What Is a Research Paper?

  • An Introduction to Punctuation

Olivia Valdes was the Associate Editorial Director for ThoughtCo. She worked with Dotdash Meredith from 2017 to 2021.

research paper publication meaning

  • B.A., American Studies, Yale University

A research paper is a common form of academic writing . Research papers require students and academics to locate information about a topic (that is, to conduct research ), take a stand on that topic, and provide support (or evidence) for that position in an organized report.

The term research paper may also refer to a scholarly article that contains the results of original research or an evaluation of research conducted by others. Most scholarly articles must undergo a process of peer review before they can be accepted for publication in an academic journal.

Define Your Research Question

The first step in writing a research paper is defining your research question . Has your instructor assigned a specific topic? If so, great—you've got this step covered. If not, review the guidelines of the assignment. Your instructor has likely provided several general subjects for your consideration. Your research paper should focus on a specific angle on one of these subjects. Spend some time mulling over your options before deciding which one you'd like to explore more deeply.

Try to choose a research question that interests you. The research process is time-consuming, and you'll be significantly more motivated if you have a genuine desire to learn more about the topic. You should also consider whether you have access to all of the resources necessary to conduct thorough research on your topic, such as primary and secondary sources .

Create a Research Strategy 

Approach the research process systematically by creating a research strategy. First, review your library's website. What resources are available? Where will you find them? Do any resources require a special process to gain access? Start gathering those resources—especially those that may be difficult to access—as soon as possible.

Second, make an appointment with a reference librarian . A reference librarian is nothing short of a research superhero. He or she will listen to your research question, offer suggestions for how to focus your research, and direct you toward valuable sources that directly relate to your topic.

Evaluate Sources

Now that you've gathered a wide array of sources, it's time to evaluate them. First, consider the reliability of the information. Where is the information coming from? What is the origin of the source? Second, assess the  relevance  of the information. How does this information relate to your research question? Does it support, refute, or add context to your position? How does it relate to the other sources you'll be using in your paper? Once you have determined that your sources are both reliable and relevant, you can proceed confidently to the writing phase. 

Why Write Research Papers? 

The research process is one of the most taxing academic tasks you'll be asked to complete. Luckily, the value of writing a research paper goes beyond that A+ you hope to receive. Here are just some of the benefits of research papers. 

The best research papers are the result of genuine interest and a thorough research process. With these ideas in mind, go forth and research. Welcome to the scholarly conversation!

research paper publication meaning

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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.

research paper publication meaning

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Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

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The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible.

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Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

Scribbr’s professional editors can help with the revision process with our award-winning proofreading services.

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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Publication practices and responsible authorship.

Although researchers can disseminate their findings through many different avenues, results are most likely to be published in an article in a scholarly journal. Accurate and honest reporting of research methodologies and results are the basis of all scientific publications. Researchers should avoid dividing a project into “least publishable units,” which misinforms the public on the importance and value of the research, and wastes time and money. Researchers should also avoid publishing duplicate studies, a practice that also unfairly represents the importance of the research.

Authorship credit should reflect the individual’s contribution to the study. An author is considered anyone involved with initial research design, data collection and analysis, manuscript drafting, or final approval. However, the following do not necessarily qualify for authorship: providing funding or resources, mentorship, or contributing research but not helping with the publication itself. The primary author assumes responsibility for the publication, making sure that the data are accurate, that all deserving authors have been credited, that all authors have given their approval to the final draft; and handles responses to inquiries after the manuscript is published.

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Your Career

7 steps to publishing in a scientific journal

Before you hit “submit,” here’s a checklist (and pitfalls to avoid)

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As scholars, we strive to do high-quality research that will advance science. We come up with what we believe are unique hypotheses, base our work on robust data and use an appropriate research methodology. As we write up our findings, we aim to provide theoretical insight, and share theoretical and practical implications about our work. Then we submit our manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Dr Aijaz Shaikh gives a presentation.

In my seven years of research and teaching, I have observed several shortcomings in the manuscript preparation and submission process that often lead to research being rejected for publication. Being aware of these shortcomings will increase your chances of having your manuscript published and also boost your research profile and career progression.

