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How To Write A Research Paper

Step-By-Step Tutorial With Examples + FREE Template

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | March 2024

For many students, crafting a strong research paper from scratch can feel like a daunting task – and rightly so! In this post, we’ll unpack what a research paper is, what it needs to do , and how to write one – in three easy steps. 🙂 

Overview: Writing A Research Paper

What (exactly) is a research paper.

  • How to write a research paper
  • Stage 1 : Topic & literature search
  • Stage 2 : Structure & outline
  • Stage 3 : Iterative writing
  • Key takeaways

Let’s start by asking the most important question, “ What is a research paper? ”.

Simply put, a research paper is a scholarly written work where the writer (that’s you!) answers a specific question (this is called a research question ) through evidence-based arguments . Evidence-based is the keyword here. In other words, a research paper is different from an essay or other writing assignments that draw from the writer’s personal opinions or experiences. With a research paper, it’s all about building your arguments based on evidence (we’ll talk more about that evidence a little later).

Now, it’s worth noting that there are many different types of research papers , including analytical papers (the type I just described), argumentative papers, and interpretative papers. Here, we’ll focus on analytical papers , as these are some of the most common – but if you’re keen to learn about other types of research papers, be sure to check out the rest of the blog .

With that basic foundation laid, let’s get down to business and look at how to write a research paper .

Research Paper Template

Overview: The 3-Stage Process

While there are, of course, many potential approaches you can take to write a research paper, there are typically three stages to the writing process. So, in this tutorial, we’ll present a straightforward three-step process that we use when working with students at Grad Coach.

These three steps are:

  • Finding a research topic and reviewing the existing literature
  • Developing a provisional structure and outline for your paper, and
  • Writing up your initial draft and then refining it iteratively

Let’s dig into each of these.

Need a helping hand?

how to create research report

Step 1: Find a topic and review the literature

As we mentioned earlier, in a research paper, you, as the researcher, will try to answer a question . More specifically, that’s called a research question , and it sets the direction of your entire paper. What’s important to understand though is that you’ll need to answer that research question with the help of high-quality sources – for example, journal articles, government reports, case studies, and so on. We’ll circle back to this in a minute.

The first stage of the research process is deciding on what your research question will be and then reviewing the existing literature (in other words, past studies and papers) to see what they say about that specific research question. In some cases, your professor may provide you with a predetermined research question (or set of questions). However, in many cases, you’ll need to find your own research question within a certain topic area.

Finding a strong research question hinges on identifying a meaningful research gap – in other words, an area that’s lacking in existing research. There’s a lot to unpack here, so if you wanna learn more, check out the plain-language explainer video below.

Once you’ve figured out which question (or questions) you’ll attempt to answer in your research paper, you’ll need to do a deep dive into the existing literature – this is called a “ literature search ”. Again, there are many ways to go about this, but your most likely starting point will be Google Scholar .

If you’re new to Google Scholar, think of it as Google for the academic world. You can start by simply entering a few different keywords that are relevant to your research question and it will then present a host of articles for you to review. What you want to pay close attention to here is the number of citations for each paper – the more citations a paper has, the more credible it is (generally speaking – there are some exceptions, of course).

how to use google scholar

Ideally, what you’re looking for are well-cited papers that are highly relevant to your topic. That said, keep in mind that citations are a cumulative metric , so older papers will often have more citations than newer papers – just because they’ve been around for longer. So, don’t fixate on this metric in isolation – relevance and recency are also very important.

Beyond Google Scholar, you’ll also definitely want to check out academic databases and aggregators such as Science Direct, PubMed, JStor and so on. These will often overlap with the results that you find in Google Scholar, but they can also reveal some hidden gems – so, be sure to check them out.

Once you’ve worked your way through all the literature, you’ll want to catalogue all this information in some sort of spreadsheet so that you can easily recall who said what, when and within what context. If you’d like, we’ve got a free literature spreadsheet that helps you do exactly that.

Don’t fixate on an article’s citation count in isolation - relevance (to your research question) and recency are also very important.

Step 2: Develop a structure and outline

With your research question pinned down and your literature digested and catalogued, it’s time to move on to planning your actual research paper .

It might sound obvious, but it’s really important to have some sort of rough outline in place before you start writing your paper. So often, we see students eagerly rushing into the writing phase, only to land up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on in multiple

Now, the secret here is to not get caught up in the fine details . Realistically, all you need at this stage is a bullet-point list that describes (in broad strokes) what you’ll discuss and in what order. It’s also useful to remember that you’re not glued to this outline – in all likelihood, you’ll chop and change some sections once you start writing, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s important is that you have some sort of roadmap in place from the start.

You need to have a rough outline in place before you start writing your paper - or you’ll end up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on.

At this stage you might be wondering, “ But how should I structure my research paper? ”. Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, but in general, a research paper will consist of a few relatively standardised components:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology

Let’s take a look at each of these.

First up is the introduction section . As the name suggests, the purpose of the introduction is to set the scene for your research paper. There are usually (at least) four ingredients that go into this section – these are the background to the topic, the research problem and resultant research question , and the justification or rationale. If you’re interested, the video below unpacks the introduction section in more detail. 

The next section of your research paper will typically be your literature review . Remember all that literature you worked through earlier? Well, this is where you’ll present your interpretation of all that content . You’ll do this by writing about recent trends, developments, and arguments within the literature – but more specifically, those that are relevant to your research question . The literature review can oftentimes seem a little daunting, even to seasoned researchers, so be sure to check out our extensive collection of literature review content here .

With the introduction and lit review out of the way, the next section of your paper is the research methodology . In a nutshell, the methodology section should describe to your reader what you did (beyond just reviewing the existing literature) to answer your research question. For example, what data did you collect, how did you collect that data, how did you analyse that data and so on? For each choice, you’ll also need to justify why you chose to do it that way, and what the strengths and weaknesses of your approach were.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that for some research papers, this aspect of the project may be a lot simpler . For example, you may only need to draw on secondary sources (in other words, existing data sets). In some cases, you may just be asked to draw your conclusions from the literature search itself (in other words, there may be no data analysis at all). But, if you are required to collect and analyse data, you’ll need to pay a lot of attention to the methodology section. The video below provides an example of what the methodology section might look like.

By this stage of your paper, you will have explained what your research question is, what the existing literature has to say about that question, and how you analysed additional data to try to answer your question. So, the natural next step is to present your analysis of that data . This section is usually called the “results” or “analysis” section and this is where you’ll showcase your findings.

Depending on your school’s requirements, you may need to present and interpret the data in one section – or you might split the presentation and the interpretation into two sections. In the latter case, your “results” section will just describe the data, and the “discussion” is where you’ll interpret that data and explicitly link your analysis back to your research question. If you’re not sure which approach to take, check in with your professor or take a look at past papers to see what the norms are for your programme.

Alright – once you’ve presented and discussed your results, it’s time to wrap it up . This usually takes the form of the “ conclusion ” section. In the conclusion, you’ll need to highlight the key takeaways from your study and close the loop by explicitly answering your research question. Again, the exact requirements here will vary depending on your programme (and you may not even need a conclusion section at all) – so be sure to check with your professor if you’re unsure.

Step 3: Write and refine

Finally, it’s time to get writing. All too often though, students hit a brick wall right about here… So, how do you avoid this happening to you?

Well, there’s a lot to be said when it comes to writing a research paper (or any sort of academic piece), but we’ll share three practical tips to help you get started.

First and foremost , it’s essential to approach your writing as an iterative process. In other words, you need to start with a really messy first draft and then polish it over multiple rounds of editing. Don’t waste your time trying to write a perfect research paper in one go. Instead, take the pressure off yourself by adopting an iterative approach.

Secondly , it’s important to always lean towards critical writing , rather than descriptive writing. What does this mean? Well, at the simplest level, descriptive writing focuses on the “ what ”, while critical writing digs into the “ so what ” – in other words, the implications. If you’re not familiar with these two types of writing, don’t worry! You can find a plain-language explanation here.

Last but not least, you’ll need to get your referencing right. Specifically, you’ll need to provide credible, correctly formatted citations for the statements you make. We see students making referencing mistakes all the time and it costs them dearly. The good news is that you can easily avoid this by using a simple reference manager . If you don’t have one, check out our video about Mendeley, an easy (and free) reference management tool that you can start using today.

Recap: Key Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot of ground here. To recap, the three steps to writing a high-quality research paper are:

  • To choose a research question and review the literature
  • To plan your paper structure and draft an outline
  • To take an iterative approach to writing, focusing on critical writing and strong referencing

Remember, this is just a b ig-picture overview of the research paper development process and there’s a lot more nuance to unpack. So, be sure to grab a copy of our free research paper template to learn more about how to write a research paper.

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Chapter 11: Presenting Your Research

Writing a Research Report in American Psychological Association (APA) Style

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the major sections of an APA-style research report and the basic contents of each section.
  • Plan and write an effective APA-style research report.

In this section, we look at how to write an APA-style empirical research report , an article that presents the results of one or more new studies. Recall that the standard sections of an empirical research report provide a kind of outline. Here we consider each of these sections in detail, including what information it contains, how that information is formatted and organized, and tips for writing each section. At the end of this section is a sample APA-style research report that illustrates many of these principles.

Sections of a Research Report

Title page and abstract.

An APA-style research report begins with a  title page . The title is centred in the upper half of the page, with each important word capitalized. The title should clearly and concisely (in about 12 words or fewer) communicate the primary variables and research questions. This sometimes requires a main title followed by a subtitle that elaborates on the main title, in which case the main title and subtitle are separated by a colon. Here are some titles from recent issues of professional journals published by the American Psychological Association.

  • Sex Differences in Coping Styles and Implications for Depressed Mood
  • Effects of Aging and Divided Attention on Memory for Items and Their Contexts
  • Computer-Assisted Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Child Anxiety: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial
  • Virtual Driving and Risk Taking: Do Racing Games Increase Risk-Taking Cognitions, Affect, and Behaviour?

Below the title are the authors’ names and, on the next line, their institutional affiliation—the university or other institution where the authors worked when they conducted the research. As we have already seen, the authors are listed in an order that reflects their contribution to the research. When multiple authors have made equal contributions to the research, they often list their names alphabetically or in a randomly determined order.

In some areas of psychology, the titles of many empirical research reports are informal in a way that is perhaps best described as “cute.” They usually take the form of a play on words or a well-known expression that relates to the topic under study. Here are some examples from recent issues of the Journal Psychological Science .

  • “Smells Like Clean Spirit: Nonconscious Effects of Scent on Cognition and Behavior”
  • “Time Crawls: The Temporal Resolution of Infants’ Visual Attention”
  • “Scent of a Woman: Men’s Testosterone Responses to Olfactory Ovulation Cues”
  • “Apocalypse Soon?: Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs”
  • “Serial vs. Parallel Processing: Sometimes They Look Like Tweedledum and Tweedledee but They Can (and Should) Be Distinguished”
  • “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words: The Social Effects of Expressive Writing”

Individual researchers differ quite a bit in their preference for such titles. Some use them regularly, while others never use them. What might be some of the pros and cons of using cute article titles?

For articles that are being submitted for publication, the title page also includes an author note that lists the authors’ full institutional affiliations, any acknowledgments the authors wish to make to agencies that funded the research or to colleagues who commented on it, and contact information for the authors. For student papers that are not being submitted for publication—including theses—author notes are generally not necessary.

The  abstract  is a summary of the study. It is the second page of the manuscript and is headed with the word  Abstract . The first line is not indented. The abstract presents the research question, a summary of the method, the basic results, and the most important conclusions. Because the abstract is usually limited to about 200 words, it can be a challenge to write a good one.

Introduction

The  introduction  begins on the third page of the manuscript. The heading at the top of this page is the full title of the manuscript, with each important word capitalized as on the title page. The introduction includes three distinct subsections, although these are typically not identified by separate headings. The opening introduces the research question and explains why it is interesting, the literature review discusses relevant previous research, and the closing restates the research question and comments on the method used to answer it.

The Opening

The  opening , which is usually a paragraph or two in length, introduces the research question and explains why it is interesting. To capture the reader’s attention, researcher Daryl Bem recommends starting with general observations about the topic under study, expressed in ordinary language (not technical jargon)—observations that are about people and their behaviour (not about researchers or their research; Bem, 2003 [1] ). Concrete examples are often very useful here. According to Bem, this would be a poor way to begin a research report:

Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance received a great deal of attention during the latter part of the 20th century (p. 191)

The following would be much better:

The individual who holds two beliefs that are inconsistent with one another may feel uncomfortable. For example, the person who knows that he or she enjoys smoking but believes it to be unhealthy may experience discomfort arising from the inconsistency or disharmony between these two thoughts or cognitions. This feeling of discomfort was called cognitive dissonance by social psychologist Leon Festinger (1957), who suggested that individuals will be motivated to remove this dissonance in whatever way they can (p. 191).

After capturing the reader’s attention, the opening should go on to introduce the research question and explain why it is interesting. Will the answer fill a gap in the literature? Will it provide a test of an important theory? Does it have practical implications? Giving readers a clear sense of what the research is about and why they should care about it will motivate them to continue reading the literature review—and will help them make sense of it.

Breaking the Rules

Researcher Larry Jacoby reported several studies showing that a word that people see or hear repeatedly can seem more familiar even when they do not recall the repetitions—and that this tendency is especially pronounced among older adults. He opened his article with the following humourous anecdote:

A friend whose mother is suffering symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) tells the story of taking her mother to visit a nursing home, preliminary to her mother’s moving there. During an orientation meeting at the nursing home, the rules and regulations were explained, one of which regarded the dining room. The dining room was described as similar to a fine restaurant except that tipping was not required. The absence of tipping was a central theme in the orientation lecture, mentioned frequently to emphasize the quality of care along with the advantages of having paid in advance. At the end of the meeting, the friend’s mother was asked whether she had any questions. She replied that she only had one question: “Should I tip?” (Jacoby, 1999, p. 3)

Although both humour and personal anecdotes are generally discouraged in APA-style writing, this example is a highly effective way to start because it both engages the reader and provides an excellent real-world example of the topic under study.

The Literature Review

Immediately after the opening comes the  literature review , which describes relevant previous research on the topic and can be anywhere from several paragraphs to several pages in length. However, the literature review is not simply a list of past studies. Instead, it constitutes a kind of argument for why the research question is worth addressing. By the end of the literature review, readers should be convinced that the research question makes sense and that the present study is a logical next step in the ongoing research process.

Like any effective argument, the literature review must have some kind of structure. For example, it might begin by describing a phenomenon in a general way along with several studies that demonstrate it, then describing two or more competing theories of the phenomenon, and finally presenting a hypothesis to test one or more of the theories. Or it might describe one phenomenon, then describe another phenomenon that seems inconsistent with the first one, then propose a theory that resolves the inconsistency, and finally present a hypothesis to test that theory. In applied research, it might describe a phenomenon or theory, then describe how that phenomenon or theory applies to some important real-world situation, and finally suggest a way to test whether it does, in fact, apply to that situation.

Looking at the literature review in this way emphasizes a few things. First, it is extremely important to start with an outline of the main points that you want to make, organized in the order that you want to make them. The basic structure of your argument, then, should be apparent from the outline itself. Second, it is important to emphasize the structure of your argument in your writing. One way to do this is to begin the literature review by summarizing your argument even before you begin to make it. “In this article, I will describe two apparently contradictory phenomena, present a new theory that has the potential to resolve the apparent contradiction, and finally present a novel hypothesis to test the theory.” Another way is to open each paragraph with a sentence that summarizes the main point of the paragraph and links it to the preceding points. These opening sentences provide the “transitions” that many beginning researchers have difficulty with. Instead of beginning a paragraph by launching into a description of a previous study, such as “Williams (2004) found that…,” it is better to start by indicating something about why you are describing this particular study. Here are some simple examples:

Another example of this phenomenon comes from the work of Williams (2004).

Williams (2004) offers one explanation of this phenomenon.

An alternative perspective has been provided by Williams (2004).

We used a method based on the one used by Williams (2004).

Finally, remember that your goal is to construct an argument for why your research question is interesting and worth addressing—not necessarily why your favourite answer to it is correct. In other words, your literature review must be balanced. If you want to emphasize the generality of a phenomenon, then of course you should discuss various studies that have demonstrated it. However, if there are other studies that have failed to demonstrate it, you should discuss them too. Or if you are proposing a new theory, then of course you should discuss findings that are consistent with that theory. However, if there are other findings that are inconsistent with it, again, you should discuss them too. It is acceptable to argue that the  balance  of the research supports the existence of a phenomenon or is consistent with a theory (and that is usually the best that researchers in psychology can hope for), but it is not acceptable to  ignore contradictory evidence. Besides, a large part of what makes a research question interesting is uncertainty about its answer.

The Closing

The  closing  of the introduction—typically the final paragraph or two—usually includes two important elements. The first is a clear statement of the main research question or hypothesis. This statement tends to be more formal and precise than in the opening and is often expressed in terms of operational definitions of the key variables. The second is a brief overview of the method and some comment on its appropriateness. Here, for example, is how Darley and Latané (1968) [2] concluded the introduction to their classic article on the bystander effect:

These considerations lead to the hypothesis that the more bystanders to an emergency, the less likely, or the more slowly, any one bystander will intervene to provide aid. To test this proposition it would be necessary to create a situation in which a realistic “emergency” could plausibly occur. Each subject should also be blocked from communicating with others to prevent his getting information about their behaviour during the emergency. Finally, the experimental situation should allow for the assessment of the speed and frequency of the subjects’ reaction to the emergency. The experiment reported below attempted to fulfill these conditions. (p. 378)

Thus the introduction leads smoothly into the next major section of the article—the method section.

The  method section  is where you describe how you conducted your study. An important principle for writing a method section is that it should be clear and detailed enough that other researchers could replicate the study by following your “recipe.” This means that it must describe all the important elements of the study—basic demographic characteristics of the participants, how they were recruited, whether they were randomly assigned, how the variables were manipulated or measured, how counterbalancing was accomplished, and so on. At the same time, it should avoid irrelevant details such as the fact that the study was conducted in Classroom 37B of the Industrial Technology Building or that the questionnaire was double-sided and completed using pencils.

