- 1 Objectives
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Writing a Research Paper
- 4 The Title
- 5 The Author
- 6 The Abstract
- 7 The Introduction
- 8 The Literature Review
- 9 The Research Design
- 10 The "Data Analysis" or "Analysis and Assessment" or "Findings" Section
- 11 The Conclusion
- 12 Including Citations and References
- 13 Oral presentations of research
- 14 Presenting research in a poster format
- 15 Conclusion
- 16 References
- 17 Discussion questions
- 18 Problems
- 19 Glossary
- To learn the major components of a research paper
- To learn what to put into each section
It is time to take a field trip back in time. You normally grab your computer when you need to do research for a paper. Perhaps you get on JSTOR and type in the appropriate keywords to do a search to find academic articles on your paper topic. But this time take a trip to your university’s library. Follow the directions to where the periodicals are located. The most recent editions of the journals to which your university subscribes should be on the selves here. Look through to find some journal titles that you recognize from articles a professor might have assigned in the past. For political science, you would want to find The American Political Science Review; for sociology, American Sociological Review. Grab a copy and then look around for a different journal in your field and grab a copy of that too. Find one more journal, grab a copy, and then take all three copies and go sit down at a table with them. Now open all three of them up to an article near the front.
As you look through these three journal articles you’ll notice that there are some clear similarities and some clear differences. Of course the articles will be written on different topics. In fact, you may find if you look at the table of contents that while some journals run the gamut of topics, others seem to specialize in a specific sub discipline. But instead of thinking about the content, focus on the structure of the articles. You’ll notice that the articles all begin with the title of the article followed by the names of the authors. In some of the journals, this will be followed an abstract. This is a short summary of the article which looks like a small blocked paragraph right under the title. The article proper begins with a section without a heading which you will immediately identify as the introduction. Next will come one or two sections which have lots of citations—the headings of these sections will vary, but we call these sections the literature review. Next will come a section which is almost always called the research design. This is followed by a section which is frequently title either “Data Analysis” or “Analysis and Assessment,” but sometimes it has another title. Frequently this section will have tables in it. The last section is usually appropriately titled “Conclusions,” but sometimes the author uses a synonym. After this you will sometimes find “Notes” or “Appendices,” but at the end you will always find a “Works Cited,” “References,” or “Bibliography.”
Writing a Research Paper
Back in the days of typewriters, writing was a linear process because making changes was so difficult. We would rarely sit down to write until we were finished with the entire research project and knew what we wanted to write from beginning to end. Revising meant literally cutting sections from a page and pasting it with glue on the page where we decided it would fit better. Then we would retype the entire paper from beginning to end, careful in the knowledge that if we made a typo, we needed to fix it immediately. We knew that any later corrections would have to be made using white-out and would end up looking very messy.
The advent of personal computers has transformed the writing process. We no longer need to begin with the introduction and end with the reference page. Theoretically we could begin where ever we want and just keep adding pieces and revising until we're satisfied with the end product. With a click on a button we send our paper to the printer, it comes out beautifully printed, and we're done. This freedom allows us to integrate the writing process with the research process, breaking the dread-inspiring research paper into very manageable chunks.
As in days of old, our research project still begins with the identification of an interesting topic. As we read the academic literature on that topic we still refine the topic into an important research question. But now we can begin the construction of our paper by writing our Reference page while we read our sources. If some of them end up being irrelevant, it will be easy enough to delete them later. After we finish reading our sources and feel competent to answer our research question with an hypothesis, we're in a perfect position to write the Literature Review. The process of organizing the scholarly answers to our research question into the Literature Review should inspire us with how we want to conduct our own original research. With that inspiration we’re in position to write our Research Design. With a written plan in hand we might well be fully motivated to jump right into the data collection and analysis phase of our research. And once we start getting results nothing can stop us from sharing what we found with friends and family. So why not sit down and write up the results immediately in the Data Analysis section? We could have written the Introduction any time during the process. The only thing set in stone is that we can’t write the conclusion until we’ve completed the other sections of the paper. So although this chapter presents the sections of a research paper in the order that the final paper will be read, please do not write them in that order. And please, please, please, do not wait until you’ve finished your research to begin writing your paper. It will be much more manageable if you write as you go and you’ll have a lot more fun!
