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Title of the Paper
The title of your paper should be brief but should adequately inform the reader of your general topic and the specific focus of your research. Keywords relating to parameters, population, and other specifics are useful.
All persons who contributed to the paper should be listed. If you have written the entire paper yourself, list your name first. Only those papers written entirely by the student will be considered for publication in the Journal of Undergraduate Research.
The abstract is a brief summary of your paper in about 250 words. The purpose of your research and/or your hypothesis should be concisely stated in one to two sentences. For empirical research, a statement regarding the methodology used or the experimental design follows. The abstract ends with several sentences summarizing the primary results and conclusions.
For papers in the humanities, which are often extended essays, include a statement regarding the major thesis and a sentence for each of the primary ideas explained in the paper.
The abstract is limited in words, but complete sentences should always be used. Past tense verbs should be used. While the use of first person (I, we) is generally not used in formal papers, many disciplines encourage using first person in the abstract. Check with your mentor about what is common practice in your field.
The Body of the Paper
Headings serve to organize your paper and guide the reader through it. The use of headings is required for papers in the scientific disciplines.
In the social sciences, functional headings (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Conclusion or Discussion) are used to divide the paper. The physical sciences tend to favor a mix of functional and topical headings (Introduction or Background, Design of the Scattering Chamber, Calibration, Experimental, Data Results, Discussion). In the humanities, headings are not always used, but the paper usually provides some background information on the topic as an introduction, and then major areas are often given topical headings (Responsive and Responsible Users of Language, Defining English as Kept Alive by the Work of all its Users, Designing English Against the Grain of Fast Capitalism, Working with Dissonances in One’s Discursive Resources).
Your mentor can suggest appropriate organization for your paper. Also, pay attention to the journals in your field and how the articles are sub-divided.
All papers should have an introduction that 1) provides background information on the topic, 2) reviews previous notable research on the topic, and 3) informs the reader of the purpose of your research. The extent of the historical review (2) varies from discipline to discipline. In the social sciences, this part of the introduction is quite long and comprehensive; it is briefer in the physical sciences and may not even be included in the humanities.
In all cases, sufficient background information should be given to orient the reader to the topic of your research. A good rule of thumb is to write so that someone with a broad knowledge in your field would understand your paper.
If you refer to (or cite) sources in your Introduction (or later in your paper), you must document these sources properly. See Rules for Using Documentation and Avoiding Plagiarism. The Introduction generally contains references to other papers, books, and journal articles on the topic. These and any other sources should be documented using the in-text citation format common in your field. Refer to Common Citation Formats in Documenting Sources for examples of in-text citations.
Finally, near the end of your introduction, make the purpose of your research clear to the reader. What are you attempting to do and why is it significant? If you are proposing a hypothesis, state it clearly.
Methodology or Experimental Design
For empirical research, a careful and complete description of the methods you used to carry out your research is required. In the social sciences, this section is usually divided into two subsections: Participants and Procedure. The physical sciences tend to use more topical subheadings to describe the content of each section in the Methodology (Voltammetry, Solution, Electrodes).
In the Method section, precise details about the research design are given. For example, provide the ages, gender, and other necessary demographic characteristics for participants in the study. Give precise measurements, times, and quantities used in the experiment. Specifically describe equipment, materials, and tests used. Procedures should be detailed in chronological order. The method section should be so complete and detailed that it could be replicated by the reader.
The method section, as well as the Results, often contains graphics (tables and figures). Refer to Rules for Using Graphics when constructing and placing your tables and figures in your paper. Refer to each table and figure by number (Table 1; Figure 3) in the narrative (text) of your paper.
As the name implies, this section contains the findings of your research. Carefully report all the data you have collected, explaining it in narrative form as well as using graphics, especially to illuminate large quantities of data and to point out significant trends and characteristics of the data. When using graphics, choose the graphic best suited to the data. See Rules for Using Graphics for suggestions on choosing the most appropriate type. Refer to each table and figure by number (Table 1; Figure 3) in the narrative of your paper.
In this section, you interpret or analyze the data you have just reported in the section above. What do these results mean? How can they be used? What are the implications for your field? What other questions arise as a result of your research? What should future research focus on?
The conclusion often returns to the issues raised in the introduction. If you stated a hypothesis, was it proven or disproven? How was your initial purpose fulfilled by your research? How do your results compare to the results of the other studies you cited in your introduction? While all these questions may not be pertinent to your research, answering as many as possible will contribute to a well designed and well written paper.
References (Works Cited)
All sources referred to (or cited) in your paper must be listed at the end. The format used for this listing varies from discipline to discipline. Refer to Common Citation Formats in Documenting Sources for the correct form to use.
Sample Student Papers
WARNING: Selected student papers published in The Journal of Undergraduate Research are listed below. Use them only as examples; they are not perfect. Refer to rules for documentation included in this website and the style guide in your field for correct examples of in-text citations and references.
General Documentation Rules
When you write a paper, you must acknowledge any ideas or information that came from another source, whether this information is from a book, a journal article, a newspaper, a website, a lecture, etc. To fail to acknowledge, or cite, such information is plagiarism and is a serious academic offense.
