10 Tips to reduce the length of your research paper
Grammar & Language
Many English-second language authors find it quite difficult to write concisely, because they cannot find appropriate words to substitute long phrases. In fact, conforming to a given word count limit is difficult for native English speakers as well because they usually have so much to say and have to remember to keep it short.
It’s best to keep the journal requirements in mind and try to write concisely when you are drafting your manuscript itself. After you’ve written your first draft, you can look through your manuscript critically to identify text that can be made more concise and sentences that can be shortened.
Here are 10 tips to keep your manuscript concise:
1. Look out for sentences beginning with “there is a previous study on,” “it has been reported that,” or similar phrases. Such sentences should be accompanied by reference citations, which make the above phrases redundant. These phrases can be deleted, leaving only the citation.
Original : It has been reported that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age (Rogue et al., 2004). (17 words)
Revised : It has been reported that t T he incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age (Rogue et al., 2004). (12 words)
2. Sentences carrying product names can be shortened by shifting the product name within parentheses.
Original : The samples were analyzed on the ABC spectrophotometer (Zhejiang Scientific, Zhejiang, China) to determine the xyz values. (17 words)
Revised : The samples were analyzed on the ABC spectrophotometer to determine the xyz values ( ABC spectrometer; Zhejiang Scientific, Zhejiang, China). (15 words)
3. Nominalizations, that is, the use of noun forms instead of verb forms, are a big contributor to wordiness, so look out for these. In the example below, using “diagnosed” instead of “diagnosis” makes the sentence shorter.
Original : A diagnosis of cancer was made on the basis of the findings. (12 words)
Revised : A diagnosis of c C ancer was diagnosed made on the basis of the findings. (9 words)
4. In the results section, avoid stating individual values for groups, followed by the values for statistical significance. Instead, place the values within parentheses.
Original : The protein level was 5 mg in Group A, while it was 3 mg in Group B, the difference being statistically significant (p < 0.05). (25 words)
Revised : The difference in the protein level was 5 mg in between G g roups A and B , while it was 3 mg in Group b, the difference being statistically was significant ( 5 mg vs. 3 mg, p < 0.05). (21 words)
5. Check whether you can eliminate sentences containing very basic information that would be obvious to the target audience. Authors tend to add such statements especially at the beginning of the introduction and discussion. While it’s important to establish the context, offering your audience very obvious information may come across as patronizing.
Example : If you are writing a study about AIDS, avoid starting the introduction with a statement like “AIDS is a life-threatening disease.”
6. Look out for typical wordy phrases that can be replaced with less wordy options. Here are some common examples:
A number of - several
As a result - therefore
On the other hand - whereas
As a consequence of - owing to
7. English grammar allows for repeated verbs in a sentence to be eliminated by using something called “elliptical constructions.”
Original : Group A was given cyclosporine, Group B was given FK506, and Group C was given chlorambucil. (16 words)
Revised : Group A was given cyclosporine; Group B , was given FK506; and Group C , was given chlorambucil. (12 words)
8. Most document-processing systems like MS Office consider hyphenated words as one word. So opt for hyphenated terms wherever possible.
Original : After rehabilitation, the patients came to rely on themselves. (9 words)
Revised : After rehabilitation, the patients became self-reliant to rely on themselves. (6 words)
9. Using the active voice instead of the passive helps reduce the word count in certain constructions.
Original : Written informed consent was given by all patients. (8 words)
Revised : All patients gave W written informed consent was given by all patients . (6 words)
10. Avoid possessive constructions formed using “of.”
Original : Patients of Group 1 were followed up for 6 months, and those of Group 2, for 12 months. (18 words)
Revised : Patients of Group 1 patients were followed up for 6 months, while and those of Group 2 patients were followed up , for 12 months. (15 words)
These guidelines will help you in reducing the length of your manuscript considerably without altering the content. But word reduction is never easy, and it often takes reading through the entire manuscript in several passes to be able to identify all possible areas allowing for conciseness. Unfortunately, if all else fails, you’ll have to go over your content and decide what aspects can be eliminated.
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Published on: Oct 16, 2013
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5 steps to reduce the length of the research paper without losing content
You have reached the point where you are happy with your research, you’ve completed a manuscript and selected a target journal. Yet while doing the final checks, you find that one of those pesky requirements sets the maximum length of the research paper, which you have greatly exceeded.
As an editor and journal reviewer, I often find that authors use too many words to convey one idea, either because they have too much to say or English is not their first language. This redundancy occurs when you unnecessarily repeat something that can muddle the message and divert the reader’s attention, which should be avoided. But, how to shorten a research paper while making sure your message is clear? Do not despair, I have five simple tips to help you achieve just that.
1. The first thing to reduce word count in research papers is to focus. Concepts should be defined once, either in the Introduction or Discussion section, but not both. Methodologies are also only needed once, and if established then make sure to cite the relevant reference. Use tables and figures to present the data; numbers from tables or figures should not be repeated in the text except in unusual cases where the numbers have a special significance. The conclusion should summarize the answers to the research question and not repeat the results.
2. Avoid redundancy. What do I mean by redundant? It refers to unnecessary words. For example, “all over the world” can be replaced with “worldwide” and instead of writing “in spite of the fact that” you can use “although.” Redundancy also happens when using two words together that have the same meaning (e.g., merge together, close proximity, end result, or shorter/longer in length). Another way to reduce the length of a research paper is to avoid repetition in your sentences (e.g., for the measurement of the nitrogen concentration, we measured the content of nitrogen using the Kjeldahl method; everything before the comma can be deleted). Hyphenated words are usually considered one word, so you can also hyphenate compound adjectives that modify a noun (e.g., water-soluble fertilizers instead of fertilizers that are soluble in water). When giving a comparison for which there are an equal number of elements, use the word “respectively” (e.g., the oxygen and nitrogen flow were set at 80 and 5 ml/min, respectively).
3. When citing papers, avoid using introductory expressions. How often do you read papers repeating “another research study found/demonstrated that” or “scientists have noted that” or the sometimes inexplicable need to use the author name? State your claim directly and cite the relevant literature, your prose will be remarkably more authoritative and it will also reduce the word count in research papers.
4. Using irrelevant words is a common pitfall. Don’t use words such as “notably” or “interestingly” or “unfortunately.” it may be just one word but they are redundant in scientific writing and can be deleted to shorten your research paper as they add no value. Also, avoid superlatives––adjectives used to mean something is the best of its kind––such as “it is extremely hot.” Give details (e.g., the precise temperature) and let the numbers do the talking.
5. As some journals set a very low word limit for this section, the length of the Abstract will be the ultimate challenge. Has someone ever told you “so, what do you do?” This means we used too many words and we either lost attention or they got lost with too many details. The Abstract should be a clear standalone passage of your research. A brief rationale (e.g., while X and Y are essential to A and B, little is known) with the study aim, the overall methodological approach followed by the new information uncovered (trends, not every data obtained), and the conclusions – simply present the implications of the study findings.
The punchline is that if you do not comply with the most basic requirements, your manuscript will be rejected without review. Let’s be honest, it is not about the decoration we provide but the message we convey. So I hope these steps will help you reduce the word count in research papers.
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Short research papers: how to write academic essays.
Jerz > Writing > Academic > Research Papers [ Title | Thesis | Blueprint | Quoting | Citing | MLA Format ]
This document focuses on the kind of short, narrowly-focused research papers that might be the final project in a freshman writing class or 200-level literature survey course.
In high school, you probably wrote a lot of personal essays (where your goal was to demonstrate you were engaged) and a lot of info-dump paragraphs (where your goal was to demonstrate you could remember and organize information your teacher told you to learn).
How is a college research essay different from the writing you did in high school?
This short video covers the same topic in a different way; I think the video and handout work together fairly well.
The assignment description your professor has already given you is your best source for understanding your specific writing task, but in general, a college research paper asks you to use evidence to defend some non-obvious, nuanced point about a complex topic.
Some professors may simply want you to explain a situation or describe a process; however, a more challenging task asks you to take a stand, demonstrating you can use credible sources to defend your original ideas.
- Choose a Narrow Topic
- Use Sources Appropriately
Outside the classroom, if I want to “research” which phone I should buy, I would start with Google.
I would watch some YouTube unboxing videos, and I might ask my friends on social media. I’d assume somebody already has written about or knows about the latest phones, and the goal of my “research” is to find what the people I trust think is the correct answer.
An entomologist might do “research” by going into the forest, and catching and observing hundreds or thousands of butterflies. If she had begun and ended her research by Googling for “butterflies of Pennsylvania” she would never have seen, with her own eyes, that unusual specimen that leads her to conclude she has discovered a new species.
Her goal as a field researcher is not to find the “correct answer” that someone else has already published. Instead, her goal is to add something new to the store of human knowledge — something that hasn’t been written down yet.
As an undergraduate with a few short months or weeks to write a research paper, you won’t be expected to discover a new species of butterfly, or convince everyone on the planet to accept what 99.9% of scientists say about vaccines or climate change, or to adopt your personal views on abortion, vaping, or tattoos.
But your professor will probably want you to read essays published by credentialed experts who are presenting their results to other experts, often in excruciating detail that most of us non-experts will probably find boring.
Your instructor probably won’t give the results of a random Google search the same weight as peer-reviewed scholarly articles from academic journals. (See “ Academic Journals: What Are They? “)
The best databases are not free, but your student ID will get you access to your school’s collection of databases, so you should never have to pay to access any source. (Your friendly school librarian will help you find out exactly how to access the databases at your school.)
1. Plan to Revise
Even a very short paper is the result of a process.
- You start with one idea, you test it, and you hit on something better.
- You might end up somewhere unexpected. If so, that’s good — it means you learned something.
- If you’re only just starting your paper, and it’s due tomorrow, you have already robbed yourself of your most valuable resource — time.
Showcase your best insights at the beginning of your paper (rather than saving them for the end).
You won’t know what your best ideas are until you’ve written a full draft. Part of revision involves identifying strong ideas and making them more prominent, identifying filler and other weak material, and pruning it away to leave more room to develop your best ideas.
- It’s normal, in a your very first “discovery draft,” to hit on a really good idea about two-thirds of the way through your paper.
- But a polished academic paper is not a mystery novel. (A busy reader will not have the patience to hunt for clues.)
- A thesis statement that includes a clear reasoning blueprint (see “ Blueprinting: Planning Your Essay “) will help your reader identify and follow your ideas.
Before you submit your draft, make sure the title, the introduction, and the conclusion match . (I am amazed at how many students overlook this simple step.)
2. Choose a Narrow Topic
A short undergraduate research paper is not the proper occasion for you to tackle huge issues, such as, “Was Hamlet Shakespeare’s Best Tragedy?” or “Women’s Struggle for Equality” or “How to Eliminate Racism.” You won’t be graded down simply because you don’t have all the answers right away. The trick is to zoom in on one tiny little part of the argument .
Short Research Paper: Sample Topics
How would you improve each of these paper topics? (My responses are at the bottom of the page.)
- Environmentalism in America
- Immigration Trends in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley
- Drinking and Driving
- Local TV News
- 10 Ways that Advertisers Lie to the Public
- Athletes on College Campuses
3. Use Sources Appropriately
Unless you were asked to write an opinion paper or a reflection statement, your professor probably expects you to draw a topic from the assigned readings (if any).
- Some students frequently get this backwards — they write the paper first, then “look for quotes” from sources that agree with the opinions they’ve already committed to. (That’s not really doing research to learn anything new — that’s just looking for confirmation of what you already believe.)
- Start with the readings, but don’t pad your paper with summary .
- Many students try doing most of their research using Google. Depending on your topic, the Internet may simply not have good sources available.
- Go ahead and surf as you try to narrow your topic, but remember: you still need to cite whatever you find. (See: “ Researching Academic Papers .”)
When learning about the place of women in Victorian society, Sally is shocked to discover women couldn’t vote or own property. She begins her paper by listing these and other restrictions, and adds personal commentary such as:
Women can be just as strong and capable as men are. Why do men think they have the right to make all the laws and keep all the money, when women stay in the kitchen? People should be judged by what they contribute to society, not by the kind of chromosomes they carry.
After reaching the required number of pages, she tacks on a conclusion about how women are still fighting for their rights today, and submits her paper.
- during the Victorian period, female authors were being published and read like never before
- the public praised Queen Victoria (a woman!) for making England a world empire
- some women actually fought against the new feminists because they distrusted their motives
- many wealthy women in England were downright nasty to their poorer sisters, especially the Irish.
- Sally’s paper focused mainly on her general impression that sexism is unfair (something that she already believed before she started taking the course), but Sally has not engaged with the controversies or surprising details (such as, for instance, the fact that for the first time male writers were writing with female readers in mind; or that upperclass women contributed to the degradation of lower-class women).
On the advice of her professor, Sally revises her paper as follows:
Sally’s focused revision (right) makes specific reference to a particular source , and uses a quote to introduce a point. Sally still injects her own opinion, but she is offering specific comments on complex issues, not bumper-sticker slogans and sweeping generalizations, such as those given on the left.
Back up your claims by quoting reputable sources . If you write”Recent research shows that…” or “Many scholars believe that…”, you are making a claim. You will have to back it up with authoritative evidence. This means that the body of your paper must include references to the specific page numbers where you got your outside information. (If your document is an online source that does not provide page numbers, ask your instructor what you should do. There might be a section title or paragraph number that you could cite, or you might print out the article and count the pages in your printout.)
Avoid using words like “always” or “never,” since all it takes is a single example to the contrary to disprove your claim. Likewise, be careful with words of causation and proof. For example, consider the claim that television causes violence in kids. The evidence might be that kids who commit crimes typically watch more television than kids who don’t. But… maybe the reason kids watch more television is that they’ve dropped out of school, and are unsupervised at home. An unsupervised kid might watch more television, and also commit more crimes — but that doesn’t mean that the television is the cause of those crimes.
You don’t need to cite common facts or observations, such as “a circle has 360 degrees” or “8-tracks and vinyl records are out of date,” but you would need to cite claims such as “circles have religious and philosophical significance in many cultures” or “the sales of 8-track tapes never approached those of vinyl records.”
Don’t waste words referring directly to “quotes” and “sources.”
If you use words like “in the book My Big Boring Academic Study , by Professor H. Pompous Windbag III, it says” or “the following quote by a government study shows that…” you are wasting words that would be better spent developing your ideas.
