Research Paper

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A research paper is a product of seeking information, analysis, human thinking, and time. Basically, when scholars want to get answers to questions, they start to search for information to expand, use, approve, or deny findings. In simple words, research papers are results of processes by considering writing works and following specific requirements. Besides, scientists study and expand many theories, developing social or technological aspects of human science. However, in order to provide a quality product, they need to know the definition of such a work, its characteristics, type, structure, format, and how to write it in 7 steps.

What Is a Research Paper and Its Purpose

According to its definition, a research paper is a detailed and structured academic document that presents an individual’s analysis, interpretation, or argument based on existing knowledge and literature. The main purpose of writing a research paper is to contribute to existing literature, develop critical thinking and scientific skills, support academic and professional growth, share findings, demonstrate knowledge and competence, and encourage lifelong learning (Wankhade, 2018). Moreover, such a work is one of the types of papers where scholars analyze questions or topics, look for secondary sources, and write papers on defined themes. For example, if an assignment is to write about some causes of global warming or any other topic, a person must write a research proposal on it, analyzing important points and credible sources (Goodson, 2024). Although essays focus on personal knowledge, writing a scholarly document means analyzing sources by following academic standards. In turn, scientists must meet the strict structure of research papers (Busse & August, 2020). As such, writers need to analyze their topics, start to search for sources, cover key aspects, process credible articles, and organize final studies properly. However, a research paper’s length can vary significantly depending on its academic level and purpose.

  • Length: Typically 2-10 pages.
  • Word Count: Approximately 500-2,500 words.
  • Length: Usually 10-30 pages.
  • Word Count: Around 2,500-7,500 words.
  • Length: Master’s theses are generally 40-80 pages, while doctoral dissertations can be 100-300 pages or more.
  • Word Count: Master’s theses are typically 10,000-20,000 words, and doctoral dissertations can range from 20,000-100,000 words, depending on the discipline and complexity.
  • Length: Generally 8-12 pages for short articles, but review articles and comprehensive studies can be longer.
  • Word Count: Approximately 3,000-8,000 words.
  • Length: Usually 5-10 pages.
  • Word Count: Around 2,000-4,000 words.
  • Length: Typically 6-12 pages.
  • Word Count: Approximately 2,500-6,000 words.
  • Length: Varies widely, often 20-100 pages.
  • Word Count: Around 5,000-30,000 words.
  • Length: Generally 5-15 pages.
  • Word Count: Approximately 2,000-5,000 words.
  • Length: Varies, usually 20-40 pages per chapter.
  • Word Count: Around 5,000-10,000 words.
  • Length: Typically 100-300 pages.
  • Word Count: Approximately 30,000-100,000 words.

Research Characteristics

Any type of work must meet some standards. By considering a research paper, this work must be written accordingly. In this case, their main characteristics are the length, style, format, and sources (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Firstly, the study’s length defines the number of needed sources to be analyzed. Then, the style must be formal and cover impersonal and inclusive language (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Moreover, the format means academic standards of how to organize final works, including its structure and norms. Finally, sources and their number define works as research papers because of the volume of analyzed information (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Hence, these characteristics must be considered while writing scholarly documents. In turn, general formatting guidelines are:

  • Use a standard font (e.g., Times New Roman, 12-point).
  • Double-space the text.
  • Include 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph.
  • Number all pages consecutively, usually in the upper right corner.

Types of Research Papers

In general, the length of assignments can be different because of instructions. For example, there are two main types of research papers, such as typical and serious works. Firstly, a typical research paper may include definitive, argumentative, interpretive, and other works (Goodson, 2024). In this case, typical papers are from 2 to 10 pages, where students analyze study questions or specific topics. Then, a serious research composition is the expanded version of typical works. In turn, the length of such a paper is more than 10 pages (Wankhade, 2018). Basically, such works cover a serious analysis with many sources. Therefore, typical and serious works are two types that scholars should consider when writing their documents.

Typical Research Works

Basically, typical research works depend on assignments, the number of sources, and the paper’s length. So, this composition is usually a long essay with the analyzed evidence. For example, students in high school and college get such assignments to learn how to research and analyze topics (Goodson, 2024). In this case, they do not need to conduct serious experiments with the analysis and calculation of data. Moreover, students must use the Internet or libraries in searching for credible secondary sources to find potential answers to specific questions. As a result, students gather information on topics and learn how to take defined sides, present unique positions, or explain new directions (Goodson, 2024). Hence, they require an analysis of primary and secondary sources without serious experiments or data.

Serious Research Studies

Although long papers require a lot of time for finding and analyzing credible sources, real experiments are an integral part of research work. Firstly, scholars at universities need to analyze the information from past studies to expand or disapprove of topics (Wankhade, 2018). Then, if scholars want to prove specific positions or ideas, they must get real evidence. In this case, experiments can be surveys, calculations, or other types of data that scholars do personally. Moreover, a dissertation is a serious research paper that young scientists write based on the analysis of topics, data from conducted experiments, and conclusions at the end of work (Wankhade, 2018). Thus, they are studies that take a lot of time, analysis of sources with gained data, and interpretation of results.

The structure and format of research papers depend on assignment requirements. In fact, when students get their assignments and instructions, they need to analyze specific research questions or topics, find reliable sources, and write final works. Basically, their structure and format consist of the abstract, outline, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, recommendations, limitations, conclusion, acknowledgments, and references (Graham & McCoy, 2014). However, students may not include some of these sections because of assigned instructions that they have and specific types they must follow. For instance, if instructions are not supposed to conduct real experiments, the methodology section can be skipped because of the data’s absence. In turn, the structure of the final work consists of:

research paper

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🔸 The First Part of a Research Study

Abstract or Executive Summary means the first section of a research paper that provides the study’s purpose, its questions or suggestions, and main findings with conclusions. Moreover, this paragraph of about 150 words should be written when the whole work is finished already (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Hence, abstract sections should describe key aspects of studies, including discussions about the relevance of findings.

Outline or Table of Contents serves as a clear map of the structure of a study.

Introduction provides the main information on problem statements, the indication of methodology, important findings, and principal conclusion. Basically, this section covers rationales behind the work or background research, explanation of the importance, defending its relevance, a brief description of experimental designs, defined study questions, hypotheses, or key aspects (Busse & August, 2020). Hence, scholars should provide a short overview of their studies.

🔸 Literature Review and Research or Experiment

Literature Review is needed for the analysis of past studies or scholarly articles to be familiar with research questions or topics. For example, this section summarizes and synthesizes arguments and ideas from scholarly sources without adding new contributions (Scholz, 2022). In turn, this part is organized around arguments or ideas, not sources.

Methodology or Materials and Methods covers explanations of research designs. Basically, techniques for gathering information and other aspects related to experiments must be described in a research paper. For instance, students and scholars document all specialized materials and general procedures (Turbek et al., 2016). In this case, individuals may use some or all of the methods in further studies or judge the scientific merit of the work. Moreover, scientists should explain how they are going to conduct their experiments.

Results mean the gained information or data after the study or experiment. Basically, scholars should present and illustrate their findings (Turbek et al., 2016). Moreover, this section may include tables or figures.

🔸 Analysis of Findings

Discussion is a section where scientists review the information in the introduction part, evaluate gained results, or compare it with past studies. In particular, students and scholars interpret gained data or findings in appropriate depth. For example, if results differ from expectations at the beginning, scientists should explain why that may have happened (Turbek et al., 2016). However, if results agree with rationales, scientists should describe theories that the evidence is supported.

Recommendations take their roots from a discussion section where scholars propose potential solutions or new ideas based on obtained results. In this case, if scientists have any recommendations on how to improve this research so that other scholars can use evidence in further studies, they must write what they think in this section (Graham & McCoy, 2014). Besides, authors can provide their suggestions for further investigation after their evaluations.

Limitations mean a consideration of research weaknesses and results to get new directions. For instance, if scholars find any limitations in their studies that may affect experiments, scholars must not use such knowledge because of the same mistakes (Busse & August, 2020). Moreover, scientists should avoid contradicting results, and, even more, they must write them in this section.

🔸 The Final Part of a Conducted Research

Conclusion includes final claims of a research paper based on findings. Basically, this section covers final thoughts and the summary of the whole work. Moreover, this section may be used instead of limitations and recommendations that would be too small by themselves (Wankhade, 2018). In this case, scientists do not need to use headings as recommendations and limitations.

Acknowledgments or Appendix may take different forms, from paragraphs to charts. In this section, scholars include additional information about what they did.

References mean a section where students, scholars, or scientists provide all used sources by following the format and academic rules.

How to Write a Research Paper in 7 Steps

Writing any research paper requires following a systematic process. Firstly, writers need to select a focused topic they want to analyze. To achieve this objective, comprehensive preliminary research must be conducted to gather credible and relevant sources (Scholz, 2022). After reviewing the existing literature, writers must develop a clear and concise thesis statement sentence to guide the direction of their studies. Then, organizing the main arguments and evidence into a detailed outline ensures a coherent structure. In turn, the initial draft should be started with a compelling introduction, proceeded with body paragraphs that substantiate the thesis through analysis, and ended with a conclusion that underscores the study’s importance (Turbek et al., 2016). Basically, concluding the work by summarizing the findings and emphasizing the significance of the study is crucial. Moreover, revising and editing for content, coherence, and clarity ensures quality (Busse & August, 2020). Finally, proofreading for grammatical accuracy and ensuring adherence to the required formatting guidelines is necessary before submitting the final paper. Hence, when starting a research paper, writers should do the next:

Step 1: Choose a Topic

  • Select a Broad Subject: Begin by identifying a specific subject or theme of interest.
  • Narrow Down Your Topic: Focus on a specific aspect of the subject or theme to make your examination more focused.
  • Establish the Background: Do a preliminary analysis of sources to ensure there is enough information available and refine your topic further.
  • Formulate a Research Question : Create a first draft of a clear, concise research question or thesis statement to guide your study.

Step 2: Conduct Preliminary Analysis

  • Gather Credible Sources: Use books, academic journals, scholarly articles, reputable websites, and other primary and secondary sources.
  • Choose Only Relevant Sources: Review chosen sources for their content and pick only relevant ones.
  • Take Notes: Organize your notes, highlighting key points and evidence and how they relate to your initial thesis.
  • Create an Annotated Bibliography: Summarize each source in one paragraph and note how it will contribute to your paper.

Step 3: Develop a Working Thesis Statement

  • Be Specific: Revise your initial thesis, making it a working one, outlining the main argument or position of your paper.
  • Make It Debatable: Ensure that your working thesis presents a viewpoint that others might challenge or debate.
  • Be Concise: Write your working thesis statement in one or two sentences.
  • Stay Focused: Your working thesis must be focused and specific.

Step 4: Create an Outline

  • Beginning: Outline your opening paragraph, including your working thesis statement.
  • Middle Sections : Separate your body into sections with headings for each main point or argument and include sub-points and supporting evidence.
  • Ending: Plan your concluding section to summarize your findings and restate your thesis in the light of the evidence presented.
  • The List of Sources: Finish your outline by providing citation entries of your sources.

Step 5: Write the First Draft

  • Introduction: Start with an engaging opening, provide background information, and state your thesis.
  • Body Section: Each body paragraph should focus on a single idea and start with a specific topic sentence, followed by evidence and analysis that supports your thesis.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your arguments, restate the importance of your topic, and suggest further investigation, analysis, examination, or possible implications.
  • Reference Page: Include the list of references used in your first draft.

Step 6: Revise and Edit

  • Content Review: Check for clarity, coherence, and whether each part supports your thesis.
  • Structure and Flow: Ensure logical flow of ideas between sections and paragraphs.
  • Grammar and Style: Correct grammatical errors, improve sentence structure, and refine your writing style.
  • Citations: Ensure all sources are correctly cited in your chosen citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, etc.).

Step 7: Finalize Your Paper

  • Proofread: Carefully proofread for any remaining errors or typos.
  • Format: Ensure your paper adheres to the required format, including title page, headers, font, and margins.
  • Reference List: Double-check your bibliography, reference, or works cited page for accuracy.
  • Submit: Make sure to submit your paper by the deadline.

In conclusion, a research paper is a formal academic document designed to provide a detailed analysis, interpretation, or argument based on in-depth study. Its structured format includes providing opening components, such as the abstract, outline, and introduction; study aspects, such as literature review, methodology, and results; analysis of findings, such as discussion, recommendations, and limitations; and final parts, such as conclusion, acknowledgments, appendices, and references. Understanding the essential elements and adhering to academic standards ensures the creation of a well-organized and meaningful research paper.

Busse, C., & August, E. (2020). How to write and publish a research paper for a peer-reviewed journal. Journal of Cancer Education , 36 (5), 909–913.

Goodson, P. (2024). Becoming an academic writer: 50 exercises for paced, productive, and powerful writing . Sage.

Graham, L., & McCoy, I. (2014). How to write a great research paper: A step-by-step handbook. Incentive Publications by World Book.

Scholz, F. (2022). Writing and publishing a scientific paper. ChemTexts , 8 (1), 1–7.

Turbek, S. P., Chock, T. M., Donahue, K., Havrilla, C. A., Oliverio, A. M., Polutchko, S. K., Shoemaker, L. G., & Vimercati, L. (2016). Scientific writing made easy: A step‐by‐step guide to undergraduate writing in the Biological Sciences. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America , 97 (4), 417–426.

Wankhade, L. (2018). How to write and publish a research paper: A complete guide to writing and publishing a research paper . Independent Published.

Grad Coach

What Is Research Methodology? A Plain-Language Explanation & Definition (With Examples)

By Derek Jansen (MBA)  and Kerryn Warren (PhD) | June 2020 (Last updated April 2023)

If you’re new to formal academic research, it’s quite likely that you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the technical lingo that gets thrown around. And who could blame you – “research methodology”, “research methods”, “sampling strategies”… it all seems never-ending!

In this post, we’ll demystify the landscape with plain-language explanations and loads of examples (including easy-to-follow videos), so that you can approach your dissertation, thesis or research project with confidence. Let’s get started.

Research Methodology 101

  • What exactly research methodology means
  • What qualitative , quantitative and mixed methods are
  • What sampling strategy is
  • What data collection methods are
  • What data analysis methods are
  • How to choose your research methodology
  • Example of a research methodology

Free Webinar: Research Methodology 101

What is research methodology?

Research methodology simply refers to the practical “how” of a research study. More specifically, it’s about how  a researcher  systematically designs a study  to ensure valid and reliable results that address the research aims, objectives and research questions . Specifically, how the researcher went about deciding:

  • What type of data to collect (e.g., qualitative or quantitative data )
  • Who  to collect it from (i.e., the sampling strategy )
  • How to  collect  it (i.e., the data collection method )
  • How to  analyse  it (i.e., the data analysis methods )

Within any formal piece of academic research (be it a dissertation, thesis or journal article), you’ll find a research methodology chapter or section which covers the aspects mentioned above. Importantly, a good methodology chapter explains not just   what methodological choices were made, but also explains  why they were made. In other words, the methodology chapter should justify  the design choices, by showing that the chosen methods and techniques are the best fit for the research aims, objectives and research questions. 

So, it’s the same as research design?

Not quite. As we mentioned, research methodology refers to the collection of practical decisions regarding what data you’ll collect, from who, how you’ll collect it and how you’ll analyse it. Research design, on the other hand, is more about the overall strategy you’ll adopt in your study. For example, whether you’ll use an experimental design in which you manipulate one variable while controlling others. You can learn more about research design and the various design types here .

Need a helping hand?

research paper definition with examples

What are qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods?

Qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods are different types of methodological approaches, distinguished by their focus on words , numbers or both . This is a bit of an oversimplification, but its a good starting point for understanding.

Let’s take a closer look.

Qualitative research refers to research which focuses on collecting and analysing words (written or spoken) and textual or visual data, whereas quantitative research focuses on measurement and testing using numerical data . Qualitative analysis can also focus on other “softer” data points, such as body language or visual elements.