In this article, intended for doctoral students and other young scholars, I identify common pitfalls and offer helpful solutions to prepare more impactful papers. While there are several types of research articles, such as short communications, review papers and so forth, these guidelines focus on preparing a full article (including a literature review), whether based on qualitative or quantitative methodology, from the perspective of the management, education, information sciences and social sciences disciplines.

Writing for academic journals is a highly competitive activity, and it’s important to understand that there could be several reasons behind a rejection. Furthermore, the journal peer-review process is an essential element of publication because no writer could identify and address all potential issues with a manuscript.

1. Do not rush submitting your article for publication.

In my first article for Elsevier Connect – “ Five secrets to surviving (and thriving in) a PhD program ” – I emphasized that scholars should start writing during the early stages of your research or doctoral study career. This secret does not entail submitting your manuscript for publication the moment you have crafted its conclusion. Authors sometimes rely on the fact that they will always have an opportunity to address their work’s shortcomings after the feedback received from the journal editor and reviewers has identified them.

A proactive approach and attitude will reduce the chance of rejection and disappointment. In my opinion, a logical flow of activities dominates every research activity and should be followed for preparing a manuscript as well. Such activities include carefully re-reading your manuscript at different times and perhaps at different places. Re-reading is essential in the research field and helps identify the most common problems and shortcomings in the manuscript, which might otherwise be overlooked. Second, I find it very helpful to share my manuscripts with my colleagues and other researchers in my network and to request their feedback. In doing so, I highlight any sections of the manuscript that I would like reviewers to be absolutely clear on.

2. Select an appropriate publication outlet.

I also ask colleagues about the most appropriate journal to submit my manuscript to; finding the right journal for your article can dramatically improve the chances of acceptance and ensure it reaches your target audience.

Elsevier provides an innovative Journal Finder search facility on its website. Authors enter the article title, a brief abstract and the field of research to get a list of the most appropriate journals for their article. For a full discussion of how to select an appropriate journal see Knight and Steinbach (2008).

Less experienced scholars sometimes choose to submit their research work to two or more journals at the same time. Research ethics and policies of all scholarly journals suggest that authors should submit a manuscript to only one journal at a time. Doing otherwise can cause embarrassment and lead to copyright problems for the author, the university employer and the journals involved.

Learn about publishing at Elsevier

3. Read the aims and scope and author guidelines of your target journal carefully.

Once you have read and re-read your manuscript carefully several times, received feedback from your colleagues, and identified a target journal, the next important step is to read the aims and scope of the journals in your target research area. Doing so will improve the chances of having your manuscript accepted for publishing. Another important step is to download and absorb the author guidelines and ensure your manuscript conforms to them. Some publishers report that one paper in five does not follow the style and format requirements of the target journal, which might specify requirements for figures, tables and references.

Rejection can come at different times and in different formats. For instance, if your research objective is not in line with the aims and scope of the target journal, or if your manuscript is not structured and formatted according to the target journal layout, or if your manuscript does not have a reasonable chance of being able to satisfy the target journal’s publishing expectations, the manuscript can receive a desk rejection from the editor without being sent out for peer review. Desk rejections can be disheartening for authors, making them feel they have wasted valuable time and might even cause them to lose enthusiasm for their research topic. Sun and Linton (2014), Hierons (2016) and Craig (2010) offer useful discussions on the subject of “desk rejections.”

4. Make a good first impression with your title and abstract.

The title and abstract are incredibly important components of a manuscript as they are the first elements a journal editor sees. I have been fortunate to receive advice from editors and reviewers on my submissions, and feedback from many colleagues at academic conferences, and this is what I’ve learned:

Dr. Angel Borja goes into detail about these components in “ 11 steps to structuring a science paper editors will take seriously .”

Learn more in Elsevier's free Researcher Academy

5. Have a professional editing firm copy-edit ( not just proofread) your manuscript, including the main text, list of references, tables and figures.

The key characteristic of scientific writing is clarity. Before submitting a manuscript for publication, it is highly advisable to have a professional editing firm copy-edit your manuscript. An article submitted to a peer-reviewed journal will be scrutinized critically by the editorial board before it is selected for peer review. According to a statistic shared by Elsevier , between 30 percent and 50 percent of articles submitted to Elsevier journals are rejected before they even reach the peer-review stage, and one of the top reasons for rejection is poor language. A properly written, edited and presented text will be error free and understandable and will project a professional image that will help ensure your work is taken seriously in the world of publishing. On occasion, the major revisions conducted at the request of a reviewer will necessitate another round of editing.

