PREPARATION OF THE RESEARCH PAPER





I. PURPOSE

    A research paper is a requirement of this course primarily for two reasons.   First, it affords you the opportunity to develop the skills required to prepare a scientific paper, e.g.,  conduct the necessary research, present the material in a logical easy to follow manner, write in an acceptable scientific manner. Your ability to write clearly, concisely and accurately will be a vital component of your professional scientific career since you will be required to communicate by means of a written report, e.g., laboratory report, published research article. As you read the scientific literature, you will observe that many scientists have not yet developed these skills. Secondly, writing a research paper enables you to study a specific topic of interest to you in greater detail than it can be presented in the course. The topic which you choose may be the basis of a thesis research project or a paper for publication. Therefore, choose a topic which is of academic or professional interest to you - writing a research paper is always a more enjoyable and satisfying experience if the topic is one which has stimulated your curiosity.
 
 
 

 II. RESEARCH

    Once a topic has been selected, you must conduct an in depth survey of the literature on the topic. This literature search must be as comprehensive as the available resources allow (fortunately, in the Washington area the available resources are extensive). Since there are no hard-and-fast rules for conducting literature research, you should develop a method with which you feel comfortable.   What follows is a summary of some hints and ideas which you might find useful in conducting the research for your paper.
 

A. Bibliographic resources
    In beginning the research process, you should consult one of the several bibliographic resources which are available to you. These resources will provide you with bibliographic information and/or abstracts of both primary and secondary references pertaining to your topic. I have found the following to be particularly helpful: Index Medicus, Science Citations Index, PUBMED and MEDLINE.

    If you are unable to obtain specific literature from either the Gelman Library or Himmelfarb Library, there are several options available. Check with one of the professors to determine whether he has the literature for which you are searching - often members of the faculty have journals and books which are not available in the University libraries. You may file a request, at the Reference Desk of the Gelman Library, to obtain the desired material through an inter-library loan (this may take longer than you are able to wait). You may visit The National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD (it is very close to a Metro stop). This library is probably the foremost biomedical library in the world---if you can't obtain the desired material there, you may be unable to obtain it.
 
 

B. Review of the topic.

    It is likely that after an initial examination of the bibliographic resources, you will be overwhelmed at the amount of literature that is available. Therefore, it is a good idea to review the secondary literature dealing with your topic. These secondary sources which might include review articles, textbook chapters, internet sources or encyclopedia articles will serve as an introduction to the topic, enable you to define and limit the topic and provide you with many primary references. At this initial stage of the research process, it is important for you to gain a general understanding or overview of the topic so that you will be able to review the primary literature more efficiently. Students frequently make the mistake of gathering and reading original research articles before they have reviewed the secondary sources and as a consequence, they often are unable to understand the concepts contained in or to determine the significance of these research articles. However, this process of reviewing secondary sources will serve as the foundation for the rest of your research. You should continue this review of the topic until you "feel comfortable" with the topic.
 

C. Sources
    At least 75% of the references cited in your paper must be primary references, e.g., reports of original research in refereed or scholarly journals, trial transcripts, government reports. The remaining 25% may be secondary references from appropriate and reliable sources, including Internet sources. Generally, articles from popular periodicals such as Newsweek, Time, etc. are not appropriate as cited sources. A research paper of approximately 10-12 pages in length should contain approximately 15-20 quality primary references.
 

D. Outline
    You should prepare an outline of the topic that will serve as a guide for the preparation of your paper. Preparing an outline requires you to organize your thoughts and ideas and allows your research activities to be directed toward the specific concepts that you wish to address. Generally, a topical outline, i.e., one in which the topics and sub-topics are described with words and phrases - not sentences, rather than a sentence outline, of less than one page in length will be suitable. Although not required, you may submit your initial outline to me for my comments and suggestions if you wish. This initial outline is a working document and as such may have to be revised as the research proceeds. Once the research has been completed, the final outline that you have developed may serve as the basis for the Table of Contents.
 
 
 

 III. CRITICAL EVALUATION

    As you read the many articles that you will obtain, you should attempt to evaluate the contents for accuracy or reliability. The fact that the article has been published in a refereed journal (even a prestigious one) does not guarantee its accuracy. Remember that one of the reasons for the publication of experimental results is to enable other scientists to evaluate them. Unfortunately, often students feel that they are unable to evaluate the literature since they do not possess sufficient knowledge in the area of the research. However, even the non-specialist can learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of poor experimental design and sloppy scientific reporting. These signs and symptoms include the following:
1) The use of poor experimental design which may be evidenced by the failure of the authors to have performed replicate analyses or randomized blind studies, to have simulated reasonably approximate real-life conditions or to have selected test subjects in an unbiased manner or to have used controls.
2) The author does not present a review of the literature that demonstrates his knowledge of the topic on which he is reporting.
3) The author has inaccurately reported the findings of others whom he has cited.
4) The experimental procedures are not described in sufficient detail to enable the reader to perform the experiment.
5) Data are not presented for each of the experiments described and/or data are presented for experiments not described.
6) The data do not correspond to the experiment described, e.g., the number of test subjects or the parameters measured differ from those described.
7) There is evidence of faulty reasoning (circular logic, special pleading or question-begging), prejudice (personal, racist, ethnic or sexist) or the use of propaganda techniques.
8) The conclusions that are drawn are speculative and not supported by experimental results.

