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Research Writing ~ How to Write a Research Paper
- Choosing A Topic
- Critical Thinking
- Domain Names
- Starting Your Research
- Writing Tips
- Parts of the Paper
- Edit & Rewrite
- Citations This link opens in a new window
Papers should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your introductory paragraph should grab the reader's attention, state your main idea and how you will support it. The body of the paper should expand on what you have stated in the introduction. Finally, the conclusion restates the paper's thesis and should explain what you have learned, giving a wrap up of your main ideas.
1. The Title The title should be specific and indicate the theme of the research and what ideas it addresses. Use keywords that help explain your paper's topic to the reader. Try to avoid abbreviations and jargon. Think about keywords that people would use to search for your paper and include them in your title.
2. The Abstract The abstract is used by readers to get a quick overview of your paper. Typically, they are about 200 words in length (120 words minimum to 250 words maximum). The abstract should introduce the topic and thesis, and should provide a general statement about what you have found in your research. The abstract allows you to mention each major aspect of you topic and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Because it is a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last.
3. The Introduction The introduction should be designed to attract the reader's attention and explain the focus of the research. You will introduce your overview of the topic, your main points of information, and why this subject is important. You can introduce the current understanding and background information about the topic. Toward the end of the introduction, you add your thesis statement, and explain how you will provide information to support your research questions. This provides the purpose, focus, and structure for the rest of the paper.
4. Thesis Statement Most papers will have a thesis statement or main idea and supporting facts/ideas/arguments. State your main idea (something of interest or something to be proven or argued for or against) as your thesis statement, and then provide supporting facts and arguments. A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking. It also points toward the paper's development. This statement should be both specific and arguable. Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.
Students often learn to write a thesis as a first step in the writing process, but often, after research, a writers viewpoint may change. Therefore a thesis statement may be one of the final steps in writing.
Examples of thesis statements from Purdue OWL. . .
5. The Literature Review The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and how it specifically relates to the research thesis. It should be a synthesis of the previous literature and the new idea being researched. The review should examine the major theories related to the topic to date and their contributors. It should include all relevant findings from credible sources, such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles. You will want to:
- Explain how the literature helps the researcher understand the topic.
- Try to show connections and any disparities between the literature.
- Identify new ways to interpret prior research.
- Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.
More about writing a literature review. . . from The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill More about summarizing. . . from the Center for Writing Studies at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
6. The Discussion The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and describe what you have learned from your research. Make the reader understand why your topic is important. The discussion should always demonstrate what you have learned from your readings (and viewings) and how that learning has made the topic evolve, especially from the short description of main points in the introduction. Explain any new understanding or insights you have had after reading your articles and/or books. Paragraphs should use transitioning sentences to develop how one paragraph idea leads to the next. The discussion will always connect to the introduction, your thesis statement, and the literature you reviewed, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the introduction. You want to:
- Demonstrate critical thinking, not just reporting back facts that you gathered.
- If possible, tell how the topic has evolved over the past and give it's implications for the future.
- Fully explain your main ideas with supporting information.
- Explain why your thesis is correct giving arguments to counter points.
7. The Conclusion A concluding paragraph is a brief summary of your main ideas and restates the paper's main thesis, giving the reader the sense that the stated goal of the paper has been accomplished. What have you learned by doing this research that you didn't know before? What conclusions have you drawn? You may also want to suggest further areas of study, improvement of research possibilities, etc. to demonstrate your critical thinking regarding your research.
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Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review
* E-mail: [email protected]
Affiliations Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE), CNRS, Montpellier, France, Centre for Biodiversity Synthesis and Analysis (CESAB), FRB, Aix-en-Provence, France
- Marco Pautasso
Published: July 18, 2013
- Reader Comments
Citation: Pautasso M (2013) Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review. PLoS Comput Biol 9(7): e1003149. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003149
Editor: Philip E. Bourne, University of California San Diego, United States of America
Copyright: © 2013 Marco Pautasso. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: This work was funded by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) through its Centre for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity data (CESAB), as part of the NETSEED research project. The funders had no role in the preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.
Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications  . For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively  . Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every single new paper relevant to their interests  . Thus, it is both advantageous and necessary to rely on regular summaries of the recent literature. Although recognition for scientists mainly comes from primary research, timely literature reviews can lead to new synthetic insights and are often widely read  . For such summaries to be useful, however, they need to be compiled in a professional way  .
When starting from scratch, reviewing the literature can require a titanic amount of work. That is why researchers who have spent their career working on a certain research issue are in a perfect position to review that literature. Some graduate schools are now offering courses in reviewing the literature, given that most research students start their project by producing an overview of what has already been done on their research issue  . However, it is likely that most scientists have not thought in detail about how to approach and carry out a literature review.
Reviewing the literature requires the ability to juggle multiple tasks, from finding and evaluating relevant material to synthesising information from various sources, from critical thinking to paraphrasing, evaluating, and citation skills  . In this contribution, I share ten simple rules I learned working on about 25 literature reviews as a PhD and postdoctoral student. Ideas and insights also come from discussions with coauthors and colleagues, as well as feedback from reviewers and editors.
Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience
How to choose which topic to review? There are so many issues in contemporary science that you could spend a lifetime of attending conferences and reading the literature just pondering what to review. On the one hand, if you take several years to choose, several other people may have had the same idea in the meantime. On the other hand, only a well-considered topic is likely to lead to a brilliant literature review  . The topic must at least be:
- interesting to you (ideally, you should have come across a series of recent papers related to your line of work that call for a critical summary),
- an important aspect of the field (so that many readers will be interested in the review and there will be enough material to write it), and
- a well-defined issue (otherwise you could potentially include thousands of publications, which would make the review unhelpful).
Ideas for potential reviews may come from papers providing lists of key research questions to be answered  , but also from serendipitous moments during desultory reading and discussions. In addition to choosing your topic, you should also select a target audience. In many cases, the topic (e.g., web services in computational biology) will automatically define an audience (e.g., computational biologists), but that same topic may also be of interest to neighbouring fields (e.g., computer science, biology, etc.).
Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature
After having chosen your topic and audience, start by checking the literature and downloading relevant papers. Five pieces of advice here:
- keep track of the search items you use (so that your search can be replicated  ),
- keep a list of papers whose pdfs you cannot access immediately (so as to retrieve them later with alternative strategies),
- use a paper management system (e.g., Mendeley, Papers, Qiqqa, Sente),
- define early in the process some criteria for exclusion of irrelevant papers (these criteria can then be described in the review to help define its scope), and
- do not just look for research papers in the area you wish to review, but also seek previous reviews.
The chances are high that someone will already have published a literature review ( Figure 1 ), if not exactly on the issue you are planning to tackle, at least on a related topic. If there are already a few or several reviews of the literature on your issue, my advice is not to give up, but to carry on with your own literature review,
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The bottom-right situation (many literature reviews but few research papers) is not just a theoretical situation; it applies, for example, to the study of the impacts of climate change on plant diseases, where there appear to be more literature reviews than research studies  .
- discussing in your review the approaches, limitations, and conclusions of past reviews,
- trying to find a new angle that has not been covered adequately in the previous reviews, and
- incorporating new material that has inevitably accumulated since their appearance.
When searching the literature for pertinent papers and reviews, the usual rules apply:
- be thorough,
- use different keywords and database sources (e.g., DBLP, Google Scholar, ISI Proceedings, JSTOR Search, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science), and
- look at who has cited past relevant papers and book chapters.
Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading
If you read the papers first, and only afterwards start writing the review, you will need a very good memory to remember who wrote what, and what your impressions and associations were while reading each single paper. My advice is, while reading, to start writing down interesting pieces of information, insights about how to organize the review, and thoughts on what to write. This way, by the time you have read the literature you selected, you will already have a rough draft of the review.
Of course, this draft will still need much rewriting, restructuring, and rethinking to obtain a text with a coherent argument  , but you will have avoided the danger posed by staring at a blank document. Be careful when taking notes to use quotation marks if you are provisionally copying verbatim from the literature. It is advisable then to reformulate such quotes with your own words in the final draft. It is important to be careful in noting the references already at this stage, so as to avoid misattributions. Using referencing software from the very beginning of your endeavour will save you time.
Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write
After having taken notes while reading the literature, you will have a rough idea of the amount of material available for the review. This is probably a good time to decide whether to go for a mini- or a full review. Some journals are now favouring the publication of rather short reviews focusing on the last few years, with a limit on the number of words and citations. A mini-review is not necessarily a minor review: it may well attract more attention from busy readers, although it will inevitably simplify some issues and leave out some relevant material due to space limitations. A full review will have the advantage of more freedom to cover in detail the complexities of a particular scientific development, but may then be left in the pile of the very important papers “to be read” by readers with little time to spare for major monographs.
There is probably a continuum between mini- and full reviews. The same point applies to the dichotomy of descriptive vs. integrative reviews. While descriptive reviews focus on the methodology, findings, and interpretation of each reviewed study, integrative reviews attempt to find common ideas and concepts from the reviewed material  . A similar distinction exists between narrative and systematic reviews: while narrative reviews are qualitative, systematic reviews attempt to test a hypothesis based on the published evidence, which is gathered using a predefined protocol to reduce bias  ,  . When systematic reviews analyse quantitative results in a quantitative way, they become meta-analyses. The choice between different review types will have to be made on a case-by-case basis, depending not just on the nature of the material found and the preferences of the target journal(s), but also on the time available to write the review and the number of coauthors  .
Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest
Whether your plan is to write a mini- or a full review, it is good advice to keep it focused 16 , 17 . Including material just for the sake of it can easily lead to reviews that are trying to do too many things at once. The need to keep a review focused can be problematic for interdisciplinary reviews, where the aim is to bridge the gap between fields  . If you are writing a review on, for example, how epidemiological approaches are used in modelling the spread of ideas, you may be inclined to include material from both parent fields, epidemiology and the study of cultural diffusion. This may be necessary to some extent, but in this case a focused review would only deal in detail with those studies at the interface between epidemiology and the spread of ideas.
While focus is an important feature of a successful review, this requirement has to be balanced with the need to make the review relevant to a broad audience. This square may be circled by discussing the wider implications of the reviewed topic for other disciplines.
Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent
Reviewing the literature is not stamp collecting. A good review does not just summarize the literature, but discusses it critically, identifies methodological problems, and points out research gaps  . After having read a review of the literature, a reader should have a rough idea of:
- the major achievements in the reviewed field,
- the main areas of debate, and
- the outstanding research questions.
