Understanding Scientific Papers

Examples of papers from the Proceedings of the Oklahoma Acacemy of Science.

Parts of a Research Paper

Research papers are arranged in this basic form. When you put your paper together to turn in, put the completed evaluation rubric first, then arrange the rest as follows.

1. Title Page:
    Title - 10 words or less that tells what the research is about.
    The title should give more than the general topic. It should convey something of the approach you take with the subject.
    Authors - Who wrote the paper.
    Date - When the paper was turned in.
2. Abstract:
    In 250 words or less, explain the purpose of the report, summarize your findings, and state your position on the topic. An abstract is not just a summary of the facts, but allows the reader to get a sense of where the paper will be going.
3. Introduction:
    The Introduction includes a thesis statement and provides background information. The introduction sets up your paper giving any specific terms or background that must understand to appreciate the importance of your paper.
4. Body (Information):
    This is the heart of your paper. It is where you report what you have learned and give your impressions about the information. You are expected to write this in your own words. Your purpose is to communicate your own thoughts, not copy someone else. If you use words directly from a source, "quote" them and "note" them.
5. Conclusion:
    The conclusion makes your position clear on the topic, the reasons for that position, and points out important applications of the topic. Do not introduce new material in the conclusion, but it is important that you summarize the information. The Conclusion should relate to the Introduction.
6. Annotated Bibliography:
    Cite all research references according to the style used at Desert Vista High School.

    In addition to the sources, an annotated bibliography indicates briefly (a few sentences at most) what information is contained in the source.

    • It is important that your bibliography be accurate and complete.
    • You should never use more than five references. It is your responsibility to evaluate these references to be sure they are quality sources and their information is correct.
    • Keep track of your references as you go.
7. Appendix: (Raw data and research support)
    Scientific papers almost always have a vernacular page, data charts, and diagrams.

Reading a Scientific Paper

Due to the enormous number of scientific papers published every year, very few papers are read from cover to cover. Most professional scientists use the following process to remain current on the research in their field:

  1. Title
    • Papers in a particular field are found by scanning titles of published papers.
  2. Abstract
    • After finding an interesting title, the abstract is read next. For most instances, the information in the abstract is enough to keep current on research in the field.
  3. Conclusion
    • If more information is needed after reading the abstract, the conclusion of the paper is read to find applications and reasons for the author's position on the topic.
  4. Body
    • If something in the conclusion of a paper is questionable, the body of the paper is scanned to find more information about the author's research.
  5. Appendix
    • If some statements in the body seems questionable, the appendix is checked to find the raw data supporting the statements.
  6. Bibliography
    • The bibliography is referred to if more background information about a paper is needed.