In the book Gramophone, Film, Typewriter , by Fredrich A. Kittler, it talks about writing and gender, and says on page 186, “an omnipresent metaphor equated women with the white sheet of nature or virginity onto which a very male stylus could inscribe the glory of its authorship.” As you can see from this quote, all this would change when women started working as professional typists.
The “it talks about” and “As you can see from this quote” are weak attempts to engage with the ideas presented by Kittler. “In the book… it talks” is wordy and nonsensical (books don’t talk).
MLA style encourages you to expend fewer words introducing your sources , and more words developing your own ideas. MLA style involves just the author’s last name, a space ( not a comma), and then the page number. Leave the author’s full name and the the title of the source for the Works Cited list at the end of your paper. Using about the same space as the original, see how MLA style helps an author devote more words to developing the idea more fully:
Before the invention of the typewriter, “an omnipresent metaphor” among professional writers concerned “a very male stylus” writing upon the passive, feminized “white sheet of nature or virginity” (Kittler 186). By contrast, the word “typewriter” referred to the machine as well as the female typist who used it (183).
See “ Quotations: Integrating them in MLA-Style Papers. ”
Stay On Topic
It’s fairly normal to sit and stare at the computer screen for a while until you come up with a title, then pick your way through your topic, offering an extremely broad introduction (see glittering generalities , below)..
- You might also type in a few long quotations that you like.
- After writing generalities and just poking and prodding for page or two, you will eventually hit on a fairly good idea .
- You will pursue it for a paragraph or two, perhaps throwing in another quotation.
- By then, you’ll realize that you’ve got almost three pages written, so you will tack on a hasty conclusion.
Hooray, you’ve finished your paper! Well, not quite…
- At the very least, you ought to rewrite your title and introduction to match your conclusion , so it looks like the place you ended up was where you were intending to go all along. You probably won’t get an A, because you’re still submitting two pages of fluff; but you will get credit for recognizing whatever you actually did accomplish.
- To get an A, you should delete all that fluff, use the “good idea” that you stumbled across as your new starting point , and keep going. Even “good writers” have to work — beefing up their best ideas and shaving away the rest, in order to build a whole paper that serves the good idea, rather than tacking the good idea on at the end and calling it a day.
See: Sally Slacker Writes a Paper , and Sally’s Professor Responds
Avoid Glittering Generalities
Key: Research Paper Topics
15 thoughts on “ Short Research Papers: How to Write Academic Essays ”
Hi, I was searching for some information on how to write quality academic paper when I came across your awesome article on Short Research Papers: How to Writer Academic Essays ( https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/academic1/short-research-papers/ ) Great stuff!!! I especially like the way you recommend sticking to the 4 basics of writing academic essays. Very few students have mastered how to avoid distractions and focus on a single topic. Many students think that the broad, sweeping statements could give them better grades but they are wrong.
However, I came across a few links that didn’t seem to be working for you. Want me to forward you the short list I jotted down? Cheers Elias
I see some broken links in the comments, but otherwise I’m not sure what you mean.
I found the part about not using my personal opinion or generalities to be very helpful. I am currently writing a 2 page paper and was having a hard time keeping it short. Now I know why. Thanks. Stick to the facts.
This seem to be old but very relevant. Most of what you have stated are things my professor has stated during class trying to prepare us to write a short thesis reading this information verses hearing it was very helpful. You have done an awesome job! I just hope I can take this and apply it to my papers!
Great Post! Thank u!
Thank you for all your effort and help. You´ve taught me a number of things, especially on what college professors´ look for in assigning students short research papers. I am bookmarking your page, and using it as a reference.
Thank you kindly. YOU´VE HELPED A LOST STUDENT FIND HER WAY!
I appreaciate all the help your web site has given to me. I have referred to it many times. I think there may be a typo under the headline of AVOID GLITTERING GENERALITIES: “Throughout the ages, mankind has found many uses for salt. Ancient tribes used it preserve meat;” This is in no way a slight – I thought you might want to know. Please forgive me if I am incorrect. Thank you again – you rock!
You are right — I’ll fix it the next time I’m at my desktop. Thank you!
i would like to say thank you for your detailed information even though it takes time to read as well as we’ve got learnings out from it . even though it’s holiday next week our teacher assigned us to make a short research paper in accordance of our selected topic ! I’m hoping that we can make it cause if we can’t make it, right away, for sure we will get a grade’s that can drop our jaws ! :) ♥ tnx ! keep it up ! ♪♪
Sorry I have not done this for years
Hello I am the mother of a high school student that needs help doing a paper proposal for her senior project. Her topic is Photography. To be honest I have done this for years and I am trying to help, but i am completely lost. What can you recommend since she told me a little late and the paper is due tomorrow 11/11/11.
This page is designed for college students, but I am sure your daughter’s teacher has assigned readings that will guide your daughter through her homework.
Any paper that your daughter writes herself, even if it is late, will be a valuable learning experience — showing her the value of managing her time better for the next time, and preparing her for the day when she will have to tackle grown-up problems on her own.
I am having a hard time with my government essay. I am 55 taking a college course for the first time, and I barely passed high school. Last year I took this course wrote the essay, and did many things wrong. It was all in the typing. I had good story line, excellent site words, and good points of arguments. It wasn’t right on paper. My format is off. Where can I find and print a format. also I need to learn site words.
Most teachers will provide a model to follow. If it’s not already part of the assignment instructions, you could ask your prof. Better yet, bring a near-complete draft to your prof’s office hours, a few days before the due date, and ask for feedback. Your school probably has a writing center or tutoring center, too.
I would like to thank you for such detailed information. I am not a native speaker and I am doing a research paper;so, as you may think, it is really a hard job for me. A friend of mine who saw my draft of Lit. Rev asked me what type of citation format i was using, MLA or APA and I was puzzeled; then I decided to check the net and came across to this! It is being such a help Elsa
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12.1 Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper
- Apply strategies for drafting an effective introduction and conclusion.
- Identify when and how to summarize, paraphrase, and directly quote information from research sources.
- Apply guidelines for citing sources within the body of the paper and the bibliography.
- Use primary and secondary research to support ideas.
- Identify the purposes for which writers use each type of research.
At last, you are ready to begin writing the rough draft of your research paper. Putting your thinking and research into words is exciting. It can also be challenging. In this section, you will learn strategies for handling the more challenging aspects of writing a research paper, such as integrating material from your sources, citing information correctly, and avoiding any misuse of your sources.
The Structure of a Research Paper
Research papers generally follow the same basic structure: an introduction that presents the writer’s thesis, a body section that develops the thesis with supporting points and evidence, and a conclusion that revisits the thesis and provides additional insights or suggestions for further research.
Your writing voice will come across most strongly in your introduction and conclusion, as you work to attract your readers’ interest and establish your thesis. These sections usually do not cite sources at length. They focus on the big picture, not specific details. In contrast, the body of your paper will cite sources extensively. As you present your ideas, you will support your points with details from your research.
Writing Your Introduction
There are several approaches to writing an introduction, each of which fulfills the same goals. The introduction should get readers’ attention, provide background information, and present the writer’s thesis. Many writers like to begin with one of the following catchy openers:
- A surprising fact
- A thought-provoking question
- An attention-getting quote
- A brief anecdote that illustrates a larger concept
- A connection between your topic and your readers’ experiences
The next few sentences place the opening in context by presenting background information. From there, the writer builds toward a thesis, which is traditionally placed at the end of the introduction. Think of your thesis as a signpost that lets readers know in what direction the paper is headed.
Jorge decided to begin his research paper by connecting his topic to readers’ daily experiences. Read the first draft of his introduction. The thesis is underlined. Note how Jorge progresses from the opening sentences to background information to his thesis.
Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets
Over the past decade, increasing numbers of Americans have jumped on the low-carb bandwagon. Some studies estimate that approximately 40 million Americans, or about 20 percent of the population, are attempting to restrict their intake of food high in carbohydrates (Sanders and Katz, 2004; Hirsch, 2004). Proponents of low-carb diets say they are not only the most effective way to lose weight, but they also yield health benefits such as lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, some doctors claim that low-carb diets are overrated and caution that their long-term effects are unknown. Although following a low-carbohydrate diet can benefit some people, these diets are not necessarily the best option for everyone who wants to lose weight or improve their health.
Write the introductory paragraph of your research paper. Try using one of the techniques listed in this section to write an engaging introduction. Be sure to include background information about the topic that leads to your thesis.
Writers often work out of sequence when writing a research paper. If you find yourself struggling to write an engaging introduction, you may wish to write the body of your paper first. Writing the body sections first will help you clarify your main points. Writing the introduction should then be easier. You may have a better sense of how to introduce the paper after you have drafted some or all of the body.
Writing Your Conclusion
In your introduction, you tell readers where they are headed. In your conclusion, you recap where they have been. For this reason, some writers prefer to write their conclusions soon after they have written their introduction. However, this method may not work for all writers. Other writers prefer to write their conclusion at the end of the paper, after writing the body paragraphs. No process is absolutely right or absolutely wrong; find the one that best suits you.
No matter when you compose the conclusion, it should sum up your main ideas and revisit your thesis. The conclusion should not simply echo the introduction or rely on bland summary statements, such as “In this paper, I have demonstrated that.…” In fact, avoid repeating your thesis verbatim from the introduction. Restate it in different words that reflect the new perspective gained through your research. That helps keep your ideas fresh for your readers. An effective writer might conclude a paper by asking a new question the research inspired, revisiting an anecdote presented earlier, or reminding readers of how the topic relates to their lives.
Writing at Work
If your job involves writing or reading scientific papers, it helps to understand how professional researchers use the structure described in this section. A scientific paper begins with an abstract that briefly summarizes the entire paper. The introduction explains the purpose of the research, briefly summarizes previous research, and presents the researchers’ hypothesis. The body provides details about the study, such as who participated in it, what the researchers measured, and what results they recorded. The conclusion presents the researchers’ interpretation of the data, or what they learned.
Using Source Material in Your Paper
One of the challenges of writing a research paper is successfully integrating your ideas with material from your sources. Your paper must explain what you think, or it will read like a disconnected string of facts and quotations. However, you also need to support your ideas with research, or they will seem insubstantial. How do you strike the right balance?
You have already taken a step in the right direction by writing your introduction. The introduction and conclusion function like the frame around a picture. They define and limit your topic and place your research in context.
In the body paragraphs of your paper, you will need to integrate ideas carefully at the paragraph level and at the sentence level. You will use topic sentences in your paragraphs to make sure readers understand the significance of any facts, details, or quotations you cite. You will also include sentences that transition between ideas from your research, either within a paragraph or between paragraphs. At the sentence level, you will need to think carefully about how you introduce paraphrased and quoted material.
Earlier you learned about summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting when taking notes. In the next few sections, you will learn how to use these techniques in the body of your paper to weave in source material to support your ideas.
When you summarize material from a source, you zero in on the main points and restate them concisely in your own words. This technique is appropriate when only the major ideas are relevant to your paper or when you need to simplify complex information into a few key points for your readers.
Be sure to review the source material as you summarize it. Identify the main idea and restate it as concisely as you can—preferably in one sentence. Depending on your purpose, you may also add another sentence or two condensing any important details or examples. Check your summary to make sure it is accurate and complete.
In his draft, Jorge summarized research materials that presented scientists’ findings about low-carbohydrate diets. Read the following passage from a trade magazine article and Jorge’s summary of the article.
Assessing the Efficacy of Low-Carbohydrate Diets
Adrienne Howell, Ph.D.
Over the past few years, a number of clinical studies have explored whether high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are more effective for weight loss than other frequently recommended diet plans, such as diets that drastically curtail fat intake (Pritikin) or that emphasize consuming lean meats, grains, vegetables, and a moderate amount of unsaturated fats (the Mediterranean diet). A 2009 study found that obese teenagers who followed a low-carbohydrate diet lost an average of 15.6 kilograms over a six-month period, whereas teenagers following a low-fat diet or a Mediterranean diet lost an average of 11.1 kilograms and 9.3 kilograms respectively. Two 2010 studies that measured weight loss for obese adults following these same three diet plans found similar results. Over three months, subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet plan lost anywhere from four to six kilograms more than subjects who followed other diet plans.
In three recent studies, researchers compared outcomes for obese subjects who followed either a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-fat diet, or a Mediterranean diet and found that subjects following a low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight in the same time (Howell, 2010).
A summary restates ideas in your own words—but for specialized or clinical terms, you may need to use terms that appear in the original source. For instance, Jorge used the term obese in his summary because related words such as heavy or overweight have a different clinical meaning.
On a separate sheet of paper, practice summarizing by writing a one-sentence summary of the same passage that Jorge already summarized.
When you paraphrase material from a source, restate the information from an entire sentence or passage in your own words, using your own original sentence structure. A paraphrased source differs from a summarized source in that you focus on restating the ideas, not condensing them.
Again, it is important to check your paraphrase against the source material to make sure it is both accurate and original. Inexperienced writers sometimes use the thesaurus method of paraphrasing—that is, they simply rewrite the source material, replacing most of the words with synonyms. This constitutes a misuse of sources. A true paraphrase restates ideas using the writer’s own language and style.
In his draft, Jorge frequently paraphrased details from sources. At times, he needed to rewrite a sentence more than once to ensure he was paraphrasing ideas correctly. Read the passage from a website. Then read Jorge’s initial attempt at paraphrasing it, followed by the final version of his paraphrase.
Dieters nearly always get great results soon after they begin following a low-carbohydrate diet, but these results tend to taper off after the first few months, particularly because many dieters find it difficult to follow a low-carbohydrate diet plan consistently.
People usually see encouraging outcomes shortly after they go on a low-carbohydrate diet, but their progress slows down after a short while, especially because most discover that it is a challenge to adhere to the diet strictly (Heinz, 2009).
After reviewing the paraphrased sentence, Jorge realized he was following the original source too closely. He did not want to quote the full passage verbatim, so he again attempted to restate the idea in his own style.
Because it is hard for dieters to stick to a low-carbohydrate eating plan, the initial success of these diets is short-lived (Heinz, 2009).
On a separate sheet of paper, follow these steps to practice paraphrasing.
- Choose an important idea or detail from your notes.
