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how to write an academic report: Examples and tips

how to write an academic report: Examples and tips

Writing a report should be concise and to the point. It should also be relevant to the topic. Make sure to check your work with someone and read it aloud. Proofreading is also important because computer programs cannot catch every mistake. You may even want to wait a day before you read it to make sure that it is error-free. Keep in mind that an academic report differs from a business or technical report.

Avoiding the present tense

While the present tense is commonly used in academic writing, it isn’t always necessary. When anyone tells you about writing how to write an academic report , you can switch the tense within the same sentence or paragraph when you shift from general statements to more specific examples based on research. Other times, it’s appropriate to use the present tense when you write about a particular event that has changed over time.

The best time to use either tense is determined by the context in which you’re writing. While both are acceptable, you’ll want to ensure that your reader knows when you made your findings. In most cases, the present tense will mean that you’re writing about the time you did the research, while the past tense can be interpreted in different ways.

Introducing your topic

The introduction is the first section of your paper, and it should capture the reader’s interest and make them want to read the rest of your paper. You can do this by opening with a compelling story, question, or example that shows why your topic is important. The hook should also establish the relevance of your paper in the wider context.

The introduction should also have a thesis statement, which should explain your research paper’s topic and point of view. This statement will guide the organization of your essay. A strong thesis statement is specific, clear, and able to be proved.

Stating your thesis statement

Your thesis statement should be clear and concise. It should be able to persuade others while laying out your strong opinions. It should also contain an argument. For example, you could argue that the government should ban 4×4 pickup trucks. Or, you might argue that the amount of foul language in movies is disproportionate to the amount of it in real life.

A strong thesis statement contradicts a commonly held viewpoint. It is not too complex to explain over the course of the paper. It should also express a single main idea.

Putting together an outline before writing your report

Putting together an outline is a great way to organize your paper. Outline the content that you will cover and how you plan to support your main point. You can use a list format or alpha-numeric format to organize your outline. Regardless of the format, your outline should have a parallel structure and include the same types of words in each section. It is also a good idea to include citations whenever possible.

When you’re writing, outlining will help you get the most out of your writing. It will save you time and effort when writing because you can make full sentences and well-developed essays with an outline.

Avoiding jargon

One of the most important things to remember when writing an academic report is to avoid using jargon. These words are often difficult to understand, and although they are useful shorthand for scientists, they may alienate non-specialist readers. The use of jargon is the most common reason that readers complain about writing, but there are ways to replace these terms with plainer versions.

Jargon is specialized terminology used by a specific group. It can be incredibly difficult to understand if you’re not part of the group. It also tends to make your writing more complicated and shows that you’re trying to show off your knowledge.

How to Write an Academic Report – Examples and Tips

While the present tense is commonly used in academic writing, it isn’t always necessary. When writing an academic report, you can switch the tense within the same sentence or paragraph when you shift from general statements to more specific examples based on research. Other times, it’s appropriate to use the present tense when you write about a particular event that has changed over time.

Owen Ingram is a research-based content writer, who works for Cognizantt, a globally recognised professional SEO service and Research Prospect , a Servizio di redazione di saggi e dissertazioni . Mr Owen Ingram holds a PhD degree in English literature. He loves to express his views on a range of issues including education, technology, and more.

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University of York Library

  • Subject Guides

Academic writing: a practical guide

  • Academic writing
  • The writing process
  • Academic writing style
  • Structure & cohesion
  • Criticality in academic writing
  • Working with evidence
  • Referencing
  • Assessment & feedback
  • Dissertations
  • Reflective writing
  • Examination writing
  • Academic posters

Objective, evidence-based writing commonly used in the sciences and some social science subjects.

Introduction to reports

Reports are found within many subjects, particularly sciences and some social sciences. They present factual-based information for a specified audience, with each academic discipline area having its own report types (many of which are based on real-world reports). 

This guide explores what an academic report is as a concept and offers practical advice about the completion of academic reports:

Reports: a Conceptual and Practical Guide [interactive slides]  |  Reports: a Conceptual and Practical Guide [Google Doc]

Features of reports

  • Reports present and (usually) critically analyse data and other factual evidence.
  • There are different types of reports , which each have a specific purpose.
  • There is often a specific structure that must be followed - see our general structure advice and guidance for each report type.
  • The writing style is concise and objective - for more detail, see our academic writing style advice.

how to write academic research report

The report writing process

Writing a good report isn't just about the final product - much of the thinking and hard work is done before you start writing.

Before your first report, work through the introductory guide to reports above to get an idea of what's expected of you:  Reports: a Conceptual and Practical Guide [interactive tutorial]

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Read the assessment instructions carefully. Which type of report is it? Is there an expected structure? Do you need to analyse data? What's the word count? When's the deadline?

Look at the  assignment writing process  and think about how you'll plan your approach to your report.

Make a schedule: how much time do you need to research, think, plan, draft, write and edit your report? Add in some extra time for a buffer.

Follow the steps in the writing process to prepare and write your report. Try to stick to your schedule.

Check and proofread your report carefully - check your citations and references too! 

Submit your report. Maybe celebrate with some cake?

Read your feedback  carefully. How can you use it to improve your next report? 

For more detail, see our dedicated advice pages:

Organise & analyse

Note taking for synthesising information

In many types of academic writing, you need to compare and synthesise information from numerous sources. This process much is quicker and easier using an effective note-taking technique.

Grid notes  is a useful note taking technique to synthesise information. You collect information under specific headings in a grid or table, which helps you to:

  • pull all your notes together in one place.
  • focus on finding just the information you need in sources.
  • identify patterns in source information.
  • plan structure and write.

Find out more:

Grid notes [YouTube]  | Grid notes [Google Doc]

More advice about other note-taking methods:

how to write academic research report

Using evidence in reports

Sources of evidence.

Reports are based on factual evidence and data, found in sources such as:

  • your own research findings (quantitative or qualitative)
  • findings from research papers (quantitative or qualitative)
  • published governmental or organisational datasets
  • reports from companies or organisations
  • business case studies

Tips on finding appropriate sources of evidence for your reports:

how to write academic research report

Reading academic journals

Writing a report usually requires reading lots of journal papers. This can seem like a massive task, but you usually don't need to read every word of a paper to get the information you need!

Find tips and strategies to read papers effectively:

Being Critical

Using evidence critically

It's not enough to describe or summarise the evidence - to access higher grades you'll also need to critically analyse it. What does the evidence mean in relation to your overall point or argument?

There are many ways that you could use evidence critically, such as:

  • evaluate or justify methodological choices
  • consider how your findings fit into previous research
  • compare findings, models or frameworks
  • evaluate different solutions or applications and select the most effective one
  • make evidence-based recommendations

For more advice, see our dedicated criticality resources:

how to write academic research report

Research reports

Research or experimental reports present and discuss the outcomes of your research: what did you do , what did you find out , and what does it mean?

They're very common in science subjects and sometimes used in Education, Management or other subjects.

Research reports usually follow a set structure:

  • introduction


Writing a research report

This tutorial introduces what's expected in each section, with advice and examples:

Writing a research report [interactive tutorial]  |  Writing a research report [Google Doc]

Many dissertations also follow this structure, so these tips also apply to research reports:

how to write academic research report

Example research reports

Example research reports may be available on your module VLE sites or from your tutors.

Research-based journal papers are also usually based on the same principles, so reading papers from your field is also a good way to see what's expected. Note that the referencing style used by the journal might be different to your department's referencing style!

This ecology paper is a well-structured example of a research paper:

how to write academic research report

Other support for report writing

Online resources.

The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including reports. Also check your department guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.

Other useful resources for report writing:

Appointments and workshops 

As well as advice within your department, you can access central writing and skills support:

Writing Centre logo

Have questions about planning or interpreting quantitative data analysis? You can book a statistics appointment with the Maths Skills Centre or explore the workshops and online resources:

Maths Skills Centre logo

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

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  • Yale J Biol Med
  • v.84(3); 2011 Sep

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Focus: Education — Career Advice

How to write your first research paper.

Writing a research manuscript is an intimidating process for many novice writers in the sciences. One of the stumbling blocks is the beginning of the process and creating the first draft. This paper presents guidelines on how to initiate the writing process and draft each section of a research manuscript. The paper discusses seven rules that allow the writer to prepare a well-structured and comprehensive manuscript for a publication submission. In addition, the author lists different strategies for successful revision. Each of those strategies represents a step in the revision process and should help the writer improve the quality of the manuscript. The paper could be considered a brief manual for publication.

It is late at night. You have been struggling with your project for a year. You generated an enormous amount of interesting data. Your pipette feels like an extension of your hand, and running western blots has become part of your daily routine, similar to brushing your teeth. Your colleagues think you are ready to write a paper, and your lab mates tease you about your “slow” writing progress. Yet days pass, and you cannot force yourself to sit down to write. You have not written anything for a while (lab reports do not count), and you feel you have lost your stamina. How does the writing process work? How can you fit your writing into a daily schedule packed with experiments? What section should you start with? What distinguishes a good research paper from a bad one? How should you revise your paper? These and many other questions buzz in your head and keep you stressed. As a result, you procrastinate. In this paper, I will discuss the issues related to the writing process of a scientific paper. Specifically, I will focus on the best approaches to start a scientific paper, tips for writing each section, and the best revision strategies.