It’s quite common for a qualitative methodology to be used when the research aims and research questions are exploratory  in nature. For example, a qualitative methodology might be used to understand peoples’ perceptions about an event that took place, or a political candidate running for president. 

Contrasted to this, a quantitative methodology is typically used when the research aims and research questions are confirmatory  in nature. For example, a quantitative methodology might be used to measure the relationship between two variables (e.g. personality type and likelihood to commit a crime) or to test a set of hypotheses .

As you’ve probably guessed, the mixed-method methodology attempts to combine the best of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to integrate perspectives and create a rich picture. If you’d like to learn more about these three methodological approaches, be sure to watch our explainer video below.

What is sampling strategy?

Simply put, sampling is about deciding who (or where) you’re going to collect your data from . Why does this matter? Well, generally it’s not possible to collect data from every single person in your group of interest (this is called the “population”), so you’ll need to engage a smaller portion of that group that’s accessible and manageable (this is called the “sample”).

How you go about selecting the sample (i.e., your sampling strategy) will have a major impact on your study.  There are many different sampling methods  you can choose from, but the two overarching categories are probability   sampling and  non-probability   sampling .

Probability sampling  involves using a completely random sample from the group of people you’re interested in. This is comparable to throwing the names all potential participants into a hat, shaking it up, and picking out the “winners”. By using a completely random sample, you’ll minimise the risk of selection bias and the results of your study will be more generalisable  to the entire population. 

Non-probability sampling , on the other hand,  doesn’t use a random sample . For example, it might involve using a convenience sample, which means you’d only interview or survey people that you have access to (perhaps your friends, family or work colleagues), rather than a truly random sample. With non-probability sampling, the results are typically not generalisable .

To learn more about sampling methods, be sure to check out the video below.

What are data collection methods?

As the name suggests, data collection methods simply refers to the way in which you go about collecting the data for your study. Some of the most common data collection methods include:

  • Interviews (which can be unstructured, semi-structured or structured)
  • Focus groups and group interviews
  • Surveys (online or physical surveys)
  • Observations (watching and recording activities)
  • Biophysical measurements (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate, etc.)
  • Documents and records (e.g., financial reports, court records, etc.)

The choice of which data collection method to use depends on your overall research aims and research questions , as well as practicalities and resource constraints. For example, if your research is exploratory in nature, qualitative methods such as interviews and focus groups would likely be a good fit. Conversely, if your research aims to measure specific variables or test hypotheses, large-scale surveys that produce large volumes of numerical data would likely be a better fit.

What are data analysis methods?

Data analysis methods refer to the methods and techniques that you’ll use to make sense of your data. These can be grouped according to whether the research is qualitative  (words-based) or quantitative (numbers-based).

Popular data analysis methods in qualitative research include:

  • Qualitative content analysis
  • Thematic analysis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Narrative analysis
  • Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA)
  • Visual analysis (of photographs, videos, art, etc.)

Qualitative data analysis all begins with data coding , after which an analysis method is applied. In some cases, more than one analysis method is used, depending on the research aims and research questions . In the video below, we explore some  common qualitative analysis methods, along with practical examples.  

Moving on to the quantitative side of things, popular data analysis methods in this type of research include:

  • Descriptive statistics (e.g. means, medians, modes )
  • Inferential statistics (e.g. correlation, regression, structural equation modelling)

Again, the choice of which data collection method to use depends on your overall research aims and objectives , as well as practicalities and resource constraints. In the video below, we explain some core concepts central to quantitative analysis.

How do I choose a research methodology?

As you’ve probably picked up by now, your research aims and objectives have a major influence on the research methodology . So, the starting point for developing your research methodology is to take a step back and look at the big picture of your research, before you make methodology decisions. The first question you need to ask yourself is whether your research is exploratory or confirmatory in nature.

If your research aims and objectives are primarily exploratory in nature, your research will likely be qualitative and therefore you might consider qualitative data collection methods (e.g. interviews) and analysis methods (e.g. qualitative content analysis). 

Conversely, if your research aims and objective are looking to measure or test something (i.e. they’re confirmatory), then your research will quite likely be quantitative in nature, and you might consider quantitative data collection methods (e.g. surveys) and analyses (e.g. statistical analysis).

Designing your research and working out your methodology is a large topic, which we cover extensively on the blog . For now, however, the key takeaway is that you should always start with your research aims, objectives and research questions (the golden thread). Every methodological choice you make needs align with those three components. 

Example of a research methodology chapter

In the video below, we provide a detailed walkthrough of a research methodology from an actual dissertation, as well as an overview of our free methodology template .

research paper definition with examples

Psst... there’s more!

This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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You’re most welcome, Leo. Best of luck with your research!


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Pondris Patrick

I am writing a APA Format paper . I using questionnaire with 120 STDs teacher for my participant. Can you write me mthology for this research. Send it through email sent. Just need a sample as an example please. My topic is ” impacts of overcrowding on students learning

Thanks for your comment.

We can’t write your methodology for you. If you’re looking for samples, you should be able to find some sample methodologies on Google. Alternatively, you can download some previous dissertations from a dissertation directory and have a look at the methodology chapters therein.

All the best with your research.


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Very interesting and informative yet I would like to know about examples of Research Questions as well, if possible.

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I’m about to submit a research presentation, I have come to understand from your simplification on understanding research methodology. My research will be mixed methodology, qualitative as well as quantitative. So aim and objective of mixed method would be both exploratory and confirmatory. Thanks you very much for your guidance.

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Great to hear that, Hyacinth. Best of luck with your research!

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Thanks for the feedback, Matobela. Good luck with your research methodology.


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You’re very welcome, Elie. Good luck with your research methodology.

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Well explained thanks


This is a very helpful site especially for young researchers at college. It provides sufficient information to guide students and equip them with the necessary foundation to ask any other questions aimed at deepening their understanding.

Thanks for the kind words, Edward. Good luck with your research!

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Great to hear that, Ngwisa. Good luck with your research methodology!


Thank you for keeping your presentation simples and short and covering key information for research methodology. My key takeaway: Start with defining your research objective the other will depend on the aims of your research question.


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Gabriel mugangavari

Thank you Dr

Dina Haj Ibrahim

I was given an assignment to research 2 publications and describe their research methodology? I don’t know how to start this task can someone help me?

Sure. You’re welcome to book an initial consultation with one of our Research Coaches to discuss how we can assist – .


Thanks a lot I am relieved of a heavy burden.keep up with the good work

Ngaka Mokoena

I’m very much grateful Dr Derek. I’m planning to pursue one of the careers that really needs one to be very much eager to know. There’s a lot of research to do and everything, but since I’ve gotten this information I will use it to the best of my potential.

Pritam Pal

Thank you so much, words are not enough to explain how helpful this session has been for me!


Thanks this has thought me alot.

kenechukwu ambrose

Very concise and helpful. Thanks a lot

Eunice Shatila Sinyemu 32070

Thank Derek. This is very helpful. Your step by step explanation has made it easier for me to understand different concepts. Now i can get on with my research.


I wish i had come across this sooner. So simple but yet insightful

yugine the

really nice explanation thank you so much


I’m so grateful finding this site, it’s really helpful…….every term well explained and provide accurate understanding especially to student going into an in-depth research for the very first time, even though my lecturer already explained this topic to the class, I think I got the clear and efficient explanation here, much thanks to the author.


It is very helpful material

Lubabalo Ntshebe

I would like to be assisted with my research topic : Literature Review and research methodologies. My topic is : what is the relationship between unemployment and economic growth?


Its really nice and good for us.

Ekokobe Aloysius



Short but sweet.Thank you

Shishir Pokharel

Informative article. Thanks for your detailed information.

Badr Alharbi

I’m currently working on my Ph.D. thesis. Thanks a lot, Derek and Kerryn, Well-organized sequences, facilitate the readers’ following.


great article for someone who does not have any background can even understand

Hasan Chowdhury

I am a bit confused about research design and methodology. Are they the same? If not, what are the differences and how are they related?

Thanks in advance.

Ndileka Myoli

concise and informative.

Sureka Batagoda

Thank you very much

More Smith

How can we site this article is Harvard style?


Very well written piece that afforded better understanding of the concept. Thank you!

Denis Eken Lomoro

Am a new researcher trying to learn how best to write a research proposal. I find your article spot on and want to download the free template but finding difficulties. Can u kindly send it to my email, the free download entitled, “Free Download: Research Proposal Template (with Examples)”.

fatima sani

Thank too much


Thank you very much for your comprehensive explanation about research methodology so I like to thank you again for giving us such great things.

Aqsa Iftijhar

Good very well explained.Thanks for sharing it.

Krishna Dhakal

Thank u sir, it is really a good guideline.


so helpful thank you very much.

Joelma M Monteiro

Thanks for the video it was very explanatory and detailed, easy to comprehend and follow up. please, keep it up the good work


It was very helpful, a well-written document with precise information.

orebotswe morokane

how do i reference this?


MLA Jansen, Derek, and Kerryn Warren. “What (Exactly) Is Research Methodology?” Grad Coach, June 2021,

APA Jansen, D., & Warren, K. (2021, June). What (Exactly) Is Research Methodology? Grad Coach.


Your explanation is easily understood. Thank you

Dr Christie

Very help article. Now I can go my methodology chapter in my thesis with ease

Alice W. Mbuthia

I feel guided ,Thank you

Joseph B. Smith

This simplification is very helpful. It is simple but very educative, thanks ever so much

Dr. Ukpai Ukpai Eni

The write up is informative and educative. It is an academic intellectual representation that every good researcher can find useful. Thanks

chimbini Joseph

Wow, this is wonderful long live.


Nice initiative


thank you the video was helpful to me.


Thank you very much for your simple and clear explanations I’m really satisfied by the way you did it By now, I think I can realize a very good article by following your fastidious indications May God bless you


Thanks very much, it was very concise and informational for a beginner like me to gain an insight into what i am about to undertake. I really appreciate.

Adv Asad Ali

very informative sir, it is amazing to understand the meaning of question hidden behind that, and simple language is used other than legislature to understand easily. stay happy.

Jonas Tan

This one is really amazing. All content in your youtube channel is a very helpful guide for doing research. Thanks, GradCoach.

mahmoud ali

research methodologies

Lucas Sinyangwe

Please send me more information concerning dissertation research.

Amamten Jr.

Nice piece of knowledge shared….. #Thump_UP

Hajara Salihu

This is amazing, it has said it all. Thanks to Gradcoach

Gerald Andrew Babu

This is wonderful,very elaborate and clear.I hope to reach out for your assistance in my research very soon.


This is the answer I am searching about…

realy thanks a lot

Ahmed Saeed

Thank you very much for this awesome, to the point and inclusive article.

Soraya Kolli

Thank you very much I need validity and reliability explanation I have exams


Thank you for a well explained piece. This will help me going forward.

Emmanuel Chukwuma

Very simple and well detailed Many thanks

Zeeshan Ali Khan

This is so very simple yet so very effective and comprehensive. An Excellent piece of work.

Molly Wasonga

I wish I saw this earlier on! Great insights for a beginner(researcher) like me. Thanks a mil!

Blessings Chigodo

Thank you very much, for such a simplified, clear and practical step by step both for academic students and general research work. Holistic, effective to use and easy to read step by step. One can easily apply the steps in practical terms and produce a quality document/up-to standard

Thanks for simplifying these terms for us, really appreciated.

Joseph Kyereme

Thanks for a great work. well understood .


This was very helpful. It was simple but profound and very easy to understand. Thank you so much!


Great and amazing research guidelines. Best site for learning research

ankita bhatt

hello sir/ma’am, i didn’t find yet that what type of research methodology i am using. because i am writing my report on CSR and collect all my data from websites and articles so which type of methodology i should write in dissertation report. please help me. i am from India.


how does this really work?

princelow presley

perfect content, thanks a lot

George Nangpaak Duut

As a researcher, I commend you for the detailed and simplified information on the topic in question. I would like to remain in touch for the sharing of research ideas on other topics. Thank you


Impressive. Thank you, Grad Coach 😍

Thank you Grad Coach for this piece of information. I have at least learned about the different types of research methodologies.

Varinder singh Rana

Very useful content with easy way

Mbangu Jones Kashweeka

Thank you very much for the presentation. I am an MPH student with the Adventist University of Africa. I have successfully completed my theory and starting on my research this July. My topic is “Factors associated with Dental Caries in (one District) in Botswana. I need help on how to go about this quantitative research

Carolyn Russell

I am so grateful to run across something that was sooo helpful. I have been on my doctorate journey for quite some time. Your breakdown on methodology helped me to refresh my intent. Thank you.

Indabawa Musbahu

thanks so much for this good lecture. student from university of science and technology, Wudil. Kano Nigeria.

Limpho Mphutlane

It’s profound easy to understand I appreciate

Mustafa Salimi

Thanks a lot for sharing superb information in a detailed but concise manner. It was really helpful and helped a lot in getting into my own research methodology.

Rabilu yau

Comment * thanks very much

Ari M. Hussein

This was sooo helpful for me thank you so much i didn’t even know what i had to write thank you!

You’re most welcome 🙂

Varsha Patnaik

Simple and good. Very much helpful. Thank you so much.


This is very good work. I have benefited.

Dr Md Asraul Hoque

Thank you so much for sharing

Nkasa lizwi

This is powerful thank you so much guys

I am nkasa lizwi doing my research proposal on honors with the university of Walter Sisulu Komani I m on part 3 now can you assist topic is: transitional challenges faced by educators in intermediate phase in the Alfred Nzo District.

Atonisah Jonathan

Appreciate the presentation. Very useful step-by-step guidelines to follow.

Bello Suleiman

I appreciate sir


wow! This is super insightful for me. Thank you!

Emerita Guzman

Indeed this material is very helpful! Kudos writers/authors.


I want to say thank you very much, I got a lot of info and knowledge. Be blessed.

Akanji wasiu

I want present a seminar paper on Optimisation of Deep learning-based models on vulnerability detection in digital transactions.

Need assistance

Clement Lokwar

Dear Sir, I want to be assisted on my research on Sanitation and Water management in emergencies areas.

Peter Sone Kome

I am deeply grateful for the knowledge gained. I will be getting in touch shortly as I want to be assisted in my ongoing research.


The information shared is informative, crisp and clear. Kudos Team! And thanks a lot!

Bipin pokhrel

hello i want to study


Hello!! Grad coach teams. I am extremely happy in your tutorial or consultation. i am really benefited all material and briefing. Thank you very much for your generous helps. Please keep it up. If you add in your briefing, references for further reading, it will be very nice.


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Artak Ghonyan

thank you, it is very useful


  • What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis) - Grad Coach - […] the literature review is to inform the choice of methodology for your own research. As we’ve discussed on the Grad Coach blog,…
  • Free Download: Research Proposal Template (With Examples) - Grad Coach - […] Research design (methodology) […]
  • Dissertation vs Thesis: What's the difference? - Grad Coach - […] and thesis writing on a daily basis – everything from how to find a good research topic to which…

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What Is a Research Paper?

  • An Introduction to Punctuation

Olivia Valdes was the Associate Editorial Director for ThoughtCo. She worked with Dotdash Meredith from 2017 to 2021.

research paper definition with examples

  • B.A., American Studies, Yale University

A research paper is a common form of academic writing . Research papers require students and academics to locate information about a topic (that is, to conduct research ), take a stand on that topic, and provide support (or evidence) for that position in an organized report.

The term research paper may also refer to a scholarly article that contains the results of original research or an evaluation of research conducted by others. Most scholarly articles must undergo a process of peer review before they can be accepted for publication in an academic journal.

Define Your Research Question

The first step in writing a research paper is defining your research question . Has your instructor assigned a specific topic? If so, great—you've got this step covered. If not, review the guidelines of the assignment. Your instructor has likely provided several general subjects for your consideration. Your research paper should focus on a specific angle on one of these subjects. Spend some time mulling over your options before deciding which one you'd like to explore more deeply.

