Text Box: These are the guidelines on the syllabus for our class. Your paper was read and scored based on how well you applied these rules.Research Paper Basic Guidelines

How to Write a Good Research Paper

Steffen W. Schmidt, Ph.D.

Iowa State University/Nova Oceanographic Center

Note: The difference between an undergraduate and graduate research paper is often the size of the final product (graduate papers are longer) and the fact that we often expect graduate students to reach new and original conclusions or findings.


1. Introduction


What is the problem or topic you wish to investigate? How will you approach this research? Why is this of interest to you and why should we be interested in this topic? This is your contract with the reader (and professor). Here you say what you will be doing in the remainder of the project so define carefully your interests and the parameters (scope) of your projected work. Also remember to keep the project focused don't wander off! As you collect material and structure an outline keep referring to this section.


If you need ideas for a paper look at the topics in assigned reading material. Is any specific and narrow sub-topic of interest to you? Or, if you are interested in public opinion you might look for polls of opinion on the environment and related this to our coastal policy interests. A web search is also useful as a source of ideas. The Coastal Policy Network  http://www.udel.edu/CMS/csmp/O&CP-News/  is a good source.


Australia http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/regions/sydney/coast/index.html  has a very developed Coastal Management program and you might want to look at that to get some ideas.


Now sketch out a rough outline. Below are some of the main categories you will want to have as sub-headings.


2. Literature Review


This section should:

3. Body of your original research or case studies


Your actual research project will vary widely depending on the topic and on your methodological preferences. You should think about how you will do this research since there are a number of different approaches.


The most common type of research done for a project of this scope would be a literature review which basically lays out a narrative of what has been written about this topic. This narrative should be comparative (you compare what different researchers and writers have to say) and analytical (you should make your own comments and assessments of what the existing material reveals and also what is missing from the material you have identified in your view).


Alternatively you could do a statistical (quantitative) study from either existing data (such as time series data collected over a period of years). Or alternatively you might want to do original research using interviews of a selected sample of people  for example experts on the subject. You can do this on the telephone with a set of questions you want answered by all respondents. Or it might be original case studies maybe from information you have gathered or plan to collect.


4. Conclusions


Summarize your major findings. Make certain that you directly connect this section to the introduction you wrote and to what you said you were going to do in this research. Look at the introduction and make sure that you have clearly stated in that section what you intend to do in this work.


5. Sources used


List, using the preferred citation method suggested by the program of study, the major sources you consulted for this project. Footnotes can be put at the bottom of each page [1) or you can cite by putting the source after the reference (Schmidt, 2003, p. 345) and then list the sources alphabetically at the end of the paper.


Other Tips:

This is an example of a citation - Steffen Schmidt, How to Write a Good Research Paper, Iowa State University/Nova Oceanographic Center, Research Monographs, 2003, p. 345.