The method section begins immediately after the introduction ends with the heading “Method” (not “Methods”) centred on the page. Immediately after this is the subheading “Participants,” left justified and in italics. The participants subsection indicates how many participants there were, the number of women and men, some indication of their age, other demographics that may be relevant to the study, and how they were recruited, including any incentives given for participation.

Three ways of organizing an APA-style method. Long description available.

After the participants section, the structure can vary a bit. Figure 11.1 shows three common approaches. In the first, the participants section is followed by a design and procedure subsection, which describes the rest of the method. This works well for methods that are relatively simple and can be described adequately in a few paragraphs. In the second approach, the participants section is followed by separate design and procedure subsections. This works well when both the design and the procedure are relatively complicated and each requires multiple paragraphs.

What is the difference between design and procedure? The design of a study is its overall structure. What were the independent and dependent variables? Was the independent variable manipulated, and if so, was it manipulated between or within subjects? How were the variables operationally defined? The procedure is how the study was carried out. It often works well to describe the procedure in terms of what the participants did rather than what the researchers did. For example, the participants gave their informed consent, read a set of instructions, completed a block of four practice trials, completed a block of 20 test trials, completed two questionnaires, and were debriefed and excused.

In the third basic way to organize a method section, the participants subsection is followed by a materials subsection before the design and procedure subsections. This works well when there are complicated materials to describe. This might mean multiple questionnaires, written vignettes that participants read and respond to, perceptual stimuli, and so on. The heading of this subsection can be modified to reflect its content. Instead of “Materials,” it can be “Questionnaires,” “Stimuli,” and so on.

The  results section  is where you present the main results of the study, including the results of the statistical analyses. Although it does not include the raw data—individual participants’ responses or scores—researchers should save their raw data and make them available to other researchers who request them. Several journals now encourage the open sharing of raw data online.

Although there are no standard subsections, it is still important for the results section to be logically organized. Typically it begins with certain preliminary issues. One is whether any participants or responses were excluded from the analyses and why. The rationale for excluding data should be described clearly so that other researchers can decide whether it is appropriate. A second preliminary issue is how multiple responses were combined to produce the primary variables in the analyses. For example, if participants rated the attractiveness of 20 stimulus people, you might have to explain that you began by computing the mean attractiveness rating for each participant. Or if they recalled as many items as they could from study list of 20 words, did you count the number correctly recalled, compute the percentage correctly recalled, or perhaps compute the number correct minus the number incorrect? A third preliminary issue is the reliability of the measures. This is where you would present test-retest correlations, Cronbach’s α, or other statistics to show that the measures are consistent across time and across items. A final preliminary issue is whether the manipulation was successful. This is where you would report the results of any manipulation checks.

The results section should then tackle the primary research questions, one at a time. Again, there should be a clear organization. One approach would be to answer the most general questions and then proceed to answer more specific ones. Another would be to answer the main question first and then to answer secondary ones. Regardless, Bem (2003) [3] suggests the following basic structure for discussing each new result:

  • Remind the reader of the research question.
  • Give the answer to the research question in words.
  • Present the relevant statistics.
  • Qualify the answer if necessary.
  • Summarize the result.

Notice that only Step 3 necessarily involves numbers. The rest of the steps involve presenting the research question and the answer to it in words. In fact, the basic results should be clear even to a reader who skips over the numbers.

The  discussion  is the last major section of the research report. Discussions usually consist of some combination of the following elements:

  • Summary of the research
  • Theoretical implications
  • Practical implications
  • Limitations
  • Suggestions for future research

The discussion typically begins with a summary of the study that provides a clear answer to the research question. In a short report with a single study, this might require no more than a sentence. In a longer report with multiple studies, it might require a paragraph or even two. The summary is often followed by a discussion of the theoretical implications of the research. Do the results provide support for any existing theories? If not, how  can  they be explained? Although you do not have to provide a definitive explanation or detailed theory for your results, you at least need to outline one or more possible explanations. In applied research—and often in basic research—there is also some discussion of the practical implications of the research. How can the results be used, and by whom, to accomplish some real-world goal?

The theoretical and practical implications are often followed by a discussion of the study’s limitations. Perhaps there are problems with its internal or external validity. Perhaps the manipulation was not very effective or the measures not very reliable. Perhaps there is some evidence that participants did not fully understand their task or that they were suspicious of the intent of the researchers. Now is the time to discuss these issues and how they might have affected the results. But do not overdo it. All studies have limitations, and most readers will understand that a different sample or different measures might have produced different results. Unless there is good reason to think they  would have, however, there is no reason to mention these routine issues. Instead, pick two or three limitations that seem like they could have influenced the results, explain how they could have influenced the results, and suggest ways to deal with them.

Most discussions end with some suggestions for future research. If the study did not satisfactorily answer the original research question, what will it take to do so? What  new  research questions has the study raised? This part of the discussion, however, is not just a list of new questions. It is a discussion of two or three of the most important unresolved issues. This means identifying and clarifying each question, suggesting some alternative answers, and even suggesting ways they could be studied.

Finally, some researchers are quite good at ending their articles with a sweeping or thought-provoking conclusion. Darley and Latané (1968) [4] , for example, ended their article on the bystander effect by discussing the idea that whether people help others may depend more on the situation than on their personalities. Their final sentence is, “If people understand the situational forces that can make them hesitate to intervene, they may better overcome them” (p. 383). However, this kind of ending can be difficult to pull off. It can sound overreaching or just banal and end up detracting from the overall impact of the article. It is often better simply to end when you have made your final point (although you should avoid ending on a limitation).

The references section begins on a new page with the heading “References” centred at the top of the page. All references cited in the text are then listed in the format presented earlier. They are listed alphabetically by the last name of the first author. If two sources have the same first author, they are listed alphabetically by the last name of the second author. If all the authors are the same, then they are listed chronologically by the year of publication. Everything in the reference list is double-spaced both within and between references.

Appendices, Tables, and Figures

Appendices, tables, and figures come after the references. An  appendix  is appropriate for supplemental material that would interrupt the flow of the research report if it were presented within any of the major sections. An appendix could be used to present lists of stimulus words, questionnaire items, detailed descriptions of special equipment or unusual statistical analyses, or references to the studies that are included in a meta-analysis. Each appendix begins on a new page. If there is only one, the heading is “Appendix,” centred at the top of the page. If there is more than one, the headings are “Appendix A,” “Appendix B,” and so on, and they appear in the order they were first mentioned in the text of the report.

After any appendices come tables and then figures. Tables and figures are both used to present results. Figures can also be used to illustrate theories (e.g., in the form of a flowchart), display stimuli, outline procedures, and present many other kinds of information. Each table and figure appears on its own page. Tables are numbered in the order that they are first mentioned in the text (“Table 1,” “Table 2,” and so on). Figures are numbered the same way (“Figure 1,” “Figure 2,” and so on). A brief explanatory title, with the important words capitalized, appears above each table. Each figure is given a brief explanatory caption, where (aside from proper nouns or names) only the first word of each sentence is capitalized. More details on preparing APA-style tables and figures are presented later in the book.

Sample APA-Style Research Report

Figures 11.2, 11.3, 11.4, and 11.5 show some sample pages from an APA-style empirical research report originally written by undergraduate student Tomoe Suyama at California State University, Fresno. The main purpose of these figures is to illustrate the basic organization and formatting of an APA-style empirical research report, although many high-level and low-level style conventions can be seen here too.

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Key Takeaways

  • An APA-style empirical research report consists of several standard sections. The main ones are the abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references.
  • The introduction consists of an opening that presents the research question, a literature review that describes previous research on the topic, and a closing that restates the research question and comments on the method. The literature review constitutes an argument for why the current study is worth doing.
  • The method section describes the method in enough detail that another researcher could replicate the study. At a minimum, it consists of a participants subsection and a design and procedure subsection.
  • The results section describes the results in an organized fashion. Each primary result is presented in terms of statistical results but also explained in words.
  • The discussion typically summarizes the study, discusses theoretical and practical implications and limitations of the study, and offers suggestions for further research.
  • Practice: Look through an issue of a general interest professional journal (e.g.,  Psychological Science ). Read the opening of the first five articles and rate the effectiveness of each one from 1 ( very ineffective ) to 5 ( very effective ). Write a sentence or two explaining each rating.
  • Practice: Find a recent article in a professional journal and identify where the opening, literature review, and closing of the introduction begin and end.
  • Practice: Find a recent article in a professional journal and highlight in a different colour each of the following elements in the discussion: summary, theoretical implications, practical implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research.

Long Descriptions

Figure 11.1 long description: Table showing three ways of organizing an APA-style method section.

In the simple method, there are two subheadings: “Participants” (which might begin “The participants were…”) and “Design and procedure” (which might begin “There were three conditions…”).

In the typical method, there are three subheadings: “Participants” (“The participants were…”), “Design” (“There were three conditions…”), and “Procedure” (“Participants viewed each stimulus on the computer screen…”).

In the complex method, there are four subheadings: “Participants” (“The participants were…”), “Materials” (“The stimuli were…”), “Design” (“There were three conditions…”), and “Procedure” (“Participants viewed each stimulus on the computer screen…”). [Return to Figure 11.1]

  • Bem, D. J. (2003). Writing the empirical journal article. In J. M. Darley, M. P. Zanna, & H. R. Roediger III (Eds.),  The compleat academic: A practical guide for the beginning social scientist  (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. ↵
  • Darley, J. M., & Latané, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4 , 377–383. ↵

A type of research article which describes one or more new empirical studies conducted by the authors.

The page at the beginning of an APA-style research report containing the title of the article, the authors’ names, and their institutional affiliation.

A summary of a research study.

The third page of a manuscript containing the research question, the literature review, and comments about how to answer the research question.

An introduction to the research question and explanation for why this question is interesting.

A description of relevant previous research on the topic being discusses and an argument for why the research is worth addressing.

The end of the introduction, where the research question is reiterated and the method is commented upon.

The section of a research report where the method used to conduct the study is described.

The main results of the study, including the results from statistical analyses, are presented in a research article.

Section of a research report that summarizes the study's results and interprets them by referring back to the study's theoretical background.

Part of a research report which contains supplemental material.

Research Methods in Psychology - 2nd Canadian Edition Copyright © 2015 by Paul C. Price, Rajiv Jhangiani, & I-Chant A. Chiang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing up a Research Report

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A research report is one big argument about how and why you came up with your conclusions. To make it a convincing argument, a typical guiding structure has developed. In the different chapters, there are distinct issues that need to be addressed to explain to the reader why your conclusions are valid. The governing principle for writing the report is full disclosure: to explain everything and ensure replicability by another researcher.

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Field, A. (2020). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics (5th ed.). SAGE.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Scientific Reports

What this handout is about.

This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you’ve performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we’ll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you’ll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation. Readers of this handout may also find our handout on writing in the sciences useful.

Background and pre-writing

Why do we write research reports.

You did an experiment or study for your science class, and now you have to write it up for your teacher to review. You feel that you understood the background sufficiently, designed and completed the study effectively, obtained useful data, and can use those data to draw conclusions about a scientific process or principle. But how exactly do you write all that? What is your teacher expecting to see?

To take some of the guesswork out of answering these questions, try to think beyond the classroom setting. In fact, you and your teacher are both part of a scientific community, and the people who participate in this community tend to share the same values. As long as you understand and respect these values, your writing will likely meet the expectations of your audience—including your teacher.

So why are you writing this research report? The practical answer is “Because the teacher assigned it,” but that’s classroom thinking. Generally speaking, people investigating some scientific hypothesis have a responsibility to the rest of the scientific world to report their findings, particularly if these findings add to or contradict previous ideas. The people reading such reports have two primary goals:

  • They want to gather the information presented.
  • They want to know that the findings are legitimate.

Your job as a writer, then, is to fulfill these two goals.

How do I do that?

Good question. Here is the basic format scientists have designed for research reports:

  • Introduction

Methods and Materials

This format, sometimes called “IMRAD,” may take slightly different shapes depending on the discipline or audience; some ask you to include an abstract or separate section for the hypothesis, or call the Discussion section “Conclusions,” or change the order of the sections (some professional and academic journals require the Methods section to appear last). Overall, however, the IMRAD format was devised to represent a textual version of the scientific method.

The scientific method, you’ll probably recall, involves developing a hypothesis, testing it, and deciding whether your findings support the hypothesis. In essence, the format for a research report in the sciences mirrors the scientific method but fleshes out the process a little. Below, you’ll find a table that shows how each written section fits into the scientific method and what additional information it offers the reader.

Thinking of your research report as based on the scientific method, but elaborated in the ways described above, may help you to meet your audience’s expectations successfully. We’re going to proceed by explicitly connecting each section of the lab report to the scientific method, then explaining why and how you need to elaborate that section.

Although this handout takes each section in the order in which it should be presented in the final report, you may for practical reasons decide to compose sections in another order. For example, many writers find that composing their Methods and Results before the other sections helps to clarify their idea of the experiment or study as a whole. You might consider using each assignment to practice different approaches to drafting the report, to find the order that works best for you.

What should I do before drafting the lab report?

The best way to prepare to write the lab report is to make sure that you fully understand everything you need to about the experiment. Obviously, if you don’t quite know what went on during the lab, you’re going to find it difficult to explain the lab satisfactorily to someone else. To make sure you know enough to write the report, complete the following steps:

  • What are we going to do in this lab? (That is, what’s the procedure?)
  • Why are we going to do it that way?
  • What are we hoping to learn from this experiment?
  • Why would we benefit from this knowledge?
  • Consult your lab supervisor as you perform the lab. If you don’t know how to answer one of the questions above, for example, your lab supervisor will probably be able to explain it to you (or, at least, help you figure it out).
  • Plan the steps of the experiment carefully with your lab partners. The less you rush, the more likely it is that you’ll perform the experiment correctly and record your findings accurately. Also, take some time to think about the best way to organize the data before you have to start putting numbers down. If you can design a table to account for the data, that will tend to work much better than jotting results down hurriedly on a scrap piece of paper.
  • Record the data carefully so you get them right. You won’t be able to trust your conclusions if you have the wrong data, and your readers will know you messed up if the other three people in your group have “97 degrees” and you have “87.”
  • Consult with your lab partners about everything you do. Lab groups often make one of two mistakes: two people do all the work while two have a nice chat, or everybody works together until the group finishes gathering the raw data, then scrams outta there. Collaborate with your partners, even when the experiment is “over.” What trends did you observe? Was the hypothesis supported? Did you all get the same results? What kind of figure should you use to represent your findings? The whole group can work together to answer these questions.
  • Consider your audience. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: it’s your lab TA, right? Well, yes—but again, think beyond the classroom. If you write with only your lab instructor in mind, you may omit material that is crucial to a complete understanding of your experiment, because you assume the instructor knows all that stuff already. As a result, you may receive a lower grade, since your TA won’t be sure that you understand all the principles at work. Try to write towards a student in the same course but a different lab section. That student will have a fair degree of scientific expertise but won’t know much about your experiment particularly. Alternatively, you could envision yourself five years from now, after the reading and lectures for this course have faded a bit. What would you remember, and what would you need explained more clearly (as a refresher)?

Once you’ve completed these steps as you perform the experiment, you’ll be in a good position to draft an effective lab report.

Introductions

How do i write a strong introduction.

For the purposes of this handout, we’ll consider the Introduction to contain four basic elements: the purpose, the scientific literature relevant to the subject, the hypothesis, and the reasons you believed your hypothesis viable. Let’s start by going through each element of the Introduction to clarify what it covers and why it’s important. Then we can formulate a logical organizational strategy for the section.

The inclusion of the purpose (sometimes called the objective) of the experiment often confuses writers. The biggest misconception is that the purpose is the same as the hypothesis. Not quite. We’ll get to hypotheses in a minute, but basically they provide some indication of what you expect the experiment to show. The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. In a professional setting, the hypothesis might have something to do with how cells react to a certain kind of genetic manipulation, but the purpose of the experiment is to learn more about potential cancer treatments. Undergraduate reports don’t often have this wide-ranging a goal, but you should still try to maintain the distinction between your hypothesis and your purpose. In a solubility experiment, for example, your hypothesis might talk about the relationship between temperature and the rate of solubility, but the purpose is probably to learn more about some specific scientific principle underlying the process of solubility.

For starters, most people say that you should write out your working hypothesis before you perform the experiment or study. Many beginning science students neglect to do so and find themselves struggling to remember precisely which variables were involved in the process or in what way the researchers felt that they were related. Write your hypothesis down as you develop it—you’ll be glad you did.

As for the form a hypothesis should take, it’s best not to be too fancy or complicated; an inventive style isn’t nearly so important as clarity here. There’s nothing wrong with beginning your hypothesis with the phrase, “It was hypothesized that . . .” Be as specific as you can about the relationship between the different objects of your study. In other words, explain that when term A changes, term B changes in this particular way. Readers of scientific writing are rarely content with the idea that a relationship between two terms exists—they want to know what that relationship entails.

Not a hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between the temperature of a solvent and the rate at which a solute dissolves.”

Hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases.”

Put more technically, most hypotheses contain both an independent and a dependent variable. The independent variable is what you manipulate to test the reaction; the dependent variable is what changes as a result of your manipulation. In the example above, the independent variable is the temperature of the solvent, and the dependent variable is the rate of solubility. Be sure that your hypothesis includes both variables.

Justify your hypothesis

You need to do more than tell your readers what your hypothesis is; you also need to assure them that this hypothesis was reasonable, given the circumstances. In other words, use the Introduction to explain that you didn’t just pluck your hypothesis out of thin air. (If you did pluck it out of thin air, your problems with your report will probably extend beyond using the appropriate format.) If you posit that a particular relationship exists between the independent and the dependent variable, what led you to believe your “guess” might be supported by evidence?

Scientists often refer to this type of justification as “motivating” the hypothesis, in the sense that something propelled them to make that prediction. Often, motivation includes what we already know—or rather, what scientists generally accept as true (see “Background/previous research” below). But you can also motivate your hypothesis by relying on logic or on your own observations. If you’re trying to decide which solutes will dissolve more rapidly in a solvent at increased temperatures, you might remember that some solids are meant to dissolve in hot water (e.g., bouillon cubes) and some are used for a function precisely because they withstand higher temperatures (they make saucepans out of something). Or you can think about whether you’ve noticed sugar dissolving more rapidly in your glass of iced tea or in your cup of coffee. Even such basic, outside-the-lab observations can help you justify your hypothesis as reasonable.