Writing a good title can be one of the hardest parts of writing the paper because we need to do so much with so few words. Because the title is the first exposure readers have to the paper, it needs to grad their attention. A good title goes beyond simply stating the topic of the paper. A research paper is not just about a topic, it uses evidence to present a logical argument from which we draw conclusions about the validity of an hypothesis. The title needs to somehow present that argument in such a way as to give the reader an indication of what is to come. Finally, the title needs to give some indication of the cases the paper will be analyzing.
If you look at those journal articles you have sitting in front of you, you’ll notice that the best titles perform those three functions by using a single punctuation mark: the colon. Before the colon is a phrase which catches your attention; after the colon is a phrase which identifies which cases are addressed; and by looking at the two phrases together you can get a general idea of the argument the author is going to make.
You can catch the reader’s attention in many ways. You can use alliteration or a rhyme. You can use a common phrase or a famous quote. You can allude to popular culture: a song, a movie, a television show. Just remember that whatever phrase you use has to do more than present the topic. It has to set up the argument as well.
When there are multiple authors, they are usually ranked in order of contribution--the first author listed is usually called the "primary investigator." On occasion, though, the authors made equal contributions to the article. The standard in that case is to list the authors alphabetically.
An abstract is a brief summary of the paper. It should, very briefly, place the paper in the context of why you are doing the research. But then it should summarize your methodology and findings. Because you need to pack so much information into so little space, abstracts tend to use academic jargon as stand-ins for more complex ideas. As you are conducting your literature search, abstracts can be helpful. Although the use of jargon can make them difficult to understand, you should at least be able to get an idea of where the article is going. That can be valuable in deciding whether it is worth investing time in reading the full paper. What can be even more valuable is the fact that the jargon will give you a feel for the academically acceptable terms to use in talking about this subject matter. You can use these in three ways. First, you can use them as keywords as you search for articles in a database. Second, these are the terms you should use as you discuss the schools of thought in your own Literature Review. Third, if you pay attention to how the author uses the terms in the literature review, you will see which sources fall into which school of thought. That will help you as you decide how to group them for your own Literature Review.
Not all journals (or professors) require abstracts. Check to see if you need to write one.
Like the title, the Introduction needs to both catch the reader’s attention and bring them toward the argument that you’ll be making in the paper. If you chose to refer to popular culture in your title, you might need to explain the relevance of your example to your topic. Alternatively you could begin with a historical example or a current event to catch the reader’s attention.
A clever opening isn’t enough to keep the reader’s attention, though. Your next job is to present your research question as a puzzle. Why are you bothering researching it? Why should I bother reading your paper? What about your example contradicts our general understanding of how the world works? What don’t we know that we ought to know? It’s the puzzle that keeps the reader interested in reading your paper. Often it is the puzzle that motivated you to research the question in the first place. Classic examples of research puzzles in political science include:
- If Northern and Southern Italy have the same political institutions, why is Southern Italy less economically developed and plagued by corruption compared to the North?<ref>Template:Cite bookfckLR</ref>
- [Another popular example here]
After tickling the reader’s curiosity, you then present a road map of how you plan to answer your research question. In your road map you should write at least one sentence for each of the schools of thought you analyze in your Literature Review. Can you see why you probably don’t want to begin the writing process with the introduction? You can’t write a decent roadmap until after you’ve written your literature review. After describing the structure of your Literature Review, you need to state your hypothesis. You should describe the data you plan on using to test your hypothesis. And you should describe what you expect to see if your hypothesis is correct.
Finally you should conclude your introduction by explaining why your research is important. You data may have focused you on a specific case, but will your results have broader implications for understanding the world? This is your last chance to hook your reader. You can seal the deal by stating clearly why it is so important to research this question.
If you do everything right, your introduction will be much longer than the standard paragraph you’ve used in the past for term paper. Look at the articles in front of you: Their introductions are several paragraphs long. Your introduction will probably go onto at least the second page. That is how it should be.
The Literature Review
The Literature Review will probably be the section of your research paper that you spend the most time on. Partly this is because you need to read and understand a whole bunch of articles and books that are written in “Academese.” But partly this is because structuring what you learn into a coherent summary isn’t easy. Before you begin writing, you need to refine your research topic into a research question. Then you need to identify the major scholarly answers to that question. These answers will provide the structure to the body of your paper. Keep in mind that in all writing you need an introduction, body and conclusion. If you think of the Literature Review as a free standing paper, not unlike term papers you’ve written in the past, you might find writing it a bit easier.