Try to choose a research question that interests you. The research process is time-consuming, and you'll be significantly more motivated if you have a genuine desire to learn more about the topic. You should also consider whether you have access to all of the resources necessary to conduct thorough research on your topic, such as primary and secondary sources .

Create a Research Strategy 

Approach the research process systematically by creating a research strategy. First, review your library's website. What resources are available? Where will you find them? Do any resources require a special process to gain access? Start gathering those resources—especially those that may be difficult to access—as soon as possible.

Second, make an appointment with a reference librarian . A reference librarian is nothing short of a research superhero. He or she will listen to your research question, offer suggestions for how to focus your research, and direct you toward valuable sources that directly relate to your topic.

Evaluate Sources

Now that you've gathered a wide array of sources, it's time to evaluate them. First, consider the reliability of the information. Where is the information coming from? What is the origin of the source? Second, assess the  relevance  of the information. How does this information relate to your research question? Does it support, refute, or add context to your position? How does it relate to the other sources you'll be using in your paper? Once you have determined that your sources are both reliable and relevant, you can proceed confidently to the writing phase. 

Why Write Research Papers? 

The research process is one of the most taxing academic tasks you'll be asked to complete. Luckily, the value of writing a research paper goes beyond that A+ you hope to receive. Here are just some of the benefits of research papers. 

  • Learning Scholarly Conventions:  Writing a research paper is a crash course in the stylistic conventions of scholarly writing. During the research and writing process, you'll learn how to document your research, cite sources appropriately, format an academic paper, maintain an academic tone, and more.
  • Organizing Information: In a way, research is nothing more than a massive organizational project. The information available to you is near-infinite, and it's your job to review that information, narrow it down, categorize it, and present it in a clear, relevant format. This process requires attention to detail and major brainpower.
  • Managing Time: Research papers put your time management  skills to the test. Every step of the research and writing process takes time, and it's up to you to set aside the time you'll need to complete each step of the task. Maximize your efficiency by creating a research schedule and inserting blocks of "research time" into your calendar as soon as you receive the assignment. 
  • Exploring Your Chosen Subject:  We couldn't forget the best part of research papers—learning about something that truly excites you. No matter what topic you choose, you're bound to come away from the research process with new ideas and countless nuggets of fascinating information. 

The best research papers are the result of genuine interest and a thorough research process. With these ideas in mind, go forth and research. Welcome to the scholarly conversation!

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  • An Introduction to Academic Writing
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  • Writing an Annotated Bibliography for a Paper

Reference management. Clean and simple.

Types of research papers

research paper definition with examples

Analytical research paper

Argumentative or persuasive paper, definition paper, compare and contrast paper, cause and effect paper, interpretative paper, experimental research paper, survey research paper, frequently asked questions about the different types of research papers, related articles.

There are multiple different types of research papers. It is important to know which type of research paper is required for your assignment, as each type of research paper requires different preparation. Below is a list of the most common types of research papers.

➡️ Read more:  What is a research paper?

In an analytical research paper you:

  • pose a question
  • collect relevant data from other researchers
  • analyze their different viewpoints

You focus on the findings and conclusions of other researchers and then make a personal conclusion about the topic. It is important to stay neutral and not show your own negative or positive position on the matter.

The argumentative paper presents two sides of a controversial issue in one paper. It is aimed at getting the reader on the side of your point of view.

You should include and cite findings and arguments of different researchers on both sides of the issue, but then favor one side over the other and try to persuade the reader of your side. Your arguments should not be too emotional though, they still need to be supported with logical facts and statistical data.

Tip: Avoid expressing too much emotion in a persuasive paper.

The definition paper solely describes facts or objective arguments without using any personal emotion or opinion of the author. Its only purpose is to provide information. You should include facts from a variety of sources, but leave those facts unanalyzed.

Compare and contrast papers are used to analyze the difference between two:

Make sure to sufficiently describe both sides in the paper, and then move on to comparing and contrasting both thesis and supporting one.

Cause and effect papers are usually the first types of research papers that high school and college students write. They trace probable or expected results from a specific action and answer the main questions "Why?" and "What?", which reflect effects and causes.

In business and education fields, cause and effect papers will help trace a range of results that could arise from a particular action or situation.

An interpretative paper requires you to use knowledge that you have gained from a particular case study, for example a legal situation in law studies. You need to write the paper based on an established theoretical framework and use valid supporting data to back up your statement and conclusion.

This type of research paper basically describes a particular experiment in detail. It is common in fields like:

Experiments are aimed to explain a certain outcome or phenomenon with certain actions. You need to describe your experiment with supporting data and then analyze it sufficiently.

This research paper demands the conduction of a survey that includes asking questions to respondents. The conductor of the survey then collects all the information from the survey and analyzes it to present it in the research paper.

➡️ Ready to start your research paper? Take a look at our guide on how to start a research paper .

In an analytical research paper, you pose a question and then collect relevant data from other researchers to analyze their different viewpoints. You focus on the findings and conclusions of other researchers and then make a personal conclusion about the topic.

The definition paper solely describes facts or objective arguments without using any personal emotion or opinion of the author. Its only purpose is to provide information.

Cause and effect papers are usually the first types of research papers that high school and college students are confronted with. The answer questions like "Why?" and "What?", which reflect effects and causes. In business and education fields, cause and effect papers will help trace a range of results that could arise from a particular action or situation.

This type of research paper describes a particular experiment in detail. It is common in fields like biology, chemistry or physics. Experiments are aimed to explain a certain outcome or phenomenon with certain actions.

research paper definition with examples

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Methodology

Research Methods | Definition, Types, Examples

Research methods are specific procedures for collecting and analysing data. Developing your research methods is an integral part of your research design . When planning your methods, there are two key decisions you will make.

First, decide how you will collect data . Your methods depend on what type of data you need to answer your research question :

  • Qualitative vs quantitative : Will your data take the form of words or numbers?
  • Primary vs secondary : Will you collect original data yourself, or will you use data that have already been collected by someone else?
  • Descriptive vs experimental : Will you take measurements of something as it is, or will you perform an experiment?

Second, decide how you will analyse the data .

  • For quantitative data, you can use statistical analysis methods to test relationships between variables.
  • For qualitative data, you can use methods such as thematic analysis to interpret patterns and meanings in the data.

Table of contents

Methods for collecting data, examples of data collection methods, methods for analysing data, examples of data analysis methods, frequently asked questions about methodology.

Data are the information that you collect for the purposes of answering your research question . The type of data you need depends on the aims of your research.

Qualitative vs quantitative data

Your choice of qualitative or quantitative data collection depends on the type of knowledge you want to develop.

For questions about ideas, experiences and meanings, or to study something that can’t be described numerically, collect qualitative data .

If you want to develop a more mechanistic understanding of a topic, or your research involves hypothesis testing , collect quantitative data .

Quantitative .

You can also take a mixed methods approach, where you use both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Primary vs secondary data

Primary data are any original information that you collect for the purposes of answering your research question (e.g. through surveys , observations and experiments ). Secondary data are information that has already been collected by other researchers (e.g. in a government census or previous scientific studies).

If you are exploring a novel research question, you’ll probably need to collect primary data. But if you want to synthesise existing knowledge, analyse historical trends, or identify patterns on a large scale, secondary data might be a better choice.


Descriptive vs experimental data

In descriptive research , you collect data about your study subject without intervening. The validity of your research will depend on your sampling method .

In experimental research , you systematically intervene in a process and measure the outcome. The validity of your research will depend on your experimental design .

To conduct an experiment, you need to be able to vary your independent variable , precisely measure your dependent variable, and control for confounding variables . If it’s practically and ethically possible, this method is the best choice for answering questions about cause and effect.


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Research methods for collecting data
Research method Primary or secondary? Qualitative or quantitative? When to use
Primary Quantitative To test cause-and-effect relationships.
Primary Quantitative To understand general characteristics of a population.
Interview/focus group Primary Qualitative To gain more in-depth understanding of a topic.
Observation Primary Either To understand how something occurs in its natural setting.
Secondary Either To situate your research in an existing body of work, or to evaluate trends within a research topic.
Either Either To gain an in-depth understanding of a specific group or context, or when you don’t have the resources for a large study.

Your data analysis methods will depend on the type of data you collect and how you prepare them for analysis.

Data can often be analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively. For example, survey responses could be analysed qualitatively by studying the meanings of responses or quantitatively by studying the frequencies of responses.

Qualitative analysis methods

Qualitative analysis is used to understand words, ideas, and experiences. You can use it to interpret data that were collected:

  • From open-ended survey and interview questions, literature reviews, case studies, and other sources that use text rather than numbers.
  • Using non-probability sampling methods .

Qualitative analysis tends to be quite flexible and relies on the researcher’s judgement, so you have to reflect carefully on your choices and assumptions.

Quantitative analysis methods

Quantitative analysis uses numbers and statistics to understand frequencies, averages and correlations (in descriptive studies) or cause-and-effect relationships (in experiments).

You can use quantitative analysis to interpret data that were collected either:

  • During an experiment.
  • Using probability sampling methods .

Because the data are collected and analysed in a statistically valid way, the results of quantitative analysis can be easily standardised and shared among researchers.

Research methods for analysing data
Research method Qualitative or quantitative? When to use
Quantitative To analyse data collected in a statistically valid manner (e.g. from experiments, surveys, and observations).
Meta-analysis Quantitative To statistically analyse the results of a large collection of studies.

Can only be applied to studies that collected data in a statistically valid manner.

Qualitative To analyse data collected from interviews, focus groups or textual sources.

To understand general themes in the data and how they are communicated.

Either To analyse large volumes of textual or visual data collected from surveys, literature reviews, or other sources.

Can be quantitative (i.e. frequencies of words) or qualitative (i.e. meanings of words).

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to test a hypothesis by systematically collecting and analysing data, while qualitative methods allow you to explore ideas and experiences in depth.

In mixed methods research , you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question .

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research.

For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts, and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyse a large amount of readily available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how they are generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).

In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .

In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.

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Research: What it is.

A research paper is the culmination and final product of an involved process of research, critical thinking, source evaluation, organization, and composition. It is, perhaps, helpful to think of the research paper as a living thing, which grows and changes as the student explores, interprets, and evaluates sources related to a specific topic. Primary and secondary sources are the heart of a research paper, and provide its nourishment; without the support of and interaction with these sources, the research paper would morph into a different genre of writing (e.g., an encyclopedic article). The research paper serves not only to further the field in which it is written, but also to provide the student with an exceptional opportunity to increase her knowledge in that field. It is also possible to identify a research paper by what it is not.

Research: What it is not.

A research paper is not simply an informed summary of a topic by means of primary and secondary sources. It is neither a book report nor an opinion piece nor an expository essay consisting solely of one's interpretation of a text nor an overview of a particular topic. Instead, it is a genre that requires one to spend time investigating and evaluating sources with the intent to offer interpretations of the texts, and not unconscious regurgitations of those sources. The goal of a research paper is not to inform the reader what others have to say about a topic, but to draw on what others have to say about a topic and engage the sources in order to thoughtfully offer a unique perspective on the issue at hand. This is accomplished through two major types of research papers.

Two major types of research papers.

Argumentative research paper:

The argumentative research paper consists of an introduction in which the writer clearly introduces the topic and informs his audience exactly which stance he intends to take; this stance is often identified as the thesis statement . An important goal of the argumentative research paper is persuasion, which means the topic chosen should be debatable or controversial. For example, it would be difficult for a student to successfully argue in favor of the following stance.

Perhaps 25 years ago this topic would have been debatable; however, today, it is assumed that smoking cigarettes is, indeed, harmful to one's health. A better thesis would be the following.

In this sentence, the writer is not challenging the current accepted stance that both firsthand and secondhand cigarette smoke is dangerous; rather, she is positing that the social acceptance of the latter over the former is indicative of a cultural double-standard of sorts. The student would support this thesis throughout her paper by means of both primary and secondary sources, with the intent to persuade her audience that her particular interpretation of the situation is viable.

Analytical research paper:

The analytical research paper often begins with the student asking a question (a.k.a. a research question) on which he has taken no stance. Such a paper is often an exercise in exploration and evaluation. For example, perhaps one is interested in the Old English poem Beowulf . He has read the poem intently and desires to offer a fresh reading of the poem to the academic community. His question may be as follows.

His research may lead him to the following conclusion.

Though his topic may be debatable and controversial, it is not the student's intent to persuade the audience that his ideas are right while those of others are wrong. Instead, his goal is to offer a critical interpretation of primary and secondary sources throughout the paper--sources that should, ultimately, buttress his particular analysis of the topic. The following is an example of what his thesis statement may look like once he has completed his research.

This statement does not negate the traditional readings of Beowulf ; instead, it offers a fresh and detailed reading of the poem that will be supported by the student's research.

It is typically not until the student has begun the writing process that his thesis statement begins to take solid form. In fact, the thesis statement in an analytical paper is often more fluid than the thesis in an argumentative paper. Such is one of the benefits of approaching the topic without a predetermined stance.

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How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

The research paper introduction section, along with the Title and Abstract, can be considered the face of any research paper. The following article is intended to guide you in organizing and writing the research paper introduction for a quality academic article or dissertation.

The research paper introduction aims to present the topic to the reader. A study will only be accepted for publishing if you can ascertain that the available literature cannot answer your research question. So it is important to ensure that you have read important studies on that particular topic, especially those within the last five to ten years, and that they are properly referenced in this section. 1 What should be included in the research paper introduction is decided by what you want to tell readers about the reason behind the research and how you plan to fill the knowledge gap. The best research paper introduction provides a systemic review of existing work and demonstrates additional work that needs to be done. It needs to be brief, captivating, and well-referenced; a well-drafted research paper introduction will help the researcher win half the battle.

The introduction for a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your research topic
  • Capture reader interest
  • Summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Define your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Highlight the novelty and contributions of the study
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The research paper introduction can vary in size and structure depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or is a review paper. Some research paper introduction examples are only half a page while others are a few pages long. In many cases, the introduction will be shorter than all of the other sections of your paper; its length depends on the size of your paper as a whole.

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Table of Contents

What is the introduction for a research paper, why is the introduction important in a research paper, craft a compelling introduction section with paperpal. try now, 1. introduce the research topic:, 2. determine a research niche:, 3. place your research within the research niche:, craft accurate research paper introductions with paperpal. start writing now, frequently asked questions on research paper introduction, key points to remember.

The introduction in a research paper is placed at the beginning to guide the reader from a broad subject area to the specific topic that your research addresses. They present the following information to the reader

  • Scope: The topic covered in the research paper
  • Context: Background of your topic
  • Importance: Why your research matters in that particular area of research and the industry problem that can be targeted

The research paper introduction conveys a lot of information and can be considered an essential roadmap for the rest of your paper. A good introduction for a research paper is important for the following reasons:

  • It stimulates your reader’s interest: A good introduction section can make your readers want to read your paper by capturing their interest. It informs the reader what they are going to learn and helps determine if the topic is of interest to them.
  • It helps the reader understand the research background: Without a clear introduction, your readers may feel confused and even struggle when reading your paper. A good research paper introduction will prepare them for the in-depth research to come. It provides you the opportunity to engage with the readers and demonstrate your knowledge and authority on the specific topic.
  • It explains why your research paper is worth reading: Your introduction can convey a lot of information to your readers. It introduces the topic, why the topic is important, and how you plan to proceed with your research.
  • It helps guide the reader through the rest of the paper: The research paper introduction gives the reader a sense of the nature of the information that will support your arguments and the general organization of the paragraphs that will follow. It offers an overview of what to expect when reading the main body of your paper.

What are the parts of introduction in the research?