It is challenging to achieve a successful review on all these fronts. A solution can be to involve a set of complementary coauthors: some people are excellent at mapping what has been achieved, some others are very good at identifying dark clouds on the horizon, and some have instead a knack at predicting where solutions are going to come from. If your journal club has exactly this sort of team, then you should definitely write a review of the literature! In addition to critical thinking, a literature review needs consistency, for example in the choice of passive vs. active voice and present vs. past tense.
Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure
Like a well-baked cake, a good review has a number of telling features: it is worth the reader's time, timely, systematic, well written, focused, and critical. It also needs a good structure. With reviews, the usual subdivision of research papers into introduction, methods, results, and discussion does not work or is rarely used. However, a general introduction of the context and, toward the end, a recapitulation of the main points covered and take-home messages make sense also in the case of reviews. For systematic reviews, there is a trend towards including information about how the literature was searched (database, keywords, time limits)  .
How can you organize the flow of the main body of the review so that the reader will be drawn into and guided through it? It is generally helpful to draw a conceptual scheme of the review, e.g., with mind-mapping techniques. Such diagrams can help recognize a logical way to order and link the various sections of a review  . This is the case not just at the writing stage, but also for readers if the diagram is included in the review as a figure. A careful selection of diagrams and figures relevant to the reviewed topic can be very helpful to structure the text too  .
Rule 8: Make Use of Feedback
Reviews of the literature are normally peer-reviewed in the same way as research papers, and rightly so  . As a rule, incorporating feedback from reviewers greatly helps improve a review draft. Having read the review with a fresh mind, reviewers may spot inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and ambiguities that had not been noticed by the writers due to rereading the typescript too many times. It is however advisable to reread the draft one more time before submission, as a last-minute correction of typos, leaps, and muddled sentences may enable the reviewers to focus on providing advice on the content rather than the form.
Feedback is vital to writing a good review, and should be sought from a variety of colleagues, so as to obtain a diversity of views on the draft. This may lead in some cases to conflicting views on the merits of the paper, and on how to improve it, but such a situation is better than the absence of feedback. A diversity of feedback perspectives on a literature review can help identify where the consensus view stands in the landscape of the current scientific understanding of an issue  .
Rule 9: Include Your Own Relevant Research, but Be Objective
In many cases, reviewers of the literature will have published studies relevant to the review they are writing. This could create a conflict of interest: how can reviewers report objectively on their own work  ? Some scientists may be overly enthusiastic about what they have published, and thus risk giving too much importance to their own findings in the review. However, bias could also occur in the other direction: some scientists may be unduly dismissive of their own achievements, so that they will tend to downplay their contribution (if any) to a field when reviewing it.
In general, a review of the literature should neither be a public relations brochure nor an exercise in competitive self-denial. If a reviewer is up to the job of producing a well-organized and methodical review, which flows well and provides a service to the readership, then it should be possible to be objective in reviewing one's own relevant findings. In reviews written by multiple authors, this may be achieved by assigning the review of the results of a coauthor to different coauthors.
Rule 10: Be Up-to-Date, but Do Not Forget Older Studies
Given the progressive acceleration in the publication of scientific papers, today's reviews of the literature need awareness not just of the overall direction and achievements of a field of inquiry, but also of the latest studies, so as not to become out-of-date before they have been published. Ideally, a literature review should not identify as a major research gap an issue that has just been addressed in a series of papers in press (the same applies, of course, to older, overlooked studies (“sleeping beauties”  )). This implies that literature reviewers would do well to keep an eye on electronic lists of papers in press, given that it can take months before these appear in scientific databases. Some reviews declare that they have scanned the literature up to a certain point in time, but given that peer review can be a rather lengthy process, a full search for newly appeared literature at the revision stage may be worthwhile. Assessing the contribution of papers that have just appeared is particularly challenging, because there is little perspective with which to gauge their significance and impact on further research and society.
Inevitably, new papers on the reviewed topic (including independently written literature reviews) will appear from all quarters after the review has been published, so that there may soon be the need for an updated review. But this is the nature of science  –  . I wish everybody good luck with writing a review of the literature.
Many thanks to M. Barbosa, K. Dehnen-Schmutz, T. Döring, D. Fontaneto, M. Garbelotto, O. Holdenrieder, M. Jeger, D. Lonsdale, A. MacLeod, P. Mills, M. Moslonka-Lefebvre, G. Stancanelli, P. Weisberg, and X. Xu for insights and discussions, and to P. Bourne, T. Matoni, and D. Smith for helpful comments on a previous draft.
- 1. Rapple C (2011) The role of the critical review article in alleviating information overload. Annual Reviews White Paper. Available: http://www.annualreviews.org/userimages/ContentEditor/1300384004941/Annual_Reviews_WhitePaper_Web_2011.pdf . Accessed May 2013.
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- 16. Eco U (1977) Come si fa una tesi di laurea. Milan: Bompiani.
- 17. Hart C (1998) Doing a literature review: releasing the social science research imagination. London: SAGE.
- 21. Ridley D (2008) The literature review: a step-by-step guide for students. London: SAGE.
- UConn Library
- Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
- Strategies to Find Sources
Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Strategies to Find Sources
- Getting Started
- How to Pick a Topic
- Evaluating Sources & Lit. Reviews
- Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
- Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
- Citation Resources
- Other Academic Writings
The Research Process
Planning : Before searching for articles or books, brainstorm to develop keywords that better describe your research question.
Searching : While searching, take note of what other keywords are used to describe your topic, and use them to conduct additional searches
♠ Most articles include a keyword section
♠ Key concepts may change names throughout time so make sure to check for variations
Organizing : Start organizing your results by categories/key concepts or any organizing principle that make sense for you . This will help you later when you are ready to analyze your findings
Analyzing : While reading, start making notes of key concepts and commonalities and disagreement among the research articles you find.
♠ Create a spreadsheet to record what articles you are finding useful and why.
♠ Create fields to write summaries of articles or quotes for future citing and paraphrasing .
Writing : Synthesize your findings. Use your own voice to explain to your readers what you learned about the literature on your topic. What are its weaknesses and strengths? What is missing or ignored?
Repeat : At any given time of the process, you can go back to a previous step as necessary.
All databases have Help pages that explain the best way to search their product. When doing literature reviews, you will want to take advantage of these features since they can facilitate not only finding the articles that you really need but also controlling the number of results and how relevant they are for your search. The most common features available in the advanced search option of databases and library online catalogs are:
- Boolean Searching (AND, OR, NOT): Allows you to connect search terms in a way that can either limit or expand your search results
- Proximity Searching (N/# or W/#): Allows you to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the database
- Limiters/Filters : These are options that let you control what type of document you want to search: article type, date, language, publication, etc.
- Question mark (?) or a pound sign (#) for wildcard: Used for retrieving alternate spellings of a word: colo?r will retrieve both the American spelling "color" as well as the British spelling "colour."
- Asterisk (*) for truncation: Used for retrieving multiple forms of a word: comput* retrieves computer, computers, computing, etc.
Want to keep track of updates to your searches? Create an account in the database to receive an alert when a new article is published that meets your search parameters!
- EBSCOhost Advanced Search Tutorial Tips for searching a platform that hosts many library databases
- Library's General Search Tips Check the Search tips to better used our library catalog and articles search system
- ProQuest Database Search Tips Tips for searching another platform that hosts library databases
There is no magic number regarding how many sources you are going to need for your literature review; it all depends on the topic and what type of the literature review you are doing:
► Are you working on an emerging topic? You are not likely to find many sources, which is good because you are trying to prove that this is a topic that needs more research. But, it is not enough to say that you found few or no articles on your topic in your field. You need to look broadly to other disciplines (also known as triangulation ) to see if your research topic has been studied from other perspectives as a way to validate the uniqueness of your research question.
► Are you working on something that has been studied extensively? Then you are going to find many sources and you will want to limit how far back you want to look. Use limiters to eliminate research that may be dated and opt to search for resources published within the last 5-10 years.
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- Last Updated: Sep 21, 2022 2:16 PM
- URL: https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/literaturereview
Educational resources and simple solutions for your research journey
Interpreting Research Results with Previous Studies
Effective literature search is important for several reasons. Before you conduct your study, you need to identify other previous studies that addressed research questions or hypotheses that are comparable to yours. Interpreting research results can help in designing appropriate methodological approaches for your study.
However, after your study is completed—when you are interpreting your research results or drafting your research paper—you need to compare the findings in your research with those of previous studies in your research field. The “discussion” section of your manuscript is where you will need to present the interpretations of your results and the conclusions you draw.
This section is critical because peer reviewers will use it to evaluate how relevant your research results are in the current context. In this section, you should summarize the key findings in your research—whether they support or contradict your research hypothesis.
If your literature search and review are robust, you will be able to confidently write about how well your approaches to analyzing the research results were, how useful/reliable your research methodology was, and how well your research filled existing knowledge gaps.
Even when your research results are different from those of previous studies, interpreting research results from previous studies will allow you to explain why this may be so and thus showcase your in-depth understanding of the research topic. A thorough comparison of your research results with existing literature may also give you new insights into the research topic, potentially giving direction to any future studies on that topic.
While comparing data with previous studies in research, organize the interpretations of the results around your research question and ask these questions:
- Are your research results consistent with previously published results on this topic?
- If yes, do your research results confirm or further support your existing knowledge/conclusions from previous studies in research?
- If not, do the research methodologies used in these studies differ from what you used in yours? Could the differences be attributed to differences in factors such as the sample size, animal models, patient characteristics, geographic location of the study, time or length of study, experimental conditions, and outcome measures?
- Irrespective of whether your research results are consistent or inconsistent with those of previous studies in your research field, are your interpretations aligned with those presented by the authors of these studies?
- How relevant or significant are your research results in the context of existing literature?
Comparing your research results with previously published ones can be tedious as one would need to find all research papers from different databases and then spend time interpreting research results to ascertain their relevance. What can make this challenging task easy is using smart apps, such as R Discovery , a free to download app for researchers developed by Researcher.Life.
R Discovery is powered by AI and designed specially to help researchers and students find previous studies in research and existing literature in their field of study with ease. It helps find the latest and most relevant research papers from a comprehensive database of published academic literature from all disciplines. It also provides you a clear summary of open access papers that helps in easily interpreting research results before you decide whether to ready the entire paper, making R Discovery a perfect tool for your literature search . Moreover, users of R Discovery can create their own personalized library of previous studies in research topics of your interest.
