Key Elements of a High-Quality Research Paper

Have you ever wondered what constitutes a high-quality paper or a good paper? Or wondered looking at another paper how that paper got published by the same journal that rejected your paper even when your paper has all the components of research in place?

Well, there is no standard definition of high quality or a good paper. A paper needs to follow certain criteria or writing approaches of a particular journal in order to be considered as a good paper. A journal has its own guidelines or criteria to select papers for publication. A paper considered to be good for one journal may not be a good fit for another. Provided that you have a well-defined research problem, methodology, and results, the first step to write a ‘high-quality’ paper is to understand the journal to which you are sending your paper. Understanding the journal will help you to reduce the time taken for publication.

A journal’s scope usually written on the homepage of the journal’s website will direct you on how to compose your paper. For example, a journal such as Social Science Research publishes papers from across disciplines but devoted to quantitative research while another journal such as Qualitative Research publishes papers across disciplines that focus on qualitative research. Journals can focus on thematic areas too, such as the Gender, Place & Culture that emphasizes on theoretically- informed research concerned with gender issues only. Further, journals can be of international or regional focus. Thus, you may choose a journal whose scope matches the scope of your paper in terms of methodology, theme, or geographical outreach.

The next important step of writing a good paper (after choosing the journal) is to follow the author guidelines. Journals judge your paper based on their set of criteria; few examples are:

Does the abstract and paper follow the journal guidelines?

Does the paper examine relevant literature critically?

Is there logical analysis and discussion?

Does the paper contextualise its findings with the international context?

Is there methodological clarity?

Are ethical considerations made transparent?

Does the paper follow the journal’s reference style?

Does the paper consider the debates that have happened in the journal?

Are there subject related implications?

Academic journals accept papers that meet their criteria and scope. Your paper will be structured and written based on the criteria of the chosen journal. There are journals that give importance on the critical evaluation of relevant literature. If you have chosen such journals, you may need to add key debates and new literature and discuss them critically in the literature review as well as in the discussion section. There are other journals that focus on methodology only. These journals do not accept papers that focus on reporting the findings but on discussions, reflections and debates on methodological issues. So, the focus and content of your paper are structured based on the journal’s scope and criteria.

The last step is not specific to one but common to all journals. Maintain the scientific standard of your paper. Your paper should be organized into the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (IMRD) format for empirical papers. While you add, remove or make other changes in different parts of the paper to fit into the criteria of the journal, the key elements of these sections (IMRD) remain the same. Check ‘How to organize your paper in IMRD format.

Tips #1: Do not exceed the word limit given for a paper. If it does, it will be returned to you. You may need to rework the word limit that delays the publication process.

Tips #2: Do not copy paste a part of your introduction as the abstract.

Tips #3: Proofread your paper before submission. Avoid grammatical errors and typos.

Photo Courtesy: Neonbrand

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