A good research paper introduction section should comprise three main elements: 2

  • What is known: This sets the stage for your research. It informs the readers of what is known on the subject.
  • What is lacking: This is aimed at justifying the reason for carrying out your research. This could involve investigating a new concept or method or building upon previous research.
  • What you aim to do: This part briefly states the objectives of your research and its major contributions. Your detailed hypothesis will also form a part of this section.

How to write a research paper introduction?

The first step in writing the research paper introduction is to inform the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening statement. The second step involves establishing the kinds of research that have been done and ending with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to address. Finally, the research paper introduction clarifies how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses. If your research involved testing hypotheses, these should be stated along with your research question. The hypothesis should be presented in the past tense since it will have been tested by the time you are writing the research paper introduction.

The following key points, with examples, can guide you when writing the research paper introduction section:

  • Highlight the importance of the research field or topic
  • Describe the background of the topic
  • Present an overview of current research on the topic

Example: The inclusion of experiential and competency-based learning has benefitted electronics engineering education. Industry partnerships provide an excellent alternative for students wanting to engage in solving real-world challenges. Industry-academia participation has grown in recent years due to the need for skilled engineers with practical training and specialized expertise. However, from the educational perspective, many activities are needed to incorporate sustainable development goals into the university curricula and consolidate learning innovation in universities.

  • Reveal a gap in existing research or oppose an existing assumption
  • Formulate the research question

Example: There have been plausible efforts to integrate educational activities in higher education electronics engineering programs. However, very few studies have considered using educational research methods for performance evaluation of competency-based higher engineering education, with a focus on technical and or transversal skills. To remedy the current need for evaluating competencies in STEM fields and providing sustainable development goals in engineering education, in this study, a comparison was drawn between study groups without and with industry partners.

  • State the purpose of your study
  • Highlight the key characteristics of your study
  • Describe important results
  • Highlight the novelty of the study.
  • Offer a brief overview of the structure of the paper.

Example: The study evaluates the main competency needed in the applied electronics course, which is a fundamental core subject for many electronics engineering undergraduate programs. We compared two groups, without and with an industrial partner, that offered real-world projects to solve during the semester. This comparison can help determine significant differences in both groups in terms of developing subject competency and achieving sustainable development goals.

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With Paperpal Copilot, create a research paper introduction effortlessly. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through how Paperpal transforms your initial ideas into a polished and publication-ready introduction.

research paper definition with examples

How to use Paperpal to write the Introduction section

Step 1: Sign up on Paperpal and click on the Copilot feature, under this choose Outlines > Research Article > Introduction

Step 2: Add your unstructured notes or initial draft, whether in English or another language, to Paperpal, which is to be used as the base for your content.

Step 3: Fill in the specifics, such as your field of study, brief description or details you want to include, which will help the AI generate the outline for your Introduction.

Step 4: Use this outline and sentence suggestions to develop your content, adding citations where needed and modifying it to align with your specific research focus.

Step 5: Turn to Paperpal’s granular language checks to refine your content, tailor it to reflect your personal writing style, and ensure it effectively conveys your message.

You can use the same process to develop each section of your article, and finally your research paper in half the time and without any of the stress.

The purpose of the research paper introduction is to introduce the reader to the problem definition, justify the need for the study, and describe the main theme of the study. The aim is to gain the reader’s attention by providing them with necessary background information and establishing the main purpose and direction of the research.

The length of the research paper introduction can vary across journals and disciplines. While there are no strict word limits for writing the research paper introduction, an ideal length would be one page, with a maximum of 400 words over 1-4 paragraphs. Generally, it is one of the shorter sections of the paper as the reader is assumed to have at least a reasonable knowledge about the topic. 2 For example, for a study evaluating the role of building design in ensuring fire safety, there is no need to discuss definitions and nature of fire in the introduction; you could start by commenting upon the existing practices for fire safety and how your study will add to the existing knowledge and practice.

When deciding what to include in the research paper introduction, the rest of the paper should also be considered. The aim is to introduce the reader smoothly to the topic and facilitate an easy read without much dependency on external sources. 3 Below is a list of elements you can include to prepare a research paper introduction outline and follow it when you are writing the research paper introduction. Topic introduction: This can include key definitions and a brief history of the topic. Research context and background: Offer the readers some general information and then narrow it down to specific aspects. Details of the research you conducted: A brief literature review can be included to support your arguments or line of thought. Rationale for the study: This establishes the relevance of your study and establishes its importance. Importance of your research: The main contributions are highlighted to help establish the novelty of your study Research hypothesis: Introduce your research question and propose an expected outcome. Organization of the paper: Include a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences that highlights your plan for the entire paper

Cite only works that are most relevant to your topic; as a general rule, you can include one to three. Note that readers want to see evidence of original thinking. So it is better to avoid using too many references as it does not leave much room for your personal standpoint to shine through. Citations in your research paper introduction support the key points, and the number of citations depend on the subject matter and the point discussed. If the research paper introduction is too long or overflowing with citations, it is better to cite a few review articles rather than the individual articles summarized in the review. A good point to remember when citing research papers in the introduction section is to include at least one-third of the references in the introduction.

The literature review plays a significant role in the research paper introduction section. A good literature review accomplishes the following: Introduces the topic – Establishes the study’s significance – Provides an overview of the relevant literature – Provides context for the study using literature – Identifies knowledge gaps However, remember to avoid making the following mistakes when writing a research paper introduction: Do not use studies from the literature review to aggressively support your research Avoid direct quoting Do not allow literature review to be the focus of this section. Instead, the literature review should only aid in setting a foundation for the manuscript.

Remember the following key points for writing a good research paper introduction: 4

  • Avoid stuffing too much general information: Avoid including what an average reader would know and include only that information related to the problem being addressed in the research paper introduction. For example, when describing a comparative study of non-traditional methods for mechanical design optimization, information related to the traditional methods and differences between traditional and non-traditional methods would not be relevant. In this case, the introduction for the research paper should begin with the state-of-the-art non-traditional methods and methods to evaluate the efficiency of newly developed algorithms.
  • Avoid packing too many references: Cite only the required works in your research paper introduction. The other works can be included in the discussion section to strengthen your findings.
  • Avoid extensive criticism of previous studies: Avoid being overly critical of earlier studies while setting the rationale for your study. A better place for this would be the Discussion section, where you can highlight the advantages of your method.
  • Avoid describing conclusions of the study: When writing a research paper introduction remember not to include the findings of your study. The aim is to let the readers know what question is being answered. The actual answer should only be given in the Results and Discussion section.

To summarize, the research paper introduction section should be brief yet informative. It should convince the reader the need to conduct the study and motivate him to read further. If you’re feeling stuck or unsure, choose trusted AI academic writing assistants like Paperpal to effortlessly craft your research paper introduction and other sections of your research article.

1. Jawaid, S. A., & Jawaid, M. (2019). How to write introduction and discussion. Saudi Journal of Anaesthesia, 13(Suppl 1), S18.

2. Dewan, P., & Gupta, P. (2016). Writing the title, abstract and introduction: Looks matter!. Indian pediatrics, 53, 235-241.

3. Cetin, S., & Hackam, D. J. (2005). An approach to the writing of a scientific Manuscript1. Journal of Surgical Research, 128(2), 165-167.

4. Bavdekar, S. B. (2015). Writing introduction: Laying the foundations of a research paper. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 63(7), 44-6.

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Writing a Research Paper

Types of research papers.

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Although research paper assignments may vary widely, there are essentially two basic types of research papers. These are argumentative and analytical .


In an argumentative research paper, a student both states the topic they will be exploring and immediately establishes the position they will argue regarding that topic in a thesis statement . This type of paper hopes to persuade its reader to adopt the view presented.

 Example : a paper that argues the merits of early exposure to reading for children would be an argumentative essay.

An analytical research paper states the topic that the writer will be exploring, usually in the form of a question, initially taking a neutral stance. The body of the paper will present multifaceted information and, ultimately, the writer will state their conclusion, based on the information that has unfolded throughout the course of the essay. This type of paper hopes to offer a well-supported critical analysis without necessarily persuading the reader to any particular way of thinking.

Example : a paper that explores the use of metaphor in one of Shakespeare's sonnets would be an example of an analytical essay.

*Please note that this LibGuide will primarily be concerning itself with argumentative or rhetorical research papers.

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Research paper definition & meaning, what is a research paper, 10 types of research papers, research paper review, research paper uses, purpose, importance, what’s in a research paper, how to design a research paper, research paper vs. argumentative essay, what’s the difference between research paper, thesis, and proposal, research paper sizes, research paper ideas & examples, research paper.

A research paper is an important document that is widely used by students and academics. It is a common requirement needed to pass a certain course or subject.

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What should be included in a research paper?

What is the role of a research paper in business, what are the steps to writing a research paper, what is a mini-research paper, how do you properly cite a research paper, what is a qualitative research paper, what is the role of a research paper, what person are research papers written in, what are the common research paper issues and problems, why research paper is important to students, more in documents.

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How to Write a Research Question: Types & Examples

Research questions

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A research question is the main query that researchers seek to answer in their study. It serves as the basis for a scholarly project such as research paper, thesis or dissertation. A good research question should be clear, relevant and specific enough to guide the research process. It should also be open-ended, meaning that it allows for multiple possible answers or interpretations.

If you have located your general subject and main sources but still aren’t quite sure about the exact research questions for your paper, this guide will help you out. First, we will explore the concept of it together, so you could answer it in your work. Then some simple steps on composing your inquiry will be suggested. In the end, we will draw your attention to some specific details which can make your work good or bad. Sometimes it’s just easier to delegate all challenging tasks to a reliable research paper service . StudyCrumb is a trustable network of qualified writers ready to efficiently solve students’ challenges.

What Is a Good Research Question: Full Definition

Good research questions provide a concise definition of a problem. As a scholar, your main goal at the beginning is to select the main focus. It should be narrow enough so you could examine it within your deadline. Your work should be focused on something specific. Otherwise, it will require too much work and might not produce clear answers. At the same time your answer should be arguable and supported by data you’ve collected. Take a look at this example:

How to Write a Research Question: Step-By-Step Guide

In this section we will examine the process of developing a research question. We will guide you through it, step by step. Keep in mind that your subject should be important for your audience. So it requires some preliminary study and brainstorming. Let’s take a closer look at the main steps.

Step 1. Choose a Broad Topic for Your Research Paper Question

First, you need to decide on your general direction. When trying to identify your research paper questions, it is better to choose an area you are really interested in. You should be able to obtain enough data to write something about this topic. Therefore, do not choose something out of your reach. At the same time, your broad topic should not be too simple. Research paper questions that can be answered without any study would hardly make any sense for your project.

Step 2. Do Preliminary Reading Before Starting Your Research Question

Next, it is time we explore the context of the selected topic. You wouldn’t want to choose research questions that have already been examined and answered in detail. On the other hand, choosing a topic that is a complete ‘terra incognita’ might be a bridge too far for your project. Browse through available sources that are related to this topic. You should try and find out what has been discovered about it before. Do you see a gap that you can fill with your study? You can proceed with developing your exact inquiry! Have no time for in-depth topic exploration? Leave this task to professionals. Entrust your “ write my research paper ” order to StudyCrumb and get a top-notch work.

Step 3. Consider an Audience for Your Research Question

It is good to know your reader well to be able to convey your ideas and results to them in the best possible way. Before writing research questions for your projects, you might need to perform a brief analysis of your audience. That's how you'll be able to understand what is interesting for them and what is not. This will allow you to make better decisions when narrowing your broad topic down. Select a topic that is interesting for your reader! This would contribute much to the success for writing a research paper .

Step 4. Start Asking a Good Research Question

After you have considered your options, go ahead and compose the primary subject of your paper. What makes a good research question? It should highlight some problematic and relevant aspects of the general topic. So, after it is answered, you should have obtained some new valuable knowledge about the subject.  Typically scholars start narrowing down their general topic by asking ‘how’, ‘why’ or ‘what’s next’ questions. This approach might help you come up with a great idea quickly.

Step 5. Evaluate Your Research Question

Finally, after you have composed a research paper question, you should take a second look at it and see if it is good enough for your paper. It would be useful to analyze it from the following sides:

  • Is it clear for your audience?
  • Is it complex enough to require significant study?
  • Is it focused on a certain aspect of your general topic?

You might use the help of your peers or your friends at this step. You can also show it to your tutor and ask for their opinion.

Types of Research Questions: Which to Choose

A number of research questions types are available for use in a paper. They are divided into two main groups:

Qualitative questions:

  • Explanatory
  • Ethnographic

Quantitative questions:

  • Descriptive
  • Comparative
  • Relationship based.

Selecting a certain type would impact the course of your study. We suggest you think about it carefully. Below you can find a few words about each type. Also, you can seek proficient help from academic experts. Buy a research paper from real pros and forget about stress once and for all.

Qualitative Research Questions: Definition With Example

When doing qualitative research, you are expected to aim to understand the different aspects and qualities of your target problem. Therefore, your thesis should focus on analyzing people’s experience, ideas and reflections rather than on obtaining some statistical data and calculating trends. Thus, this inquiry typically requires observing people’s behavior, interacting with them and learning how they interpret your target problem.  Let’s illustrate this with an example:

What Is Contextual Research Questions

Contextual research revolves around examining your subject in its natural, everyday environment. It may be watching animals living in their usual habitats or people doing their normal activities in their familiar surroundings (at home, at school or at office). This academic approach helps to understand the role of the context. You'll be able to better explain connections between your problem, its environment and outcomes. This type of inquiry ought to be narrow enough. You shouldn’t have to examine each and every aspect of the selected problem in your paper. Consider this example:

Definition and Sample of Evaluative Research Questions

Evaluative research is performed in order to carefully assess the qualities of a selected object, individual, group, system or concept. It typically serves the purpose of collecting evidence that supports or contradicts solutions for a problem. This type of inquiry should focus on how useful a certain quality is for solving the problem.  To conduct such study, you need to examine selected qualities in detail. Then, you should assume whether they match necessary criteria. It might include some quantitative methods such as collecting statistics. Although, the most important part is analyzing the qualities. If you need some examples, here’s one for you:

Explanatory Research Questions: Definition With Example

Your paper can be dedicated to explaining a certain phenomenon, finding its reasons and important relationships between it and other important things. Your explanatory research question should aim to highlight issues, uncertainties and problematic aspects of your subject. So, your study should bring clarity about these qualities. It should show how and why they have developed this way. An explanation may include showing causes and effects of issues in question, comparing the selected phenomenon to other similar types and showing whether the selected qualities match some predefined criteria. If you need some examples, check this one:

Generative Research Questions

This type of research is conducted in order to better understand the subject. With its help, you can find some new solutions or opportunities for improvement. Therefore, its main purpose is to develop a theoretical basis for further actions. You need to compose your generative research questions in a way that facilitates obtaining new ideas. It would help to begin with asking ‘why’, ‘what is the relationship between the subject and the problems X, Y, and Z’, ‘what can be improved here’, ‘how we can prevent it’ and so on. Need relevant examples? We’ve got one for you:

Ethnographic Research Question

Ethnography research is focused on a particular group of people. The aim is to study their behavior, typical reactions to certain events or information, needs, preferences or habits. Important parameters of this group which are most relevant to your general subject are taken into consideration. These are age, sex, language, religion, ethnicity, social status and so on. Main method in this case is first-hand observation of people from the selected group during an extended period of time. If you need strong examples, here’s one:

Quantitative Research Questions: Full Definition With Examples

Quantitative research deals with data – first of all, it is numeric data. It involves mathematical calculations and statistical analysis. It helps to obtain knowledge which is mostly expressed in numbers, graphs and tables. Unlike the qualitative type, the purpose of quantitative research is finding patterns, calculating probabilities, testing causal relationships and making predictions. It is focused on testing theories and hypotheses. (We have the whole blog on what is a hypothesis .) It is mostly used in natural and social sciences. These are: chemistry, biology, psychology, economics, sociology, marketing, etc. Here are a couple of examples:

Descriptive Research Questions: Definition With Example

This is probably the most widespread type of quantitative research question. Such inquiries seek to explain when, where, why, or how something occurred. They describe it accurately and systematically. These inquiries typically start with ‘what’. You are expected to use various methods to investigate one or more variables and determine their dependencies. Note, however, that you cannot control or manipulate any of these variables. You can only observe and measure them. Looking for some interesting examples? Here is one:

Definition of Comparative Research Questions

Comparative research question is used to highlight different variables and provide numerical evidence. This type is based on comparing one object, parameter or issue with another one of a similar kind. It can help to discover the differences between two or more groups by examining their outcome variables.  Take a look at these two examples:

Relationship Research Questions

We conduct this type of research when we need to make it clear whether one parameter of a selected object causes another one. A relationship based quantitative research question should help us to explore and define trends and interactions between two or more variables. Are these two things mutually dependent? What kind of dependence is it? How has it developed? And what are possible outcomes of this connection? Here is an example of relationship-based quantitative research questions:

Research Questions Examples: Free

This section contains a number of helpful examples of research questions. Feel free to use them as inspiration to create your own questions and conduct productive study. Let’s start with two simple ones:

Are you interested in well written and inspiring questions? Do you want to learn what to avoid in your study? Just stay with us – there will be more of them below.