Going beyond literature search to comparing your research results with existing studies, the free app can also help you stay updated on trending research. R Discovery is designed to understand a user’s interests based on the preferences they indicate and their search activity on the app. Based on this, it delivers to you top 3 articles in your field of interest.
We hope that the tips and advice provided in this article enable you to compare your research results with previous studies in research in a more thorough, yet simpler and stress-free way.
Introducing Multiple Feeds, with Recommended Reads for Separate Research Projects
Emotions in Academia: Scientific Perspective on How This Impacts Research
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Chapter 12. Peer Review and Final Revisions
12.1 revision, learning objectives.
- Identify major areas of concern in the draft essay during revising
- Use peer reviews and checklists to assist revising
- Revise your paper to improve organization and cohesion
- Determine an appropriate style and tone for your paper
- Revise to ensure that your tone is consistent
- Revise the first draft of your essay and produce a final draft
Revising and editing are the two tasks you undertake to significantly improve your essay. Both are very important elements of the writing process. You may think that a completed first draft means that little improvement is needed. However, even experienced writers need to improve their drafts and rely on peers during revising and editing. You may know that athletes miss catches, fumble balls, or overshoot goals. Dancers forget steps, turn too slowly, or miss beats. For both athletes and dancers, the more they practise, the stronger their performance will become. Web designers seek better images, a more clever design, or a more appealing background for their web pages. Writing has the same capacity to profit from improvement and revision.
You should revise and edit in stages: do not expect to catch everything in one go. If each time you review your essay you focus on a different aspect of construction, you will be more likely to catch any mistakes or identify any issues. Throughout this chapter, you will see a number of checklists containing specific things to look for with each revision. For example, you will first look at how the overall paper and your ideas are organized.
In the second section of this chapter, you will focus more on editing: correcting the mechanical issues. Also at the end of the chapter, you will see a comprehensive but more general list of things you should be looking for.
Understanding the Purpose of Revising and Editing
Revising and editing allow you to examine two important aspects of your writing separately, so that you can give each task your undivided attention.
When you revise , you take a second look at your ideas . You might add, cut, move, or change information in order to make your ideas clearer, more accurate, more interesting, or more convincing.
When you edit , you take a second look at how you expressed your ideas . You add or change words. You fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. You improve your writing style. You make your essay into a polished, mature piece of writing, the end product of your best efforts.
How do you get the best out of your revisions and editing? Here are some strategies that writers have developed to look at their first drafts from a fresh perspective. Try them throughout the writing process; then keep using the ones that bring results.
Take a break. You are proud of what you wrote, but you might be too close to it to make changes. Set aside your writing for a few hours or even a day until you can look at it objectively.
Ask someone you trust for feedback and constructive criticism.
Pretend you are one of your readers. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied? Why?
For many people, the words critic , critical , and criticism provoke only negative feelings that make them blush, grumble, or shout. However, as a writer and a thinker, you need to learn to be critical of yourself in a positive way and have high expectations for your work. You also need to train your eye and trust your ability to fix what needs fixing. To do this, you need to teach yourself where to look.
Revising Your Paper: Organization , Cohesion , and Unity
When writing a research paper, it is easy to become overly focused on editorial details, such as the proper format for bibliographical entries. These details do matter. However, before you begin to address them, it is important to spend time reviewing and revising the content of the paper.
A good research paper is both organized and cohesive. Organization means that your argument flows logically from one point to the next. Cohesion means that the elements of your paper work together smoothly and naturally. In a cohesive research paper, information from research is seamlessly integrated with the writer’s ideas.
Revise to Improve Organization
When you revise to improve organization, you look at the flow of ideas throughout the essay as a whole and within individual paragraphs. You check to see that your essay moves logically from the introduction to the body paragraphs to the conclusion, and that each section reinforces your thesis. Use Checklist 12.1 : Revise for Organization to help you.
Checklist 12.1 : Revise for Organization
At the essay level
Does my introduction proceed clearly from the opening to the thesis?
Does each body paragraph have a clear main idea that relates to the thesis?
Do the main ideas in the body paragraphs flow in a logical order? Is each paragraph connected to the one before it?
Do I need to add or revise topic sentences or transitions to make the overall flow of ideas clearer?
Does my conclusion summarize my main ideas and revisit my thesis?
At the paragraph level
Does the topic sentence clearly state the main idea?
Do the details in the paragraph relate to the main idea?
Do I need to recast any sentences or add transitions to improve the flow of sentences?
Jorge reread his draft paragraph by paragraph. As he read, he highlighted the main idea of each paragraph so he could see whether his ideas proceeded in a logical order. For the most part, the flow of ideas was clear. However, he did notice that one paragraph did not have a clear main idea. It interrupted the flow of the writing. During revision, Jorge added a topic sentence that clearly connected the paragraph to the one that had preceded it. He also added transitions to improve the flow of ideas from sentence to sentence.
Read the following paragraphs twice, the first time without Jorge’s changes, and the second time with them.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.1
Follow these steps to begin revising your paper’s overall organization.
Print out a hard copy of your paper. (You will use this for multiple self-practice exercises in this chapter.)
Read your paper paragraph by paragraph. Highlight your thesis and the topic sentence of each paragraph.
Using the thesis and topic sentences as starting points, outline the ideas you presented—just as you would do if you were outlining a chapter in a textbook. Do not look at the outline you created during prewriting. You may write in the margins of your draft or create a formal outline on a separate sheet of paper.
Next, reread your paper more slowly, looking for how ideas flow from sentence to sentence. Identify places where adding a transition or recasting a sentence would make the ideas flow more logically.
Review the topics on your outline. Is there a logical flow of ideas? Identify any places where you may need to reorganize ideas.
Begin to revise your paper to improve organization. Start with any major issues, such as needing to move an entire paragraph. Then proceed to minor revisions, such as adding a transitional phrase or tweaking a topic sentence so it connects ideas more clearly.
Optional collaboration: P lease share your paper with a classmate. Repeat the six steps and take notes on a separate piece of paper. Share and compare notes.
Writers choose transitions carefully to show the relationships between ideas—for instance, to make a comparison or elaborate on a point with examples. Make sure your transitions suit your purpose and avoid overusing the same ones.
Careful writers use transitions to clarify how the ideas in their sentences and paragraphs are related. These words and phrases help the writing flow smoothly. Adding transitions is not the only way to improve coherence, but they are often useful and give a mature feel to your essays. Earlier chapters have discussed using transitions for specific purposes in the planning of your writing. Table 12.1: Common Transitional Words and Phrases groups many common transitions according to their purpose.
Table 12.1: Common Transitional Words and Phrases According to Purpose
When Mariah (who you were introduced to in Chapters 5 and 6) revised her essay for unity, she examined her paragraph about televisions to check for coherence. She looked for places where she needed to add a transition or perhaps reword the text to make the flow of ideas clear. In the version that follows, she has already deleted the sentences that were off topic.
Many writers make their revisions on a printed copy and then transfer them to the version on screen. They conventionally use a small arrow called a caret (^) to show where to insert an addition or correction.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.2
Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph.
Do you agree with the transitions and other changes that Mariah made to her paragraph? Which would you keep and which were unnecessary? Explain.
What transition words or phrases did Mariah add to her paragraph? Why did she choose each one?
What effect does adding additional sentences have on the coherence of the paragraph? Explain. When you read both versions aloud, which version has a more logical flow of ideas? Explain.
Revise to Improve Cohesion
When you revise to improve cohesion, you analyze how the parts of your paper work together. You look for anything that seems awkward or out of place. Revision may involve deleting unnecessary material or rewriting parts of the paper so that the out of place material fits in smoothly.
In a research paper, problems with cohesion usually occur when a writer has trouble integrating source material. If facts or quotations have been awkwardly dropped into a paragraph, they distract or confuse the reader instead of working to support the writer’s point. Overusing paraphrased and quoted material has the same effect. Use Checklist 12.2 : Revise for Cohesion to review your essay for cohesion.
Checklist 12.2 : Revise for Cohesion
Does the opening of the paper clearly connect to the broader topic and thesis? Make sure entertaining quotes or anecdotes serve a purpose.
Have I included support from research for each main point in the body of my paper?
Have I included introductory material before any quotations? Quotations should never stand alone in a paragraph.
Does paraphrased and quoted material clearly serve to develop my own points?
Do I need to add to or revise parts of the paper to help the reader understand how certain information from a source is relevant?
Are there any places where I have overused material from sources?
Does my conclusion make sense based on the rest of the paper? Make sure any new questions or suggestions in the conclusion are clearly linked to earlier material.
As Jorge reread his draft, he looked to see how the different pieces fit together to prove his thesis. He realized that some of his supporting information needed to be integrated more carefully and decided to omit some details entirely. Read the following paragraph, first without Jorge’s revisions and then with them.
Jorge decided that his comment about pizza and birthday cake came across as subjective and was not necessary to make his point, so he deleted it. He also realized that the quotation at the end of the paragraph was awkward and ineffective. How would his readers know who Kwon was or why her opinion should be taken seriously? Adding an introductory phrase helped Jorge integrate this quotation smoothly and establish the credibility of his source.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.3
Follow these steps to begin revising your paper to improve cohesion.
Print out a hard copy of your paper, or work with your printout from Self – Practice Exercise 12.1 .
Read the body paragraphs of your paper first. Each time you come to a place that cites information from sources, ask yourself what purpose this information serves. Check that it helps support a point and that it is clearly related to the other sentences in the paragraph.
Identify unnecessary information from sources that you can delete.
Identify places where you need to revise your writing so that readers understand the significance of the details cited from sources.
Skim the body paragraphs once more, looking for any paragraphs that seem packed with citations. Review these paragraphs carefully for cohesion.
Review your introduction and conclusion. Make sure the information presented works with ideas in the body of the paper.
Revise the places you identified in your paper to improve cohesion.
Optional c ollaboration: P lease exchange papers with a classmate. Complete step 4 . On a separate piece of paper, note any areas that would benefit from clarification. Return and compare notes.
Writing at Work
Understanding cohesion can also benefit you in the workplace, especially when you have to write and deliver a presentation. Speakers sometimes rely on cute graphics or funny quotations to hold their audience’s attention. If you choose to use these elements, make sure they work well with the substantive content of your presentation. For example, if you are asked to give a financial presentation, and the financial report shows that the company lost money, funny illustrations would not be relevant or appropriate for the presentation.
