of results presented in subsequent sections. The methodology must follow a logical order, which may or may not follow the chronological order of the actual procedure.

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When providing results, make sure that the data is summarized and easy to follow, and do not include raw data. Limit the amount of words used and try to present the data through descriptive pictures that are easy to follow. Make sure to highlight key points and refer to any pictures/ diagrams that demonstrate the data. Use this section to state the findings objectively without any interpretation of the data or bias. Don’t ignore or omit any negative results.

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The discussion section is usually considered the most important section of the paper because it discusses the importance and relevance of the results to the real world. This section demonstrates your ability to think creatively and to formulate a deeper understanding of the problem being investigated. Highlight the importance of the study and how it can be used to fill in gaps in the field. In addition, relate the findings of your research to similar studies. Comparing and contrasting the findings of your research study with previous research findings helps build your credibility and demonstrate the overall importance of your research.

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The conclusion of a research paper should do some or all of the following, depending on the subject of the study: 1) present the importance of the topic and results obtained in a larger context, 2) summarize key aspects or new insights obtained from the research, and 3) suggest ideas for further research relating to the topic. The conclusion is not a repetition of the introduction, nor is it a reworded abstract. The conclusion should only thoroughly summarize the paper if the paper is too long for readers to remember fully by the end. If a discussion section is also included in the paper, then the conclusion is usually brief (~a paragraph).

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The reference section is included at the end of a research paper, and lists all sources cited throughout the paper, which may not include all sources referenced in the writing process. The sections serves to allow readers to determine the credibility of information presented in the paper that is not a direct result of the research conducted. Additionally, the section allows readers to find papers covering similar topics. Citation formatting varies per field (e.g. MLA, APA, etc.), and once a style is chosen, it must be used consistently throughout the paper, which may include the use of footnotes, captions, journal abbreviations, etc.

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Discipline-Specific Advice

General Guidelines for Social Science Papers:
General Guidelines for Science papers:

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