Examples of Good and Bad Research Questions

Everyone is interested in getting the best possible appraisal for their study. Choosing a topic which doesn't suit your specific situation may be discouraging. Thus, the quality of your paper might get affected by a poor choice. We have put together some good and bad examples so that you could avoid such mistakes.

Good Research Questions Examples

It is important to include clear terms into your questions. Otherwise, it would be difficult for you to plan your investigation properly. Also, they must be focused on a certain subject, not multiple ones. And finally, it should be possible to answer them. Let’s review several good examples:

Examples of Bad Research Questions

It is difficult to evaluate qualities of objects, individuals or groups if your purpose is not clear. This is why you shouldn’t create unclear research questions or try to focus on many problems at once. Some preliminary study might help to understand what you should focus on. Here are several bad examples:

In case you may need some information about the discussion section of a research paper example , find it in our blog.

Final Thoughts on Research Questions

In this article we have made a detailed review of the most popular types of research questions. We described peculiarities. We also provided some tips on conducting various kinds of study. Besides, a number of useful examples have been given for each category of questions.


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Frequently Asked Questions About Research Questions

1. what is an example of a weak research question.

Here is an example of the weakest research question: 

What kinds of animals live in the USA?

An answer would be simply making a list of species that inhabit the country. This subject does not require any actual study to be conducted. There is nothing to calculate or analyze here.

2. What is the most effective type of research question?

Most effective type of research question is the one that doesn't have a single correct answer. However, you should also pay close attention to your audience. If you need to create a strong effect, better choose a topic which is relevant for them.

3. What is a good nursing research question?

If you need an idea for a nursing research question, here are a few helpful examples you could use as a reference:

How do you analyze the development of telehealth?

How to evaluate critical care nursing?

What are some cardiovascular issues?

4. What are some sociological research questions?

Sociological questions are the ones that examine the social patterns or a meaning of a social phenomenon. They could be qualitative or quantitative. They should target groups of people with certain parameters, such as age or income level. Keep in mind that type of study usually requires collecting numerous data about your target groups.

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Home » Academic Paper – Format, Example and Writing Guide

Academic Paper – Format, Example and Writing Guide

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Academic Paper

Academic Paper


Academic paper is a written document that presents the findings of a research study or scholarly inquiry in a formal manner. It is typically written by researchers or scholars and is intended to communicate their research findings to their peers or the academic community at large.

Types of Academic Paper

There are several types of academic papers that are commonly assigned in academic settings, including:

  • Research papers : These are papers that involve the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data to answer a research question or test a hypothesis.
  • Review papers: These are papers that synthesize and analyze existing research on a particular topic to provide a comprehensive overview of the field.
  • Case studies: These are papers that examine a particular instance or example in-depth, often used in business or law settings.
  • Essays : These are papers that provide a well-organized argument or analysis of a topic, often used in literature or philosophy courses.
  • Lab reports : These are papers that document experiments conducted in a laboratory setting and include detailed observations, methods, results, and conclusions.
  • Thesis and dissertations : Thesis are long-form research papers that are typically required for advanced degrees, such as a Master’s or PhD.
  • White papers : These are papers that provide detailed information about a particular product, service, or issue, often used in marketing or policy settings.
  • Position papers : These are papers that present a particular point of view or stance on a controversial issue, often used in political or social settings.
  • Literature reviews : These are papers that critically evaluate and summarize the research literature on a particular topic, often used in social and health sciences.
  • Conference papers : These are papers presented at academic conferences, which typically focus on recent research and developments in a particular field.
  • Book reviews: These are papers that provide a critical analysis and evaluation of a book, often used in literature or history courses.
  • Personal statements : These are papers that are used in applications for academic programs or scholarships, in which the author describes their background, interests, and qualifications.
  • Reflection papers: These are papers in which the author reflects on their own experiences or observations related to a particular topic, often used in education or social work courses.
  • Policy papers : These are papers that provide recommendations or proposals for addressing a particular policy issue, often used in political science or public policy courses.
  • Technical reports : These are papers that provide detailed information about a technical project or process, often used in engineering or computer science settings.

Academic Paper Format

Academic papers typically follow a specific format, although it can vary depending on the discipline or journal. Here is a general outline of the components that are commonly included:

  • Title page : This should include the title of the paper, the author’s name, and their affiliation (e.g. university or organization).
  • Abstract : This is a brief summary of the paper, typically around 150-250 words. It should provide an overview of the research question, methods, results, and conclusions.
  • Introduction : This section should introduce the topic of the paper and provide some background information. It should also include a clear research question or hypothesis.
  • Literature review : This section should review the existing research on the topic and explain how the current study contributes to the field.
  • Methodology : This section should describe the methods used in the study, including the sample, measures, and procedures.
  • Results : This section should present the findings of the study, typically using tables and figures to display the data.
  • Discussion : This section should interpret the results and discuss their implications. It should also address the research question or hypothesis and explain how the findings contribute to the field.
  • Conclusion : This section should summarize the main findings and their implications, and suggest directions for future research.
  • References: This section should list all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style (e.g. APA, MLA).

Example of Academic Paper

Example Sample of Academic Paper is as follows:

Title Page:

  • Running head: TITLE OF PAPER
  • Title of paper
  • Author’s name
  • Institutional affiliation
  • A brief summary of the paper’s main points, including the research question, methods, results, and conclusions
  • Should be no more than 250 words


  • Introduce the research question and provide background information
  • Discuss the significance of the research question and how it relates to previous research in the field
  • Provide a clear and concise thesis statement
  • Describe the research design, including the participants, procedures, and materials used
  • Explain how data was collected and analyzed
  • Present the findings of the study in a clear and organized manner
  • Use tables and figures to visually represent the data

Discussion :

  • Interpret the results and explain their significance
  • Discuss how the findings relate to the research question and previous research in the field
  • Identify limitations of the study and suggest directions for future research


  • List all sources cited in the paper, formatted according to APA style guidelines.

When to Write Academic Paper

There are several occasions when you might want to write an academic paper, including:

  • Coursework : In many academic programs, you’ll be required to write papers as part of your coursework. This may include essays, research papers, case studies, or other types of academic writing.
  • Conference presentations: If you’re a researcher, you may want to present your work at academic conferences. Writing an academic paper can help you organize your thoughts and prepare for your presentation.
  • Journal publications: Publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal is an important way to share your research with the broader academic community. This can help you build your reputation as a scholar and may be required for promotion or tenure.
  • Grant proposals: When applying for research funding, you may need to submit a proposal that includes a research paper outlining your research question, methodology, and expected results.
  • Thesis or dissertation: If you’re pursuing a graduate degree, you’ll likely need to write a thesis or dissertation, which will require extensive research and academic writing.

Purpose of Academic Paper

Academic papers serve several purposes, including:

  • Contribution to knowledge : One of the primary purposes of academic papers is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on a particular topic. By conducting research and presenting new findings, scholars and researchers can build upon previous work and expand our understanding of a subject.
  • Communication: Academic papers allow researchers to communicate their findings to a wider audience, including other scholars, students, and policymakers. Through publications, academic papers can reach a broader audience and have a greater impact on society.
  • Validation and peer review: Academic papers are subjected to rigorous peer review by other experts in the field. This process helps ensure the accuracy and validity of the research and helps maintain the quality of academic work.
  • Career advancement : Publishing academic papers is often a requirement for career advancement in academia. Researchers who publish frequently are more likely to receive grants, promotions, and tenure.
  • Preservation of knowledge : Academic papers are often archived and made available for future generations to study and learn from. They can provide a record of research and scholarship that can be used to build upon in the future.
  • Development of critical thinking skills : The process of writing an academic paper requires careful analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. By engaging in this process, researchers can develop their abilities to think deeply and systematically about complex topics.
  • Influence on policy: Academic papers can have a significant impact on policy decisions. Policymakers often rely on academic research to inform their decisions, and researchers who are able to communicate their findings effectively can have a real-world impact.
  • Advancement of science and technology : Many academic papers are focused on advancing science and technology. By publishing research on new technologies or breakthroughs in scientific understanding, researchers can help drive innovation and progress in these fields.
  • Education and training: Academic papers are often used as educational resources in universities and other academic settings. They can provide students with valuable insights into research methods, data analysis, and academic writing.
  • Building collaborations: Collaborations and partnerships can be built through academic papers. Researchers working on similar topics can connect through publications, leading to further research and collaboration opportunities.

Advantages of Academic Paper

Academic papers have several advantages, including:

  • Sharing knowledge : Academic papers are an effective way to share knowledge with other scholars and researchers in a particular field. Through publication, ideas and findings can be disseminated to a wider audience and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a particular discipline.
  • Building credibility : Publishing academic papers can help researchers establish credibility and demonstrate expertise in their field. By contributing to the scholarly conversation, researchers can gain recognition and respect from their peers.
  • Facilitating collaboration: Academic papers can foster collaboration between researchers who share similar interests and can lead to new research partnerships and collaborations.
  • Providing feedback: Academic papers often go through a peer-review process, which allows for constructive feedback from other experts in the field. This feedback can help researchers refine their ideas, strengthen their arguments, and improve the quality of their work.
  • Career advancement: Publishing academic papers can be important for career advancement in academia. It is often a requirement for promotion and tenure, and can also help researchers secure funding for future research projects.
  • Preservation of knowledge : Academic papers are often archived and preserved, ensuring that the knowledge and findings they contain are accessible to future generations of researchers and scholars.

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Research Terms

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research paper definition with examples

Research terms are specific words or phrases used in academic writing to describe the research process, methodologies, and findings. These include concepts like hypothesis , variables, sample size, literature review, and data analysis. Understanding these terms is crucial for interpreting research studies and effectively communicating ideas. Mastery of research terms enhances clarity in academic discourse, whether in a research project proposal , a qualitative research report , or the description of research methodology.

What are terms in research?

Terms in research refer to the specific words, phrases, and concepts used within a study to define its scope, methodology , and focus. These terms ensure clarity and precision, allowing researchers to communicate ideas and findings effectively. Clear definitions facilitate a shared understanding and maintain the integrity and replicability of research.

Examples of Research Terms

Examples of Research Terms

  • Hypothesis : A proposed explanation for a phenomenon, to be tested through research.
  • Variable : Any factor or element that can be changed and measured in research.
  • Literature Review : A comprehensive survey of existing research and publications on a specific topic.
  • Methodology : The systematic plan and approach used to conduct research.
  • Data Collection : The process of gathering information for analysis in research.
  • Sample : A subset of a population selected for observation and analysis.
  • Control Group : A group in an experiment that does not receive the treatment, used for comparison.
  • Validity : The extent to which a research study measures what it intends to measure.
  • Reliability : The consistency of a research study or measuring test.
  • Abstract : A brief summary of a research study’s aims, methods, results, and conclusions.
  • Population : The entire group of individuals or instances about whom the research is concerned.
  • Ethics : Moral principles that govern a researcher’s conduct and the conduct of the research.
  • Bias : A systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome over others.
  • Pilot Study : A small-scale preliminary study conducted to evaluate feasibility, time, cost, risk, and adverse events.
  • Peer Review : A process by which a research study is evaluated by experts in the same field before publication.
  • Quantitative Research : Research that relies on numerical data and statistical methods.
  • Qualitative Research : Research that relies on non-numerical data, such as interviews, observations, and textual analysis.
  • Case Study : An in-depth study of a particular case, individual, group, or event.
  • Longitudinal Study : Research that follows subjects over a long period to observe changes and developments.
  • Cross-sectional Study : Research that analyzes data from a population at a specific point in time.
  • Independent Variable : The variable that is manipulated to observe its effect on the dependent variable.
  • Dependent Variable : The variable being tested and measured in an experiment.
  • Confounding Variable : An outside influence that affects the dependent and independent variables, causing a spurious association.
  • Operational Definition : A clear, precise, and measurable definition of a variable for the purposes of a study.
  • Statistical Significance : The likelihood that a result or relationship is caused by something other than mere chance.
  • Random Sample : A sample that fairly represents a population because each member has an equal chance of inclusion.
  • Correlation : A measure of the relationship between two variables.
  • Experimental Group : The group in an experiment that receives the treatment.
  • Theoretical Framework : A structure that guides research by providing a clear perspective and basis for the study.
  • Meta-analysis : A statistical technique that combines the results of multiple studies to determine overall trends.

Research Terms List

Sampling BiasControl Variable
Research DesignData Analysis
Primary DataSecondary Data
Theoretical SamplingPurposive Sampling
Snowball SamplingCluster Sampling
Stratified SamplingSurvey
Focus GroupField Study
Experimental DesignRandomized Controlled Trial (RCT)
EthnographyGrounded Theory
Content AnalysisDescriptive Research
Explanatory ResearchExploratory Research
Mixed MethodsTriangulation
Hypothesis TestingNull Hypothesis
Alternative HypothesisResearch Proposal

5 Common Research Terminologies

  • Hypothesis : A testable prediction about the relationship between two or more variables.
  • Variable : An element, feature, or factor that can be changed and measured in research.

Confusing Terms in Research

  • Reliability : The consistency of a research study or measuring test over time.
  • Independent Variable : The variable that is manipulated to observe its effect.
  • Dependent Variable : The variable being tested and measured, which is affected by the independent variable.
  • Random Assignment : Assigning participants to experimental and control groups by chance to minimize pre-existing differences.
  • Descriptive Research : Research that aims to describe characteristics of a population or phenomenon.
  • Explanatory Research : Research that seeks to explain the reasons behind a phenomenon or relationship.

Key Research Terms

1. abstract.

  • A brief summary of the research paper, outlining the main points, purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.

2. Hypothesis

  • A testable statement or prediction about the relationship between two or more variables.

3. Variable

  • An element, feature, or factor that can be changed and measured in research. Includes independent, dependent, and control variables.

4. Literature Review

  • A comprehensive survey of existing research and publications relevant to the research topic.

5. Methodology

  • The systematic plan for conducting research, including the methods, techniques, and procedures used to collect and analyze data.

6. Qualitative Research

  • Research that focuses on understanding phenomena through non-numerical data such as interviews, observations, and texts.

7. Quantitative Research

  • Research that focuses on quantifying data and analyzing it statistically to draw conclusions.

8. Sampling

  • The process of selecting a subset of individuals from a population to represent the whole group in research.

9. Data Collection

  • The process of gathering information from various sources to answer research questions.

10. Data Analysis

  • The process of examining, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data to discover useful information, draw conclusions, and support decision-making.

Terms Synonymous to Research



What is a variable in research.

A variable is any characteristic, number, or quantity that can be measured or quantified in research.

What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research?

Qualitative research explores concepts and experiences in-depth, while quantitative research involves measuring and analyzing numerical data.