Reading your writing aloud will often help you find problems with unity and coherence. Listen for the clarity and flow of your ideas. Identify places where you find yourself confused, and write a note to yourself about possible fixes.
Sometimes writers get caught up in the moment and cannot resist a good digression. Even though you might enjoy such detours when you chat with friends, unplanned digressions usually harm a piece of writing.
Following your outline closely offers you a reasonable guarantee that your writing will stay on purpose and not drift away from the controlling idea. However, when writers are rushed, are tired, or cannot find the right words, their writing may become less than they want it to be. Their writing may no longer be clear and concise, and they may add information that is not needed to develop the main idea.
When a piece of writing has unity , all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense. When the writing has coherence , the ideas flow smoothly. The wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and from paragraph to paragraph.
Mariah stayed close to her outline when she drafted the three body paragraphs of her essay she tentatively titled “Digital Technology: The Newest and the Best at What Price?” But a recent shopping trip for an HDTV upset her enough that she digressed from the main topic of her third paragraph and included comments about the sales staff at the electronics store she visited. When she revised her essay, she deleted the off-topic sentences that affected the unity of the paragraph.
Read the following paragraph twice, the first time without Mariah’s changes and the second time with them.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.4
Answer the following two questions about Mariah’s paragraph:
Do you agree with Mariah’s decision to make the deletions she made? Did she cut too much, too little, or just enough? Explain.
Is the explanation of what screen resolution means a digression? Or is it audience friendly and essential to understanding the paragraph? Explain.
Collaboration: P lease share with a classmate and compare your answers.
Now, print out another copy of your essay or use the printed version(s) you used in Self – Practice Exercises 12.1 and 12.3 . Reread it to find any statements that affect the unity of your writing. Decide how best to revise.
When you reread your writing to find revisions to make, look for each type of problem in a separate sweep. Read it straight through once to locate any problems with unity. Read it straight through a second time to find problems with coherence. You may follow this same practice during many stages of the writing process.
Many companies hire copy editors and proofreaders to help them produce the cleanest possible final drafts of large writing projects. Copy editors are responsible for suggesting revisions and style changes; proofreaders check documents for any errors in capitalization, spelling, and punctuation that have crept in. Many times, these tasks are done on a freelance basis, with one freelancer working for a variety of clients.
Using a Consistent Style and Tone
Once you are certain that the content of your paper fulfills your purpose, you can begin revising to improve style and tone . Together, your style and tone create the voice of your paper, or how you come across to readers. Style refers to the way you use language as a writer—the sentence structures you use and the word choices you make. Tone is the attitude toward your subject and audience that you convey through your word choice.
Determining an Appropriate Style and Tone
Although accepted writing styles will vary within different disciplines, the underlying goal is the same—to come across to your readers as a knowledgeable, authoritative guide. Writing about research is like being a tour guide who walks readers through a topic. A stuffy, overly formal tour guide can make readers feel put off or intimidated. Too much informality or humour can make readers wonder whether the tour guide really knows what he or she is talking about. Extreme or emotionally charged language comes across as unbalanced.
To help prevent being overly formal or informal, determine an appropriate style and tone at the beginning of the research process. Consider your topic and audience because these can help dictate style and tone. For example, a paper on new breakthroughs in cancer research should be more formal than a paper on ways to get a good night’s sleep.
A strong research paper comes across as straightforward, appropriately academic, and serious. It is generally best to avoid writing in the first person, as this can make your paper seem overly subjective and opinion based. Use Checklist 12.3 : Revise for Style to review your paper for other issues that affect style and tone. You can check for consistency at the end of the writing process. Checking for consistency is discussed later in this section.
Checklist 12.3 : Revise for Style
My paper avoids excessive wordiness.
My sentences are varied in length and structure.
I have avoided using first person pronouns such as I and we .
I have used the active voice whenever possible.
I have defined specialized terms that might be unfamiliar to readers.
I have used clear, straightforward language whenever possible and avoided unnecessary jargon.
My paper states my point of view using a balanced tone—neither too indecisive nor too forceful.
Note that word choice is an especially important aspect of style. In addition to checking the points noted on Checklist 12.3 , review your paper to make sure your language is precise, conveys no unintended connotations, and is free of bias. Here are some of the points to check for:
Vague or imprecise terms
Repetition of the same phrases (“Smith states…, Jones states…”) to introduce quoted and paraphrased material (For a full list of strong verbs to use with in text citations, see Chapter 9: Citations and Referencing .)
Exclusive use of masculine pronouns or awkward use of he or she
Use of language with negative connotations, such as haughty or ridiculous
Use of outdated or offensive terms to refer to specific ethnic, racial, or religious groups
Using plural nouns and pronouns or recasting a sentence can help you keep your language gender neutral while avoiding awkwardness. Consider the following examples.
- Gender biased : When a writer cites a source in the body of his paper, he must list it on his references page.
- Awkward : When a writer cites a source in the body of his or her paper, he or she must list it on his or her references page.
- Improved : Writers must list any sources cited in the body of a paper on the references page.
Keeping Your Style Consistent
As you revise your paper, make sure your style is consistent throughout. Look for instances where a word, phrase, or sentence does not seem to fit with the rest of the writing. It is best to reread for style after you have completed the other revisions so that you are not distracted by any larger content issues. Revising strategies you can use include the following:
Read your paper aloud. Sometimes your ears catch inconsistencies that your eyes miss.
Share your paper with another reader whom you trust to give you honest feedback. It is often difficult to evaluate one’s own style objectively—especially in the final phase of a challenging writing project. Another reader may be more likely to notice instances of wordiness, confusing language, or other issues that affect style and tone.
E dit your paper slowly, sentence by sentence. You may even wish to use a sheet of paper to cover up everything on the page except the paragraph you are editing. This practice forces you to read slowly and carefully. Mark any areas where you notice problems in style or tone, and then take time to rework those sections.
On reviewing his paper, Jorge found that he had generally used an appropriately academic style and tone. However, he noticed one glaring exception—his first paragraph. He realized there were places where his overly informal writing could come across as unserious or, worse, disparaging. Revising his word choice and omitting a humorous aside helped Jorge maintain a consistent tone. Read his revisions.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.5
Using Checklist 12.3 : Revise for Style , revise your paper line by line. You may use either of these techniques :
Print out a hard copy of your paper or work with your printout from Self – Practice Exercise 12.1 . Read it line by line. Check for the issues noted on Checklist 12.3 , as well as any other aspects of your writing style you have previously identified as areas for improvement. Mark any areas where you notice problems in style or tone, and then take time to rework those sections.
If you prefer to work with an electronic document, use the menu options in your word processing program to enlarge the text to 150 or 200 percent of the original size. Make sure the type is large enough that you can focus on one paragraph at a time. Read the paper line by line as described in step 1. Highlight any areas where you notice problems in style or tone, and then take time to rework those sections.
Optional c ollaboration: P lease exchange papers with a classmate. On a separate piece of paper, note places where the essay does not seem to flow or you have questions about what was written. Return the essay and compare notes.
Completing a Peer Review
After working so closely with a piece of writing, writers often need to step back and ask for a more objective reader. What writers need most is feedback from readers who can respond only to the words on the page. When they are ready, writers show their drafts to someone they respect and who can give an honest response about its strengths and weaknesses.
You, too, can ask a peer to read your draft when it is ready. After evaluating the feedback and assessing what is most helpful, the reader’s feedback will help you when you revise your draft. This process is called peer review .
You can work with a partner in your class and identify specific ways to strengthen each other’s essays. Although you may be uncomfortable sharing your writing at first, remember that each writer is working toward the same goal: a final draft that fits the audience and the purpose. Maintaining a positive attitude when providing feedback will put you and your partner at ease. The box that follows provides a useful framework for the peer review session.
Questions for Peer Review: Organization, Unity, and Coherence
Title of essay: ____________________________________________
Writer’s name: ____________________________________________
Peer reviewer’s name: _________________________________________
This essay is about____________________________________________.
Your main points in this essay are____________________________________________.
What I most liked about this essay is____________________________________________.
These three points struck me as your strongest:
Point: ____________________________________________ Why: ____________________________________________
These places in your essay are not clear to me:
Where: ____________________________________________ Needs improvement because__________________________________________
Where: ____________________________________________ Needs improvement because ____________________________________________
Needs improvement because ____________________________________________
The one additional change you could make that would improve this essay significantly is ____________________________________________.
One of the reasons why word processing programs build in a reviewing feature is that work groups have become a common feature in many businesses. Writing is often collaborative, and the members of a work group and their supervisors often critique group members’ work and offer feedback that will lead to a better final product.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.6
Exchange essays with a classmate and complete a peer review of each other’s draft in progress. Remember to give positive feedback and to be courteous and polite in your responses. Focus on providing one positive comment and one question for more information to the author.
Using Feedback Objectively
The purpose of peer feedback is to receive constructive criticism of your essay. Your peer reviewer is your first real audience, and you have the opportunity to learn what confuses and delights a reader so that you can improve your work before sharing the final draft with a wider audience (or your intended audience).
It may not be necessary to incorporate every recommendation your peer reviewer makes. However, if you start to observe a pattern in the responses you receive from peer reviewers, you might want to consider that feedback in future assignments. For example, if you read consistent comments about a need for more research, then you may want to consider including more research in future assignments.
Using Feedback from Multiple Sources
You might get feedback from more than one reader as you share different stages of your revised draft. In this situation, you may receive feedback from readers who do not understand the assignment or who lack your involvement with and enthusiasm for it.
You need to evaluate the responses you receive according to two important criteria:
Determine if the feedback supports the purpose of the assignment.
Determine if the suggested revisions are appropriate to the audience.
Then, using these standards, accept or reject revision feedback.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.7
Consider the feedback you received from the peer review and all of the revision exercises throughout this section. Compile a final draft of your revisions that you can use in the next section to complete your final edits.
- Revising and editing are the stages of the writing process in which you improve your work before producing a final draft.
- Unity in writing means that all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong together and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense.
- Coherence in writing means that the writer’s wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and between paragraphs.
- Transitional words and phrases effectively make writing more coherent.
- Writing should be clear and concise, with no unnecessary words.
- Effective formal writing uses specific, appropriate words and avoids slang, contractions, clichés, and overly general words.
