A young researcher's guide to writing an original research article

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This article is part of a Series

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A young researcher's guide to writing an original research article

Journals publish different types of articles; however, perhaps the most valued publications are original research articles. Original research articles are primary sources of scientific literature and present an original study. Authors have to conduct research on a particular topic through experiments, surveys, observation, etc. and report the findings of their study through original research articles. This post will help you understand what an original research article is and how to approach it.

What does an original research article mean?

For a manuscript to be considered an original research article, the following conditions need to be met:

  • It should be written by the researchers who actually conducted the study.
  • It should include the hypothesis or research question, the purpose of the study, and the details of the research methods.
  • The research findings should be reported.
  • These findings should be interpreted and possible implications discussed.

Note that even if a study does not produce positive results, it is regarded as original research and can be published.  A study is said to have negative results when findings prove that the hypothesis was wrong. However, this is also an important learning that other researchers will benefit from. Hence negative results should also be published. Unfortunately, many authors and journal editors have a publication bias and do not prefer studies with negative findings. However, the scientific community has started realizing that not publishing negative results can slow down the progress of science. Hence, certain journals such as Journal of Negative Results in BiomedicinePLOS ONE, and The All Results Journals are proactively countering publication biases by encouraging researchers to publish negative results.

How to approach an original research article?

Conducting original research and writing an article on it can indeed be a daunting task. In the beginning, most researchers feel lost and are unsure and confused about what they want to research on and how to go about it. However, if you proceed step by step, you will be able to form a clear idea of how to conduct your research and write the article. Here are a few important steps in the research writing process:

1. Choosing a research question

In order to begin your research, you first need to choose a research question. However, you cannot do this unless you have read a substantial amount of published literature in the field of your research. Develop a habit of regularly reading scientific literature. This will give you an idea of some of the existing problems in your field of interest. Think about these problems and discuss your ideas with your advisor before you decide which problem you would like to address. You need to consider both your interest and the feasibility of the idea before finalizing your research question.

2. Doing a literature search

Once you have finalized your research question, you need to do an extensive literature search. Plan your literature search well. You can choose a systematic approach by trying to search for all relevant material on the topic. You can also adopt a retrospective approach by finding the most recent material and working your way backward. You might also need to follow important citations that you come across. You will need to use books, journal articles, and other related sources of information such as government reports, online databases, etc. Keep a written record of your searches as this will be very helpful when writing the references and citations in your manuscript.

3. Structuring a research article

An original research article usually follows a specific structure. The most commonly used structure of a research paper includes the following sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. This is called the IMRaD structure.

  • Introduction: The introduction provides background information and explains what your study is about and the purpose behind it.
  • Methods: The methods section gives a detailed explanation of how you conducted your research and the materials you used. This is done so that other researchers can replicate your research and reproduce the findings.
  • Results: This section presents your research findings in detail along with all the data.
  • Discussion: This section interprets the findings and discusses the impact that your research may have on the field of study.

Make sure you cite all the references you have used in your paper. In the end, provide a detailed reference list of all the sources you have used.

4. Formatting the paper

Once you are done with writing the paper, it is time to format it. Generally, each journal has a house style, and you have to format your paper according to the style of the journal you are submitting to. This can be a tedious process, particularly if your paper is rejected and you have to re-format it when submitting it to another journal. One way to make this process less tedious is to follow a standard format based on a widely used style guide in your field. Format your paper using some general guidelines presented in that style guide. This will make it easier for you as you will only have to make a few modifications at the time of submission to suit the journal style.

If you have any doubts or questions, you can post them in the comments section below. Alternatively, you can also post a question on our Q&A forum, if you are facing a problem and need expert publication advice. 

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Published on: Mar 01, 2015

Senior Editor, Editage Insights. Researcher coach since 2015
See more from Kakoli Majumder


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