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Research Paper Guidelines

The different types of research can be classified as Theoretical, Empirical, and Evaluation. Theoretical research is focused on explaining phenomena through the logical analysis and synthesis of theories, principles, and the results of other forms of research such as empirical studies. Empirical research is focused on testing conclusions related to theories. Evaluation research is focused on a particular program, product, or method, usually in an applied setting, for the purpose of describing, improving, or estimating its effectiveness and worth.

Research methods are broadly classified as Quantitative and Qualitative.

  • Quantitative research includes experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, and other methods that primarily involve collection of quantitative data and its analysis using inferential statistics such as t-tests, ANOVA, correlation, and regression analysis.
  • Qualitative research includes observation, case studies, diaries, interviews, and other methods that primarily involve the collection of qualitative data and its analysis using grounded theory and ethnographic approaches. The Case Study method provides a way of studying human events and actions in their natural surroundings. It captures people and events as they appear in their daily circumstance. It can offer a researcher empirical and theoretical gains in understanding phenomena.

You, as an adult learner, bring a wealth of expertise to your studies. This knowledge and skills should be used to formulate a research paper that raises new questions, new possibilities, and regards existing problems from a new angle. Effective research compares, contrasts, analyzes, evaluates, synthesizes, and integrates information rather than simply reports it. It should contains references to and examples of various theorists, theories, ideas, philosophies, being compared and contrasted as well as synthesized and integrated within your work. The research paper must demonstrate scholarly treatment of the material that the student has selected for further study. It goes without saying that the research paper must be free of spelling and grammatical errors. All references must be cited correctly using APA style

Research studies must include a Breadth and Depth components. In the Breadth component, you should demonstrate familiarity with broad theoretical and conceptual topic areas and provide an overview of major theories, theorists, and schools of thought. The Depth section should promote understanding of latest research and build on theory presented in the Breadth section; it should be designed to foster greater depth, development, and detail in examination of one or more aspects that have already been introduced.


While developing the Research Paper, the following questions should be used as a checklist:

  • Does the research deal with a significant and meaningful problem that lends itself to a substantial research effort?
  • Is there a justification that demonstrates why the problem is worth studying?
  • Is it clear who or what will be aided by research findings?
  • Will the findings provide a basis for generalized conclusions or have practical applicability?
  • Is the purpose of the research expressed clearly?
  • Is the research question or hypotheses stated concisely and explicitly? Does it logically flow from the problem?
  • Are limitations of the study identified with recognition of their consequences?
  • Are technical terms well defined? Are definitions clear and unambiguous?
  • Is the theoretical framework related to previous research? Is previous work on the topic critically appraised?
  • Is the research informed by primary sources of theories, concepts, principles, and models in the field, and are they referred to specifically?
  • Are methods of data collection appropriately explained?
  • Is data analysis complete and presented logically?
  • Are conclusions and recommendations useful and tied to findings?

Details on the Individual Research Paper:

1. Length and Style

The body of an analytic research paper should be 10 pages in length and typed using the APA Guide. Student projects distill fundamental issues, discuss the various available solutions, discuss the benefits and limitations of the available solutions, and provide a new solution and justification. Student papers must state a thesis, and based on the research, attempt to prove or disprove that thesis. An adequate literature search will include a few books and journal articles (or other relevant documents). Students should develop a conclusion which synthesizes the literature in such a way as to demonstrate new knowledge.

Guidelines for the format of the paper are as follows:

  • The paper should be 10-12 pages of text in length. (This minimum length should not include the title page, separate figures and tables, or the list of references);
  • The paper should include a one paragraph abstract, an introduction, and a conclusion – think as if you were writing for a professional journal;
  • The paper should use APA format (double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, one inch margins, page numbers with running head in upper right corner, section titles, citations, and references in accordance with the APA standard).

Note: The Graduate School uses the 6th edition of the Publications Manual of the APA as its standard.

2. Term Paper Process

You are required to use the structured approach to project construction to aid them in completing a successful paper:

  • Week 3: Paper Title, Thesis (the proposition that you intend to support,) and Bibliography (a variety of sources, not just web documents). This is not graded, but should help you be more organized.
  • Week 9: Abstract of 200 to 300 words. Hierarchical structure of topics (outline down to second level.) Paper Progress Report. This is not graded, but should help you be more organized.
  • Week 11: Finalized Research Paper, which has to be submitted for grading.

3. Evaluation Criteria and Feedback

The litmus test of a good research project is: “Does my research project provide the reader with a new insight on my topic?”

Paper grades will be determined as follows:

  • Minimum length – 10% (note that there are no extra points for a 30 page paper)
  • Conformance to APA format – 10%
  • Depth of research – 40% (based on number and “authority” of references). Limit the use of Web references and “commercial magazines” like InformationWeek. Try to find “peer-reviewed” articles from sources like IEEE and ACM journals or from top-tier journals like Harvard Business Review. (Not that these are necessarily better, but in the academic world they are more respected and tend to be more thoroughly researched). Many IEEE and ACM journals, as well as various conference proceedings, are available through the UMUC electronic library.
  • Quality of paper – 40% (including development and presentation of subject, spelling, and grammar).