Your first task is to choose a research question. You will usually begin reading the literature with only an idea of what topic you find interesting. But soon you will need to refine that topic into a research question. Before you can realize what question hasn’t been answered, you need to know what questions already have been answered. So as you read you will need to understand both the conclusions drawn in each work and how they came to those conclusions. To do original research you have to find what’s missing. What would happen if you measured a concept in a different way? What would happen if you controlled for another variable in the analysis? What if you used the same techniques to study a different case? Frequently you can find these kinds of research questions clearly presented in the conclusion. When we get to describing what goes into the Conclusion, you’ll find that it is standard to ask “What’s Next?” Although this section may well describe the author’s research agenda, the original author does not have dibs on completing “What’s Next.” These are fair game. Feel free to use them as you refine you research topic into a research question and even on into your hypothesis.
Once you’ve committed yourself to a research question, the way you read the literature should change. The goal now is to answer the question “How would this author answer my research question?” At this point you can begin skimming because much of the material is irrelevant to answering that more focused question. When you find an article that is especially focused on your research question, you should pay particular attention to its literature review. What works does this article cite that seem relevant? Find them. Although you may have begun finding articles by typing your topic in as a keyword in a database like JSTOR, that technique isn’t nearly as efficient as borrowing a list of the important sources from a professional article that’s been published in a refereed journal. These guys are the experts on the topic of interest. Trust them to identify “The Literature” with a capital T and a capital L. When you read these articles, you’ll find that there is a great deal of overlap in who they reference. These are the folks you should be citing as well.
Collecting sources can’t go on forever. At some point you need to write your literature review. Please do not fall prey to the temptation of thinking that you can just paste your summaries together into a literature review. A literature review is not a list of sources. Nor is it an annotated bibliography. Look at the literature reviews of the articles you have in front of you. Only very rarely will you see the title of a book or article. A literature review is about ideas. You will see the last names of the authors in those articles, but only to give them credit for their ideas. Literature reviews are not organized around people any more than they are organized around titles.
Your task in writing your Literature is to figure out how to group articles or books with similar perspective together. We call these perspectives schools of thought. Bagione<ref>Template:Cite bookfckLRfckLR</ref>
argues that there are four basic approaches that political scientists take to explaining why things happen the way they do: Institutionalism, Economism, the Power Approach, and Culturalism. It could well be that these schools of thought are relevant to other social science disciplines as well. Certainly they work for sociology: Weber has an institutional approach, Durkheim had a cultural approach, and Marx oscillated between looking at things from either an economic or a power perspective. So as you try to group the scholarly answers to your research question ask yourself the following questions: Do some of the articles explain events as being determined by how organizations are structure? If so, group these sources as having an institutional approach. Do some of the sources explain phenomena as being motivated by the interest of individuals? If so, group them as using an economic approach. Do some focus on the balance of power between groups? That would be a power approach. Finally, do some of them look at social norms or human nature as the source of events? That would be a cultural approach. For any given research question, you will not necessarily find all of these schools of thought represented. And on occasion one of these generic schools of thought might well house two very different answers to your research question. But by grouping your sources into these schools, you are freed up to write a literature review based on ideas, not titles or authors.
As a helpful guide to assist in your determination of the schools of thought within your particular research area, you may wish to create a Literature Grid and a Literature Map. These are heuristic devices that organize the existing literature in a spreadheet or on a virtual canvas. These organizational models are helpful in determining which of the authors fit within which of the schools of thought. In addition, nuances among the authors within a particular school of thought become more evident through the use of these devices. Once you’ve identified your schools of thought, you are ready to begin writing your Literature Review. Begin the Literature with an introduction. Like all introductions it should begin broad and then narrow down to a thesis statement at the end. The point that you will be making in the introduction to your Literature Review is that there is controversy among scholars about how to answer your research question. Your thesis statement is a single sentence saying how many major approaches there are to answering your research question and then listing the schools of thought in the order you present them in the body.
As you write your Literature Review, use a subheading for each of your schools of thought. You don’t need to use the labels “Institutionalism,” “Economism,” the “Power Approach,” or “Culturalism.” In fact it would be much better if you used the terms you saw in your sources because those are how your literature describes itself. Then as you write each subsection describe the general approach that school of thought takes in answering your research question. In that approach what are the major explanatory variables for why things end up the way they do? How do the different authors add to our understanding the problem from that perspective? Be sure to evaluate each of the schools of thought in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.
