The key to writing a successful research paper
in any field of study is organization. From the initial investigations to the final conclusion, writers must accurately record all data and results in order to eventually illustrate their findings. While the exact format of these assignments may vary across disciplines, they share many features in common. For example, all research papers are composed of the following sections: Introduction, literature review, methodology, analysis, results (also called findings), discussion, and conclusion.
It is also important to note that the purpose of a researcher paper, no matter the field, is always to either to argue a point or analyze a perspective. To do so, authors must present their own thoughts on a subject and bolster them with ideas and information introduced by others. But to present this information in an effective and compelling way, the author must be organized. He or she must take it one step at a time and complete each section of the research paper in order build an argument or complete an evaluation. Today, we will discuss what may be the single most important section of any research paper, the results or findings section.
Whether arguing a point or completing an evaluation, the results section is where you must present and illustrate your findings. It should not include interpretation or commentary, but rather a completely dispassionate account of the results.
- Discuss findings in text form and illustrate them with figures and tables, if permitted.
- For the text, explain results one by one, stressing those that are most relevant to your evaluation or argument.
- When appropriate, provide a context that will help your readers see the connection between a specific question and an observation you made.
- Review the results of any control experiments and note any observations that are not presented in attached tables or figures.
- Analyze all data, then present it in text, table, or figure form.
What to leave out
Many students who are new to research paper writing
make the mistake of including far too much information in the results section. Here are a few things you should always avoid doing.
- Do not interpret, evaluate, or offer any personal opinions about your results. In fact, don't try to explain anything in this section. That includes your reason for writing the paper and any superfluous background information.
- Do not add any raw data or unfinished calculations to your paper, unless specifically requested by your instructor.
- No matter how important it may be, do not repeat the same data more than once.
- When using figures and/or tables, do not repeat the same information they include in text form.
- If your instructor asks for one but not the other, do not use figures and tables interchangeable. They are different!
Because it merely describes all findings in a simple, straightforward way, the style guidelines for the results section are few. Nevertheless, they must be followed. Failure to do so will invariably result in a lower grade and confused comments from your instructor, who will almost certainly wonder how you botched such an uncomplicated section. Here are a few tips to ensure that that doesn't happen.
- Always use the past tense when describing your results, and follow a simple, logical order.
- When referring to figures or tables in the text, always assign them numbers, i.e., "figure 1," "figure 2," or "table 1," "table 2," and so on.
- Include all numbered figures and tables in order at the end of your research paper. Make sure you differentiate them from other data and information by properly labeling the section.
- If you have room, figures and tables may be placed alongside the text in the results section. Just make sure the format is reader-friendly and that the figures and tables do not overwhelm the text.
- No matter where you place them, all figures and tables must be properly labeled so that they can stand on their own without any additional information to explain them in the text.
When to write it
Because the findings section reports what the analysis revealed, you can't start working on it until you have completed the analysis section. A purely descriptive section, the findings or results section should be easy to understand for you paper's intended audience. However, it may not be easy to write, especially when working in large groups.
Who should write the results section?
When a research report has multiple authors, and many of them do, then different team members may work on the analysis and findings sections. The person who pens the finding section should know how results are reported in the given field. In most cases, the person who writes the results section is also the lead author of the paper. Why is this?
As we mentioned earlier, the results section is arguably the most important part of any research paper. It is where an evaluation or argument generally fails or succeeds based on observable data. Without this section, the paper wouldn't be able to prove or disprove anything. It would simply describe a goal, but not provide evidence of its failure or achievement.
Citing your references
Most authors add citations after they have completed the results section, but you can also insert them as you write. Because numerous sources must be acknowledged in the section, it helps to have them organized before you start adding them. This should reduce the risk of leaving any of your sources out, which is considered a serious error in the academic community.
One easy and effective way to organize the references for your research paper is to use bibliographic management software. These helpful programs store and save innumerable sources on files that can later be formatted according to the style guidelines you must follow. Several popular versions of the software are available online.