The structure of an academic paper

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It should be simple, clear, short, displaying all the key concepts and straight to the point and powerful. If you have an empirical paper, you might then have a methodology section, where you basically explain your research design, whether you're in chemistry, management, sociology, anything. When you submit a paper, some journals want you to list all the tables, figures, and graphs after the text, or even in a separate file.

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Hi everyone, and welcome back to the MOOC on writing an academic paper by and for PhD students. My name is Heloise, and in this video we will introduce you to the typical and classical structure of an academic paper. The usual model that 90% of the papers in most disciplines follow. We will answer this big question, how do you build an academic paper? So, there are some generic building blocks that you will find in almost every paper. Title, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. So first, let’s not forget that there is a title, and it is important. It should be simple, clear, short, displaying all the key concepts and straight to the point and powerful. Most of the times then, there is an abstract, which synthesizes the main points of the paper. We will talk about that later on in another video. The abstract really is the most important part of your paper. It shows what you achieved, it’s the showcase of your paper. When you read it you have to know exactly what the paper is about, what you contributed to. Often after that, you will find some key words that will classify your paper and help referencing it. You have to think of the right strategy keywords. Then, the paper begins with an introduction. The introduction must find a balance between saying everything and keeping some mystery about your research. It’s hard, we will get on that later on. The most important here is to identify fast and clearly the research question. It is also very helpful to finish the introduction with a clear outline paragraph. In this paragraph you will describe exactly what you do in each section. It often begins by, the paper is structured as follows. The next section usually deals with the literature review. This part is not about being exhaustive in your review of the literature, but presenting what is needed to get to the research question. You have to show the limits of previous research to justify the necessity of your own work. But you already know that if you followed section two. If you have an empirical paper, you might then have a methodology section, where you basically explain your research design, whether you’re in chemistry, management, sociology, anything. Depending on the discipline and the journal, this part can also be located at the end of your paper, or even in appendix. So you really have to know the rules. So that’s the section were you justify the way you proceeded with your research. Why is it relevant, why does it have to be done in this very specific way, and so on. In some journals you have to be very thorough, in some less so. For instance, if you are doing a case study, you will want to justify why a single case or a multiple case is best. Why the field you chose is significant, and how you will derive general principles from it. This is the research design. You also have to describe the way you collected data or the way you build your experiment. Explain when, how, to what purpose. All these questions have to be addressed in the methodology section. Often it’s best to tell more than not enough. You have to convince the reader that your measures are valid and reliable, that your methodology is rigorous, that is to say, scientific. You also need to explain how you conducted your data analysis. In other words, you are explaining when and how you use the data. You should aim to be as simple and clear as possible about your methodology. But above all, the most important is to know your target journal, and understand what they expect from you in this matter. Obviously then you have the results section where you present your findings. If this is a theoretical paper, it also works. It’s just equivalent of your analysis, what you bring to the table, the core of your paper. Once you’ve presented that, you need to justify how it contributes to the literature you described before. That’s the section usually called discussion, and this block is extremely important. Basically, this is where you prove the relevance of your work. In a few words, in the discussion part, you remind the reader of the research question. So, what was this all about? You summarized the analysis, the results, the findings, and then you explain how you contribute to precious literature. You have to justify in what sense you’re bringing something new that sheds new light to past literature. What are your contributions? Sometimes these contributions have implications on research, on practice. Then you should make them explicit. And finally, there is the conclusion. The form of the conclusion differs a lot, depending on the journal and on the discipline. Sometimes the conclusion is where you show the limits of your work and how you are planning to address them in future research. Sometimes it’s just a short summary of your research question and contributions, it really depends. But the conclusion should be short and powerful in case it’s the only thing people read. We’ll get back to that point in the next video. At the end, you need to reference your bibliography, something we will address more carefully in another video. When you submit a paper, some journals want you to list all the tables, figures, and graphs after the text, or even in a separate file. So remember to read the journals guide to authors. Finally, you can add appendix, a certificate of copy editing and that kind of things. And that’s it for this session. Thank you very much for watching and good luck with your work. But stay tuned because in the next video we will talk a bit about writing that paper.

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