Background/previous research

This part of the Introduction demonstrates to the reader your awareness of how you’re building on other scientists’ work. If you think of the scientific community as engaging in a series of conversations about various topics, then you’ll recognize that the relevant background material will alert the reader to which conversation you want to enter.

Generally speaking, authors writing journal articles use the background for slightly different purposes than do students completing assignments. Because readers of academic journals tend to be professionals in the field, authors explain the background in order to permit readers to evaluate the study’s pertinence for their own work. You, on the other hand, write toward a much narrower audience—your peers in the course or your lab instructor—and so you must demonstrate that you understand the context for the (presumably assigned) experiment or study you’ve completed. For example, if your professor has been talking about polarity during lectures, and you’re doing a solubility experiment, you might try to connect the polarity of a solid to its relative solubility in certain solvents. In any event, both professional researchers and undergraduates need to connect the background material overtly to their own work.

Organization of this section

Most of the time, writers begin by stating the purpose or objectives of their own work, which establishes for the reader’s benefit the “nature and scope of the problem investigated” (Day 1994). Once you have expressed your purpose, you should then find it easier to move from the general purpose, to relevant material on the subject, to your hypothesis. In abbreviated form, an Introduction section might look like this:

“The purpose of the experiment was to test conventional ideas about solubility in the laboratory [purpose] . . . According to Whitecoat and Labrat (1999), at higher temperatures the molecules of solvents move more quickly . . . We know from the class lecture that molecules moving at higher rates of speed collide with one another more often and thus break down more easily [background material/motivation] . . . Thus, it was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases [hypothesis].”

Again—these are guidelines, not commandments. Some writers and readers prefer different structures for the Introduction. The one above merely illustrates a common approach to organizing material.

How do I write a strong Materials and Methods section?

As with any piece of writing, your Methods section will succeed only if it fulfills its readers’ expectations, so you need to be clear in your own mind about the purpose of this section. Let’s review the purpose as we described it above: in this section, you want to describe in detail how you tested the hypothesis you developed and also to clarify the rationale for your procedure. In science, it’s not sufficient merely to design and carry out an experiment. Ultimately, others must be able to verify your findings, so your experiment must be reproducible, to the extent that other researchers can follow the same procedure and obtain the same (or similar) results.

Here’s a real-world example of the importance of reproducibility. In 1989, physicists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman announced that they had discovered “cold fusion,” a way of producing excess heat and power without the nuclear radiation that accompanies “hot fusion.” Such a discovery could have great ramifications for the industrial production of energy, so these findings created a great deal of interest. When other scientists tried to duplicate the experiment, however, they didn’t achieve the same results, and as a result many wrote off the conclusions as unjustified (or worse, a hoax). To this day, the viability of cold fusion is debated within the scientific community, even though an increasing number of researchers believe it possible. So when you write your Methods section, keep in mind that you need to describe your experiment well enough to allow others to replicate it exactly.

With these goals in mind, let’s consider how to write an effective Methods section in terms of content, structure, and style.

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing this section isn’t what you should talk about, but what you shouldn’t talk about. Writers often want to include the results of their experiment, because they measured and recorded the results during the course of the experiment. But such data should be reserved for the Results section. In the Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how you recorded the results (e.g., in a table), but you shouldn’t write what the results were—not yet. Here, you’re merely stating exactly how you went about testing your hypothesis. As you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much detail? Be precise in providing details, but stay relevant. Ask yourself, “Would it make any difference if this piece were a different size or made from a different material?” If not, you probably don’t need to get too specific. If so, you should give as many details as necessary to prevent this experiment from going awry if someone else tries to carry it out. Probably the most crucial detail is measurement; you should always quantify anything you can, such as time elapsed, temperature, mass, volume, etc.
  • Rationale: Be sure that as you’re relating your actions during the experiment, you explain your rationale for the protocol you developed. If you capped a test tube immediately after adding a solute to a solvent, why did you do that? (That’s really two questions: why did you cap it, and why did you cap it immediately?) In a professional setting, writers provide their rationale as a way to explain their thinking to potential critics. On one hand, of course, that’s your motivation for talking about protocol, too. On the other hand, since in practical terms you’re also writing to your teacher (who’s seeking to evaluate how well you comprehend the principles of the experiment), explaining the rationale indicates that you understand the reasons for conducting the experiment in that way, and that you’re not just following orders. Critical thinking is crucial—robots don’t make good scientists.
  • Control: Most experiments will include a control, which is a means of comparing experimental results. (Sometimes you’ll need to have more than one control, depending on the number of hypotheses you want to test.) The control is exactly the same as the other items you’re testing, except that you don’t manipulate the independent variable-the condition you’re altering to check the effect on the dependent variable. For example, if you’re testing solubility rates at increased temperatures, your control would be a solution that you didn’t heat at all; that way, you’ll see how quickly the solute dissolves “naturally” (i.e., without manipulation), and you’ll have a point of reference against which to compare the solutions you did heat.

Describe the control in the Methods section. Two things are especially important in writing about the control: identify the control as a control, and explain what you’re controlling for. Here is an example:

“As a control for the temperature change, we placed the same amount of solute in the same amount of solvent, and let the solution stand for five minutes without heating it.”

Structure and style

Organization is especially important in the Methods section of a lab report because readers must understand your experimental procedure completely. Many writers are surprised by the difficulty of conveying what they did during the experiment, since after all they’re only reporting an event, but it’s often tricky to present this information in a coherent way. There’s a fairly standard structure you can use to guide you, and following the conventions for style can help clarify your points.

  • Subsections: Occasionally, researchers use subsections to report their procedure when the following circumstances apply: 1) if they’ve used a great many materials; 2) if the procedure is unusually complicated; 3) if they’ve developed a procedure that won’t be familiar to many of their readers. Because these conditions rarely apply to the experiments you’ll perform in class, most undergraduate lab reports won’t require you to use subsections. In fact, many guides to writing lab reports suggest that you try to limit your Methods section to a single paragraph.
  • Narrative structure: Think of this section as telling a story about a group of people and the experiment they performed. Describe what you did in the order in which you did it. You may have heard the old joke centered on the line, “Disconnect the red wire, but only after disconnecting the green wire,” where the person reading the directions blows everything to kingdom come because the directions weren’t in order. We’re used to reading about events chronologically, and so your readers will generally understand what you did if you present that information in the same way. Also, since the Methods section does generally appear as a narrative (story), you want to avoid the “recipe” approach: “First, take a clean, dry 100 ml test tube from the rack. Next, add 50 ml of distilled water.” You should be reporting what did happen, not telling the reader how to perform the experiment: “50 ml of distilled water was poured into a clean, dry 100 ml test tube.” Hint: most of the time, the recipe approach comes from copying down the steps of the procedure from your lab manual, so you may want to draft the Methods section initially without consulting your manual. Later, of course, you can go back and fill in any part of the procedure you inadvertently overlooked.
  • Past tense: Remember that you’re describing what happened, so you should use past tense to refer to everything you did during the experiment. Writers are often tempted to use the imperative (“Add 5 g of the solid to the solution”) because that’s how their lab manuals are worded; less frequently, they use present tense (“5 g of the solid are added to the solution”). Instead, remember that you’re talking about an event which happened at a particular time in the past, and which has already ended by the time you start writing, so simple past tense will be appropriate in this section (“5 g of the solid were added to the solution” or “We added 5 g of the solid to the solution”).
  • Active: We heated the solution to 80°C. (The subject, “we,” performs the action, heating.)
  • Passive: The solution was heated to 80°C. (The subject, “solution,” doesn’t do the heating–it is acted upon, not acting.)

Increasingly, especially in the social sciences, using first person and active voice is acceptable in scientific reports. Most readers find that this style of writing conveys information more clearly and concisely. This rhetorical choice thus brings two scientific values into conflict: objectivity versus clarity. Since the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus about which style it prefers, you may want to ask your lab instructor.

How do I write a strong Results section?

Here’s a paradox for you. The Results section is often both the shortest (yay!) and most important (uh-oh!) part of your report. Your Materials and Methods section shows how you obtained the results, and your Discussion section explores the significance of the results, so clearly the Results section forms the backbone of the lab report. This section provides the most critical information about your experiment: the data that allow you to discuss how your hypothesis was or wasn’t supported. But it doesn’t provide anything else, which explains why this section is generally shorter than the others.

Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis. You’ll want to highlight this material in your Results section. Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Also, don’t try to draw conclusions about the results—save them for the Discussion section. In this section, you’re reporting facts. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section.

Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: text, tables, and figures. Let’s consider each part one at a time.

This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. In a relatively simple experiment, one that doesn’t produce a lot of data for you to repeat, the text can represent the entire Results section. Don’t feel that you need to include lots of extraneous detail to compensate for a short (but effective) text; your readers appreciate discrimination more than your ability to recite facts. In a more complex experiment, you may want to use tables and/or figures to help guide your readers toward the most important information you gathered. In that event, you’ll need to refer to each table or figure directly, where appropriate:

“Table 1 lists the rates of solubility for each substance”

“Solubility increased as the temperature of the solution increased (see Figure 1).”

If you do use tables or figures, make sure that you don’t present the same material in both the text and the tables/figures, since in essence you’ll just repeat yourself, probably annoying your readers with the redundancy of your statements.

Feel free to describe trends that emerge as you examine the data. Although identifying trends requires some judgment on your part and so may not feel like factual reporting, no one can deny that these trends do exist, and so they properly belong in the Results section. Example:

“Heating the solution increased the rate of solubility of polar solids by 45% but had no effect on the rate of solubility in solutions containing non-polar solids.”

This point isn’t debatable—you’re just pointing out what the data show.

As in the Materials and Methods section, you want to refer to your data in the past tense, because the events you recorded have already occurred and have finished occurring. In the example above, note the use of “increased” and “had,” rather than “increases” and “has.” (You don’t know from your experiment that heating always increases the solubility of polar solids, but it did that time.)

You shouldn’t put information in the table that also appears in the text. You also shouldn’t use a table to present irrelevant data, just to show you did collect these data during the experiment. Tables are good for some purposes and situations, but not others, so whether and how you’ll use tables depends upon what you need them to accomplish.

Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. If you’re dealing with a scientific phenomenon that occurs only within a certain range of temperatures, for example, you don’t need to use a table to show that the phenomenon didn’t occur at any of the other temperatures. How useful is this table?

A table labeled Effect of Temperature on Rate of Solubility with temperature of solvent values in 10-degree increments from -20 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius that does not show a corresponding rate of solubility value until 50 degrees Celsius.

As you can probably see, no solubility was observed until the trial temperature reached 50°C, a fact that the text part of the Results section could easily convey. The table could then be limited to what happened at 50°C and higher, thus better illustrating the differences in solubility rates when solubility did occur.

As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. Here’s an example of an unnecessary table from How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , by Robert A. Day:

A table labeled Oxygen requirements of various species of Streptomyces showing the names of organisms and two columns that indicate growth under aerobic conditions and growth under anaerobic conditions with a plus or minus symbol for each organism in the growth columns to indicate value.

As Day notes, all the information in this table can be summarized in one sentence: “S. griseus, S. coelicolor, S. everycolor, and S. rainbowenski grew under aerobic conditions, whereas S. nocolor and S. greenicus required anaerobic conditions.” Most readers won’t find the table clearer than that one sentence.

When you do have reason to tabulate material, pay attention to the clarity and readability of the format you use. Here are a few tips:

  • Number your table. Then, when you refer to the table in the text, use that number to tell your readers which table they can review to clarify the material.
  • Give your table a title. This title should be descriptive enough to communicate the contents of the table, but not so long that it becomes difficult to follow. The titles in the sample tables above are acceptable.
  • Arrange your table so that readers read vertically, not horizontally. For the most part, this rule means that you should construct your table so that like elements read down, not across. Think about what you want your readers to compare, and put that information in the column (up and down) rather than in the row (across). Usually, the point of comparison will be the numerical data you collect, so especially make sure you have columns of numbers, not rows.Here’s an example of how drastically this decision affects the readability of your table (from A Short Guide to Writing about Chemistry , by Herbert Beall and John Trimbur). Look at this table, which presents the relevant data in horizontal rows:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in rows horizontally.

It’s a little tough to see the trends that the author presumably wants to present in this table. Compare this table, in which the data appear vertically:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in columns vertically.

The second table shows how putting like elements in a vertical column makes for easier reading. In this case, the like elements are the measurements of length and height, over five trials–not, as in the first table, the length and height measurements for each trial.

  • Make sure to include units of measurement in the tables. Readers might be able to guess that you measured something in millimeters, but don’t make them try.
  • Don’t use vertical lines as part of the format for your table. This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print. Even though it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be sending your Biology 11 lab report to Science for publication, your readers still have this expectation. Consequently, if you use the table-drawing option in your word-processing software, choose the option that doesn’t rely on a “grid” format (which includes vertical lines).

How do I include figures in my report?

Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures (i.e., illustrations) can do an even better job of emphasizing such trends. Lab report writers often use graphic representations of the data they collected to provide their readers with a literal picture of how the experiment went.

When should you use a figure?

Remember the circumstances under which you don’t need a table: when you don’t have a great deal of data or when the data you have don’t vary a lot. Under the same conditions, you would probably forgo the figure as well, since the figure would be unlikely to provide your readers with an additional perspective. Scientists really don’t like their time wasted, so they tend not to respond favorably to redundancy.

If you’re trying to decide between using a table and creating a figure to present your material, consider the following a rule of thumb. The strength of a table lies in its ability to supply large amounts of exact data, whereas the strength of a figure is its dramatic illustration of important trends within the experiment. If you feel that your readers won’t get the full impact of the results you obtained just by looking at the numbers, then a figure might be appropriate.

Of course, an undergraduate class may expect you to create a figure for your lab experiment, if only to make sure that you can do so effectively. If this is the case, then don’t worry about whether to use figures or not—concentrate instead on how best to accomplish your task.

Figures can include maps, photographs, pen-and-ink drawings, flow charts, bar graphs, and section graphs (“pie charts”). But the most common figure by far, especially for undergraduates, is the line graph, so we’ll focus on that type in this handout.

At the undergraduate level, you can often draw and label your graphs by hand, provided that the result is clear, legible, and drawn to scale. Computer technology has, however, made creating line graphs a lot easier. Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results. If you plan on pursuing a career in the sciences, it may be well worth your while to learn to use a similar program.

Computers can’t, however, decide for you how your graph really works; you have to know how to design your graph to meet your readers’ expectations. Here are some of these expectations:

  • Keep it as simple as possible. You may be tempted to signal the complexity of the information you gathered by trying to design a graph that accounts for that complexity. But remember the purpose of your graph: to dramatize your results in a manner that’s easy to see and grasp. Try not to make the reader stare at the graph for a half hour to find the important line among the mass of other lines. For maximum effectiveness, limit yourself to three to five lines per graph; if you have more data to demonstrate, use a set of graphs to account for it, rather than trying to cram it all into a single figure.
  • Plot the independent variable on the horizontal (x) axis and the dependent variable on the vertical (y) axis. Remember that the independent variable is the condition that you manipulated during the experiment and the dependent variable is the condition that you measured to see if it changed along with the independent variable. Placing the variables along their respective axes is mostly just a convention, but since your readers are accustomed to viewing graphs in this way, you’re better off not challenging the convention in your report.
  • Label each axis carefully, and be especially careful to include units of measure. You need to make sure that your readers understand perfectly well what your graph indicates.
  • Number and title your graphs. As with tables, the title of the graph should be informative but concise, and you should refer to your graph by number in the text (e.g., “Figure 1 shows the increase in the solubility rate as a function of temperature”).
  • Many editors of professional scientific journals prefer that writers distinguish the lines in their graphs by attaching a symbol to them, usually a geometric shape (triangle, square, etc.), and using that symbol throughout the curve of the line. Generally, readers have a hard time distinguishing dotted lines from dot-dash lines from straight lines, so you should consider staying away from this system. Editors don’t usually like different-colored lines within a graph because colors are difficult and expensive to reproduce; colors may, however, be great for your purposes, as long as you’re not planning to submit your paper to Nature. Use your discretion—try to employ whichever technique dramatizes the results most effectively.
  • Try to gather data at regular intervals, so the plot points on your graph aren’t too far apart. You can’t be sure of the arc you should draw between the plot points if the points are located at the far corners of the graph; over a fifteen-minute interval, perhaps the change occurred in the first or last thirty seconds of that period (in which case your straight-line connection between the points is misleading).
  • If you’re worried that you didn’t collect data at sufficiently regular intervals during your experiment, go ahead and connect the points with a straight line, but you may want to examine this problem as part of your Discussion section.
  • Make your graph large enough so that everything is legible and clearly demarcated, but not so large that it either overwhelms the rest of the Results section or provides a far greater range than you need to illustrate your point. If, for example, the seedlings of your plant grew only 15 mm during the trial, you don’t need to construct a graph that accounts for 100 mm of growth. The lines in your graph should more or less fill the space created by the axes; if you see that your data is confined to the lower left portion of the graph, you should probably re-adjust your scale.
  • If you create a set of graphs, make them the same size and format, including all the verbal and visual codes (captions, symbols, scale, etc.). You want to be as consistent as possible in your illustrations, so that your readers can easily make the comparisons you’re trying to get them to see.

How do I write a strong Discussion section?

The discussion section is probably the least formalized part of the report, in that you can’t really apply the same structure to every type of experiment. In simple terms, here you tell your readers what to make of the Results you obtained. If you have done the Results part well, your readers should already recognize the trends in the data and have a fairly clear idea of whether your hypothesis was supported. Because the Results can seem so self-explanatory, many students find it difficult to know what material to add in this last section.

Basically, the Discussion contains several parts, in no particular order, but roughly moving from specific (i.e., related to your experiment only) to general (how your findings fit in the larger scientific community). In this section, you will, as a rule, need to:

Explain whether the data support your hypothesis

  • Acknowledge any anomalous data or deviations from what you expected

Derive conclusions, based on your findings, about the process you’re studying

  • Relate your findings to earlier work in the same area (if you can)

Explore the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings

Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for each of these objectives.