1. Schedule your writing time in Outlook

Whether you have written 100 papers or you are struggling with your first, starting the process is the most difficult part unless you have a rigid writing schedule. Writing is hard. It is a very difficult process of intense concentration and brain work. As stated in Hayes’ framework for the study of writing: “It is a generative activity requiring motivation, and it is an intellectual activity requiring cognitive processes and memory” [ 1 ]. In his book How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing , Paul Silvia says that for some, “it’s easier to embalm the dead than to write an article about it” [ 2 ]. Just as with any type of hard work, you will not succeed unless you practice regularly. If you have not done physical exercises for a year, only regular workouts can get you into good shape again. The same kind of regular exercises, or I call them “writing sessions,” are required to be a productive author. Choose from 1- to 2-hour blocks in your daily work schedule and consider them as non-cancellable appointments. When figuring out which blocks of time will be set for writing, you should select the time that works best for this type of work. For many people, mornings are more productive. One Yale University graduate student spent a semester writing from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. when her lab was empty. At the end of the semester, she was amazed at how much she accomplished without even interrupting her regular lab hours. In addition, doing the hardest task first thing in the morning contributes to the sense of accomplishment during the rest of the day. This positive feeling spills over into our work and life and has a very positive effect on our overall attitude.

Rule 1: Create regular time blocks for writing as appointments in your calendar and keep these appointments.

2. start with an outline.

Now that you have scheduled time, you need to decide how to start writing. The best strategy is to start with an outline. This will not be an outline that you are used to, with Roman numerals for each section and neat parallel listing of topic sentences and supporting points. This outline will be similar to a template for your paper. Initially, the outline will form a structure for your paper; it will help generate ideas and formulate hypotheses. Following the advice of George M. Whitesides, “. . . start with a blank piece of paper, and write down, in any order, all important ideas that occur to you concerning the paper” [ 3 ]. Use Table 1 as a starting point for your outline. Include your visuals (figures, tables, formulas, equations, and algorithms), and list your findings. These will constitute the first level of your outline, which will eventually expand as you elaborate.

The next stage is to add context and structure. Here you will group all your ideas into sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusion ( Table 2 ). This step will help add coherence to your work and sift your ideas.

Now that you have expanded your outline, you are ready for the next step: discussing the ideas for your paper with your colleagues and mentor. Many universities have a writing center where graduate students can schedule individual consultations and receive assistance with their paper drafts. Getting feedback during early stages of your draft can save a lot of time. Talking through ideas allows people to conceptualize and organize thoughts to find their direction without wasting time on unnecessary writing. Outlining is the most effective way of communicating your ideas and exchanging thoughts. Moreover, it is also the best stage to decide to which publication you will submit the paper. Many people come up with three choices and discuss them with their mentors and colleagues. Having a list of journal priorities can help you quickly resubmit your paper if your paper is rejected.

Rule 2: Create a detailed outline and discuss it with your mentor and peers.

3. continue with drafts.

After you get enough feedback and decide on the journal you will submit to, the process of real writing begins. Copy your outline into a separate file and expand on each of the points, adding data and elaborating on the details. When you create the first draft, do not succumb to the temptation of editing. Do not slow down to choose a better word or better phrase; do not halt to improve your sentence structure. Pour your ideas into the paper and leave revision and editing for later. As Paul Silvia explains, “Revising while you generate text is like drinking decaffeinated coffee in the early morning: noble idea, wrong time” [ 2 ].

Many students complain that they are not productive writers because they experience writer’s block. Staring at an empty screen is frustrating, but your screen is not really empty: You have a template of your article, and all you need to do is fill in the blanks. Indeed, writer’s block is a logical fallacy for a scientist ― it is just an excuse to procrastinate. When scientists start writing a research paper, they already have their files with data, lab notes with materials and experimental designs, some visuals, and tables with results. All they need to do is scrutinize these pieces and put them together into a comprehensive paper.

3.1. Starting with Materials and Methods

If you still struggle with starting a paper, then write the Materials and Methods section first. Since you have all your notes, it should not be problematic for you to describe the experimental design and procedures. Your most important goal in this section is to be as explicit as possible by providing enough detail and references. In the end, the purpose of this section is to allow other researchers to evaluate and repeat your work. So do not run into the same problems as the writers of the sentences in (1):

1a. Bacteria were pelleted by centrifugation. 1b. To isolate T cells, lymph nodes were collected.

As you can see, crucial pieces of information are missing: the speed of centrifuging your bacteria, the time, and the temperature in (1a); the source of lymph nodes for collection in (b). The sentences can be improved when information is added, as in (2a) and (2b), respectfully:

2a. Bacteria were pelleted by centrifugation at 3000g for 15 min at 25°C. 2b. To isolate T cells, mediastinal and mesenteric lymph nodes from Balb/c mice were collected at day 7 after immunization with ovabumin.

If your method has previously been published and is well-known, then you should provide only the literature reference, as in (3a). If your method is unpublished, then you need to make sure you provide all essential details, as in (3b).

3a. Stem cells were isolated, according to Johnson [23]. 3b. Stem cells were isolated using biotinylated carbon nanotubes coated with anti-CD34 antibodies.

Furthermore, cohesion and fluency are crucial in this section. One of the malpractices resulting in disrupted fluency is switching from passive voice to active and vice versa within the same paragraph, as shown in (4). This switching misleads and distracts the reader.

4. Behavioral computer-based experiments of Study 1 were programmed by using E-Prime. We took ratings of enjoyment, mood, and arousal as the patients listened to preferred pleasant music and unpreferred music by using Visual Analogue Scales (SI Methods). The preferred and unpreferred status of the music was operationalized along a continuum of pleasantness [ 4 ].

The problem with (4) is that the reader has to switch from the point of view of the experiment (passive voice) to the point of view of the experimenter (active voice). This switch causes confusion about the performer of the actions in the first and the third sentences. To improve the coherence and fluency of the paragraph above, you should be consistent in choosing the point of view: first person “we” or passive voice [ 5 ]. Let’s consider two revised examples in (5).

5a. We programmed behavioral computer-based experiments of Study 1 by using E-Prime. We took ratings of enjoyment, mood, and arousal by using Visual Analogue Scales (SI Methods) as the patients listened to preferred pleasant music and unpreferred music. We operationalized the preferred and unpreferred status of the music along a continuum of pleasantness. 5b. Behavioral computer-based experiments of Study 1 were programmed by using E-Prime. Ratings of enjoyment, mood, and arousal were taken as the patients listened to preferred pleasant music and unpreferred music by using Visual Analogue Scales (SI Methods). The preferred and unpreferred status of the music was operationalized along a continuum of pleasantness.

If you choose the point of view of the experimenter, then you may end up with repetitive “we did this” sentences. For many readers, paragraphs with sentences all beginning with “we” may also sound disruptive. So if you choose active sentences, you need to keep the number of “we” subjects to a minimum and vary the beginnings of the sentences [ 6 ].

Interestingly, recent studies have reported that the Materials and Methods section is the only section in research papers in which passive voice predominantly overrides the use of the active voice [ 5 , 7 , 8 , 9 ]. For example, Martínez shows a significant drop in active voice use in the Methods sections based on the corpus of 1 million words of experimental full text research articles in the biological sciences [ 7 ]. According to the author, the active voice patterned with “we” is used only as a tool to reveal personal responsibility for the procedural decisions in designing and performing experimental work. This means that while all other sections of the research paper use active voice, passive voice is still the most predominant in Materials and Methods sections.

Writing Materials and Methods sections is a meticulous and time consuming task requiring extreme accuracy and clarity. This is why when you complete your draft, you should ask for as much feedback from your colleagues as possible. Numerous readers of this section will help you identify the missing links and improve the technical style of this section.

Rule 3: Be meticulous and accurate in describing the Materials and Methods. Do not change the point of view within one paragraph.

3.2. writing results section.

For many authors, writing the Results section is more intimidating than writing the Materials and Methods section . If people are interested in your paper, they are interested in your results. That is why it is vital to use all your writing skills to objectively present your key findings in an orderly and logical sequence using illustrative materials and text.

Your Results should be organized into different segments or subsections where each one presents the purpose of the experiment, your experimental approach, data including text and visuals (tables, figures, schematics, algorithms, and formulas), and data commentary. For most journals, your data commentary will include a meaningful summary of the data presented in the visuals and an explanation of the most significant findings. This data presentation should not repeat the data in the visuals, but rather highlight the most important points. In the “standard” research paper approach, your Results section should exclude data interpretation, leaving it for the Discussion section. However, interpretations gradually and secretly creep into research papers: “Reducing the data, generalizing from the data, and highlighting scientific cases are all highly interpretive processes. It should be clear by now that we do not let the data speak for themselves in research reports; in summarizing our results, we interpret them for the reader” [ 10 ]. As a result, many journals including the Journal of Experimental Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation use joint Results/Discussion sections, where results are immediately followed by interpretations.

Another important aspect of this section is to create a comprehensive and supported argument or a well-researched case. This means that you should be selective in presenting data and choose only those experimental details that are essential for your reader to understand your findings. You might have conducted an experiment 20 times and collected numerous records, but this does not mean that you should present all those records in your paper. You need to distinguish your results from your data and be able to discard excessive experimental details that could distract and confuse the reader. However, creating a picture or an argument should not be confused with data manipulation or falsification, which is a willful distortion of data and results. If some of your findings contradict your ideas, you have to mention this and find a plausible explanation for the contradiction.

In addition, your text should not include irrelevant and peripheral information, including overview sentences, as in (6).

6. To show our results, we first introduce all components of experimental system and then describe the outcome of infections.

Indeed, wordiness convolutes your sentences and conceals your ideas from readers. One common source of wordiness is unnecessary intensifiers. Adverbial intensifiers such as “clearly,” “essential,” “quite,” “basically,” “rather,” “fairly,” “really,” and “virtually” not only add verbosity to your sentences, but also lower your results’ credibility. They appeal to the reader’s emotions but lower objectivity, as in the common examples in (7):

7a. Table 3 clearly shows that … 7b. It is obvious from figure 4 that …

Another source of wordiness is nominalizations, i.e., nouns derived from verbs and adjectives paired with weak verbs including “be,” “have,” “do,” “make,” “cause,” “provide,” and “get” and constructions such as “there is/are.”

