Research Methods Knowledge Base

by Prof William M.K. Trochim hosted by Conjointly

Key Elements of Write-Up

This page describes the elements or criteria that you must typically address in a research paper. The assumption here is that you are addressing a causal hypothesis in your paper.

I. Introduction

1. Statement of the problem: The general problem area is stated clearly and unambiguously. The importance and significance of the problem area is discussed. 2. Statement of causal relationship: The cause-effect relationship to be studied is stated clearly and is sensibly related to the problem area. 3. Statement of constructs: Each key construct in the research/evaluation project is explained (minimally, both the cause and effect). The explanations are readily understandable (i.e., jargon-free) to an intelligent reader. 4. Literature citations and review: The literature cited is from reputable and appropriate sources (e.g., professional journals, books and not Time, Newsweek, etc.) and you have a minimum of five references. The literature is condensed in an intelligent fashion with only the most relevant information included. Citations are in the correct format (see APA format sheets). 5. Statement of hypothesis: The hypothesis (or hypotheses) is clearly stated and is specific about what is predicted. The relationship of the hypothesis to both the problem statement and literature review is readily understood from reading the text.

II. Methods

Sample section:

1. Sampling procedure specifications: The procedure for selecting units (e.g., subjects, records) for the study is described and is appropriate. The author state which sampling method is used and why. The population and sampling frame are described. In an evaluation, the program participants are frequently self-selected (i.e., volunteers) and, if so, should be described as such.

2. Sample description: The sample is described accurately and is appropriate. Problems in contacting and measuring the sample are anticipated.

3. External validity considerations: Generalizability from the sample to the sampling frame and population is considered.

Measurement section:

1. Measures: Each outcome measurement construct is described briefly (a minimum of two outcome constructs is required). For each construct, the measure or measures are described briefly and an appropriate citation and reference is included (unless you created the measure). You describe briefly the measure you constructed and provide the entire measure in an Appendix. The measures which are used are relevant to the hypotheses of the study and are included in those hypotheses. Wherever possible, multiple measures of the same construct are used.

2. Construction of measures: For questionnaires, tests and interviews: questions are clearly worded, specific, appropriate for the population, and follow in a logical fashion. The standards for good questions are followed. For archival data: original data collection procedures are adequately described and indices (i.e., combinations of individual measures) are constructed correctly. For scales, you must describe briefly which scaling procedure you used and how you implemented it. For qualitative measures, the procedures for collecting the measures are described in detail.

3. Reliability and validity: You must address both the reliability and validity of all of your measures. For reliability, you must specify what estimation procedure(s) you used. For validity, you must explain how you assessed construct validity. Wherever possible, you should minimally address both convergent and discriminant validity. The procedures which are used to examine reliability and validity are appropriate for the measures.

Design and Procedures section:

1. Design: The design is clearly presented in both notational and text form. The design is appropriate for the problem and addresses the hypothesis.

2. Internal validity: Threats to internal validity and how they are addressed by the design are discussed. Any threats to internal validity which are not well controlled are also considered.

3. Description of procedures: An overview of how the study will be conducted is included. The sequence of events is described and is appropriate to the design. Sufficient information is included so that the essential features of the study could be replicated by a reader.

III. Results

1. Statement of Results: The results are stated concisely and are plausible for the research described.

2. Tables: The table(s) is correctly formatted and accurately and concisely presents part of the analysis.

3. Figures: The figure(s) is clearly designed and accurately describes a relevant aspect of the results.

IV. Conclusions, Abstract and Reference Sections

1. Implications of the study: Assuming the expected results are obtained, the implications of these results are discussed. The author mentions briefly any remaining problems which are anticipated in the study.

2. Abstract: The Abstract is 125 words or less and presents a concise picture of the proposed research. Major constructs and hypotheses are included. The Abstract is the first section of the paper. See the format sheet for more details.

3. References: All citations are included in the correct format and are appropriate for the study described.

Stylistic Elements

I. Professional Writing

First person and sex-stereotyped forms are avoided. Material is presented in an unbiased and unemotional (e.g., no “feelings” about things), but not necessarily uninteresting, fashion.

II. Parallel Construction

Tense is kept parallel within and between sentences (as appropriate).

III. Sentence Structure

Sentence structure and punctuation are correct. Incomplete and run-on sentences are avoided.

IV. Spelling and Word Usage

Spelling and use of words are appropriate. Words are capitalized and abbreviated correctly.

V. General Style.

The document is neatly produced and reads well. The format for the document has been correctly followed.