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  • Research Papers

How to Write and Publish Your Research in a Journal

Last Updated: February 15, 2024 Fact Checked

Choosing a Journal

Writing the research paper, editing & revising your paper, submitting your paper, navigating the peer review process, research paper help.

This article was co-authored by Matthew Snipp, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Cheyenne Main . C. Matthew Snipp is the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. He is also the Director for the Institute for Research in the Social Science’s Secure Data Center. He has been a Research Fellow at the U.S. Bureau of the Census and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has published 3 books and over 70 articles and book chapters on demography, economic development, poverty and unemployment. He is also currently serving on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Population Science Subcommittee. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 692,146 times.

Publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal allows you to network with other scholars, get your name and work into circulation, and further refine your ideas and research. Before submitting your paper, make sure it reflects all the work you’ve done and have several people read over it and make comments. Keep reading to learn how you can choose a journal, prepare your work for publication, submit it, and revise it after you get a response back.

Things You Should Know

  • Create a list of journals you’d like to publish your work in and choose one that best aligns with your topic and your desired audience.
  • Prepare your manuscript using the journal’s requirements and ask at least 2 professors or supervisors to review your paper.
  • Write a cover letter that “sells” your manuscript, says how your research adds to your field and explains why you chose the specific journal you’re submitting to.

Step 1 Create a list of journals you’d like to publish your work in.

  • Ask your professors or supervisors for well-respected journals that they’ve had good experiences publishing with and that they read regularly.
  • Many journals also only accept specific formats, so by choosing a journal before you start, you can write your article to their specifications and increase your chances of being accepted.
  • If you’ve already written a paper you’d like to publish, consider whether your research directly relates to a hot topic or area of research in the journals you’re looking into.

Step 2 Look at each journal’s audience, exposure, policies, and procedures.

  • Review the journal’s peer review policies and submission process to see if you’re comfortable creating or adjusting your work according to their standards.
  • Open-access journals can increase your readership because anyone can access them.

Step 1 Craft an effective introduction with a thesis statement.

  • Scientific research papers: Instead of a “thesis,” you might write a “research objective” instead. This is where you state the purpose of your research.
  • “This paper explores how George Washington’s experiences as a young officer may have shaped his views during difficult circumstances as a commanding officer.”
  • “This paper contends that George Washington’s experiences as a young officer on the 1750s Pennsylvania frontier directly impacted his relationship with his Continental Army troops during the harsh winter at Valley Forge.”
  • Scientific research papers: Include a “materials and methods” section with the step-by-step process you followed and the materials you used. [5] X Research source
  • Read other research papers in your field to see how they’re written. Their format, writing style, subject matter, and vocabulary can help guide your own paper. [6] X Research source
  • If you’re writing about George Washington’s experiences as a young officer, you might emphasize how this research changes our perspective of the first president of the U.S.
  • Link this section to your thesis or research objective.
  • If you’re writing a paper about ADHD, you might discuss other applications for your research.

Step 4 Write an abstract that describes what your paper is about.

  • Scientific research papers: You might include your research and/or analytical methods, your main findings or results, and the significance or implications of your research.
  • Try to get as many people as you can to read over your abstract and provide feedback before you submit your paper to a journal.

Step 1 Prepare your manuscript according to the journal’s requirements.

  • They might also provide templates to help you structure your manuscript according to their specific guidelines. [11] X Research source

Step 2 Ask 2 colleagues to review your paper and revise it with their notes.

  • Not all journal reviewers will be experts on your specific topic, so a non-expert “outsider’s perspective” can be valuable.

Step 1 Check your sources for plagiarism and identify 5 to 6 keywords.

  • If you have a paper on the purification of wastewater with fungi, you might use both the words “fungi” and “mushrooms.”
  • Use software like iThenticate, Turnitin, or PlagScan to check for similarities between the submitted article and published material available online. [15] X Research source
  • Header: Address the editor who will be reviewing your manuscript by their name, include the date of submission, and the journal you are submitting to.
  • First paragraph: Include the title of your manuscript, the type of paper it is (like review, research, or case study), and the research question you wanted to answer and why.
  • Second paragraph: Explain what was done in your research, your main findings, and why they are significant to your field.
  • Third paragraph: Explain why the journal’s readers would be interested in your work and why your results are important to your field.
  • Conclusion: State the author(s) and any journal requirements that your work complies with (like ethical standards”).
  • “We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal.”
  • “All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to [insert the name of the target journal].”

Step 3 Submit your article according to the journal’s submission guidelines.

  • Submit your article to only one journal at a time.
  • When submitting online, use your university email account. This connects you with a scholarly institution, which can add credibility to your work.

Step 1 Try not to panic when you get the journal’s initial response.

  • Accept: Only minor adjustments are needed, based on the provided feedback by the reviewers. A first submission will rarely be accepted without any changes needed.
  • Revise and Resubmit: Changes are needed before publication can be considered, but the journal is still very interested in your work.
  • Reject and Resubmit: Extensive revisions are needed. Your work may not be acceptable for this journal, but they might also accept it if significant changes are made.
  • Reject: The paper isn’t and won’t be suitable for this publication, but that doesn’t mean it might not work for another journal.

Step 2 Revise your paper based on the reviewers’ feedback.

  • Try organizing the reviewer comments by how easy it is to address them. That way, you can break your revisions down into more manageable parts.
  • If you disagree with a comment made by a reviewer, try to provide an evidence-based explanation when you resubmit your paper.

Step 3 Resubmit to the same journal or choose another from your list.

  • If you’re resubmitting your paper to the same journal, include a point-by-point response paper that talks about how you addressed all of the reviewers’ comments in your revision. [22] X Research source
  • If you’re not sure which journal to submit to next, you might be able to ask the journal editor which publications they recommend.

can i write research paper on my own

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Develop a Questionnaire for Research

  • If reviewers suspect that your submitted manuscript plagiarizes another work, they may refer to a Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) flowchart to see how to move forward. [23] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

can i write research paper on my own

  • ↑ https://www.wiley.com/en-us/network/publishing/research-publishing/choosing-a-journal/6-steps-to-choosing-the-right-journal-for-your-research-infographic
  • ↑ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z
  • ↑ https://libguides.unomaha.edu/c.php?g=100510&p=651627
  • ↑ http://www.canberra.edu.au/library/start-your-research/research_help/publishing-research
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/conclusions
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/writing-an-abstract-for-your-research-paper/
  • ↑ https://www.springer.com/gp/authors-editors/book-authors-editors/your-publication-journey/manuscript-preparation
  • ↑ https://apus.libanswers.com/writing/faq/2391
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/library/keyword/search-strategy
  • ↑ https://ifis.libguides.com/journal-publishing-guide/submitting-your-paper
  • ↑ https://www.springer.com/kr/authors-editors/authorandreviewertutorials/submitting-to-a-journal-and-peer-review/cover-letters/10285574
  • ↑ http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep02/publish.aspx
  • ↑ Matthew Snipp, PhD. Research Fellow, U.S. Bureau of the Census. Expert Interview. 26 March 2020.

About This Article

Matthew Snipp, PhD

To publish a research paper, ask a colleague or professor to review your paper and give you feedback. Once you've revised your work, familiarize yourself with different academic journals so that you can choose the publication that best suits your paper. Make sure to look at the "Author's Guide" so you can format your paper according to the guidelines for that publication. Then, submit your paper and don't get discouraged if it is not accepted right away. You may need to revise your paper and try again. To learn about the different responses you might get from journals, see our reviewer's explanation below. Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Orvium

The 5 Best Platforms to Publish Your Academic Research

Academic research is a central component of scientific advancements and breakthrough innovations. However, your research journey is complex and ever-changing. You must take into consideration funding options, how to securely store your information, choosing where to publish your research, finding manuscript peer reviewers, and many more.

To keep up with the change, you and other researchers require modern, easy-to-navigate research platforms to help you uncover, store, verify, compile, and share content, data, and important insights to continue to carry out breakthrough research.

This article explains how to identify the best platforms for publishing your research and gives you a list of five platforms to help you publish. Towards the end, you’ll also see a mention of how Orvium can further assist you with publishing.

How to Identify the Best Platforms for Publishing

When trying to identify the best platforms for publishing your research, you have to consider several factors, including:

  • Does the platform support your research journey ? Can you collaborate with other authors and researchers, discover public groups and research papers and manuscripts (including Open Access work), view interactive graphs, images, tables, etc., track citations, and build a professional research profile?
  • Is the platform easy to use ? Does it offer rich functionalities that are easy to understand, and if so, which ones?
  • Does it use artificial intelligence and machine learning ? Automated actions (email alerts, etc.) can help you unlock breakthroughs faster and deliver deeper insights.
  • What security and governance does it have ? Platforms must be secure and compliant according to local regulations since researchers often deal with sensitive data.

The 5 Best Platforms to Publish Academic Research

Researchgate.

ResearchGate is a platform hosting over 135 million publication pages with a community of 20 million scientists. The platform allows you to show off your work, access papers and advice from other researchers, make contacts and even find jobs. Some of its more prominent features include:

  • Dedicated Q&A section with searchable keywords to target experts in your particular field or area of study
  • Ability to create a personal profile page where you can display all research-specific details about yourself, including up to five pieces of work (including datasets and conference papers)
  • In-depth stats on who reads your work and the ability to track your citations
  • A private messaging service that allows you to send messages to other researchers
  • A comments section to provide feedback when viewing a paper
  • A “projects” section to tell others about your upcoming work.

can i write research paper on my own

In addition, it's completely free to use!

Academia is a research-sharing platform with over 178 million users, 29 million papers uploaded, and 87 million visitors per month. Their goal is to accelerate research in all fields, ensure that all research is available for free and that the sharing of knowledge is available in multiple formats (videos, datasets, code, short-form content, etc.). Some of their more prominent features include:

  • Mentions and search alerts that notify you when another researcher cites, thanks, or acknowledges your work, and automatic reports of search queries
  • Ability to create a personal profile page
  • “Profile visitor” and “readers” features let you know the title and location of those who visit your profile or read your papers so you can learn about their research interests and get in touch
  • A “grants” feature to allow you to find new grants and fellowships in your field
  • Advanced research discovery tools allow you to see full texts and citations of millions of papers.

can i write research paper on my own

The platform is based on a “freemium” business model, which provides free access to research for everyone, and paid capabilities to subscribers.

ScienceOpen

ScienceOpen is a discovery platform that empowers researchers to make an impact in their communities. The platform is committed to Open Science, combining decades of experience in traditional publishing, computing, and academic research to provide free access to knowledge to drive creativity, innovation, and development. Some of their more prominent features include:

  • You can publish your most recent paper as a preprint that’s citable and includes a DOI to share with peers immediately and enhance visibility
  • A multidimensional search feature for articles with 18 filters and the ability to sort results by Altmetric scores , citations, date, and rating
  • Ability to create a personal profile with minimal upkeep necessary
  • Access to a suite of metrics (usage, citations, etc.) of your publications
  • Ability to follow other researchers to stay up-to-date on their work and expand your network.

can i write research paper on my own

The platform is free to use, although some features (like publishing your preprint) may cost money.

IOPscience is a platform that embraces innovative technologies to make it easier for researchers to discover and access technical, scientific, and medical content while managing their own research content. They participate in several programs that offer researchers in developing countries several ways to gain access to journals at little or no cost. Some of their other features include:

  • An enhanced search filtering feature allows you to find relevant research faster
  • A social bookmarking feature allows you to interact with other researchers and share articles
  • Ability to create a personal profile, customize your alerts, view recently published articles within your field or area of interest, and save relevant papers or articles
  • Ability to receive email alerts and RSS feeds once new content is published.

can i write research paper on my own

IOPscience is free to use and functions on an Open Access policy, which you can check here .