- Peer reviews, done properly, can give writers objective feedback about their writing. It is the writer’s responsibility to evaluate the results of peer reviews and incorporate only useful feedback.
12.2 Editing and Developing a Final Draft of a Research Paper
- Edit your paper to ensure that language, citations, and formatting are correct
Given all the time and effort you have put into your research paper, you will want to make sure that your final draft represents your best work. This requires taking the time to revise and edit your paper carefully.
You may feel like you need a break from your paper before you edit it. That feeling is understandable, so you want to be sure to leave yourself enough time to complete this important stage of the writing process. This section presents a number of opportunities for you to focus on different aspects of the editing process; as with revising a draft, you should approach editing in different stages.
Some of the content in this section may seem repetitive, but again, it provides you with a chance to double-check any revisions you have made at a detailed level.
Editing Your Draft
If you have been incorporating each set of revisions as Mariah and Jorge have, you have produced multiple drafts of your writing. So far, all your changes have been content changes. Perhaps with the help of peer feedback, you have made sure that you sufficiently supported your ideas. You have checked for problems with unity and coherence. You have examined your essay for word choice, revising to cut unnecessary words and to replace weak wording with specific and appropriate wording.
The next step after revising the content is editing. When you edit, you examine the surface features of your text. You examine your spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. You also make sure you use the proper format when creating your finished assignment.
Editing takes time. Be sure to budget time into the writing process to complete additional edits after revising. Editing and proofreading your writing helps you create a finished work that represents your best efforts. Here are a few more tips to remember about your readers:
Readers do not notice correct spelling, but they do notice misspellings.
Readers look past your sentences to get to your ideas—unless the sentences are awkward, poorly constructed, and frustrating to read.
Readers notice when every sentence has the same rhythm as every other sentence, with no variety.
Readers do not cheer when you use there , their , and they’re correctly, but they notice when you do not.
Readers will notice the care with which you handled your assignment and your attention to detail in the delivery of an error-free document.
Being Clear and Concise
Some writers are very methodical and painstaking when they write a first draft. Other writers unleash a lot of words in order to get out all that they feel they need to say. Do either of these methods match your style? Or is your composing style somewhere in between? No matter which description best fits you, the first draft of almost every piece of writing, no matter its author, can be made clearer and more concise.
If you have a tendency to write too much, you will need to look for unnecessary words. If you have a tendency to be vague or imprecise in your wording, you will need to find specific words to replace any overly general language.
Sometimes writers use too many words when fewer words will appeal more to their audience and better fit their purpose. Here are some common examples of wordiness to look for in your draft. Eliminating wordiness helps all readers, because it makes your ideas clear, direct, and straightforward.
- Sentences that begin with There is or There are
- Wordy . There are two major experiments that the Biology Department sponsors.
- Revised . The Biology Department sponsors two major experiments.
- Sentences with unnecessary modifiers
- Wordy . Two extremely famous and well-known consumer advocates spoke eloquently in favour of the proposed important legislation.
- Revised . Two well-known consumer advocates spoke in favour of the proposed legislation.
Sentences with deadwood phrases that add little to the meaning. Be judicious when you use phrases such as in terms of , with a mind to , on the subject of , as to whether or not , more or less , as far as…is concerned , and similar expressions. You can usually find a more straightforward way to state your point.
- Wordy . As a world leader in the field of green technology, the company plans to focus its efforts in the area of geothermal energy. A report as to whether or not to use geysers as an energy source is in the process of preparation.
- Revised . As a world leader in green technology, the company plans to focus on geothermal energy. Researchers are preparing a report about using geysers as an energy source.
Sentences in the passive voice or with forms of the verb to be : S entences with passive voice verbs often create confusion because the subject of the sentence does not perform an action. Sentences are clearer when the subject performs the action and is followed by a strong verb. Use strong active voice verbs in place of forms of to be , which can lead to wordiness. Avoid passive voice when you can.
- Wordy . It might perhaps be said that using a GPS device is something that is a benefit to drivers who have a poor sense of direction.
- Revised . Using a GPS device benefits drivers who have a poor sense of direction.
Sentences with constructions that can be shortened
- Wordy . The e-book reader, which is a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone. My over-60 uncle bought an e-book reader, and his wife bought an e-book reader, too.
- Revised . The e-book reader, a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone. My over-60 uncle and his wife both bought e-book readers.
Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words
Most essays at the post-secondary level should be written in formal English suitable for an academic situation. Follow these principles to be sure that your word choice is appropriate. For more information about word choice, see Chapter 2: Working with Words: Which Word Is Right?
Avoid slang . Find alternatives to bummer , kewl , and rad .
Avoid language that is overly casual . Write about “men and women” rather than “girls and guys” unless you are trying to create a specific effect. A formal tone calls for formal language.
Avoid contractions . Use do not in place of don’t , I am in place of I’m , have not in place of haven’t , and so on. Contractions are considered casual speech.
Avoid clichés . Overused expressions such as green with envy , face the music , better late than never , and similar expressions are empty of meaning and may not appeal to your audience.
Be careful when you use words that sound alike but have different meanings . Some examples are allusion/illusion ; complement/compliment; council/counsel; concurrent/consecutive; founder/flounder; and historic/historical. When in doubt, check a dictionary.
Choose words with the connotations you want . Choosing a word for its connotations is as important in formal essay writing as it is in all kinds of writing. Compare the positive connotations of the word proud and the negative connotations of arrogant and conceited .
Use specific words rather than overly general words . Find synonyms for thing , people , nice , good , bad , interesting , and other vague words. Or use specific details to make your exact meaning clear.
Now read the revisions Mariah made to make her third paragraph clearer and more concise. She has already incorporated the changes she made to improve unity and coherence.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.8
Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph:
Read the unrevised and the revised paragraphs aloud. Explain in your own words how changes in word choice have affected Mariah’s writing.
Do you agree with the changes that Mariah made to her paragraph? Which changes would you keep and which were unnecessary? Explain. What other changes would you have made?
What effect does removing contractions and the pronoun you have on the tone of the paragraph? How would you characterize the tone now? Why?
Now return once more to your essay in progress. Read carefully for problems with word choice. Be sure that your draft is written in formal language and that your word choice is specific and appropriate.
Self – practice EXERCISE 12.9
R eturn once more to the first draft of the essay you have been revising. Check it for unnecessary words.
Try making your sentences as concise as they can be.
Brief Punctuation Review
Throughout this book, you have been presented with a number of tables containing transitional words. Table 12.2: Punctuating Transitional Words and Phrases shows many of the transition words you have seen organized into different categories to help you know how to punctuate with each one.
Table 12.2: Punctuating Transitional Words and Phrases
* This row contains relative pronouns, which may be punctuated differently.
Joining Independent Clauses
There are three ways to join independent clauses. By using a mix of all three methods and varying your transition words, you will add complexity to your writing and improve the flow. You will also be emphasizing to your reader which ideas you want to connect or to show things like cause and effect or contrast. For a more detailed review of independent clauses, look back at Chapter 3: Putting Ideas into Your Own Words and Paragraphs . Option 1 By simply using a semicolon ( ; ), you can make the ideas connect more than if you were to use a period. If you are trying to reinforce that connection, use a semicolon because it is not as strong of a pause as a period and reinforces the link. Option 2 When you want to link two independent sentences and increase the flow between ideas, you can add a comma and a coordinating conjunction between them. With coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), you do not use a comma every time: you would only do so if what is on either side of the conjunction is a complete sentence not just a phrase. You would not put a comma if you are only giving a list of two items. For example:
Comma: It is cold outside , so I wore an extra warm coat.
No comma: It is cold outside. I wore an extra warm coat and gloves.
The first example contains a complete sentence (independent clause) on either side of the conjunction so . Just the conjunction by itself or just a comma by itself is not strong enough to join two independent clauses. However, if you put the two together with so , you can link the two. In the second example, and is simply connecting two noun phrases: warm coat and gloves . What comes after the conjunction is not a complete sentence, so you would not add a comma. To check if there is a complete, independent clause, ask yourself, “Can that part stand by itself as a complete sentence?” In the case of the no comma example, gloves is what comes after the comma. That is not a complete sentence, only a noun: that means it is part of a list and is not a complete sentence = no comma. The point of these examples was to show you that you have to be careful how you use commas and conjunctions. As easy as it would be to just always toss in a comma, doing so would confuse your reader as what is and is not part of a list and what ideas are joined. Option 3 Your third choice is to join two independent clauses with a conjunctive adverb or another transition word. These words are very useful because they clearly show your reader how you would like your ideas to connect. If you wanted to emphasize contrasting ideas, you would use on the other hand or however . If you wanted to show cause and effect, you could use as a result . Refer to the tables you have seen in other chapters to make sure you are using the transitions you actually mean to be using; then, check Table 12.2 to confirm how you should punctuate it. After your first independent clause, you can choose to either use a period or a semicolon, again depending on how much of a link you want to show. You may also want to consider how many long sentences you have used prior to this. If you use a lot of complicated sentences, you should probably use a period to allow your reader to take a break. You must also remember to include a comma after the transition word.
Period: It is cold outside . Therefore, I wore an extra warm coat.
Semicolon: It is cold outside ; therefore, I wore an extra warm coat.
Joining Dependent Clauses
If one of the clauses in a sentence is independent and can stand on its own, but the other is not, you have to construct the sentence a little differently. Whenever you add a subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun to an independent sentence, you create a dependent clause—one that can never stand alone. In the examples below, notice that when the independent clause comes first, it is strong enough to carry the dependent clause at the end without any helping punctuation. However, if you want the dependent clause first, you must add a comma between it and the independent clause: the dependent clause is not strong enough to support the independent clause after without a little help. In the examples below, the independent clauses are double underlined and the dependent clause has a single underline.
IND first: I wore an extra warm coat as it is cold outside.
DEP first: As it is cold outside , I wore an extra warm coat.
If you want to start a sentence with Because , you need to make sure there is a second half to that sentence that is independent. A Because (dependent) clause can never stand by itself.
At the bottom on Table 12.2 , you can see a list of five dependent markers that can be used a little differently. These are relative pronouns, and when you use them, you need to ask yourself if the information is 100 percent necessary for the reader to understand what you are describing. If it is optional, you can include a comma before the relative clause even if it comes after the independent clause.
Non – essential: As it is cold outside, I wore an extra warm coat , which was blue.