Authors can facilitate the editing of their manuscripts by taking precautions at their end. These include proofreading their own manuscript for accuracy and wordiness (avoid unnecessary or normative descriptions like “it should be noted here” and “the authors believe) and sending it for editing only when it is complete in all respects and ready for publishing. Professional editing companies charge hefty fees, and it is simply not financially viable to have them conduct multiple rounds of editing on your article. Applications like the spelling and grammar checker in Microsoft Word or Grammarly are certainly worth applying to your article, but the benefits of proper editing are undeniable. For more on the difference between proofreading and editing, see the description in Elsevier’s WebShop.

6. Submit a cover letter with the manuscript.

Never underestimate the importance of a cover letter addressed to the editor or editor-in-chief of the target journal. Last year, I attended a conference in Boston. A “meet the editors” session revealed that many submissions do not include a covering letter, but the editors-in-chief present, who represented renewed and ISI-indexed Elsevier journals, argued that the cover letter gives authors an important opportunity to convince them that their research work is worth reviewing.

Accordingly, the content of the cover letter is also worth spending time on. Some inexperienced scholars paste the article’s abstract into their letter thinking it will be sufficient to make the case for publication; it is a practice best avoided. A good cover letter first outlines the main theme of the paper; second, argues the novelty of the paper; and third, justifies the relevance of the manuscript to the target journal. I would suggest limiting the cover letter to half a page. More importantly, peers and colleagues who read the article and provided feedback before the manuscript’s submission should be acknowledged in the cover letter.

7. Address reviewer comments very carefully.

Editors and editors-in-chief usually couch the acceptance of a manuscript as subject to a “revise and resubmit” based on the recommendations provided by the reviewer or reviewers. These revisions may necessitate either major or minor changes in the manuscript. Inexperienced scholars should understand a few key aspects of the revision process. First, it important to address the revisions diligently; second, is imperative to address all the comments received from the reviewers and avoid oversights; third, the resubmission of the revised manuscript must happen by the deadline provided by the journal; fourth, the revision process might comprise multiple rounds.

The revision process requires two major documents. The first is the revised manuscript highlighting all the modifications made following the recommendations received from the reviewers. The second is a letter listing the authors’ responses illustrating they have addressed all the concerns of the reviewers and editors. These two documents should be drafted carefully. The authors of the manuscript can agree or disagree with the comments of the reviewers (typically agreement is encouraged) and are not always obliged to implement their recommendations, but they should in all cases provide a well-argued justification for their course of action.

Given the ever increasing number of manuscripts submitted for publication, the process of preparing a manuscript well enough to have it accepted by a journal can be daunting. High-impact journals accept less than 10 percent of the articles submitted to them, although the acceptance ratio for special issues or special topics sections is normally over 40 percent. Scholars might have to resign themselves to having their articles rejected and then reworking them to submit them to a different journal before the manuscript is accepted.

The advice offered here is not exhaustive but it’s also not difficult to implement. These recommendations require proper attention, planning and careful implementation; however, following this advice could help doctoral students and other scholars improve the likelihood of getting their work published, and that is key to having a productive, exciting and rewarding academic career.


I would like to thank Professor Heikki Karjaluoto, Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics for providing valuable feedback on this article.


Aijaz Shaikh, PhD

Aijaz Shaikh, PhD

Aijaz Shaikh has a PhD in Marketing from the Jyväskylä University School of Business & Economics (AMBA accredited), Finland, an MSc from Hanken School of Economics (AACSB / EQUIS/AMBA accredited), Finland. He is Member-Editorial Review Board of the  International Journal of E-Business Research and  special issue Guest Editor of the International Journal of E-Business Research. His academic specialty is in Marketing (consumer behaviour), Information Technology Adoption, and Mobile Financial Services.

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research paper publication meaning

Guide to Science Information Resources

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Literature

Common scientific publications, other types of publications, notices from publishers, give us your feedback.