Orvium is an open, community-based research platform that allows researchers, reviewers, and publishers to share, publish, review, and manage their research. Orvium protects your work with built-in blockchain integration to ensure that you maintain the copyright of your work and not only. Some of our more notable features include:

  • Access to a modern web platform with Google indexing, notifications, and mobile-ready features
  • Ability to manage your entire publication process, with control over when you submit, receive peer reviews, and publish your paper
  • “Collaboration” and “full traceability” features allow you to track your profile impact, get in touch with other researchers, and have ownership over your work
  • Recognition badges or economic rewards are given when you peer-review.

can i write research paper on my own

Orvium is completely free to use.

Orvium Makes Choosing a Platform Easy

No matter what platform or community you choose to be a part of, you now know what you need to look for when choosing one. You also learned about five excellent platforms where you can publish your academic research. Orvium will remain your one-stop-shop platform for all your research needs. Do you want to know how Orvium and our communities work? Check out our platform or contact us with any questions you may have.

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Research Method

Home » How to Publish a Research Paper – Step by Step Guide

How to Publish a Research Paper – Step by Step Guide

Table of Contents

How to Publish a Research Paper

Publishing a research paper is an important step for researchers to disseminate their findings to a wider audience and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their field. Whether you are a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, or an established researcher, publishing a paper requires careful planning, rigorous research, and clear writing. In this process, you will need to identify a research question , conduct a thorough literature review , design a methodology, analyze data, and draw conclusions. Additionally, you will need to consider the appropriate journals or conferences to submit your work to and adhere to their guidelines for formatting and submission. In this article, we will discuss some ways to publish your Research Paper.

How to Publish a Research Paper

To Publish a Research Paper follow the guide below:

  • Conduct original research : Conduct thorough research on a specific topic or problem. Collect data, analyze it, and draw conclusions based on your findings.
  • Write the paper : Write a detailed paper describing your research. It should include an abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Choose a suitable journal or conference : Look for a journal or conference that specializes in your research area. You can check their submission guidelines to ensure your paper meets their requirements.
  • Prepare your submission: Follow the guidelines and prepare your submission, including the paper, abstract, cover letter, and any other required documents.
  • Submit the paper: Submit your paper online through the journal or conference website. Make sure you meet the submission deadline.
  • Peer-review process : Your paper will be reviewed by experts in the field who will provide feedback on the quality of your research, methodology, and conclusions.
  • Revisions : Based on the feedback you receive, revise your paper and resubmit it.
  • Acceptance : Once your paper is accepted, you will receive a notification from the journal or conference. You may need to make final revisions before the paper is published.
  • Publication : Your paper will be published online or in print. You can also promote your work through social media or other channels to increase its visibility.

How to Choose Journal for Research Paper Publication

Here are some steps to follow to help you select an appropriate journal:

  • Identify your research topic and audience : Your research topic and intended audience should guide your choice of journal. Identify the key journals in your field of research and read the scope and aim of the journal to determine if your paper is a good fit.
  • Analyze the journal’s impact and reputation : Check the impact factor and ranking of the journal, as well as its acceptance rate and citation frequency. A high-impact journal can give your paper more visibility and credibility.
  • Consider the journal’s publication policies : Look for the journal’s publication policies such as the word count limit, formatting requirements, open access options, and submission fees. Make sure that you can comply with the requirements and that the journal is in line with your publication goals.
  • Look at recent publications : Review recent issues of the journal to evaluate whether your paper would fit in with the journal’s current content and style.
  • Seek advice from colleagues and mentors: Ask for recommendations and suggestions from your colleagues and mentors in your field, especially those who have experience publishing in the same or similar journals.
  • Be prepared to make changes : Be prepared to revise your paper according to the requirements and guidelines of the chosen journal. It is also important to be open to feedback from the editor and reviewers.

List of Journals for Research Paper Publications

There are thousands of academic journals covering various fields of research. Here are some of the most popular ones, categorized by field:

General/Multidisciplinary

  • Nature: https://www.nature.com/
  • Science: https://www.sciencemag.org/
  • PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): https://www.pnas.org/
  • The Lancet: https://www.thelancet.com/
  • JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association): https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama

Social Sciences/Humanities

  • Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/psp
  • Journal of Consumer Research: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/journals/jcr
  • Journal of Educational Psychology: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/edu
  • Journal of Applied Psychology: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/apl
  • Journal of Communication: https://academic.oup.com/joc
  • American Journal of Political Science: https://ajps.org/
  • Journal of International Business Studies: https://www.jibs.net/
  • Journal of Marketing Research: https://www.ama.org/journal-of-marketing-research/

Natural Sciences

  • Journal of Biological Chemistry: https://www.jbc.org/
  • Cell: https://www.cell.com/
  • Science Advances: https://advances.sciencemag.org/
  • Chemical Reviews: https://pubs.acs.org/journal/chreay
  • Angewandte Chemie: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/15213765
  • Physical Review Letters: https://journals.aps.org/prl/
  • Journal of Geophysical Research: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/2156531X
  • Journal of High Energy Physics: https://link.springer.com/journal/13130

Engineering/Technology

  • IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=5962385
  • IEEE Transactions on Power Systems: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=59
  • IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=42
  • IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=87
  • Journal of Engineering Mechanics: https://ascelibrary.org/journal/jenmdt
  • Journal of Materials Science: https://www.springer.com/journal/10853
  • Journal of Chemical Engineering of Japan: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/browse/jcej
  • Journal of Mechanical Design: https://asmedigitalcollection.asme.org/mechanicaldesign

Medical/Health Sciences

  • New England Journal of Medicine: https://www.nejm.org/
  • The BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal): https://www.bmj.com/
  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama
  • Annals of Internal Medicine: https://www.acpjournals.org/journal/aim
  • American Journal of Epidemiology: https://academic.oup.com/aje
  • Journal of Clinical Oncology: https://ascopubs.org/journal/jco
  • Journal of Infectious Diseases: https://academic.oup.com/jid

List of Conferences for Research Paper Publications

There are many conferences that accept research papers for publication. The specific conferences you should consider will depend on your field of research. Here are some suggestions for conferences in a few different fields:

Computer Science and Information Technology:

  • IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM): https://www.ieee-infocom.org/
  • ACM SIGCOMM Conference on Data Communication: https://conferences.sigcomm.org/sigcomm/
  • IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP): https://www.ieee-security.org/TC/SP/
  • ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS): https://www.sigsac.org/ccs/
  • ACM Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (CHI): https://chi2022.acm.org/

Engineering:

  • IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA): https://www.ieee-icra.org/
  • International Conference on Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (ICMAE): http://www.icmae.org/
  • International Conference on Civil and Environmental Engineering (ICCEE): http://www.iccee.org/
  • International Conference on Materials Science and Engineering (ICMSE): http://www.icmse.org/
  • International Conference on Energy and Power Engineering (ICEPE): http://www.icepe.org/

Natural Sciences:

  • American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition: https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/meetings/national-meeting.html
  • American Physical Society March Meeting: https://www.aps.org/meetings/march/
  • International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology (ICEST): http://www.icest.org/
  • International Conference on Natural Science and Environment (ICNSE): http://www.icnse.org/
  • International Conference on Life Science and Biological Engineering (LSBE): http://www.lsbe.org/

Social Sciences:

  • Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA): https://www.asanet.org/annual-meeting-2022
  • International Conference on Social Science and Humanities (ICSSH): http://www.icssh.org/
  • International Conference on Psychology and Behavioral Sciences (ICPBS): http://www.icpbs.org/
  • International Conference on Education and Social Science (ICESS): http://www.icess.org/
  • International Conference on Management and Information Science (ICMIS): http://www.icmis.org/

How to Publish a Research Paper in Journal

Publishing a research paper in a journal is a crucial step in disseminating scientific knowledge and contributing to the field. Here are the general steps to follow:

  • Choose a research topic : Select a topic of your interest and identify a research question or problem that you want to investigate. Conduct a literature review to identify the gaps in the existing knowledge that your research will address.
  • Conduct research : Develop a research plan and methodology to collect data and conduct experiments. Collect and analyze data to draw conclusions that address the research question.
  • Write a paper: Organize your findings into a well-structured paper with clear and concise language. Your paper should include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Use academic language and provide references for your sources.
  • Choose a journal: Choose a journal that is relevant to your research topic and audience. Consider factors such as impact factor, acceptance rate, and the reputation of the journal.
  • Follow journal guidelines : Review the submission guidelines and formatting requirements of the journal. Follow the guidelines carefully to ensure that your paper meets the journal’s requirements.
  • Submit your paper : Submit your paper to the journal through the online submission system or by email. Include a cover letter that briefly explains the significance of your research and why it is suitable for the journal.
  • Wait for reviews: Your paper will be reviewed by experts in the field. Be prepared to address their comments and make revisions to your paper.
  • Revise and resubmit: Make revisions to your paper based on the reviewers’ comments and resubmit it to the journal. If your paper is accepted, congratulations! If not, consider revising and submitting it to another journal.
  • Address reviewer comments : Reviewers may provide comments and suggestions for revisions to your paper. Address these comments carefully and thoughtfully to improve the quality of your paper.
  • Submit the final version: Once your revisions are complete, submit the final version of your paper to the journal. Be sure to follow any additional formatting guidelines and requirements provided by the journal.
  • Publication : If your paper is accepted, it will be published in the journal. Some journals provide online publication while others may publish a print version. Be sure to cite your published paper in future research and communicate your findings to the scientific community.

How to Publish a Research Paper for Students

Here are some steps you can follow to publish a research paper as an Under Graduate or a High School Student:

  • Select a topic: Choose a topic that is relevant and interesting to you, and that you have a good understanding of.
  • Conduct research : Gather information and data on your chosen topic through research, experiments, surveys, or other means.
  • Write the paper : Start with an outline, then write the introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections of the paper. Be sure to follow any guidelines provided by your instructor or the journal you plan to submit to.
  • Edit and revise: Review your paper for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Ask a peer or mentor to review your paper and provide feedback for improvement.
  • Choose a journal : Look for journals that publish papers in your field of study and that are appropriate for your level of research. Some popular journals for students include PLOS ONE, Nature, and Science.
  • Submit the paper: Follow the submission guidelines for the journal you choose, which typically include a cover letter, abstract, and formatting requirements. Be prepared to wait several weeks to months for a response.
  • Address feedback : If your paper is accepted with revisions, address the feedback from the reviewers and resubmit your paper. If your paper is rejected, review the feedback and consider revising and resubmitting to a different journal.

How to Publish a Research Paper for Free

Publishing a research paper for free can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are some steps you can take to publish your research paper for free:

  • Choose a suitable open-access journal: Look for open-access journals that are relevant to your research area. Open-access journals allow readers to access your paper without charge, so your work will be more widely available.
  • Check the journal’s reputation : Before submitting your paper, ensure that the journal is reputable by checking its impact factor, publication history, and editorial board.
  • Follow the submission guidelines : Every journal has specific guidelines for submitting papers. Make sure to follow these guidelines carefully to increase the chances of acceptance.
  • Submit your paper : Once you have completed your research paper, submit it to the journal following their submission guidelines.
  • Wait for the review process: Your paper will undergo a peer-review process, where experts in your field will evaluate your work. Be patient during this process, as it can take several weeks or even months.
  • Revise your paper : If your paper is rejected, don’t be discouraged. Revise your paper based on the feedback you receive from the reviewers and submit it to another open-access journal.
  • Promote your research: Once your paper is published, promote it on social media and other online platforms. This will increase the visibility of your work and help it reach a wider audience.