8a. We tested the hypothesis that there is a disruption of membrane asymmetry. 8b. In this paper we provide an argument that stem cells repopulate injured organs.

In the sentences above, the abstract nominalizations “disruption” and “argument” do not contribute to the clarity of the sentences, but rather clutter them with useless vocabulary that distracts from the meaning. To improve your sentences, avoid unnecessary nominalizations and change passive verbs and constructions into active and direct sentences.

9a. We tested the hypothesis that the membrane asymmetry is disrupted. 9b. In this paper we argue that stem cells repopulate injured organs.

Your Results section is the heart of your paper, representing a year or more of your daily research. So lead your reader through your story by writing direct, concise, and clear sentences.

Rule 4: Be clear, concise, and objective in describing your Results.

3.3. now it is time for your introduction.

Now that you are almost half through drafting your research paper, it is time to update your outline. While describing your Methods and Results, many of you diverged from the original outline and re-focused your ideas. So before you move on to create your Introduction, re-read your Methods and Results sections and change your outline to match your research focus. The updated outline will help you review the general picture of your paper, the topic, the main idea, and the purpose, which are all important for writing your introduction.

The best way to structure your introduction is to follow the three-move approach shown in Table 3 .

Adapted from Swales and Feak [ 11 ].

The moves and information from your outline can help to create your Introduction efficiently and without missing steps. These moves are traffic signs that lead the reader through the road of your ideas. Each move plays an important role in your paper and should be presented with deep thought and care. When you establish the territory, you place your research in context and highlight the importance of your research topic. By finding the niche, you outline the scope of your research problem and enter the scientific dialogue. The final move, “occupying the niche,” is where you explain your research in a nutshell and highlight your paper’s significance. The three moves allow your readers to evaluate their interest in your paper and play a significant role in the paper review process, determining your paper reviewers.

Some academic writers assume that the reader “should follow the paper” to find the answers about your methodology and your findings. As a result, many novice writers do not present their experimental approach and the major findings, wrongly believing that the reader will locate the necessary information later while reading the subsequent sections [ 5 ]. However, this “suspense” approach is not appropriate for scientific writing. To interest the reader, scientific authors should be direct and straightforward and present informative one-sentence summaries of the results and the approach.

Another problem is that writers understate the significance of the Introduction. Many new researchers mistakenly think that all their readers understand the importance of the research question and omit this part. However, this assumption is faulty because the purpose of the section is not to evaluate the importance of the research question in general. The goal is to present the importance of your research contribution and your findings. Therefore, you should be explicit and clear in describing the benefit of the paper.

The Introduction should not be long. Indeed, for most journals, this is a very brief section of about 250 to 600 words, but it might be the most difficult section due to its importance.

Rule 5: Interest your reader in the Introduction section by signalling all its elements and stating the novelty of the work.

3.4. discussion of the results.

For many scientists, writing a Discussion section is as scary as starting a paper. Most of the fear comes from the variation in the section. Since every paper has its unique results and findings, the Discussion section differs in its length, shape, and structure. However, some general principles of writing this section still exist. Knowing these rules, or “moves,” can change your attitude about this section and help you create a comprehensive interpretation of your results.

The purpose of the Discussion section is to place your findings in the research context and “to explain the meaning of the findings and why they are important, without appearing arrogant, condescending, or patronizing” [ 11 ]. The structure of the first two moves is almost a mirror reflection of the one in the Introduction. In the Introduction, you zoom in from general to specific and from the background to your research question; in the Discussion section, you zoom out from the summary of your findings to the research context, as shown in Table 4 .

Adapted from Swales and Feak and Hess [ 11 , 12 ].

The biggest challenge for many writers is the opening paragraph of the Discussion section. Following the moves in Table 1 , the best choice is to start with the study’s major findings that provide the answer to the research question in your Introduction. The most common starting phrases are “Our findings demonstrate . . .,” or “In this study, we have shown that . . .,” or “Our results suggest . . .” In some cases, however, reminding the reader about the research question or even providing a brief context and then stating the answer would make more sense. This is important in those cases where the researcher presents a number of findings or where more than one research question was presented. Your summary of the study’s major findings should be followed by your presentation of the importance of these findings. One of the most frequent mistakes of the novice writer is to assume the importance of his findings. Even if the importance is clear to you, it may not be obvious to your reader. Digesting the findings and their importance to your reader is as crucial as stating your research question.

Another useful strategy is to be proactive in the first move by predicting and commenting on the alternative explanations of the results. Addressing potential doubts will save you from painful comments about the wrong interpretation of your results and will present you as a thoughtful and considerate researcher. Moreover, the evaluation of the alternative explanations might help you create a logical step to the next move of the discussion section: the research context.

The goal of the research context move is to show how your findings fit into the general picture of the current research and how you contribute to the existing knowledge on the topic. This is also the place to discuss any discrepancies and unexpected findings that may otherwise distort the general picture of your paper. Moreover, outlining the scope of your research by showing the limitations, weaknesses, and assumptions is essential and adds modesty to your image as a scientist. However, make sure that you do not end your paper with the problems that override your findings. Try to suggest feasible explanations and solutions.

If your submission does not require a separate Conclusion section, then adding another paragraph about the “take-home message” is a must. This should be a general statement reiterating your answer to the research question and adding its scientific implications, practical application, or advice.

Just as in all other sections of your paper, the clear and precise language and concise comprehensive sentences are vital. However, in addition to that, your writing should convey confidence and authority. The easiest way to illustrate your tone is to use the active voice and the first person pronouns. Accompanied by clarity and succinctness, these tools are the best to convince your readers of your point and your ideas.

Rule 6: Present the principles, relationships, and generalizations in a concise and convincing tone.

4. choosing the best working revision strategies.

Now that you have created the first draft, your attitude toward your writing should have improved. Moreover, you should feel more confident that you are able to accomplish your project and submit your paper within a reasonable timeframe. You also have worked out your writing schedule and followed it precisely. Do not stop ― you are only at the midpoint from your destination. Just as the best and most precious diamond is no more than an unattractive stone recognized only by trained professionals, your ideas and your results may go unnoticed if they are not polished and brushed. Despite your attempts to present your ideas in a logical and comprehensive way, first drafts are frequently a mess. Use the advice of Paul Silvia: “Your first drafts should sound like they were hastily translated from Icelandic by a non-native speaker” [ 2 ]. The degree of your success will depend on how you are able to revise and edit your paper.

The revision can be done at the macrostructure and the microstructure levels [ 13 ]. The macrostructure revision includes the revision of the organization, content, and flow. The microstructure level includes individual words, sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

The best way to approach the macrostructure revision is through the outline of the ideas in your paper. The last time you updated your outline was before writing the Introduction and the Discussion. Now that you have the beginning and the conclusion, you can take a bird’s-eye view of the whole paper. The outline will allow you to see if the ideas of your paper are coherently structured, if your results are logically built, and if the discussion is linked to the research question in the Introduction. You will be able to see if something is missing in any of the sections or if you need to rearrange your information to make your point.

The next step is to revise each of the sections starting from the beginning. Ideally, you should limit yourself to working on small sections of about five pages at a time [ 14 ]. After these short sections, your eyes get used to your writing and your efficiency in spotting problems decreases. When reading for content and organization, you should control your urge to edit your paper for sentence structure and grammar and focus only on the flow of your ideas and logic of your presentation. Experienced researchers tend to make almost three times the number of changes to meaning than novice writers [ 15 , 16 ]. Revising is a difficult but useful skill, which academic writers obtain with years of practice.

In contrast to the macrostructure revision, which is a linear process and is done usually through a detailed outline and by sections, microstructure revision is a non-linear process. While the goal of the macrostructure revision is to analyze your ideas and their logic, the goal of the microstructure editing is to scrutinize the form of your ideas: your paragraphs, sentences, and words. You do not need and are not recommended to follow the order of the paper to perform this type of revision. You can start from the end or from different sections. You can even revise by reading sentences backward, sentence by sentence and word by word.

One of the microstructure revision strategies frequently used during writing center consultations is to read the paper aloud [ 17 ]. You may read aloud to yourself, to a tape recorder, or to a colleague or friend. When reading and listening to your paper, you are more likely to notice the places where the fluency is disrupted and where you stumble because of a very long and unclear sentence or a wrong connector.

Another revision strategy is to learn your common errors and to do a targeted search for them [ 13 ]. All writers have a set of problems that are specific to them, i.e., their writing idiosyncrasies. Remembering these problems is as important for an academic writer as remembering your friends’ birthdays. Create a list of these idiosyncrasies and run a search for these problems using your word processor. If your problem is demonstrative pronouns without summary words, then search for “this/these/those” in your text and check if you used the word appropriately. If you have a problem with intensifiers, then search for “really” or “very” and delete them from the text. The same targeted search can be done to eliminate wordiness. Searching for “there is/are” or “and” can help you avoid the bulky sentences.

The final strategy is working with a hard copy and a pencil. Print a double space copy with font size 14 and re-read your paper in several steps. Try reading your paper line by line with the rest of the text covered with a piece of paper. When you are forced to see only a small portion of your writing, you are less likely to get distracted and are more likely to notice problems. You will end up spotting more unnecessary words, wrongly worded phrases, or unparallel constructions.