    In addition, the findings of one author should be compared to the findings of other researchers in the area. If there are differences among the researchers, attempt to explain the cause for these differences, e.g., species, age or sex differences among test subjects, differences in specificity and/or sensitivity of analytical procedures used.

    It is important for you to demonstrate that you have attempted to determine, by the application of relevant standards or criteria, whether the literature has merit.   If you conclude that an article lacks merit or is unreliable, discuss the reasons for this conclusion.
 
 
 

 IV. PHYSICAL PRESENTATION OF THE PAPER
 

A. Format
    The paper is to be typed double-spaced on good quality paper with the following margins: 1 inch from the left and right edges of the page; 3/4 inch from the bottom of the page; and 1 inch from the top of the page. The paper should be typed using either Courier New, Times New Roman or Arial, size 12 font. Only the pages in the body of the paper should be numbered.
 

B. Length
   The length of the paper should be between 10 and 12  numbered pages. A penalty of 1 point will be assessed for each numbered page outside of these limits. The pages of the paper should be stapled together with a single staple in the upper left-hand corner. Do not use covers of any type.
 

C. Sections of the paper
1) Title page: The title page is to contain the title of the paper in the center of the page and the course number and the date of submission in the lower right hand corner. Do not put your name on the front page.
2) Blank page: This page will be used for the comments of the professor.
3) Table of Contents: Each major section heading used in the body of the paper and the pages on which those sections begin must be included in the Table of Contents.
4) Abstract: This is a concise (no more than 1 page) summary of the paper. The abstract is to be on a separate page.
5) Body of the paper: Arrange the body of the paper into major sections.   Each of the major sections is to begin on the fourth line following the end of the last section. The titles for the major sections are to be typed in upper case letters and centered.  Each page of the body of the paper is to be numbered at the bottom center of the page; the first page of the body of the paper is page 1. No pages of the paper other than those in the body are to be numbered.
6) References: A full bibliographic reference of each article cited in the body of the paper is to be included. List references alphabetically on the basis of the last name of the first author of the article. The format to be used is as presented in section V. C. below. Individual references in this section should be single-spaced and double-spaced between the references.
7) Last page: In the lower right had corner put your name and e-mail address.
8) You may rely on the following to resolve any issues of presentation not covered herein: K.L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations, 6th edition, The University of Chicago Press, 1996.
 

D. Tables, charts, diagrams, etc. (TCDs)
     TCDs are on a separate page, not numbered, immediately following their first mention in the text (no more than 1 per page). Photocopies of TCDs from the original source are not acceptable; they should be re-created or scanned from the original. TTCDs should be identified with an appropriate number, e.g. Figure 1, and should be described with an appropriate legend, e.g., Cocaine and its metabolites. An example of a Figure page is available at http://home.gwu.edu/~ntl/tpfig.pdf.
 
 
 

V. WRITING STYLE
 

A. The use of Standard English
    The paper must be written in Standard English. The third person, past tense, passive voice should be used.  Your paper must be written in a clear and concise manner so that its meaning is unambiguous. Long sentences with several clauses tend to be confusing and difficult to understand. Avoid meaningless modifying words and phrases. All foreign words and phrases should be underlined, for example, et al., e.g., inutero. Abbreviations must be defined the first time they are used, e.g., tricyclic antidepressants (TCA).

Examples of inappropriate word usage are as follows:

-   "... totally inaccurate"
What is the difference between totally inaccurate and inaccurate?

-   "This method has since replaced older methods in the laboratory"
Since what?

-   "...samples were run."
Use "analyzed" in place of the colloquial "run".

-   "... a good correlation..."
This is uninformative.  What is the value of r?

-"The committee expressed their displeasure in the report."
Committee is singular.

    The following are recommended for information pertaining to grammar and syntax.
W. Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 3rd edition, Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, Massachusetts, 1979.
M. Shertzer, The Elements of Grammar, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1986.
 
 

B. Citations in the body of the paper
    You must give a reference citation for all information in your paper that is derived from the work, ideas or thoughts of others whether the information is paraphrased or quoted directly. Direct quotations should be kept to a minimum - generally no more than 2 or 3 in a paper of this length.