Journals and Conferences for Free Research Paper publications

Here are the websites of the open-access journals and conferences mentioned:

Open-Access Journals:

  • PLOS ONE – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
  • BMC Research Notes – https://bmcresnotes.biomedcentral.com/
  • Frontiers in… – https://www.frontiersin.org/
  • Journal of Open Research Software – https://openresearchsoftware.metajnl.com/
  • PeerJ – https://peerj.com/

Conferences:

  • IEEE Global Communications Conference (GLOBECOM) – https://globecom2022.ieee-globecom.org/
  • IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM) – https://infocom2022.ieee-infocom.org/
  • IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM) – https://www.ieee-icdm.org/
  • ACM SIGCOMM Conference on Data Communication (SIGCOMM) – https://conferences.sigcomm.org/sigcomm/
  • ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS) – https://www.sigsac.org/ccs/CCS2022/

Importance of Research Paper Publication

Research paper publication is important for several reasons, both for individual researchers and for the scientific community as a whole. Here are some reasons why:

  • Advancing scientific knowledge : Research papers provide a platform for researchers to present their findings and contribute to the body of knowledge in their field. These papers often contain novel ideas, experimental data, and analyses that can help to advance scientific understanding.
  • Building a research career : Publishing research papers is an essential component of building a successful research career. Researchers are often evaluated based on the number and quality of their publications, and having a strong publication record can increase one’s chances of securing funding, tenure, or a promotion.
  • Peer review and quality control: Publication in a peer-reviewed journal means that the research has been scrutinized by other experts in the field. This peer review process helps to ensure the quality and validity of the research findings.
  • Recognition and visibility : Publishing a research paper can bring recognition and visibility to the researchers and their work. It can lead to invitations to speak at conferences, collaborations with other researchers, and media coverage.
  • Impact on society : Research papers can have a significant impact on society by informing policy decisions, guiding clinical practice, and advancing technological innovation.

Advantages of Research Paper Publication

There are several advantages to publishing a research paper, including:

  • Recognition: Publishing a research paper allows researchers to gain recognition for their work, both within their field and in the academic community as a whole. This can lead to new collaborations, invitations to conferences, and other opportunities to share their research with a wider audience.
  • Career advancement : A strong publication record can be an important factor in career advancement, particularly in academia. Publishing research papers can help researchers secure funding, grants, and promotions.
  • Dissemination of knowledge : Research papers are an important way to share new findings and ideas with the broader scientific community. By publishing their research, scientists can contribute to the collective body of knowledge in their field and help advance scientific understanding.
  • Feedback and peer review : Publishing a research paper allows other experts in the field to provide feedback on the research, which can help improve the quality of the work and identify potential flaws or limitations. Peer review also helps ensure that research is accurate and reliable.
  • Citation and impact : Published research papers can be cited by other researchers, which can help increase the impact and visibility of the research. High citation rates can also help establish a researcher’s reputation and credibility within their field.

About the author

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Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper in 7 Steps

What comes next after you're done with your research? Publishing the results in a journal of course! We tell you how to present your work in the best way possible.

This post is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.

Things have gotten busy in scholarly publishing: These days, a new article gets published in the 50,000 most important peer-reviewed journals every few seconds, while each one takes on average 40 minutes to read. Hundreds of thousands of papers reach the desks of editors and reviewers worldwide each year and 50% of all submissions end up rejected at some stage.

In a nutshell: there is a lot of competition, and the people who decide upon the fate of your manuscript are short on time and overworked. But there are ways to make their lives a little easier and improve your own chances of getting your work published!

Well, it may seem obvious, but before submitting an academic paper, always make sure that it is an excellent reflection of the research you have done and that you present it in the most professional way possible. Incomplete or poorly presented manuscripts can create a great deal of frustration and annoyance for editors who probably won’t even bother wasting the time of the reviewers!

This post will discuss 7 steps to the successful publication of your research paper:

  • Check whether your research is publication-ready
  • Choose an article type
  • Choose a journal
  • Construct your paper
  • Decide the order of authors
  • Check and double-check
  • Submit your paper

1. Check Whether Your Research Is Publication-Ready

Should you publish your research at all?

If your work holds academic value – of course – a well-written scholarly article could open doors to your research community. However, if you are not yet sure, whether your research is ready for publication, here are some key questions to ask yourself depending on your field of expertise:

  • Have you done or found something new and interesting? Something unique?
  • Is the work directly related to a current hot topic?
  • Have you checked the latest results or research in the field?
  • Have you provided solutions to any difficult problems?
  • Have the findings been verified?
  • Have the appropriate controls been performed if required?
  • Are your findings comprehensive?

If the answers to all relevant questions are “yes”, you need to prepare a good, strong manuscript. Remember, a research paper is only useful if it is clearly understood, reproducible and if it is read and used .

2. Choose An Article Type

The first step is to determine which type of paper is most appropriate for your work and what you want to achieve. The following list contains the most important, usually peer-reviewed article types in the natural sciences:

Full original research papers disseminate completed research findings. On average this type of paper is 8-10 pages long, contains five figures, and 25-30 references. Full original research papers are an important part of the process when developing your career.

Review papers present a critical synthesis of a specific research topic. These papers are usually much longer than original papers and will contain numerous references. More often than not, they will be commissioned by journal editors. Reviews present an excellent way to solidify your research career.

Letters, Rapid or Short Communications are often published for the quick and early communication of significant and original advances. They are much shorter than full articles and usually limited in length by the journal. Journals specifically dedicated to short communications or letters are also published in some fields. In these the authors can present short preliminary findings before developing a full-length paper.

3. Choose a Journal

Are you looking for the right place to publish your paper? Find out here whether a De Gruyter journal might be the right fit.

Submit to journals that you already read, that you have a good feel for. If you do so, you will have a better appreciation of both its culture and the requirements of the editors and reviewers.

Other factors to consider are:

  • The specific subject area
  • The aims and scope of the journal
  • The type of manuscript you have written
  • The significance of your work
  • The reputation of the journal
  • The reputation of the editors within the community
  • The editorial/review and production speeds of the journal
  • The community served by the journal
  • The coverage and distribution
  • The accessibility ( open access vs. closed access)

4. Construct Your Paper

Each element of a paper has its purpose, so you should make these sections easy to index and search.

Don’t forget that requirements can differ highly per publication, so always make sure to apply a journal’s specific instructions – or guide – for authors to your manuscript, even to the first draft (text layout, paper citation, nomenclature, figures and table, etc.) It will save you time, and the editor’s.

Also, even in these days of Internet-based publishing, space is still at a premium, so be as concise as possible. As a good journalist would say: “Never use three words when one will do!”

Let’s look at the typical structure of a full research paper, but bear in mind certain subject disciplines may have their own specific requirements so check the instructions for authors on the journal’s home page.

4.1 The Title

It’s important to use the title to tell the reader what your paper is all about! You want to attract their attention, a bit like a newspaper headline does. Be specific and to the point. Keep it informative and concise, and avoid jargon and abbreviations (unless they are universally recognized like DNA, for example).

4.2 The Abstract

This could be termed as the “advertisement” for your article. Make it interesting and easily understood without the reader having to read the whole article. Be accurate and specific, and keep it as brief and concise as possible. Some journals (particularly in the medical fields) will ask you to structure the abstract in distinct, labeled sections, which makes it even more accessible.

A clear abstract will influence whether or not your work is considered and whether an editor should invest more time on it or send it for review.

4.3 Keywords

Keywords are used by abstracting and indexing services, such as PubMed and Web of Science. They are the labels of your manuscript, which make it “searchable” online by other researchers.

Include words or phrases (usually 4-8) that are closely related to your topic but not “too niche” for anyone to find them. Make sure to only use established abbreviations. Think about what scientific terms and its variations your potential readers are likely to use and search for. You can also do a test run of your selected keywords in one of the common academic search engines. Do similar articles to your own appear? Yes? Then that’s a good sign.

4.4 Introduction

This first part of the main text should introduce the problem, as well as any existing solutions you are aware of and the main limitations. Also, state what you hope to achieve with your research.

Do not confuse the introduction with the results, discussion or conclusion.

4.5 Methods

Every research article should include a detailed Methods section (also referred to as “Materials and Methods”) to provide the reader with enough information to be able to judge whether the study is valid and reproducible.

Include detailed information so that a knowledgeable reader can reproduce the experiment. However, use references and supplementary materials to indicate previously published procedures.

4.6 Results

In this section, you will present the essential or primary results of your study. To display them in a comprehensible way, you should use subheadings as well as illustrations such as figures, graphs, tables and photos, as appropriate.

4.7 Discussion

Here you should tell your readers what the results mean .

Do state how the results relate to the study’s aims and hypotheses and how the findings relate to those of other studies. Explain all possible interpretations of your findings and the study’s limitations.

Do not make “grand statements” that are not supported by the data. Also, do not introduce any new results or terms. Moreover, do not ignore work that conflicts or disagrees with your findings. Instead …

Be brave! Address conflicting study results and convince the reader you are the one who is correct.

4.8 Conclusion

Your conclusion isn’t just a summary of what you’ve already written. It should take your paper one step further and answer any unresolved questions.

Sum up what you have shown in your study and indicate possible applications and extensions. The main question your conclusion should answer is: What do my results mean for the research field and my community?

4.9 Acknowledgments and Ethical Statements

It is extremely important to acknowledge anyone who has helped you with your paper, including researchers who supplied materials or reagents (e.g. vectors or antibodies); and anyone who helped with the writing or English, or offered critical comments about the content.

Learn more about academic integrity in our blog post “Scholarly Publication Ethics: 4 Common Mistakes You Want To Avoid” .

Remember to state why people have been acknowledged and ask their permission . Ensure that you acknowledge sources of funding, including any grant or reference numbers.

Furthermore, if you have worked with animals or humans, you need to include information about the ethical approval of your study and, if applicable, whether informed consent was given. Also, state whether you have any competing interests regarding the study (e.g. because of financial or personal relationships.)

4.10 References

The end is in sight, but don’t relax just yet!

De facto, there are often more mistakes in the references than in any other part of the manuscript. It is also one of the most annoying and time-consuming problems for editors.

Remember to cite the main scientific publications on which your work is based. But do not inflate the manuscript with too many references. Avoid excessive – and especially unnecessary – self-citations. Also, avoid excessive citations of publications from the same institute or region.

5. Decide the Order of Authors

In the sciences, the most common way to order the names of the authors is by relative contribution.

Generally, the first author conducts and/or supervises the data analysis and the proper presentation and interpretation of the results. They put the paper together and usually submit the paper to the journal.

Co-authors make intellectual contributions to the data analysis and contribute to data interpretation. They review each paper draft. All of them must be able to present the paper and its results, as well as to defend the implications and discuss study limitations.

Do not leave out authors who should be included or add “gift authors”, i.e. authors who did not contribute significantly.

6. Check and Double-Check

As a final step before submission, ask colleagues to read your work and be constructively critical .

Make sure that the paper is appropriate for the journal – take a last look at their aims and scope. Check if all of the requirements in the instructions for authors are met.

Ensure that the cited literature is balanced. Are the aims, purpose and significance of the results clear?

Conduct a final check for language, either by a native English speaker or an editing service.

7. Submit Your Paper

When you and your co-authors have double-, triple-, quadruple-checked the manuscript: submit it via e-mail or online submission system. Along with your manuscript, submit a cover letter, which highlights the reasons why your paper would appeal to the journal and which ensures that you have received approval of all authors for submission.

It is up to the editors and the peer-reviewers now to provide you with their (ideally constructive and helpful) comments and feedback. Time to take a breather!

If the paper gets rejected, do not despair – it happens to literally everybody. If the journal suggests major or minor revisions, take the chance to provide a thorough response and make improvements as you see fit. If the paper gets accepted, congrats!