Depending on your subject matter you can organize your discussion of the schools of thought in different ways. One option is to put them in chronological order. Usually the different schools achieve dominance with the profession at different points in time and in response to the limitations of the prior dominant school. If you choose this organization, you will probably want to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each school as you go. Another option is to put the schools in order from weakest to strongest. If you choose this approach you could do the strengths and weaknesses as you go, but you could also have a separate section at the end evaluating all of the schools of thought side by side. Both of these approaches are fine—choose whichever works best for your topic.
Be sure to have a conclusion subsection at the end of your Literature Review. First, summarize the major arguments made by each of the schools of thought. You’ve got to have at least one sentence per school of thought to summarize it adequately. Second, evaluate them. Which school of thought do you find most persuasive and why? Finally finish by stating your hypothesis in a single sentence.
The Research Design
This section almost always has the heading "Research Design" because it is amazingly hard to come up with a more creative title specific to the study at hand--if you can think of one for your topic, more power to you! The goal of this section is to basically be a blue print of how you plan to test your hypothesis. The two major requirements here are for you to discuss how you will measure your variables and where you will get your data.
But be sure to place that discussion within a well written section: Like all good writing, you need to have an introduction and conclusion framing your description of measurement and data. Since you concluded your Literature Review with your hypothesis, the introduction should a short transition identifying the dependent and independent variables. The thesis statement at the end of the introduction should be a simple sentence explaining that you are going to test that hypothesis using data.
Each of your variables deserves its own paragraph. You should begin the paragraph by naming the variable with a specific label and identify whether it is a dependent, independent or control variable. Keep track of that label because for clarity's sake, from here on out you need to call this variable by this name. It is especially important that you use this label in the Data Analysis section both in your discussion and in whatever tables you include. The next thing you should do is give a conceptual definition of the variable. This is something akin to a dictionary definition of the variable. But you should base it on how the sources in your Literature Review defined the variable. Think about what are the key features that you think this variable describes. Next you need to operationally define your variable: How are you going to measure it? Finally you need to evaluate how well that measurement gets at the concept. Think about validity and reliability as you do that evaluation.
In addition to having a paragraph explaining how you're going to measure your variables, you also need to describe where you get your data. If you are using a single source for all the data it is easiest to follow your definition paragraphs with another paragraph describing your data source. Is it reputable? What is the unit of analysis? Is that appropriate for answering you research question? If you get the measures from various sources, it would be easier to include the source when you describe your operationalization. In that case you can evaluate the source at the same time you evaluate the measure. A third possibility is that you are going to be collecting your own data. In that case you need to describe in detail how you are going to do that. Keeping in mind the need for reliability, be sure to give enough details so that someone else could do the same thing and get the same results.
The conclusion of your Research Design section is your final analysis of how well your design should do at testing your hypothesis. Given that no measure is perfect, are the problems you identified in lining up the conceptual and operational definitions of your variables likely to affect your results? Is there anything about your data which is likely to bias your results in one way or another? Be up front about these limitations and specific about how they should influence your results. You can come back to these expectations in your Conclusions. But for now it's time to actually do the research.
The scientific method requires that the research design be completed before you begin analysis. This is to prevent you molding the process to get the results you want. And it is also wise to write this section before you begin the actual analysis. However once you begin data collection and analysis you might well find that your original plan doesn't work quite right. If you end up making changes as you go, be sure to go back to the research design and adjust it accordingly.
The "Data Analysis" or "Analysis and Assessment" or "Findings" Section
After you collect and analyze your data, your job is to communicate your results to others. In those journal articles you have in front of you, you’ll notice that, like the research design section, the section that follows does not have a clever title, although there is a tiny bit of variation. Sometimes this section is called “Data Analysis;” sometimes, “Analysis and Assessment;” and sometimes, “Findings.” But you’ll notice that in all of them the focus in describing the results of the analysis. What you will not see here is a step-by-step account of what the researchers did to come to those conclusions. Avoid the temptation of giving a travel log of your travails. You don’t need to describe all the hurdles you had to surmount to collect your data. You don’t even need to present the results in the order that you got them. What you do need to do is present them in well organized piece of writing.