This statement is usually a good way to begin the Discussion, since you can’t effectively speak about the larger scientific value of your study until you’ve figured out the particulars of this experiment. You might begin this part of the Discussion by explicitly stating the relationships or correlations your data indicate between the independent and dependent variables. Then you can show more clearly why you believe your hypothesis was or was not supported. For example, if you tested solubility at various temperatures, you could start this section by noting that the rates of solubility increased as the temperature increased. If your initial hypothesis surmised that temperature change would not affect solubility, you would then say something like,

“The hypothesis that temperature change would not affect solubility was not supported by the data.”

Note: Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. As a result, you may want to say that the hypothesis was “proved” or “disproved” or that it was “correct” or “incorrect.” These terms, however, reflect a degree of certainty that you as a scientist aren’t supposed to have. Remember, you’re testing a theory with a procedure that lasts only a few hours and relies on only a few trials, which severely compromises your ability to be sure about the “truth” you see. Words like “supported,” “indicated,” and “suggested” are more acceptable ways to evaluate your hypothesis.

Also, recognize that saying whether the data supported your hypothesis or not involves making a claim to be defended. As such, you need to show the readers that this claim is warranted by the evidence. Make sure that you’re very explicit about the relationship between the evidence and the conclusions you draw from it. This process is difficult for many writers because we don’t often justify conclusions in our regular lives. For example, you might nudge your friend at a party and whisper, “That guy’s drunk,” and once your friend lays eyes on the person in question, she might readily agree. In a scientific paper, by contrast, you would need to defend your claim more thoroughly by pointing to data such as slurred words, unsteady gait, and the lampshade-as-hat. In addition to pointing out these details, you would also need to show how (according to previous studies) these signs are consistent with inebriation, especially if they occur in conjunction with one another. To put it another way, tell your readers exactly how you got from point A (was the hypothesis supported?) to point B (yes/no).

Acknowledge any anomalous data, or deviations from what you expected

You need to take these exceptions and divergences into account, so that you qualify your conclusions sufficiently. For obvious reasons, your readers will doubt your authority if you (deliberately or inadvertently) overlook a key piece of data that doesn’t square with your perspective on what occurred. In a more philosophical sense, once you’ve ignored evidence that contradicts your claims, you’ve departed from the scientific method. The urge to “tidy up” the experiment is often strong, but if you give in to it you’re no longer performing good science.

Sometimes after you’ve performed a study or experiment, you realize that some part of the methods you used to test your hypothesis was flawed. In that case, it’s OK to suggest that if you had the chance to conduct your test again, you might change the design in this or that specific way in order to avoid such and such a problem. The key to making this approach work, though, is to be very precise about the weakness in your experiment, why and how you think that weakness might have affected your data, and how you would alter your protocol to eliminate—or limit the effects of—that weakness. Often, inexperienced researchers and writers feel the need to account for “wrong” data (remember, there’s no such animal), and so they speculate wildly about what might have screwed things up. These speculations include such factors as the unusually hot temperature in the room, or the possibility that their lab partners read the meters wrong, or the potentially defective equipment. These explanations are what scientists call “cop-outs,” or “lame”; don’t indicate that the experiment had a weakness unless you’re fairly certain that a) it really occurred and b) you can explain reasonably well how that weakness affected your results.

If, for example, your hypothesis dealt with the changes in solubility at different temperatures, then try to figure out what you can rationally say about the process of solubility more generally. If you’re doing an undergraduate lab, chances are that the lab will connect in some way to the material you’ve been covering either in lecture or in your reading, so you might choose to return to these resources as a way to help you think clearly about the process as a whole.

This part of the Discussion section is another place where you need to make sure that you’re not overreaching. Again, nothing you’ve found in one study would remotely allow you to claim that you now “know” something, or that something isn’t “true,” or that your experiment “confirmed” some principle or other. Hesitate before you go out on a limb—it’s dangerous! Use less absolutely conclusive language, including such words as “suggest,” “indicate,” “correspond,” “possibly,” “challenge,” etc.

Relate your findings to previous work in the field (if possible)

We’ve been talking about how to show that you belong in a particular community (such as biologists or anthropologists) by writing within conventions that they recognize and accept. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation. In a larger philosophical sense, scientists can’t fully understand the value of their research unless they have some sense of the context that provoked and nourished it. That is, you have to recognize what’s new about your project (potentially, anyway) and how it benefits the wider body of scientific knowledge. On a more pragmatic level, especially for undergraduates, connecting your lab work to previous research will demonstrate to the TA that you see the big picture. You have an opportunity, in the Discussion section, to distinguish yourself from the students in your class who aren’t thinking beyond the barest facts of the study. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context.

If you’re just beginning to work in the natural sciences (as a first-year biology or chemistry student, say), most likely the work you’ll be doing has already been performed and re-performed to a satisfactory degree. Hence, you could probably point to a similar experiment or study and compare/contrast your results and conclusions. More advanced work may deal with an issue that is somewhat less “resolved,” and so previous research may take the form of an ongoing debate, and you can use your own work to weigh in on that debate. If, for example, researchers are hotly disputing the value of herbal remedies for the common cold, and the results of your study suggest that Echinacea diminishes the symptoms but not the actual presence of the cold, then you might want to take some time in the Discussion section to recapitulate the specifics of the dispute as it relates to Echinacea as an herbal remedy. (Consider that you have probably already written in the Introduction about this debate as background research.)

This information is often the best way to end your Discussion (and, for all intents and purposes, the report). In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing. This main point can be primarily theoretical (“Now that you understand this information, you’re in a better position to understand this larger issue”) or primarily practical (“You can use this information to take such and such an action”). In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it.

Since a lab report is argumentative—after all, you’re investigating a claim, and judging the legitimacy of that claim by generating and collecting evidence—it’s often a good idea to end your report with the same technique for establishing your main point. If you want to go the theoretical route, you might talk about the consequences your study has for the field or phenomenon you’re investigating. To return to the examples regarding solubility, you could end by reflecting on what your work on solubility as a function of temperature tells us (potentially) about solubility in general. (Some folks consider this type of exploration “pure” as opposed to “applied” science, although these labels can be problematic.) If you want to go the practical route, you could end by speculating about the medical, institutional, or commercial implications of your findings—in other words, answer the question, “What can this study help people to do?” In either case, you’re going to make your readers’ experience more satisfying, by helping them see why they spent their time learning what you had to teach them.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Beall, Herbert, and John Trimbur. 2001. A Short Guide to Writing About Chemistry , 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

Blum, Deborah, and Mary Knudson. 1997. A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers . New York: Oxford University Press.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Briscoe, Mary Helen. 1996. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications , 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Council of Science Editors. 2014. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers , 8th ed. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Davis, Martha. 2012. Scientific Papers and Presentations , 3rd ed. London: Academic Press.

Day, Robert A. 1994. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , 4th ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Porush, David. 1995. A Short Guide to Writing About Science . New York: Longman.

Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Uncomplicated Reviews of Educational Research Methods

  • Writing a Research Report

.pdf version of this page

This review covers the basic elements of a research report. This is a general guide for what you will see in journal articles or dissertations. This format assumes a mixed methods study, but you can leave out either quantitative or qualitative sections if you only used a single methodology.

This review is divided into sections for easy reference. There are five MAJOR parts of a Research Report:

1.    Introduction 2.    Review of Literature 3.    Methods 4.    Results 5.    Discussion

As a general guide, the Introduction, Review of Literature, and Methods should be about 1/3 of your paper, Discussion 1/3, then Results 1/3.

Section 1 : Cover Sheet (APA format cover sheet) optional, if required.

Section 2: Abstract (a basic summary of the report, including sample, treatment, design, results, and implications) (≤ 150 words) optional, if required.

Section 3 : Introduction (1-3 paragraphs) •    Basic introduction •    Supportive statistics (can be from periodicals) •    Statement of Purpose •    Statement of Significance

Section 4 : Research question(s) or hypotheses •    An overall research question (optional) •    A quantitative-based (hypotheses) •    A qualitative-based (research questions) Note: You will generally have more than one, especially if using hypotheses.

Section 5: Review of Literature ▪    Should be organized by subheadings ▪    Should adequately support your study using supporting, related, and/or refuting evidence ▪    Is a synthesis, not a collection of individual summaries

Section 6: Methods ▪    Procedure: Describe data gathering or participant recruitment, including IRB approval ▪    Sample: Describe the sample or dataset, including basic demographics ▪    Setting: Describe the setting, if applicable (generally only in qualitative designs) ▪    Treatment: If applicable, describe, in detail, how you implemented the treatment ▪    Instrument: Describe, in detail, how you implemented the instrument; Describe the reliability and validity associated with the instrument ▪    Data Analysis: Describe type of procedure (t-test, interviews, etc.) and software (if used)

Section 7: Results ▪    Restate Research Question 1 (Quantitative) ▪    Describe results ▪    Restate Research Question 2 (Qualitative) ▪    Describe results

Section 8: Discussion ▪    Restate Overall Research Question ▪    Describe how the results, when taken together, answer the overall question ▪    ***Describe how the results confirm or contrast the literature you reviewed

Section 9: Recommendations (if applicable, generally related to practice)

Section 10: Limitations ▪    Discuss, in several sentences, the limitations of this study. ▪    Research Design (overall, then info about the limitations of each separately) ▪    Sample ▪    Instrument/s ▪    Other limitations

Section 11: Conclusion (A brief closing summary)

Section 12: References (APA format)

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About research rundowns.

Research Rundowns was made possible by support from the Dewar College of Education at Valdosta State University .

  • Experimental Design
  • What is Educational Research?
  • Writing Research Questions
  • Mixed Methods Research Designs
  • Qualitative Coding & Analysis
  • Qualitative Research Design
  • Correlation
  • Effect Size
  • Instrument, Validity, Reliability
  • Mean & Standard Deviation
  • Significance Testing (t-tests)
  • Steps 1-4: Finding Research
  • Steps 5-6: Analyzing & Organizing
  • Steps 7-9: Citing & Writing

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Home Market Research

Research Reports: Definition and How to Write Them

Research Reports

Reports are usually spread across a vast horizon of topics but are focused on communicating information about a particular topic and a niche target market. The primary motive of research reports is to convey integral details about a study for marketers to consider while designing new strategies.

Certain events, facts, and other information based on incidents need to be relayed to the people in charge, and creating research reports is the most effective communication tool. Ideal research reports are extremely accurate in the offered information with a clear objective and conclusion. These reports should have a clean and structured format to relay information effectively.

What are Research Reports?

Research reports are recorded data prepared by researchers or statisticians after analyzing the information gathered by conducting organized research, typically in the form of surveys or qualitative methods .

A research report is a reliable source to recount details about a conducted research. It is most often considered to be a true testimony of all the work done to garner specificities of research.

The various sections of a research report are:

  • Background/Introduction
  • Implemented Methods
  • Results based on Analysis
  • Deliberation

Learn more: Quantitative Research

Components of Research Reports

Research is imperative for launching a new product/service or a new feature. The markets today are extremely volatile and competitive due to new entrants every day who may or may not provide effective products. An organization needs to make the right decisions at the right time to be relevant in such a market with updated products that suffice customer demands.

The details of a research report may change with the purpose of research but the main components of a report will remain constant. The research approach of the market researcher also influences the style of writing reports. Here are seven main components of a productive research report:

  • Research Report Summary: The entire objective along with the overview of research are to be included in a summary which is a couple of paragraphs in length. All the multiple components of the research are explained in brief under the report summary.  It should be interesting enough to capture all the key elements of the report.
  • Research Introduction: There always is a primary goal that the researcher is trying to achieve through a report. In the introduction section, he/she can cover answers related to this goal and establish a thesis which will be included to strive and answer it in detail.  This section should answer an integral question: “What is the current situation of the goal?”.  After the research design was conducted, did the organization conclude the goal successfully or they are still a work in progress –  provide such details in the introduction part of the research report.
  • Research Methodology: This is the most important section of the report where all the important information lies. The readers can gain data for the topic along with analyzing the quality of provided content and the research can also be approved by other market researchers . Thus, this section needs to be highly informative with each aspect of research discussed in detail.  Information needs to be expressed in chronological order according to its priority and importance. Researchers should include references in case they gained information from existing techniques.
  • Research Results: A short description of the results along with calculations conducted to achieve the goal will form this section of results. Usually, the exposition after data analysis is carried out in the discussion part of the report.

Learn more: Quantitative Data

  • Research Discussion: The results are discussed in extreme detail in this section along with a comparative analysis of reports that could probably exist in the same domain. Any abnormality uncovered during research will be deliberated in the discussion section.  While writing research reports, the researcher will have to connect the dots on how the results will be applicable in the real world.
  • Research References and Conclusion: Conclude all the research findings along with mentioning each and every author, article or any content piece from where references were taken.

Learn more: Qualitative Observation

15 Tips for Writing Research Reports

Writing research reports in the manner can lead to all the efforts going down the drain. Here are 15 tips for writing impactful research reports:

  • Prepare the context before starting to write and start from the basics:  This was always taught to us in school – be well-prepared before taking a plunge into new topics. The order of survey questions might not be the ideal or most effective order for writing research reports. The idea is to start with a broader topic and work towards a more specific one and focus on a conclusion or support, which a research should support with the facts.  The most difficult thing to do in reporting, without a doubt is to start. Start with the title, the introduction, then document the first discoveries and continue from that. Once the marketers have the information well documented, they can write a general conclusion.
  • Keep the target audience in mind while selecting a format that is clear, logical and obvious to them:  Will the research reports be presented to decision makers or other researchers? What are the general perceptions around that topic? This requires more care and diligence. A researcher will need a significant amount of information to start writing the research report. Be consistent with the wording, the numbering of the annexes and so on. Follow the approved format of the company for the delivery of research reports and demonstrate the integrity of the project with the objectives of the company.
  • Have a clear research objective: A researcher should read the entire proposal again, and make sure that the data they provide contributes to the objectives that were raised from the beginning. Remember that speculations are for conversations, not for research reports, if a researcher speculates, they directly question their own research.
  • Establish a working model:  Each study must have an internal logic, which will have to be established in the report and in the evidence. The researchers’ worst nightmare is to be required to write research reports and realize that key questions were not included.

Learn more: Quantitative Observation

  • Gather all the information about the research topic. Who are the competitors of our customers? Talk to other researchers who have studied the subject of research, know the language of the industry. Misuse of the terms can discourage the readers of research reports from reading further.
  • Read aloud while writing. While reading the report, if the researcher hears something inappropriate, for example, if they stumble over the words when reading them, surely the reader will too. If the researcher can’t put an idea in a single sentence, then it is very long and they must change it so that the idea is clear to everyone.
  • Check grammar and spelling. Without a doubt, good practices help to understand the report. Use verbs in the present tense. Consider using the present tense, which makes the results sound more immediate. Find new words and other ways of saying things. Have fun with the language whenever possible.
  • Discuss only the discoveries that are significant. If some data are not really significant, do not mention them. Remember that not everything is truly important or essential within research reports.

Learn more: Qualitative Data

  • Try and stick to the survey questions. For example, do not say that the people surveyed “were worried” about an research issue , when there are different degrees of concern.
  • The graphs must be clear enough so that they understand themselves. Do not let graphs lead the reader to make mistakes: give them a title, include the indications, the size of the sample, and the correct wording of the question.
  • Be clear with messages. A researcher should always write every section of the report with an accuracy of details and language.
  • Be creative with titles – Particularly in segmentation studies choose names “that give life to research”. Such names can survive for a long time after the initial investigation.
  • Create an effective conclusion: The conclusion in the research reports is the most difficult to write, but it is an incredible opportunity to excel. Make a precise summary. Sometimes it helps to start the conclusion with something specific, then it describes the most important part of the study, and finally, it provides the implications of the conclusions.
  • Get a couple more pair of eyes to read the report. Writers have trouble detecting their own mistakes. But they are responsible for what is presented. Ensure it has been approved by colleagues or friends before sending the find draft out.

Learn more: Market Research and Analysis

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Research reports

This resource will help you identify the common elements and basic format of a research report.

Research reports generally follow a similar structure and have common elements, each with a particular purpose. Learn more about each of these elements below.

Common elements of reports

Your title should be brief, topic-specific, and informative, clearly indicating the purpose and scope of your study. Include key words in your title so that search engines can easily access your work. For example:  Measurement of water around Station Pier.

An abstract is a concise summary that helps readers to quickly assess the content and direction of your paper. It should be brief, written in a single paragraph and cover: the scope and purpose of your report; an overview of methodology; a summary of the main findings or results; principal conclusions or significance of the findings; and recommendations made.

The information in the abstract must be presented in the same order as it is in your report. The abstract is usually written last when you have developed your arguments and synthesised the results.

The introduction creates the context for your research. It should provide sufficient background to allow the reader to understand and evaluate your study without needing to refer to previous publications. After reading the introduction your reader should understand exactly what your research is about, what you plan to do, why you are undertaking this research and which methods you have used. Introductions generally include:

  • The rationale for the present study. Why are you interested in this topic? Why is this topic worth investigating?
  • Key terms and definitions.
  • An outline of the research questions and hypotheses; the assumptions or propositions that your research will test.

Not all research reports have a separate literature review section. In shorter research reports, the review is usually part of the Introduction.

A literature review is a critical survey of recent relevant research in a particular field. The review should be a selection of carefully organised, focused and relevant literature that develops a narrative ‘story’ about your topic. Your review should answer key questions about the literature:

  • What is the current state of knowledge on the topic?
  • What differences in approaches / methodologies are there?
  • Where are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
  • What further research is needed? The review may identify a gap in the literature which provides a rationale for your study and supports your research questions and methodology.

The review is not just a summary of all you have read. Rather, it must develop an argument or a point of view that supports your chosen methodology and research questions.

The purpose of this section is to detail how you conducted your research so that others can understand and replicate your approach.