After you apply all these strategies, you are ready to share your writing with your friends, colleagues, and a writing advisor in the writing center. Get as much feedback as you can, especially from non-specialists in your field. Patiently listen to what others say to you ― you are not expected to defend your writing or explain what you wanted to say. You may decide what you want to change and how after you receive the feedback and sort it in your head. Even though some researchers make the revision an endless process and can hardly stop after a 14th draft; having from five to seven drafts of your paper is a norm in the sciences. If you can’t stop revising, then set a deadline for yourself and stick to it. Deadlines always help.

Rule 7: Revise your paper at the macrostructure and the microstructure level using different strategies and techniques. Receive feedback and revise again.

5. it is time to submit.

It is late at night again. You are still in your lab finishing revisions and getting ready to submit your paper. You feel happy ― you have finally finished a year’s worth of work. You will submit your paper tomorrow, and regardless of the outcome, you know that you can do it. If one journal does not take your paper, you will take advantage of the feedback and resubmit again. You will have a publication, and this is the most important achievement.

What is even more important is that you have your scheduled writing time that you are going to keep for your future publications, for reading and taking notes, for writing grants, and for reviewing papers. You are not going to lose stamina this time, and you will become a productive scientist. But for now, let’s celebrate the end of the paper.

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Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on September 24, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on March 27, 2023.

Writing a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction to a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your topic and get the reader interested
  • Provide background or summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Detail your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The introduction looks slightly different depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument by engaging with a variety of sources.

Table of contents

Step 1: introduce your topic, step 2: describe the background, step 3: establish your research problem, step 4: specify your objective(s), step 5: map out your paper, research paper introduction examples, frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening hook.

The hook is a striking opening sentence that clearly conveys the relevance of your topic. Think of an interesting fact or statistic, a strong statement, a question, or a brief anecdote that will get the reader wondering about your topic.

For example, the following could be an effective hook for an argumentative paper about the environmental impact of cattle farming:

A more empirical paper investigating the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues in adolescent girls might use the following hook:

Don’t feel that your hook necessarily has to be deeply impressive or creative. Clarity and relevance are still more important than catchiness. The key thing is to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas.

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how to write academic research report

This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is taking.

In a more argumentative paper, you’ll explore some general background here. In a more empirical paper, this is the place to review previous research and establish how yours fits in.

Argumentative paper: Background information

After you’ve caught your reader’s attention, specify a bit more, providing context and narrowing down your topic.

Provide only the most relevant background information. The introduction isn’t the place to get too in-depth; if more background is essential to your paper, it can appear in the body .

Empirical paper: Describing previous research

For a paper describing original research, you’ll instead provide an overview of the most relevant research that has already been conducted. This is a sort of miniature literature review —a sketch of the current state of research into your topic, boiled down to a few sentences.

This should be informed by genuine engagement with the literature. Your search can be less extensive than in a full literature review, but a clear sense of the relevant research is crucial to inform your own work.

Begin by establishing the kinds of research that have been done, and end with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to respond to.

The next step is to clarify how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses.

Argumentative paper: Emphasize importance

In an argumentative research paper, you can simply state the problem you intend to discuss, and what is original or important about your argument.

Empirical paper: Relate to the literature

In an empirical research paper, try to lead into the problem on the basis of your discussion of the literature. Think in terms of these questions:

  • What research gap is your work intended to fill?
  • What limitations in previous work does it address?
  • What contribution to knowledge does it make?

You can make the connection between your problem and the existing research using phrases like the following.

Now you’ll get into the specifics of what you intend to find out or express in your research paper.

The way you frame your research objectives varies. An argumentative paper presents a thesis statement, while an empirical paper generally poses a research question (sometimes with a hypothesis as to the answer).

Argumentative paper: Thesis statement

The thesis statement expresses the position that the rest of the paper will present evidence and arguments for. It can be presented in one or two sentences, and should state your position clearly and directly, without providing specific arguments for it at this point.

Empirical paper: Research question and hypothesis

The research question is the question you want to answer in an empirical research paper.

Present your research question clearly and directly, with a minimum of discussion at this point. The rest of the paper will be taken up with discussing and investigating this question; here you just need to express it.

A research question can be framed either directly or indirectly.

  • This study set out to answer the following question: What effects does daily use of Instagram have on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls?
  • We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls.

If your research involved testing hypotheses , these should be stated along with your research question. They are usually presented in the past tense, since the hypothesis will already have been tested by the time you are writing up your paper.

For example, the following hypothesis might respond to the research question above:

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The final part of the introduction is often dedicated to a brief overview of the rest of the paper.

In a paper structured using the standard scientific “introduction, methods, results, discussion” format, this isn’t always necessary. But if your paper is structured in a less predictable way, it’s important to describe the shape of it for the reader.

If included, the overview should be concise, direct, and written in the present tense.

  • This paper will first discuss several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then will go on to …
  • This paper first discusses several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then goes on to …

Full examples of research paper introductions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

Are cows responsible for climate change? A recent study (RIVM, 2019) shows that cattle farmers account for two thirds of agricultural nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These emissions result from nitrogen in manure, which can degrade into ammonia and enter the atmosphere. The study’s calculations show that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution, accounting for 46% of the country’s total emissions. By comparison, road traffic and households are responsible for 6.1% each, the industrial sector for 1%. While efforts are being made to mitigate these emissions, policymakers are reluctant to reckon with the scale of the problem. The approach presented here is a radical one, but commensurate with the issue. This paper argues that the Dutch government must stimulate and subsidize livestock farmers, especially cattle farmers, to transition to sustainable vegetable farming. It first establishes the inadequacy of current mitigation measures, then discusses the various advantages of the results proposed, and finally addresses potential objections to the plan on economic grounds.

The rise of social media has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the prevalence of body image issues among women and girls. This correlation has received significant academic attention: Various empirical studies have been conducted into Facebook usage among adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014). These studies have consistently found that the visual and interactive aspects of the platform have the greatest influence on body image issues. Despite this, highly visual social media (HVSM) such as Instagram have yet to be robustly researched. This paper sets out to address this research gap. We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls. It was hypothesized that daily Instagram use would be associated with an increase in body image concerns and a decrease in self-esteem ratings.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

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How to Write a Report: A Guide

Matt Ellis

A report is a nonfiction account that presents and/or summarizes the facts about a particular event, topic, or issue. The idea is that people who are unfamiliar with the subject can find everything they need to know from a good report. 

Reports make it easy to catch someone up to speed on a subject, but actually writing a report is anything but easy. So to help you understand what to do, below we present a little report of our own, all about report writing. 

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What is a report? 

In technical terms, the definition of a report is pretty vague: any account, spoken or written, of the matters concerning a particular topic. This could refer to anything from a courtroom testimony to a grade schooler’s book report . 

Really, when people talk about “reports,” they’re usually referring to official documents outlining the facts of a topic, typically written by an expert on the subject or someone assigned to investigate it. There are different types of reports, explained in the next section, but they mostly fit this description. 

What kind of information is shared in reports? Although all facts are welcome, reports, in particular, tend to feature these types of content: 

  • Details of an event or situation
  • The consequences or ongoing effect of an event or situation
  • Evaluation of statistical data or analytics
  • Interpretations from the information in the report
  • Predictions or recommendations based on the information in the report
  • How the information relates to other events or reports

Reports are closely related to essay writing , although there are some clear distinctions. While both rely on facts, essays add the personal opinions and arguments of the authors. Reports typically stick only to the facts, although they may include some of the author’s interpretation of these facts, most likely in the conclusion. 

Moreover, reports are heavily organized, commonly with tables of contents and copious headings and subheadings. This makes it easier for readers to scan reports for the information they’re looking for. Essays, on the other hand, are meant to be read start to finish, not browsed for specific insights. 

Types of reports

There are a few different types of reports, depending on the purpose and to whom you present your report. Here’s a quick list of the common types of reports:

  • Academic report: Tests a student’s comprehension of the subject matter, such as book reports, reports on historical events, and biographies 
  • Business reports: Identifies information useful in business strategy, such as marketing reports, internal memos, SWOT analysis, and feasibility reports
  • Scientific reports: Shares research findings, such as research papers and case studies, typically in science journals

Reports can be further divided into categories based on how they are written. For example, a report could be formal or informal, short or long, and internal or external. In business, a vertical report shares information with people on different levels of the hierarchy (i.e., people who work above you and below you), while a lateral report is for people on the author’s same level, but in different departments. 

There are as many types of reports as there are writing styles, but in this guide, we focus on academic reports, which tend to be formal and informational. 

>>Read More: What Is Academic Writing?

What is the structure of a report?

The structure of a report depends on the type of report and the requirements of the assignment. While reports can use their own unique structure, most follow this basic template:

  • Executive summary: Just like an abstract in an academic paper, an executive summary is a standalone section that summarizes the findings in your report so readers know what to expect. These are mostly for official reports and less so for school reports. 
  • Introduction: Setting up the body of the report, your introduction explains the overall topic that you’re about to discuss, with your thesis statement and any need-to-know background information before you get into your own findings. 
  • Body: The body of the report explains all your major discoveries, broken up into headings and subheadings. The body makes up the majority of the entire report; whereas the introduction and conclusion are just a few paragraphs each, the body can go on for pages. 
  • Conclusion: The conclusion is where you bring together all the information in your report and come to a definitive interpretation or judgment. This is usually where the author inputs their own personal opinions or inferences.  

If you’re familiar with how to write a research paper , you’ll notice that report writing follows the same introduction-body-conclusion structure, sometimes adding an executive summary. Reports usually have their own additional requirements as well, such as title pages and tables of content, which we explain in the next section. 

What should be included in a report?