- Without looking at the original source, restate the idea in your own words.
- Check your paraphrase against the original text in the source. Make sure both your language and your sentence structure are original.
- Revise your paraphrase if necessary.
Quoting Sources Directly
Most of the time, you will summarize or paraphrase source material instead of quoting directly. Doing so shows that you understand your research well enough to write about it confidently in your own words. However, direct quotes can be powerful when used sparingly and with purpose.
Quoting directly can sometimes help you make a point in a colorful way. If an author’s words are especially vivid, memorable, or well phrased, quoting them may help hold your reader’s interest. Direct quotations from an interviewee or an eyewitness may help you personalize an issue for readers. And when you analyze primary sources, such as a historical speech or a work of literature, quoting extensively is often necessary to illustrate your points. These are valid reasons to use quotations.
Less experienced writers, however, sometimes overuse direct quotations in a research paper because it seems easier than paraphrasing. At best, this reduces the effectiveness of the quotations. At worst, it results in a paper that seems haphazardly pasted together from outside sources. Use quotations sparingly for greater impact.
When you do choose to quote directly from a source, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure you have transcribed the original statement accurately.
- Represent the author’s ideas honestly. Quote enough of the original text to reflect the author’s point accurately.
- Never use a stand-alone quotation. Always integrate the quoted material into your own sentence.
- Use ellipses (…) if you need to omit a word or phrase. Use brackets [ ] if you need to replace a word or phrase.
- Make sure any omissions or changed words do not alter the meaning of the original text. Omit or replace words only when absolutely necessary to shorten the text or to make it grammatically correct within your sentence.
- Remember to include correctly formatted citations that follow the assigned style guide.
Jorge interviewed a dietician as part of his research, and he decided to quote her words in his paper. Read an excerpt from the interview and Jorge’s use of it, which follows.
Personally, I don’t really buy into all of the hype about low-carbohydrate miracle diets like Atkins and so on. Sure, for some people, they are great, but for most, any sensible eating and exercise plan would work just as well.
Registered dietician Dana Kwon (2010) admits, “Personally, I don’t really buy into all of the hype.…Sure, for some people, [low-carbohydrate diets] are great, but for most, any sensible eating and exercise plan would work just as well.”
Notice how Jorge smoothly integrated the quoted material by starting the sentence with an introductory phrase. His use of ellipses and brackets did not change the source’s meaning.
Documenting Source Material
Throughout the writing process, be scrupulous about documenting information taken from sources. The purpose of doing so is twofold:
- To give credit to other writers or researchers for their ideas
- To allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired
You will cite sources within the body of your paper and at the end of the paper in your bibliography. For this assignment, you will use the citation format used by the American Psychological Association (also known as APA style). For information on the format used by the Modern Language Association (MLA style), see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” .
Citing Sources in the Body of Your Paper
In-text citations document your sources within the body of your paper. These include two vital pieces of information: the author’s name and the year the source material was published. When quoting a print source, also include in the citation the page number where the quoted material originally appears. The page number will follow the year in the in-text citation. Page numbers are necessary only when content has been directly quoted, not when it has been summarized or paraphrased.
Within a paragraph, this information may appear as part of your introduction to the material or as a parenthetical citation at the end of a sentence. Read the examples that follow. For more information about in-text citations for other source types, see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” .
Leibowitz (2008) found that low-carbohydrate diets often helped subjects with Type II diabetes maintain a healthy weight and control blood-sugar levels.
The introduction to the source material includes the author’s name followed by the year of publication in parentheses.
Low-carbohydrate diets often help subjects with Type II diabetes maintain a healthy weight and control blood-sugar levels (Leibowitz, 2008).
The parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence includes the author’s name, a comma, and the year the source was published. The period at the end of the sentence comes after the parentheses.
Creating a List of References
Each of the sources you cite in the body text will appear in a references list at the end of your paper. While in-text citations provide the most basic information about the source, your references section will include additional publication details. In general, you will include the following information:
- The author’s last name followed by his or her first (and sometimes middle) initial
- The year the source was published
- The source title
- For articles in periodicals, the full name of the periodical, along with the volume and issue number and the pages where the article appeared
Additional information may be included for different types of sources, such as online sources. For a detailed guide to APA or MLA citations, see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” . A sample reference list is provided with the final draft of Jorge’s paper later in this chapter.
Using Primary and Secondary Research
As you write your draft, be mindful of how you are using primary and secondary source material to support your points. Recall that primary sources present firsthand information. Secondary sources are one step removed from primary sources. They present a writer’s analysis or interpretation of primary source materials. How you balance primary and secondary source material in your paper will depend on the topic and assignment.
Using Primary Sources Effectively
Some types of research papers must use primary sources extensively to achieve their purpose. Any paper that analyzes a primary text or presents the writer’s own experimental research falls in this category. Here are a few examples:
- A paper for a literature course analyzing several poems by Emily Dickinson
- A paper for a political science course comparing televised speeches delivered by two presidential candidates
- A paper for a communications course discussing gender biases in television commercials
- A paper for a business administration course that discusses the results of a survey the writer conducted with local businesses to gather information about their work-from-home and flextime policies
- A paper for an elementary education course that discusses the results of an experiment the writer conducted to compare the effectiveness of two different methods of mathematics instruction
For these types of papers, primary research is the main focus. If you are writing about a work (including nonprint works, such as a movie or a painting), it is crucial to gather information and ideas from the original work, rather than relying solely on others’ interpretations. And, of course, if you take the time to design and conduct your own field research, such as a survey, a series of interviews, or an experiment, you will want to discuss it in detail. For example, the interviews may provide interesting responses that you want to share with your reader.
Using Secondary Sources Effectively
For some assignments, it makes sense to rely more on secondary sources than primary sources. If you are not analyzing a text or conducting your own field research, you will need to use secondary sources extensively.
As much as possible, use secondary sources that are closely linked to primary research, such as a journal article presenting the results of the authors’ scientific study or a book that cites interviews and case studies. These sources are more reliable and add more value to your paper than sources that are further removed from primary research. For instance, a popular magazine article on junk-food addiction might be several steps removed from the original scientific study on which it is loosely based. As a result, the article may distort, sensationalize, or misinterpret the scientists’ findings.
Even if your paper is largely based on primary sources, you may use secondary sources to develop your ideas. For instance, an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s films would focus on the films themselves as a primary source, but might also cite commentary from critics. A paper that presents an original experiment would include some discussion of similar prior research in the field.
Jorge knew he did not have the time, resources, or experience needed to conduct original experimental research for his paper. Because he was relying on secondary sources to support his ideas, he made a point of citing sources that were not far removed from primary research.
Some sources could be considered primary or secondary sources, depending on the writer’s purpose for using them. For instance, if a writer’s purpose is to inform readers about how the No Child Left Behind legislation has affected elementary education, a Time magazine article on the subject would be a secondary source. However, suppose the writer’s purpose is to analyze how the news media has portrayed the effects of the No Child Left Behind legislation. In that case, articles about the legislation in news magazines like Time , Newsweek , and US News & World Report would be primary sources. They provide firsthand examples of the media coverage the writer is analyzing.
Your research paper presents your thinking about a topic, supported and developed by other people’s ideas and information. It is crucial to always distinguish between the two—as you conduct research, as you plan your paper, and as you write. Failure to do so can lead to plagiarism.
Intentional and Accidental Plagiarism
Plagiarism is the act of misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own. Sometimes a writer plagiarizes work on purpose—for instance, by purchasing an essay from a website and submitting it as original course work. In other cases, a writer may commit accidental plagiarism due to carelessness, haste, or misunderstanding. To avoid unintentional plagiarism, follow these guidelines:
- Understand what types of information must be cited.
- Understand what constitutes fair use of a source.
- Keep source materials and notes carefully organized.
- Follow guidelines for summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting sources.
When to Cite
Any idea or fact taken from an outside source must be cited, in both the body of your paper and the references list. The only exceptions are facts or general statements that are common knowledge. Common-knowledge facts or general statements are commonly supported by and found in multiple sources. For example, a writer would not need to cite the statement that most breads, pastas, and cereals are high in carbohydrates; this is well known and well documented. However, if a writer explained in detail the differences among the chemical structures of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, a citation would be necessary. When in doubt, cite.
In recent years, issues related to the fair use of sources have been prevalent in popular culture. Recording artists, for example, may disagree about the extent to which one has the right to sample another’s music. For academic purposes, however, the guidelines for fair use are reasonably straightforward.
Writers may quote from or paraphrase material from previously published works without formally obtaining the copyright holder’s permission. Fair use means that the writer legitimately uses brief excerpts from source material to support and develop his or her own ideas. For instance, a columnist may excerpt a few sentences from a novel when writing a book review. However, quoting or paraphrasing another’s work at excessive length, to the extent that large sections of the writing are unoriginal, is not fair use.
As he worked on his draft, Jorge was careful to cite his sources correctly and not to rely excessively on any one source. Occasionally, however, he caught himself quoting a source at great length. In those instances, he highlighted the paragraph in question so that he could go back to it later and revise. Read the example, along with Jorge’s revision.
Heinz (2009) found that “subjects in the low-carbohydrate group (30% carbohydrates; 40% protein, 30% fat) had a mean weight loss of 10 kg (22 lbs) over a 4-month period.” These results were “noticeably better than results for subjects on a low-fat diet (45% carbohydrates, 35% protein, 20% fat)” whose average weight loss was only “7 kg (15.4 lbs) in the same period.” From this, it can be concluded that “low-carbohydrate diets obtain more rapid results.” Other researchers agree that “at least in the short term, patients following low-carbohydrate diets enjoy greater success” than those who follow alternative plans (Johnson & Crowe, 2010).
After reviewing the paragraph, Jorge realized that he had drifted into unoriginal writing. Most of the paragraph was taken verbatim from a single article. Although Jorge had enclosed the material in quotation marks, he knew it was not an appropriate way to use the research in his paper.
Low-carbohydrate diets may indeed be superior to other diet plans for short-term weight loss. In a study comparing low-carbohydrate diets and low-fat diets, Heinz (2009) found that subjects who followed a low-carbohydrate plan (30% of total calories) for 4 months lost, on average, about 3 kilograms more than subjects who followed a low-fat diet for the same time. Heinz concluded that these plans yield quick results, an idea supported by a similar study conducted by Johnson and Crowe (2010). What remains to be seen, however, is whether this initial success can be sustained for longer periods.
As Jorge revised the paragraph, he realized he did not need to quote these sources directly. Instead, he paraphrased their most important findings. He also made sure to include a topic sentence stating the main idea of the paragraph and a concluding sentence that transitioned to the next major topic in his essay.
Working with Sources Carefully
Disorganization and carelessness sometimes lead to plagiarism. For instance, a writer may be unable to provide a complete, accurate citation if he didn’t record bibliographical information. A writer may cut and paste a passage from a website into her paper and later forget where the material came from. A writer who procrastinates may rush through a draft, which easily leads to sloppy paraphrasing and inaccurate quotations. Any of these actions can create the appearance of plagiarism and lead to negative consequences.
Carefully organizing your time and notes is the best guard against these forms of plagiarism. Maintain a detailed working bibliography and thorough notes throughout the research process. Check original sources again to clear up any uncertainties. Allow plenty of time for writing your draft so there is no temptation to cut corners.
Citing other people’s work appropriately is just as important in the workplace as it is in school. If you need to consult outside sources to research a document you are creating, follow the general guidelines already discussed, as well as any industry-specific citation guidelines. For more extensive use of others’ work—for instance, requesting permission to link to another company’s website on your own corporate website—always follow your employer’s established procedures.
The concepts and strategies discussed in this section of Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” connect to a larger issue—academic integrity. You maintain your integrity as a member of an academic community by representing your work and others’ work honestly and by using other people’s work only in legitimately accepted ways. It is a point of honor taken seriously in every academic discipline and career field.
Academic integrity violations have serious educational and professional consequences. Even when cheating and plagiarism go undetected, they still result in a student’s failure to learn necessary research and writing skills. Students who are found guilty of academic integrity violations face consequences ranging from a failing grade to expulsion from the university. Employees may be fired for plagiarism and do irreparable damage to their professional reputation. In short, it is never worth the risk.
- An effective research paper focuses on the writer’s ideas. The introduction and conclusion present and revisit the writer’s thesis. The body of the paper develops the thesis and related points with information from research.
- Ideas and information taken from outside sources must be cited in the body of the paper and in the references section.
- Material taken from sources should be used to develop the writer’s ideas. Summarizing and paraphrasing are usually most effective for this purpose.
- A summary concisely restates the main ideas of a source in the writer’s own words.
- A paraphrase restates ideas from a source using the writer’s own words and sentence structures.
- Direct quotations should be used sparingly. Ellipses and brackets must be used to indicate words that were omitted or changed for conciseness or grammatical correctness.
- Always represent material from outside sources accurately.
- Plagiarism has serious academic and professional consequences. To avoid accidental plagiarism, keep research materials organized, understand guidelines for fair use and appropriate citation of sources, and review the paper to make sure these guidelines are followed.
Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 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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How to Add Length to a Research Paper: Tips and Tricks
When writing research papers most students struggle with two things the most: making their papers shorter and making them longer. We will focus on the latter, because if your paper isn’t long enough you will not have enough content to make good edits, or even make anything shorter. When you’re starting out, the struggle is often with adding length.Then as you mature as a student the more difficult challenge becomes removing content from papers and editing for clarity. Don’t get discouraged if you are facing the need to add length, it takes a long time to get to the point of automatically writing too much. Dave talks in his vlog below about his own experiences adding length to research papers when when he was first started out:
This post was written by Stephanie A. Bosco-Ruggiero (PhD candidate in Social Work at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service) and Jessica Russell ( freelance writer) on behalf of Dave Maslach for the R3ciprocity project (Check out the YouTube Channel or the writing feedback software ). R3ciprocity helps students, faculty, and research folk by providing a real and authentic look into doing research. It provides solutions and hope to researchers around the world.
