What Is a Research Paper in Laymans Terms?

What Is a Research Paper in Laymans Terms?

We all become tabula rasa from time to time when we have to do something for the first time in our life. This is also true for your academic tasks.

As you already learned how to write an essay on any of the given subjects, here comes a new assignment that is supposed to challenge you - a research paper. We should admit that it’s a more complicated type of work, so it’s not the same as crafting a 500-words long essay. This is a formidable assignment that usually takes months to complete.

What does a research paper look like? Today we will explain it to you and equip you with the basic information you might be willing to use when you will be working on your paper.

Getting to Know the Fundamentals

You can’t advance to a more detailed stage until you clarify the question ‘What is a research paper?’ So, simply put, this is a sort of academic assignment that involves the synthesis of the materials dedicated to the topic of the paper, their interpretation, and your own insights or findings on the subject. In other words, you should provide your own ideas on the topic, which are backed by information from reputable sources like books, scientific journals, articles, etc.

The research paper can be anything between 5 to 15 pages. The accurate length of the work is defined by a teacher considering the academic level, discipline, and credit you get for the task.

What Should a Research Paper Include: The Key Elements

Once you grasp the concept of the research paper, it’s time to get to grips with the issue ‘How does a research paper look?’ 

Just like any paper, this one has a classic structure, which, eventually, can be changed by a teacher. Here are the sections that are guaranteed to be included in your work:

  • title page;
  • abstract;
  • introduction;
  • literature review;
  • methods;
  • results;
  • discussion;
  • references;
  • appendix (optional).

The list might look confusing, but we’ll sort things out for you right now. We’ll go over each of these elements so that you do not ever get confused when dealing with research papers.

What Does a Research Paper Look Like

What’s on the Title Page?

The content and format of the title page will depend on the formatting style. However, here are the common pieces of information you are supposed to include:

  • your full name;
  • the full name and position of your instructor or teacher;
  • the name of the discipline and its code;
  • the educational institution;
  • the date.

The sequence of the elements and their presence or absence can be guided by your teacher. Besides, you might be asked to provide additional information like your contact data and so on. Thus, check the requirements to make certain you do everything by the book.

What Is Abstract in a Research Paper?

If you are new to academic papers, the word ‘abstract’ might be unknown to you. Even though it takes the first position in the informative section of the term paper, this is a brief summary of your work; thus, it should be written in the last turn.

This element shouldn’t be too long. Usually, you should be able to deliver the core idea of your work in around 250-300 words. Here you introduce the problem and explain why you decided to investigate it. You should also provide major findings and the interpretation of the results.

A Few Words About the Introduction

Just as the name implies, the introduction acquaints the reader with the project and introduces the topic. In this part of the research paper, you should provide background information about the subject so that everyone could understand what you would be talking about.

What Is a Literature Review in a Research Paper?

Another important section of a research paper is a literature review. It entitles the overview of the materials that were produced by other scholars on the topic. You should give details on the book or publication (author, title, publisher, year of publication, etc.) and evaluate the ideas expressed in the work.

What Is Methodology in a Research Paper?

Once you enumerated and described the materials, it’s time to clarify what methods you used to carry the research. In this part, you explain how you conducted the research and evaluated the findings. For example, what methods you used to collect data and then interpret it for the reader.

What Should the Results Be About?

As you approach the Results section, you should discuss the outcomes of your research here. It means that you should state whether your hypothesis was proved or not and provide evidence to support the announced facts. It’s essential to highlight both positive and negative results of the research and stay unbiased to the data you provide.

What Is a Research Paper

The Discussion Section Explained

That’s the place where you sum up your findings and stress the significance of the work you’ve carried. As you are writing a Discussion section, you should find a place for your findings in the general investigation of the problem and show how your research added to the understanding of the topic. Finish this section by pointing at the directions for further studies of the subject.


Depending on the formatting style, this section can be called in different ways. In APA style you would call it a Reference list, while using MLA style will imply using the ‘Works Cited’ section heading.

Usually, this part of the research paper involves the use of the list in an alphabetic order to enumerate all the works that were cited or referred to in your paper. 

What Is an Appendix in a Research Paper?

This is an optional section of your research paper, and it might not be included in every work. However, when you are planning to provide infographics, schemes, images, or charts to the body of your work, you should move them to the Appendix. The aim of this section is to keep your reader focused on the text rather than fancy images and enhance the readability.

The Checklist for Your Research Paper

If you would like your first research paper to be a hit, here are the things to check when you are done with the writing process:

  1. The content of my paper corresponds to its topic.
  2. I have complied with all the requirements the teacher has provided me with.
  3. I have maintained the approved structure of the research paper.
  4. My title page contains all the information my teacher requires.
  5. I used reliable resources for my investigation.
  6. My abstract is short yet accurate and informative.
  7. The introduction is filled with background information that would enable the reader to grasp the topic easier and faster.
  8. My introduction introduces a thesis statement.
  9. My paper has literature reviews of the sources that contain information on the topic.
  10. I described methods I used to study the problem.
  11. I shared the results of my research backed by data and evidence.
  12. There is a discussion section that explains why my study is relevant and important as well as shows other directions of the research.
  13. All the images, large tables, and charts are grouped in the Appendix.
  14. Every single passage of my work is logically connected to another.
  15. All the paragraphs are to the point.
  16. The academic writing style has been maintained in my work.
  17. All the in-text citations and references are formatted according to the defined style.
  18. My paper is free of grammar errors, spelling mistakes, or stylistic inaccuracies.