World of Publications and Literature

Many first perceive literature to be defined as creative works like fiction or or collections of poetry.  In scholarly and professional terms, literature is also defined as works available or published about a particular concept.  It is like a world of many types of publications and information!  The literature is commonly found in an index and database search, and used as references cited in a research publication.  See below for examples and explanations.

Professional literature falls under 3 categories, primary, secondary, and tertiary.  Within those categories are various types of publications.  See the table for their definitions, attributes and examples:

Image source:   Unsplash.com .  Permission by Unsplash license .

Original Article

Original Article:  Provides new information based on original research, and presents a research topic, its background, methodology used, results, conclusion and discussion of results.  These usually appear in scholarly journals.

Garb, J.E., Ayoub, N.A., & Hayashi, C.Y. (2010).  Untangling spider silk evolution with spidroin terminal domains.   BMC Evolutionary Biology,   10 (243).  DOI:  10.1186/1471-2148-10-243

research paper publication meaning


Dissertation:   a document on a scholarly or research topic done by a student to fulfill the requirements of attaining an advanced degree (usually masters or doctoral-level).  Scholars often use these to examine their works cited.  See  Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global   for examples (FAU log-in required).

Pursell, G.R. (2009).  Adolescent conflict with parents and friends: The role of negative affect and resolution strategy in predicting relationship impact  [Doctoral dissertation, Florida Atlantic University].  Florida Atlantic University Libraries Institutional Repository, https://fau.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fau%3A4238   


Case Report

Case report:   a description of a single case or situation with unique features.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1981, June 5).  Pneumocystis pneumonia --- Los Angeles.   MMWR: Morbility and Mortality Weekly Report .  https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/june_5.htm    

Case Report

Review:   a detailed study or overview of developments within a specific topic.  Many articles and studies may be referred to in a review.

Li, Y, Lawley, M.A., Siscovick, D.S., Donglan, Z., & Pagan, J.A. (2016).  Agent-based modeling of chronic diseases: A narrative review and future research directions.   Preventing Chronic Disease, 13 (E69).  DOI:   10.5888/pcd13.150561


Book:    an authoritative work on a topic within a field; often presents basic information and theories which are the results of previous research.

Langlois, A. (2013).  Negotiating bioethics: The governance of UNESCO's Bioethics Programme  [eBook edition].  Routledge.  https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781136237010


Government Document

Government document:    a publication or report of a government agency of any level.  These publications may include research, committee or agency reports, regulations, laws and statutes, and data.

United States Senate (2010).  The shark conservation act of 2009.   Senate Report 111-124 .  U.S. Government Printing Office.  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-111srpt124/html/CRPT-111srpt124.htm

Government Document

Conference Paper or Proceeding

Conference paper or proceeding :   a paper presented at a conference, meeting, or symposium of a professional, scholarly organization.  Many researchers use conferences to solicit feedback on their work from others within their field, and then use the feedback for updates, refinements, or considerations for their research topic.

Harshman, N.L. (2016).  Five is more: Comments on symmetry, integrability, and solvability for a few particles in a one-dimensional trap .  Paper presented at the 21st International Conference on Few-Body Problems in Physics, Chicago, IL.  DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1051/epjconf/201611302007

Conference Paper

Trade Journal or Article

Trade journal or article:  practical information, news, or summaries of developments within a field.  Trade journals or generally do not focus on publishing original research like a scholarly or peer-reviewed journal.

See an example below.

Segall, G. (2021, November 10).  Beech leaf disease is ravaging North American trees.  Science.  DOI:  10.1126/science.acx9617

Trade Journal

Pre-print:    an article that has undergone the peer-review process and been accepted to a journal but not yet published.  

Another type of pre-print is a manuscript of an article that has not yet been accepted to a publication but made available for comment and feedback.  While this type of pre-print has not yet undergone peer review, it provides an opportunity for feedback and information exchange.

Kumar, S., Rosnes, E., & Graell i Amat, A. (2016, May 26).  Secure repairable fountain codes.  IEEE Communications Letters.   Advance online publication.  https://arxiv.org/abs/1605.08300


A reference work is a collection of general facts within a field.  These can be used to find standards, measurements, or the general background of a theory.  Many types of reference works exist, but these are ones more commonly used in the sciences.