You need to briefly describe the subjects (if appropriate), any equipment or materials used and the approach taken. If the research method or method of data analysis is commonly used within your field of study, then simply reference the procedure. If, however, your methods are new or controversial then you need to describe them in more detail and provide a rationale for your approach. The methodology is written in the past tense and should be as concise as possible.

This section is a concise, factual summary of your findings, listed under headings appropriate to your research questions. It’s common to use tables and graphics. Raw data or details about the method of statistical analysis used should be included in the Appendices.

Present your results in a consistent manner. For example, if you present the first group of results as percentages, it will be confusing for the reader and difficult to make comparisons of data if later results are presented as fractions or as decimal values.

In general, you won’t discuss your results here. Any analysis of your results usually occurs in the Discussion section.

Notes on visual data representation:

  • Graphs and tables may be used to reveal trends in your data, but they must be explained and referred to in adjacent accompanying text.
  • Figures and tables do not simply repeat information given in the text: they summarise, amplify or complement it.
  • Graphs are always referred to as ‘Figures’, and both axes must be clearly labelled.
  • Tables must be numbered, and they must be able to stand-alone or make sense without your reader needing to read all of the accompanying text.

The Discussion responds to the hypothesis or research question. This section is where you interpret your results, account for your findings and explain their significance within the context of other research. Consider the adequacy of your sampling techniques, the scope and long-term implications of your study, any problems with data collection or analysis and any assumptions on which your study was based. This is also the place to discuss any disappointing results and address limitations.

Checklist for the discussion

  • To what extent was each hypothesis supported?
  • To what extent are your findings validated or supported by other research?
  • Were there unexpected variables that affected your results?
  • On reflection, was your research method appropriate?
  • Can you account for any differences between your results and other studies?

Conclusions in research reports are generally fairly short and should follow on naturally from points raised in the Discussion. In this section you should discuss the significance of your findings. To what extent and in what ways are your findings useful or conclusive? Is further research required? If so, based on your research experience, what suggestions could you make about improvements to the scope or methodology of future studies?

Also, consider the practical implications of your results and any recommendations you could make. For example, if your research is on reading strategies in the primary school classroom, what are the implications of your results for the classroom teacher? What recommendations could you make for teachers?

A Reference List contains all the resources you have cited in your work, while a Bibliography is a wider list containing all the resources you have consulted (but not necessarily cited) in the preparation of your work. It is important to check which of these is required, and the preferred format, style of references and presentation requirements of your own department.

Appendices (singular ‘Appendix’) provide supporting material to your project. Examples of such materials include:

  • Relevant letters to participants and organisations (e.g. regarding the ethics or conduct of the project).
  • Background reports.
  • Detailed calculations.

Different types of data are presented in separate appendices. Each appendix must be titled, labelled with a number or letter, and referred to in the body of the report.

Appendices are placed at the end of a report, and the contents are generally not included in the word count.

Fi nal ti p

While there are many common elements to research reports, it’s always best to double check the exact requirements for your task. You may find that you don’t need some sections, can combine others or have specific requirements about referencing, formatting or word limits.

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  • Research Report: Definition, Types + [Writing Guide]

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One of the reasons for carrying out research is to add to the existing body of knowledge. Therefore, when conducting research, you need to document your processes and findings in a research report. 

With a research report, it is easy to outline the findings of your systematic investigation and any gaps needing further inquiry. Knowing how to create a detailed research report will prove useful when you need to conduct research.  

What is a Research Report?

A research report is a well-crafted document that outlines the processes, data, and findings of a systematic investigation. It is an important document that serves as a first-hand account of the research process, and it is typically considered an objective and accurate source of information.

In many ways, a research report can be considered as a summary of the research process that clearly highlights findings, recommendations, and other important details. Reading a well-written research report should provide you with all the information you need about the core areas of the research process.

Features of a Research Report 

So how do you recognize a research report when you see one? Here are some of the basic features that define a research report. 

  • It is a detailed presentation of research processes and findings, and it usually includes tables and graphs. 
  • It is written in a formal language.
  • A research report is usually written in the third person.
  • It is informative and based on first-hand verifiable information.
  • It is formally structured with headings, sections, and bullet points.
  • It always includes recommendations for future actions. 

Types of Research Report 

The research report is classified based on two things; nature of research and target audience.

Nature of Research

  • Qualitative Research Report

This is the type of report written for qualitative research . It outlines the methods, processes, and findings of a qualitative method of systematic investigation. In educational research, a qualitative research report provides an opportunity for one to apply his or her knowledge and develop skills in planning and executing qualitative research projects.

A qualitative research report is usually descriptive in nature. Hence, in addition to presenting details of the research process, you must also create a descriptive narrative of the information.

  • Quantitative Research Report

A quantitative research report is a type of research report that is written for quantitative research. Quantitative research is a type of systematic investigation that pays attention to numerical or statistical values in a bid to find answers to research questions. 

In this type of research report, the researcher presents quantitative data to support the research process and findings. Unlike a qualitative research report that is mainly descriptive, a quantitative research report works with numbers; that is, it is numerical in nature. 

Target Audience

Also, a research report can be said to be technical or popular based on the target audience. If you’re dealing with a general audience, you would need to present a popular research report, and if you’re dealing with a specialized audience, you would submit a technical report. 

  • Technical Research Report

A technical research report is a detailed document that you present after carrying out industry-based research. This report is highly specialized because it provides information for a technical audience; that is, individuals with above-average knowledge in the field of study. 

In a technical research report, the researcher is expected to provide specific information about the research process, including statistical analyses and sampling methods. Also, the use of language is highly specialized and filled with jargon. 

Examples of technical research reports include legal and medical research reports. 

  • Popular Research Report

A popular research report is one for a general audience; that is, for individuals who do not necessarily have any knowledge in the field of study. A popular research report aims to make information accessible to everyone. 

It is written in very simple language, which makes it easy to understand the findings and recommendations. Examples of popular research reports are the information contained in newspapers and magazines. 

Importance of a Research Report 

  • Knowledge Transfer: As already stated above, one of the reasons for carrying out research is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge, and this is made possible with a research report. A research report serves as a means to effectively communicate the findings of a systematic investigation to all and sundry.  
  • Identification of Knowledge Gaps: With a research report, you’d be able to identify knowledge gaps for further inquiry. A research report shows what has been done while hinting at other areas needing systematic investigation. 
  • In market research, a research report would help you understand the market needs and peculiarities at a glance. 
  • A research report allows you to present information in a precise and concise manner. 
  • It is time-efficient and practical because, in a research report, you do not have to spend time detailing the findings of your research work in person. You can easily send out the report via email and have stakeholders look at it. 

Guide to Writing a Research Report

A lot of detail goes into writing a research report, and getting familiar with the different requirements would help you create the ideal research report. A research report is usually broken down into multiple sections, which allows for a concise presentation of information.

Structure and Example of a Research Report

This is the title of your systematic investigation. Your title should be concise and point to the aims, objectives, and findings of a research report. 

  • Table of Contents

This is like a compass that makes it easier for readers to navigate the research report.

An abstract is an overview that highlights all important aspects of the research including the research method, data collection process, and research findings. Think of an abstract as a summary of your research report that presents pertinent information in a concise manner. 

An abstract is always brief; typically 100-150 words and goes straight to the point. The focus of your research abstract should be the 5Ws and 1H format – What, Where, Why, When, Who and How. 

  • Introduction

Here, the researcher highlights the aims and objectives of the systematic investigation as well as the problem which the systematic investigation sets out to solve. When writing the report introduction, it is also essential to indicate whether the purposes of the research were achieved or would require more work.

In the introduction section, the researcher specifies the research problem and also outlines the significance of the systematic investigation. Also, the researcher is expected to outline any jargons and terminologies that are contained in the research.  

  • Literature Review

A literature review is a written survey of existing knowledge in the field of study. In other words, it is the section where you provide an overview and analysis of different research works that are relevant to your systematic investigation. 

It highlights existing research knowledge and areas needing further investigation, which your research has sought to fill. At this stage, you can also hint at your research hypothesis and its possible implications for the existing body of knowledge in your field of study. 

  • An Account of Investigation

This is a detailed account of the research process, including the methodology, sample, and research subjects. Here, you are expected to provide in-depth information on the research process including the data collection and analysis procedures. 

In a quantitative research report, you’d need to provide information surveys, questionnaires and other quantitative data collection methods used in your research. In a qualitative research report, you are expected to describe the qualitative data collection methods used in your research including interviews and focus groups. 

In this section, you are expected to present the results of the systematic investigation. 

This section further explains the findings of the research, earlier outlined. Here, you are expected to present a justification for each outcome and show whether the results are in line with your hypotheses or if other research studies have come up with similar results.

  • Conclusions

This is a summary of all the information in the report. It also outlines the significance of the entire study. 

  • References and Appendices

This section contains a list of all the primary and secondary research sources. 

Tips for Writing a Research Report

  • Define the Context for the Report

As is obtainable when writing an essay, defining the context for your research report would help you create a detailed yet concise document. This is why you need to create an outline before writing so that you do not miss out on anything. 

  • Define your Audience

Writing with your audience in mind is essential as it determines the tone of the report. If you’re writing for a general audience, you would want to present the information in a simple and relatable manner. For a specialized audience, you would need to make use of technical and field-specific terms. 

  • Include Significant Findings

The idea of a research report is to present some sort of abridged version of your systematic investigation. In your report, you should exclude irrelevant information while highlighting only important data and findings. 

  • Include Illustrations

Your research report should include illustrations and other visual representations of your data. Graphs, pie charts, and relevant images lend additional credibility to your systematic investigation.

  • Choose the Right Title

A good research report title is brief, precise, and contains keywords from your research. It should provide a clear idea of your systematic investigation so that readers can grasp the entire focus of your research from the title. 

  • Proofread the Report

Before publishing the document, ensure that you give it a second look to authenticate the information. If you can, get someone else to go through the report, too, and you can also run it through proofreading and editing software. 

How to Gather Research Data for Your Report  

  • Understand the Problem

Every research aims at solving a specific problem or set of problems, and this should be at the back of your mind when writing your research report. Understanding the problem would help you to filter the information you have and include only important data in your report. 

  • Know what your report seeks to achieve

This is somewhat similar to the point above because, in some way, the aim of your research report is intertwined with the objectives of your systematic investigation. Identifying the primary purpose of writing a research report would help you to identify and present the required information accordingly. 

  • Identify your audience

Knowing your target audience plays a crucial role in data collection for a research report. If your research report is specifically for an organization, you would want to present industry-specific information or show how the research findings are relevant to the work that the company does. 

  • Create Surveys/Questionnaires

A survey is a research method that is used to gather data from a specific group of people through a set of questions. It can be either quantitative or qualitative. 

A survey is usually made up of structured questions, and it can be administered online or offline. However, an online survey is a more effective method of research data collection because it helps you save time and gather data with ease. 

You can seamlessly create an online questionnaire for your research on Formplus . With the multiple sharing options available in the builder, you would be able to administer your survey to respondents in little or no time. 

Formplus also has a report summary too l that you can use to create custom visual reports for your research.

Step-by-step guide on how to create an online questionnaire using Formplus  

  • Sign into Formplus

In the Formplus builder, you can easily create different online questionnaires for your research by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus. 

Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on Create new form to begin. 

  • Edit Form Title : Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Research Questionnaire.”
  • Edit Form : Click on the edit icon to edit the form.
  • Add Fields : Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for questionnaires in the Formplus builder. 
  • Edit fields
  • Click on “Save”
  • Form Customization: With the form customization options in the form builder, you can easily change the outlook of your form and make it more unique and personalized. Formplus allows you to change your form theme, add background images, and even change the font according to your needs. 
  • Multiple Sharing Options: Formplus offers various form-sharing options, which enables you to share your questionnaire with respondents easily. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization’s social media pages.  You can also send out your survey form as email invitations to your research subjects too. If you wish, you can share your form’s QR code or embed it on your organization’s website for easy access. 

Conclusion  

Always remember that a research report is just as important as the actual systematic investigation because it plays a vital role in communicating research findings to everyone else. This is why you must take care to create a concise document summarizing the process of conducting any research. 

In this article, we’ve outlined essential tips to help you create a research report. When writing your report, you should always have the audience at the back of your mind, as this would set the tone for the document. 

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Writing a Research Paper

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The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:

  • Genre - This section will provide an overview for understanding the difference between an analytical and argumentative research paper.
  • Choosing a Topic - This section will guide the student through the process of choosing topics, whether the topic be one that is assigned or one that the student chooses themselves.
  • Identifying an Audience - This section will help the student understand the often times confusing topic of audience by offering some basic guidelines for the process.
  • Where Do I Begin - This section concludes the handout by offering several links to resources at Purdue, and also provides an overview of the final stages of writing a research paper.
  • Privacy Policy

Research Method

Home » Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

Research Paper

Research Paper

Definition:

Research Paper is a written document that presents the author’s original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue.

It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new knowledge or insights to a particular field of study, and to demonstrate the author’s understanding of the existing literature and theories related to the topic.

Structure of Research Paper

The structure of a research paper typically follows a standard format, consisting of several sections that convey specific information about the research study. The following is a detailed explanation of the structure of a research paper:

The title page contains the title of the paper, the name(s) of the author(s), and the affiliation(s) of the author(s). It also includes the date of submission and possibly, the name of the journal or conference where the paper is to be published.

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. The abstract should be written in a concise and clear manner to allow readers to quickly grasp the essence of the research.

Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper provides background information about the research problem, the research question, and the research objectives. It also outlines the significance of the research, the research gap that it aims to fill, and the approach taken to address the research question. Finally, the introduction section ends with a clear statement of the research hypothesis or research question.

Literature Review

The literature review section of a research paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the topic of study. It includes a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature, highlighting the key concepts, themes, and debates. The literature review should also demonstrate the research gap and how the current study seeks to address it.

The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. This section should provide sufficient detail for other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the research, using tables, graphs, and figures to illustrate the data. The findings should be presented in a clear and concise manner, with reference to the research question and hypothesis.

The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. It should also address the limitations of the study and suggest future research directions.

The conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the study, restates the research question and hypothesis, and provides a final reflection on the significance of the research.

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style such as APA, MLA or Chicago.

How to Write Research Paper

You can write Research Paper by the following guide:

  • Choose a Topic: The first step is to select a topic that interests you and is relevant to your field of study. Brainstorm ideas and narrow down to a research question that is specific and researchable.
  • Conduct a Literature Review: The literature review helps you identify the gap in the existing research and provides a basis for your research question. It also helps you to develop a theoretical framework and research hypothesis.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the main argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise and specific to your research question.
  • Plan your Research: Develop a research plan that outlines the methods, data sources, and data analysis procedures. This will help you to collect and analyze data effectively.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Collect data using various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Analyze data using statistical tools or other qualitative methods.
  • Organize your Paper : Organize your paper into sections such as Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Ensure that each section is coherent and follows a logical flow.
  • Write your Paper : Start by writing the introduction, followed by the literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and follows the required formatting and citation styles.
  • Edit and Proofread your Paper: Review your paper for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it is well-structured and easy to read. Ask someone else to review your paper to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Cite your Sources: Ensure that you properly cite all sources used in your research paper. This is essential for giving credit to the original authors and avoiding plagiarism.

Research Paper Example

Note : The below example research paper is for illustrative purposes only and is not an actual research paper. Actual research papers may have different structures, contents, and formats depending on the field of study, research question, data collection and analysis methods, and other factors. Students should always consult with their professors or supervisors for specific guidelines and expectations for their research papers.

Research Paper Example sample for Students:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

Abstract: This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults. A literature review was conducted to examine the existing research on the topic. A survey was then administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Introduction: Social media has become an integral part of modern life, particularly among young adults. While social media has many benefits, including increased communication and social connectivity, it has also been associated with negative outcomes, such as addiction, cyberbullying, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults.

Literature Review: The literature review highlights the existing research on the impact of social media use on mental health. The review shows that social media use is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. The review also identifies the factors that contribute to the negative impact of social media, including social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Methods : A survey was administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The survey included questions on social media use, mental health status (measured using the DASS-21), and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Results : The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Discussion : The study’s findings suggest that social media use has a negative impact on the mental health of young adults. The study highlights the need for interventions that address the factors contributing to the negative impact of social media, such as social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Conclusion : In conclusion, social media use has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. The study’s findings underscore the need for interventions that promote healthy social media use and address the negative outcomes associated with social media use. Future research can explore the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Additionally, longitudinal studies can investigate the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

Limitations : The study has some limitations, including the use of self-report measures and a cross-sectional design. The use of self-report measures may result in biased responses, and a cross-sectional design limits the ability to establish causality.

Implications: The study’s findings have implications for mental health professionals, educators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals can use the findings to develop interventions that address the negative impact of social media use on mental health. Educators can incorporate social media literacy into their curriculum to promote healthy social media use among young adults. Policymakers can use the findings to develop policies that protect young adults from the negative outcomes associated with social media use.

References :

  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 15, 100918.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., … & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among US young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9.
  • Van der Meer, T. G., & Verhoeven, J. W. (2017). Social media and its impact on academic performance of students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 383-398.

Appendix : The survey used in this study is provided below.

Social Media and Mental Health Survey

  • How often do you use social media per day?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • 2 to 4 hours
  • More than 4 hours
  • Which social media platforms do you use?
  • Others (Please specify)
  • How often do you experience the following on social media?
  • Social comparison (comparing yourself to others)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems in the past month?
  • Do you think social media use has a positive or negative impact on your mental health?
  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative
  • In your opinion, which factors contribute to the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Social comparison
  • In your opinion, what interventions could be effective in reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Education on healthy social media use
  • Counseling for mental health problems caused by social media
  • Social media detox programs
  • Regulation of social media use

Thank you for your participation!

Applications of Research Paper

Research papers have several applications in various fields, including:

  • Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by generating new insights, theories, and findings that can inform future research and practice. They help to answer important questions, clarify existing knowledge, and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Informing policy: Research papers can inform policy decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for policymakers. They can help to identify gaps in current policies, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and inform the development of new policies and regulations.
  • Improving practice: Research papers can improve practice by providing evidence-based guidance for professionals in various fields, including medicine, education, business, and psychology. They can inform the development of best practices, guidelines, and standards of care that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • Educating students : Research papers are often used as teaching tools in universities and colleges to educate students about research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills that are essential for success in many careers.
  • Fostering collaboration: Research papers can foster collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers by providing a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas. They can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

When to Write Research Paper

Research papers are typically written when a person has completed a research project or when they have conducted a study and have obtained data or findings that they want to share with the academic or professional community. Research papers are usually written in academic settings, such as universities, but they can also be written in professional settings, such as research organizations, government agencies, or private companies.