Plagiarism generally occurs in one of the following ways:
In academic papers, most citations occur in the introduction, in the historical review, when past research on the topic is discussed. Often, these sources will also be cited in the discussion section of the paper. No matter where in your paper you use borrowed information, you must acknowledge the source.
Borrowed information can be incorporated into your paper in one of three ways:
Most of your citations should be in the form of summary or paraphrase. Little or no quoting appears in most academic writing.
When you write a summary, you restate the author’s main ideas in your own words. Summaries of long passages or even an entire article are commonly used in research writing. A summary of an experimental research study might be three or four sentences long and include the purpose, methods, results, and significance of the study.
A paraphrase is also written in your own words, but the paraphrase contains all the ideas in the passage, not just the main ideas. Your paraphrase of an author’s passage would be approximately the same length as the original, unlike a summary which would be much shorter.
Writers must exercise extreme caution when presenting information as paraphrase. If phrases are lifted word for word, or if synonyms are simply substituted for the original wording, the writer has committed plagiarism.
For a detailed explanation of plagiarism, visit the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.
If you use direct quotes in your paper, be sure to follow these rules:
Most academic fields in the social sciences, as well as business and journalism, follow the documentation rules of the American Psychological Association (APA). This format uses an author/year of publication arrangement for in-text citations and an alphabetical listing by author for references at the end of the paper.
APA uses the author/date format for in-text citations. The author and date can appear in several arrangements:
Once you have given the date for a single source in a paragraph, do not repeat the date if you cite the source again in that paragraph. If you cite the source in a later paragraph, repeat the date the first time you cite it in the later paragraph. (One date per source per paragraph).
If a source has one author, cite that author’s name every time you cite the source in your paper.
If a source has two authors, cite both authors’ names every time you cite that source in your paper.
If a source has three, four, or five authors, cite all authors’ names the first time you cite the source in the paper. For all other citations of that source in your paper, use the first author’s name and the et al. abbreviation.
If a source has six or more authors, use the et al. abbreviation for all citations, including the first.
When typing your reference list using the APA format, include the sources you actually cited in the paper. When determining the alphabetical order of a source, use the first author’s last name. Type the list single-spaced, with a double space between each source. Indent the first line of each source.
While the APA Manual contains examples of all types of bibliographic record formats, the most commonly used types are shown below:
Periodicals (journals, magazines, scholarly newsletters)
Part of a nonperiodical (chapter in a book)
Note: Italics may be used in place of underlining in APA format. Be consistent in your use within your paper.
Links to on-line style guides in the social sciences
The physical sciences, as well as engineering and medicine, use a numerical system for in-text citations. The first source used in the paper is given the numeral 1, and subsequent citations to other sources are numbered in ascending order. If a source is cited a second time in the paper, the original numeral is used again. Many fields use the superscript numeral format, while others include the numeral in parentheses at the end of the citation. Check with your faculty mentor about the format used in your field.
Often, author names will also be mentioned when citations are used. While it is not necessary to use author names, you certainly may do so. Most science fields allow the use of et al. or and others for sources with co-authors.
The numerals you assign to citations in the text of your paper are used to organize the reference list at the end of your paper. List all sources used, beginning with the citation given the numeral 1. List the remaining sources in ascending order.
The format for the references varies from one field to another in the physical sciences. Refer to the style guide used in your field or check the format used in leading journals in your field. Links to several of the on-line guides appear below.
Links to on-line style guides in the physical sciences
In the humanities and fine arts, the style guide of the Modern Language Association (MLA) is used most often. This format uses the author name/page number arrangement for citations in the body of the paper, with an alphabetical listing of sources at the end of the paper.
In-text citations in the humanities use the author’s (or authors’) last name(s) and the page number that the information is found on. The author name(s) can appear in a signal phrase with the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence, or the name(s) and page number can both be placed in parentheses.
For sources with one, two, or three authors, all names must be used in the citations. For sources with four or more authors, list all author names the first time the source is cited in your paper. Subsequent references to the same source should have the et al. abbreviation. Examples of citation format can be found in the Link to MLA style guide below.
MLA uses the term Works Cited rather than References for the list of sources at the end of the paper. Only those sources actually cited in the paper should appear in the Works Cited. Alphabetize the list according the last name of the first author listed on each source. The specific formats for books, journals, websites, dissertations, etc. can be found in the link below.
Link to on-line style guide in the Humanities
The example below demonstrates how the writer has introduced the figure in the text of the paper in the paragraph which precedes the figure:
The example below demonstrates how the writer has introduced the table in the text of the paper in the paragraph which precedes the table:
Write in the Active Voice / Avoid Passive Constructions
Sometimes, passive voice is appropriate when there is no actoror or if the writer wishes to avoid blaming someone: :
However, prefer the active voice when you can:
Use sentence structure to your advantage
Avoid Unnecessary Jargon and Inflated Diction
Avoid Wordiness and Redundancy
(there is and there are constructions, including variations such as there was/were, there has/have/had been)
Avoid Nominalizations and Long Noun Strings
Avoid Negatives and Double Negatives
Use these tactics to link information and ideas