There are many different ways of writing a research paper and your professor will have his/her own rubric for what must be included and how the paper will be graded. Graduate level research papers may tend to be more like lengthy literature reviews where you review and synthesize what is already known about your topic. At the doctoral level (or graduate level), you may be proposing an actual research study. Still other papers have their own requirements and rubrics. ( If you like this post, you might want to read this one on how professors grade papers. )
There are many places where you can add content to different types of papers. It is actually more difficult to make a research paper shorter, but there are simple tricks to make your research paper longer. This post discusses some tips and tricks for adding length to doctoral level research papers, in particular, but it also will help you find ways to add length to other types of papers as well, including at the graduate level.
Choosing a good topic may be a process, not the first step
It is important that you’ve chosen a good research topic. By making sure to do many of the following things we describe when writing, you’ll find out if you have chosen well. Sometimes taking these steps will cause you to change your path, and sometimes (hopefully more often) it will truly help you not only add length to your paper, but get into the really important aspects of what you want and need to say.
What should I write in the introduction ?
Most research papers begin with an introduction, but this section should only be two to four paragraphs. You really don’t want to go on and on in the beginning of the paper because it really is for summarizing your topic, what the aim of your study is, and perhaps why it is important to look at this issue or research question. You can say more in the background and/or literature review about the context, state of the art in practice, or what knowledge there is to date on this topic. Here are some tips for writing more about the context of your study in one of the earlier sections of your paper (e.g. background, aims and scope literature review, etc.)
What is the context of your research?
Write about the who, what, when, where, how, and why of your problem, issue, or phenomenon. Write 2-3 sentences for each W or the how. Who does it affect, who can affect the outcomes, who needs to be involved? What is the objective or the strategy of your paper? What has happened before, what is happening now, and what could be happening in the future? Where is this problem or issue occurring, and where are its effects happening most? Where is this topic needed and who needs to be discussing it? And why is that? Why is it happening, why should we care, and why has this topic not been at the forefront? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself to flesh out the context of your research questions and research paper.
Why is your research or topic important ?
Write about why this issue or problem is important and what the potential implications are of your study. After writing a few sentences about who, what, where, and why, you will start to see where you can expand upon what you’ve already started to discuss about context. Why is this study or research topic important, who does it affect, where are the implications most evident, and what needs to happen in order to affect change? Then switch those questions around to consider more views on the topic. Dig deep into every avenue of thought and hypothesis on this topic. This alone will give you something to write about. (Here is a great blog post on choosing research topics that you should read) .
What are your research questions and hypotheses?
This the place where brevity is best. You do not want to provide detail to back up your hypotheses in this section. Your hypotheses emerge from your review of the literature and your knowledge of the field. Your research questions are expanded on in your background and literature review. You have taken a journey toward developing specific research questions and hypotheses if you are proposing a study. Your research questions and hypotheses may be refined several times, but that is ok. Just make sure they are clear and to the point.
What is your literature review telling you about what is known and what you might find (if you are doing a study)?
The background and literature sections of your paper are great places for discussing the context of the study or phenomenon and for expanding on what is known in the field about this topic, and /or what the different hypotheses or trains of thought are about how it works or why it is relevant. Your literature review should not be a simple list (like an annotated bibliography) of studies that have preceded yours and what the findings were. Rather it should synthesize similar findings, discuss emerging themes, and show how knowledge to date about the subject suggests your hypothesis might be true. If you need help with literature reviews, you might want to read this blog post:
What Is A Literature Review (In A PhD Or Graduate School)? A How to Guide
You might also want to discuss similar theories about the phenomenon, as well as what is not yet known and needs to be studied. There is a lot to write about when looking at the literature and history of your topic, but be careful not to list every study or paper known to man about the topic. Look back about ten years and highlight the most important studies or information. As you mature as a student, this is the section where you tend to write too much and can edit down.
Write a detailed description of 1-2 pages about how things are thought to work. Focus on what is known. When we work from what we know, we can see the gaps that need to be addressed. Do more research if you are struggling on the history and current events relevant to your topic. Search different sources to learn up to the date details on current happenings in your field of study. As you are covering this, more questions and thoughts about the topic will pop into your head. Make sure to take notes and jot down ideas, even if they are small. You never know which thought will lead to a few pages of content. Make sure you establish why your research question and study are necessary and important.
Which theories provide the foundation for your research questions, hypotheses or study?
Your paper may require you to propose or critique a theory. Write where, what, and why the theory is important. Aim for writing 2-3 sentences for each W. Your theory, or someone else’s theory, is the basis of why you’re studying this topic. Start off with a few sentences and then expand upon each sentence. As you are writing, you will develop ideas you may not have thought about initially. It is important to really get into the meat of your theory. Your paper is meant to prove your theory, or it will disprove it as you’re working and cause you to take new avenues and thought patterns to figure out what needs to change.
Note why you have not chosen a different theory to focus on. It helps to talk about why your theory is important. Why are you writing this, why do you believe in it and why others should read your paper. What is it about this theory that made it something you chose to write about, chose to study and research? And why should others take notice and consider everything you’re saying? Why should it lead to others choosing this to research and study? What led you down this path, what were some of the topics that you didn’t choose, but steered your research towards this theory?
Where can you go deeper with your analysis ?
Look for multiple levels of analysis. What happens when you zoom in and zoom out of what you are looking at? A great example Dave talks about is looking at your hand. It’s a hand, you know it has bones and muscles and tendons, so he says, “ I can look at my hand and I can see it as a hand but I can think about it in terms of the molecular structure that’s behind it. I can think of it in terms of cells that are behind it. You know, I can think of it in terms of the different wrinkles and wrinkle patterns; I have lots of fingerprint patterns. ” The multiple levels of analysis he is describing will give you a rich, multifaceted, understanding and written description of your topic. Writing a paragraph or two about each level of analysis of your topic and/or a theory will really tease out the details and add length and clarity to your paper.
Where can you define for clarity and understanding ?
Write definitions for each of the ideas you introduce in your paper. Each definition will add one paragraph to the paper. Not everyone who reads your paper is an expert on your theory or topic. It is often helpful to add definitions both to aid understanding and for adding length. Just make sure not to add superfluous definitions to add length where no additional understanding is really needed. Ask yourself if you weren’t in this field, talking about this topic regularly, what would you need to understand better in order to understand the whole? Define those topics and ideas, expand upon those topics and ideas with the intention of making them more clear to the reader and as a basis for topical understanding.
Have you described your research methods thoroughly ?
Why is the method that you are using important and the best method for addressing your research question? How is it different from other methods? What are the key assumptions in your research method? Why can’t you use another method? It’s important to keep notes about your methods. These notes will help you describe your methods, conduct your research and discuss the importance of your methods. You can talk about how other methods vary as well as how other methods failed to yield satisfying answers. Explain how different methods led you to your current method and why the changes were necessary. Spend time discussing how you came to where you are now in your research and what brought you to this place. Taking time to expand on these thoughts in your paper to add length and detail, and to document the evolution in your thinking about how to approach this study.
What do you think? Write it down
Not everything has to be cited. If you have a clever idea that is novel, about 75% of your paper will have citations but 25% of your paper will be original . Record your sources and make good citations. But make sure to expand upon your thought patterns on the topic. Yes, you have chosen a research topic and are required to write about it, but you are here for a reason. You have chosen your topic, perhaps created a theory or hypothesis, and are at the point of writing about all you’ve learned. Don’t just talk about what others say, think, and have done. Talk about all the ideas you’ve thought about (take notes!) along the way.
Research sparks ideas and creativity. This provides avenues for new thoughts and theories. Research sparks more research. Learning and discovering new ways to do things, change things, save lives, increase productivity, provide meaning, and spark more in the minds and lives of others are half of the reasons you do what you do. Talk about what you think about everything you’ve learned and where you think there are more avenues for further study.
Dave says that you know your own ideas. He says it’s important to look for ways that you can add things that are uniquely your own insights because not everything has to be cited in a research paper. The general rule is you want 60-80% of your content to be based on others’ ideas and work. The remaining 20-40% is your own thinking, theorizing, and synthesizing. You can go on a tangent sometimes about different things, and talk about those different things that you find interesting. It will add to the particular context so if you do that you’re going to have a much more original paper and it’s going to seem a little more clever because nobody else is talking about these ideas.
Discussion: Have you described several mechanisms that might explain what you are looking at ?
There might be several reasons for the change you have observed or are trying to explain. You are seeing change or certain information in your work. Take time to describe those mechanisms, but also look at different mechanisms that might help you and others understand what you are seeing. Looking at it from different viewpoints or through another lens will give you a better understanding of the who, what, where and why of your topic. Considering other mechanisms can help you as you do the research because then you are really thinking about what is happening and why. And, what you may not have considered before or dismissed off hand will become important, not only to your theory, but to your research in general.
There are many places where you can add length to a paper. At the doctoral level especially, great detail is expected. Just do not write your paper as if you are trying to think of things to say or write about. It will be obvious. You have enough to talk about, even if you don’t realize it at first, to have a paper with sufficient depth and breadth.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these other posts at http://r3ciprocity.com
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How to shorten an essay (2022 Top Expert Guide)
Table of Contents
What comes to a naive mind when dwelling on “ how to shorten an essay ” is that, it is a tedious and meticulous task.
How to shorten an essay
Shortening an essay is not difficult when you grab the right tips and tricks. These are the best common ways to make your assigned essay shorter in terms of pages. Some of these methods may reduce the essay by three or four pages. Some may cause more pages, and some may create a more elusive outcome.
Experiment with your submission and find the ideal combination. Do not worry about the assignment due date; focus on the cat.
The five best ways to make an essay shorter include:
1. Start with a thesis statement. A good thesis statement is the foundation of a well-rounded paper. When you begin your essay, make a clear statement. Be able to back that statement up if necessary, but be prepared to argue for it in a strong sense. Avoid the sentence “I believe that X.” Instead, state a thesis to help the reader understand exactly how you feel and why.
2. Read your essay out loud. This will help you find areas that need improvement, and it will keep you aware of the pace of this activity.
3. Take notes. It is easy to get caught up in this activity and lose sight of what else needs to be done. Make a note of the best ideas that come to you while doing this research activity.
4. When writing the thesis, write down how you will prove or support it. Read your essay aloud again, and look for areas where you need more information.
5. If your project is expository, the most commonly misunderstood aspect is the conclusion. You need to write the conclusion at the end of your project. Make sure it is clear, concise, and to the point.
Can we shorten our essays through paraphrasing? Yes, we can. However, many students mistake rewording what they learn in the book. To create a properly-written paraphrase, you need to understand the original text and also be careful to maintain its organization.
Paraphrasing language that is poor, vague, or missing essential details can have a significant impact on the audience. To write a good paraphrase, you need to practice and review it before publishing.
The best way to write a good paraphrase is that the writer expresses his ideas in his own words. While paraphrasing, ensure your reader understands what you mean by your sentences and writing.
Write More Concisely – Tips to Shorten Your Essay
Need help on how to shorten an essay ? Shortening your essay is not a difficult thing to do, but it might require some effort. You will have a concise and engaging essay if you follow these steps!
Here are eight proven tips to shorten your essay:
1. Use simple, everyday words. Don’t try to conceal yourself behind big words. They will only exacerbate your flaws.
2. Remove any unnecessary words.
Examine your adverbs (strongly, gratuitously), adjectives (large, great), and qualifiers (very, somewhat). The majority of the words you don’t need can be found here. Consider whether they are necessary. If not, get rid of them.
3. Avoid using nominalization.
How many times have you suffocated a verb by making it a noun?
(delude – delusion, exclude – exclusion, contract – contraction) Stop it!
4. Avoid using these five words too close to a verb.
Desist from using the words’ take,’ ‘give, “make,’ ‘conduct,’ and ‘come’ too close to a verb or a nominalized verb phrase. They detract from the clarity of your sentences.
Example: ‘The organization needs to take the defects into consideration.’ should be ‘The organization needs to consider the defects.’
Other tips to shorten your essay include:
5. Make use of strong, specific verbs and nouns. This allows you to avoid using the passive voice, cut down on wordiness, and eliminate modifiers and qualifiers.
6. Make use of the active voice.
You must use the active voice if you follow plain language rules. It assists you in simplifying your message and saying precisely what you want to say. The active voice eliminates uncertainty. We are always aware of who is doing what. The Hemingway App assists you in identifying passive voice.
7. Avoid using jargon.
Overused phrases in a company or industry lose all meaning. Please refrain from using the terms’ like, ‘think outside the box,’ ‘win-win situation,’ ‘low-hanging fruit,’ and ‘pushing the envelope.’ Your readers will ignore you if you don’t say what you mean.
8. Avoid using verbs that require you to ‘tell.’
When used to describe something, these ten verbs will unnecessarily increase your word count.
These ten verbs are appeared, mused, seemed, thought, wondered, seemed, felt, decided, heard, and realized. Stay away from them.
Shortening an essay requires a lot of focus, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Try out these tips, and soon you’ll be able to significantly shorten your essay without removing any significant content from the piece.
Think about your essay like a puzzle. You can add and subtract individual pieces to make the picture stronger.
Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.
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Tricks to make an essay longer or shorter
My essay is too short. how do i make it longer.
If your paper is not long enough and you need to make an essay longer, there are some tips and tricks you can use to stretch what you've written longer.
1. If you need to fill space, use lots of quotes, especially long quotes. Using MLA style, long quotes have to be set in, or indented, several spaces into the page and one quote can fill a quarter of a page, no problem. Just be sure the quote is actually pertinent to the topic being writing about.
2. 2. Need more space filler? Use an anecdote or story. If you are writing about an important person or event, tell an interesting, funny or strange story about their life or the topic. Find some way that the story connects to your essay.
3. If you include lengthy citations or source-credits (the author, name of the book or article, when it was written and such) within the text (as well as in your bibliography), you can fill in a bunch more space.
4. Be repetitious or use more than one example, quote or statistic to prove the same point.
5. When you write lists, separate each item into a separate sentence with its own thought. One sentence becomes a paragraph just like that!
6. 5. Finally, be wordy. Use lots of adjectives, or descriptive words, and lots of transition words (such as therefore, inasmuch, however, although, despite the fact, moreover...).
1. Instead of - "In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is an interesting character. She has many important lines."
2. Write - "In playwright and actor William Shakespeare's immortal tale of darkness, murder and intrigue, the classic thriller Macbeth, the diabolical character of Lady Macbeth has long captured readers and audiences alike with her fascinating and sinister ways. In the play Macbeth, also called the Scottish Play by generations of superstition-following actors, the leading lady pulls audiences in with compelling dialogue, from “Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness” to the famed “Out damned spot! Out I say!”
