Research Paper Guide
- Literature Review
- Conclusions and Recommendation
- Appendices – if applicable
Using a Binder
Using binder to organize your project is a good practice. You can make a binder with sections based on the contents listed above will make it easier to track your work and keep on task. You can print out all the articles that you read and place them in the binder. You can also put your notes that you take while reading the literature.
Introduction: Research Problem & Purpose
The most important step in the research process is to identify a problem which can be analyzed. You might identify a problem in the policy or administrative setting, such as the implementation of a training program, the formulation or implementation of a strategic plan, an analysis of public perceptions of the agency, etc. It is important that you select a problem that is researchable. This means that it is possible to learn more about the problem by gathering evidence. Evidence might come in the form of statements made by experts, or responses to a survey, or from the analysis of documents that the organization has produced.
After identifying a problem to study, you will then set forth a research purpose. For example, a research purpose might be stated in the following example. The purpose of this research is to explore the barriers to the implementation of a body camera program in the Miami police department. The research purpose is a critical element in the paper because it serves to organize all the other activities of the paper.
Students are required to conduct a thorough literature review of the existing research relevant to the topic at hand. The literature review should include around 10 sources. The review of the literature will help identify existing information on a topic. The literature review will also assist the student in identifying more refined research questions, categories, or practices. The literature review must contain secondary academic literature, or authoritative sources of knowledge on the topic. The literature review is not a place for blogs, editorial pieces, or Wikipedia articles. The literature review demonstrates your ability to understand social science research and to synthesize this research given your research questions.
The student will specify the empirical methods by which the problem will be analyzed. In the administrative setting, the most common type of empirical method of data collection is through structured or semi-structured Interviews of experts. Structured interviews have questions that have been derived through the literature review and specified explicitly before the interview takes place. This means that you will specify the questionnaire in your paper, and you will detail the rationale for each question. Documents are also an important source of evidence. Researchers might gather documents produced in an organization that have policies or procedures. Documents also might include IRS forms or legal statutes. You might also look at how budget figures have changed over time, or whether the benefits of the particular program justify the costs. Survey research is also a very common method of data collection. Much like an interview, surveys are structured questionnaires that are distributed to many individuals.
Analysis & Results
The analysis section of the paper will include the results of the empirical research. This section is relatively free of judgment and is often a structured presentation of the results of the analysis. For example, the results of multiple interviews will be summarized by key themes or recurring response. The results of a survey will be presented in terms of descriptive statistics, for example, the average response to an item, or the comparison of averages between groups. It is important to conceptualize the results in terms of the research questions, where you show explicitly how the results address the question. Scholars often use rubrics or tables to organize their results. For example, one column may have the question, and an adjacent column has the results.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This section will provide an interpretation of the results in light of the original research questions. It will help to interpret the results given a set of ideals about what appears to be good or bad policy making or implementation. This is the section where judgment or normative evaluation comes into play. The previous results section simply presents the results in a neutral manner, while this section will interpret the results according to a policy paradigm, or in terms of some bigger picture set of beliefs or ideals regarding policy. Finally, the recommendations section will present a parsimonious set of policy specific recommendations. These are to be targeted at specific characteristics of a program or a policy, not blanket proclamations that are impossible to implement. Ask yourself, if there only a few ideas that I wish to be implemented, what would they be, and what would be the most basic way to convey the ideas.