There are no firm requirements for what’s included in a report. Every school, company, laboratory, task manager, and teacher can make their own format, depending on their unique needs. In general, though, be on the lookout for these particular requirements—they tend to crop up a lot: 

  • Title page: Official reports often use a title page to keep things organized; if a person has to read multiple reports, title pages make them easier to keep track of. 
  • Table of contents: Just like in books, the table of contents helps readers go directly to the section they’re interested in, allowing for faster browsing. 
  • Page numbering: A common courtesy if you’re writing a longer report, page numbering makes sure the pages are in order in the case of mix-ups or misprints.
  • Headings and subheadings: Reports are typically broken up into sections, divided by headings and subheadings, to facilitate browsing and scanning. 
  • Citations: If you’re citing information from another source, the citations guidelines tell you the recommended format.
  • Works cited page: A bibliography at the end of the report lists credits and the legal information for the other sources you got information from. 

As always, refer to the assignment for the specific guidelines on each of these. The people who read the report should tell you which style guides or formatting they require. 

How to write a report in 7 steps

Now let’s get into the specifics of how to write a report. Follow the seven steps on report writing below to take you from an idea to a completed paper. 

1 Choose a topic based on the assignment

Before you start writing, you need to pick the topic of your report. Often, the topic is assigned for you, as with most business reports, or predetermined by the nature of your work, as with scientific reports. If that’s the case, you can ignore this step and move on. 

If you’re in charge of choosing your own topic, as with a lot of academic reports, then this is one of the most important steps in the whole writing process. Try to pick a topic that fits these two criteria: 

  • There’s adequate information: Choose a topic that’s not too general but not too specific, with enough information to fill your report without padding, but not too much that you can’t cover everything. 
  • It’s something you’re interested in: Although this isn’t a strict requirement, it does help the quality of a report if you’re engaged by the subject matter. 

Of course, don’t forget the instructions of the assignment, including length, so keep those in the back of your head when deciding. 

2 Conduct research

With business and scientific reports, the research is usually your own or provided by the company—although there’s still plenty of digging for external sources in both. 

For academic papers, you’re largely on your own for research, unless you’re required to use class materials. That’s one of the reasons why choosing the right topic is so crucial; you won’t go far if the topic you picked doesn’t have enough available research. 

The key is to search only for reputable sources: official documents, other reports, research papers, case studies, books from respected authors, etc. Feel free to use research cited in other similar reports. You can often find a lot of information online through search engines, but a quick trip to the library can also help in a pinch. 

3 Write a thesis statement

Before you go any further, write a thesis statement to help you conceptualize the main theme of your report. Just like the topic sentence of a paragraph, the thesis statement summarizes the main point of your writing, in this case, the report. 

Once you’ve collected enough research, you should notice some trends and patterns in the information. If these patterns all infer or lead up to a bigger, overarching point, that’s your thesis statement. 

For example, if you were writing a report on the wages of fast-food employees, your thesis might be something like, “Although wages used to be commensurate with living expenses, after years of stagnation they are no longer adequate.” From there, the rest of your report will elaborate on that thesis, with ample evidence and supporting arguments. 

It’s good to include your thesis statement in both the executive summary and introduction of your report, but you still want to figure it out early so you know which direction to go when you work on your outline next. 

4 Prepare an outline

Writing an outline is recommended for all kinds of writing, but it’s especially useful for reports given their emphasis on organization. Because reports are often separated by headings and subheadings, a solid outline makes sure you stay on track while writing without missing anything. 

Really, you should start thinking about your outline during the research phase, when you start to notice patterns and trends. If you’re stuck, try making a list of all the key points, details, and evidence you want to mention. See if you can fit them into general and specific categories, which you can turn into headings and subheadings respectively. 

5 Write a rough draft

Actually writing the rough draft , or first draft, is usually the most time-consuming step. Here’s where you take all the information from your research and put it into words. To avoid getting overwhelmed, simply follow your outline step by step to make sure you don’t accidentally leave out anything. 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; that’s the number one rule for writing a rough draft. Expecting your first draft to be perfect adds a lot of pressure. Instead, write in a natural and relaxed way, and worry about the specific details like word choice and correcting mistakes later. That’s what the last two steps are for, anyway. 

6 Revise and edit your report

Once your rough draft is finished, it’s time to go back and start fixing the mistakes you ignored the first time around. (Before you dive right back in, though, it helps to sleep on it to start editing fresh, or at least take a small break to unwind from writing the rough draft.) 

We recommend first rereading your report for any major issues, such as cutting or moving around entire sentences and paragraphs. Sometimes you’ll find your data doesn’t line up, or that you misinterpreted a key piece of evidence. This is the right time to fix the “big picture” mistakes and rewrite any longer sections as needed. 

If you’re unfamiliar with what to look for when editing, you can read our previous guide with some more advanced self-editing tips . 

7 Proofread and check for mistakes

Last, it pays to go over your report one final time, just to optimize your wording and check for grammatical or spelling mistakes. In the previous step you checked for “big picture” mistakes, but here you’re looking for specific, even nitpicky problems. 

A writing assistant like Grammarly flags those issues for you. Grammarly’s free version points out any spelling and grammatical mistakes while you write, with suggestions to improve your writing that you can apply with just one click. The Premium version offers even more advanced features, such as tone adjustments and word choice recommendations for taking your writing to the next level. 

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Writing an academic report

Although you may not realize it, writing an academic report is different than writing an academic essay. in an essay, you can provide your thoughts and opinions about a topic or statement. in an academic report, you should provide a description or analysis of a set of actions you took to research a specific question or phenomenon..

Academic reports are used to present and discuss the results of an experiment, survey, or other research method. These reports often require a specific layout and the inclusion of a certain set of sections. Below, we describe the most often-used sections in an academic report in the order in which they generally appear. Before we begin, note that when writing an academic report, you must always follow the guidelines for formal academic writing, including citing trustworthy sources and using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

The sections that are usually included in an academic report are as follows:


Literature review/background.

In the introduction to your academic report, you present the research topic or question and explain why you chose to study that topic. You may also present a general overview of the work you did and your findings, expanding on these points further in the main body of the text. At the end of the introduction, you may want to present a brief summary of the way in which the rest of the report is organized.

In this section, you will briefly summarize work on this topic that other researchers have conducted, including their findings. You can also provide any background information on the topic that your readers should have before you present your own work. Remember that your reader is interested in your work, not the work of others. It isn’t necessary to go into excessive detail regarding other studies, especially if they aren’t relevant to your work. Focus on summarizing work that relates in some way to the work you have performed.

The methods section is where you describe the steps you took in your research. For example, you can describe the methodology you used to build your study, the sampling method you used to obtain survey participants, and the steps you took in a scientific experiment. Make sure to describe all your steps in detail using the past tense (since you’re describing something that already happened, not something that will happen).

In this section, you will describe the results of your study. For example, you will provide information such as survey participants’ answers, medical test results, data from scientific experiments, and any statistical analysis results. You may find it helpful to use figures and tables to present these results in an easy-to-read format. However, note that if you present data in a table or figure, it is not necessary to also provide all the same data in the text. If you use tables or figures, only discuss particularly important findings in the text.

In this section, you will discuss the implications of your findings, explaining them and relating them to the previous research presented in your literature review. You will interpret your findings and describe how these findings answer (or don’t answer) your research questions. You should also describe any limitations of your work, such as sample size or missing data, and discuss how you could resolve those issues in future work.

If all this sounds like too much work, or you simply lack the time, you can find a reliable writing service for students and pay for college papers . This way, you get a high-quality academic report without going through any trouble. Such services can help you deal with all kinds of writing assignments you get as a part of your studies.

The conclusion is where you summarize your main work and findings as well as the implications of your work. You should not introduce any new material in this section. You should also provide recommendations based on your findings and discuss any future research needed.

Of course, you should check with your academic institution or professor to see if they want you to include any other sections or information. In addition, make sure you follow the style guide required by your institution (e.g., APA or Chicago).

Writing an academic report doesn’t have to be stressful and intimidating. Using the information above, you can finish your report and avoid undue stress.

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  • How to write an academic research paper

How to write an academic research paper.

Learn the steps to research, write, and revise a research paper.

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How to write an academic research paper.


What is a research paper?

How to start a research paper., understand the assignment., 7 steps to writing an academic research paper., how to cite sources for a research paper to avoid plagiarism., tools for academic research paper writing..

A research paper is a genre of academic writing that presents a new insight or perspective based on a critical collection and interpretation of empirical evidence.

Academia runs on research, so it’s no surprise that the research paper is a common assignment across college classes. It’s an excellent way to help students develop research, critical thinking, and communication skills — especially in their chosen field. It’s also the type of writing that professors do as they conduct their own research and publish papers as articles in scholarly journals.

The research involves finding, selecting, and interpreting information from primary or secondary sources. Primary sources provide original data in interviews, scientific reports, works of art, diaries, and newspaper articles. Secondary sources take a step back to add commentary and interpretation in books, magazines, scholarly articles, and editorials. Even secondary sources can serve as empirical evidence when a researcher wants to know what others have said about the subject.

A research paper usually differs from a research report. A report is a type of expository writing that simply explains a topic. A lab report, for example, explains the findings of a scientific experiment. Research papers, on the other hand, do not usually require the researcher to generate original data. Instead, the research involves gathering and organizing the data already out there, then taking it a step further by making a persuasive argument about what it all means. A research paper’s argumentative and analytical nature also sets it apart from other kinds of expository writing that simply present everything there is to know on any given topic (think of a Wikipedia page or a textbook).