What is a literature review?

A literature review summarizes existing research on a topic, identifying trends, gaps, and key findings.

What is a sample in research?

A sample is a subset of a population selected for study to represent the entire group.

What is a hypothesis?

A hypothesis is a testable prediction or educated guess about the relationship between two or more variables in a study.

What is data collection?

Data collection involves gathering information from various sources to address a research question or hypothesis.

What is an independent variable?

An independent variable is the variable that is manipulated or changed in an experiment to observe its effect.

What is a dependent variable?

A dependent variable is the variable being tested and measured in an experiment, affected by the independent variable.

What is a control group?

A control group is a group in an experiment that does not receive the treatment, used for comparison against the experimental group.

What is a research methodology?

Research methodology is the systematic plan for conducting research, including methods for data collection and analysis.


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  • → What is descriptive research? Definit...

What is descriptive research? Definition, examples, and use cases

Descriptive research is a research methodology that focuses on understanding the particular characteristics of a group, phenomenon, or experience.

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Typeform    |    06.2024

Typeform    |    05.2024

Descriptive research is critical in nearly every business—from e-commerce to SaaS to everything in between. Whether you’re selling luxury quilted comforters or an advanced market research automation tool, you need to know who your customers are, what their preferences are, and how to analyze the competitive landscape. 

While you can scrape some of this information from third-party data, there’s nothing like zero-party data for the most accurate information about your customers. (After all, why not go straight to the source?) That’s why research methods like surveys, observational studies, case studies, and other descriptive types of research are necessary: They all provide that sweet, sweet zero-party data for your team. 

Today, we’ll explore the nature of descriptive research and what differentiates it from other research types—plus look at how you can put these strategies to work for your business. 

What is descriptive research?

If you want to understand your customers better, descriptive research is a powerful tool for determining what users want. This approach is typically used to discover more information about a specific segment or demographic or to further segment an existing group.

the definition of descriptive research with examples

It can be helpful to think of descriptive research as the opposite of experimental research —if you’re doing experiments, you’re changing variables in your target group. (Think of famous experiments like Newton’s discovery of light!) If you’re doing descriptive research, however, you want to understand the characteristics of your target group without changing any variables. 

In business, the data from research like this is invaluable, as it can help you better understand (and segment) your customers. 

Descriptive research characteristics

Now that we’ve learned about the definition of descriptive research, let’s look at some common characteristics of research like this. (Spoiler: It’s a lot of surveys .) Because we’re not looking to answer any “why” questions, this type of research will analyze data without impacting or altering it.

If your research contains the following elements, it’s probably descriptive: 

Measuring data trends with statistical outcomes: This method analyzes data using statistical tools and techniques to identify patterns and changes over time. 

Example: A retail business might analyze sales data from 2013-2023 to identify seasonal trends, then use that data to predict future sales peaks.

Quantitative research: This method analyzes numerical data to uncover patterns and relationships—frequently utilizing the forms or surveys we know and love. 

Example: A SaaS company might survey users to discover usage rates and patterns per feature to optimize their product better. 

Designed for further research: If your research has different phases and starts with a general study to pave the way for a more detailed study, that’s descriptive research.

Example: A payroll management software company might conduct a study to gauge customer satisfaction levels, which could then lead to a study further analyzing specific parts of the tool. 

Uncontrolled variables: In descriptive research, none of the variables are impacted by the team doing the research in any way. (Doing so could introduce bias and impact the validity of the research.)

Example: In a study examining internal employee satisfaction, you might be unable to account for individual health or family concerns. 

Cross-sectional studies: These studies examine data from a single point in time, like taking a picture of your audience at a specific moment. 

Example: An online retailer looks at customer satisfaction in December to optimize customer experience during the holiday season.

a list of characteristics often present in descriptive research

What is descriptive research used for?

Now that we better understand what descriptive research looks like, you might recognize this research type in work your business is doing already. If so, congratulations, you’re ahead of the game! If not, you may wonder why one might go through all the trouble of doing this in-depth analysis. 

Here are a few ways we’ve seen companies successfully leverage descriptive research: 

Customer satisfaction surveys: A company might conduct a customer satisfaction survey to gauge customers' feelings about their products or services. By asking customers to rate their experience with product quality, customer service, and even pricing, the business can identify strengths and areas for improvement.

Market segmentation research: A company might use descriptive research to segment its market based on demographic, geographic, and behavioral characteristics. This helps the marketing team target specific groups more effectively. 

Trend analysis: Analyzing historical survey data to identify trends and patterns can help businesses forecast future sales, surface key insights, and even benchmark for future performance. 

Competitor benchmarking: A company might use descriptive research methods to benchmark performance against competitors. (Yes, you can!) A simple customer research survey can arm your team with information on competitors' pricing, product offerings, and market share.

Employee satisfaction research: A company might conduct research to assess employee satisfaction and engagement. An employee satisfaction survey can help businesses understand their workforce and identify factors contributing to job satisfaction or dissatisfaction. 

a table listing examples of descriptive research in practice

Descriptive research methods

Now that we’ve covered some examples of descriptive research in the wild, you may be itching to start your own. Here are the four descriptive research methods and how to utilize them.

Observational research

The observational research method is perhaps the simplest (and arguably the most effective) of the descriptive research methods we’ll examine today. In observational research, the researcher simply records behavior as it occurs without manipulating the variables. This can look like qualitative or quantitative research —and yes, both can be observational!

In qualitative observation , the researcher simply documents what they see and hear. They may not even need to interact directly with the study subjects. This can include social media research, focus group interviews, forum discussion analysis, or even surveys with open-ended questions. 

In quantitative observation , the researcher takes a much more structured approach to collecting hard data. For example, they may perform detailed data analysis on survey results containing information about age, race, gender, position, or industry. They can then splice and dice the results to reveal numerical insights about the group in question. 

When utilizing either of these methods, you’ll want to be careful not to skew the data as you work. (For example, don't accidentally exclude any customer segments!)

Survey research

Survey research is fairly simple conceptually—it does what it says on the tin. (They’re probably also the first thing you think of when you think of market research.) A researcher using this method sends surveys or questionnaires to the selected groups and uses the data gleaned from this research to inform business decisions. Surveys are a very popular research method due to their accessibility and straightforward nature, as users can access them online and from any location. 

Case studies

Case studies are another popular method of performing descriptive research. They’re a great way to dive deep into the experiences of a particular individual or group and really understand that specific experience with your product or service. You can do this using multiple interviews with multiple parties involved. 

The downside is that data gleaned from these studies may not be particularly quantitative—but you will likely get a very strong understanding of how your customers feel about the topic of your study.  

Finally, a method of descriptive research design that’s gaining popularity in businesses is the interview method. This is distinct from the case study method in that interviews focus on gathering in-depth information from individuals , while case studies comprehensively analyze a particular experience within a context. All case studies should contain interviews—but not all interviews must be part of case studies. It’s sort of a squares-and-rectangles situation.

A table of the four methods used to perform descriptive research

Descriptive research pros and cons

All that said, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for learning about your customer in a practical, actionable way you can accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. Next, we’ll cover the pros and cons of this type of research—and how we see research teams working with (and around) those elements. 

Detailed data collection: Descriptive research provides rich and highly detailed data about the studied demographics. You can analyze this data and use it for various market research purposes. 

Cost efficiency: With the power of online surveys, research is easy and cost-efficient. 

Highly accurate: Descriptive research captures a highly accurate picture of the subjects, meaning any data you glean will be valuable to your business. 

Versatile: This method can be applied across various fields and disciplines and used for business research of almost any variety.

Easy to build on: Once you’ve begun a descriptive research program, it’s easy to build on year after year—making each compounding round of research more valuable. 

Time-consuming analysis: While collecting large swathes of data may be easy—especially with surveys—analyzing that data can take time and resources. 

No causality data: Since you’re only looking at a snapshot of data, you won’t know why certain things are true, only that they are true. Additional research may be necessary to discover more. 

Static: Again, since you’re only getting a snapshot of data, it will not remain accurate over time, and you may need to do another study to keep your information up-to-date. 

Here are some examples of descriptive research in practice. 

Example 1: Customer satisfaction in the hospitality industry  

A cruise line conducts a comprehensive survey of guests who have booked travel with them in the last year. The survey includes questions about their stay, including ease of booking, room cleanliness, staff service, check-in and check-out, food and beverage experiences, entertainment options, and overall satisfaction. 

The company can then analyze this data to identify patterns, such as the most common complaints about food options. The data is then shared with hospitality management to improve the quality of the food on the cruise. 

Example 2: Market segmentation for a SaaS platform  

A company that developed a SaaS platform for developers conducts a cross-sectional market research study to understand its users' demographics and usage patterns. They collect data on users’ location, industry, number of employees at the company, frequency of use, and more. 

By analyzing this data, the company identifies distinct market segments, such as learning that a large percentage of its users serve the automotive industry. This allows the company to develop new features explicitly targeted to these users. 

Example 3: Employee engagement at a dental office

A dental practice conducts an annual employee engagement survey to measure employee satisfaction at the company. The survey covers topics such as work-life balance, management support, career development opportunities, and company culture. 

The survey results show a trend toward employee dissatisfaction with the policies for requesting paid time off, allowing leadership to revisit those policies. By positively addressing these policies, the following year’s employee satisfaction rate increased by 25%. 

Ready to get started? 

Research doesn’t have to be hard. If you’re ready to learn more about your customers, users, or employees, don’t overengineer it. Typeform’s user-friendly form templates make research easier for you (and more fun for everyone else!). Try Typeform for free today.

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The blood microbiome is probably not real.

Gloved hands performing a blood smear.

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Up until recently, if bacteria were detected in your blood you would be in a world of trouble. Blood was long considered to be sterile, meaning free of viable microorganisms like bacteria. When disease-causing bacteria spread to the blood, they can cause a life-threatening septic shock.

But the use of DNA sequencing technology has allowed researchers to more easily detect something that had been reported as early as the late 1960s: bacteria can be found in the blood and not cause disease.

As we begin to map out and understand the complex microbial ecosystem that lives in our gut and elsewhere in the body, we contemplate an important question: is there such a thing as a blood microbiome?

Detecting a fingerprint in the blood

Our large intestine is not sterile; it is teeming with bacteria. But there are parts of the body that were long thought to be devoid of microorganisms. The brain. Bones. A variety of internal fluids, like our synovial fluid and peritoneal fluid. And, importantly, the blood.

Blood is made up of a liquid called plasma filled with red blood cells, whose main function is to carry oxygen to our cells. It also transports white blood cells, important to monitor for and fight off infections, as well as platelets, involved in clotting. 

In the 1960s, a team of Italian researchers published  multiple papers  describing “mycoplasm-like forms”—meaning shapes that look like a particular type of bacteria that often contaminate cells cultured in the lab—in the blood of healthy people. This finding was confirmed in 1977 by a different team, which reported that  four out of the 60 blood samples  they had drawn from healthy volunteers showed bacteria growing in them. These types of tests, however, were rudimentary compared to what we have access to now. In the 2000s, they were mostly supplanted by DNA testing.

While we can sequence the entire DNA of any bacteria found in the blood, the technique most often used is 16S rRNA gene sequencing. I have always admired physicists’ penchant for quirky names: gluons, neutrinos, and charm quarks. Molecular biologists, by comparison, tend to be more sober. Yes, we have genes like  Sonic hedgehog  and proteins called scramblases; usually, though, we have to contend with the dryness of “16S rRNA.” You see, RNA is a molecule with many uses. Messenger RNA (or mRNA) acts as a disposable copy of a gene, a template for the production of a specific protein. Transfer RNA (or tRNA) actually brings the building blocks of a protein to where they are being assembled. And ribosomal RNA (or rRNA) is the main component of the giant protein factories in our cells known as ribosomes. One of its subunits is made up of, among others, a particular string of RNA known as the 16S rRNA.

The cool thing about the gene that codes for this 16S rRNA molecule is that it is very old and it mutates at a slow rate. By reading its precise sequence, scientists can tell which species it belongs to. Most of the studies of the putative blood microbiome use this technique to tell which species of bacteria are present in the blood being tested. The limitation of this test, however, is that dead bacteria have DNA too. The fact that DNA from the 16S rRNA gene of a precise bacterial species was detected in someone’s blood does not mean these bacteria were alive. For there to be a microbiome in the blood, these microorganisms need to live.

Which brings us to another important point of discussion. In order for scientists to agree that a blood microbiome exists, they first need to decide on the definition of a microbiome, and this is still a point of contention. In 2020, while companies were more than happy to sell hyped-up services testing your gut microbiome and claiming to interpret what it meant for your health, actual experts in the field met to agree on just what the word meant. “We are lacking,” they  wrote , “a clear commonly agreed definition of the term ‘microbiome’.” For example, do viruses qualify? A microbiome implies life but viruses live on the edge, pun intended: they have the genetic blueprint for life yet they cannot reproduce on their own.

These experts proposed that the word “microbiome” should refer to the sum of two things: the microbiota, meaning the living microorganisms themselves, and their theatre of activity. It’s like saying that the Earth is not simply the life forms it houses, but also all of their individual components, and the traces they leave behind, and the environmental conditions in which they thrive or die. The microbiome is made up of bacteria and other microorganisms, yes, but also their proteins, lipids, sugars, and DNA and RNA molecules, as well as the signalling molecules and toxins that get exchanged within their theatre. (This is where viruses were sorted, by the way: not as part of the living microbiota but as belonging to the theatre of activity of the microbiome.)

The microbiome is a community, and this community has a distinct habitat.

So, what does the evidence say? Is our blood truly host to a thriving community of microorganisms or is something else going on?

Transient and sporadic

Initial studies of the alleged blood microbiome were  small . The amounts of bacteria that were being reported based on DNA sequencing were tiny. If this microbiome existed, it seemed sparse, more  “asteroid field in real life”  than “asteroid field in the movies.”

An issue looming over this early research is that of contamination. If bacteria are detected in a blood sample, were they really in the blood… or did they contaminate supplies along the way? When blood is drawn, the skin, which has its own microbiome, is punctured. The area is usually swabbed with alcohol to kill bacteria, and the supplies used should be sterile, but suffice to say that from the blood draw to the DNA extraction to the DNA amplification to the sequencing of this DNA, bacteria can be introduced into the system. In fact, it is such common knowledge that certain bacteria are found inside of the laboratory kits used by scientists that this ecosystem has its own name: the kitome. One way to rule out these contaminants is to simultaneously run negative controls alongside samples every step of the way, to make sure that these negative controls are indeed free of bacteria. But early papers rarely reported when controls were used.

Last year, results from what purports to be the largest study ever into the question of whether the blood microbiome exists were  published in  Nature Microbiology . A total of 9,770 healthy individuals were tested. The conclusion? Yes, some bacteria could be found in their blood, but the evidence contradicted the claim of an ecosystem. In 84% of the samples tested, no bacteria were detected. In most of the other samples, only one species was found. In an ecosystem, you would expect to see species appearing together repeatedly, but this was not the case here. And the species they found most often in their samples were known to contaminate these types of laboratory experiments.

So, what were the few bacteria found in the blood and not recognized as contaminants doing there in the first place if they were not part of a healthy microbiome? The authors lean toward an alternative explanation that had been floated for many years: these bacteria are transient. They end up in the blood from other parts of the body, either because of some minor leak or through their active transportation into the blood by agents such as dendritic cells. Like pedestrians wandering off onto the highway, these bacteria do not normally live in the blood but they can be seen there when we look at the right moment.

Putting the diagnostic cart before the horse

This blood microbiome story could end here and simply be an interesting example of scientific research homing in on a curious finding, testing a hypothesis, and ultimately refuting it (or at the very least providing strong evidence against it). But given the incentives of modern research and the social-media spotlight cast on the academic literature, there are two slightly worrying angles here that merit discussion.