As always, begin with an introduction. The goal here is to make a transition from what you planned to do in the research design to the result you got with your analysis. It would be appropriate to include in this paragraph the kinds of analytic tools you plan on using and what you expect to see if your hypothesis is correct. The last sentence could well be your hypothesis rephrased to be talking more about the data than the abstract concepts.
You begin your analysis with univariate analyses of your dependent and major independent variables. Each of them deserves its own paragraph and its own table summarizing the results. The introductory sentence should identify the table and what is in it. Then analyze the contents of the table. Report any appropriate univariate statistics: measures of central tendency and measures of dispersion. Conclude the paragraph with what you learned about the variable which could influence your analysis. Is it skewed? What level of measurement is it? What does this distribution tell you?
After describing the variables, the next logical step is to show the bivariate relationship between the dependent and primary independent variable. Visually this is easiest to see in a two-way cross tabulation. If you have interval level data (or categorical data with too many categories) this would require you to collapse the data into just a few categories. Alternatively, instead of a table you could include a figure of a scatter plot of the two variables. Analyzing a relationship always follows three steps. First, you describe the pattern that you see. For a cross tabulation this would mean choosing a row and comparing the column percentages across that row. Second, you state whether the relationship is statistically significant and if you can reject the null hypothesis. Third, you give the appropriate measure of association between the two variables. You conclude the paragraph by stating the strength of the relationship in English. The standard here is that if a relationship is statistically significant but the measure of association is less than 0.1, you conclude that it is a very weak relationship; if it is between 0.1 and 0.2, weak; between 0.2 and 0.3, moderate; greater than 0.3, strong.
Finally you will normally include a paragraph and table of the relationship between the dependent and independent variables, controlling for any possible antecedent or intervening variables. You’ll need to be sure to use the appropriate statistical technique: possibly a three-way cross tabulation, possibly a multivariate regression. You once again follow the three step process of describing the pattern, reporting the statistical significance, and giving the measure of association. Remember that you’ll need to deal with each section of the three-way cross tab separately because each category of the control variable could show a different relationship between the dependent and independent variables.
As usual you need to conclude this section with a conclusion summarizing the results of the section.
As with the introduction, the conclusion of a research paper is longer than the traditional term paper. It begins as you are accustomed with a summary of the paper. But the summary will probably be longer than you are accustomed. You will begin by summarizing the literature review—at least one sentence per school of though. Then summarize how you actually conducted the research and finally summarize your results.
Unlike the standard term paper, the conclusion does not end with a summary. Next be honest about any limitations in your research. Return to your research design and review the possible problems you pointed out in your conclusion. Did those problems actually occur? How did they affect the results?
Third think about what the next step in understanding the dependent variable should be. Academics normally have research agendas which focus on a particular area. If you were to do further research in this area, what would you want to do next? Is there something you could do differently to solve the problems you described in the previous paragraph? Is there new data that could be collected that would shed new light on the relationship? Is there another independent variable that should be explored? Should you try a different style of research design? What’s next?
Fourth, think about how generally applicable your results are. Are your results specific to your case? Or can they be generalized to other cases? Do they apply to other places? To other times?
Finally, return to the issues which you raised in your introduction. Reaffirm how important these findings are. In a mirror image to the Introduction which began broad and narrowed, the Conclusion broadens the discussion back out. Describe the broader implications of your results for our understanding of the world.
Including Citations and References
If you are in a research methods class, you should be far enough along in your education to know that your professors are very serious about giving credit to people for their ideas and work. For us, ideas are our bread and butter. Stealing an idea is just as bad as stealing a car. We are very serious that you need to cite all of the sources that you use, whether you use information from them, paraphrase them or quote them verbatim. For more information on plagiarism, see “What is Plagiarism? (and How to Avoid it). With the understanding that you need to give credit where credit is due, there are two general approaches to giving that credit: the footnote/bibliography style and the parenthetical citation/reference style. There are several versions of each, and for none of them is it acceptable to simply list the URLs at the end of the paper. Be sure to use the style which you have been assigned.
In the footnote/bibliography style you give a limited amount of information about the source in a footnote, and the full information in the bibliography. The rule of thumb about page numbers is that you must give the page number if you are quoting the source. If you are referring to specific information which can be attributed to a specific page, you can include the page. But if you are referring to general results of the entire work, a page number is not necessary. Because the purpose is to give the reader a quick glance at where the information came from, in general, footnotes are preferable to end notes. So use footnotes unless you have been instructed otherwise.