Essential: My coat which is blue is the one I wear when it is really cold outside.
In the non – essential example, the fact that the coat was warm was probably more important than that the coat was blue. The information that the coat is blue probably would not make a difference in keeping the person warm, so the information in that relative clause is not terribly important. Adding the comma before the clause tells the reader it is extra information. In the essential example, the use of the same clause without a preceding comma shows that this information is important. The writer is implying he has other coats that are not as warm and are not blue, so he is emphasizing the importance of the blue coat. These are the only five subordinators, or relative pronouns, for which you can do this; every other one needs to follow the previous explanation of how to use these dependent transition words. If you do decide to add a comma with one of the relative pronouns, you need to think critically about whether or not that description is completely essential.
Using any of these sentence joining strategies is helpful in providing sentence variety to help your reader stay engaged and reading attentively. By following these punctuation rules, you will also avoid creating sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices, all of which improves your end product.
Given how much work you have put into your research paper, you will want to check for any errors that could distract or confuse your readers. Using the spell checking feature in your word processing program can be helpful, it should not replace a full, careful review of your document. Be sure to check for any errors that may have come up frequently for you in the past. Use Checklist 12.4: Editing Your Writing to help you as you edit.
Checklist 12.4 : Editing Your Writing
Are some sentences actually sentence fragments?
Are some sentences run-on? How can I correct them?
Do some sentences need conjunctions between independent clauses?
Does every verb agree with its subject?
Is every verb in the correct tense?
Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly?
Have I used subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns correctly?
Have I used who and whom correctly?
Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear?
Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents?
Have I used the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs?
Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies, or is it a dangling modifier?
Are all my sentences simple sentences, or do I vary my sentence structure?
Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses?
Have I created long, overpacked sentences that should be shortened for clarity?
Do I see any mistakes in parallel structure?
Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation?
Can I justify the use of every exclamation point?
Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms?
Have I used quotation marks correctly?
Mechanics and Usage
Can I find any spelling errors? How can I correct them?
Have I used capital letters where they are needed?
Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly?
Can I find any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to / too / two ?
Be careful about relying too much on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. A spelling checker cannot recognize that you meant to write principle but wrote principal instead. A grammar checker often queries constructions that are perfectly correct. The program does not understand your meaning; it makes its check against a general set of formulas that might not apply in each instance. If you use a grammar checker, accept the suggestions that make sense, but consider why the suggestions came up.
Proofreading requires patience; it is very easy to read past a mistake. Set your paper aside for at least a few hours, if not a day or more, so your mind will rest. Some professional proofreaders read a text backward so they can concentrate on spelling and punctuation. Another helpful technique is to slowly read a paper aloud, paying attention to every word, letter, and punctuation mark.
If you need additional proofreading help, ask a reliable friend, classmate, or peer tutor to make a final pass on your paper to look for anything you missed.
Your finished assignment should be properly formatted, following the style required of you. Formatting includes the style of the title, margin size, page number placement, location of the writer’s name, and other factors. Your instructor or department may require a specific style to be used. The requirements may be more detailed and rigid for research projects and term papers, which often observe the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide, especially when citations of sources are included.
To ensure the format is correct and follows any specific instructions, make a final check before you submit an assignment.
Self- practice EXERCISE 12.10
With the help of Checklist 12.4, edit and proofread your essay.
Checking Citations and Formatting
When editing a research paper, it is also important to check that you have cited sources properly and formatted your document according to the specified guidelines. There are two reasons for this. First, citing sources correctly ensures that you give proper credit to other people for ideas and information that helped you in your work. Second, using correct formatting establishes your paper as one student’s contribution to the work developed by and for a larger academic community. Increasingly, American Psychological Association (APA) style guidelines are the standard for many academic fields. Use Checklist 12.5: Citations and Formatting to help.
Checklist 12.5 : Citations and Formatting
Within the body of my paper, each fact or idea taken from a source is credited to the correct source.
Each in-text citation includes the source author’s name (or, where applicable, the organization name or source title) and year of publication. I have used the correct format of in text and parenthetical citations.
Each source cited in the body of my paper has a corresponding entry in the references section of my paper.
My references section includes a heading and double-spaced alphabetized entries.
Each entry in my references section is indented on the second line and all subsequent lines.
Each entry in my references section includes all the necessary information for that source type, in the correct sequence and format.
My paper includes a title page.
My paper includes a running head.
The margins of my paper are set at one inch. Text is double spaced and set in a standard 12-point font.
For detailed guidelines on APA citation and formatting, see Chapter 9: Citations and Referencing .
Following APA citation and formatting guidelines may require time and effort. However, it is good practice for learning how to follow accepted conventions in any professional field. Many large corporations create a style manual with guidelines for editing and formatting documents produced by that corporation. Employees follow the style manual when creating internal documents and documents for publication.
During the process of revising and editing, Jorge made changes in the content and style of his paper. He also gave the paper a final review to check for overall correctness and, particularly, correct APA citations and formatting. Read the final draft of his paper.
With the help of Checklist 12.5, edit and proofread your essay.
Although you probably do not want to look at your paper again before you submit it to your instructor, take the time to do a final check. Since you have already worked through all of the checklists above focusing on certain aspects at one time, working through one final checklist should confirm you have written a strong, persuasive essay and that everything is the way you want it to be. As extra insurance you have produced a strong paper, you may even want someone else to double-check your essay using C hecklist 12.6: Final Revision . Then you can compare to see how your perceptions of your paper match those of someone else, essentially having that person act as the one who will be grading your paper.
Checklist 12.6: Final Revision
You should now be confident you have produced a strong argument that is wonderfully constructed and that you will be able to persuade your audience that your points and point of view are valid.
- During revising, you add, cut, move, or change information in order to improve content.
- During editing, you take a second look at the words and sentences you used to express your ideas and fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
- Remember to budget time for careful editing and proofreading. Use all available resources, including editing checklists, peer editing, and your institution’s writing lab, to improve your editing skills.
- Organization in a research paper means that the argument proceeds logically from the introduction to the body to the conclusion. It flows logically from one point to the next. When revising a research paper, evaluate the organization of the paper as a whole and the organization of individual paragraphs.
- In a cohesive research paper, the elements of the paper work together smoothly and naturally. When revising a research paper, evaluate its cohesion. In particular, check that information from research is smoothly integrated with your ideas.
- An effective research paper uses a style and tone that are appropriately academic and serious. When revising a research paper, check that the style and tone are consistent throughout.
- Editing a research paper involves checking for errors in grammar, mechanics, punctuation, usage, spelling, citations, and formatting.
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The conclusion is intended to help the reader understand why your research should matter to them after they have finished reading the paper. A conclusion is not merely a summary of the main topics covered or a re-statement of your research problem, but a synthesis of key points and, if applicable, where you recommend new areas for future research. For most college-level research papers, one or two well-developed paragraphs is sufficient for a conclusion, although in some cases, more paragraphs may be required in summarizing key findings and their significance.
Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Conclusions. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.
Importance of a Good Conclusion
A well-written conclusion provides you with important opportunities to demonstrate to the reader your understanding of the research problem. These include:
- Presenting the last word on the issues you raised in your paper . Just as the introduction gives a first impression to your reader, the conclusion offers a chance to leave a lasting impression. Do this, for example, by highlighting key findings in your analysis that advance new understanding about the research problem, that are unusual or unexpected, or that have important implications applied to practice.
- Summarizing your thoughts and conveying the larger significance of your study . The conclusion is an opportunity to succinctly re-emphasize the "So What?" question by placing the study within the context of how your research advances past research about the topic.
- Identifying how a gap in the literature has been addressed . The conclusion can be where you describe how a previously identified gap in the literature [described in your literature review section] has been filled by your research.
- Demonstrating the importance of your ideas . Don't be shy. The conclusion offers you the opportunity to elaborate on the impact and significance of your findings. This is particularly important if your study approached examining the research problem from an unusual or innovative perspective.
- Introducing possible new or expanded ways of thinking about the research problem . This does not refer to introducing new information [which should be avoided], but to offer new insight and creative approaches for framing or contextualizing the research problem based on the results of your study.
Bunton, David. “The Structure of PhD Conclusion Chapters.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes 4 (July 2005): 207–224; Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Kretchmer, Paul. Twelve Steps to Writing an Effective Conclusion. San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; Conclusions. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8.
Structure and Writing Style
I. General Rules
The function of your paper's conclusion is to restate the main argument . It reminds the reader of the strengths of your main argument(s) and reiterates the most important evidence supporting those argument(s). Do this by stating clearly the context, background, and necessity of pursuing the research problem you investigated in relation to an issue, controversy, or a gap found in the literature. Make sure, however, that your conclusion is not simply a repetitive summary of the findings. This reduces the impact of the argument(s) you have developed in your essay.
When writing the conclusion to your paper, follow these general rules:
- Present your conclusions in clear, simple language. Re-state the purpose of your study, then describe how your findings differ or support those of other studies and why [i.e., what were the unique or new contributions your study made to the overall research about your topic?].
- Do not simply reiterate your findings or the discussion of your results. Provide a synthesis of arguments presented in the paper to show how these converge to address the research problem and the overall objectives of your study.
- Indicate opportunities for future research if you haven't already done so in the discussion section of your paper. Highlighting the need for further research provides the reader with evidence that you have an in-depth awareness of the research problem and that further investigations should take place.
Consider the following points to help ensure your conclusion is presented well:
- If the argument or purpose of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize the argument for your reader.
- If, prior to your conclusion, you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the end of your paper to describe your main points and explain their significance.
- Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction or within a new context that emerges from the data.
The conclusion also provides a place for you to persuasively and succinctly restate the research problem, given that the reader has now been presented with all the information about the topic . Depending on the discipline you are writing in, the concluding paragraph may contain your reflections on the evidence presented. However, the nature of being introspective about the research you have conducted will depend on the topic and whether your professor wants you to express your observations in this way.
NOTE : If asked to think introspectively about the topics, do not delve into idle speculation. Being introspective means looking within yourself as an author to try and understand an issue more deeply, not to guess at possible outcomes or make up scenarios not supported by the evidence.
II. Developing a Compelling Conclusion
Although an effective conclusion needs to be clear and succinct, it does not need to be written passively or lack a compelling narrative. Strategies to help you move beyond merely summarizing the key points of your research paper may include any of the following strategies:
- If your essay deals with a critical, contemporary problem, warn readers of the possible consequences of not attending to the problem proactively.