    Literature will be cited in the body of the paper as shown in the following examples.

1) Journal articles and chapters in edited books
 List the author and year of publication enclosed within parentheses, e.g., (Jones, 1988). If there are two authors list them both, e.g., (Jones and Smith, 1988). If there are more than two authors, use the form (Jones, et al., 1988). If the same authors are to be cited for more than one article written in the same year, differentiate the articles by including a lower case letter after the year of publication, e.g., (Jones and Smith, 1988a) for the first article cited and (Jones and Smith, 1988b) for the second. In the reference section, the year of publication should be given exactly as it was in the citation used in the body of the paper, e.g., 1988a or 1988b.

2) Non-edited books
List the name of the author(s) as above but in addition include the page from which the cited material was obtained, e.g., (Roberts and Johnson, 1987, p.234). If the same work is cited more than once, only the page numbers are changed in subsequent citations, e.g., (Roberts and Johnson, 1987, p.456).

3) Internet sources
List the author or sponsoring organization, date of publication, e.g., SAMHSA, 1997.

4) All citations should be presented so that the source of the information is clear. For example:
             -Roberts and Johnson (1988, p. 234) have reported that ...
             -Two different receptors have been identified (McNauly, 1988).
             -It has been suggested that the drug is mutagenic (Jones, et al., 1988) as well as carcinogenic (Jones and Smith, 1988b).

      If the substance of an entire paragraph has been derived from a single source, indicate this at the beginning of the paragraph with an introductory sentence that includes the appropriate citation.  For example:
             -Jones and Smith (1988) have summarized several problems associated with the long term use of benzodiazepines.
 

C. Citations in the reference section
    The citations are to be arranged alphabetically in order of the last name. The names of all journals are to be abbreviated using the abbreviations used by the journal itself.

1) Journal article:
M. Gavish and S.H. Snyder, "Benzodiazepine recognition sites on GABA receptors", Nature, 287,  651-652 (1980).

M. Gavish and S.H. Snyder, "Benzodiazepine receptor antagonists", Pharmacol. Toxicol., 126,  123-127 (1980a).

      2) Chapter in an edited book:
S.K. Niyogi, "Historical overview of forensic toxicology", in Introduction to Forensic Toxicology,  R.H. Cravey and R.C. Baselt (eds.), Biomedical Publications, Davis, California, 1981.

    3) Text book:
G.G. Gordon and P. Skett, Introduction to Drug Metabolism, Chapman and Hall Ltd., New York,  1986.

4) Internet source:
SAMHSA, 1997: http://www.health.org/pressrel/aug97/3.htm
 

5) Material that you did not read in the original: This should be limited to material which was not available or was written in a language in which you are not proficient.

O. Eisleb and O. Schaumann, Dtsch. Med. Wochenschr., 65, 967 (1938) cited in W.T. Lowry  and J.C. Garriott, Forensic Toxicology, Plenum Press, New York, 1979.
 

6) Information received as the result of an interview or discussion:

J. Jackson, personal communication, July 25, 1992.
 
 
 

 VI. GRADING

The following aspects of the paper will be evaluated:

Format: 10 points
Compliance with the directions presented herein

Writing style: 10 points
Grammar   Syntax   Clarity   Spelling

Research: 15 points
Thoroughness   Significance of articles

Content: 65 points
Logical presentation   Thoroughness   Critical evaluation
 
 
 

 VII. MISCELLANEOUS

1) A copy of the first page of each of the articles listed in the references section must be submitted. These page should be stapled together separately from the term paper and attached to the paper with a clip.
2) No more than 10% of the citations in the body of the paper may come from the same source. Secondary references may constitute no more than 25% of the total number of the references cited in the reference section of the paper.
3) If you wish to receive a graded copy of your paper, submit two copies of your paper.
4) Research papers may be submitted after the due date. However, if you submit a late paper, you will receive a course grade of "I". The responsibility for any academic problems that might arise as a result of this is yours. All "I" grades must be removed within one calendar year or they may remain on the transcript permanently (GSAS rule).  In order to receive a grade for a research paper submitted after the due date, it must be submitted within 11 months of the original due date or it may not be accepted and the "I" grade may become the permanent grade for this course. Apart from any situations which may arise from a failure to comply with any of the above, submitting a research paper after the due date does not, per se, result in a grading penalty. Late papers will be graded in as timely a manner as possible.
5) You should maintain a copy (paper or computer) for your records at least until the course grade has been submitted.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

You may rely on any of the following for matters of syntax and format not addressed above.
W. Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 3rd edition, Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, Mass, 1979.

K.L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations, 6th edition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1996.

M. Shertzer, The Elements of Grammar, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1986.

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Revised 2003