Effective Writing at the Graduate Level - Student Development ...

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Effective Writing at the Graduate Level - Student Development ...

Effective Writing atthe Graduate Level:Research PaperOrganizationStudent Development ServicesWriting Support CentreUCC 210www.sds.uwo.ca/writingResearch papers have a well defined structure that allows the reader to focus on the material rather than trying to determine the structure. Some of the organization may be slightly different in your discipline,but the principles can be applied in all areas.1

Layers of EffectiveWritingLayer 1: AppearanceGrammar, Formatting, Etc.Layer 2: Writing StyleSentence FlowLayer 3: OrganizationConnecting the IdeasLayer 4: ContentThe IdeasAs discussed in the “Academic Writing - Overview” presentation, the organization of ideas is only one component of effective writing, but it is something that a writer must consider early in the writingprocess.2

Layer 3: Organization• Present your ideas in a logical (not chronological)order• Essential at the macro (paper) and micro(paragraph) levelsContent must be presented in a way that allows the reader tounderstand it.3

Research PaperStructure• TAIMRD or IMRD:• (Title, Abstract, Introduction, Methods,Results, Discussion)• Follow discipline-specific conventionsResearch papers are usually broken down into large sections. In most disciplines, they follow the IMRD ( or TAIMRD) structure. We will address the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sectionshere. There is a presentation on the GradWRITE page that investigates Abstracts.4

Introduction• Ease the reader into your study• Written as though you don’t know the resultsWhile the Introduction may not be the first part of your paper that is read (Title and Abstract), it is to be written as a way to ease the reader into your study. What is the background that led to your study?The final draft will be written after all the research is conducted and data collected and analyzed, which allows you to lead the reader down the path of your study, but you should not refer to what you foundin your study.5

Include• Basic terminology of your field (e.g. chemical names,definitions, species names)• Key papers that led to your study• Brief mention of your study in your statement of purposeSome things to make sure you include. Basic terminology orients the reader to your field of study, educates anyone who is unfamiliar with some terms and shows you have done your reading. Likewise, citingthe key papers that led to your study also shows that you have done your reading and contextualizes your study. Some people shy away from mentioning any methods in the introduction section, butintroducing the overall study setup you use to test your hypothesis is a nice way to finish off the introduction and transition into your Methods.7

Don’t Include• Exhaustive literature search• Details of your studyYou don’t need an exhaustive literature search. Leave that to literature reviews. And while you may want to mention the setup you will use to test your hypothesis, you do not want to mention any specificsfrom your study.8

Methods• A complete account of all the steps inyour study• Presented in logical order• Includes collecting and analyzing data• Easy to writeThe party line for the methods section is that any competent researcher in your field should be able to easily recreate your experiment by following your instructions. While there may have been many steps toyour study, you should present them to the audience in the most logical order which isn’t necessarily the order in which you performed them. Anything that was involved in collecting or analyzing data shouldgo in this section, and most people find this section relatively easy to write since they have already performed the actions and just need to write what they have done. Some people even like to make this sectionthe first that they write, choosing to get an easy section under their belt before tackling the discussion or introduction.9

Don’t Include• Finicky details• ResultsYou want to avoid finicky details that the average researcher would surely know (ie. How to work a micropipette). However, it is probably better to err on the side of too much information, since it can alwaysbe taken out later. Of course, you do not write about what any of these actions resulted in.11

Results• A summary of your findings• Presents details in the same order as themethods• Can be technicalIn the results section, you summarize the findings you setup in the methods section. For clarity’s sake, it is usually best to present the results in roughly the same order that they were introduced in the methodssection. This section can be very technical with p-values and degrees of freedom and lots of numbers, but they are necessary to disclose all the results of your study.12

Include• Summary of your findings (i.e. averages, trends)• Tables and Figures• References to tables and figuresThe key word for the results section is summary: you are doing the work for the reader, so you want to point out the important findings, not just throw numbers at them. Use averages, tables and figures anddetail any trends that you find important (but not why you think they’re important). It is also important to reference your tables and figures appropriately, so that the reader knows when to refer to them. Thisis especially important when the tables and figures are displayed on separate pages, often at the end of the paper.13

Don’t Include• Raw data• The same information twice• Too many figures• Interpretation of your resultsAvoid giving raw data, and if necessary, include it in an appendix. You do not want to repeat information, whether it be within the text or having a table and figure for the same data. You should also avoidhaving too many figures because they can distracting and hard to distinguish. Finally, you should leave any interpretation of the results to your discussion section.14

Discussion• Now that you know the results, interpretthem• Sometimes combined with results intoone sectionThe discussion is your chance to interpret yourresults.15

DiscussionSpecific• Address your hypothesiswith reference to yourresults• Explain and put findingsin context (references)General• Comment on yourfinding’s significance andpotential for future studyThe general structure of the discussion is the opposite of the introduction. You should start the discussion by revisiting your statement of purpose (hypothesis etc.) and answer the questions that you put forthat the beginning of the paper using your results. From here, you should elaborate on these findings and put them in context using references. Opening it up even more, you should end off by discussing yourfinding’s significance, potential for future study and any other relevant comments.16

Include• Most papers from the introduction• References to tables and figures• Summary / ConclusionIn your discussion, you should address many of the papers that you introduced in your introduction. Knowing what you know now, what can you say about them. Some people do not like to reference tablesand figures in the discussion, citing that this is a repetition of results and should be avoided, but careful use can cue the reader to find particular findings. Finally, there should be a summary or conclusion atthe very end. You may feel that it is unnecessary as you have probably pointed out the key points of your study at least twice already, but the reader will appreciate another mention of the key features.17

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