Empirical Research Methods
1. Introduction and statement of the research question.
2. Review of previous research and theory.
3. Description of data collection including sample characteristics and the reliability and validity of techniques employed.
4. Presentation of the results of data analysis including explicit reference to the implications the data have for the research question.
5. Conclusion which ties the loose ends of the analysis back to the research question.
6. End notes (if any).
7. References cited in the paper.
Abstract: Here’s a one paragraph abstract summarizing my main argument and findings
This is my research question / puzzle. This is why my research paper is interesting and important, and why your life won’t be complete until you thoroughly read this paper. Here is a brief sketch of how the paper is structured.
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Maybe the scholars got something wrong; maybe they forgot to consider something important; maybe their theories have been overtaken by events. Here is my new theory that explains everything that their old theories could explain, and is also able to answer my research question.
I’m going to make sure that I outline my theory clearly and in a way that is empirically testable – that is, it makes clear predictions that can be assessed against real world information.
Here’s the information I’ve collected from around the place to test my theory. I’ve made sure that it’s the best data I can get, but I will admit to any flaws with the data at this point, and I’ll tell you about how I’m going to overcome those problems. I’m going to try really, really hard to ensure that the information I’ve collected isn’t biased in any important way.
Does the information I’ve collected support the theory I’ve proposed? By now, the reader should be dying to know. Here is where I tell you the answer to that question. If I have multiple ways of measuring a particular concept, I’ll show whether it matters which measurement technique I use. I’ll also tell you how robust my findings are to odd cases and such like. If I’m using some fancy research method, I’ll tell you about how that works, too. I’ll make sure that the presentation of my analysis is clear and easy to understand, even if it contains some complicated math, formal theory, or case-specific jargon. The key is that the reader understands the basic idea, not that I’ve written down everything I know.
Here is where I’ll let you know if any interesting new questions arise out of my analysis. I’ll tell you about the implications that my new theory or analysis has for other researchers studying this or other puzzles. I’ll also use this section to summarize my main findings and reiterate how my findings are better than the ones from earlier researchers.
Figures and tables
I’ll put any figures (ie graphs) and tables here at the end, one per page, for easy reference. In the main text, I’ll just write “[Figure X about here]” on its own line.