1. Instead of "Statistics show that drunk driving is a problem in Texas, Alaska and New Hampshire."
2. Write "The ongoing and serious problem of drunk driving is a nationwide scourge that continues to grow by leaps and bounds. To cite some examples, in 1995 there were 13,000 people killed on the highways of the state of Texas, according to the National Institute of Made Up Statistics. Those numbers are mirrored in the state of Alaska, with 4,000 people killed every year, and again can be seen in the averages reported from New Hampshire, which tally up to 10,000 killed annually. In fact, the same problem can be seen in such states as ..." (Those statistics are completely made up, by the way - don't quote them).
My essay is too long. How do I make it shorter?
1. Read for quality of the content and be ruthless. If something isn't adding anything to a paper that's already pretty good, delete it.
2. Use contractions. Make "cannot" into "can't" and so forth.
3. Delete repetitious or unnecessary words.
4. Take out a quote or two or see if the quote can be shorter.
5. Delete examples if you've already proven your point with another example.
6. Delete flowery language and get to the point.
7. Delete adjectives.
8. Play with the paper margins, font size, size of the headers and footers, space between letters (calling leading) and space between lines. If your paper is double-spaced, switch it to .75 line between.
9. Decide if it's really necessary to fit into the length requirement. If the teacher won't mind that you go over by a page, then don't worry about it. If in doubt, just ask him or her.
More information : We hope this page was helpful and provided you with some information about how to make your essay longer or your research paper shorter or vice versa. Check out our main page for more articles here Can U Write .
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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper in 7 Steps
What comes next after you're done with your research? Publishing the results in a journal of course! We tell you how to present your work in the best way possible.
This post is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.
Things have gotten busy in scholarly publishing: These days, a new article gets published in the 50,000 most important peer-reviewed journals every few seconds, while each one takes on average 40 minutes to read. Hundreds of thousands of papers reach the desks of editors and reviewers worldwide each year and 50% of all submissions end up rejected at some stage.
In a nutshell: there is a lot of competition, and the people who decide upon the fate of your manuscript are short on time and overworked. But there are ways to make their lives a little easier and improve your own chances of getting your work published!
Well, it may seem obvious, but before submitting an academic paper, always make sure that it is an excellent reflection of the research you have done and that you present it in the most professional way possible. Incomplete or poorly presented manuscripts can create a great deal of frustration and annoyance for editors who probably won’t even bother wasting the time of the reviewers!
This post will discuss 7 steps to the successful publication of your research paper:
- Check whether your research is publication-ready
- Choose an article type
- Choose a journal
- Construct your paper
- Decide the order of authors
- Check and double-check
- Submit your paper
1. Check Whether Your Research Is Publication-Ready
Should you publish your research at all?
If your work holds academic value – of course – a well-written scholarly article could open doors to your research community. However, if you are not yet sure, whether your research is ready for publication, here are some key questions to ask yourself depending on your field of expertise:
- Have you done or found something new and interesting? Something unique?
- Is the work directly related to a current hot topic?
- Have you checked the latest results or research in the field?
- Have you provided solutions to any difficult problems?
- Have the findings been verified?
- Have the appropriate controls been performed if required?
- Are your findings comprehensive?
If the answers to all relevant questions are “yes”, you need to prepare a good, strong manuscript. Remember, a research paper is only useful if it is clearly understood, reproducible and if it is read and used .
2. Choose An Article Type
The first step is to determine which type of paper is most appropriate for your work and what you want to achieve. The following list contains the most important, usually peer-reviewed article types in the natural sciences:
Full original research papers disseminate completed research findings. On average this type of paper is 8-10 pages long, contains five figures, and 25-30 references. Full original research papers are an important part of the process when developing your career.
Review papers present a critical synthesis of a specific research topic. These papers are usually much longer than original papers and will contain numerous references. More often than not, they will be commissioned by journal editors. Reviews present an excellent way to solidify your research career.
Letters, Rapid or Short Communications are often published for the quick and early communication of significant and original advances. They are much shorter than full articles and usually limited in length by the journal. Journals specifically dedicated to short communications or letters are also published in some fields. In these the authors can present short preliminary findings before developing a full-length paper.
3. Choose a Journal
Are you looking for the right place to publish your paper? Find out here whether a De Gruyter journal might be the right fit.
Submit to journals that you already read, that you have a good feel for. If you do so, you will have a better appreciation of both its culture and the requirements of the editors and reviewers.
Other factors to consider are:
- The specific subject area
- The aims and scope of the journal
- The type of manuscript you have written
- The significance of your work
- The reputation of the journal
- The reputation of the editors within the community
- The editorial/review and production speeds of the journal
- The community served by the journal
- The coverage and distribution
- The accessibility ( open access vs. closed access)
4. Construct Your Paper
Each element of a paper has its purpose, so you should make these sections easy to index and search.
Don’t forget that requirements can differ highly per publication, so always make sure to apply a journal’s specific instructions – or guide – for authors to your manuscript, even to the first draft (text layout, paper citation, nomenclature, figures and table, etc.) It will save you time, and the editor’s.
Also, even in these days of Internet-based publishing, space is still at a premium, so be as concise as possible. As a good journalist would say: “Never use three words when one will do!”
Let’s look at the typical structure of a full research paper, but bear in mind certain subject disciplines may have their own specific requirements so check the instructions for authors on the journal’s home page.
4.1 The Title
It’s important to use the title to tell the reader what your paper is all about! You want to attract their attention, a bit like a newspaper headline does. Be specific and to the point. Keep it informative and concise, and avoid jargon and abbreviations (unless they are universally recognized like DNA, for example).
4.2 The Abstract
This could be termed as the “advertisement” for your article. Make it interesting and easily understood without the reader having to read the whole article. Be accurate and specific, and keep it as brief and concise as possible. Some journals (particularly in the medical fields) will ask you to structure the abstract in distinct, labeled sections, which makes it even more accessible.
A clear abstract will influence whether or not your work is considered and whether an editor should invest more time on it or send it for review.
Keywords are used by abstracting and indexing services, such as PubMed and Web of Science. They are the labels of your manuscript, which make it “searchable” online by other researchers.
Include words or phrases (usually 4-8) that are closely related to your topic but not “too niche” for anyone to find them. Make sure to only use established abbreviations. Think about what scientific terms and its variations your potential readers are likely to use and search for. You can also do a test run of your selected keywords in one of the common academic search engines. Do similar articles to your own appear? Yes? Then that’s a good sign.
This first part of the main text should introduce the problem, as well as any existing solutions you are aware of and the main limitations. Also, state what you hope to achieve with your research.
Do not confuse the introduction with the results, discussion or conclusion.
Every research article should include a detailed Methods section (also referred to as “Materials and Methods”) to provide the reader with enough information to be able to judge whether the study is valid and reproducible.
Include detailed information so that a knowledgeable reader can reproduce the experiment. However, use references and supplementary materials to indicate previously published procedures.
In this section, you will present the essential or primary results of your study. To display them in a comprehensible way, you should use subheadings as well as illustrations such as figures, graphs, tables and photos, as appropriate.
Here you should tell your readers what the results mean .
Do state how the results relate to the study’s aims and hypotheses and how the findings relate to those of other studies. Explain all possible interpretations of your findings and the study’s limitations.
Do not make “grand statements” that are not supported by the data. Also, do not introduce any new results or terms. Moreover, do not ignore work that conflicts or disagrees with your findings. Instead …
Be brave! Address conflicting study results and convince the reader you are the one who is correct.
Your conclusion isn’t just a summary of what you’ve already written. It should take your paper one step further and answer any unresolved questions.
Sum up what you have shown in your study and indicate possible applications and extensions. The main question your conclusion should answer is: What do my results mean for the research field and my community?
4.9 Acknowledgments and Ethical Statements
It is extremely important to acknowledge anyone who has helped you with your paper, including researchers who supplied materials or reagents (e.g. vectors or antibodies); and anyone who helped with the writing or English, or offered critical comments about the content.
Learn more about academic integrity in our blog post “Scholarly Publication Ethics: 4 Common Mistakes You Want To Avoid” .
Remember to state why people have been acknowledged and ask their permission . Ensure that you acknowledge sources of funding, including any grant or reference numbers.
Furthermore, if you have worked with animals or humans, you need to include information about the ethical approval of your study and, if applicable, whether informed consent was given. Also, state whether you have any competing interests regarding the study (e.g. because of financial or personal relationships.)
The end is in sight, but don’t relax just yet!
De facto, there are often more mistakes in the references than in any other part of the manuscript. It is also one of the most annoying and time-consuming problems for editors.
Remember to cite the main scientific publications on which your work is based. But do not inflate the manuscript with too many references. Avoid excessive – and especially unnecessary – self-citations. Also, avoid excessive citations of publications from the same institute or region.
5. Decide the Order of Authors
In the sciences, the most common way to order the names of the authors is by relative contribution.
Generally, the first author conducts and/or supervises the data analysis and the proper presentation and interpretation of the results. They put the paper together and usually submit the paper to the journal.
Co-authors make intellectual contributions to the data analysis and contribute to data interpretation. They review each paper draft. All of them must be able to present the paper and its results, as well as to defend the implications and discuss study limitations.
Do not leave out authors who should be included or add “gift authors”, i.e. authors who did not contribute significantly.
6. Check and Double-Check
As a final step before submission, ask colleagues to read your work and be constructively critical .
Make sure that the paper is appropriate for the journal – take a last look at their aims and scope. Check if all of the requirements in the instructions for authors are met.
Ensure that the cited literature is balanced. Are the aims, purpose and significance of the results clear?
Conduct a final check for language, either by a native English speaker or an editing service.
7. Submit Your Paper
When you and your co-authors have double-, triple-, quadruple-checked the manuscript: submit it via e-mail or online submission system. Along with your manuscript, submit a cover letter, which highlights the reasons why your paper would appeal to the journal and which ensures that you have received approval of all authors for submission.
It is up to the editors and the peer-reviewers now to provide you with their (ideally constructive and helpful) comments and feedback. Time to take a breather!
If the paper gets rejected, do not despair – it happens to literally everybody. If the journal suggests major or minor revisions, take the chance to provide a thorough response and make improvements as you see fit. If the paper gets accepted, congrats!
It’s now time to get writing and share your hard work – good luck!
If you are interested, check out this related blog post
[Title Image by Nick Morrison via Unsplash]
David Sleeman worked as Senior Journals Manager in the field of Physical Sciences at De Gruyter.
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- Research paper
Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide
Published on September 24, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on March 27, 2023.
The introduction to a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:
- Present your topic and get the reader interested
- Provide background or summarize existing research
- Position your own approach
- Detail your specific research problem and problem statement
- Give an overview of the paper’s structure
The introduction looks slightly different depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument by engaging with a variety of sources.
Table of contents
Step 1: introduce your topic, step 2: describe the background, step 3: establish your research problem, step 4: specify your objective(s), step 5: map out your paper, research paper introduction examples, frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.
The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening hook.
The hook is a striking opening sentence that clearly conveys the relevance of your topic. Think of an interesting fact or statistic, a strong statement, a question, or a brief anecdote that will get the reader wondering about your topic.
For example, the following could be an effective hook for an argumentative paper about the environmental impact of cattle farming:
A more empirical paper investigating the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues in adolescent girls might use the following hook:
Don’t feel that your hook necessarily has to be deeply impressive or creative. Clarity and relevance are still more important than catchiness. The key thing is to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is taking.
In a more argumentative paper, you’ll explore some general background here. In a more empirical paper, this is the place to review previous research and establish how yours fits in.
Argumentative paper: Background information
After you’ve caught your reader’s attention, specify a bit more, providing context and narrowing down your topic.
Provide only the most relevant background information. The introduction isn’t the place to get too in-depth; if more background is essential to your paper, it can appear in the body .
Empirical paper: Describing previous research
For a paper describing original research, you’ll instead provide an overview of the most relevant research that has already been conducted. This is a sort of miniature literature review —a sketch of the current state of research into your topic, boiled down to a few sentences.
This should be informed by genuine engagement with the literature. Your search can be less extensive than in a full literature review, but a clear sense of the relevant research is crucial to inform your own work.
Begin by establishing the kinds of research that have been done, and end with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to respond to.
The next step is to clarify how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses.
Argumentative paper: Emphasize importance
In an argumentative research paper, you can simply state the problem you intend to discuss, and what is original or important about your argument.
Empirical paper: Relate to the literature
In an empirical research paper, try to lead into the problem on the basis of your discussion of the literature. Think in terms of these questions:
- What research gap is your work intended to fill?
- What limitations in previous work does it address?
- What contribution to knowledge does it make?
You can make the connection between your problem and the existing research using phrases like the following.
Now you’ll get into the specifics of what you intend to find out or express in your research paper.
The way you frame your research objectives varies. An argumentative paper presents a thesis statement, while an empirical paper generally poses a research question (sometimes with a hypothesis as to the answer).
Argumentative paper: Thesis statement
The thesis statement expresses the position that the rest of the paper will present evidence and arguments for. It can be presented in one or two sentences, and should state your position clearly and directly, without providing specific arguments for it at this point.
Empirical paper: Research question and hypothesis
The research question is the question you want to answer in an empirical research paper.
Present your research question clearly and directly, with a minimum of discussion at this point. The rest of the paper will be taken up with discussing and investigating this question; here you just need to express it.
A research question can be framed either directly or indirectly.
- This study set out to answer the following question: What effects does daily use of Instagram have on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls?
- We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls.
If your research involved testing hypotheses , these should be stated along with your research question. They are usually presented in the past tense, since the hypothesis will already have been tested by the time you are writing up your paper.
For example, the following hypothesis might respond to the research question above:
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The final part of the introduction is often dedicated to a brief overview of the rest of the paper.
In a paper structured using the standard scientific “introduction, methods, results, discussion” format, this isn’t always necessary. But if your paper is structured in a less predictable way, it’s important to describe the shape of it for the reader.
If included, the overview should be concise, direct, and written in the present tense.
- This paper will first discuss several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then will go on to …
- This paper first discusses several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then goes on to …
Full examples of research paper introductions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.
