Formal Research Template

This research template presents the general framework of a formal project, thesis, or dissertation. While the elements vary, many are typically included regardless of how many chapters (usually 4-6) are written. Many of the elements are included when the study is published in a scholarly journal article.

Prior to the study being approved and conducted, the proposal is developed. The elements in the proposal usually include the Introduction, Literature Review, and Methods.

After the proposal is approved and the data collected, the Results, Discussion, Conclusions, and Recommendations in the final research report are presented in this general format.

The research template may be adjusted and sections may be assigned different headings, depending upon the design and nature of the study. It is most important to present enough detail so that readers can evaluate it for themselves and replicate it, if desired.

Finally, this research template does not include the optional brief introduction and summary for each chapter. These are often included for better transition from one chapter to the next.

Research Template: Common Headings and Subheadings

Chapter 1: Introduction

General Introduction/Background—begins broadly to introduce the reader to the topic, then narrows to the specific problem statement.

Statement of the Problem—identifies the specific issue to be investigated, often leads into a clear purpose statement.

Significance of the Study—explains why the study is useful and important.

Definitions of Terms--defines key terms, both constitutive (common meaning) and operational (how you will use them in your study).

Research Questions and/or Hypotheses--the research answers these questions and/or tests the hypotheses.

Scope of the Study--addresses external validity (participants, location).


Chapter 2: Literature Review (may be part of Ch. 1)

Summarizes what is already known on the topic. This key element lays the foundation for the discussing the findings in light of the literature in the final research report. Sections may provide a rationale for the methods or instrument used in a study. The review of literature begins broadly, then narrows to specific sub-topics and addresses important variables.


Chapter 3: Research Methods

Introduction—informs the reader what has happened so far, and leads to the purpose of the chapter.

Research Design--presents the game plan (e.g., descriptive, qualitative, correlational, experimental) for answering the research question(s) and/or test hypotheses. The design matches the type of statistical analysis addressed later in the chapter.

Participants/Source of Data/Selection of the Sample--describes the subjects, the sampling methods to be used, or the source of data (such as a specific database).

Instrument/Measures Used--describes the specific tools used to measure performance, such as the vertical jump, stress level, or strength. Validity and reliability are addressed for each instrument.

The Variables--identifies the variables, or qualities, that are being manipulated and observed.

Procedures/Method of Data Collection—presents a detailed account of how the data are to be collected. Usually includes pilot testing, informed consent, and any other steps taken to collect data.

Data Analysis--presents the proposed methods used to analyze the data after it is collected (e.g., percentages, means, ANOVA, or other statistical tools).

Assumptions—presents what the researcher assumes is true (e.g., that the participants gave truthful responses or made their best efforts during the study).

Limitations of the Study--addresses the internal validity of the study.

This ends the proposal section prior to data collection. After the study is conducted, the findings are presented using the following elements.


Chapter 4: Results

The chapter is introduced, and then the findings are presented--just the facts without interpretation or discussion. Visuals (tables and figures) are presented and important statistics are highlighted in the text.


Chapters 5-8 (varies): Summary, Discussion, Conclusion, and Recommendations

Introduction—catches the reader up on what has been done so far.

Summary of Major Findings--presents the main points, highlights key statistics.

Discussion—interprets the findings, what they mean, makes important points, and relates them to the literature review.

Conclusion—presents the outcome(s) very briefly and succinctly.

Recommendations--addresses implications (what this means to the body of knowledge), applications (how the findings can be used), and suggestions for future research.

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