Research papers can take different forms depending on the discipline, topic, and the instructor’s or publisher’s requirements. Still, writers follow a similar process to achieve the final product, even in different contexts. The writing process itself is something that some scholars spend their lives researching and writing about. Decades of academic practice have helped scholars describe and teach the best way to conduct solid research and write about it persuasively.

How to structure your research paper.

The basic elements of a research paper appear in this order:

  • Introduction
  • Background section or literature review
  • Body sections organized under subheadings
  • Bibliography

The basic elements of a research paper.

Although they might go by other names, most of these elements are non-negotiable. The bibliography, for example, can’t be skipped. But shorter papers might be able to present sufficient background information in the introduction so that an additional section for it isn’t necessary. For other kinds of research, you’ll need to add separate sections describing your research methods, findings, and analysis.

Find out what your instructor expects or what other writers do in the same field. Instructors can usually provide good examples of student writing, or they can help you identify the right journal articles to imitate. Imitation (not plagiarism) is a great way to learn how to write in a new genre.

Dissertation vs. thesis — what’s the difference?

Dissertations and theses are both academic research papers. The difference is that a dissertation is required to get a doctoral degree, while a thesis is often required for a master’s degree or even some undergraduate programs. A dissertation is the equivalent of a book, while a thesis is the equivalent of an article. A research paper is usually shorter, although papers can evolve into full-length articles.

Getting started is the hardest part. But no one writes a research paper in a single day. If you plan and take it one step at a time, the project will feel slightly less overwhelming.

You might think the steps are obvious — first research, then write. But what that means is a little more complicated. You’ll do a lot of preliminary writing — taking notes, sketching ideas and outlines, or making mind maps to develop a research question and make sense of everything you’re learning. After you’ve landed on a thesis and started drafting, you’ll find that you need to do additional research to support the argument you want to make.

The basic steps to the writing process are to plan, research, and write — and then to plan, research, write, plan, research, and write again. So don’t feel discouraged if you find yourself back at the drawing board several times. You’re always building on what you’ve already learned.

The most important first step is to understand the assignment. Many students make the mistake of not reading the assignment description carefully or not asking questions early in the process.

Find out the required page number or word count. Academic journal articles are usually 20 to 25 pages, while papers for a semester-long course are generally half as long at 10 to 12 pages. Find out the number of sources to include and whether you need to cite them or discuss them at greater length. Research papers can cite anywhere from 10 to 100 references. It depends on the topic and your approach, so understand what the instructor expects.

Find out what type of information you should be gathering. Are scholarly articles the only option, or should you consider mainly primary sources? Your instructor might require that you include particular course readings or foundational texts.

Read the rubric or any other criteria the instructor will use to evaluate the final piece to understand the standards for success and any additional requests.

Don’t be intimidated or think you have nothing to offer. You can offer a new perspective and an important contribution even as a student.

Finally, understand your audience. You might be doing this research just because it’s an assignment, and you don’t think anyone other than your instructor will ever read it. You do need to satisfy the instructor as a secondary audience or judge of success. But your instructor is not your primary audience. Your reason for writing needs to be a little bit bigger. Once you find a topic and begin researching, you’ll find a community of scholars already asking similar questions and chiming in on the conversation. Or you’ll discover that a whole group of people lack specific knowledge that could benefit them somehow.

Don’t be intimidated or think you have nothing to offer. You can offer a new perspective and an important contribution even as a student. If the assignment description doesn’t identify an audience for you, start asking yourself questions about the people in the real world who would want to read the kind of writing you’re about to do.

Now that you know what a research paper is and what to expect from your research and writing process, you can break it down even more into manageable chunks or steps that you can follow in a linear order.

7 steps to writing an academic research paper.

1. Select a topic.

Some students make the mistake of thinking they can select a topic and then just write everything they can find about it or that they should look for evidence that supports an opinion they already have. But the process has to start with more tentative exploration. Selecting a topic is more like choosing a city to visit, finding a research question is like picking a restaurant, and writing a thesis statement is like ordering a menu item. The point is to start broad — but not too broad — then narrow in.

Start by thinking about general topics you’re interested in. If you don’t already know what people are saying about it, find out. For example, maybe you like young adult literature. You just like the books and you’re not aware of any controversy, so you do some internet browsing and discover how the genre has evolved in just the last few decades. You wonder what factors have influenced its growth, who is really reading it, and what determines whether a book gets published. These questions are each excellent starting points to begin conducting your research. Some questions might lead to a dead end, and some will turn up more information than you can handle, so you adjust accordingly.

If you feel like you’re just inventing something to write about, you’re in good company. This writing stage was called invention in the ancient world by thinkers like Aristotle, who outlined questions to ask about a topic. (He called these topoi — places you can find things.)

How is it defined? Who defines it?

What are its parts, or what is it a part of?

What came before, and what will come after?

How has it changed, or how will it change?

How is it similar or different from something else?

What makes it possible or impossible?

Who are the experts on this topic?

Who disagrees or misunderstands this topic?

Who has firsthand experience?

What are other people saying about it?

What rules or laws impact this topic?

2. Begin research.

In the internet age, there’s endless information out there. When you begin, you might be overwhelmed by the information available on any given topic. That’s why the most crucial research skills include asking the right questions, knowing where to find answers, and interpreting the information legitimately and persuasively.

You’re going to do a lot of reading at this stage. While research papers rarely cite tertiary sources like encyclopedias, reports, and literature reviews, these are helpful resources for quickly getting familiar with a topic. As you begin to narrow, read the bibliographies of the sources that seem most relevant and notice the names and titles everyone is referencing.

University librarians are usually delighted to help students and often know more than instructors about finding what you’re looking for.

You can find some articles on Google Scholar, but you can find more by navigating your library’s online database. Academic institutions pay for access to journals and databases unavailable on the internet. These sources are often more credible and helpful — because peer review isn’t free. Physical and digital library archives also offer precious source material.

For many students, the most underestimated and underused resource is a librarian. University librarians are usually delighted to help students and often know more than instructors about finding what you’re looking for. If you can’t get to your library in person, search the website for a librarian’s phone number and email address who specializes in your discipline.

3. Evaluate sources.

Many students make the mistake of grabbing the first 10 sources that are vaguely relevant or, conversely, getting bogged down in endless research because they feel like they have to read dozens of articles and even books from start to finish before they can form an opinion. You can avoid these mistakes by learning how to evaluate sources quickly.

While most of what you find in library search results is likely credible, it might not be relevant to your question. Take basic steps to ensure that a source is credible such as looking up the author and publication. Then determine if a source is relevant to your question by assessing its publication date, likely audience, and purpose. Read the title and abstract carefully. If it seems promising, you can read the introduction and section headings or jump straight to the conclusion. Now you should know whether it will help answer your research question or provide evidence for your argument.

Once you’ve collected the sources you want to use, read them thoroughly and take careful notes. Keep track of the page numbers where you found important information, and as you jot down notes , distinguish carefully between source material and your ideas. You’ll be grateful later on when you start writing, trying to find critical information while avoiding plagiarism. Some researchers write source notes in the left column and their thoughts on the right. Another method is to save the article as a PDF and then edit the PDF with highlights and comments you can refer to later.

4. Write the thesis statement.

You’ve done your research and learned something new that no one has been able to see from quite the same perspective. Your thesis statement should state this discovery as an argument and summarize the evidence that supports it in one sentence.

A thesis statement should be debatable or contentious, meaning that not everyone will immediately agree with it or that it requires evidence to prove. It’s not a generalized statement about the complexity or value of a topic. Instead, it takes a clear and specific position.

A thesis statement needs to make an argument, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be controversial or emotional. It just needs to offer an interpretation and take a clear stance. It also needs to be coherent with the rest of the paper, meaning each section and each paragraph should support this statement.

5. Outline and write the body.

Some students make the mistake of jumping right into the first few pages with their most robust evidence before trailing off with weak sources and weaker analysis before finally filling in the last few pages with fluff and submitting the paper just before the deadline. Avoid these perils by outlining. You’ll discover where your ideas are best, where you need to swap out weak sources, and how the whole thing can be structured more clearly if you take the time to map it out and check that each section helps prove your thesis.

The outline can include section headings, topic sentences, bullet points summarizing sources, bullet points analyzing sources, and transition sentences.

An example outline of an academic research paper.

6. Write the introduction and conclusion.

It can be challenging to write a good intro until you finish — when you’ve put so much thought into it that it’s easy to summarize.

The introduction should start by explaining your research question. Zoom out to give your readers context, but not too far. Openers like “Since the birth of civilization…” or “Everyone knows…” are common mistakes. You don’t have to make your topic relevant to every human on Earth, just the ones likely already interested. Summarize what they probably already know in just a sentence or two before explaining why your research question needs to be asked and answered. The intro can be more than one paragraph, but the thesis should be the last sentence. Be sure it’s clear to your reader what the point is and what they can expect from reading the entire paper.

It’s tempting to hurry through the conclusion or even forget about it. You might think the piece speaks for itself, and it’s not necessary to restate what you’ve already stated throughout. However, the conclusion that seems obvious to you as a writer might not be apparent to your reader. Plus, as you saw in your research process, many readers want to understand the conclusion of your research even if they don’t have time to read the entire thing. Don’t offer new information. Restate the thesis, summarize everything you have presented, take a clear stance on the topic, and provide a final insight or suggestions for further research.

7. Revise, edit, and proofread.

This three-part step is a crucial part of the writing process. It starts at the global level. Once you have a complete draft, you’ll discover weaknesses in your argument and research that might require a total rewrite of some sections. Ask for feedback from your instructor, peers, or other advisors to ensure they can follow your argument, and then be willing to make significant changes.