Here are some common situations where a person might need to write a research paper:

  • For academic purposes: Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Writing research papers helps students to develop research skills, critical thinking skills, and academic writing skills.
  • For publication: Researchers often write research papers to publish their findings in academic journals or to present their work at academic conferences. Publishing research papers is an important way to disseminate research findings to the academic community and to establish oneself as an expert in a particular field.
  • To inform policy or practice : Researchers may write research papers to inform policy decisions or to improve practice in various fields. Research findings can be used to inform the development of policies, guidelines, and best practices that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • To share new insights or ideas: Researchers may write research papers to share new insights or ideas with the academic or professional community. They may present new theories, propose new research methods, or challenge existing paradigms in their field.

Purpose of Research Paper

The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to communicate new knowledge, ideas, or findings to a specific audience, such as researchers, scholars, practitioners, or policymakers. The primary purposes of a research paper are:

  • To contribute to the body of knowledge : Research papers aim to add new knowledge or insights to a particular field or discipline. They do this by reporting the results of empirical studies, reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, proposing new theories, or providing new perspectives on a topic.
  • To inform or persuade: Research papers are written to inform or persuade the reader about a particular issue, topic, or phenomenon. They present evidence and arguments to support their claims and seek to persuade the reader of the validity of their findings or recommendations.
  • To advance the field: Research papers seek to advance the field or discipline by identifying gaps in knowledge, proposing new research questions or approaches, or challenging existing assumptions or paradigms. They aim to contribute to ongoing debates and discussions within a field and to stimulate further research and inquiry.
  • To demonstrate research skills: Research papers demonstrate the author’s research skills, including their ability to design and conduct a study, collect and analyze data, and interpret and communicate findings. They also demonstrate the author’s ability to critically evaluate existing literature, synthesize information from multiple sources, and write in a clear and structured manner.

Characteristics of Research Paper

Research papers have several characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of academic or professional writing. Here are some common characteristics of research papers:

  • Evidence-based: Research papers are based on empirical evidence, which is collected through rigorous research methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, or interviews. They rely on objective data and facts to support their claims and conclusions.
  • Structured and organized: Research papers have a clear and logical structure, with sections such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. They are organized in a way that helps the reader to follow the argument and understand the findings.
  • Formal and objective: Research papers are written in a formal and objective tone, with an emphasis on clarity, precision, and accuracy. They avoid subjective language or personal opinions and instead rely on objective data and analysis to support their arguments.
  • Citations and references: Research papers include citations and references to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas used in the paper. They use a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, to ensure consistency and accuracy.
  • Peer-reviewed: Research papers are often peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the field before they are published. Peer-review ensures that the research is of high quality, meets ethical standards, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
  • Objective and unbiased: Research papers strive to be objective and unbiased in their presentation of the findings. They avoid personal biases or preconceptions and instead rely on the data and analysis to draw conclusions.

Advantages of Research Paper

Research papers have many advantages, both for the individual researcher and for the broader academic and professional community. Here are some advantages of research papers:

  • Contribution to knowledge: Research papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline. They add new information, insights, and perspectives to existing literature and help advance the understanding of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Opportunity for intellectual growth: Research papers provide an opportunity for intellectual growth for the researcher. They require critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which can help develop the researcher’s skills and knowledge.
  • Career advancement: Research papers can help advance the researcher’s career by demonstrating their expertise and contributions to the field. They can also lead to new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding.
  • Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events. They can also contribute to the researcher’s reputation and standing in the field.
  • Impact on policy and practice: Research papers can have a significant impact on policy and practice. They can inform policy decisions, guide practice, and lead to changes in laws, regulations, or procedures.
  • Advancement of society: Research papers can contribute to the advancement of society by addressing important issues, identifying solutions to problems, and promoting social justice and equality.

Limitations of Research Paper

Research papers also have some limitations that should be considered when interpreting their findings or implications. Here are some common limitations of research papers:

  • Limited generalizability: Research findings may not be generalizable to other populations, settings, or contexts. Studies often use specific samples or conditions that may not reflect the broader population or real-world situations.
  • Potential for bias : Research papers may be biased due to factors such as sample selection, measurement errors, or researcher biases. It is important to evaluate the quality of the research design and methods used to ensure that the findings are valid and reliable.
  • Ethical concerns: Research papers may raise ethical concerns, such as the use of vulnerable populations or invasive procedures. Researchers must adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible and respectful manner.
  • Limitations of methodology: Research papers may be limited by the methodology used to collect and analyze data. For example, certain research methods may not capture the complexity or nuance of a particular phenomenon, or may not be appropriate for certain research questions.
  • Publication bias: Research papers may be subject to publication bias, where positive or significant findings are more likely to be published than negative or non-significant findings. This can skew the overall findings of a particular area of research.
  • Time and resource constraints: Research papers may be limited by time and resource constraints, which can affect the quality and scope of the research. Researchers may not have access to certain data or resources, or may be unable to conduct long-term studies due to practical limitations.

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Research Design | Step-by-Step Guide with Examples

Published on 5 May 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 20 March 2023.

A research design is a strategy for answering your research question  using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • Your overall aims and approach
  • The type of research design you’ll use
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods
  • The procedures you’ll follow to collect data
  • Your data analysis methods

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims and that you use the right kind of analysis for your data.

Table of contents

Step 1: consider your aims and approach, step 2: choose a type of research design, step 3: identify your population and sampling method, step 4: choose your data collection methods, step 5: plan your data collection procedures, step 6: decide on your data analysis strategies, frequently asked questions.

  • Introduction

Before you can start designing your research, you should already have a clear idea of the research question you want to investigate.

There are many different ways you could go about answering this question. Your research design choices should be driven by your aims and priorities – start by thinking carefully about what you want to achieve.

The first choice you need to make is whether you’ll take a qualitative or quantitative approach.

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible and inductive , allowing you to adjust your approach based on what you find throughout the research process.

Quantitative research designs tend to be more fixed and deductive , with variables and hypotheses clearly defined in advance of data collection.

It’s also possible to use a mixed methods design that integrates aspects of both approaches. By combining qualitative and quantitative insights, you can gain a more complete picture of the problem you’re studying and strengthen the credibility of your conclusions.

Practical and ethical considerations when designing research

As well as scientific considerations, you need to think practically when designing your research. If your research involves people or animals, you also need to consider research ethics .

  • How much time do you have to collect data and write up the research?
  • Will you be able to gain access to the data you need (e.g., by travelling to a specific location or contacting specific people)?
  • Do you have the necessary research skills (e.g., statistical analysis or interview techniques)?
  • Will you need ethical approval ?

At each stage of the research design process, make sure that your choices are practically feasible.

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

Within both qualitative and quantitative approaches, there are several types of research design to choose from. Each type provides a framework for the overall shape of your research.

Types of quantitative research designs

Quantitative designs can be split into four main types. Experimental and   quasi-experimental designs allow you to test cause-and-effect relationships, while descriptive and correlational designs allow you to measure variables and describe relationships between them.

With descriptive and correlational designs, you can get a clear picture of characteristics, trends, and relationships as they exist in the real world. However, you can’t draw conclusions about cause and effect (because correlation doesn’t imply causation ).

Experiments are the strongest way to test cause-and-effect relationships without the risk of other variables influencing the results. However, their controlled conditions may not always reflect how things work in the real world. They’re often also more difficult and expensive to implement.

Types of qualitative research designs

Qualitative designs are less strictly defined. This approach is about gaining a rich, detailed understanding of a specific context or phenomenon, and you can often be more creative and flexible in designing your research.

The table below shows some common types of qualitative design. They often have similar approaches in terms of data collection, but focus on different aspects when analysing the data.

Your research design should clearly define who or what your research will focus on, and how you’ll go about choosing your participants or subjects.

In research, a population is the entire group that you want to draw conclusions about, while a sample is the smaller group of individuals you’ll actually collect data from.

Defining the population

A population can be made up of anything you want to study – plants, animals, organisations, texts, countries, etc. In the social sciences, it most often refers to a group of people.

For example, will you focus on people from a specific demographic, region, or background? Are you interested in people with a certain job or medical condition, or users of a particular product?

The more precisely you define your population, the easier it will be to gather a representative sample.

Sampling methods

Even with a narrowly defined population, it’s rarely possible to collect data from every individual. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.

To select a sample, there are two main approaches: probability sampling and non-probability sampling . The sampling method you use affects how confidently you can generalise your results to the population as a whole.

Probability sampling is the most statistically valid option, but it’s often difficult to achieve unless you’re dealing with a very small and accessible population.

For practical reasons, many studies use non-probability sampling, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and carefully consider potential biases. You should always make an effort to gather a sample that’s as representative as possible of the population.

Case selection in qualitative research

In some types of qualitative designs, sampling may not be relevant.

For example, in an ethnography or a case study, your aim is to deeply understand a specific context, not to generalise to a population. Instead of sampling, you may simply aim to collect as much data as possible about the context you are studying.

In these types of design, you still have to carefully consider your choice of case or community. You should have a clear rationale for why this particular case is suitable for answering your research question.

For example, you might choose a case study that reveals an unusual or neglected aspect of your research problem, or you might choose several very similar or very different cases in order to compare them.

Data collection methods are ways of directly measuring variables and gathering information. They allow you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

You can choose just one data collection method, or use several methods in the same study.

Survey methods

Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviours, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews.

Observation methods

Observations allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviours, or social interactions without relying on self-reporting.

Observations may be conducted in real time, taking notes as you observe, or you might make audiovisual recordings for later analysis. They can be qualitative or quantitative.

Other methods of data collection

There are many other ways you might collect data depending on your field and topic.

If you’re not sure which methods will work best for your research design, try reading some papers in your field to see what data collection methods they used.

Secondary data

If you don’t have the time or resources to collect data from the population you’re interested in, you can also choose to use secondary data that other researchers already collected – for example, datasets from government surveys or previous studies on your topic.

With this raw data, you can do your own analysis to answer new research questions that weren’t addressed by the original study.

Using secondary data can expand the scope of your research, as you may be able to access much larger and more varied samples than you could collect yourself.

However, it also means you don’t have any control over which variables to measure or how to measure them, so the conclusions you can draw may be limited.

As well as deciding on your methods, you need to plan exactly how you’ll use these methods to collect data that’s consistent, accurate, and unbiased.

Planning systematic procedures is especially important in quantitative research, where you need to precisely define your variables and ensure your measurements are reliable and valid.

Operationalisation

Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalisation means turning these fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.

If you’re using observations , which events or actions will you count?

If you’re using surveys , which questions will you ask and what range of responses will be offered?

You may also choose to use or adapt existing materials designed to measure the concept you’re interested in – for example, questionnaires or inventories whose reliability and validity has already been established.

Reliability and validity

Reliability means your results can be consistently reproduced , while validity means that you’re actually measuring the concept you’re interested in.

For valid and reliable results, your measurement materials should be thoroughly researched and carefully designed. Plan your procedures to make sure you carry out the same steps in the same way for each participant.

If you’re developing a new questionnaire or other instrument to measure a specific concept, running a pilot study allows you to check its validity and reliability in advance.

Sampling procedures

As well as choosing an appropriate sampling method, you need a concrete plan for how you’ll actually contact and recruit your selected sample.

That means making decisions about things like:

  • How many participants do you need for an adequate sample size?
  • What inclusion and exclusion criteria will you use to identify eligible participants?
  • How will you contact your sample – by mail, online, by phone, or in person?

If you’re using a probability sampling method, it’s important that everyone who is randomly selected actually participates in the study. How will you ensure a high response rate?

If you’re using a non-probability method, how will you avoid bias and ensure a representative sample?

Data management

It’s also important to create a data management plan for organising and storing your data.

Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymise and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.

Keeping your data well organised will save time when it comes to analysing them. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings.

On their own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyse the data.

Quantitative data analysis

In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarise your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.

Using descriptive statistics , you can summarise your sample data in terms of:

  • The distribution of the data (e.g., the frequency of each score on a test)
  • The central tendency of the data (e.g., the mean to describe the average score)
  • The variability of the data (e.g., the standard deviation to describe how spread out the scores are)

The specific calculations you can do depend on the level of measurement of your variables.

Using inferential statistics , you can:

  • Make estimates about the population based on your sample data.
  • Test hypotheses about a relationship between variables.

Regression and correlation tests look for associations between two or more variables, while comparison tests (such as t tests and ANOVAs ) look for differences in the outcomes of different groups.

Your choice of statistical test depends on various aspects of your research design, including the types of variables you’re dealing with and the distribution of your data.

Qualitative data analysis

In qualitative research, your data will usually be very dense with information and ideas. Instead of summing it up in numbers, you’ll need to comb through the data in detail, interpret its meanings, identify patterns, and extract the parts that are most relevant to your research question.

Two of the most common approaches to doing this are thematic analysis and discourse analysis .

There are many other ways of analysing qualitative data depending on the aims of your research. To get a sense of potential approaches, try reading some qualitative research papers in your field.

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research.

For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

Operationalisation means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioural avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalise the variables that you want to measure.

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts, and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyse a large amount of readily available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how they are generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

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Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

From the military to the workforce: How to leverage veterans’ skills

US employers face multiple challenges when it comes to filling jobs and retaining workers, including a shortage of skilled labor and an aging workforce. To meet the moment in this era of technological change, some companies are broadening their hiring lens beyond the traditional college résumé. They are evaluating candidates on their capacity to learn , their intrinsic capabilities, and their transferable skills.

About the authors

This article is a collaborative effort by Scott Blackburn , Michael Kim, Charlie Lewis , Hannah Oh, and Kallman Parry.

This is where military veterans can make a difference. Veterans represent a source of labor potential that is untapped relative to the breadth of experience and depth of skills  that they acquire and develop during their service. Members of the military receive technical training, operate under pressure in austere environments, and develop strong interpersonal skills throughout their service, making them well qualified for numerous civilian occupations. While not every military role is directly transferrable to a civilian job, most skills are—including those that correspond to US industries experiencing labor shortages, such as infrastructure and manufacturing.

And veterans aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from a longer look by employers: the economic opportunity of unleashing the value of veterans’ work experience through skills-based hiring could reach almost $15 billion over a ten-year period, new McKinsey research shows.

In this article, we explore the complex employment picture for military veterans , including in jobs and industries that will be most affected by automation and generative AI . We look at actions the military can take to help service members prepare for their transition to civilian work. We focus particularly on enlisted veterans, who make up the majority of those shifting out each year but who tend to fare worse in the labor market because employers don’t recognize their technical skills. We then discuss ways that the military and the private sector can close the veteran opportunity gap by improving employment outcomes.

The veteran employment landscape

Military veterans are not a homogeneous demographic, nor is their labor profile. Veterans’ work experiences differ by age, skills, and educational degrees. Our research shows that, in the aggregate, veterans with bachelor’s degrees and those skilled through alternate routes (known as STARs 1 According to the not-for-profit Opportunity@Work, STARs are individuals who are at least 25 years old, are currently active in the workforce, and who have a high school diploma but no bachelor’s degree. ) outearn their nonveteran peers (Exhibit 1).

Veteran STARs are, on average, eight years older and earn $3.91 more per hour than civilian STARs, though they tend to cluster in fewer, technical occupations. The largest veteran STAR group is aged 45 to 54; this cohort has the highest median hourly wage ($26.44) of all STAR groups. The group with the highest median hourly wage overall ($42.58) is made up of veterans aged 55 to 64 and with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The roles with the highest representation of veterans are often analogs of military specialties. These roles include aircraft pilots, flight engineers, and aircraft mechanics and service technicians, as well as detectives and criminal investigators. Veterans are also well-represented in middle- to high-wage occupations that are accessible from low-wage jobs and rarely require an undergraduate degree. These roles include occupational-health and safety specialists and technicians, crane and tower operators, paramedics, and construction and building inspectors.

When viewed as a monolith, veterans are doing relatively well. But when broken down into subsets, many veterans are struggling to find jobs that use, recognize, and compensate them commensurate with their level of military experience. This is especially true for those who have difficulty translating their experience to civilian employment opportunities—in particular, veterans without a four-year degree, who represent 61 percent of all employed veterans. 2 Opportunity@Work analysis of the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) 2021 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Of the roughly 150,000 active-duty service members who transition from the military each year, 3 Demographics report , US Department of Defense, 2021. approximately 90,500 earn less in their first year after being discharged than they did on active duty, resulting in billions of dollars of lost economic value (Exhibit 2). 4 Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) 2022 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS), as well as data analysis of the US Census Bureau’s Veteran Employment Outcomes. And while some categories of veterans fare better than others—including former officers, as well as Special Forces and personnel who specialized in intelligence, IT, and cyber operations—veterans across categories are, on average, entering the civilian workforce at lower median wages than they had in the military.

Enlisted service members are disproportionately affected: veteran STARs tend to occupy lower-paying and more physically demanding roles than veterans with bachelor’s degrees, indicating that they may be hampered by not having a four-year degree.

Our methodology

To understand the lost economic opportunity associated with the lower wages for transitioning enlisted service members, we grouped junior enlisted service members who had undervalued occupational skills and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who had undervalued managerial skills. We identified the one-year postdischarge salary for each category as a baseline, then assigned best-fit skills-based careers to each category. We narrowed the field of choices by factoring in required education, preparation needed, and projected annual job openings. Based on those choices, we identified salaries and calculated projected future earnings. We then determined the economic difference between current and potential salaries for all categories. Top careers included registered nurses; electricians; first-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers; industrial-machinery mechanics; and municipal and forest firefighters.