It’s now time to get writing and share your hard work – good luck!

If you are interested, check out this related blog post

can i write research paper on my own

[Title Image by Nick Morrison via Unsplash]

David Sleeman

David Sleeman worked as Senior Journals Manager in the field of Physical Sciences at De Gruyter.

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How to write an original research paper (and get it published)

The purpose of the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) is more than just archiving data from librarian research. Our goal is to present research findings to end users in the most useful way. The “Knowledge Transfer” model, in its simplest form, has three components: creating the knowledge (doing the research), translating and transferring it to the user, and incorporating the knowledge into use. The JMLA is in the middle part, transferring and translating to the user. We, the JMLA, must obtain the information and knowledge from researchers and then work with them to present it in the most useable form. That means the information must be in a standard acceptable format and be easily readable.

There is a standard, preferred way to write an original research paper. For format, we follow the IMRAD structure. The acronym, IMRAD, stands for I ntroduction, M ethods, R esults A nd D iscussion. IMRAD has dominated academic, scientific, and public health journals since the second half of the twentieth century. It is recommended in the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” [ 1 ]. The IMRAD structure helps to eliminate unnecessary detail and allows relevant information to be presented clearly in a logical sequence [ 2 , 3 ].

Here are descriptions of the IMRAD sections, along with our comments and suggestions. If you use this guide for submission to another journal, be sure to check the publisher's prescribed formats.

The Introduction sets the stage for your presentation. It has three parts: what is known, what is unknown, and what your burning question, hypothesis, or aim is. Keep this section short, and write for a general audience (clear, concise, and as nontechnical as you can be). How would you explain to a distant colleague why and how you did the study? Take your readers through the three steps ending with your specific question. Emphasize how your study fills in the gaps (the unknown), and explicitly state your research question. Do not answer the research question. Remember to leave details, descriptions, speculations, and criticisms of other studies for the Discussion .

The Methods section gives a clear overview of what you did. Give enough information that your readers can evaluate the persuasiveness of your study. Describe the steps you took, as in a recipe, but be wary of too much detail. If you are doing qualitative research, explain how you picked your subjects to be representative.

You may want to break it into smaller sections with subheadings, for example, context: when, where, authority or approval, sample selection, data collection (how), follow-up, method of analysis. Cite a reference for commonly used methods or previously used methods rather than explaining all the details. Flow diagrams and tables can simplify explanations of methods.

You may use first person voice when describing your methods.

The Results section summarizes what the data show. Point out relationships, and describe trends. Avoid simply repeating the numbers that are already available in the tables and figures. Data should be restricted to tables as much as possible. Be the friendly narrator, and summarize the tables; do not write the data again in the text. For example, if you had a demographic table with a row of ages, and age was not significantly different among groups, your text could say, “The median age of all subjects was 47 years. There was no significant difference between groups (Table).” This is preferable to, “The mean age of group 1 was 48.6 (7.5) years and group 2 was 46.3 (5.8) years, a nonsignificant difference.”

Break the Results section into subsections, with headings if needed. Complement the information that is already in the tables and figures. And remember to repeat and highlight in the text only the most important numbers. Use the active voice in the Results section, and make it lively. Information about what you did belongs in the Methods section, not here. And reserve comments on the meaning of your results for the Discussion section.

Other tips to help you with the Results section:

  • ▪ If you need to cite the number in the text (not just in the table), and the total in the group is less than 50, do not include percentage. Write “7 of 34,” not “7 (21%).”
  • ▪ Do not forget, if you have multiple comparisons, you probably need adjustment. Ask your statistician if you are not sure.

The Discussion section gives you the most freedom. Most authors begin with a brief reiteration of what they did. Every author should restate the key findings and answer the question noted in the Introduction . Focus on what your data prove, not what you hoped they would prove. Start with “We found that…” (or something similar), and explain what the data mean. Anticipate your readers' questions, and explain why your results are of interest.

Then compare your results with other people's results. This is where that literature review you did comes in handy. Discuss how your findings support or challenge other studies.

You do not need every article from your literature review listed in your paper or reference list, unless you are writing a narrative review or systematic review. Your manuscript is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the topic. Do not provide a long review of the literature—discuss only previous work that is directly pertinent to your findings. Contrary to some beliefs, having a long list in the References section does not mean the paper is more scholarly; it does suggest the author is trying to look scholarly. (If your article is a systematic review, the citation list might be long.)

Do not overreach your results. Finding a perceived knowledge need, for example, does not necessarily mean that library colleges must immediately overhaul their curricula and that it will improve health care and save lives and money (unless your data show that, in which case give us a chance to publish it!). You can say “has the potential to,” though.

Always note limitations that matter, not generic limitations.

Point out unanswered questions and future directions. Give the big-picture implications of your findings, and tell your readers why they should care. End with the main findings of your study, and do not travel too far from your data. Remember to give a final take-home message along with implications.

Notice that this format does not include a separate Conclusion section. The conclusion is built into the Discussion . For example, here is the last paragraph of the Discussion section in a recent NEJM article:

In conclusion, our trial did not show the hypothesized benefit [of the intervention] in patients…who were at high risk for complications.

However, a separate Conclusion section is usually appropriate for abstracts. Systematic reviews should have an Interpretation section.

Other parts of your research paper independent of IMRAD include:

Tables and figures are the foundation for your story. They are the story. Editors, reviewers, and readers usually look at titles, abstracts, and tables and figures first. Figures and tables should stand alone and tell a complete story. Your readers should not need to refer back to the main text.

Abstracts can be free-form or structured with subheadings. Always follow the format indicated by the publisher; the JMLA uses structured abstracts for research articles. The main parts of an abstract may include introduction (background, question or hypothesis), methods, results, conclusions, and implications. So begin your abstract with the background of your study, followed by the question asked. Next, give a quick summary of the methods used in your study. Key results come next with limited raw data if any, followed by the conclusion, which answers the questions asked (the take-home message).

  • ▪ Recommended order for writing a manuscript is first to start with your tables and figures. They tell your story. You can write your sections in any order. Many recommend writing your Result s, followed by Methods, Introduction, Discussion , and Abstract.
  • ▪ We suggest authors read their manuscripts out loud to a group of librarians. Look for evidence of MEGO, “My Eyes Glaze Over” (attributed to Washington Post publisher Ben Bradlee and others). Modify as necessary.
  • ▪ Every single paragraph should be lucid.
  • ▪ Every paragraph should answer your readers' question, “Why are you telling me this?”

The JMLA welcomes all sizes of research manuscripts: definitive studies, preliminary studies, critical descriptive studies, and test-of-concept studies. We welcome brief reports and research letters. But the JMLA is more than a research journal. We also welcome case studies, commentaries, letters to the editor about articles, and subject reviews.

How to Write & Publish a Research Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

This guide is far more than a list of instructions on what to include in each section of your research paper. In fact, we will:

  • Use a research paper I wrote specifically as an example to illustrate the key ideas in this guide ( link to the full-text PDF of the research paper ).
  • Use real-world data (on 100,000 PubMed research papers) to show you how professional scientists write in practice, instead of presenting my own opinion on the subject.
  • Provide practical tips on how to: improve your writing , find the right journal , and submit your article .

Let’s get started!

  • Structure of a research paper
  • Writing the Introduction section
  • Writing the Methods section
  • Writing the Results section
  • Writing the Discussion section
  • Writing the Abstract
  • Writing the Title
  • Writing optional sections
  • Refining and improving your article
  • Managing and formatting your References
  • Submitting your article

1. Structure of a research paper

Most research papers follow the IMRaD structure that consists of 4 main sections:

  • I ntroduction
  • D iscussion

The paper also has some essential elements–Title, Abstract, and References–and may contain other optional sections–Conclusion, Acknowledgements, Funding, Conflicts of interest, and Appendix.

These sections often appear in the following order:

Structure of a research paper

The advantages of following the IMRaD structure are:

  • To make the paper easily scannable by readers (since most won’t read the entire manuscript.
  • To avoid repeating the same information in different places.

To follow the IMRaD structure, you must learn what information goes where.

So, here’s an overview of what each of the main sections represents:

Together, these 4 sections start with the main topic of the paper and end up with a conclusion regarding that topic:

Role of each of the main sections of a research paper

1.1. Where to start?

When writing a research paper, some people prefer to start with the Results section—since it comes out right from the data they just analyzed. Others start with the Methods section—since information about how they designed the study and analyzed the data is still fresh in their mind. Personally, I prefer to start with the Introduction section for 2 reasons:

  • While doing a literature review for the introduction, sometimes I discover a problem in my approach or an interesting secondary objective that I did not think about, which as you can imagine, changes a lot of things in other sections of the article.
  • I want to formulate the hypothesis before analyzing the data in order to avoid HARKing (Hypothesizing after the results are known) which is a major problem in statistics (see: 7 Tricks to Get Statistically Significant p-Values ).

2. Writing the Introduction section

The Introduction targets a non-specialized audience, so when writing it, make sure to use simple and beginner-friendly terms.

2.1. Length of the Introduction section

The introduction section should be:

  • 400 to 760 words long (3 to 5 paragraphs).
  • The shortest section of the article (half the length of the other sections: Methods, Results, and Discussion).

(These data are based on an analysis I made on 61,518 articles from PubMed )

2.2. Structure of the Introduction section

Here’s what you should include in the Introduction:

  • Step #1: Describe the general context of your work (your aim should be to convince the reader that the topic of your research is interesting).
  • Step #2: Summarize the results of previous studies on the topic (report what others have found and provide references. But don’t do an in-depth literature review, a short summary of these findings is enough).
  • Step #3: Identify the gap , problem, or limitations of previous studies (find the missing pieces of the puzzle).
  • Step #4: State your objective , hypothesis, question that you want to answer, or problem that you want to solve (make sure that the purpose of your study is clear and understandable, otherwise people won’t care about your results).
  • Step #5: Present your solution : explain the approach you used to achieve the objective, explain what is different about it and what makes it special. Here you have to sell your approach. But keep it short (leave the details to the methods section).

2.3. Verb tense and voice in the Introduction section

Use the past tense for things that were already done and the present tense for things that continue to be true today.

For instance:

“Previous studies found that the rate of heart disease is increasing “.

“The goal of this study is to explore why the rate of heart disease increased in the past 10 years”.

You should write the Introduction using mainly the active voice.

“ A recent study found conflicting results”.

Should be favored over:

“ Conflicting results were recently found “.

2.4. Example: writing an Introduction section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Introduction section of our example article ( link to the full-text PDF ) follows the step-by-step structure discussed above. (The article studies the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Introduction of that article with the main steps highlighted:

INTRODUCTION

The role of a research title is to draw the reader’s attention while providing an overview of the article’s content. Finding a way to engage readers is important since only 18% of those who read the title proceed to read the abstract (Mabe and Amin, 2002).

Title attractiveness may be affected by its length; but studies on this subject have been inconsistent and sometimes contradictory (Subotic and Mukherjee, 2014; Letchford et al., 2015; Guo et al., 2018; Jacques and Sebire, 2010; Habibzadeh and Yadollahie, 2010; Stremersch et al., 2007; Falahati Qadimi Fumani et al., 2015). This may be due to bias and confounding since these studies did not follow a causal model to eliminate alternative explanations and indirect effects.

The confusion over the effect of title length led to a gap between what professional writers recommend and what researchers do in practice: while professionals recommend keeping titles as short as possible (Zeiger, 1999; Neill, 2007), in practice, titles are getting longer (Milojevi¢, 2017; Whissell, 2012) and more descriptive (mentioning the study objective, the variables involved, the main result, and the study design).

