Often a question that plagues many a beginner research student is the major question: What is good research or How to write a good research paper. Often, this becomes a major headache for students striving to complete a dissertation for their masters programme or even their doctoral programme. So what are the dimensions of a high quality research or a high quality research paper that one needs to keep in mind while writing the same?
Typically, as I would go about it, a good research should follow a simple methodology which should transcend to a publishable good research paper. So here are the few basic steps which one should follow while writing a good research paper.
- First challenge is choosing the topic of the research. How does one identify what topic is actually a good topic of interest? A major point to ponder would be is the problem statement significant enough? How relevant is the context in the current scenario? If there is substantial past literature which has been already published, then it is likely that it is a good research topic, broadly. I would advise students who are yet to establish themselves in the academia to refrain from choosing topics which may be interesting, but would have very less literature to support the building blocks of the same. Choose a title for your work, which brings out its essence within 5 to 12 (maximum 15) words.
- Research studies typically have 3 important dimensions: Applicability (relevance of the study to the outer world), Rigor of methodology (to allow replicability of the study and the findings and thus the falsifiability of the theory), and the generalizability of the findings/results/theory generated through the study. However, many senior researcher feel that it is difficult to address more than 2 of these dimensions stringently while conducting a research, without compromising the 3rd dimension.
- Next start with a thorough literature review in the area in which you are planning to do a study. Typically remember, most quality research papers would have more than 30-50 citations and these researchers would have gone through 3 times the number of cited literature while developing the study. Not only a detailed literature review clarifies what could be the possible contribution in the paper, but also will help you to get a very strong idea on what could be the possible ways to go about the research methodology for such a problem. While conducting a literature review, it is of paramount importance to validate the degree of authenticity of the sources based on which you would build your work.
- After a thorough review of literature is conducted, it is time to define the contribution of your study. Always remember, the best research works are often those which strive to make a small yet significantly clear contribution. Attempting a huge amount of contribution often affects the quality of the work.
- Next is the step of designing a research methodology. Every research would be having an ideal methodology based on the focus of the study, the limitations of doing research in the problem domain and replicability of the methodology across other studies with a similar focus. typically research is often evaluated based on the methodological rigor with which the contributions are evaluated and subsequently highlighted. However, due to practical reasons, one needs to remember that limitations of available resources like access to data, technology, connections and other factors often limit the scope of following a “tailor made research methodology” and this often is an inherent issue of the problem under investigation. Not all studies can follow the ideal path due to lack of resources available to travel on the same. However, research methodology is of paramount importance and care should be taken to ensure that the best possible methodology is undertaken while planning out the research design.
- Then comes the major question of going about with the planned methodology. In various studies, this phase would be different. Sometimes methodologies need to be modified from the one that was planned, in due course of progress in the study. In social sciences (business management, other social sciences) this would essentially be the data collection phase, while in the domain of technology, this may entail the development of algorithms/hardware to meet the objectives to extend existing theories. This is followed by the stage where the analysis is done (on the data collected, or through the new proposed algorithms or using new technology) and the results need to be rechecked with existing literature for their validity on how they concur yet extend the same. Every details in these steps should be noted so as to allow the replicability of the study by another research following your methodology on a similar problem.
- Finally the last question is how to go about writing a great dissertation paper. Ideally the paper should have few mandatory sections like a brief introduction to the topic highlighting its significance and what you contributed, and the boundaries of your study. Next important section is the detailed review of existing literature in the topic so as to be able to bring out the existing gaps in the same. Next important section is writing in details about the contribution of your research and compare the same with the existing literature, and highlighting what existing theories it takes forward or contradicts. Then comes the theory section where you should describe in details what is your main proposition (including the model) in the paper, by building on the blocks taken from existing literature. Then you should give a detailed explanation of your research methodology through which you attempted to provide empirical validation to your propositions in your study. Then you should discuss the results of the research after it is conducted. Finally in the conclusion section, you should discuss the significance of your propositions/findings and highlight how it concurs with existing body of knowledge and yet takes it further, or disagree with the existing body of knowledge, suggesting reasons for the the same. Some research papers would also like to end with few notes on the limitations of the study and future research directions for someone to extend your work.
Hope this helps all the students who are writing their dissertation paper. Do get back to me if you feel any important dimension which has been missed here, can be added back. Also, if you have any clarification, feel free to shoot them to me.