- Argumentative paper
- Empirical paper
Are cows responsible for climate change? A recent study (RIVM, 2019) shows that cattle farmers account for two thirds of agricultural nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These emissions result from nitrogen in manure, which can degrade into ammonia and enter the atmosphere. The study’s calculations show that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution, accounting for 46% of the country’s total emissions. By comparison, road traffic and households are responsible for 6.1% each, the industrial sector for 1%. While efforts are being made to mitigate these emissions, policymakers are reluctant to reckon with the scale of the problem. The approach presented here is a radical one, but commensurate with the issue. This paper argues that the Dutch government must stimulate and subsidize livestock farmers, especially cattle farmers, to transition to sustainable vegetable farming. It first establishes the inadequacy of current mitigation measures, then discusses the various advantages of the results proposed, and finally addresses potential objections to the plan on economic grounds.
The rise of social media has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the prevalence of body image issues among women and girls. This correlation has received significant academic attention: Various empirical studies have been conducted into Facebook usage among adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014). These studies have consistently found that the visual and interactive aspects of the platform have the greatest influence on body image issues. Despite this, highly visual social media (HVSM) such as Instagram have yet to be robustly researched. This paper sets out to address this research gap. We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls. It was hypothesized that daily Instagram use would be associated with an increase in body image concerns and a decrease in self-esteem ratings.
The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:
- A hook to catch the reader’s interest
- Relevant background on the topic
- Details of your research problem
and your problem statement
- A thesis statement or research question
- Sometimes an overview of the paper
Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.
This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .
The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .
A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.
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Caulfield, J. (2023, March 27). Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide. Scribbr. Retrieved November 12, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-paper/research-paper-introduction/
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Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students
How to Write a Research Paper Fast
As a student, you knew it was inevitable. The day has come where you have to write a research paper, but you’ve put it off until the last minute. Now the pressure is sinking in to get it done quickly and you want to know how to write a research paper fast.
The good news is that it’s doable. The better news is that there are ways to avoid waiting until the last minute. We will tackle those after we give you everything you need to know to get it done.
Photo by Russ Ward
A research paper is what it sounds like — a paper that requires a thesis (or argument) along with the research to back it up. Research papers involve citing a variety of sources, analyzing arguments, and pulling different academic pieces together to prove a point.
1. Understand the Assignment:
The first thing you have to make sure you do before you get to outlining and writing is to understand the assignment. You will need to organize different pieces of information, from books, essays, interviews, articles and more.
2. Choose a Topic:
Depending on the assignment provided, you will either have a topic in front of you or you will have to decide on one yourself. If your professor did not provide you with a topic, here are some helpful ways to choose one that will work for your needs:
- Choose something you understand enough so that you will be able to interpret the research about it
- Before you get started, check that there is a lot of content about that topic by performing a simple online search to see what turns up
- Write out your topic as a research question that you plan to answer
- Research more about your topic and find evidence to back up what you want to answer
- Make a list of keywords that you continue to see pop up about the topic
- Create your thesis
3. Perform Research:
While performing research is as easy as conducting an online search for sources, the more important element is evaluating the validity of a source. Don’t use Wikipedia as a source, because it is crowdsourced and can be edited by anyone. Instead, rely on digital encyclopedias, scholarly databases, trustworthy publications like TIME magazine and the New York Times, and the like. Since you’re writing this research paper at the last minute, the library may not be a possible option. However, for the next time you write a research paper and plan in advance, definitely utilize books from the library.
4. Write Your Thesis:
A thesis statement is the gist of your entire paper. It is what you will spend your writing proving; therefore, it has to be strong and to the point. A thesis statement appears in the introduction of your research paper, following the strong hook statement that draws your readers in. There is a formulaic way to write a strong thesis statement, and it looks something like this:
“By examining (argument 1), (argument 2), and (argument 3), it is clear that (statement you will prove).”
A thesis statement is typically one sentence and it is clearly written so that the reader knows exactly what they will read about in your paper.
To check that you’ve written a strong thesis statement, ask yourself if it achieves the following:
- Is it in the introduction?
- Does it answer the question from the prompt?
- Can others argue against my thesis?
- Is it going to prove a single claim?
- Does it answer something meaningful?
5. Outline Your Paper:
Now that you have the main ingredients for your research paper, namely your thesis and supporting research, you can start outlining. Everyone has their own way they like to create an outline for papers. Here’s one good example of how it can be done — this is called a flat outline:
- List the topics you will discuss
- Under each topic, write your sources
- If you are lacking sources, revisit and research more to give more meat to your paper
- Move your topics and their information onto your paper in an organized flow
- Write your thesis at the top so you can ensure that you are answering/proving your thesis throughout the paper’s argument
6. The Body/Intro and Conclusion:
So, do you start with your introduction and conclusion and then fill in the body? Or, do you do it the other way around? Really, there is no right or wrong way. It ultimately depends on your preference. Some people like to write their introduction and use it to serve as an outline of their paper and then flow from there. Others like to write their points in the body of their paper and then extrapolate the introduction and conclusion from what they wrote.
Regardless of how you perform your work, there is a structure that the paper must follow, which looks like this:
- Introduction – includes a hook sentence (grabs the reader), your thesis and a menu sentence (a list of what you will discuss).
- Body paragraphs – each body paragraph comes from what you mentioned in your introduction’s menu sentence. Each body paragraph has a topic sentence, or a first sentence that clearly states what it will be about. Each body paragraph includes support and sources that prove the topic sentence or argument.
- Conclusion – here, you restate your introduction and thesis in different words. You want to end with a strong and memorable sentence. Just like your introduction began with a hook statement, your conclusion should end with something that will be remembered.
7. Cite Sources:
One of the major differences between a research paper and any other academic paper is that you must cite your sources. The end of your paper will have a list of sources, or a bibliography. Depending on your professor’s preferences, they will either be listed in APA format , MLA , Chicago , etc. This is an imperative step because your entire research paper’s evidence is based on and backed up by these sources, so you must give them credit where credit is due.
While this is not in the cards for all paper writing, it is very important for a last minute research paper. You’ve likely spent hours crunching the information and regurgitating it in your own words to fill up the once blank pages. As such, it’s a good idea to step away from your paper, get some sleep, and then revisit it with fresh eyes in the morning.
9. Proofread Revise and Editing:
As with any paper, you want to make sure you read it over to catch any mistakes. Not only should you use the Word processing tool that checks spelling and grammar for you, but you must also read it out loud to find any mistakes.
10. Find and Remove Plagiarism:
Once you are done with the entire proofreading and checking phase, the last thing that you have to do is find and remove plagiarism in your research paper. Plagiarism has a lot of consequences, and you have to make sure that your research paper is completely free of it. To do this, you first have to use a plagiarism checker to find all the plagiarized parts. Once found, you can either remove them or give the required accreditations.
If there is time to ask a friend or peer to read over your paper one time, that will be a good idea, too.
Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash
How to write a research paper in a day.
Granted, all the steps above can help you write a research paper fast. Here’s a brief look at how you can do this in a day:
1. Brainstorm Quickly
- Use the prompt
- Outline possible options
- Perform a simple Google search and find what has the most information
- Choose your topic
- Create an outline
- Find research to support each point in your outline
3. Write Quickly
- Put it all on paper as you think of it
- Take time to edit, condense, and rewrite
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash
Find a good writing environment.
Before sitting down to get started on your last-minute task, make sure you set up an environment that is conducive to getting your work done. Things you want to consider:
Choose somewhere quiet and distraction-free. You will have to stay focused for a few hours, so you’ll want to choose a comfortable setting.
2. Good lighting:
Along with comfort, make sure you have adequate lighting to read and write.
3. Go somewhere studious:
Perhaps, if time permits, you can choose to work in somewhere like a library or a study lounge.
4. Bring just your supplies needed:
Even if you work at home, make sure you set up a table with only the supplies you need, as to limit distractions. This could include: a computer, tablet, pen, paper, highlighter, books, and sticky notes. Plus, don’t forget water!
Tips to Avoid Procrastination
Writing a last-minute paper, especially that involves research, is stressful and less than optimal . Instead of finding yourself in this position, you can follow this advice to avoid such a situation.
1. Start early:
Once you’re given the prompt, start thinking about what you want to write about. You can write down ideas on paper and look into the research that supports each point.
2. Outline first and take breaks:
Begin outlining your paper so that when you sit to write, you already have the bulk of it prepared. If you start early, you will have the advantage and ability to take breaks. This helps to revisit your argument with a clear head and potentially see things that you may have otherwise missed.
3. Ask for help if you need it:
Starting early means that you are not crunched for time. So, you have the added benefit of asking for help. You can solicit advice from friends, peers, family, your professors, teacher assistants, the online community, and more. Plus, when you finish writing your paper, you have time to ask for help from someone other than you to read it over and edit it.
The Bottom Line
While knowing how to write a paper fast is useful and at times necessary, it is not the optimal way to approach assignments. However, sometimes being in a bind is out of your control. Therefore, the best way to write a research paper fast is to follow the aforementioned steps and remember to stay calm.
While a research paper involves a lot of work, from creating a strong thesis to finding supporting research, it can be made into an enjoyable activity when you choose to write about something you are interested in. It gives you a chance to digest other people’s findings and make your own inferences about what they mean.
By following the typical structure of a research paper, creating an outline and finding good sources, you can get your research paper done in a night. Good luck!
How to Write a Short Research Paper
It’s tempting to think that a short research paper involves less effort than writing a lengthy report. But shorter papers require the same solid research and attention to detail as longer projects. In some cases, shorter research papers may pose a special challenge, because they must be tightly focused.
Explore this article
- Pick your topic carefully
- Gather your research
- Develop a good thesis statement
- Format the paper
- Revise your paper
1 Pick your topic carefully
Pick your topic carefully. The trick is to find a topic that is not so broad that a short research paper only scratches the surface. Dennis G. Jerz, an English professor at Seton Hall University, recommends "zooming in on one tiny little part of the argument" in his web page on short research papers.
2 Gather your research
Gather your research. Your professor or teacher will give you guidelines on what kind of research is permissible for the paper. A good place to start can be an academic journal, because journal authors often cite several other sources that you can use. Short research papers may require as many sources as longer pieces.
3 Develop a good thesis statement
Develop a good thesis statement. Your whole paper will flow from this opening, so you should choose a thesis statement that will allow you write without repeating yourself or omitting major elements of the topic. Support the argument in your thesis statement with clear and coherent paragraphs, using your research to help prove your claims.
4 Format the paper
Format the paper in the style that your professor or teacher has requested. The MLA style is one common standard for research papers. The Chicago Manual of Style is another format.
5 Revise your paper
Revise your paper, checking that it is clear and organized. Cut flabby language if necessary. In the “Elements of Style,” authors William B. Strunk and E. B. White note that vigorous writing “requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail…but that every word tell.”
- Representing the work of others as your own is plagiarism. Always cite your sources.
- Ask a friend or classmate to read the paper before you turn it in. A fresh set of eyes can catch errors that computers miss.
- Read your paper aloud. Hearing the words, instead of just reading them, often uncovers clunky phrasing.
- 1 The College Board: Writing a College Paper
- 2 Short Research Papers; Dennis G. Jerz
- 3 “The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition”; William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White; 1999
About the Author
Alicia Turner has worked in journalism for more than 20 years. She has served as a reporter for publications such as the "Roanoke Times" and the "Tallahassee Democrat," covering local politics, transportation and education. Turner holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism.
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FACT SHEET: President Biden Issues Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence
Today, President Biden is issuing a landmark Executive Order to ensure that America leads the way in seizing the promise and managing the risks of artificial intelligence (AI). The Executive Order establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans’ privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more. As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive strategy for responsible innovation, the Executive Order builds on previous actions the President has taken, including work that led to voluntary commitments from 15 leading companies to drive safe, secure, and trustworthy development of AI. The Executive Order directs the following actions: New Standards for AI Safety and Security
As AI’s capabilities grow, so do its implications for Americans’ safety and security. With this Executive Order, the President directs the most sweeping actions ever taken to protect Americans from the potential risks of AI systems :
- Require that developers of the most powerful AI systems share their safety test results and other critical information with the U.S. government. In accordance with the Defense Production Act, the Order will require that companies developing any foundation model that poses a serious risk to national security, national economic security, or national public health and safety must notify the federal government when training the model, and must share the results of all red-team safety tests. These measures will ensure AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy before companies make them public.
- Develop standards, tools, and tests to help ensure that AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy. The National Institute of Standards and Technology will set the rigorous standards for extensive red-team testing to ensure safety before public release. The Department of Homeland Security will apply those standards to critical infrastructure sectors and establish the AI Safety and Security Board. The Departments of Energy and Homeland Security will also address AI systems’ threats to critical infrastructure, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and cybersecurity risks. Together, these are the most significant actions ever taken by any government to advance the field of AI safety.
- Protect against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening. Agencies that fund life-science projects will establish these standards as a condition of federal funding, creating powerful incentives to ensure appropriate screening and manage risks potentially made worse by AI.
- Protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by establishing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content . The Department of Commerce will develop guidance for content authentication and watermarking to clearly label AI-generated content. Federal agencies will use these tools to make it easy for Americans to know that the communications they receive from their government are authentic—and set an example for the private sector and governments around the world.
- Establish an advanced cybersecurity program to develop AI tools to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical software, building on the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing AI Cyber Challenge. Together, these efforts will harness AI’s potentially game-changing cyber capabilities to make software and networks more secure.
- Order the development of a National Security Memorandum that directs further actions on AI and security, to be developed by the National Security Council and White House Chief of Staff. This document will ensure that the United States military and intelligence community use AI safely, ethically, and effectively in their missions, and will direct actions to counter adversaries’ military use of AI.
Protecting Americans’ Privacy
Without safeguards, AI can put Americans’ privacy further at risk. AI not only makes it easier to extract, identify, and exploit personal data, but it also heightens incentives to do so because companies use data to train AI systems. To better protect Americans’ privacy, including from the risks posed by AI, the President calls on Congress to pass bipartisan data privacy legislation to protect all Americans, especially kids, and directs the following actions:
- Protect Americans’ privacy by prioritizing federal support for accelerating the development and use of privacy-preserving techniques— including ones that use cutting-edge AI and that let AI systems be trained while preserving the privacy of the training data.