Scientists are more and more incentivized to find practical applications for their research. It’s not enough, for example, to study bacteria that survive at incredibly high temperatures; we must be assured that the  DNA replication enzyme  these bacteria possess will one day be used in laboratories all over the world to conduct research, identify criminals, and test samples for the presence of a pandemic-causing coronavirus.

In researching this topic, I came across many papers claiming the existence of “blood microbiome signatures” for certain diseases that are not known to be infectious. We are thus not talking about infections leaking in the blood and causing sepsis. I saw reports of signatures for  cardiovascular disease ,  liver disease ,  heart attacks , even for  gastrointestinal disease  in dogs .  The idea is that these signatures could soon be turned into (profitable) diagnostic tests. The problem, of course, is that these studies are based on the hypothesis that a blood microbiome is real; that its equilibrium can be affected by disease; and that these changes can be reliably detected and interpreted.

But if the blood microbiome is imaginary, we are just chasing ghosts. This is not unlike the time that scientists were publishing signatures of microRNAs in the blood for every possible cancer. When I looked at the published literature in grad school, I realized that the multiple signatures reported for a single cancer  barely overlapped . They were just chance findings. Compare enough variables in a small sample set and you will find what appears to be an association.

My second concern is that the transitory leakage of bacteria into the blood, as evidenced by the recent  Nature Microbiology  paper, will be used as confirmation of a pseudoscientific entity: leaky gut syndrome. At the end of their paper, the researchers  hypothesize  that these bacteria end up in the blood because the integrity of certain barriers in the body are compromised during disease or during periods of stress. The “net” in our gut gets a bit porous, and some of our colon’s bacteria end up in circulation, though they are not causing disease as far as we can tell. A form of leaky gut is known to exist  in certain intestinal diseases , likely to be a consequence and not a cause. But leaky gut syndrome, favoured by non-evidence-based practitioners, does not appear to be real, yet many websites portray it as the one true cause of all diseases, a real epidemic. Nuanced scientific findings have a history of being stolen, distorted, and toyed with by fake doctors to give credence to their pet theories. Though I have yet to see examples of it, I suspect work done on this hypothesized blood microbiome will similarly get weaponized.

You have been warned.

Take-home message: - Our blood was long considered to be sterile, meaning free of viable microbes, unless a dangerous infection leaked into it, causing sepsis - Studies have provided evidence for the presence of bacteria in the blood of some healthy humans, leading to the hypothesis that, much like in our gut, our blood is host to a microbiome - The largest study ever done on the topic provided strong evidence against this hypothesis. It seems that when non-disease-causing bacteria find themselves in our blood, it is temporary and occasional


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Scope Creep: Definition, Examples & How To Prevent It

Alana Rudder

Updated: Jun 2, 2024, 3:23pm

Scope Creep: Definition, Examples &#038; How To Prevent It

Table of Contents

What is scope creep, real-world scope creep examples, 5 common causes of scope creep, how do i prevent scope creep, 5 ways to fix scope creep, bottom line, frequently asked questions (faqs).

Scope creep happens when a project’s completion requirements increase past the planned project requirements. When this happens, the project runs the risk of being completed late, over budget and lacking in quality. In this guide, we look at what scope creep is, some examples of scope creep, how to prevent scope creep from happening and how to fix it if it has already gotten out of hand.

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Every project should begin with agreed-upon project requirements, including a project timeline, budget, boundaries and incremental and final deliverables. When a project’s requirements go beyond those included in the original plans without authorization or control measures, the project enters into scope creep. Scope creep may happen due to added features, funding, resources or personnel needed to complete the project in a satisfactory manner.

Denver International Airport’s (DIA) automated baggage-handling system and Boston’s “Big Dig” construction project both experienced massive scope creep. Both projects finished over a year late and millions or billions of dollars over budget. Below, we take a closer look at each project, what went wrong and what could have been done to prevent damaging scope creep.

Project: DIA Automated Baggage-handling System

Denver International Airport (DIA) undertook the extremely progressive project of creating a fully automated baggage-handling system in the 1990s. After scope creep plagued the project, the system was finished 16 months past its planned completion deadline, $569 million over budget and without the required features to make it functional. Ultimately, the airport had to revert back to a manual labor system and abandon the project altogether.

At DIA, scope creep occurred because project leads ignored key stakeholders who had expertise in the field and warned that the project was overly complex, unlikely to work and was missing key required features. Thus, no detailed project requirement document drove the project from day one, creating the need for over 2,000 design changes to incorporate key features and reduce the system’s complexity.

Project: Boston’s ‘Big Dig’ Highway Construction Project

The Boston Big Dig is the largest highway construction project in the United States. The plans for the project began in 1982 and the project was scheduled to be completed in 1998 for a total estimated cost of $2.56 billion. However, scope creep overtook all of these goals. In the end, the project was completed in December 2007 (nine years late) and the final project cost was $14.8 billion, more than $12 billion over budget.

According to NASA, instead of bringing all stakeholders together for a consensus on scope requirements, designers and contractors were consulted separately. Further, instead of a centralized decision-maker, sub-teams were accountable to different leads, resulting in conflicting plans and scope change requests. In the end, much of the scope creep could have been avoided with a requirements and change management plan everyone agreed to.

Scope creep can occur for an endless number of reasons. However, the most common reasons include ill-defined scope requirements, too many decision-makers, a poor or missing change control process, poor task prioritization and unchecked client requests. Below is a closer look at each of these risks and tips on how to prevent or solve them.

Ill-defined Project Scope Requirements

Stakeholders cannot be expected to adhere to an undefined scope. Create a document that defines the project’s requirements, including its budget, resources, goals, tasks, deliverables and timeline requirements. Use charts, diagrams, checklists and other visuals to create an easily consumable and understandable document. Present the document to all stakeholders, both to those who will implement it and those who must be satisfied with the project’s results.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

If all stakeholders who execute a project are decision-makers, your scope approval process is likely to be plagued with conflicting plans and change requests, creating unmanageable scope creep. To prevent this, in your change management plan, clearly define who the project’s final decision-maker or lead is, who can approve scope change requests (and who cannot), who is to be only consulted on change requests and who must only be informed of them.

Lack of Task Prioritization

With some projects, if all ideal tasks and features were incorporated, the project is likely to be unreasonably long or expensive to execute. It is important to balance final deliverable quality with time, resources and budget limitations. This should be done through task prioritization.

To implement task prioritization, in your project’s requirement documentation, consult with all stakeholders to decide which tasks or milestone deliverables are most important and which are nice-to-haves. Then, if scope creep threatens the project, refer to this prioritization list to cut unnecessary tasks or deliverables and, thereby, reign in the project’s scope.

Poor or Missing Change Control Process

A change control plan is an essential document that clearly defines the request, approval and denial process for scope change requests and who can implement them. It also ensures that all scope change requests are complete so they do not continue to grow via additional requests after approval. Without this document and without ensuring all stakeholders and project executors understand this document, change requests are likely to get out of control.

Unchecked Client Requests

Clients are likely to make as many requests as are tolerated to get the most out of their project investment. This is just good business. Without a way to limit or at least make sound decisions around these requests, they run a very high risk of derailing your project and, ultimately, sacrificing a quality, timely and cost-effective final deliverable.

As such, make sure all your project executors know if they are authorized to approve change requests or not, the parameters for doing so and how to deny client requests if necessary without alienating the client. By putting together a change control plan, then thoroughly training project executors and the client around its content and stated process, unchecked client requests are less likely to be a significant problem.

Preventing scope creep requires a careful management process. Not all scope creep is bad but all scope creep must be tightly controlled to ensure it does not have a negative impact on the project’s outcome. To do so, create a work breakdown structure and Gantt chart of your project requirements. Then, carefully write a scope change management plan. Finally, review and gain agreement from all stakeholders surrounding these documents and plans.

Here is a closer look at the steps to prevent scope creep.

1. Outline Project Requirements and Prioritize Project Tasks

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a document that takes a large project and breaks it into manageable chunks or deliverables. Simply put, it documents the scope of the project, its resource allocation and its deliverables. For easier scope management later, deliverables are listed in the order they must be completed, then prioritized based on resource allocation and, finally, assigned work packages with tasks that must be completed to create each deliverable.

Write Your Deliverables

To begin creating your WBS, first list the primary milestones you must accomplish to ultimately complete the project. Then, convert each milestone into a deliverable instead of an action—”blog post published” instead of “publish blog post,” for example. Milestones in a sales campaign may be written as:

  • Define the campaign’s audience
  • Write and publish a targeted blog post
  • Write and publish a targeted lead magnet
  • Create an automated and personalized email sequence for lead conversion

Now, convert each action into a deliverable, such as:

  • A defined audience
  • A targeted published blog post
  • A targeted published lead magnet
  • An automated and targeted email sequence

Prioritize Your Deliverables

To prioritize each of these deliverables, mark the time or resource percentage each will use. For example, if the most important part of your marketing plan is the email sequence that funnels qualified leads through the sales pipeline, you might spend 50% of your time and resources on this deliverable, 20% on your targeted lead magnet, 12% on creating and publishing a targeted blog post and 8% on defining your audience.

Create Deliverable Work Packages

Finally, write the smaller tasks that go into creating these deliverables in a separate document (called a “work package”). Link the work package to its corresponding deliverable. For the deliverable “a targeted published blog post,” for example, the work package may say to interview key sources, research keywords to target, create an outline, write the blog post, finalize optimizing the post for search engines and, finally, publish the post.

Create a Visual Work Breakdown Structure

A WBS is most easily consumable if put into a visual chart. A simple way of doing so is through a free Canva account and many project management software offer WBS templates. To find a template via Canva, simply sign up for a free account, then search “Work Breakdown Structure” using the search bar titled “What Will You Design?” Click on your template choice and use the left-hand design menu to add your own content.

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2. Create a Project Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is a visual timeline of your project broken down into all the agreed-upon tasks your team must complete to finish the project. This chart is critical for managing scope because it clearly shows what the agreed-upon tasks/deliverables are and, by extension, what they are not. It also shows the deadlines your team must meet to complete the project on time. Going beyond these tasks constitutes scope creep.

The beauty of this chart is that it is visible and constantly referred to by all team members. With all eyes on this chart, changes are immediately visible. Any task deviations from this Gantt chart should be addressed as a scope change. After all, even a slight change in the end date of one task can mean a delay in the deadline or a change in the budget for the entire project.

Refer to your WBS to chart your project’s timeline based on individual tasks’ beginning and end dates, then, ultimately, the project’s beginning and end dates. Be sure to chart not just your deliverables but the tasks in the work packages attached to each deliverable. Color code or otherwise highlight milestones (deliverables), task priorities and dependencies (tasks that rely on the completion of other tasks to begin).

Pro tip: Use project management software to create your Gantt chart. When you do, you can tap into an intuitive interface to easily create your chart, then adjust the settings to clearly alert you to changes made to your chart as scope changes happen.

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3. Write a Change Management Plan

A change management plan is a document that depicts the steps a team will take to identify a scope change request and manage it. It includes sections that outline how change requests will be submitted, the tools used to manage the process, a list of the people who are authorized to implement or deny requests, how change requests will be evaluated and then denied or approved, applicable fees and cutoff points for submitting change requests.

Answer the following questions to create your scope change management plan:

The following questions will help you select the people to serve on your change management control board:

  • Who is involved in the change management plan?
  • Who can submit change requests?
  • Who will receive them?
  • Who will review them?
  • Who will approve or deny them?
  • Who is not authorized to receive, evaluate and approve or deny requests?
  • Who is to serve as consultants in the evaluation process?
  • Who has the final say in indecisive moments?

Answer these questions to develop the tools to manage scope change requests:

  • Which form will be used to ensure change requests are consistent and offer all needed information for the evaluation process?
  • What (if any) fees will be applied to ensure only necessary change requests are approved?
  • What change tracking log will be kept to record changes and their execution?
  • What checklist will evaluators use to approve or deny a request?

Timeframe Parameters

Answer these questions to put parameters on your evaluation process and keep scope change requests processing efficiently:

  • In what time frame must requests be evaluated, then approved or denied?
  • At what point in the project is it too late to request scope changes?

Scope Change Communication and Collaboration

Explain the communication and collaboration process should scope change requests be approved or denied. To do so, answer these questions:

  • How will approvals or rejections be communicated?
  • How will team members collaborate to implement approved scope changes?
  • How will the communication and collaboration process be made visible team-wide?

4. Get Scope Approval From Stakeholders

Present your WBS and Gantt chart to all stakeholders, project sponsors and/or clients to ensure you accurately captured the project requirements and timelines. Decision-maker stakeholders should come together to carefully review these documents and suggest changes as appropriate. Then, once a consensus is reached that the requirements and timeline are complete and satisfactory, all should sign and date the document.

5. Review Change Management Plan With Stakeholders

With a signed and dated WPS and Gantt chart, drive home the importance of sticking to the plan while leaving room for the flexibility any project needs to succeed. It is unrealistic to assume that no changes will be made to this finalized project plan. So, in the same stakeholder-wide meeting, present your scope change management plan.

Highlight the consequences for requesting changes and the process for evaluating change requests, then approving or denying them. Communicate that fees are applied so only necessary change requests are submitted, thereby improving efficiency and ensuring an on-time, on-budget and high-quality project completion. Walk stakeholders through how to use the change request form and how the evaluation checklist and change log will be applied.

6. Train Project Executors on Scope Change Process

Creating a change management plan is only helpful if those who must implement it know how to do so. In a separate, internal-team meeting, review your plan with team members while highlighting who is authorized to approve scope changes. Explain the risks posed by scope changes, including the negative impact to project success. Show them how to remind requesting parties of scope change risks, the approval process and your scope change fees.

When it comes to scope creep, prevention is key. However, if you are experiencing excessive scope creep, there are ways to get back on track. These include leaning on your change management plan or adjusting your project requirements plan (if you have them). You can also request funding for changes to reduce unnecessary change requests, guard against people-pleasing with proper training, regroup and/or sign up for project management software.

Here’s a closer look at ways to fix scope creep:

1. Lean on Your Change Management Plan

Your change management plan can help you prioritize what requirements are important and which should be nixed if scope creep is getting out of hand. It can also give you tools—such as a final decision-maker, fees, checklists and a change management control board—to lean on when indecision threatens to make scope creep worse.

2. Request Funding for Scope Changes

One tool we recommended adding to your change management plan is change request fees. Clients are less likely to ask for exorbitant changes if they know a fee will come with approval. In addition to the fee, however, be sure to ask for more funding and resources to accommodate the change, thereby preventing scope creep from derailing the budget or resource availability for other project requirements.

3. Guard Against People-Pleasing

It may seem as if your team is “going above and beyond” and, therefore, offering competitive services when adding bonus features to a project. But, in reality, they are risking late and over-budget project completion. Train team members to identify scope creep and respond to it properly. They should always process scope change requests, whether from the client or internal team members, through your change management control board.

4. Sign Up for a Project Management Software

Consider signing up for project management software . Such software offers tools to process change requests via authorized team members, such as change request forms and automated task assignments. It also offers tools for monitoring scope creep, such as Gantt charts that update in real time so you know if your project remains on track after change approvals. Alerts also help you decide when to regroup to get back on track before irreparable damage is done.

If your project is over budget, is unlikely to finish on time or is experiencing quality hits from scope creep, consider regrouping. Bring all stakeholders together to review your original project requirement plan, come to a consensus and get on a more reasonable track to completion.

In your meeting (or series of meetings, if necessary), adjust your requirements plan. Eliminate project features that are not priorities to make room for new features. Ask for further funding if additional required changes will push the project over budget. Adjust your project timeline to reflect a reasonable completion date on which everyone can agree. Then, record the updates in your project management software and continue on with a consensus of expectations.

If controlled properly, scope creep doesn’t have to derail your project and can even lead to a better project outcome. But, it must be managed. To manage scope creep properly, implement a clear project requirement plan, Gantt chart and change management plan. Lean heavily on these plans to keep scope creep in check. But, if scope creep becomes unmanageable, don’t be afraid to regroup, retrain and even request more funding to get your project back on track.