The cohort of enlisted veterans postdischarge excludes occupational groups (intelligence, Special Operations forces, and IT) that earn roughly equal to or greater than their last year of active-duty regular military compensation. The comparison of actual and potential average salary for enlisted veterans postdischarge is based on the latest data set to track income relative to military occupation from the US Census Bureau’s Veteran Employment Outcomes, which covers army veterans who left active-duty service between 2000 and 2015. 1 “Veteran Employee Outcomes,” US Census Bureau, accessed October 24, 2023. Actual earnings are from the Department of Labor; future-earnings projections are based on the 2023 Bureau of Labor Statistics annual wage increase and converted to 2018 dollars to match the Department of Labor data set. We also referred to the Department of Defense’s digital employment tool, Occupational Information Network, or O*NET; a 2023 RAND report on service members’ knowledge, skills, and abilities 2 Elizabeth Hastings Roer, Jeffrey B. Wenger, and Jonathan P. Wong, Military-to-civilian occupational matching: Using the O*NET to provide match recommendations for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force , RAND, 2023. ; and an internal survey of veterans working at McKinsey that matched the RAND findings.

McKinsey analyzed what the total potential loss of annual earnings for a cohort of 90,500 transitioning enlisted service members would mean in terms of lost overall economic potential (Exhibit 3). The research, which combined labor data and a skills-based analysis, found that the economic potential of improving employment outcomes for a single cohort of transitioning veterans could be almost $15 billion over a ten-year period (see sidebar, “Our methodology”). This presents a significant opportunity for the military, the private sector, and not-for-profit organizations supporting veterans as employers seek workers with ready-made skills.

How veterans’ skills apply to jobs—now and in the future

In the broad economic context, McKinsey research on the US labor market shows a disconnect  between available jobs and people qualified to fill them. Two industries in particular stand out: infrastructure and manufacturing.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is expected to create hundreds of thousands of additional jobs on projects ranging from roads, bridges, and waterways to clean energy and electric vehicles. However, a labor crunch in construction jobs exists across sectors, occupations, and geographies . In manufacturing, McKinsey analysis suggests that reviving the industry —in which the bulk of employees don’t need four-year degrees—could boost GDP and add up to 1.5 million jobs. 5 “ Delivering the US manufacturing renaissance ,” McKinsey, August 29, 2022.

Veterans map well to these high-demand jobs. To identify the specific actions that can help improve veterans’ employment outcomes in these industries and others, the research matched military specialties and skills to their full spectrum of civilian occupations. The goal was to identify high-potential pathways that are likely to improve veterans’ livelihoods based on skill overlap. 6 To focus the analysis and gain an understanding of the distribution of veterans across occupations, their education attainment levels, and incomes today, we examined employment and demographic data from external sources such as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census Bureau, in addition to analysis from internal sources such as the McKinsey Global Institute. For the purposes of this research, veterans’ livelihood represents their overall well-being, as well as the strength of their means to provide essentials (for example, food, shelter, clothing, healthcare) to support themselves and their families. Our ratings of veterans’ occupational skills were based on a 2023 RAND survey of more than 5,100 veterans and augmented with a small sample of McKinsey veteran employees. For more, see Elizabeth Hastings Roer, Jeffrey B. Wenger, and Jonathan P. Wong, Military-to-civilian occupational matching: Using the O*NET to provide match recommendations for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force , RAND, 2023.

The analysis found that enlisted veterans are highly rated on occupational skills associated with trades such as electricians, mechanics, and construction professionals. For example, veterans were consistently rated higher on technical skills such as installation, equipment maintenance, repairing, and troubleshooting than the threshold required for the average civilian occupation.

Conversely, enlisted veterans were rated lower on “softer” occupational skills associated with management, sales, and office and administrative-support roles, such as reading comprehension, persuasion, and negotiation, suggesting real or perceived deficiencies in interpersonal skills that are required to succeed in business environments. However, these lower ratings tended to improve with military rank and the accompanying experience that rank brings, as both midlevel and senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) scored above average on all occupational skills. 7 Melissa A. Bradley et al., Helping soldiers leverage army knowledge, skills, and abilities in civilian jobs , RAND, 2017.

Veterans overall score higher on service orientation, which the analysis defined as “actively looking for ways to help other people,” than the threshold for the average civilian occupation. However, this skill may not fully capture inherent veteran strengths, such as dependability, punctuality, discipline, and integrity.

While the typical veteran tool kit favors technical ability over verbal and written communication, veterans can consider developing and refining their soft skills to allow for better access to high-potential “gateway” roles , while continuing to pursue in-demand occupations that require technical skills. 8 “New research finds workers without four-year degrees not realizing wage gains despite having the skills for higher-wage work; identifies 51 job roles that unlock economic mobility,” Opportunity@Work press release, accessed October 30, 2023. These roles create a bridge between frontline work and destination roles, which require higher-level skills training and academic credentials.

The top 15 occupations that employ veterans today are generally expected to experience strong positive labor demand change and low change-of-work activities in the coming years as digitization and other technological changes take hold  (Exhibit 4). These occupations include nursing (expected to experience a 41 percent increase in labor demand); laborers and freight, stock, and material movers (a 26 percent increase); construction laborers (a 22 percent increase); and truck drivers (a 12 percent increase). Veterans can continue to pursue these occupations at even higher rates.

On the other hand, certain occupations that employ veterans are at risk of displacement due to declining job demand and adoption of automation, as well as the acceleration of generative AI in these occupations. This includes retail salespeople (expected to experience a 23 percent decrease in labor demand), supervisors of office and administrative-support workers (a 20 percent decrease), and customer service representatives (a 14 percent decrease).

Transitioning veterans can consider avoiding these roles, and veterans already in these occupations can continue to focus on upskilling, while taking advantage of reskilling opportunities to move into more secure occupations. Veterans looking to move into more senior positions can also use generative AI tools to their own advantage to help boost their capabilities and output.

Veterans looking to move into more senior positions can use generative AI tools to their own advantage to help boost their capabilities and output.

Several gateway occupations offer high potential to improve veterans’ livelihoods, including heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) mechanics and installers, human resources specialists, and industrial-machinery mechanics. However, these occupations are being accessed by less than 2 percent of employed veterans today (Exhibit 5).

Closing the opportunity gap: Actions stakeholders can take

We’ve looked at the skills that many veterans offer and the potential roles that a majority of veterans pursue, including gateway jobs for those without four-year degrees. To carve out better pathways and help make transitions more successful for those who need more support, the military services and employers can consider the following interventions.

The military: Recruit, retain, retrain

The military can address three recruiting and retention challenges by communicating the value of service and how skills developed in the military can translate to future careers.

Reverse declining interest in military service. The US military itself is facing a recruiting crisis that is likely to worsen if the value proposition of employment beyond military service doesn’t improve. 9 Ben Kesling, “The military recruiting crisis: Even veterans don’t want their families to join,” Wall Street Journal , June 30, 2023. The general population is largely unaware of the benefits of service, with 50 percent of young people saying they know little to nothing about military service and its unique professional-development offerings. 10 “Facts and figures,” US Army Recruiting Command, accessed August 29, 2023.

To shift perceptions and to help support candidates on their holistic career journey, the military can train recruiters to promote how service-developed skills can lead to well-compensated civilian careers and improved livelihoods, including how different military specialties map to various civilian occupations. As discussed earlier, there are several high-potential career pathways that are open to veterans that will continue be viable even as AI adoption increases. Recruiters who can communicate the value of military service in the context of these pathways could improve interest levels over the longer term.

The US Department of Defense (DOD) and service branches can launch a public relations campaign that highlights how the military develops desirable skills during service and provides support, education, and training opportunities during and beyond the transition. These programs include the GI Bill, tuition and credentials assistance, leadership academies, military occupation-related training, and SkillBridge, which allows transitioning service members to intern with civilian employers during the last 90 to 180 days of their service. 11 For more, see Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (Army COOL), US Army; “Education and training,” US Department of Veterans Affairs; “Tuition assistance,” US Army; and “What is SkillBridge?,” US Department of Defense, all sources accessed October 23, 2023.

Reduce disparities in commercial-sector employment opportunities . As noted earlier, the military has effective transition programs aimed at increasing the presence of veterans in the tech space and elsewhere. In one example of a successful transition, a naval flight officer looking for a civilian job emphasized her experiences in combat, as a NATO instructor, and in leading teams. Through the DOD SkillBridge program, she found a role focusing on public sector sales at a tech start-up. Starting as a customer success manager, she was promoted three times to a director-level role at the company, which is now a unicorn.

However, in many cases the digital career tools available to those transitioning to civilian work are inconsistent and often focus on literal job translations, neglecting inputs beyond military occupational specialties, such as rank, education, and formal training. For instance, recruiters from the Army and the Marine Corps receive different career recommendations from a widely used digital tool, the DOD’s Occupational Information Network, or O*NET, which transitioning service members are encouraged to use to evaluate potential careers.

Service members with critical skills, such as cyber-operations specialists and unpiloted-aerial-systems operators, are more likely to leave for commercial opportunities after their first enlistment, while other specialties are less in demand because of a lack of clear occupational analogs. The services could adopt reenlistment incentives that amplify the value of more military experience for skill development, rather than providing potentially ineffective financial incentives for service members so they stay for an additional enlistment.

For instance, promoting the long-term NCO tool kit, with a focus on leadership of personnel and resources, could improve both retention and recruiting outcomes. The services could enhance NCO leadership academies to offer upskilling and additional training, which improve the likelihood of employment in civilian occupations that offer increased earning power.

The military could also promote occupations such as nursing, which has a significant labor shortage, with more than 200,000 openings annually . Veterans with experience as medics are well suited for nursing roles. In addition, the military could offer nursing prerequisites on base as a part of its Installation Education Centers and highlight veterans in diverse nursing careers (in intensive care units, emergency rooms, and flight or transport roles).

In another individual example, an air force aerospace medical technician earned his associate’s degree in nursing while in the service, then used the GI Bill to complete his bachelor’s degree in nursing after leaving the air force. He then went on to earn his MBA and is now a healthcare consultant.

Increase job satisfaction rates. Twenty-two percent of active service members report dissatisfaction with their military experience, 12 See “Military-to-civilian occupational matching,” 2023; and “Navy readiness: Actions needed to evaluate and improve surface warfare officer career path,” US Government Accountability Office, June 17, 2021. a percentage that spikes further in certain demographics, such as the 88 percent of female Naval Surface Warfare Officers who leave within their first ten years.

To encourage younger generations to seek out military service as a career, the military can partner with more universities, trade associations, and employers to diversify the service member experience and to allow service members to pursue opportunities outside their specialty while still contributing to the capabilities of their service.

The private sector: Build a talent model around skills

As the United States invests in infrastructure- and climate-related projects, the labor shortage the country is currently experiencing may only grow . And as generative AI and other technologies take off, productivity changes will likely affect the occupations that veterans pursue and the skills that transitioning service members will need to be competitive for employment.

To help expand talent pools , corporate leaders should take note that 60 percent of American workers over the age of 25 don’t hold a four-year degree. 13 “Hire for the skills it takes to do the job,” Opportunity@Work, accessed October 24, 2023. That roughly matches the percentage of those transitioning out of the military who don’t have a bachelor’s degree.

By moving to a skills-based approach, companies can boost the number and quality of applicants  who apply to open positions. Internally, they can build skills and retrain their existing workforces to prepare people for new roles. Retention improves when workers find more opportunities to advance internally, McKinsey research shows . 14 Sandra Durth, Asmus Komm, Florian Pollner, and Angelika Reich, “ Reimagining people development to overcome talent challenges ,” McKinsey, March 3, 2023. Skills-based practices have a greater impact when they’re implemented across the whole talent journey, including in sourcing, hiring, and career development.

Companies can also set targets for veteran recruitment and hiring. One company that has pledged to hire veterans is Micron, which is building a $100 billion semiconductor plant in upstate New York. 15 Steve Lohr, “Micron pledges up to $100 billion for semiconductor factory in New York,” New York Times , October 4, 2022. Of the 9,000 people it expects to hire for the plant, Micron is aiming to hire 1,500 veterans, or 17 percent of its workforce. The company has found that veterans are a good fit for the semiconductor industry because of their experience with heavy machinery and technology, along with their disciplined mindset and team-building skills.

In the public sector, US states and local governments that are receiving BIL funding  can reserve a portion of jobs for veterans, just as they have for stakeholders such as local construction companies, engineering firms, trade schools, and others.

A hiring strategy that focuses on expanding the pool of potential talent can help communities by creating more and better job opportunities for a broader, diverse pool of workers. It can also provide upward mobility for millions of workers—including veterans—at a crucial time for the US economy.

The military can take more steps to support veterans, particularly enlisted service members, as they navigate the transition to civilian work. Companies can open their hiring practices to consider veterans for a variety of roles, not just those that match perfectly with their military skills. Together, these actions can add billions in value to the US economy as veterans moving into civilian jobs maintain or increase their earning power to support their families and build their communities.

Scott Blackburn is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Washington, DC, office, where Kallman Parry is a senior analyst; Michael Kim and Hannah Oh are consultants in the Southern California office; and Charlie Lewis is a partner in the Stamford, Connecticut, office. All are veterans of the US armed forces.

This article was edited by Barbara Tierney, a senior editor in the New York office.

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What marijuana reclassification means for the United States

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift to generations of American drug policy that could have wide ripple effects across the country.

FILE - Marijuana plants are seen at a secured growing facility in Washington County, N.Y., May 12, 2023. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift to generations of American drug policy that could have wide ripple effects across the country. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

FILE - Marijuana plants are seen at a secured growing facility in Washington County, N.Y., May 12, 2023. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift to generations of American drug policy that could have wide ripple effects across the country. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

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Budtender Rey Cruz weighs cannabis for a customer at the Marijuana Paradise on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

Cloud 9 Cannabis employee Beau McQueen, right, helps a customer, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Arlington, Wash. The shop is one of the first dispensaries to open under the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board’s social equity program, established in efforts to remedy some of the disproportionate effects marijuana prohibition had on communities of color. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is moving toward reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug. The Justice Department proposal would recognize the medical uses of cannabis , but wouldn’t legalize it for recreational use.

The proposal would move marijuana from the “Schedule I” group to the less tightly regulated “Schedule III.”

So what does that mean, and what are the implications?

WHAT HAS ACTUALLY CHANGED? WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Technically, nothing yet. The proposal must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, and then undergo a public-comment period and review from an administrative judge, a potentially lengthy process.

FILE - A marijuana plant is visible at a medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., March 22, 2019 The Biden administration's move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous but still illegal drug was hailed as a monumental step in reshaping national policy. But it appears it would do little to ease a longstanding problem in the industry, a lack of loans and banking services other businesses take for granted. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Still, the switch is considered “paradigm-shifting, and it’s very exciting,” Vince Sliwoski, a Portland, Oregon-based cannabis and psychedelics attorney who runs well-known legal blogs on those topics, told The Associated Press when the federal Health and Human Services Department recommended the change.

“I can’t emphasize enough how big of news it is,” he said.

It came after President Joe Biden asked both HHS and the attorney general, who oversees the DEA, last year to review how marijuana was classified. Schedule I put it on par, legally, with heroin, LSD, quaaludes and ecstasy, among others.

Biden, a Democrat, supports legalizing medical marijuana for use “where appropriate, consistent with medical and scientific evidence,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “That is why it is important for this independent review to go through.”

Cloud 9 Cannabis employee Beau McQueen, right, helps a customer, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Arlington, Wash. The shop is one of the first dispensaries to open under the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board's social equity program, established in efforts to remedy some of the disproportionate effects marijuana prohibition had on communities of color. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Cloud 9 Cannabis employee Beau McQueen, right, helps a customer, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Arlington, Wash. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

IF MARIJUANA GETS RECLASSIFIED, WOULD IT LEGALIZE RECREATIONAL CANNABIS NATIONWIDE?

Ap audio: what marijuana reclassification means for the united states.

AP correspondent Haya Panjwani reports on a proposal for the federal government to reclassify marijuana in what would be a historic shift that could have wide ripple effects across the country.

No. Schedule III drugs — which include ketamine, anabolic steroids and some acetaminophen-codeine combinations — are still controlled substances.

They’re subject to various rules that allow for some medical uses, and for federal criminal prosecution of anyone who traffics in the drugs without permission.

No changes are expected to the medical marijuana programs now licensed in 38 states or the legal recreational cannabis markets in 23 states, but it’s unlikely they would meet the federal production, record-keeping, prescribing and other requirements for Schedule III drugs.

There haven’t been many federal prosecutions for simply possessing marijuana in recent years, even under marijuana’s current Schedule I status, but the reclassification wouldn’t have an immediate impact on people already in the criminal justice system.

“Put simple, this move from Schedule I to Schedule III is not getting people out of jail,” said David Culver, senior vice president of public affairs at the U.S. Cannabis Council.

But rescheduling in itself would have some impact, particularly on research and marijuana business taxes.

WHAT WOULD THIS MEAN FOR RESEARCH?

Because marijuana is on Schedule I, it’s been very difficult to conduct authorized clinical studies that involve administering the drug. That has created something of a Catch-22: calls for more research, but barriers to doing it. (Scientists sometimes rely instead on people’s own reports of their marijuana use.)

Marijuana plants are seen at a secured growing facility in Washington County, N.Y., May 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Schedule III drugs are easier to study, though the reclassification wouldn’t immediately reverse all barriers to study.

“It’s going to be really confusing for a long time,” said Ziva Cooper, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids. “When the dust has settled, I don’t know how many years from now, research will be easier.”

Among the unknowns: whether researchers will be able to study marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries and how the federal Food and Drug Administration might oversee that.

Some researchers are optimistic.

“Reducing the schedule to schedule 3 will open up the door for us to be able to conduct research with human subjects with cannabis,” said Susan Ferguson, director of University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute in Seattle.

WHAT ABOUT TAXES (AND BANKING)?

Under the federal tax code, businesses involved in “trafficking” in marijuana or any other Schedule I or II drug can’t deduct rent, payroll or various other expenses that other businesses can write off. (Yes, at least some cannabis businesses, particularly state-licensed ones, do pay taxes to the federal government, despite its prohibition on marijuana.) Industry groups say the tax rate often ends up at 70% or more.

The deduction rule doesn’t apply to Schedule III drugs, so the proposed change would cut cannabis companies’ taxes substantially.

They say it would treat them like other industries and help them compete against illegal competitors that are frustrating licensees and officials in places such as New York .