In the parenthetical citation style, you give even more limited information about the source within the body of the paragraphs. The standard here is that you refer to authors by their last name as you discuss their findings. Immediately after the last name you would put the year of publication in parentheses. If it is appropriate to cite the page of the quote or information, inside the parentheses you would follow the year with a comma, a space and then the page number, followed by the closing parentheses. You do not always use the author’s last name in the paragraph, though. In that case you would insert the last name after the opening parentheses before the year. As with the bibliography, the reference page at the end contains the full bibliographic information of the source.
Both a bibliography and a reference page contain the same basic information. They will include the author’s last name. Most also include the author’s first name, although some include only the first initial. They include the year of publication, the title and the publisher. If the source is webpage specific it will, in addition to the former, also include the URL and the date that you accessed it. Remember, it is not enough to list simply the URLs. Follow the style manual assigned and include all the relevant information.
On occasion, you want to footnote information or clarifications, or side tangents, rather than source citations. If you were using a footnote/bibliography style, you could include this information as just another footnote. Normally with the parenthetical citation style, though, you would actually lump these together in an endnote page.
Oral presentations of research
In-class or conference presentations
A good research presentation involves three primary components: 1) preparation, 2) presentation, and (sometimes, but not always) 3) responses(Q&A).
Know the environment in which you are giving your talk. Obviously if you are presenting your research in front of a class (group of your peers) these are people you are comfortable with and an environment you know well. A research presentation at a conference may be a completely different situation. Find out in advance what room you are presenting in and what equipment will be available to you. Have a back up plan in place even if you are supposed to have access to technology. Even in the 21st Century, in the age of iPad and smartphones, technology has been known to fail. Know how much time you have to present and do not run long. Also, consider the audience you are presenting to. A safe bet is that most of the people at a conference are not your classmates. Finally, the most important aspect of a research preparation is to practice, practice, practice. You want to look like you know your presentation inside and out. The best way to look like you know your presentation inside and out is to actually know your presentation inside and out.
At the point of your presentation you should be intimately familiar with your work. You should be comfortable with every aspect of your presentation. Be sure to engage your audience from the onset. Tell the audience what the point of your research is in the first few minutes. Guide them through the presentation. Often students (and researchers) want to save the "surprise" of the findings until the end and make the audience suffer through a maze of confusing puzzles. A research presentation should not be a game of clue. Tell a story and let the findings naturally play into that story. Avoid injecting bad humor into a presentation. No matter how good your results are, they will get lost in bad comedy. It's almost inexcusable not to use powerpoint or some form of presentation software these days. If you are presenting your research in class this may not be a requirement, but it is certainly good practice. When giving your powerpoint presentation (or equivalent), use short bullets and stick to visual charts, graphs and/or tables when possible. Finally, try to show your audience how your research fits into the bigger story (whatever that story may be-- international politics, the war on poverty, global warming, etc.).
Q & A
Listen intently to every question. Do not be dismissive of any question no matter how nonsensical the question seems to be. Make direct eye contact with the person asking the question. It is ok to pause and think about how you will answer the question and even jot down notes. It is also ok (even preferable) to say you do not know the answer to the question rather than to ramble on pretending you have an answer when you don't. However, what you don't want is to say "I don't know" to many or most questions. Sometimes audience participants (or even classmates) are there to be "flame throwers" because they have preconceived notions about your work, they didn't like your presentation, or simply because they don't like you. They will take the opportunity during Q&A to ask questions designed to rattle you and make you look bad. Do not become defensive. Stay calm and answer any legitimate question to the best of your ability. Accept constructive criticism from the audience, but be prepared to defend your work. Remember, you know more about your work and your presentation than any member of the audience.
Presenting research in a poster format
In the social sciences research papers follow a standard sequence beginning with the Introduction, progressing through the Literature Review, the Research Design, the Data Analysis, and ending in the Conclusion. Don't get creative on that structure. This standard has evolved overtime and in this case it really is preservation of the fittest. Use it because it works. You do not, however, have to write it in that order. The research process is much more pleasant if you begin by writing the reference page as you gather sources, and then write the Literature Review, the Research Design, the Introduction, the Data Analysis, and the Conclusion in modules as you complete each phase of your work. Think of each of the sections as individual writings with their own introductions, bodies and conclusions. And then blend them together and edit them into a single work of original research as you go. This will make the research project much more manageable and you'll end up with a final product of which you can be proud.