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Writing a Research Paper

Literature Review

This section introduces the topic. It provides background about the research topic in general in the beginning and develops the research objective. I typically think of the introduction as a funnel. It starts with a broader framing of the topic and then narrows towards the more specific focus of the current study and then finishes with a brief outline of the paper. 
A literature review is presented in this section. Literature reviews are conducted to share the existing knowledge on the topic. The author should identify the gaps in the literature. This identification leads to the presentation of research questions that the report is intended to address. Note that many longer form research papers will have separate literature review and/or theory sections that come after the introduction. 
The three types of literature reviews are the following:
1.Present previous research in chronological order.
2.Organize discussion around key variables (use this model for your papers).
3.Organize discussion around theoretical approaches.
Note: In your class papers organize your literature discussion around key variables (number 2 in the list above). See the sample student paper at the course website for an example of this literature review type.
This section contains details on the data collection process. Information presented includes
Operational definitions of variables,
procedures of data collection, and
Data analysis methods used.

This section is where the findings are presented. The first paragraph indicates briefly what the major findings are and how they are organized. Next, a detailed description of the findings is presented. Make sure to present important findings in a way that readers are not overwhelmed. Use tables and graphs for clarity of presentation.
Discussion, Conclusion(s), and/or Recommendation(s)
This section contains specific recommendations that have been developed based on findings.


Make sure that you have answered the following questions satisfactorily once you are ready to submit your paper for grading at the end of the semester. 

Is relevant scholarly (academic, peer-reviewed) literature cited in the paper?

Is the literature cited directly relevant to the topic? Are sources cited related to the (dependent and independent) variables used in the study?

Are the variables named properly (e.g., “income” vs. “opinions on income distribution”)? 

Are hypotheses formulated properly (levels of measurement, etc.)?

Are the analyses conducted consistent with the hypotheses (levels of measurement, categories of variables that are analyzed)?

Are proper statistical analyses conducted (tests appropriate for levels of measurement; specific options like Pearson’s chi-square, linear-by-linear, etc.)

Are the results of the tests used interpreted correctly (significance level, measures of association, etc.)?

Are the tables interpreted correctly (percentages, etc.)?

Are the results presented in the results section, without discussion or speculation? 

Are the results interpreted properly and is their relevance discussed in the discussion section?

General/Stylistic Issues:

Is the paper written clearly and coherently?

Are sentences clear? Are there any awkward, grammatically incorrect, or semantically problematic sentences?
Are paragraphs constructed properly?

Are the materials used described, summarized, or discussed in their proper sections (introduction, methods, results, and discussion)?

Are there any unnecessary or irrelevant sentences or paragraphs in the paper?

Is a citation style (APA, Chicago, or MLA) used and used properly and consistently?

Are the references listed properly (according to the style guidelines adopted by the author: APA, Chicago, or MLA)?

Does the paper exceed the page limit?

Note that plagiarism is also a problem. If you plagiarize, I will enforce Penn State’s academic integrity rules. Please see the Academic Integrity section in the course syllabus.

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