“You’re going to make these state-legal programs stronger,” says Adam Goers, of The Cannabist Company, formerly Columbia Care. He co-chairs a coalition of corporate and other players that’s pushing for rescheduling.

It could also mean more cannabis promotion and advertising if those costs could be deducted, according to Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Center.

Rescheduling wouldn’t directly affect another marijuana business problem: difficulty accessing banks, particularly for loans, because the federally regulated institutions are wary of the drug’s legal status. The industry has been looking instead to a measure called the SAFE Banking Act . It has repeatedly passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

ARE THERE CRITICS? WHAT DO THEY SAY?

Indeed, there are, including the national anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. President Kevin Sabet, a former Obama administration drug policy official, said the HHS recommendation “flies in the face of science, reeks of politics” and gives a regrettable nod to an industry “desperately looking for legitimacy.”

Some legalization advocates say rescheduling weed is too incremental. They want to keep the focus on removing it completely from the controlled substances list, which doesn’t include such items as alcohol or tobacco (they’re regulated, but that’s not the same).

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that simply reclassifying marijuana would be “perpetuating the existing divide between state and federal marijuana policies.” Kaliko Castille, a past president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said rescheduling just “re-brands prohibition,” rather than giving an all-clear to state licensees and putting a definitive close to decades of arrests that disproportionately pulled in people of color.

“Schedule III is going to leave it in this kind of amorphous, mucky middle where people are not going to understand the danger of it still being federally illegal,” he said.

This story has been corrected to show that Kaliko Castille is a past president, not president, of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and that Columbia Care is now The Cannabist Company.

___ Peltz reported from New York. Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Washington and Carla K. Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.

LINDSAY WHITEHURST

Biden administration plans to reclassify marijuana, easing restrictions nationwide

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will take a historic step toward easing federal restrictions on cannabis, with plans to announce an interim rule soon reclassifying the drug for the first time since the Controlled Substances Act was enacted more than 50 years ago, four sources with knowledge of the decision said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to approve an opinion by the Department of Health and Human Services that marijuana should be reclassified from the strictest Schedule I to the less stringent Schedule III. It would be the first time that the U.S. government has acknowledged its potential medical benefits and begun studying them in earnest.

Attorney General Merrick Garland submitted the rescheduling proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday afternoon, a source familiar with the situation confirmed.

Any reclassification is still months from going into effect. After the proposal is published in the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day public comment period. The proposal will then be reviewed by an administrative law judge, who could decide to hold a hearing before the rule is approved.

What rescheduling means

Since 1971, marijuana has been in the same category as heroin, methamphetamines and LSD. Each substance under the Schedule I classification is defined as a drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule III substances include Tylenol with codeine, steroids and testosterone.

By rescheduling cannabis, the drug would be studied and researched to identify concrete medical benefits, opening the door for pharmaceutical companies to get involved with the sale and distribution of medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

A cannabis plant

For the $34 billion cannabis industry, the move would also eliminate significant tax burdens for businesses in states where the drug is legal, notably getting rid of the IRS' code Section 280E, which prohibits legal cannabis companies from deducting what would otherwise be ordinary business expenses.

The Justice Department’s rescheduling decision could also help shrink the black market, which has thrived despite legalization in states like New York and California and has undercut legal markets, which are fiercely regulated and highly taxed.

Years in the making

President Joe Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services in October 2022 to review marijuana’s classification. Federal scientists concluded that there is credible evidence that cannabis provides medical benefits and that it poses lower health risks than other controlled substances.

Biden even made history in his State of the Union address this year, for the first time referring to marijuana from the dais in the House chamber and making note of the federal review process. “No one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana,” he said.

When Biden was vice president in the Obama administration, the White House opposed any legalization of marijuana, saying it would “pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans.”

Jim Cole, who was deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, wrote the famous Cole Memo in 2013 , paving the way for the modern marijuana market. The memo scaled back federal intervention in states that had legalized marijuana as long as they implemented “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana.”

Cole, who is now a member of the National Cannabis Roundtable, said in an interview this week that reclassifying marijuana to Schedule III would “open up the ability to actually test it and put it in a laboratory without all of the restrictive measures” of a Schedule I drug.

Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a former Obama administration adviser, said the decision to reclassify marijuana is "the result of a politicized process," arguing that it "will be devastating for America’s kids, who will be bombarded with attractive advertising and promotion of kid-friendly pot products."

"The only winner here is the marijuana industry, who will receive a new tax break and thus widen their profit margins," Sabet said. “Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III drug sends the message that marijuana is less addictive and dangerous now than ever before. In reality, today’s highly potent, super strength marijuana is more addictive and linked with psychosis and other mental illnesses, IQ loss and other problems.”

Researchers have raised concerns about high-potency marijuana and cannabis-induced psychiatric disorders, particularly among young men.

Some challenges ahead

Once the DEA formally makes its announcement, the marijuana industry would see an immediate benefit. But with the DEA’s proposed rule change comes a public review period that could lead to a challenge, and perhaps even a change, to the rescheduling proposal.

Once the public comment period has concluded and the Office of Management and Budget reviews the decision, Congress would also be able to overturn the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which gives it the power to weigh in on rules issued by federal agencies. Democrats control the Senate with a 51-seat majority, and for an overturn under the CRA to succeed, two-thirds of the House and the Senate would be needed to support it, meaning the marijuana rescheduling would most likely survive.

Though cannabis remains a divisive topic on Capitol Hill, there has been growing support on a bipartisan basis for marijuana reforms, largely driven by the electorate. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational purposes, according to a Pew Research poll last month. Cannabis is legal in 24 states for recreational use.

Congress is considering its own bills

Congress is considering its own measures that would make it easier for legal marijuana businesses to thrive and allow for more small and minority-owned shops to flood the marketplace.

The SAFER Banking Act , for example, which would grant legal marijuana businesses access to traditional banking and financial services, could pass both chambers by the end of the year.

Lawmakers are also considering the HOPE Act , another bipartisan bill that would provide states and local governments with resources to automatically expunge criminal records for petty, nonviolent cannabis offenses.

There is also a Democratic-only effort to remove cannabis entirely from the Controlled Substances Act, empowering states to create their own cannabis laws and prioritize restorative and economic justice for those affected by the “war on drugs.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised the administration for its move, saying it amounts to "finally recognizing that restrictive and draconian cannabis laws need to change to catch up to what science and the majority of Americans have said loud and clear."

At the same time, he said he is "strongly committed" to moving forward with both the SAFER Banking Act and the Democratic bill to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act entirely. “Congress must do everything we can to end the federal prohibition on cannabis and address longstanding harms caused by the War on Drugs," he said in a statement.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., also praised the administration’s move but cautioned that “we still have a long way to go.”

Booker called on Congress in a statement to "follow the lead of states around the country and legalize cannabis for adult-use and create a comprehensive taxation and regulatory scheme."

“Thousands of people remain in prisons around the country for marijuana-related crimes. Thousands of people continue to bear the devastating collateral consequences that come with a criminal record,” he said. “Legal marijuana businesses, especially those in communities hardest hit by the War on Drugs, still have to navigate a convoluted patchwork of state laws and regulatory schemes. I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, especially those who represent constituents benefitting from medical or adult-use programs, join me to pass federal legislation to fix these problems.”

But there is weariness among lawmakers who remember the last time Congress made law surrounding the drug.

The Republican-led Senate legalized hemp production in the 2018 farm bill, a decision that led to synthetic and exotic cannabinoids’ being sold over the counter, often without regulation, particularly in states where marijuana isn’t legal.

It’s a gray area that has drawn pushback from both sides of the aisle, most recently with the rise of Delta-8 , a synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol product that uses chemicals — some of them harmful — to convert hemp-derived CBD into Delta-8 THC.

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As Biden and Trump seek reelection, who are the oldest – and youngest – current world leaders?

Joe Biden, at 81, is the oldest American president , a distinction he’s held since entering office at age 78. As Biden runs for reelection in 2024, he is the ninth oldest national leader in the world, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of sitting leaders in 187 United Nations member states.

Former President Donald Trump, who is running for the White House again this year, is younger than Biden. But at 77, Trump also falls among the 20 oldest world leaders when compared with those currently in power.

With current U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both running for reelection to the country’s highest office, Pew Research Center examined the ages of current national leaders to place the ages of Biden and Trump into a global context.

This analysis examines the ages of the current heads of government in 187 countries that are member states of the United Nations, relying on government biographies and regional news articles. It reflects the ages of national leaders – and in a few instances, acting or interim leaders – as of May 1, 2024. It excludes six UN member states for which an exact birth date of the leader could not be found: Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger and Somalia. For each of these countries, we reached out to embassy officials in the United States but did not receive further information.

This analysis focuses mostly on heads of government as defined by a country’s political system or constitution. In some cases, we determined the national leader based on which executive has the power to appoint/dismiss the nominal head of government. In San Marino, where there are two captains regent who share power, we included data for Alessandro Rossi, as he assumed the position most recently.

This analysis also draws on Freedom House country rankings to determine whether countries are free, partly free or not free. These rankings are based on two numerical scores assigned to each country for its political rights and civil liberties.

The median age of each country’s overall population is a 2024 projection from the UN’s World Population Prospects 2022 report . The projections are based on “all available sources of data on population size and levels of fertility, mortality and international migration.”

American voters are skeptical about both candidates’ fitness for the job, according to a recent Center survey . Only about four-in-ten U.S. registered voters are extremely or very confident that Trump has the mental fitness to be president (38%), while a similar share are confident in his physical fitness (36%). Even fewer express this degree of confidence in Biden’s mental (21%) and physical (15%) fitness for the role.

Below are five key facts about the ages of current national leaders.

National leaders range in age from their mid-30s to 91. The youngest leader is Burkina Faso’s Ibrahim Traoré, who is 36. He only slightly edges out two fellow 36-year-olds, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milojko Spajić. Only two other world leaders are in their 30s: Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris and Chilean President Gabriel Boric.

The oldest national leader is President Paul Biya of Cameroon, who was born in 1933 and took office more than 40 years ago. Biya is the only current national leader in his 90s.

The median age of current national leaders is 62, as of May 1, 2024. The largest share of global leaders today (34%) are in their 60s. Roughly a quarter (22%) are in their 50s; 19% are in their 70s; and 16% are in their 40s. Biden is among the 5% of leaders who are in their 80s.

A dot plot showing that most global leaders are in their 50s and 60s.

Countries that are less free tend to have older leaders. In countries that Freedom House classifies as “not free,” the median age of the national leader is 68. That compares with 62 in countries that are classified as “partly free” and 60 in countries classified as “free.”

A dot plot showing that countries ranked less free tend to have older global leaders.

The United States is one of only three countries that are classified as free and have a leader age 80 or older; the other two are Ghana and Namibia. In Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo recently turned 80 in office. And in Namibia, 82-year-old Nangolo Mbumba took over as president earlier this year following the previous leader’s death in office at age 82.

The median age for women leaders and men leaders is the same. Among men who are world leaders, 3% are in their 30s, while no women leaders are in this age group. Yet, of the 14 women leaders currently in power, 29% are in their 40s, compared with 14% of leaders who are men.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark is the youngest female leader at 46, followed closely by fellow 46-year-old Kaja Kallas , the prime minister of Estonia. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh is the oldest female leader at 76.

A dot plot showing that the median age for men and women leaders is the same.

In most countries, the leader is significantly older than the median member of the population. For example, the median American is 38, according to UN population projections for 2024, while Biden is more than twice as old. In fact, the only countries that have a leader who is younger than the median resident of the country are Montenegro, Ireland and Italy. Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora, at 44, is the same age as the median Andorran resident. 

In general, countries that Freedom House classifies as free are more likely than those classified as partly free or not free to have leaders who are closer in age to the median resident of the country.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published on March 24, 2023.

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How to Shop for a Car Loan

9 tips for getting the best interest rate and keeping monthly payments low on a new- or used-car loan

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Whether you’re buying a new car or a used one, there are always methods of getting a better interest rate on a car loan.

Consumer Reports consulted experts to get you the best advice on how to find the best loan. Read on to see what they advise.

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Improve Your Score

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Review your credit report and credit score.

Typically, a higher credit score means you’ll get a lower interest rate. The opposite is true for those with lower credit scores. That’s because a good score, which is based on a history of paying bills and debts, indicates to lenders that you are more likely to pay bills on time and in full. But a study Consumer Reports conducted a few years ago found that even people with good credit scores can sometimes pay too much for auto loans.

Bottom line: You don’t want surprises. Check your credit report and credit score a few months before you start shopping for a car so that you know where you stand when you start looking for a loan, says Jordan Takeyama, public relations manager at Experian, the credit reporting agency. Experian.com and many banks and credit card companies provide free credit scores. To get a free credit report—which includes the financial information your score is based on—go to AnnualCreditReport.com .

This is especially important if you’ve had credit problems in the past. Sometimes improving a low score is as simple as correcting mistakes or discrepancies in your credit report . Most corrections and disputes are completed in 10 to 14 days, Takeyama says, and credit reporting agencies generally must complete their investigations within 30 days. Paying down existing debt and late bills can also give you a last-minute bump. As always, pay bills for credit cards, utilities, and other goods promptly to avoid late fees and further damage to your credit score.

Set a Budget and Stick to It

As the staffers who buy CR’s test cars know, car dealers can be masters of the upsell. Consider your needs today and how they may evolve over the ownership period. Resist the urge to indulge in extras or buy a bigger or fancier vehicle than you need because you’re likely to be paying on that depreciating asset for years to come—through a loan, car insurance, and potentially local vehicle taxes.

Don't Focus on Just the Monthly Cost

Dealers often try to sell you on a loan by emphasizing what you will have to pay each month. That does matter for household budgeting purposes, but to get low monthly payments you’ll most likely have to extend the loan over a longer period of time, which will increase its overall cost. Another downside to a long-term loan is that it increases the chance that you will end up “underwater” or “upside down” on your loan, which is when you owe more on the car than what it’s worth. Of course, a monthly cost that you can handle is important, too, so consider both factors when choosing a loan.

The example below is based on the average new-car loan amount and interest rate in the last quarter of 2023, rounded down.

how to create research report

That shortens the time you’ll be paying interest on the loan, says Alain Nana-Sinkam, co-founder of Remarkit Automotive, a firm that analyzes market trends. Putting down more money up front also means you’ll be paying interest on a smaller amount of money, costing you less overall. “With interest rates trending higher, CR recommends that buyers make a down payment of at least 15 percent when buying a vehicle, and 20 to 25 percent if you can afford it,” says Chuck Bell, programs director for advocacy at Consumer Reports.

Get Preapproval From Your Bank

Before you set foot in a dealership—either physically or virtually— contact your bank or credit union and get preapproved for a loan. The dealer may be able to offer a better deal on financing, but having a loan secured ahead of time gives you a strong starting point for negotiations over financing.

If Your Credit Isn't Great, Check Carmakers for Special Deals

Sometimes automakers or their dealers will offer special financing for subprime borrowers , although it is usually focused on entry-level models. Nana-Sinkam points out that while buying a used car will likely decrease the amount of your loan, some subprime lenders may favor new-car loans because the cars have robust warranties, making it less likely that mechanical problems will make it more difficult for the borrower to pay on time. Bell says that like anyone else, subprime borrowers should shop around. “Oftentimes, the best rate is going to come from a credit union, bank, or third-party lender, rather than from dealer-based financing,” he says. “Know what the prevailing interest rates are for borrowers in your credit score range, and seek multiple offers before heading to the dealership.”

Consider Buying a Used Car

CR members report higher levels of satisfaction with newer used cars, but you can save money by buying an older model . Although interest rates tend to be higher on loans for used cars, lowering the amount you’re borrowing can result in significant savings. But beware: Interest rates can be significantly higher at some used-car lots, especially so-called “buy here, pay here” dealerships, according to research from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau .

Stop Overcharging for Car Loans!

Sign CR’s petition to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure that auto loans are fairly priced.

Black and Hispanic borrowers with the same creditworthiness as white ones pay almost 1 percentage point more interest on car loans, according to a 2021 study . The study also found that borrowers of color were slightly more likely to be denied a loan outright. If you suspect discriminatory lending, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or with the Federal Trade Commission.

Benjamin Preston

Benjamin Preston has been a reporter with the Consumer Reports autos team since 2020, focusing on new and used car buying, auto insurance, car maintenance and repair, and electric bikes. He has covered cars since 2012 for the New York Times, Time, the BBC, the Guardian, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jalopnik, and others. Outside CR, he maintains his own small fleet of old cars and serves as a volunteer firefighter, specializing in car crash response and vehicle extrication.

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  3. How to Write a Research Paper ()

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  5. Types of Research Report

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  6. FREE 11+ Sample Research Reports in MS Word

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VIDEO

  1. How to Do Research and Get Published

  2. THINK SMART IN RESEARCH WITH FREE AI TOOL TO CREATE RESEARCH QUESTIONS-PURPOSE-SIGNIFICANCE IN 30SEC

  3. Report Writing

  4. How to Write a Research Paper

  5. How to do research? and How to write a research paper?

  6. HOW TO CREATE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY FOR THESIS-DISSERTATION BY USING AI ASSISTIVE TOOLS FOR RESEARCH

COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Research Paper (FREE Template

    We've covered a lot of ground here. To recap, the three steps to writing a high-quality research paper are: To choose a research question and review the literature. To plan your paper structure and draft an outline. To take an iterative approach to writing, focusing on critical writing and strong referencing.

  2. How to Write a Research Paper

    Develop a thesis statement. Create a research paper outline. Write a first draft of the research paper. Write the introduction. Write a compelling body of text. Write the conclusion. The second draft. The revision process. Research paper checklist.

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    When to Write Research Report. A research report should be written after completing the research study. This includes collecting data, analyzing the results, and drawing conclusions based on the findings. Once the research is complete, the report should be written in a timely manner while the information is still fresh in the researcher's mind.

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    An outline of the research questions and hypotheses; the assumptions or propositions that your research will test. Literature Review. Not all research reports have a separate literature review section. In shorter research reports, the review is usually part of the Introduction. A literature review is a critical survey of recent relevant ...

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