Doing Social Research Logo

Paper Outline

Although there are differences across journals, methodologies, and disciplines for how one is to organize a research paper. In general, a basic research paper in the social sciences will be organized more or less along the following lines:

  1. Introduction
  2. Review of the Literature
  3. Theory
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion

Sometimes, the review of the literature and the theory get smooshed into the same section and the same goes for discussion and conclusion.

The length of the paper will depend on the requirements of the outlet where you are publishing or the university guidelines if it’s for a thesis or a term paper. Most journal articles are under 40 pages long including tables and references. A major research paper for an MA thesis could be a bit longer, around 50 pages including tables and references.

Generally speaking, for a 30-40 page journal article, an introduction should be 1-3 paragraphs long maximum and the review of the literature should never be more than 10 pages, assuming 1″ margins and 12 pt Times New Roman font.

Written by Phyllis L. F. Rippey, Ph.D.