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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Writer's Manual: Research Paper

Department of Languages, Literature and Communication

General Purpose of a Research Paper

The purpose of planning and writing a research paper is to integrate relevant aspects of a subject into a well-structured text within a set time frame, using the knowledge and insights gained from sources and/or literature or another kind of scientifically sound research.

A research paper informs an academic audience about the concepts, insights and discussions surrounding a specific topic or issue, of which an aspect has been the subject of research. In addition, it should stimulate further research into this topic

Method of a Research Paper

The research plan described in the previous chapter forms the starting point for a research paper as it will provide the basis for a structured writing plan. This writing plan details what will be discussed in the research paper and in which order.

The figure below presents a visual overview of the research paper: 

Research Framework

This figure details a preliminary structure that can be used as a guideline for the report and can be supplemented with key words, ideas for argumentation and annotations of consulted sources. This will prove to be an effective basis for writing a research report.

This figure can be used as follows:

  • Divide the information into separate chapters based on the research plan. The sub-questions determine the content of these chapters. Use key words to indicate which information should be used where.
  • Revise this division before starting to write. Assess for each chapter whether or not the gathered information is sufficient to answer the sub-question. Do so by writing a summary of the answer beneath each sub-question.

Form and content

The structure of a research report depends on the specific demands of the course it is connected to. Always consult the course outline for guidelines concerning the length, content, format, and structure of a text as well as the way in which sources should be annotated. Other than this, a research report should contain the following:


In the introduction you discuss what your theme is, and why and how you want to discuss it.

The overall approach to this is:

  • In the introduction:
    • You introduce the theme/topic you want to research
    • You summarise what has been concluded from existing work and you present your own investigation as an essential addition to the current state of affairs by pointing out the lacuna in the existing knowledge (theoretical framework)
    • You introduce the actual investigation by formulating a question and an objective. The research question or definition of the problem needs to be made explicit. Furthermore, on the basis of sub-questions and possible hypotheses you give a preview of the content of the paper.
  • In the theoretical framework you explore concepts related to the research question on the basis of scholarly literature. You make use of a theory for perceiving and understanding more clearly certain aspects of the theme and research subject. By means of the theoretical perspective, you can focus on the most important aspects of your research topic. Eventually, conscious theoretical choices allow you to focus your investigation, and especially to correlate topic, theory and method properly. With your decision about the theoretical principles of your investigation, you defend the choices leading to this decision: on which theoretical principles do you base your study, and how do they relate to your main question or problem (arguments)?
  • While theory defines within which framework and from which perspective you conduct your research, in the method you clarify how you approach your objective in a specific manner. The method results from the theoretical framework and the specific definition of the problem (and function) of your investigation. Your research method determines how you, in a systematic and controlled manner, collect data and how you analyse and interpret these structurally to give a scholarly informed answer to your research question. It is important you support your choice of a specific method and that you demonstrate how your approach to the question and theoretical framework are compatible.


  • In the body paragraphs you discuss and answer the sub-questions in a logical, step by step order. Depending on the size of the research paper, you can relay sub-questions to separate chapters or sections?
  • In each chapter you state the results of your analysis objectively and in an orderly fashion. Data need to be summarised clearly and if necessary be rendered into models or figures for clarification. The results need to be interpreted in a relevant manner and provided with feedback on the theories discussed.
  • An answer to the sub-question needs to be formulated at the end of each chapter.


  • In the conclusion you formulate an answer to the research question which was presented in the introduction. Furthermore, the cohesion between the answers and the various sub-questions needs to be substantiated accurately.
  • You point out how the current situation in the field of research is changed by this addition of new knowledge and insights.
  • Moreover, in your discussion you comment on:
    • The range of your observations
    • The benefits and limitations of the applied research method
    • The implications of your findings, the theorisation of the academic debate in the field of research.
    • Remaining or newly raised research questions

Please note that the framework-descriptive elements introduction and conclusion mirror each other: The introduction guides the reader from the ‘outside’ to the ‘inside’ of a specific theme of the field of research and presents this with a question that so far has not been answered. The conclusion initially provides an answer to the question and consequently guides the reader from the discussion to the broader context of the discipline to which the study has contributed or to which it has provided new insights.


  • On occasion, you need to write a short abstract of the research paper that precedes the introduction. When you write an abstract, pay attention to these issues:
    • Position the theme or case within the framework of theories and discussions
    • Formulate a clear objective
    • Briefly describe the most significant results of the research
    • Make a list that contains at least three relevant keywords

Evaluation Criteria Research Paper (only available in Dutch)