To help resolve this issue, the present study aims to quantify the direct influence of title length on its attractiveness by analyzing data on 9,830 biomedical research papers from PubMed and adjusting for confounding and indirect effects through the use of a causal diagram.

Writing is not just about following a series of rules: you should keep an eye on the flow of your story that ties your paragraphs together.

Here’s an overview of the story of our Introduction section:

Mains ideas in our example introduction section

3. Writing the Methods section

The Methods section is the recipe for the study: it should provide enough information to replicate the study without looking elsewhere (although most of those who read the Methods section will not be interested in replicating your study, instead they just want to make sure that your study is credible).

The Methods is the most technical section of the article. So, unlike the Introduction, don’t shy away from technical terms, since those who are not interested in such details will most likely skip this section.

3.1. Length of the Methods section

The Methods section should be:

  • 760 to 1,620 words long (6 to 14 paragraphs).
  • The same length as the Results or the Discussion, and about double the length of the Introduction.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,514 articles from PubMed )

3.2. Structure of the Methods section

Here’s what you should include in the Methods section:

  • The date and duration of the study.
  • The sampling procedure.
  • The assignment to different study groups.
  • The source of the data.
  • Any approval needed to conduct the study.
  • Step#3: List the inclusion and exclusion criteria (i.e., the characteristics that participants must have to be included in the study).
  • The reason behind choosing such procedure.
  • The order in which things were done (a flow diagram can simplify the description of complex procedures).
  • The calculation of the minimum sample size needed.
  • The role of each variable (dependent, independent, or control variable).
  • The methods used to address bias in the study.
  • The methods used to handle missing data.
  • The measures used to summarize the data.
  • The type of statistical test or model you used to test your hypothesis and the threshold for statistical significance (don’t go into detail about obvious statistical tests or models, but advanced methods should be either described or referenced).
  • The statistical software used [optional].

3.3. Verb tense and voice in the Methods section

Use the past tense (because the things you did took place in the past).

“The data were downloaded “.

“A linear regression model was used “.

Use the passive voice (to avoid repeating the pronouns: “I” or “We”).

“Variables were summarized using the mean and standard deviation”.

Instead of:

“I summarized the variables using the mean and standard deviation”.

3.4. Example: writing a Methods section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Methods section of our example article ( link to the full-text P D F ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Methods section of this article with the main steps highlighted:

For this cross-sectional study, data were downloaded from PubMed Central in March 2021 using a web API created by Comeau et al. (2019). From a collection of about 3 million biomedical research articles from various journals, 105,984 were chosen at random from those uploaded between the years 2016 and 2021.

From these 105,984 articles, a total of 96,154 were discarded for incomplete data, leaving 9,830 articles ready for analysis (Figure 4). Reasons for discarding articles included: unavailable full text, unmentioned study design, missing impact factor of the journal in which the article was published, missing article DOI, and unavailable citation count.

Example flow diagram

To study the influence of title length on its attractiveness, and in order to avoid defining and measuring Title attractiveness , I substituted this variable with another closely related one: the Citation count for a given article; this can work provided that we block all alternative paths other than the direct effect of Title attractiveness on Citation count . Looking at the causal diagram in Figure 5, we notice that there is only one alternative path, and it can be blocked by adjusting for the Journal in which the article was published. Since the data contained articles from 1,040 different journals (and to avoid complicating the analysis by creating 1,039 dummy variables), I ended up adjusting for the Journal impact factor , a direct descendent of the deconfounding variable Journal , thus representing most of its effect.

Example of a figure format in a research paper

To compute the direct causal effect of Title length on Title attractiveness , alternative explanations of the association between these two such as confounding and indirect effects must also be eliminated. From Figure 5, we see that this can be accomplished by adjusting for the Mention of study design in the title (a confounder) and the use of Comma in the title and Colon in the title (indirect effects).

After determining the variables that we want to adjust for, Poisson regression was used to compute the effect of Title length on Citation count . In our case, a Poisson model has 2 major advantages over linear regression: (1) it fits the data better, since counts follow a Poisson rather than a normal distribution, and (2) it accounts for different publication dates of different articles, which is important to offset the advantage of older articles regarding the time they had to collect citations (this can be accomplished by including Years since publication as an offset in the model).

The Poisson model described above can be summarized with the following equation:

log(Citation count) =β 0 + β 1 × Title length + β 2 × Journal impact factor + β 3 × Mention of study design in the title + β 4 × Comma in the title + β 5 × Colon in the title + log(Years since publication)

Variables in the model, such as Citation count , Title length , and Journal impact factor , were summarized using the median and the interquartile range (IQR), since they follow either a Poisson or a skewed non-normal distribution.

Note that in some cases, you will be forced to include some results in the Methods section. Although the research paper has a separate Results section (which we will discuss next), sometimes we include some results in the Methods section to justify the use of a certain material or method.

For example, in the Methods section above, in order to defend the use of the variable Journal impact factor instead of Journal , I ended up reporting the number of journals in the study (which is a number calculated from the data, so it normally belongs to the Results section):

“Since the data contained articles from 1,040 different journals (and to avoid complicating the analysis by creating 1,039 dummy variables), I ended up adjusting for the Journal impact factor, a direct descendent of the deconfounding variable Journal, thus representing most of its effect.”

4. Writing the Results section

In the Results section, you should describe and summarize your findings without explaining them (the interpretation should be left for the Discussion section).

4.1. Length of the Results section

The Results section should be:

  • 610 to 1,660 words long (5 to 11 paragraphs).
  • The same length as the Methods or the Discussion, and about double the length of the Introduction.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,458 articles from PubMed )

4.2. Structure of the Results section

Here’s what you should include in the Results section:

  • At each stage and for each group of the study, report the number of participants (if some were lost to follow-up, provide the reasons).
  • Describe participants’ characteristics.
  • Compare participants in different groups.
  • Describe the main variables in the study.
  • The statistical significance (the p-value).
  • The precision (the 95% confidence interval).
  • The practical significance (the effect size).

4.3. Using figures and tables

A table or a figure are useful to highlight important results or to represent a lot of numbers that, if reported in the text, can be unpleasant for the reader.

Here are a few rules regarding figures and tables:

  • The supporting text should complement the table or figure but not repeat the same content.
  • The table or figure should stand alone (i.e., the reader can understand it without referring to the text).
  • No vertical lines.
  • A line above the header row.
  • A line below the header row.
  • A line at the bottom of the table.
  • No horizontal lines to separate data rows.

(Refer to the example below to see how your tables should look like)

4.4. Verb tense and voice in the Results section

Use the past tense for completed actions.

“In our sample of 9,830 articles, the median title length composed of 16 words (IQR = 6), had 2.2 yearly citations (IQR = 3.33), and was published in a journal with an impact factor of 2.74 (IQR = 1.67).”

Use the present tense for things that continue to be true today.

“The Poisson model shows a significant negative effect of longer titles on citation count.”

Use the active voice when possible.

4.5. Example: writing a Results section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Results section of our example article ( link to the full-text P D F ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Results section of this article with the main steps highlighted:

In our sample of 9,830 articles, the median title composed of 16 words (IQR = 6), had 2.2 yearly citations (IQR = 3.33), and was published in a journal with an impact factor of 2.74 (IQR = 1.67). Also, 4,317 (43.9%) of titles contained at least one colon, 1,442 (14.7%) contained at least one comma, and 2,794 (28.4%) mentioned the study design.

The Poisson model shows a significant negative effect of longer titles on citation count (Table 2). Specifically, each additional word in the title causes a drop of 2.5% in the citation rate (95% confidence interval: [-2.7%, -2.3%]; p < 0.001). Equivalently, we can say that removing one word from the title causes an increase of 2.5% in the citation rate. To put that into perspective, removing one word from the title of the median article (that has 2.2 citations per year) causes a gain of 0.055 (= 2.2 × 0.025) citations per year, equivalent to 1 citation every 19 years.

Example of a table format in a research paper

5. Writing the Discussion section

In the Discussion section, you should explain the meaning of your results, their importance, and implications.

5.1. Length of the Discussion section

The Discussion section should be:

  • 820 to 1,480 words long (5 to 9 paragraphs).
  • The same length as the Methods or the Results, and about double the length of the Introduction.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,517 articles from PubMed )

5.2. Structure of the Discussion section

Here’s what you should include in the Discussion section:

  • Step #1: Answer the study objective (i.e., where the Introduction ended). Your first sentence can be: “We/I found that” , “This study shows/proves that” , etc.
  • Explain its consequences.
  • Comment on whether it supports or refutes your initial hypothesis (i.e., was this result expected or unexpected?).
  • Compare it with the results of other studies (if they contradict each other: explain why, and suggest a way for further studies to resolve this contradiction).
  • Then discuss your secondary finding (if you have any) by following the same steps as you did for the main finding.
  • Step #3: Point out the strengths of your study (e.g., the use of a new and superior method, a larger sample size, etc.).
  • How you addressed these limitations in your design and analysis (i.e., justify the methods used in your study).
  • What future studies should do to address these limitations.
  • Step #5: Conclude with a takeaway message that reminds the reader of your most important finding and its implications (this Conclusion paragraph is sometimes put in a separate section after the Discussion [for more information, see: Length of a Conclusion Section: Analysis of 47,810 Examples ]).

5.3. Verb tense and voice in the Discussion section

Use the past tense for completed actions. For instance:

“I found that…”.

Use the present tense for things that continue to be true today. For instance:

“This study shows that…”.

5.4. Example: writing a Discussion section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Discussion section of our example article ( link to the full-text PDF ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Discussion section of this article with the main steps highlighted:

This study shows that shorter research titles are more engaging by proving that they attract more citations. However, this effect, although statistically significant, is practically negligible since removing one word from a title will attract, on average, a single additional citation every 19 years–so I would not recommend shortening research titles as a strategy for increasing the citation count.

Previous studies on the subject reported conflicting results for articles in different disciplines since they did not use a causal approach to control bias and confounding. For instance, they found that shorter titles attracted more citations in psychology (Subotic and Mukherjee, 2014) and general scientific research (Letchford et al., 2015), but less in economics (Guo et al., 2018) and medicine (Jacques and Sebire, 2010; Habibzadeh and Yadollahie, 2010), and had no effect in marketing research (Stremersch et al., 2007) and scientometrics (Falahati Qadimi Fumani et al., 2015). What distinguishes the present study was the use of a causal diagram to identify and block alternative paths between title length and citation count, removing all but the causal explanation of any association between the two.

However, there are some limitations: (1) the 3 million biomedical research articles that are freely available on PubMed Central from which our sample was drawn may not accurately represent all published articles—thus introducing selection bias; (2) adjusting for the journal impact factor instead of the journal itself (to reduce model complexity) may have resulted in some residual confounding; and (3) the general approach taken to adjust for bias and confounding using a causal diagram (Figure 5) created based on my understanding of the subject may have incorporated an element of subjectivity into the analysis. Future studies can address these issues by: (1) collecting data on articles from different disciplines (to increase the result’s generalizability), (2) including a larger number of articles from each journal (to enable adjusting for Journal instead of Journal impact factor ), and (3) validating, either theoretically or analytically, the structure of the causal diagram (to reduce subjectivity).

Finally, this study proves that shortening a research title is not an effective strategy for earning more citations. Yet, writing shorter titles may still have other benefits, such as: getting more reads on Mendeley (Zahedi and Haustein, 2018; Didegah and Thelwall, 2013), tweets (Haustein et al., 2015), appearances in social media in general (Zagovora et al., 2018), and avoiding truncation when they appear on the results page of an online search engine like Google.

6. Writing the Abstract

The Abstract is a summary of the article.

6.1. Length of the Abstract

The Abstract should be 220 to 320 words long (1 to 4 paragraphs).

