220 American Government and Politics
Spring, 2001

Kenneth Janda, Instructor

How to Write an Empirical Research Paper

Perhaps you like the paper-writing phase of research; maybe you dread it. The difference usually hinges on whether you regard yourself as a "good writer"-as determined by grades earned on countless other writing assignments. My experience with student research papers suggests that reporting the results of empirical research is very different from other types of writing. Students who do well in creative writing may find this form of exposition more challenging; others rarely applauded for clever turns of phrase may receive compliments on their clarity of expression.

Writing a research report can be a challenge for students who excel at writing essays and an opportunity to shine for those who do not ordinarily "write well." You can improve your writing performance by paying close attention to these suggestions for reporting your research.

The watchword for this type of writing is structure. The format of your paper should reveal the structure of your thinking. Devices suchas paragraphing, headings, indentation, and enumeration actually help yourr eader see the major points you want to make. If you tend to string sentencest ogether without organizing your thoughts into paragraphs, you are not helping him or her make sense of your writing.

As a rule of thumb, if you type a full page (double spaced) without indenting for a new paragraph, you almost certainly have run one thought into another and have missed an opportunit yto differentiate your ideas.

Headings can convey the major topics discussed in your paper. A research report typically contains four basic components:

1. Statement of the problem that gave rise to the research
2. Discussion of the research method and theory that addresses the problem
3. Analysis of the data produced by the research
4. Summary and conclusion of the study

Although you could might write a report with this information but without headings, the logic of your paper will be more apparent if you label its basic components with these headings: (1) the problem, (2) method and theory, (3) data analysis, (4) summary and conclusion.

Use these headings to structure your report. Click on each heading to learn what should be go under each in your research report using Crosstabs to analyze the cross-national data from the 1990-91 World Values Study as presented by Russell J. Dalton in Citizen Politics (1996). Without counting tables, your paper should be from five to seven pages of text.