One of the ground rules of academia is that every research needs to result in a paper. If your findings don't end up being put into words, it means that there was no purpose in conducting the study in the first place. That's why research papers are so highly valued at university.

There are many different things you need to know in order to write a worthy paper, and the most vital is to follow research paper structure. Some call it an hourglass structure because it begins with a very wide overview of the research, goes to specific details, and ends up with again wide conclusions and practical applications.

While some fields of study will expect you to emphasize one part more than the other, every paper will still have the same structure at its basis. Parts of a research paper are the following:

  1. abstract;
  2. introduction;
  3. research methods;
  4. results;
  5. discussion;
  6. conclusion;
  7. references.

Now let's look into parts of qualitative research closer.


All students are divided into two groups – those, who write the introduction before everything else, and those, who leave it for the very end. Every approach has its pros and cons, but your preference shouldn't matter as long as you can plan the outline of the rest of the paper well.

A successful introduction usually needs to have three constituents:

  • presentation of the problem that will be studied;
  • the aims you want to achieve at the end and the questions you want to answer with the acquired results;
  • the statement of intent.

Each of these parts should get roughly a paragraph, but this can vary.

  1. Presentation

    Why have you chosen this topic? Does it have a potential to bring a change in the scientific world? Why has no one done this before you? Have you been inspired by another research and want to take it in a different direction or on a new level? What vital information have you learned from the literature overview? Answering at least one of these questions should help you with showing the reader what the paper will be about.

  2. Goals

    This speaks for itself. You have a motivation to write a paper, and there are things you want to achieve from the process. They are your goals and the paper purpose. Some students put the thesis statement in this paragraph while others conclude the introduction altogether with it.

  3. Statement of Intent

    This paragraph is a very concise summary of what's going to happen in the paper. Ideally, the reader should read it and decide whether it's something they are interested in. This is also the part where you quickly describe the shape your paper will take without getting into too many details.


This is one of the easiest research paper parts since it's simply the description of what you did in order to yield the results. This description will obviously vary depending on the field of work, but it shouldn't create any difficulties for anyone who has actually conducted research.

The purpose of this part of a paper is to enable a fellow student or scientist to repeat or study if they are inclined. This doesn't mean that you need to give a very detailed overview of everything you did, but it should still be enough to grasp your actions.

Another thing to remember is that your paper will be read by professionals who already have a decent level in whatever field you're working with. This implies that there is no need to describe things that will already be evident for a scientist. This once again proves that you shouldn't mention all details – specific methods, techniques, and equipment will already do the job.

If you were working with a survey and the number of questions is too big to go into methods, appendix is always an appropriate place for such things.


This part of a paper is the least regulated and will be determined by a number of personal factors starting from the field of work and finishing with the aims you set at the beginning. Qualitative research, for instance, will focus on explaining concepts while a quantitative one will present exact numbers and statistics.

If you have a lot of results to analyze, schemes and graphs might be very helpful. Raw information should, of course, still be included for a reference, but you shouldn't clutter the results section with it – the appendix is a perfect place for everything that doesn't fit in the main parts of the paper.

One thing the results section can't do without is your comments. Simply presenting data in a dry way is not a feature of a research paper. You need to analyze the results in order to connect them to each other and make actual conclusions.

Sometimes, you'll notice that results commentaries and the discussion might overlap, and that's something that should be avoided. Try not to repeat yourself but in advance decide which information will go into "results" and which into "discussions." Your personal opinions, however, should always be included in the latter.


The name "discussion" is a bit misleading because it doesn't involve an actual discussion. It's rather a one-way expression of what you think about the results. To make your discussion concise and well-organized, link it to the introduction and specifically to the thesis statement. Make sure you connect your initial goal with the results and say what you think of it. This part shouldn't be too extensive because you'll have to elaborate and make actual conclusions in the next one.


The basis of your conclusion has been built on the discussion. Its length depends on the type of paper you write – if it's a short one, two paragraph-long conclusion will be sufficient enough. However, in a more challenging work such as dissertation or thesis, the conclusion will attract the most of reader's attention. The reason is that no one has time to read 50 pages of detailed descriptions of the results, everyone will just want to find everything out from the summary which is your conclusion.

Not only does it need to sum up the achievements, but the conclusion also has to demonstrate the practical purpose of your studies. This means that you need to highlight the importance of your results and how they can be applied by others. Also, try to connect your own research with previous ones in order to show that you know how to use available information. Some professors might expect you to see your own research critically and also mention negative sides. To do it or not depends on you and your paper requirements.

Reference List

No paper ever goes without the list of references. The way you organize it will depend on your required academic style of writing. Your study sphere might use APA, MLA, Chicago, or even have specific rules for writing academic papers. Reference list helps the reader to follow your sources and judge their reliability.

Summing up, you need to know about the research paper parts. Now you can roll up your sleeves and get down to business.