Once you’re confident that the content is solid, you can edit the paper at a sentence level. Rephrase to improve clarity and concision. You might need to reorganize and rewrite transitions so the paper flows logically. The last step is to review it again for a final proofread where you’ll need to catch any typos and grammatical or punctuation errors.

Citing sources involves more than following style guide conventions for your bibliography, although that’s important too.

Understanding proper citation practices before researching can help you avoid plagiarism. Keep careful track while researching and drafting to give complete and accurate credit to all your sources. Cite page numbers not only for direct quotations but also for ideas that you paraphrase. Don’t expect to add page numbers as a final step. You won’t remember.

Instructors care about formatting — a lot. When you present your work correctly, they get the message that you’ve put thought into the assignment.

Pay attention to citation practices in academic journals and be just as thorough. For example, a sentence like “Many experts agree…” deserves an in-text citation of those experts and page numbers where you discovered this info. In-text citations can include multiple authors’ names and page numbers at the end of one sentence.

Don’t drop direct quotes randomly without explaining where they came from. Describe the author or source briefly so the reader knows why the quote is relevant.

If you use direct quotes, use them sparingly. A paper that consists almost entirely of quotations and paraphrases doesn’t present original ideas, even when cited correctly. Instead, it is a reappropriation of others’ work. Avoid plagiarism by using direct quotes only when there is no other way to present the information and by giving preference to short phrases or single sentences rather than larger chunks of text. And of course, by dedicating at least as much space to your analysis.

Getting the formatting right in your bibliography can be a pain and feel like busywork to new students. But different styles have particular rules for a reason. Getting the punctuation and formatting right can make the difference between someone being able to find and access the information you cited or not. Incomplete, incorrect citations amount to plagiarism because they can stand in the way of attribution. For example, primary authors, journal versus article titles, and the issue versus volume number can be misconstrued if you don’t take the time to use italics, quotation marks, accepted abbreviations, and the correct order.

Use the many available tools and resources to make writing and research easier. Use a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor to improve the clarity and style of your writing. Ask for feedback from peers, professors, and other trusted advisors by converting your Word file to a PDF they can mark up and comment on. The most successful writers seek feedback and revise. Go straight to style guide websites for answers to questions about formatting, or find answers to common questions on college writing center websites like Purdue OWL.

Should I use MLA or APA format?

Most research papers follow the Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) style guidelines. MLA is more common in the humanities, while APA is more common in education and science. Times New Roman, double-spaced, and 12-point font are standard. Avoid sans-serif fonts like Arial. Pay attention to the margin size, paragraph spacing, and block quotes. Some style guides offer specific instructions for how to treat first-, second-, and third-level headings — which you’ll need to distinguish sections and subsections. Add automatic page numbering.

Finally, be sure your final draft meets all the instructor’s requirements and that you submit it in a final, polished, accessible format.

Instructors care about formatting — a lot. When you present your work correctly, they get the message that you’ve put thought into the assignment. They will take your ideas more seriously. Most students today submit papers electronically instead of printing them. Avoid submitting your work as a Google Doc, Apple Notes file, or another format your instructor can’t access. Many instructors prefer or even require that students convert their files to PDFs because it ensures that formatting is locked in and viewable on any device.

Learn what more you can do with PDFs and explore the Adobe Acrobat tools that can help you draft and share your work.

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how to write academic research report


  • How to Write a Research Report

How to Write a Research Report

Research Report Structure

Abstract (optional), title of the research, introduction, theoretical analysis and research scope, results or findings, discussion of findings analysis, literature review.

Writing paper  is a part of the experience that every student has to go through to get an education. It belongs to one of the problems - solving tasks completion of which shows the depth of knowledge and ability to draw personal conclusions . After receiving or selecting a topic a student is expected to analyze the information, and present the results in the form of a research paper. The research presentation is preceded by the research report. In short, your research report shows the significance of your thesis or dissertation, the feasibility of an analysis plan, and the expected result. Here are the tips on how to write a research report that corresponds to basic academic writing requirements. 

The idea of any research is to pick a hypothesis and conduct the experiments to prove it. The results should be analyzed and presented in the conclusion. A rule to remember when writing reports is to stay precise and up to the point. The report is not an advertisement, it sums up, not sells the research. Keep it short and informative. Regardless of the topic, there is a core structure you should follow. The following list will include obligatory and optional parts recommended to be included in the report for better quality. 

The first thing to remember about the abstract is the size requirements. It might be very short around 150- 200 words. It is an optional section of the report. An abstract describes the scope and expectations set to the results. There is a great difference between the Introduction and Abstract. The common mistake is mixing up these two sections. The research abstract might also come in multiple languages. Another key point to take into account is the glossary of your research. A great idea is to present the key concepts in the abstract. 

The number of reports might be unlimited. Depending on the duration of your research, you might need to present a couple of reports to inform your supervisor about the progress. The report has to be titled. For sure, the wording of the title will be changing, so the reports will contain a working title. The title and the first page of the research are formatted according to the instructions provided by your educational institution. Selecting the wording of the title is vital. Your research and report title should reflect the scope and the analysis conducted in the study. 

In short, your introduction states the issue to be researched and the methodology. As long as these two points are considered, the introduction will be effective. Apart from stating the problem, the reviews of resources, previous researches conducted in the field, and relevancy of the topic should be mentioned. Regardless of the type of paper (thesis, dissertation, term paper), the report is a concise presentation. Hence, its content should be chosen carefully. 

This section contains a description of the material that will be analyzed. For the report, it is worth to include the specific features the data under analysis have. After that, the tool used for analysis should be described in a precise manner. In case your data and tools analysis is lengthy, and all the information is obligatory, then use appendixes. 

Using visual aids is considered to be the most effective way of presenting your research . The tables, graphs, schemes, stats, and other graphic materials work better than any piece of text. The findings of the research should show that every aim and objective stated in the introduction and described in the main body was achieved. The method of the research is not that important for this part. 

The research findings analysis is the most important part. The supervisors want to see the novelty in the research. It is not about summarizing the existing data, but about drawing unique conclusions. This section might be integrated into the results and findings. The main point is to deliver an extensive explanation and personal interpretation of the results. It is also a stage where you double-check the objectives, the title of the research to see if they correspond to your findings. As it was mentioned, the report is an interim paper that displays the current state of the research. It is not a final version and can be modified. Nevertheless, it should be written in a proper academic style . 

The research is composed of theoretical and practical parts. The theoretical part summarizes the previous researches and identifies the novel features of your research. This part is important for overall research conduct. Regardless of the type, either thesis report or any other, the list of sources you refer to should be presented. Its extensiveness is optional. 

Using the tips on how to write a research report along with the rules of academic writing, you should be able to create a good quality paper. Every paper should be free of plagiarism, based on relevant literature, and datum. Remember to dedicate enough time to proofread all the materials. Whether the report is sent over the email or presented during an interview, its format should be flawless. 

If you are struggling to find the answers to all the questions about the reports design and academic writing, do not hesitate to address specialists for assistance. 

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How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

Sumalatha G

Table of Contents

Writing an introduction for a research paper is a critical element of your paper, but it can seem challenging to encapsulate enormous amount of information into a concise form. The introduction of your research paper sets the tone for your research and provides the context for your study. In this article, we will guide you through the process of writing an effective introduction that grabs the reader's attention and captures the essence of your research paper.

Understanding the Purpose of a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction acts as a road map for your research paper, guiding the reader through the main ideas and arguments. The purpose of the introduction is to present your research topic to the readers and provide a rationale for why your study is relevant. It helps the reader locate your research and its relevance in the broader field of related scientific explorations. Additionally, the introduction should inform the reader about the objectives and scope of your study, giving them an overview of what to expect in the paper. By including a comprehensive introduction, you establish your credibility as an author and convince the reader that your research is worth their time and attention.

Key Elements to Include in Your Introduction

When writing your research paper introduction, there are several key elements you should include to ensure it is comprehensive and informative.

  • A hook or attention-grabbing statement to capture the reader's interest.  It can be a thought-provoking question, a surprising statistic, or a compelling anecdote that relates to your research topic.
  • A brief overview of the research topic and its significance. By highlighting the gap in existing knowledge or the problem your research aims to address, you create a compelling case for the relevance of your study.
  • A clear research question or problem statement. This serves as the foundation of your research and guides the reader in understanding the unique focus of your study. It should be concise, specific, and clearly articulated.
  • An outline of the paper's structure and main arguments, to help the readers navigate through the paper with ease.

Preparing to Write Your Introduction

Before diving into writing your introduction, it is essential to prepare adequately. This involves 3 important steps:

  • Conducting Preliminary Research: Immerse yourself in the existing literature to develop a clear research question and position your study within the academic discourse.
  • Identifying Your Thesis Statement: Define a specific, focused, and debatable thesis statement, serving as a roadmap for your paper.
  • Considering Broader Context: Reflect on the significance of your research within your field, understanding its potential impact and contribution.

By engaging in these preparatory steps, you can ensure that your introduction is well-informed, focused, and sets the stage for a compelling research paper.

Structuring Your Introduction

Now that you have prepared yourself to tackle the introduction, it's time to structure it effectively. A well-structured introduction will engage the reader from the beginning and provide a logical flow to your research paper.

Starting with a Hook

Begin your introduction with an attention-grabbing hook that captivates the reader's interest. This hook serves as a way to make your introduction more engaging and compelling. For example, if you are writing a research paper on the impact of climate change on biodiversity, you could start your introduction with a statistic about the number of species that have gone extinct due to climate change. This will immediately grab the reader's attention and make them realize the urgency and importance of the topic.