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,429 articles from PubMed )

6.2. Structure of the Abstract

In the Abstract, you should provide a summary of each section of your paper (It can be divided into subheadings, if the journal allows it):

  • Step #1: Start with a one sentence introduction to the subject.
  • Step #2: Mention the study objective .
  • Step #3: Summarize the Methods section .
  • Step #4: Highlight key results in numbers (including data is important for researchers who want to cite your article based only on the Abstract).
  • Step #5: End with a one sentence conclusion (i.e., skip the detailed discussion of the results and go straight to the takeaway message).

6.3. Example: writing an Abstract

In this section, we are going to verify that the Abstract of our example article ( link to the full-text PDF ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Abstract of this article with the main steps highlighted:

Attractive titles are expected to drive more reads and thus more citations to a research article, so studying the effect of title length on its attractiveness can be reduced to analyzing its influence on the citation count. Previous studies on the subject showed conflicting results that are probably attributable to bias and confounding, since they mostly focused on predicting citation count based on title length instead of using a causal model to explain the relationship between the two. The present study aims to quantify the direct influence of title length on its attractiveness guided by a causal diagram to identify and eliminate alternative explanations such as indirect effects and confounding. The study used data on 9,830 biomedical research articles from PubMed Central, downloaded through an API created by Comeau and colleagues. Poisson regression modeled the citation rate as a function of title length, adjusting for mediators of indirect effects—such as the use of a comma and a colon in the title—and confounders—such as the journal impact factor and the mention of study design in the title. The model shows that each word removed from the title increases the citation rate by 2.5%. This means that, for the median article that receives 2.2 citations per year, each word removed from the title causes a gain of 0.055 citations per year, equivalent to 1 citation every 19 years. Although statistically significant, this effect is practically negligible—so shortening a research title is not an effective strategy for earning more citations.

7. Writing the Title

The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first. Blaise Pascal

The Title’s role is to describe the content of the article and attract people to read it. Remember that only 18% of those who read the title proceed to read the Abstract [Source: Mabe and Amin, 2002 ].

7.1. Length of the Title

The Title should be 11 to 18 words long (80 to 129 characters).

Keep your Title as short as possible, since:

  • Google shows only the first 60 characters of titles in their results page, so longer titles will be truncated when they appear in Google search.
  • High-impact journals tend to publish articles with short titles.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 104,161 titles from PubMed )

7.2. Structure of the Title

The Title should:

  • Mention the central question or the purpose of the study (including important variables).
  • Be front loaded : this means that the keywords should be close to the beginning of the title (remember that readers are scanning the title and they want to determine as fast as possible if they are interested in your article).
  • Have a meaningful short version . For those searching online, Google will show them only the first 60 characters of your title and the rest is truncated. So, make sure to pack enough information in this part for users to be able to judge whether they want to click it.
  • Mention the study design [optional].
  • Avoid abbreviations and jargon . For instance: “ The effects of having CVD on the psychological status “ should be replaced by “Psychological effects of cardiovascular disease” .

7.3. Example: writing a Title

The following figure shows how the Title of our example article follows the structure discussed above:

Example of writing a title for a research paper

8. Writing optional sections

8.1. writing the acknowledgement section.

In this section, you should acknowledge any significant technical contribution, permission, advice, suggestion, or comment you received.

“I would like to thank Prof. John for assistance with choosing an appropriate study design”.

“Thanks are due to all the hospital crew members who contributed their time and effort to make the data collection feasible in the shortest time possible”.

8.2. Writing the Funding section

In this section, you should provide the sources of funding, or the sources of the equipment and materials used in the study, and the role of funders.

“The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, or publication of this article”.

“This work was supported by [name of the funder, and grant number]”.

8.3. Writing the Conflicts of Interest section

In this section, you should state if you have any direct or indirect competing interests that may have influenced the outcome of the study, such as: financial, work, personal, or religious interests.

“The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest”.

“The corresponding author was a former employee in company X that sells the main product used in this study”.

8.4. Writing the Appendix

In this section, you should provide supplementary information that was too large to be included in the main text, such as: data, questionnaires, and additional details on the materials and methods used.

9. Refining and improving your article

The following is a list of useful tips to improve your writing:

  • Avoid jargon , be concise, and focus on saving your readers’ time. The truth is that nobody enjoys reading, if readers can download information into their brain, they would!
  • Assume that your readers are beginners : so, use terms that are easy to understand.
  • Avoid acronyms when possible.
  • You don’t know the subject.
  • You don’t want to repeat the pronouns ”I” or ”We” in many places in the same paragraph (although it would be fine to use them sparingly, see: ”I” & ”We” in Academic Writing: Examples from 9,830 Studies ).
  • You want to emphasize what was done instead of who did it (especially in the Methods section).
  • To maintain the flow of ideas (for more information, see the video lecture by Steven Pinker below).
  • Write short sentences and paragraphs : each paragraph should be between 2 and 6 sentences long (65 to 167 words), and should cover a single topic. (For more information, see: Paragraph Length: Data from 9,830 Research Papers )
  • Get rid of hedge words : e.g. ”These results might suggest that a fair amount of x is suspected to have a meaningful impact on y” . These make you sound hesitant or unsure about what you are talking about.
  • Avoid using “They” or “Their” when the subject is singular . For a gender-neutral language, revise the sentence to make the subject plural. For instance, use: “Participants were assigned according to their choosing” instead of “Each participant was assigned according to their choosing” .

For more writing tips, I highly recommend this lecture by Steven Pinker:

10. Managing and formatting your References

When it comes to references, you should:

  • Cite between 25 and 56 references overall (approximately 1 reference for every 95 words or 4 sentences) [Source: How Many References Should a Research Paper Have? Study of 96,685 Articles ].
  • Aim to find those published within the past 13 years [Source: How Old Should Your Article References Be? Based on 3,823,919 Examples ].
  • Cite the original source, not secondary sources.
  • Cite research papers and books instead of websites and videos (unless these contained original data not available elsewhere).
  • Use a citation management software to collect and organize your references. I recommend Zotero® since it is free, easy to learn, and has a lot of tutorials online.

11. Submitting your article

Here’s a step-by-step description of how to find a journal and submit your article:

  • Go to: The Directory of Open Access Journals (This is a database of 17,614 journals that publish open-access articles–i.e., if you publish in these journals, your article’s full-text will be available for free to your readers).
  • Under SEE JOURNALS, select: Without article processing charges in order to exclude journal where you have to pay to publish your article.
  • Under SUBJECTS, choose: the domain that is closest to the topic of your article.
  • Under LANGUAGES, select: English.
  • Select a journal from the suggested list.
  • Go to the journal’s website, look for their “Instructions for authors”, and format your article accordingly.
  • Sign-up to their website and submit your article.

Once your article is submitted, the editor takes a look at it and may:

  • The topic of your article is not interesting for the journal’s audience.
  • Your work is not important enough to be published in that journal.
  • Rejected: In this case, you have to send your article to another journal (don’t get discouraged by rejection, sometimes important articles get rejected).
  • Rejected, but can be resubmitted after making some major changes suggested by the reviewers (for instance, expanding, deleting, or re-writing major parts of the article): in this case, you can either revise and resubmit, or look for another journal.
  • Accepted, but needs minor changes.
  • Accepted (without the need for changes).

When you want to revise and resubmit your article, you should prepare 2 things:

  • A revised manuscript with all the modifications you made highlighted (to make it easy for the reviewers to see what you changed).
  • A response for the reviewers where you address their comments point by point: you can either agree or disagree with their recommendations (but, in case you disagree, you should explain the reason).

Once your paper is accepted, you will get a final version formatted in the journal’s style. Be careful to look for errors before you accept this final version.

Further reading

  • How Long Should a Research Paper Be? Data from 61,519 Examples
  • Can a Research Title Be a Question? Real-World Examples
  • Statistical Software Popularity in 40,582 Research Papers

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Starting the research process

A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

Research process steps

When you have to write a thesis or dissertation , it can be hard to know where to begin, but there are some clear steps you can follow.

The research process often begins with a very broad idea for a topic you’d like to know more about. You do some preliminary research to identify a  problem . After refining your research questions , you can lay out the foundations of your research design , leading to a proposal that outlines your ideas and plans.

This article takes you through the first steps of the research process, helping you narrow down your ideas and build up a strong foundation for your research project.

Table of contents

Step 1: choose your topic, step 2: identify a problem, step 3: formulate research questions, step 4: create a research design, step 5: write a research proposal, other interesting articles.

First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you’re interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you’ve taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose .

Even if you already have a good sense of your topic, you’ll need to read widely to build background knowledge and begin narrowing down your ideas. Conduct an initial literature review to begin gathering relevant sources. As you read, take notes and try to identify problems, questions, debates, contradictions and gaps. Your aim is to narrow down from a broad area of interest to a specific niche.

Make sure to consider the practicalities: the requirements of your programme, the amount of time you have to complete the research, and how difficult it will be to access sources and data on the topic. Before moving onto the next stage, it’s a good idea to discuss the topic with your thesis supervisor.

>>Read more about narrowing down a research topic

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So you’ve settled on a topic and found a niche—but what exactly will your research investigate, and why does it matter? To give your project focus and purpose, you have to define a research problem .

The problem might be a practical issue—for example, a process or practice that isn’t working well, an area of concern in an organization’s performance, or a difficulty faced by a specific group of people in society.

Alternatively, you might choose to investigate a theoretical problem—for example, an underexplored phenomenon or relationship, a contradiction between different models or theories, or an unresolved debate among scholars.

To put the problem in context and set your objectives, you can write a problem statement . This describes who the problem affects, why research is needed, and how your research project will contribute to solving it.

>>Read more about defining a research problem

Next, based on the problem statement, you need to write one or more research questions . These target exactly what you want to find out. They might focus on describing, comparing, evaluating, or explaining the research problem.

A strong research question should be specific enough that you can answer it thoroughly using appropriate qualitative or quantitative research methods. It should also be complex enough to require in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. Questions that can be answered with “yes/no” or with easily available facts are not complex enough for a thesis or dissertation.

In some types of research, at this stage you might also have to develop a conceptual framework and testable hypotheses .

>>See research question examples

The research design is a practical framework for answering your research questions. It involves making decisions about the type of data you need, the methods you’ll use to collect and analyze it, and the location and timescale of your research.

There are often many possible paths you can take to answering your questions. The decisions you make will partly be based on your priorities. For example, do you want to determine causes and effects, draw generalizable conclusions, or understand the details of a specific context?

You need to decide whether you will use primary or secondary data and qualitative or quantitative methods . You also need to determine the specific tools, procedures, and materials you’ll use to collect and analyze your data, as well as your criteria for selecting participants or sources.

>>Read more about creating a research design

Finally, after completing these steps, you are ready to complete a research proposal . The proposal outlines the context, relevance, purpose, and plan of your research.

As well as outlining the background, problem statement, and research questions, the proposal should also include a literature review that shows how your project will fit into existing work on the topic. The research design section describes your approach and explains exactly what you will do.

You might have to get the proposal approved by your supervisor before you get started, and it will guide the process of writing your thesis or dissertation.

>>Read more about writing a research proposal

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

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College Info Geek

How to Write a Killer Research Paper (Even If You Hate Writing)

can i write research paper on my own

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can i write research paper on my own

Research papers.

Unless you’re a weirdo like me, you probably dread them. When I was in college, depending on the class, I even dreaded these.

It’s the sort of project that can leave even the most organized student quaking in their boots, staring at the assignment like they’re Luke Skywalker and it’s the Death Star.

You have to pick a broad topic, do some in-depth research, hone in on a research question, and then present your answer to that question in an interesting way. Oh, and you have to use citations, too.