- Recommend a specific course or courses of action that, if adopted, could address a specific problem in practice or in the development of new knowledge.
- Cite a relevant quotation or expert opinion already noted in your paper in order to lend authority and support to the conclusion(s) you have reached [a good place to look is research from your literature review].
- Explain the consequences of your research in a way that elicits action or demonstrates urgency in seeking change.
- Restate a key statistic, fact, or visual image to emphasize the most important finding of your paper.
- If your discipline encourages personal reflection, illustrate your concluding point by drawing from your own life experiences.
- Return to an anecdote, an example, or a quotation that you presented in your introduction, but add further insight derived from the findings of your study; use your interpretation of results to recast it in new or important ways.
- Provide a "take-home" message in the form of a succinct, declarative statement that you want the reader to remember about your study.
III. Problems to Avoid
Failure to be concise Your conclusion section should be concise and to the point. Conclusions that are too lengthy often have unnecessary information in them. The conclusion is not the place for details about your methodology or results. Although you should give a summary of what was learned from your research, this summary should be relatively brief, since the emphasis in the conclusion is on the implications, evaluations, insights, and other forms of analysis that you make. Strategies for writing concisely can be found here .
Failure to comment on larger, more significant issues In the introduction, your task was to move from the general [the field of study] to the specific [the research problem]. However, in the conclusion, your task is to move from a specific discussion [your research problem] back to a general discussion [i.e., how your research contributes new understanding or fills an important gap in the literature]. In short, the conclusion is where you should place your research within a larger context [visualize your paper as an hourglass--start with a broad introduction and review of the literature, move to the specific analysis and discussion, conclude with a broad summary of the study's implications and significance].
Failure to reveal problems and negative results Negative aspects of the research process should never be ignored. These are problems, deficiencies, or challenges encountered during your study should be summarized as a way of qualifying your overall conclusions. If you encountered negative or unintended results [i.e., findings that are validated outside the research context in which they were generated], you must report them in the results section and discuss their implications in the discussion section of your paper. In the conclusion, use your summary of the negative results as an opportunity to explain their possible significance and/or how they may form the basis for future research.
Failure to provide a clear summary of what was learned In order to be able to discuss how your research fits within your field of study [and possibly the world at large], you need to summarize briefly and succinctly how it contributes to new knowledge or a new understanding about the research problem. This element of your conclusion may be only a few sentences long.
Failure to match the objectives of your research Often research objectives in the social sciences change while the research is being carried out. This is not a problem unless you forget to go back and refine the original objectives in your introduction. As these changes emerge they must be documented so that they accurately reflect what you were trying to accomplish in your research [not what you thought you might accomplish when you began].
Resist the urge to apologize If you've immersed yourself in studying the research problem, you presumably should know a good deal about it [perhaps even more than your professor!]. Nevertheless, by the time you have finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you have produced. Repress those doubts! Don't undermine your authority by saying something like, "This is just one approach to examining this problem; there may be other, much better approaches that...." The overall tone of your conclusion should convey confidence to the reader.
Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8; Concluding Paragraphs. College Writing Center at Meramec. St. Louis Community College; Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Conclusions. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Freedman, Leora and Jerry Plotnick. Introductions and Conclusions. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Leibensperger, Summer. Draft Your Conclusion. Academic Center, the University of Houston-Victoria, 2003; Make Your Last Words Count. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin Madison; Miquel, Fuster-Marquez and Carmen Gregori-Signes. “Chapter Six: ‘Last but Not Least:’ Writing the Conclusion of Your Paper.” In Writing an Applied Linguistics Thesis or Dissertation: A Guide to Presenting Empirical Research . John Bitchener, editor. (Basingstoke,UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 93-105; Tips for Writing a Good Conclusion. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Kretchmer, Paul. Twelve Steps to Writing an Effective Conclusion. San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; Writing Conclusions. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Writing: Considering Structure and Organization. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.
Don't Belabor the Obvious!
Avoid phrases like "in conclusion...," "in summary...," or "in closing...." These phrases can be useful, even welcome, in oral presentations. But readers can see by the tell-tale section heading and number of pages remaining to read, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your readers if you belabor the obvious.
Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8.
Another Writing Tip
New Insight, Not New Information!
Don't surprise the reader with new information in your conclusion that was never referenced anywhere else in the paper and, as such, the conclusion rarely has citations to sources. If you have new information to present, add it to the discussion or other appropriate section of the paper. Note that, although no actual new information is introduced, the conclusion, along with the discussion section, is where you offer your most "original" contributions in the paper; the conclusion is where you describe the value of your research, demonstrate that you understand the material that you’ve presented, and locate your findings within the larger context of scholarship on the topic, including describing how your research contributes new insights or valuable insight to that scholarship.
Assan, Joseph. "Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing." Liverpool: Development Studies Association (2009): 1-8; Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.
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Literature search for research planning and identification of research problem
Department of Anaesthesiology, Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab, India
1 Department of Surgery, Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, India
2 Department of Cardiac Anaesthesia, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
Literature search is a key step in performing good authentic research. It helps in formulating a research question and planning the study. The available published data are enormous; therefore, choosing the appropriate articles relevant to your study in question is an art. It can be time-consuming, tiring and can lead to disinterest or even abandonment of search in between if not carried out in a step-wise manner. Various databases are available for performing literature search. This article primarily stresses on how to formulate a research question, the various types and sources for literature search, which will help make your search specific and time-saving.
Literature search is a systematic and well-organised search from the already published data to identify a breadth of good quality references on a specific topic.[ 1 ] The reasons for conducting literature search are numerous that include drawing information for making evidence-based guidelines, a step in the research method and as part of academic assessment.[ 2 ] However, the main purpose of a thorough literature search is to formulate a research question by evaluating the available literature with an eye on gaps still amenable to further research.
Research problem[ 3 ] is typically a topic of interest and of some familiarity to the researcher. It needs to be channelised by focussing on information yet to be explored. Once we have narrowed down the problem, seeking and analysing existing literature may further straighten out the research approach.
A research hypothesis[ 4 ] is a carefully created testimony of how you expect the research to proceed. It is one of the most important tools which aids to answer the research question. It should be apt containing necessary components, and raise a question that can be tested and investigated.
The literature search can be exhaustive and time-consuming, but there are some simple steps which can help you plan and manage the process. The most important are formulating the research questions and planning your search.
FORMULATING THE RESEARCH QUESTION
Literature search is done to identify appropriate methodology, design of the study; population sampled and sampling methods, methods of measuring concepts and techniques of analysis. It also helps in determining extraneous variables affecting the outcome and identifying faults or lacunae that could be avoided.
Formulating a well-focused question is a critical step for facilitating good clinical research.[ 5 ] There can be general questions or patient-oriented questions that arise from clinical issues. Patient-oriented questions can involve the effect of therapy or disease or examine advantage versus disadvantage for a group of patients.[ 6 ]
For example, we want to evaluate the effect of a particular drug (e.g., dexmedetomidine) for procedural sedation in day care surgery patients. While formulating a research question, one should consider certain criteria, referred as ‘FINER’ (F-Feasible, I-Interesting, N-Novel, E-Ethical, R-Relevant) criteria.[ 5 ] The idea should be interesting and relevant to clinical research. It should either confirm, refute or add information to already done research work. One should also keep in mind the patient population under study and the resources available in a given set up. Also the entire research process should conform to the ethical principles of research.
The patient or study population, intervention, comparison or control arm, primary outcome, timing of measurement of outcome (PICOT) is a well-known approach for framing a leading research question.[ 7 , 8 ] Dividing the questions into key components makes it easy and searchable. In this case scenario:
- Patients (P) – What is the important group of patients? for example, day care surgery
- Intervention (I) – What is the important intervention? for example, intravenous dexmedetomidine
- Comparison (C) – What is the important intervention of comparison? for example, intravenous ketamine
- Outcome (O) – What is the effect of intervention? for example, analgesic efficacy, procedural awareness, drug side effects
- Time (T) – Time interval for measuring the outcome: Hourly for first 4 h then 4 hourly till 24 h post-procedure.
Multiple questions can be formulated from patient's problem and concern. A well-focused question should be chosen for research according to significance for patient interest and relevance to our knowledge. Good research questions address the lacunae in available literature with an aim to impact the clinical practice in a constructive manner. There are limited outcome research and relevant resources, for example, electronic database system, database and hospital information system in India. Even when these factors are available, data about existing resources is not widely accessible.[ 9 ]
TYPES OF MEDICAL LITERATURE
(Further details in chapter ‘Types of studies and research design’ in this issue).
Primary sources are the authentic publication of an expert's new evidence, conclusions and proposals (case reports, clinical trials, etc) and are usually published in a peer-reviewed journal. Preliminary reports, congress papers and preprints also constitute primary literature.[ 2 ]
Secondary sources are systematic review articles or meta-analyses where material derived from primary source literature are infererred and evaluated.[ 2 ]
Tertiary literature consists of collections that compile information from primary or secondary literature (eg., reference books).[ 2 ]
METHODS OF LITERATURE SEARCH
There are various methods of literature search that are used alone or in combination [ Table 1 ]. For past few decades, searching the local as well as national library for books, journals, etc., was the usual practice and still physical literature exploration is an important component of any systematic review search process.[ 10 , 11 ] With the advancement of technology, the Internet is now the gateway to the maze of vast medical literature.[ 12 ] Conducting a literature review involves web-based search engines, i.e., Google, Google Scholar, etc., [ Table 2 ], or using various electronic research databases to identify materials that describe the research topic or those homologous to it.[ 13 , 14 ]
Methods of literature search
Web based methods of literature search
The various databases available for literature search include databases for original published articles in the journals [ Table 2 ] and evidence-based databases for integrated information available as systematic reviews and abstracts [ Table 3 ].[ 12 , 14 ] Most of these are not freely available to the individual user. PubMed ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ ) is the largest available resource since 1996; however, a large number of sources now provide free access to literature in the biomedical field.[ 15 ] More than 26 million citations from Medline, life science journals and online books are included in PubMed. Links to the full-text material are included in citations from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.[ 16 ] The choice of databases depends on the subject of interest and potential coverage by the different databases. Education Resources Information Centre is a free online digital library of education research and information sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education, available at http://eric.ed.gov/ . No one database can search all the medical literature. There is need to search several different databases. At a minimum, PubMed or Medline, Embase and the Cochrane central trials Registry need to be searched. When searching these databases, emphasis should be given to meta-analysis, systematic reviews randomised controlled trials and landmark studies.