- Strengthen privacy-preserving research and technologies, such as cryptographic tools that preserve individuals’ privacy, by funding a Research Coordination Network to advance rapid breakthroughs and development. The National Science Foundation will also work with this network to promote the adoption of leading-edge privacy-preserving technologies by federal agencies.
- Evaluate how agencies collect and use commercially available information —including information they procure from data brokers—and strengthen privacy guidance for federal agencies to account for AI risks. This work will focus in particular on commercially available information containing personally identifiable data.
- Develop guidelines for federal agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of privacy-preserving techniques, including those used in AI systems. These guidelines will advance agency efforts to protect Americans’ data.
Advancing Equity and Civil Rights
Irresponsible uses of AI can lead to and deepen discrimination, bias, and other abuses in justice, healthcare, and housing. The Biden-Harris Administration has already taken action by publishing the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and issuing an Executive Order directing agencies to combat algorithmic discrimination , while enforcing existing authorities to protect people’s rights and safety. To ensure that AI advances equity and civil rights, the President directs the following additional actions:
- Provide clear guidance to landlords, Federal benefits programs, and federal contractors to keep AI algorithms from being used to exacerbate discrimination.
- Address algorithmic discrimination through training, technical assistance, and coordination between the Department of Justice and Federal civil rights offices on best practices for investigating and prosecuting civil rights violations related to AI.
- Ensure fairness throughout the criminal justice system by developing best practices on the use of AI in sentencing, parole and probation, pretrial release and detention, risk assessments, surveillance, crime forecasting and predictive policing, and forensic analysis.
Standing Up for Consumers, Patients, and Students
AI can bring real benefits to consumers—for example, by making products better, cheaper, and more widely available. But AI also raises the risk of injuring, misleading, or otherwise harming Americans. To protect consumers while ensuring that AI can make Americans better off, the President directs the following actions:
- Advance the responsible use of AI in healthcare and the development of affordable and life-saving drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services will also establish a safety program to receive reports of—and act to remedy – harms or unsafe healthcare practices involving AI.
- Shape AI’s potential to transform education by creating resources to support educators deploying AI-enabled educational tools, such as personalized tutoring in schools.
AI is changing America’s jobs and workplaces, offering both the promise of improved productivity but also the dangers of increased workplace surveillance, bias, and job displacement. To mitigate these risks, support workers’ ability to bargain collectively, and invest in workforce training and development that is accessible to all, the President directs the following actions:
- Develop principles and best practices to mitigate the harms and maximize the benefits of AI for workers by addressing job displacement; labor standards; workplace equity, health, and safety; and data collection. These principles and best practices will benefit workers by providing guidance to prevent employers from undercompensating workers, evaluating job applications unfairly, or impinging on workers’ ability to organize.
- Produce a report on AI’s potential labor-market impacts , and study and identify options for strengthening federal support for workers facing labor disruptions , including from AI.
Promoting Innovation and Competition
America already leads in AI innovation—more AI startups raised first-time capital in the United States last year than in the next seven countries combined. The Executive Order ensures that we continue to lead the way in innovation and competition through the following actions:
- Catalyze AI research across the United States through a pilot of the National AI Research Resource—a tool that will provide AI researchers and students access to key AI resources and data—and expanded grants for AI research in vital areas like healthcare and climate change.
- Promote a fair, open, and competitive AI ecosystem by providing small developers and entrepreneurs access to technical assistance and resources, helping small businesses commercialize AI breakthroughs, and encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to exercise its authorities.
- Use existing authorities to expand the ability of highly skilled immigrants and nonimmigrants with expertise in critical areas to study, stay, and work in the United States by modernizing and streamlining visa criteria, interviews, and reviews.
Advancing American Leadership Abroad
AI’s challenges and opportunities are global. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue working with other nations to support safe, secure, and trustworthy deployment and use of AI worldwide. To that end, the President directs the following actions:
- Expand bilateral, multilateral, and multistakeholder engagements to collaborate on AI . The State Department, in collaboration, with the Commerce Department will lead an effort to establish robust international frameworks for harnessing AI’s benefits and managing its risks and ensuring safety. In addition, this week, Vice President Harris will speak at the UK Summit on AI Safety, hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
- Accelerate development and implementation of vital AI standards with international partners and in standards organizations, ensuring that the technology is safe, secure, trustworthy, and interoperable.
- Promote the safe, responsible, and rights-affirming development and deployment of AI abroad to solve global challenges, such as advancing sustainable development and mitigating dangers to critical infrastructure.
Ensuring Responsible and Effective Government Use of AI
AI can help government deliver better results for the American people. It can expand agencies’ capacity to regulate, govern, and disburse benefits, and it can cut costs and enhance the security of government systems. However, use of AI can pose risks, such as discrimination and unsafe decisions. To ensure the responsible government deployment of AI and modernize federal AI infrastructure, the President directs the following actions:
- Issue guidance for agencies’ use of AI, including clear standards to protect rights and safety, improve AI procurement, and strengthen AI deployment.
- Help agencies acquire specified AI products and services faster, more cheaply, and more effectively through more rapid and efficient contracting.
- Accelerate the rapid hiring of AI professionals as part of a government-wide AI talent surge led by the Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Digital Service, U.S. Digital Corps, and Presidential Innovation Fellowship. Agencies will provide AI training for employees at all levels in relevant fields.
As we advance this agenda at home, the Administration will work with allies and partners abroad on a strong international framework to govern the development and use of AI. The Administration has already consulted widely on AI governance frameworks over the past several months—engaging with Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE, and the UK. The actions taken today support and complement Japan’s leadership of the G-7 Hiroshima Process, the UK Summit on AI Safety, India’s leadership as Chair of the Global Partnership on AI, and ongoing discussions at the United Nations. The actions that President Biden directed today are vital steps forward in the U.S.’s approach on safe, secure, and trustworthy AI. More action will be required, and the Administration will continue to work with Congress to pursue bipartisan legislation to help America lead the way in responsible innovation. For more on the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to advance AI, and for opportunities to join the Federal AI workforce, visit AI.gov .
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7 facts about americans’ views of money in politics.
Widespread dissatisfaction with the role of money in American politics is one of the many themes in Pew Research Center’s recent report on Americans’ dismal views of the nation’s political landscape .
This analysis summarizes key findings about money and politics from the recent Pew Research Center report “Americans’ Dismal Views of the Nation’s Politics.” We conducted the study to better understand how Americans view U.S. politics today and explore in depth how the public thinks about the quality of their political representation and the relationship between political actors and the people they represent.
The analysis is based on a survey of 8,480 adults from July 10 to July 16, 2023. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .
Here are the questions used for the report , along with responses, and its methodology .
Explore Americans’ views of the political system
This article draws from our major report on Americans’ attitudes about the political system and political representation, based on surveys conducted this summer. For more, read:
- The report chapters on money in politics and problems with the political system
- The full report
Large shares of the public see political campaigns as too costly, elected officials as too responsive to donors and special interests, and members of Congress as unable or unwilling to separate their financial interests from their work as public servants.
Here are seven facts about how Americans view the influence of money on the political system and elected officials, drawn from our recent report.
Most Americans favor spending limits for political campaigns. Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. adults (72%) say that there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on political campaigns. Just 11% say individuals and organizations should be able to spend as much money as they want, and 16% are not sure.
Support for spending limits crosses ideological and demographic lines. Across all groups, by margins of at least three-to-one, more people say there should be limits than say there should not.
Nearly six-in-ten Americans say it’s possible to have laws that would effectively reduce the role of money in politics. About two-in-ten (21%) say it’s not possible to legislate this effectively. A similar share (20%) are not sure.
Liberal Democrats are particularly likely to say it’s possible to have laws that would reduce the role of money in politics. About three-quarters (76%) say this, compared with 57% of conservative or moderate Democrats and 52% of Republicans. There are no ideological differences on this question among Republicans.
In an open-ended question, 11% of Americans volunteer that the biggest problem with elected officials is that they’re too influenced by money in politics. An additional 9% describe elected officials as corrupt and 16% say they don’t work for the people they represent. These concerns are among the top responses to this question .
In a separate open-ended question about the political system as a whole, 15% say that the biggest problem is greed or corruption among elected officials.
Americans overwhelmingly say that the cost of political campaigns makes it hard for good people to run for office. More than eight-in-ten Americans (85%) say this is a good description of the U.S. political system today, including identical shares of Republicans and Democrats.
A similar share of the public (84%) says that “special interest groups and lobbyists have too much say in what happens in politics” is a good description of the political system.
Self-interest – especially the desire to make money – is one of the main reasons people think most elected officials ran for office. More than six-in-ten (63%) say that all or most of the people who currently serve as elected officials ran for office to make a lot of money .
Majorities also say that all or most officials ran for office to seek a higher-level office in the future (57%) or to seek personal fame and attention (54%). Far fewer say that all or most elected officials ran to address issues they care about (22%) or to serve the public (15%).
Roughly eight-in-ten Americans say members of Congress do a bad job of keeping their personal financial interests separate from their work in Congress. The public also rates members of Congress poorly on listening to the concerns of people in their districts, working with members of the opposing party and taking responsibility for their actions.
Campaign donors and lobbyists are widely viewed as having too much influence on members of Congress. Eight-in-ten U.S. adults say the people who donate money to political campaigns have too much influence on the decisions members of Congress make. And 73% say lobbyists and special interest groups have too much influence. Large majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike say campaign donors, lobbyists and special interest groups have too much influence.
By contrast, 70% of Americans say the people who live in representatives’ districts have too little influence over the decisions their representatives make.
Note: Here are the questions used for the report , along with responses, and its methodology .
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Wide partisan divide on whether voting is a fundamental right or a privilege with responsibilities
More u.s. locations experimenting with alternative voting systems, many western europeans think mandatory voting is important, but americans are split, republicans and democrats move further apart in views of voting access, share of republicans saying ‘everything possible’ should be done to make voting easy declines sharply, most popular.
About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .
- Open access
- Published: 08 November 2023
Non-medical practitioners in the staffing of emergency departments and urgent treatment centres in England: a mixed qualitative methods study of policy implementation
- Vari M. Drennan 1 ,
- Mary Halter 1 ,
- Francesca Taylor 1 ,
- Jonathan Gabe 2 &
- Heather Jarman 3
BMC Health Services Research volume 23 , Article number: 1221 ( 2023 ) Cite this article
Patient demand, internationally, on emergency departments and urgent care treatment centres has grown. Shortages of staff, particularly of emergency medicine doctors, have compounded problems. Some countries are pursuing solutions of including non-medical practitioners e.g., nurse practitioners and physician associates/assistants in their emergency department workforces. This study investigated at the macro and meso level of the health system in England: what the rationale was and the factors influencing the current and future employment, or otherwise, of non-medical practitioners in emergency departments and urgent treatment centres.
Mixed qualitative methods in the interpretative tradition were employed. We undertook, in 2021–2022, a documentary analysis of national, regional and subregional policy (2017–2021), followed by semi-structured interviews of a purposive sample ( n = 18) of stakeholders from national, regional and subregional levels. The data were thematically analysed and then synthesised.
There was general national policy support for increasing the presence of non-medical practitioners as part of the solution to shortages of emergency medicine doctors. However, evidence of policy support dissipated at regional and subregional levels. There were no published numbers for non-medical practitioners in emergency departments, but stakeholders suggested they were relatively small in number, unevenly distributed and faced uncertain growth. While the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath were said to have made senior decision makers more receptive to workforce innovation, many factors contributed to the uncertain growth. These factors included: limited evidence on the relative advantage of including non-medical practitioners; variation in the models of service being pursued to address patient demand on emergency departments and the place of non-medical practitioners within them; the lack of a national workforce plan with clear directives; and the variation in training for non-medical practitioner roles, combined with the lack of regulation of that level of practice.
We identified many features of a system ready to introduce non-medical practitioners in emergency departments and urgent treatment centres but there were uncertainties and the potential for conflict with other professional groups. One area of uncertainty was evidence of relative advantage in including non-medical practitioners in staffing. This requires urgent attention to inform decision making for short- and long-term workforce planning. Further investigation is required to consider whether these findings are generalisable to other specialties, and to similar health systems in other countries.
Peer Review reports
Health care systems internationally have reported rising patient numbers attending emergency departments and urgent care treatment centres (EDs/UTCs) before and since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic [ 1 ]. Shortages of staff, particularly of doctors trained in emergency medicine have compounded stresses on these services in many countries, including the United Kingdom (UK), [ 2 ]. This combination of issues has resulted in negative patient and staff experiences [ 3 ]. One response has been the advocacy by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for new types of clinically trained health professionals, such as nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician associates/assistants (PAs) to undertake some of the work of doctors [ 4 ]. These new types of clinical health professionals are educated to undertake medical histories, clinical assessments, order diagnostic tests, make diagnoses and commence treatment for any presenting patients as agreed with medical clinicians and/or employers [ 4 ]. These new types of professionals are clinical decision makers with a broader scope of practice than health professionals who follow specific extended practice clinical protocols for specified groups of patients [ 5 ]. There is no agreement internationally on collective nomenclature for these types of professionals and we use the term non-medical practitioner (NMP), [ 6 ] in this paper. A recent scoping review identified published accounts of the employment of NMPs in ED/UTCs in 12 countries [ 7 ]. Pilot or demonstration projects only were identified from Denmark [ 8 ], the Netherlands [ 9 ], New Zealand [ 10 , 11 ], Norway [ 12 ], Saudi Arabia [ 13 ] and Uganda [ 14 ]. Reports from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, and the United States (USA) detailed more widespread but far from universal employment of NMPs in EDs/UTCs [ 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 ]. While there were accounts reporting on the facilitators and challenges in single organisation introduction of an or more than one NMP into an ED/UTCs [ 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 ], there have been none that investigated explanations for the variation in the extent of employment of NMPs in EDs/UTCs from across a health system. The National Health Service in England has had a national policy of support for NMPs in ED/UTCs and offered an opportunity to investigate across a health system. This paper reports on a study investigating the factors influencing the employment or otherwise of NMPs in EDs/UTCs in one health system, the National Health Service (NHS) in England, from the macro and meso level perspective.