How on earth are you supposed to tackle this thing?

Fear not, for even the Death Star had weaknesses. With a well-devised plan, some courage, and maybe a little help from a few midichlorians, you can conquer your research paper, too.

Let’s get started.

1. Pick a Topic

And pick one that interests you. This is not up for debate.

You and this topic are going to be spending a lot of time together, so you might as well pick something you like, or, at the very least, have a vague interest in. Even if you hate the class, there’s probably at least one topic that you’re curious about.

Maybe you want to write about “mental health in high schools” for your paper in your education class. That’s a good start, but take a couple steps to hone your idea a little further so you have an idea of what to research. Here’s a couple of factors to look at when you want to get more specific:

  • Timeframe : What are the most important mental health issues for high schoolers that have come up in the last five years?
  • Location : How does the mental health of students in your area compare to students in the next state (or country) over?
  • Culture or Group : How does the mental health of inner-city students compare to those in the suburbs or places like Silicon Valley?
  • Solution : If schools were to make one change to high schools to improve the well-being of their students, what would be most effective, and why?

It’s good to be clear about what you’re researching, but make sure you don’t box yourself into a corner. Try to avoid being too local (if the area is a small town, for example), or too recent, as there may not be enough research conducted to support an entire paper on the subject.

Also, avoid super analytical or technical topics that you think you’ll have a hard time writing about (unless that’s the assignment…then jump right into all the technicalities you want).

You’ll probably need to do some background research and possibly brainstorm with your professor before you can identify a topic that’s specialized enough for your paper.

At the very least, skim the Encyclopedia Britannica section on your general area of interest. Your professor is another resource: use them! They’re probably more than happy to point you in the direction of a possible research topic.

Of course, this is going to be highly dependent on your class and the criteria set forth by your professor, so make sure you read your assignment and understand what it’s asking for. If you feel the assignment is unclear, don’t go any further without talking to your professor about it.

2. Create a Clear Thesis Statement

Say it with me: a research paper without a thesis question or statement is just a fancy book report.

All research papers fall under three general categories: analytical, expository, or argumentative.

  • Analytical papers present an analysis of information (effects of stress on the human brain)
  • Expository papers seek to explain something (Julius Caesar’s rise to power)
  • Argumentative papers are trying to prove a point (Dumbledore shouldn’t be running a school for children).

So figure out what sort of paper you’d like to write, and then come up with a viable thesis statement or question.

Maybe it starts out looking like this:

  • Julius Caesar’s rise to power was affected by three major factors.

Ok, not bad. You could probably write a paper based on this. But it’s not great , either. It’s not specific, neither is it arguable . You’re not really entering any sort of discussion.

Maybe you rework it a little to be more specific and you get:

  • Julius Caesar’s quick rise to power was a direct result of a power vacuum and social instability created by years of war and internal political corruption.

Better. Now you can actually think about researching it.

Every good thesis statement has three important qualities: it’s focused , it picks a side , and it can be backed up with research .

If you’re missing any of these qualities, you’re gonna have a bad time. Avoid vague modifier words like “positive” and “negative.” Instead use precise, strong language to formulate your argument.

Take this thesis statement for example:

  • “ High schools should stop assigning so much homework, because it has a negative impact on students’ lives.”

Sure, it’s arguable…but only sort of . It’s pretty vague. We don’t really know what is meant by “negative”, other than “generically bad”. Before you get into the research, you have to define your argument a little more.

Revised Version:

  • “ High schools in the United States should assign less homework, as lower workloads improve students’ sleep, stress levels, and, surprisingly, their grades.”

When in doubt, always look at your thesis and ask, “Is this arguable?”  Is there something you need to prove ? If not, then your thesis probably isn’t strong enough. If yes, then as long as you can actually prove it with your research, you’re golden.

Good thesis statements give you a clear goal. You know exactly what you’re looking for, and you know exactly where you’re going with the paper. Try to be as specific and clear as possible. That makes the next step a lot easier:

3. Hit the Books

So you have your thesis, you know what you’re looking for. It’s time to actually go out and do some real research. By real research, I mean more than a quick internet search or a quick skim through some weak secondary or tertiary sources.

If you’ve chosen a thesis you’re a little unsteady on, a preliminary skim through Google is fine, but make sure you go the extra mile. Some professors will even have a list of required resources (e.g. “Three academic articles, two books, one interview…etc).

It’s a good idea to start by heading to the library and asking your local librarian for help (they’re usually so excited to help you find things!).

Check your school library for research papers and books on the topic. Look for primary sources, such as journals, personal records, or contemporary newspaper articles when you can find them.

As you’re starting your research, create some kind of system for filing helpful quotes, links, and other sources. I preferred it to all be on one text document on my computer, but you could try a physical file, too.

In this text document, I start compiling a list of all the sources I’m using. It tends to look like this:

Research file example

Remember that at this point, your thesis isn’t solid. It’s still in a semi-squishy state. If your research starts to strongly contradict your thesis, then come up with a new thesis, revise, and keep on compiling quotes.

The more support you can find, the better. Depending on how long your paper is, you should have 3-10 different sources, with all sorts of quotes between them.

Here are some good places to look for reputable sources:

  • Google Scholar
  • Sites ending in .edu, .org, or .gov. While it’s not a rule, these sites tend to represent organizations, and they are more likely to be reputable than your run-of-the-mill .com sites
  • Your school library. It should have a section for articles and newspapers as well as books
  • Your school’s free academic database
  • Online encyclopedias like Britannica
  • Online almanacs and other databases

As you read, analyze your sources closely, and take good notes . Jot down general observations, questions, and answers to those questions when you find them. Once you have a sizable stack of research notes, it’s time to start organizing your paper.

4. Write an Outline

Even if you normally feel confident writing a paper without one, use an outline when you’re working on a research paper.

Outlines basically do all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to writing. They keep you organized and on track. Even if you feel tempted to just jump in and brain-dump, resist. You’ll thank me later.

Here’s how to structure an outline:

outline example

You’ll notice it’s fairly concise, and it has three major parts: the introduction , the body , and the conclusion . Also notice that I haven’t bothered to organize my research too much.

I’ve just dumped all the relevant citations under the headings I think they’ll end up under, so I can put in my quotes from my research document later as they fit into the overall text.

Let’s get a little more in-depth with this:

The Introduction

The introduction is made up of two main parts: the thesis and the introduction to the supporting points. This is where you essentially tell your reader exactly what sort of wild ride they’re in for if they read on.

It’s all about preparing your reader’s mind to start thinking about your argument or question before you even really get started.

Present your thesis and your supporting points clearly and concisely. It should be no longer than a paragraph or two. Keep it simple and easy to read.

Body Paragraphs

Okay, now that you’ve made your point, it’s time to prove it. This is where your body paragraphs come in. The length of this is entirely dependent on the criteria set by your professor, so keep that in mind.

However, as a rule, you should have at least three supporting points to help defend, prove, or explain your thesis. Put your weakest point first, and your strongest point last.

This doesn’t need a lot of outlining. Basically, take your introduction outline and copy it over. Your conclusion should be about a paragraph long, and it should summarize your main points and restate your thesis.

There’s also another key component to this outline example that I haven’t touched on yet:

Research and Annotations

Some people like to write first, and annotate later. Personally, I like to get my quotes and annotations in right at the start of the writing process.

I find the rest of the paper goes more smoothly, and it’s easier to ensure that I’ve compiled enough support for my claim. That way, I don’t go through all the work of writing the paper, only to discover that my thesis doesn’t actually hold any water!

As a general rule, it’s good to have at least 3-5 sources for every supporting point. Whenever you make a claim in your paper, you should support it with evidence.

Some professors are laxer on this, and some are more stringent. Make sure you understand your assignment requirements really, really, really well. You don’t want to get marked down for missing the correct number of sources!

At this stage, you should also be sure of what sort of format your professor is looking for (APA, MLA, etc.) , as this will save you a lot of headache later.

When I was in college, some professors wanted in-text parenthetical citations whenever I made a claim or used my research at all. Others only wanted citations at the end of a paragraph. And others didn’t mind in-text citations at all, so long as you had a bibliography at the end of your entire paper.

So, go through your outline and start inserting your quotes and citations now. Count them up. If you need more, then add them. If you think you have enough (read: your claims are so supported that even Voldemort himself couldn’t scare them), then move on to the next step:

5. Write the First Draft

Time to type this thing up. If you created a strong enough outline, this should be a breeze. Most of it should already be written for you. All you have to do at this point is fill it in. You’ve successfully avoided the initial blank-screen panic .

Don’t worry too much about grammar or prose quality at this point. It’s the rough draft, and it’s not supposed to see the light of day.

I find it helpful to highlight direct quotes, summaries, paraphrases, and claims as I put them in. This helps me ensure that I never forget to cite any of them.

So, do what you’ve gotta do . Go to a studious place or create one , put on an awesome playlist, close your social media apps, and get the work done.

Once you’ve gotten the gist of your paper down, the real work begins:

6. Revise Your Draft

Okay, now that you’ve word-vomited everywhere in a semi-organized fashion, it’s time to start building this thing into a cohesive paper. If you took the time to outline properly, then this part shouldn’t be too difficult.

Every paper has two editing stages:the developmental edit , and the line edit.

The developmental edit (the first one, at least) is for your eyes only. This is the part where you take a long, hard look at your paper and ask yourself, “Does this make sense, and does it accomplish what I want it to accomplish?” If it does, then great. If it doesn’t, then how can you rearrange or change it so that it does?

Here are a few good questions to ask yourself at this stage:

  • Is the paper well-organized, and does it have a logical flow of thought from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Does your thesis hold up to the three criteria listed earlier? Is it well supported by your research and arguments?
  • Have you checked that all your sources are properly cited?
  • How repetitive is the paper? Can you get rid of superlative points or language to tighten up your argument?

Once you’ve run the paper through this process at least once, it’s time for the line edit . This is the part where you check for punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors.

It helps to let your paper sit overnight, and then read it out loud to yourself, or the cat, or have a friend read it. Often, our brains know what we “meant” to say, and it’s difficult for us to catch small grammatical or spelling errors.

Here are a couple more final questions to ask yourself before you call it a day:

  • Have you avoided filler words , adverbs , and passive voice as much as possible?
  • Have you checked for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Spell-checker software is pretty adept these days, but it still isn’t perfect.

If you need help editing your paper, and your regular software just isn’t cutting it, Grammarly is a good app for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Chrome that goes above and beyond your run-of-the-mill spell-checker. It looks for things like sentence structure and length, as well as accidental plagiarism and passive tense.

7. Organize Your Sources

The paper’s written, but it’s not over. You’ve still got to create the very last page: the “works cited” or bibliography page.

Now, this page works a little differently depending on what style your professor has asked you to use, and it can get pretty confusing, as different types of sources are formatted completely differently.

The most important thing to ensure here is that every single source, whether big or small, is on this page before you turn your paper in. If you forget to cite something, or don’t cite it properly, you run the risk of plagiarism.

I got through college by using a couple of different tools to format it for me. Here are some absolute life-savers:

  • EasyBib – I literally used this tool all throughout college to format my citations for me, it does all the heavy lifting for you, and it’s free .
  • Microsoft Word – I honestly never touched Microsoft Word throughout my college years, but it actually has a tool that will create citations and bibliographies for you, so it’s worth using if you have it on your computer.

Onwards: One Step at a Time

I leave you with this parting advice:

Once you understand the method, research papers really aren’t as difficult as they seem. Sure, there’s a lot to do, but don’t be daunted. Just take it step by step, piece by piece, and give yourself plenty of time. Take frequent breaks, stay organized, and never, ever, ever forget to cite your sources. You can do this!