International Standard Organization (n.d).  Standards .  https://www.iso.org/standards.html  

Certain scientific fields communicate their findings using other types of publications:

Gray (or grey) literature generally consists of publications that are not distributed through scholarly or commercial channels such as professional journals.  Types of gray literature may include:

Some definitions of gray literature include publications such as blogs, statistical reports, and working papers.  

The purpose of gray literature varies and depends on the setting in which it is published and distributed.  In corporations or organizations, gray literature may be used to distribute new information, communicate for internal purposes, or to document activities.  One example is State Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Programs in Philadelphia ,   a report of The Pew Charitable Trust's study on medical-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid-related deaths.  For academic contexts, gray literature may be a forum for presenting ideas that may be emerging or do not yet have wide interest. 

Gray literature should be considered in any literature review in order have a broader view of what is discussed and researched on a particular topic.

The following document types are often retrieved in a database search.  These are generally known as "front material."  Although they do not communicate original research or generate new knowledge, their role is to provide an arena for commentary and discussion within a field:

Other types of these documents include opinion pieces , news , and obituaries .

Errata  is a notice of a production error for a published work.  A corrigendum is the same except it notes an error made by an author.

An errata and a corrigendum are issued by a publisher and provide corrections.  Please note if a publication of interest has one in order to get its most updated or correct information.

See the following examples:

1.  (Figure 1)  Erratum to "Positron emission tomography-directed therapy for patients with limited-stage diffuse large B-cell lymphoma," Journal of Clinical Oncology , 2020.

2.  (Figure 2) Corrigendum to "Shock-synthesized quasicrystals," by Peter Nemeth,  IUCrJ 8 (2), 2020.

Errata Example

An expression or statement of concern is issued by the editorial board of a publication regarding a particular work.  It indicates the possibility that a work may be unreliable, or its intellectual merits are highly subject to debate.  A statement of concern may be issued for one or a combination of the following reasons:

This statement does not indicate that actual misconduct or unethical behavior occurred, nor provides notice of a finding or final judgment.  Instead, it is an editorial boards' caution to readers that a work may be questionable, and allows a reader to make their own conclusion.

In this example, the editors of Frontiers in Public Health  issued a statement of concern for the 2014 article, Questioning the HIV-AIDS hypothesis: 30 years of dissent, by Patricia Goodson.  Such statements do not always lead to a retraction  or withdrawal of a publication, but in this example, the editorial board issued one for the original article  4 years later.

Statement of Concern

Source:  Frontiers Editorial Office (2015, February 13).  Publisher statement on "Questioning the HIV-AIDS hypothesis: 30 years of dissent."   Frontiers in Public Health,  3:37.   https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2015.00037

A retraction is a statement that indicates a published work had been withdrawn from a publication, with reasons for the decision.  See the Research Guide, What is a retraction?, for an explanation with examples.

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research paper publication meaning

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Definition of publication

Example sentences.

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'publication.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback .

Word History

Middle English publicacioun , from Middle French publication , from Latin publication-, publicatio , from publicare , from publicus public

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Phrases Containing publication

Dictionary Entries Near publication

public bond

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“Publication.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/publication. Accessed 3 Mar. 2023.

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

Writing for Success by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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What qualifies as a research publication?

A simple question:

Two criteria spring to mind:

In terms of exceptions to 1., many book chapters do not rely on a formal peer-review process but are generally considered as research publications and listed in author bibliographies. Similarly, some may consider arXiv, etc., as publications and counting towards h-index counts.

In terms of exceptions to 2., various workshops (esp. in CS) publish on-line through systems like CEUR or informal web-site proceedings, are peer-reviewed and contain in-depth technical material. As online publishing becomes more commonplace, criterion 2 will grow weaker and weaker.

Is there something else I'm missing?

Peter Jansson's user avatar

3 Answers 3

Your criteria are close, but (at least for computer science) not quite right.

Research: the paper must describe a novel contribution to some field of inquiry. Whether a paper makes a novel (and correct and interesting) contribution is often determined through formal peer review, but not always. Peer review is almost always a formal requirement for a paper to "count" for purposes of formal evaluation for promotion and tenure, but not necessarily for building one's reputation as a researcher. (It's quite common for breakthrough results in theoretical compute science to be announced and discussed in blogs months before they undergo formal peer review.)