Introducing Your Topic

Provide a brief overview, which should give the reader a general understanding of the subject matter and its significance. Explain the importance of the topic and its relevance to the field. This will help the reader understand why your research is significant and why they should continue reading. Continuing with the example of climate change and biodiversity, you could explain how climate change is one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity, how it affects ecosystems, and the potential consequences for both wildlife and human populations. By providing this context, you are setting the stage for the rest of your research paper and helping the reader understand the importance of your study.

Presenting Your Thesis Statement

The thesis statement should directly address your research question and provide a preview of the main arguments or findings discussed in your paper. Make sure your thesis statement is clear, concise, and well-supported by the evidence you will present in your research paper. By presenting a strong and focused thesis statement, you are providing the reader with the information they could anticipate in your research paper. This will help them understand the purpose and scope of your study and will make them more inclined to continue reading.

Writing Techniques for an Effective Introduction

When crafting an introduction, it is crucial to pay attention to the finer details that can elevate your writing to the next level. By utilizing specific writing techniques, you can captivate your readers and draw them into your research journey.

Using Clear and Concise Language

One of the most important writing techniques to employ in your introduction is the use of clear and concise language. By choosing your words carefully, you can effectively convey your ideas to the reader. It is essential to avoid using jargon or complex terminology that may confuse or alienate your audience. Instead, focus on communicating your research in a straightforward manner to ensure that your introduction is accessible to both experts in your field and those who may be new to the topic. This approach allows you to engage a broader audience and make your research more inclusive.

Establishing the Relevance of Your Research

One way to establish the relevance of your research is by highlighting how it fills a gap in the existing literature. Explain how your study addresses a significant research question that has not been adequately explored. By doing this, you demonstrate that your research is not only unique but also contributes to the broader knowledge in your field. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize the potential impact of your research. Whether it is advancing scientific understanding, informing policy decisions, or improving practical applications, make it clear to the reader how your study can make a difference.

By employing these two writing techniques in your introduction, you can effectively engage your readers. Take your time to craft an introduction that is both informative and captivating, leaving your readers eager to delve deeper into your research.

Revising and Polishing Your Introduction

Once you have written your introduction, it is crucial to revise and polish it to ensure that it effectively sets the stage for your research paper.

Self-Editing Techniques

Review your introduction for clarity, coherence, and logical flow. Ensure each paragraph introduces a new idea or argument with smooth transitions.

Check for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and awkward sentence structures.

Ensure that your introduction aligns with the overall tone and style of your research paper.

Seeking Feedback for Improvement

Consider seeking feedback from peers, colleagues, or your instructor. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improving your introduction. Be open to constructive criticism and use it to refine your introduction and make it more compelling for the reader.

Writing an introduction for a research paper requires careful thought and planning. By understanding the purpose of the introduction, preparing adequately, structuring effectively, and employing writing techniques, you can create an engaging and informative introduction for your research. Remember to revise and polish your introduction to ensure that it accurately represents the main ideas and arguments in your research paper. With a well-crafted introduction, you will capture the reader's attention and keep them inclined to your paper.

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How AI can help you write your research paper

Putting together a research paper can be a daunting task, often involving hours of research, managing information, and crafting a well-structured document. However, the advent of AI-powered tools makes the process more manageable than ever before. Even better than some research tips, explore how AI-powered tools can change the way you build research papers, making the entire process smoother, more precise, and less time-consuming.

Use AI for research

One of the most laborious aspects of writing a research paper is gathering information and conducting thorough research; AI-powered tools can help streamline this process significantly.

Use Microsoft Copilot in Edge to find relevant research papers, articles, and academic sources with ease. By simply inputting your paper parameters, research topic or keywords you can quickly access a vast database of academic resources, saving you hours of scouring the internet. Copilot can also swiftly provide definitions, explanations, and relevant context for unfamiliar terms or passages on the page, eliminating the need to switch between tabs or search engines. Moreover, Copilot’s AI-powered tools can summarize extensive web content and suggest related articles or papers to deepen your understanding. By integrating Copilot into your research workflow, you can enhance productivity and ensure access to up-to-date and pertinent information.

Person sitting at a table using a laptop

Organize your paper with AI

Once you've collected the necessary information, you need to organize and structure your research paper effectively. Copilot, accessible right in the Microsoft Edge sidebar, can help build a clear, well-structured outline for your paper based specifically on your topic and web sources. By inputting key points and subtopics, these AI-powered tools can generate a structured outline to serve as a roadmap for your argument. This ensures your research paper is logically organized, making it easier for readers to comprehend.

Come across a concept or fact on the web that you want to use? Something spark an idea you want to get down and revisit? Use the Compose  tab in Copilot to write up a summary of the idea, or where it fits into your larger argument. Ask for a citation while you’re at it—more on that a little later.

As a bonus, Microsoft Edge’s AI-powered tools check for grammar and spelling errors and provide suggestions to improve the clarity of your writing. If you like writing chunks of your paper as you research, this is ideal. They can help refine your writing style and ensure your ideas are effectively communicated.

Finding sources using AI

Looking for primary or academic sources? Ask Copilot in Microsoft Edge sidebar. With a topic, keywords, and questions, the AI-powered tool can help hunt down possible sources fast. Copilot may provide links and even summaries of the sources. To be sure the sources are credible, always review them for yourself, of course, and make the best decision about what is relevant and persuasive for your paper.

Citing sources using AI

Citing sources and managing references is a crucial aspect of research paper writing—and one of the most dreaded. Fortunately, AI-powered citation and reference management tools can simplify the tedious citation process. As you track sources and collect information across the web, the AI-powered Microsoft Edge sidebar can help generate citations for your sources. Simply ask for Copilot to cite a source using a specific style—typically APA, MLA, or Chicago—and it will find the best citation generator for your paper. The sidebar tools can also serve as a sort of extra set of eyes, checking your footnotes and bibliography for errors or inconsistencies.

Ethical use of AI-powered tools in school

The ethics of using AI for research papers raise important questions about transparency, integrity, and the role of human creativity and critical thinking in academia. While AI-powered tools undeniably offer efficiency and assistance in the research process, it's crucial for researchers to maintain transparency. Proper citation and acknowledgment of AI-generated content or assistance is essential to uphold academic integrity and avoid plagiarism.

Ultimately, the responsible use of AI in research should complement human ingenuity rather than replace it, emphasizing collaboration between technology and researchers to advance knowledge ethically and morally.

Embark on you next research paper with AI’s help

AI-powered tools  like those built into Microsoft Edge have the ability to revolutionize the process of developing research papers. From automating research to helping with organization, citation management, even language translation, these tools offer a variety of benefits to researchers.

When you embark on your next research paper, consider integrating AI-powered tools into your workflow to save time, enhance accuracy, and improve the overall quality of your work. Microsoft Copilot in Edge is an easy and convenient AI portal for researchers and writers. Try Microsoft Edge  today to tap into the power of AI and improve your research papers today.

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4 Types of Transition Words for Research Papers 

transition words in academic writing

Researchers often use transition words in academic writing to help guide the reader through text and communicate their ideas well. While these facilitate easy understanding and enhance the flow of the research paper, setting the wrong context with transition words in academic writing can disrupt tone and impact.

So how do you appropriately use transition words in research papers? This article explores the importance of using transitions in academic writing and explains the four types of transition words that can be used by students and researchers to improve their work.

Table of Contents

Why are transition words used in academic writing, additive transitions, adversative transitions, causal transitions, sequential transitions.

Transition words are the key language tools researchers use to communicate their ideas and concepts to readers. They not only reiterate the key arguments being made by the authors but are crucial to improving the structure and flow of the written language. Generally used at the beginning of sentences and paragraphs to form a bridge of communication, transition words can vary depending on your objective, placement, and structuring.

The four types of transition words in academic writing or research papers are additive transitions, adversative transitions, causal transitions, and sequential transitions. Let us look at each of these briefly below.

Types of Transition Words in Academic Writing

These types of transition words are used to inform or alert the reader that new or additional information is being introduced or added to something mentioned in the previous sentence or paragraph. Some examples of words in this category are – moreover, furthermore, additionally, and so on. Phrases like in fact, in addition to, considering this are examples of additive transition phrases that are commonly used.

Used to show contrast, offer alternative suggestions, or present counter arguments and differences, adversative transitions allow researchers to distinguish between different facts, or arguments by establishing or suggesting positions or alternatives opposing them. Examples of adversative transitions include, however, conversely, nevertheless, regardless, rather, and so on. Phrases like on the contrary, in any case, even though provide an adversative transition to arguments in a research paper.

By using causal transitions in their writing, authors can let readers know that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between two or more ideas or paragraphs. It is used to establish the key/important reasons, circumstances, or conditions of the argument being made or while studying hypothetical associations. Since, unless, consequently are some of the words in this type of transitions while in the event that, as a result are some of the causal phrases.

These transition words help to convey the continuation of a thought or action by a numerical sequence by alluding and referring to information or arguments that have been made earlier. Sequential transitions essentially bring order to the researcher’s main points or ideas in the research paper and help to create a logical outline to the arguments. These transition words and phrases essentially guide the reader through the research paper’s key methods, results, and analysis. Some examples of this type of transitions are initially, coincidentally, subsequently and so on. First of all, to conclude, by the way are a few examples of sequential transition phrases.

Researchers must carefully review their research paper, ensuring appropriate and effective use of transition words and phrases in academic writing. During the manuscript editing process, watch for transitions that may be out of context or misplaced. Remember, these words serve as tools to connect ideas and arguments, fostering logical and coherent flow in paragraphs. Double-check the necessity and accuracy of transitions at the beginning of sentences or paragraphs, ensuring they effectively bind and relate ideas and arguments. And finally, avoid repetition of the same transition words in your academic writing.

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