What is scope creep?

Scope creep is when a project’s requirements increase after the project has begun, requiring more work or resources to produce a satisfactory final deliverable.

What is an example of scope creep?

An example of scope creep is when a client’s needs change. A freelance writer, for example, may deliver a white paper they’ve written per the client’s requirements only to receive a request that additional unplanned sections be added to the deliverable. In another example, customers may ask for large changes to a product’s features after the product design has already been decided. In the end, such projects require more time and resources to complete.

How does scope creep differ from gold plating?

Often, scope creep occurs as a result of extra features being included in a project at the request of the client, causing delays and added expenses, among other issues. Gold plating occurs when extra features are added to a project internally and not at the request of the client. Gold plating occurs sometimes to appease management or to make the project more appealing to the client. It can also sometimes be used to draw attention away from other issues related to the project.

How can you avoid scope creep?

You can avoid scope creep by clearly defining a project’s requirements before project initiation, ensuring all stakeholders agree on these requirements, clearly communicating the scope creep risks, creating a clear scope creep management plan and training stakeholders to execute this control plan. Other ways companies avoid scope creep are by saying “no” to change requests or adding additional fees to the project’s price for scope increases.

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  • Survey Research | Definition, Examples & Methods

Survey Research | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on August 20, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 22, 2023.

Survey research means collecting information about a group of people by asking them questions and analyzing the results. To conduct an effective survey, follow these six steps:

  • Determine who will participate in the survey
  • Decide the type of survey (mail, online, or in-person)
  • Design the survey questions and layout
  • Distribute the survey
  • Analyze the responses
  • Write up the results

Surveys are a flexible method of data collection that can be used in many different types of research .

Table of contents

What are surveys used for, step 1: define the population and sample, step 2: decide on the type of survey, step 3: design the survey questions, step 4: distribute the survey and collect responses, step 5: analyze the survey results, step 6: write up the survey results, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about surveys.

Surveys are used as a method of gathering data in many different fields. They are a good choice when you want to find out about the characteristics, preferences, opinions, or beliefs of a group of people.

Common uses of survey research include:

  • Social research : investigating the experiences and characteristics of different social groups
  • Market research : finding out what customers think about products, services, and companies
  • Health research : collecting data from patients about symptoms and treatments
  • Politics : measuring public opinion about parties and policies
  • Psychology : researching personality traits, preferences and behaviours

Surveys can be used in both cross-sectional studies , where you collect data just once, and in longitudinal studies , where you survey the same sample several times over an extended period.

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Before you start conducting survey research, you should already have a clear research question that defines what you want to find out. Based on this question, you need to determine exactly who you will target to participate in the survey.


The target population is the specific group of people that you want to find out about. This group can be very broad or relatively narrow. For example:

  • The population of Brazil
  • US college students
  • Second-generation immigrants in the Netherlands
  • Customers of a specific company aged 18-24
  • British transgender women over the age of 50

Your survey should aim to produce results that can be generalized to the whole population. That means you need to carefully define exactly who you want to draw conclusions about.

Several common research biases can arise if your survey is not generalizable, particularly sampling bias and selection bias . The presence of these biases have serious repercussions for the validity of your results.

It’s rarely possible to survey the entire population of your research – it would be very difficult to get a response from every person in Brazil or every college student in the US. Instead, you will usually survey a sample from the population.

The sample size depends on how big the population is. You can use an online sample calculator to work out how many responses you need.

There are many sampling methods that allow you to generalize to broad populations. In general, though, the sample should aim to be representative of the population as a whole. The larger and more representative your sample, the more valid your conclusions. Again, beware of various types of sampling bias as you design your sample, particularly self-selection bias , nonresponse bias , undercoverage bias , and survivorship bias .

There are two main types of survey:

  • A questionnaire , where a list of questions is distributed by mail, online or in person, and respondents fill it out themselves.
  • An interview , where the researcher asks a set of questions by phone or in person and records the responses.

Which type you choose depends on the sample size and location, as well as the focus of the research.


Sending out a paper survey by mail is a common method of gathering demographic information (for example, in a government census of the population).

  • You can easily access a large sample.
  • You have some control over who is included in the sample (e.g. residents of a specific region).
  • The response rate is often low, and at risk for biases like self-selection bias .

Online surveys are a popular choice for students doing dissertation research , due to the low cost and flexibility of this method. There are many online tools available for constructing surveys, such as SurveyMonkey and Google Forms .

  • You can quickly access a large sample without constraints on time or location.
  • The data is easy to process and analyze.
  • The anonymity and accessibility of online surveys mean you have less control over who responds, which can lead to biases like self-selection bias .

If your research focuses on a specific location, you can distribute a written questionnaire to be completed by respondents on the spot. For example, you could approach the customers of a shopping mall or ask all students to complete a questionnaire at the end of a class.

  • You can screen respondents to make sure only people in the target population are included in the sample.
  • You can collect time- and location-specific data (e.g. the opinions of a store’s weekday customers).
  • The sample size will be smaller, so this method is less suitable for collecting data on broad populations and is at risk for sampling bias .

Oral interviews are a useful method for smaller sample sizes. They allow you to gather more in-depth information on people’s opinions and preferences. You can conduct interviews by phone or in person.

  • You have personal contact with respondents, so you know exactly who will be included in the sample in advance.
  • You can clarify questions and ask for follow-up information when necessary.
  • The lack of anonymity may cause respondents to answer less honestly, and there is more risk of researcher bias.

Like questionnaires, interviews can be used to collect quantitative data: the researcher records each response as a category or rating and statistically analyzes the results. But they are more commonly used to collect qualitative data : the interviewees’ full responses are transcribed and analyzed individually to gain a richer understanding of their opinions and feelings.

Next, you need to decide which questions you will ask and how you will ask them. It’s important to consider:

  • The type of questions
  • The content of the questions
  • The phrasing of the questions
  • The ordering and layout of the survey

Open-ended vs closed-ended questions

There are two main forms of survey questions: open-ended and closed-ended. Many surveys use a combination of both.

Closed-ended questions give the respondent a predetermined set of answers to choose from. A closed-ended question can include:

  • A binary answer (e.g. yes/no or agree/disagree )
  • A scale (e.g. a Likert scale with five points ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree )
  • A list of options with a single answer possible (e.g. age categories)
  • A list of options with multiple answers possible (e.g. leisure interests)

Closed-ended questions are best for quantitative research . They provide you with numerical data that can be statistically analyzed to find patterns, trends, and correlations .

Open-ended questions are best for qualitative research. This type of question has no predetermined answers to choose from. Instead, the respondent answers in their own words.

Open questions are most common in interviews, but you can also use them in questionnaires. They are often useful as follow-up questions to ask for more detailed explanations of responses to the closed questions.

The content of the survey questions

To ensure the validity and reliability of your results, you need to carefully consider each question in the survey. All questions should be narrowly focused with enough context for the respondent to answer accurately. Avoid questions that are not directly relevant to the survey’s purpose.

When constructing closed-ended questions, ensure that the options cover all possibilities. If you include a list of options that isn’t exhaustive, you can add an “other” field.

Phrasing the survey questions

In terms of language, the survey questions should be as clear and precise as possible. Tailor the questions to your target population, keeping in mind their level of knowledge of the topic. Avoid jargon or industry-specific terminology.

Survey questions are at risk for biases like social desirability bias , the Hawthorne effect , or demand characteristics . It’s critical to use language that respondents will easily understand, and avoid words with vague or ambiguous meanings. Make sure your questions are phrased neutrally, with no indication that you’d prefer a particular answer or emotion.

Ordering the survey questions

The questions should be arranged in a logical order. Start with easy, non-sensitive, closed-ended questions that will encourage the respondent to continue.

If the survey covers several different topics or themes, group together related questions. You can divide a questionnaire into sections to help respondents understand what is being asked in each part.

If a question refers back to or depends on the answer to a previous question, they should be placed directly next to one another.

Before you start, create a clear plan for where, when, how, and with whom you will conduct the survey. Determine in advance how many responses you require and how you will gain access to the sample.

When you are satisfied that you have created a strong research design suitable for answering your research questions, you can conduct the survey through your method of choice – by mail, online, or in person.

There are many methods of analyzing the results of your survey. First you have to process the data, usually with the help of a computer program to sort all the responses. You should also clean the data by removing incomplete or incorrectly completed responses.

If you asked open-ended questions, you will have to code the responses by assigning labels to each response and organizing them into categories or themes. You can also use more qualitative methods, such as thematic analysis , which is especially suitable for analyzing interviews.

Statistical analysis is usually conducted using programs like SPSS or Stata. The same set of survey data can be subject to many analyses.

Finally, when you have collected and analyzed all the necessary data, you will write it up as part of your thesis, dissertation , or research paper .

In the methodology section, you describe exactly how you conducted the survey. You should explain the types of questions you used, the sampling method, when and where the survey took place, and the response rate. You can include the full questionnaire as an appendix and refer to it in the text if relevant.

Then introduce the analysis by describing how you prepared the data and the statistical methods you used to analyze it. In the results section, you summarize the key results from your analysis.

In the discussion and conclusion , you give your explanations and interpretations of these results, answer your research question, and reflect on the implications and limitations of the research.

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

  • Student’s  t -distribution
  • Normal distribution
  • Null and Alternative Hypotheses
  • Chi square tests
  • Confidence interval
  • Quartiles & Quantiles
  • Cluster sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Data cleansing
  • Reproducibility vs Replicability
  • Peer review
  • Prospective cohort study

Research bias

  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Placebo effect
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Hindsight bias
  • Affect heuristic
  • Social desirability bias

A questionnaire is a data collection tool or instrument, while a survey is an overarching research method that involves collecting and analyzing data from people using questionnaires.

A Likert scale is a rating scale that quantitatively assesses opinions, attitudes, or behaviors. It is made up of 4 or more questions that measure a single attitude or trait when response scores are combined.

To use a Likert scale in a survey , you present participants with Likert-type questions or statements, and a continuum of items, usually with 5 or 7 possible responses, to capture their degree of agreement.

Individual Likert-type questions are generally considered ordinal data , because the items have clear rank order, but don’t have an even distribution.

Overall Likert scale scores are sometimes treated as interval data. These scores are considered to have directionality and even spacing between them.

The type of data determines what statistical tests you should use to analyze your data.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

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The Night of Broken Glass: a Simple Definition of Kristallnacht

This essay about Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, explores the events of November 9-10, 1938, when the Nazi regime orchestrated a violent pogrom against Jewish communities in Germany and Austria. Triggered by the assassination of a German diplomat by a young Polish Jew, the Nazis used this incident as a pretext for widespread violence. Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The essay draws analogies to emphasize the cultural and psychological impact of the pogrom, highlighting how Kristallnacht marked a significant escalation in the Nazi persecution of Jews and served as a grim precursor to the Holocaust. The essay concludes by reflecting on the importance of remembering Kristallnacht as a lesson in the dangers of unchecked hatred and the need for vigilance against discrimination.

How it works

In the annals of history, certain events stand out for their sheer impact and the chilling message they convey. Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is one such event that casts a long, dark shadow over the 20th century. Occurring on the night of November 9-10, 1938, this state-sponsored pogrom marked a violent turning point in Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews. But beyond the shattered windows and burning synagogues, the night’s horrors echo deeper themes of cultural erosion and the fragility of societal norms.

The spark that ignited Kristallnacht was the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat stationed in Paris. His assailant, Herschel Grynszpan, was a 17-year-old Polish Jew acting out of desperation and anger. Grynszpan’s family, along with thousands of other Polish Jews, had been deported from Germany and left stranded at the Polish border in abysmal conditions. Vom Rath’s death provided the Nazi regime with a convenient pretext to accelerate their campaign against the Jewish population.

Under the guise of spontaneous public outrage, the Nazi leadership orchestrated a night of terror. The Sturmabteilung (SA), Schutzstaffel (SS), and Hitler Youth, along with ordinary civilians incited to violence, took to the streets. Over 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses were vandalized, their windows shattered, and goods looted. Approximately 1,400 synagogues were set ablaze, and Jewish homes were ransacked. The night’s chaos left the streets littered with broken glass, giving the event its name.

Beyond the immediate physical destruction, Kristallnacht had profound psychological effects. The arrest of approximately 30,000 Jewish men, who were then sent to concentration camps, shattered any remaining sense of security within the Jewish community. This mass incarceration was a grim foreshadowing of the more systematic genocide that was to follow.

In examining Kristallnacht, one can draw an analogy to a once-thriving garden devastated by a sudden, brutal storm. Imagine a community as a meticulously tended garden, where each plant represents a different culture, religion, and individual. The Jewish community, with its rich traditions and contributions to society, was a flourishing part of this garden. Kristallnacht was not just an act of vandalism; it was an attempt to uproot and destroy this vital part of the societal garden.

The economic repercussions of Kristallnacht further cemented its place as a critical turning point. The Nazi regime imposed a fine of one billion Reichsmarks on the Jewish population, blaming them for the damages inflicted by their own orchestrated pogrom. This financial blow pushed many Jewish families into destitution and stripped them of their remaining assets and means of livelihood. The economic strangulation was part of the Nazis’ broader strategy to isolate, impoverish, and eventually annihilate the Jewish community.

Kristallnacht also served a broader ideological purpose for the Nazis. By unleashing such a visible and violent attack, they tested the limits of international response and domestic public opinion. The muted reaction from other nations and the lack of significant internal resistance emboldened the Nazi regime, confirming their belief that their radical anti-Semitic agenda could proceed with little external interference.

Reflecting on Kristallnacht, it becomes clear that this event was more than just a night of broken glass and burned synagogues. It was a deliberate attempt to fracture the societal framework, creating a void where fear and hatred could flourish. The psychological scars left by the pogrom were as damaging as the physical destruction, sowing seeds of terror and helplessness that would bloom into the full horrors of the Holocaust.

In considering the legacy of Kristallnacht, one can also draw parallels to the concept of cultural memory. Just as a tree bears the marks of its growth and the seasons it has weathered, societies carry the collective memory of their experiences. Kristallnacht is a dark ring in the tree of modern history, a stark reminder of the capacity for cruelty and the importance of resilience and remembrance.

By understanding Kristallnacht, we recognize the fragility of tolerance and the ease with which a society can descend into barbarism when hatred is allowed to fester. The event stands as a powerful warning of the dangers of unchecked bigotry and the critical importance of standing against all forms of discrimination. In remembering Kristallnacht, we honor the victims and reaffirm our commitment to building a world where such atrocities are not only remembered but actively prevented.

In conclusion, Kristallnacht was a pivotal event that illuminated the Nazi regime’s ruthless determination to eradicate Jewish culture and presence from Germany. The destruction wrought on November 9-10, 1938, went far beyond physical damage; it shattered the very fabric of Jewish life and set the stage for the horrors of the Holocaust. As we reflect on this dark chapter, it is imperative to remember the lessons it teaches about the fragility of tolerance and the enduring need for vigilance in the face of hatred. By preserving the memory of Kristallnacht, we ensure that the voices of those who suffered continue to resonate, guiding our efforts to create a more just and compassionate world.


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"The Night of Broken Glass: A Simple Definition of Kristallnacht." , 17 Jun 2024, (2024). The Night of Broken Glass: A Simple Definition of Kristallnacht . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 30 Jun. 2024]

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"The Night of Broken Glass: A Simple Definition of Kristallnacht," , 17-Jun-2024. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 30-Jun-2024] (2024). The Night of Broken Glass: A Simple Definition of Kristallnacht . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 30-Jun-2024]

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  30. The Night of Broken Glass: a Simple Definition of Kristallnacht

    Essay Example: In the annals of history, certain events stand out for their sheer impact and the chilling message they convey. Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is one such event that casts a long, dark shadow over the 20th century. Occurring on the night of November 9-10, 1938, this