Looking for tools to make the writing process easier? Check out our list of the best writing apps .

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at http://www.apa.org or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

More From Forbes

3 traits that define a supportive partner, from a psychologist.

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Being there for your partner can make you both happier, according to research.

When your partner is going through a difficult time, you most likely feel the need to comfort them. A 2021 study confirmed that trying to make your partner feel better is associated with experiencing higher relationship satisfaction, suggesting that it is an inherently rewarding experience.

Additionally, a 2023 study examined the specific processes people use to soothe their partners and found that some of the methods they use to regulate their own emotions—such as trying to suppress them or thinking that “others have it worse”—may not necessarily work when one asks their partner to do the same. In fact, this rarely comes across as supportive behavior and might even create resentment.

Instead, here are three uplifting strategies to support your partner that elevate your relationship quality, according to the 2023 study.

1. Play With Lighthearted Humor

Researchers found that using humor in relationships is associated with higher relationship satisfaction. Moments of shared laughter allow couples to share joy, bringing them closer and enhancing perceptions of relationship quality and interpersonal support. A 2021 study also found that humor helps couples resolve conflict and forgive each other more easily.

However, research suggests that it is important to be mindful of the kind of humor you use. “Affiliative humor” is a benign form of humor that enhances relationship satisfaction as it involves using positive jokes and warm, friendly banter to create a sense of camaraderie, inclusion and connection.

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Affiliative humor often revolves around shared experiences, common interests or inside jokes and is characterized by its positive and uplifting nature, aiming to alleviate tension and bring people together rather than trying to ridicule or minimize their pain, which is associated with lower relationship satisfaction . It is essential to be cognizant of a partner’s boundaries and what they would and would not be comfortable joking about.

2. Express Your Appreciation

Researchers found that valuing a partner strongly predicts the level of relationship satisfaction one experiences. Complimenting them , letting them know how proud you are of them and acknowledging their strengths and accomplishments can make them feel validated and cherished.

Appreciation is also a great way to support them when they are down. If they are experiencing self-doubt or feeling inadequate, reaffirming their strengths can remind them of their capabilities and positive qualities, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

Expressing your admiration also reassures your partner that they are loved and accepted, even in the most challenging moments. This reassurance can provide comfort and stability, relieving their distress. Knowing that they have support and encouragement from you can motivate them to face difficulties with resilience and determination.

3. Listen Without Judgment

Researchers found that “receptive listening” predicts higher relationship satisfaction. It is an essential communication skill that involves giving one’s conversation partner a safe space to express themselves and making a genuine effort to simply listen, comprehend and respond to them with empathy and respect.

Receptive listeners approach conversations with an open mind, suspending their own biases and preconceptions. When your partner is able to speak to you openly about negative emotions, without a fear of judgment, it elicits strong feelings of trust and closeness.

Receptive listening can also help your partner clarify their thoughts and feelings, enabling them to better articulate their concerns and potentially find solutions to their problems. Simply having a sounding board can be incredibly helpful in gaining perspective and finding a way forward.

Research shows that the presence of an empathic listener also improves one’s emotional and physiological response to negative life events and helps them feel less alone.

When you engage in high quality listening, your partner is more likely to perceive you as responsive, caring and validating, which enhances the quality of a relationship and builds constructive communication between partners.

Uplifting your partner impacts your life and theirs. Mutual respect, appreciation, shared joy and empathic communication strengthen the foundation of your relationship, steadily guiding you with love, through the good times and the bad.

Wondering if your relationship is mutually supportive? Take this test to find out: Relationship Satisfaction Scale

Mark Travers

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Learn about TOEFL iBT courses to help you prepare for your test.

Official TOEFL iBT ® Prep Course

Build the skills you need to communicate in English in an academic environment with this self-paced course. With the 6-month subscription, you’ll be able to:

  • Do in-depth lessons and activities across the 4 skills — Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing
  • Take pre- and post-tests to help you evaluate your performance
  • Receive score ranges for the Speaking and Writing post-tests, using the same automated scoring as in the actual TOEFL iBT test

You can choose one of two options:

  • The Prep Course — standard course
  • The Prep Course PLUS — everything in the standard course, plus additional scoring and feedback, including score ranges for Speaking and Writing activities and tests, and written feedback on your Speaking responses

TOEFL ® Test Preparation: The Insider's Guide

With this free self-paced course, you can learn and practice whenever it’s most convenient for you. It includes:

  • An introduction to the test and each section
  • Short quizzes
  • Collaborative discussion boards
  • Tips from expert instructors
  • Scaled-score range for Speaking and Writing practice questions
  • Information and sample questions for the new Writing for an Academic Discussion task

Value Packs

Save money when you purchase multiple prep offerings bundled together into an expertly curated package. Find discounts on test registrations, practice tests, guides, books, additional score reports and more.

Performance Insights, Feedback and Guidance

As you engage with TOEFL TestReady prep offerings, robust AI algorithms serve up valuable information to help you maximize your score potential.

Feel confident on test day! The overwhelming majority of learners we surveyed reported that the new test prep offerings and features within TOEFL TestReady boosted their confidence, improved their skills and increased their readiness for the TOEFL iBT test 2 .

Curated Prep Recommendations

Close skill gaps and focus your time more effectively and efficiently with curated prep recommendations. Receive evolving guidance on where to focus your efforts and which prep offerings to try next based on insights drawn from your past performance.

Continuous Progress Tracking

Monitor your progress in real time with tracking of overall performance, section performance and question type performance. Your personal Insights page showcases your skill trends, as well as an estimated TOEFL iBT score and CEFR level to help you gauge your readiness.

1 Source: Statistics gathered from 765 users who also took the TOEFL iBT test (China, India, and the U.S.)

2 Source: Survey of 765 users across China, India and the U.S.

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form .

How to use Copilot Pro to write, edit, and analyze your Word documents

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Microsoft's Copilot Pro AI offers a few benefits for $20 per month. But the most helpful one is the AI-powered integration with the different Microsoft 365 apps. For those of you who use Microsoft Word, for instance, Copilot Pro can help you write and revise your text, provide summaries of your documents, and answer questions about any document.

First, you'll need a subscription to either Microsoft 365 Personal or Family . Priced at $70 per year, the Personal edition is geared for one individual signed into as many as five devices. At $100 per year, the Family edition is aimed at up to six people on as many as five devices. The core apps in the suite include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

Also: Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

Second, you'll need the subscription to Copilot Pro if you don't already have one. To sign up, head to the Copilot Pro website . Click the Get Copilot Pro button. Confirm the subscription and the payment. The next time you use Copilot on the website, in Windows, or with the mobile apps, the Pro version will be in effect.

How to use Copilot Pro in Word

1. open word.

Launch Microsoft Word and open a blank document. Let's say you need help writing a particular type of document and want Copilot to create a draft. 

Also: Microsoft Copilot Pro vs. OpenAI's ChatGPT Plus: Which is worth your $20 a month?

A small "Draft with Copilot" window appears on the screen. If you don't see it, click the tiny "Draft with Copilot icon in the left margin."

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2. Submit your request

At the text field in the window, type a description of the text you need and click the "Generate" button.

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Submit your request.

3. Review the response and your options

Copilot generates and displays its response. After reading the response, you're presented with a few different options.

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Review the response and your options.

4. Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft

If you like the draft, click "Keep it." The draft is then inserted into your document where you can work with it. If you don't like the draft, click the "Regenerate" button, and a new draft is created. 

Also: What is Copilot (formerly Bing Chat)? Here's everything you need to know

If you'd prefer to throw out the entire draft and start from scratch, click the trash can icon.

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Keep, regenerate, or remove the draft.

5. Alter the draft

Alternatively, you can try to modify the draft by typing a specific request in the text field, such as "Make it more formal," "Make it shorter," or "Make it more casual."

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Alter the draft.

6. Review the different versions

If you opt to regenerate the draft, you can switch between the different versions by clicking the left or right arrow next to the number. You can then choose to keep the draft you prefer.

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7. Revise existing text

Copilot will also help you fine-tune existing text. Select the text you want to revise. Click the Copilot icon in the left margin and select "Rewrite with Copilot."

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Revise existing text.

8. Review the different versions

Copilot creates a few different versions of the text. Click the arrow keys to view each version.

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Review the different versions.

9. Replace or Insert

If you find one you like, click "Replace" to replace the text you selected. 

Also: ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Copilot vs. Gemini: Which is the best AI chatbot?

Click "Insert below" to insert the new draft below the existing words so you can compare the two.

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Replace or Insert.

10. Adjust the tone

Click "Regenerate" to ask Copilot to try again. Click the "Adjust Tone" button and select a different tone to generate another draft.

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Adjust the tone.

11. Turn text into a table

Sometimes you have text that would look and work better as a table. Copilot can help. Select the text you wish to turn into a table. Click the Copilot icon and select "Visualize as a Table."

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Turn text into a table.

12. Respond to the table

In response, click "Keep it" to retain the table. Click "Regenerate" to try again. Click the trash can icon to delete it. Otherwise, type a request in the text field, such as "remove the second row" or "make the last column wider."

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Respond to the table.

13. Summarize a document

Copilot Pro can provide a summary of a document with its key points. To try this, open the document you want to summarize and then click the Copilot icon on the Ribbon. 

Also: The best AI chatbots

The right sidebar displays several prompts you can use to start your question. Click the one for "Summarize this doc."

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Summarize a document.

14. Review the summary

View the generated summary in the sidebar. If you like it as is, click the "Copy" button to copy the summary and paste it elsewhere.

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Review the summary.

15. Revise the summary

Otherwise, choose one of the suggested questions or ask your own question to revise the summary. For example, you could tell Copilot to make the summary longer, shorter, more formal, or less formal. 

Also: The best AI image generators

You could also ask it to expand on one of the points in the summary or provide more details on a certain point. A specific response is then generated based on your request.

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Revise the summary.

16. Ask questions about a document

Next, you can ask specific questions about any of the content in a document. Again, click the Copilot icon to display the sidebar. In the prompt area, type and submit your question. Copilot displays the response in the sidebar. You can then ask follow-up questions as needed.

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Ask questions about a document.

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EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence in the EU will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Find out how it will protect you.

A man faces a computer generated figure with programming language in the background

As part of its digital strategy , the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology. AI can create many benefits , such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world’s first rules on AI.

Learn more about what artificial intelligence is and how it is used

What Parliament wants in AI legislation

Parliament’s priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.

Learn more about Parliament’s work on AI and its vision for AI’s future

AI Act: different rules for different risk levels

The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Unacceptable risk AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned. They include:

  • Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
  • Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • Biometric identification and categorisation of people
  • Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while “post” remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk and will be divided into two categories:

1) AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation . This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2) AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:

  • Management and operation of critical infrastructure
  • Education and vocational training
  • Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
  • Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
  • Law enforcement
  • Migration, asylum and border control management
  • Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle.

General purpose and generative AI

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, would have to comply with transparency requirements:

  • Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Limited risk

Limited risk AI systems should comply with minimal transparency requirements that would allow users to make informed decisions. After interacting with the applications, the user can then decide whether they want to continue using it. Users should be made aware when they are interacting with AI. This includes AI systems that generate or manipulate image, audio or video content, for example deepfakes.

On December 9 2023, Parliament reached a provisional agreement with the Council on the AI act . The agreed text will now have to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to become EU law. Before all MEPs have their say on the agreement, Parliament’s internal market and civil liberties committees will vote on it.

More on the EU’s digital measures

  • Cryptocurrency dangers and the benefits of EU legislation
  • Fighting cybercrime: new EU cybersecurity laws explained
  • Boosting data sharing in the EU: what are the benefits?
  • EU Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act
  • Five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers
  • Artificial Intelligence Act

Related articles

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