Sections and subsections in research papers

Typical Research Paper Structure

​Section Description

Abstract/ Summary

  • Provides an overview of the paper: background, purpose, methods, findings, conclusions, value/implications

Introduction and Literature Review​

  • Establishes the topic (narrows down the topic from general explanations to a specific angle/scope/problem)
  • Reviews the literature (reviews aspects of the problem that have been previously studied and organizes them thematically)
  • States the gap (identifies the need for further investigation/research with respect to a particular aspect of the problem)
  • States the purpose (explicitly states the purpose/ objective/ hypotheses of the study)


  • Details the methods, materials, and procedures used in the study

Results/ Findings 

  • Presents the findings by theme
  • Reports the data and interprets their meaning in light of the purpose of the paper


  • Expands on the major interpretations
  • Compares findings to the literature


  • Presents the importance of the findings and how they may be applied in broader contexts (other contexts, disciplines, real-life scenarios, etc.)
  • Includes limitations and suggestions for future work


  • ​Gives thanks and credit to contributors other than the listed authors


  • ​Documents the sources using an acceptable style