Publication : The paper must be, at least in principle, accessible to the public. Two reasonable prerequisites are that the paper has a DOI, and that it is published either in a serial with an ISSN or in a book with an ISBN, but one could make a reasonable case that PDfs on researchers' personal web pages, blog and newsgroup posts, and even StackExchange answers are "publications". (Certainly there are fields, like chemistry, in which journals will not publish anything that has previously appeared on the web, on the grounds that it is "already published".) There is absolutely no requirement that the paper be printed on dead trees to be considered "real".

In particular, I would classify most ArXiv preprints as "research publications", despite the lack of peer review and the absence of dead trees.

JeffE's user avatar

The Committee on Publication Ethics ( COPE ) has summarized a standard for responsible publishing for authors ( pdf ). Although this document does not define scientific publication explicitly, the requirements are implicitly understood by reading about the demands set on an author of such a publication.

The Council of Science Editors (CSE) (quoted by Day & Gastel, 2012, p 19) provides the following definition

An acceptable primary scientific publication must be the first disclosure containing sufficient information to enable peers (1) to assess observations, (2) to repeat experiments, and (3) to evaluate intellectual processes; moreover it must be susceptible to sensory perception, essentially permanent, available to the scientific community without restriction, and available for regular screening by one or more of the major recognized secondary service.

This means that, for example, abstracts, corporate reports do not count as scientific publications. It should be added that review papers of course count although the wording of the definition may not make that clear at first.

Day, R.A. & Gastel, B., 2012 How to write and publish a scientific paper. Seventh Edition. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

This is borderline opinion-based, but I would use this definition:

A research publication is any readily available artifact which has passed peer review.

I would exclude non-reviewed book chapters and arXiv etc. preprint submission.

Unlike JeffE, I would include peer-reviewed work which is not novel. In my experience (and according to some bibliometrics), review articles are among the most influential research publications, and they are not novel.

Unlike JeffE, I would not require that the artifact be "descriptive," have a DOI, ISSN, or ISBN. For example, an abstract sculpture that was peer reviewed and displayed to the public could be credited to an art professor in a similar way to a journal article. Peer-reviewed source code and database entries should also be counted.

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  1. What Is a Research Paper? - ThoughtCo

    A research paper is a common form of academic writing. Research papers require students and academics to locate information about a topic (that is, to conduct research ), take a stand on that topic, and provide support (or evidence) for that position in an organized report.

  2. How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

    A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research. Research papers are similar to academic essays, but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research.

  3. Publication practices and responsible authorship

    Researchers should also avoid publishing duplicate studies, a practice that also unfairly represents the importance of the research. Authorship credit should reflect the individual’s contribution to the study. An author is considered anyone involved with initial research design, data collection and analysis, manuscript drafting, or final ...

  4. 7 steps to publishing in a scientific journal - Elsevier Connect

    Sun and Linton (2014), Hierons (2016) and Craig (2010) offer useful discussions on the subject of “desk rejections.”. 4. Make a good first impression with your title and abstract. The title and abstract are incredibly important components of a manuscript as they are the first elements a journal editor sees.

  5. What is the difference between a research paper and a ... - Quora

    A publication is defined as anything that has been published: a book. a research paper, a news article. A research paper describes the output of research. If it is published in a Journal or conference, then it is a published research paper, or a publication. Sponsored by The Anxiety Store Get The Five Minute Journal for $19.99.

  6. Types of Publications - Guide to Science Information ...

    In scholarly and professional terms, literature is also defined as works available or published about a particular concept. It is like a world of many types of publications and information! The literature is commonly found in an index and database search, and used as references cited in a research publication. See below for examples and ...

  7. Publication Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

    The meaning of PUBLICATION is the act or process of publishing. ... by U.S. short seller Hindenburg Research on ... The publication of the new paper was timed to ...

  8. 13.1 Formatting a Research Paper – Writing for Success

    Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field. Margins, Pagination, and Headings

  9. peer review - What qualifies as a research publication ...

    A research publication is any readily available artifact which has passed peer review. I would exclude non-reviewed book chapters and arXiv etc. preprint submission. Unlike JeffE, I would include peer-reviewed work which is not novel.