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Scientific Methodology: Structure of a Research Paper e.g. Biology

writing science papers, research reports, research papers versus review papers, experimental design


Scientific research papers usually follow a standard format which is logical, has an easy to understand structure, and which reflects “the scientific method of deductive reasoning: define the problem, create a hypothesis, devise an experiment to test the hypothesis, conduct the experiment, and draw conclusions.”  (ACS Style Guide, Chap 2,  p. 19).

Note: When writing a research paper, the sections may follow a different format and procedure for the different science disciplines. The format may also be varied by the specific journal which is publishing a research article.

Structure of a Research Paper in Biology




- keep the title short

- use essential keywords to describe the main concepts in your paper




- briefly state the purpose of this research

- summarize the main concepts, scope, findings, and conclusions



- state the problem/hypothesis you investigated and the  reason for completing this research

- review the relevant, background research literature published on this topic and relate your current research to this literature


  Methods (& Materials)

- describe the experimental procedures used (so that other

researchers can replicate your research)

- list the materials & apparatus used in your experiment, and the type of control



- summarize the data you collected discussing variables (e.g. independent & dependent), controls, sample size, etc.

- when appropriate, use tables/graphs to display data (don’t present raw data)

- summarize the statistical analysis you used on the data


     Discussion *

- discuss & interpret what your results mean and relate them

  to the stated problem – Are there possible solutions to suggest?

- include any explanations regarding how the results differed from what was hypothesized

- relate your findings to the research literature on this topic (which you discussed in the Introduction)


  Conclusion & Summary *

- briefly state what you think the data means, (if not already stated in the Discussion section) relating it back to the original problem

- in this section, you can make possible suggestions for future research on this topic



   Literature Cited

- list all the research papers whose work you discussed and cited

in the text of your paper (to allow readers to refer to the original literature)



* The Discussion and Conclusion sections are often combined into one section.

Note: An Acknowledgment section may be included before the References. An Appendices may often be used at the end of a research paper to provide examples of information and material from other scientific papers.


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