Electronic source of Evidence-Based Database
Time allocated to the search needs attention as exploring and selecting data are early steps in the research method and research conducted as part of academic assessment have narrow timeframes.[ 17 ] In Indian scenario, limited outcome research and accessibility to data leads to less thorough knowledge of nature of research problem. This results in the formulation of the inappropriate research question and increases the time to literature search.
TYPES OF SEARCH
Type of search can be described in different forms according to the subject of interest. It increases the chances of retrieving relevant information from a search.
Translating research question to keywords
This will provide results based on any of the words specified; hence, they are the cornerstone of an effective search. Synonyms/alternate terms should be considered to elicit further information, i.e., barbiturates in place of thiopentone. Spellings should also be taken into account, i.e., anesthesia in place of anaesthesia (American and British). Most databases use controlled word-stock to establish common search terms (or keywords). Some of these alternative keywords can be looked from database thesaurus.[ 4 ] Another strategy is combining keywords with Boolean operators. It is important to keep a note of keywords and methods used in exploring the literature as these will need to be described later in the design of search process.
‘Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) is the National Library of Medicine's controlled hierarchical vocabulary that is used for indexing articles in PubMed, with more specific terms organised underneath more general terms’.[ 17 ] This provides a reliable way to retrieve citations that use different terminology for identical ideas, as it indexes articles based on content. Two features of PubMed that can increase yield of specific articles are ‘Automatic term mapping’ and ‘automatic term explosion’.[ 4 ]
For example, if the search keyword is heart attack, this term will match with MeSH transcription table heading and then explode into various subheadings. This helps to construct the search by adding and selecting MeSH subheadings and families of MeSH by use of hyperlinks.[ 4 ]
We can set limits to a clinical trial for retrieving higher level of evidence (i.e., randomised controlled clinical trial). Furthermore, one can browse through the link entitled ‘Related Articles’. This PubMed feature searches for similar citations using an intricate algorithm that scans titles, abstracts and MeSH terms.[ 4 ]
This will provide pages with only the words typed in the phrase, in that exact order and with no words in between them.
AND, OR and NOT are the three Boolean operators named after the mathematician George Boole.[ 18 ] Combining two words using ‘AND’ will fetch articles that mention both the words. Using ‘OR’ will widen the search and fetch more articles that mention either subject. While using the term ‘NOT’ to combine words will fetch articles containing the first word but not the second, thus narrowing the search.
Filters can also be used to refine the search, for example, article types, text availability, language, age, sex and journal categories.
Overall, the recommendations for methodology of literature search can be as below (Creswell)[ 19 ]
- Identify keywords and use them to search articles from library and internet resources as described above
- Search several databases to search articles related to your topic
- Use thesaurus to identify terms to locate your articles
- Find an article that is similar to your topic; then look at the terms used to describe it, and use them for your search
- Use databases that provide full-text articles (free through academic libraries, Internet or for a fee) as much as possible so that you can save time searching for your articles
- If you are examining a topic for the first time and unaware of the research on it, start with broad syntheses of the literature, such as overviews, summaries of the literature on your topic or review articles
- Start with the most recent issues of the journals, and look for studies about your topic and then work backward in time. Follow-up on references at the end of the articles for more sources to examine
- Refer books on a single topic by a single author or group of authors or books that contain chapters written by different authors
- Next look for recent conference papers. Often, conference papers report the latest research developments. Contact authors of pertinent studies. Write or phone them, asking if they know of studies related to your area of interest
- The easy access and ability to capture entire articles from the web make it attractive. However, check these articles carefully for authenticity and quality and be cautious about whether they represent systematic research.
The whole process of literature search[ 20 ] is summarised in Figure 1 .
Process of literature search
Literature search provides not only an opportunity to learn more about a given topic but provides insight on how the topic was studied by previous analysts. It helps to interpret ideas, detect shortcomings and recognise opportunities. In short, systematic and well-organised research may help in designing a novel research.
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Exploring the Research Paper: A Brainly Guide
As professors, the role of guiding our students in their exploration and comprehension of research papers is an integral part of academic life. To do so effectively requires having a clear understanding not only of the goals and objectives associated with researching such documents, but also providing insight on techniques that can be used to maximize efficiency when performing this task. This article seeks to provide educators with a comprehensive guide for introducing research paper topics to their students while offering tips and advice on best practices for delving into these scholarly texts. After reading this article, teachers will have increased confidence in navigating through various sources related to any given topic as well as how they can integrate those discoveries into classroom instruction.
1. Introduction to the Research Paper: A Brainly Guide
2. analyzing various types of research papers, 3. the primary elements of a successful research paper, 4. finding appropriate sources and forming an argument, 5. synthesizing evidence in support of your claims.
- 6. Crafting Engaging Introductions, Conclusions, and Body Paragraphs
7. Refining Drafts for Maximum Clarity and Impact
The ability to craft research papers is a skill that will be invaluable throughout students’ educational careers. But with the demand of high-quality written assignments comes anxiety and confusion for many learners, making it difficult to dive into their writing process. Brainly can help you tackle your paper through guiding steps to getting started, offering advice on structuring content and providing feedback.
- Brainly: Your Guide in Crafting a Research Paper
No matter what level or stage of education you are at, Brainly provides an easy way for users to get reliable answers from experts across all subjects. The same principle applies when crafting research papers; instead of struggling alone trying to find credible sources or sifting through the abundance of information available online, seek out assistance from academic advisors who can provide valuable insight and direction throughout this challenging task.
A great place within Brainly where students can begin researching topics for their paper is by asking questions related directly (or indirectly) about the material they are working with – this could include things like “How do I cite my source in MLA format?” or “What is the best example of primary evidence?” By doing so users receive tailored responses which aim at helping them achieve better understanding on certain elements essential when creating well thought-out papers. Moreover, since most questions posted online relate not only to how but also why something works as it does – participants gain additional knowledge useful when brainstorming ideas and formulating arguments relevant for such projects.
Research papers come in various forms, each requiring its own approach to analysis. To better understand the nuances of analyzing a research paper, let us first take a look at some of the different types:
- Argumentative Paper:
- Analytical Paper:
A successful research paper requires a few fundamental elements. Crafting such an academic document begins with careful planning and consideration of all the components that make up a quality paper.
- Topic: Before any writing can begin, there needs to be an engaging topic that is relevant and interesting enough for readers. In order to find something worthwhile, look for keywords or key phrases related to your field of study in databases like what is Research Paper Like Brainly .
- Sources: As you investigate more about your chosen subject matter, it’s important to pay attention to where credible sources are found so they can be referenced later on in the article. Online resources are available from trusted websites like JSTOR or Google Scholar as well as books from library catalogs.
In order to write a research paper, it is essential for students to be able to find appropriate sources and form an argument. Below are some tips on how you can get started.
- Develop your topic: Think about the questions you want answered and what information would help answer those questions.
- Identify keywords or key phrases related to your topic: This will help when searching for sources in databases like Brainly.
The next step involves finding reliable source materials that align with the goals of your project. Sources should come from reputable academic organizations such as universities, scientific institutions, government agencies etc., which provide unbiased perspectives on the subject at hand. Additionally, ensure that any statistics mentioned are backed up by reliable data; facts presented should have verifiable references. When utilizing these resources for evidence-based arguments within the research paper, make sure they support any claims made throughout its content. Referencing each statement used helps demonstrate credibility while also verifying accuracy in reporting topics discussed. Furthermore, using multiple points of view will strengthen one’s overall argument since diverse opinions often offer more insight into a given issue.
The fifth step in creating a successful research paper is synthesizing evidence to support your claims. Collecting data and using it effectively can be difficult, but with the right approach you will be able to present convincing arguments that will help persuade readers of your opinion.
- Identify an underlying theme : Look at what kind of argument or conclusion can be drawn from all the different pieces of information you have gathered.
- Look for patterns : Examine if any trends emerge from the data, and try to identify them. This could involve looking at how certain variables interact or observing changes over time.
- Organize into categories : Once you have identified common themes among your sources, begin grouping them together according to topic area.
In the context of a research paper, introducing your audience to the topic you are exploring is essential. Introductions must be engaging and should provide an overview of what your paper will discuss in its entirety.
- Engaging Introduction: Your introduction should grab readers’ attention by providing meaningful background information on the chosen topic. You can also include examples or anecdotes to make it more relatable and interesting for them.
- Concise Body Paragraphs: Each body paragraph should have one main point which ties back to your thesis statement. Be sure that you use evidence from reliable sources as support for each point and that these points logically flow together so they can build towards supporting your conclusion.
. A well-crafted conclusion serves two purposes; firstly it provides closure for all points addressed within the essay, secondly it leaves readers with something thought provoking – such as a question or call-to-action – in order to engage them further even after reading has ended. Brainstorming methods may help here if struggling with ideas about how best conclude!
Polishing your Final Product
- Re-read the draft for clarity and smoothness of argument.
- Verify that all sources have been properly cited.
The process of refining a research paper can be a tedious task, but it is essential in order to produce an accurate final product. After you’ve completed the first drafts, allow yourself some time away from your work before revisiting it with fresh eyes. Once you’re ready to review your draft again look out for errors in structure as well as factual inaccuracies and typos – these will need correcting so that readers take your arguments seriously! Think critically about how each sentence contributes towards developing an overall message — if something isn’t necessary then delete it! Make sure that all sources are correctly acknowledged by citing them within the text according to Brainly’s citation guidelines.
In conclusion, the research paper is a complex and important task that requires both knowledge and skill. By understanding the various components of a research paper – from developing an argument to citing sources correctly – students can become better-equipped for success in their academic careers. Through this Brainly guide on exploring the research paper, we have provided tools to demystify this writing process so that students may feel more confident in tackling any future project or assignment involving such work. Hopefully, by learning how to effectively craft thoughtful papers with well researched evidence, students will be able to take full advantage of their education and share ideas through meaningful discourse!
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- Knowledge Base
- Starting the research process
A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process
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.
- Sampling methods
- Simple random sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Cluster sampling
- Likert scales
- Null hypothesis
- Statistical power
- Probability distribution
- Effect size
- Poisson distribution
- Optimism bias
- Cognitive bias
- Implicit bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Anchoring bias
- Explicit bias
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