The core purpose of writing a paper is to go beyond mere presentation of facts and thoughts. It is to reach out to the reader—to communicate your research effectively and help readers understand the issues at hand.
This article introduces and illustrates various concepts for structuring a manuscript such that readers take away the most important messages—the messages you want to convey—after reading your paper.
A crucial point to remember while writing a research paper is that readers do not simply read; they interpret.1 Different readers are likely to extract different meanings from your paper, depending on their expectations or the clues they receive from the manuscript’s structure. This brings us to a concept that serves as the foundation of good writing practices1:
A fitting analogy to the structure of most research manuscripts would be an hourglass.2 The manuscript begins with broad statements, narrows down to the specifics of your study, and ends with broad considerations. This section presents the basic components of a manuscript and outlines the essential functions and content of each part.2-6
Use this section to set the context for your study and problem. Remember that several readers may not understand the significance of your study right away. Therefore, use general language and carefully developed logic to guide your readers to the main problem/objective of your study.
This section is the most specific to your study. A primary criterion for well-conducted research is that it must be replicable. This means that another researcher should be able to reproduce the results by following the methods detailed in your paper.