The context for NHS England ED/UTC workforces
The NHS is a universal tax funded health care system, free at the point of care delivery, and provided by individually governed NHS organisations and other types of not for profit and for-profit providers [ 27 ]. The NHS is nationally led by an arms -length body called NHS England which receives its mandate and funding from the government Department of Health & Social Care [ 27 ]. NHS England sets out the policies and mechanisms for planning and funding clinical care as well as health workforce planning and training [ 27 ].
In 2021–2 there were 24 million attendances at 151 NHS EDs/UTCs [ 28 ]. In the same year NHS organisations employed 8,155 full time equivalent (FTE) doctors (5,996 of whom were in training positions), 16,790 FTE nurses and 14,200 FTE other types of care providers (unspecified) in EDs/UTCs [ 28 ]. There has been a twenty-year history of developing extended scope of practice roles (particularly for nurses and paramedics) in EDs/UTCs in England [ 29 ] to address increased patient demand and medical staffing problems [ 30 ]. A few individual NHS hospitals developed and employed NMPs [ 31 ]. In 2017 the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), with the support of the Royal College of Nursing and College of Paramedics, published a curriculum and credentialling process for emergency care advanced clinical practice (EC-ACPs) [ 17 ]. In the same year, NHS England published a policy statement promoting increased numbers of NMPs to be employed in ED/UTCs and invested funding in training more ED/UTC NMPs [ 32 ]. Against this national policy support for ED/UTC NMPs, this study investigated at the macro and meso level of the health system: what the rationale was for including NMPs in the ED/UTC workforce; and what factors were influencing the current and future employment, or otherwise, of NMPs in the ED/UTC workforce.
As a study of the influences of the implementation of workforce innovation policy we framed our investigation through Greenhalgh et al.’s theory of the diffusion of innovation in health services [ 33 ]. This theory argues for a complex interplay between the nature of the innovation, the system readiness for the innovation, the wider socio-economic context, and the resource system.
The mixed qualitative methods design drew on the interpretative tradition, recognising multiple perceptions occurring within specific socio-cultural and historical contexts [ 34 ]. In order to explore the research questions at both the macro and meso levels of the health system we undertook two sequential investigations followed by an integration of data phase. We first conducted a documentary analysis of policy, followed by semi-structured interviews of a purposive sample of key stakeholders at national and regional levels. We then integrated the data through a narrative synthesis against the research questions, which is reported in the discussion section of this paper.
Data were collected for the documentary policy analysis [ 35 ] by searching the websites of public organisations at the macro and meso level of the NHS in England. We searched only those organisations with authority to direct or influence the use of public NHS funds used for emergency and urgent care services and its workforce. At the macro level of the health system these organisations included: the Department of Health & Social Care, the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, the Care Quality Commission (responsible for inspection of services), NHS England (including the newly merged NHS Improvement organisation), NHS major trauma networks and Health Education England (HEE, then responsible for workforce planning and funding training). At the meso level of the health system we searched websites of regional offices of NHS England and HEE, and of local level organisations and networks involved in planning and commissioning of NHS services (at the time of the study these included Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, Integrated Care Systems, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Integrated Care Boards). We searched for documents published between January 2017 (the year of the NHS England stated policy support for NMPs in EDs/UTCs) and May 2021 (Table 1 ).
Policy statements, strategies, plans, directives, guidance, reports, reviews, and evaluations of NMP implementation were included and illustrative case studies or opinions without policy directives or guidance were excluded. The websites of professional bodies (RCEM, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Pharmacists, College of Paramedics, and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists) were also searched for any references to relevant public organisation documents or co-authored documents not identified through other searches. Retrieved documents were logged in an electronic spreadsheet and stored electronically. Documents were word searched using the ‘find’ function for the words: “emergency care”, “urgent care” (context and population of interest), “practitioner”, “associate, “advanced”, “clinical pharmacist” (population of interest), and “skill-mix” (concept of interest). On finding the words of interest, the surrounding paragraphs were read and text relevant to the research questions (e.g., employment, intentions to develop or employ NMPs, related rationales) identified. These data were extracted to a spreadsheet. Inductive and deductive analysis was undertaken [ 36 ] and iterated and interpreted though discussion in the research team and at consultative events with patients, non-medical practitioners, clinicians, and managers.
Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 18 senior NHS clinicians, managers, commissioners and lay representatives from organisations operating at macro and meso levels: national, regional NHS (including arms-length bodies), and sub-regional NHS organisations and professional organisations between August 2021 and April 2022 (Table 2 ). Lay representatives were included as they participated in macro and meso level policy influencing and policy making committees.
Potential participants were identified through the website searching for the documentary analysis and invited by publicly available email addresses. A topic guide was constructed from the literature and policy analysis and refined in discussion with the study advisory panels which included patients and NMPs. The topic guide (supplementary file 1 ) focused on questions about the influences/rationale experienced in decisions to employ/train NMPs, expected benefits and risks, and outcomes regarding use of NMPs in EDs/UTCs and the wider system and any views on the mix of staff and skills in EDs/UTCs. Interviews were conducted by video call, recorded with permission, transcribed, anonymised and the recording deleted. Interviewers (VMD, FT, MH) employed techniques of checking understanding, interpretation and summarising during the interview with participants [ 37 ]. Interviews lasted from between 30 and 50 min. Interviewers were all female health services researchers, one with a clinical managerial background, and all with prior experience of research on the topic of non-medical practitioners. Reflexive notes were made immediately after interviews and open discussions held in the team to ensure both consistency of approach and iterative questioning. Transcripts were thematically analysed that allowed for deductive (theory framed) and inductive (data driven) approach [ 36 ]. Two members of the team (VMD, FT) initially read and developed a coding index, subsequently iterated and refined through discussion with the wider team.
The interview element of the study was reviewed and approved by the NHS North East—Tyne & Wear South Research Ethics Committee (REC number 21/NE/0071).
We report the findings from the documentary policy analysis first and then the interviews. The data are then integrated in the discussion section.
The documentary policy analysis
At the national macro level of the health system, we identified sixty-three documents in scope published by the Department of Health and Social Care, its arm’s length bodies and NHS England, 25 referred to NMPs and of these 14 referred to NMPs specifically in ED/UTCs. The 14 documents reported the existence of NMPs in some ED/UTC services and national level general support for growth in their numbers in response to stated concerns about shortages of emergency medicine doctors, increased patient demand and decreased quality of emergency services.
“ Professional groups such as advanced clinical practitioners, pharmacist clinicians and physician associates are also being developed and supported to take on collaborative, frontline clinical roles in EDs under the supervision and mentorship of consultants in emergency medicine. These groups form an important part of today’s emergency care workforce, giving it greater resilience and sustainability ” p9 [ 32 ]
Aside from the specific allocation in 2017 of national funds to train 42 existing health professionals in 14 NHS organisations to be advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs) in the ED [ 32 ], the national statements were of general support for NMPs rather than specific instructions for employment. In the response to a parliamentary select committee recommendation that efforts to improve staffing in EDs be redoubled, the government listed actions on NMPs including the opportunities for ACP training fellowships but no directives to the NHS on their employment [ 38 ].
At the meso level of the health care system we noted that the regional offices of NHS England, NHS Improvement, HEE, and the regional major trauma networks had very limited web presence with few publicly available documents. One in-scope document was found but made no reference to NMPs in EDs/UTCs. At the sub regional level, in scope documents were found published by 32 integrated care systems; of which 15 referred to developing NMP posts in support of the service transformation and primary care objectives of the 2019 NHS Long Term Plan [ 39 ]. Of these 15 policy statements on NMPs, two specifically referred to NMP development in urgent care settings and one to the consideration of ACP roles in emergency departments but without explicit rationale or actions, as in this exemplar:
“There are a number of new roles we need to consider in our long-term strategic workforce planning at both a local and whole system level. These include: ………. advanced clinical practice roles (especially A & E, cancer, elective specialities).” Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care System Strategic Delivery Plan 2019-2024. working draft version 6 last edited 17th February 2020 p 10 [ 40 ] .
At the sub-ICS level (clinical commissioning groups transferring to integrated care boards and integrated care partnerships during the period of the study), 12 in scope documents were retrieved. While seven referred to plans for improving urgent and emergency services, none referred to NMPs as part of the solution to identified performance problems.
In summary while there was macro, government level general support for NMPs in EDS/UTCs as a policy solution to shortages of emergency medicine doctors, there were no direct implementation instructions to NHS organisations and at the meso-level of the system we found little policy attention to developing or employing NMPs in EDs/UTCs.
The stakeholder interviews
We now report on themes identified against our research question from the stakeholder interviews. First, we note how the interviewees contextualised their responses through the experience and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic before discussing views as to rationales for NMPs, factors supporting and inhibiting the development of roles and NMP employment in EDs/UTCs.
The COVID-19 pandemic context
All the interviewees commented on the experience of providing health care and health professional education through the COVID-19 pandemic as creating a changed context in comparison to pre-2020. The participants reported the increased demands on services and on an already overstretched workforce. Some participants noted the pandemic period had increased patient and public familiarity with different forms of health care practices and different types of staffing. The pandemic was described as having stimulated rapid change in working practices, deployment / utilisation of different staff groups as well as collaborative ways of meeting challenges.
“If COVID has taught us anything, it's that where we show strength is when we're working together. Any schemes, any new risks we've taken, any different services we've done, have been in partnership with other professions or other stakeholders. Why would that change when we come out of COVID?” Participant 18 regional, clinician, manager
These changes were observed to have subsequently created the opportunity to re-think the types of staffing needed in a service, as in this exemplar:
“We suddenly have to provide COVID care, and we didn't have a workforce to provide that care. We've had to pull it from other bits of the workforce. In doing that, we've realised, I think, where the gaps are across the workforce as a whole. For example, if you pull three junior doctors from an area of medicine to go and work on a COVID ward, …..Is it more junior doctors who need to fill that gap or should you be asking a different question?” Participant 17 regional, clinician
However, a different view was offered by one participant who argued that the ongoing legacy problems of the COVID-19 pandemic meant commissioners were now paying more attention to the wider system of primary care in a local geography to address the increased problems in emergency services, rather than being interested in the internal provider issues of workforce,
Rationale for the development and employment of NMPs in EDs/UTCs
For those participants able to comment on reasons why NMPs were being trained and employed, they reported the long-term medical shortages in emergency medicine as the most significant issue for which NMP posts were seen as one part of the solution.
“It's [employing NMPs] just a new way to bring capacity into the system, and we desperately need it.” Participant 6, national, policy
“ Unless they're going to suddenly train a whole load of medical students to become doctors, but that's going to take five years, ten years, even if the numbers went up. You've got to think about it differently. You've got to stop thinking hierarchy and think about, if you're a patient and you're ill, who is the best person to treat you, and who can you get to see the patient, and who is available to see the patient? ’’ Participant 10, regional , sub regional , clinician.
Some participants suggested that another driver was the need to provide a greater proportion of permanent members in ED staffing, with concomitant benefits to patient and staff experience as in this exemplar.
"I think a really important thing now is about the continuity of care, so the junior doctors move round all the time, don't they? They do, like, rotations whereas if you have ACPs or PAs in a department they would be quite long-term….you would get a kind of stability within a department”. Participant 11, national, layperson
It was also suggested by some participants that NMPs, as part of a stable ED/UTC workforce, contributed to and improved the training of other professionals including doctors. Another rationale linked to workforce stability was reported to be the need to retain experienced emergency service nurses. NMP roles were considered to offer an attractive clinical career pathway and some examples were given of very high application levels for NMP training posts in emergency and urgent care services.
“[NMPs] are a focus for the nurse career progression and other colleague progression as well…… it's better to retain and give our nurses something to work towards .” Participant 1, regional, clinician, manager
There was a consensus that NMPs in EDs/UTCs were a relatively small group but were thought to be growing in numbers. Although no one was able to offer exact numbers or specify type of professional background, most participants considered that nurses were in the majority in NMP roles.
“ I sit on a multi-professional rota in practice. In that role, it can't be a registrar. It has to be a general practitioner or an advanced practitioner. In reality, it's still mainly nurses, but could be a paramedic, it could be a pharmacist, or it could be a physio”. Participant 16, national, clinician
There was also agreement that NMPs were not uniformly employed across the regions of England. One explanation was that emergency medicine workforce problems had not been experienced to the same degree in different regions.
“It's very patchy across the UK, never mind getting into the devolved nations, how such roles have been adapted, supported, and implemented……As I say, the [name of region] is terribly late to the party, for the reason that it hasn't had medical workforce issues, historically.” Participant 20, national, regional, clinician
Factors supporting the NMP employment and development
As reported above the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its legacy (i.e., increased patient demand in EDs/UTCs and workforce shortages), were seen as very influential in supporting NMP employment. Beyond the pandemic impact, the participants described evidence of the value of NMPs to services, familiarity with NMPs and national and regional policy on NMPs as factors supporting NMP employment and development. The three types of factors were often reported to be intertwined.
Evidence of NMP value to the service
Some participants considered that a supporting factor was evidence of benefit to the service. It was commented on that this often took time as it required NMPs to have completed their training programmes, and induction periods in their ED/UTC posts.
“It wasn't until they were allowed to kind of go through the training, flourish, get to the other end, that they [medical clinicians] then began to really see the value, and the ACPs weren't just doing what the consultants wanted them to be able to do. For example, I don't know, manage a trauma safely, be able to request specific imaging and be able to interpret that quickly and efficiently, but actually they then saw them in the light that they [the ACPs] were then beginning to educate their medical trainees; that they were developing, they were looking at ways that service could be improved” Participant 8, regional, clinician, commissioner
From the patient’s perspective, NMPs were seen to add value by reducing ED/UTC waiting times, making visits more efficient and positive:
“We know that the public angle is that the demands on urgent care and accident and emergency departments is huge. People are waiting for a very long time, so that makes them very anxious. I think they would be much less anxious seeing a senior practitioner from any type of background than waiting for hours not seeing somebody.” Participant 5, national, layperson
While some participants speculated that a factor positively influencing the employment of NMPs would be that they were cheaper than doctors, participants with more direct knowledge were able state that NMPs were less costly than locum doctors but not middle grade doctors:
“ACPs are not cheaper than middle-grade [doctor] counterparts; that's not true. In fact, ACPs are ever so slightly, for hour-for-hour of direct patient care, slightly more expensive. However, when you compare that to a locum, which is your only real other alternative to that [middle grade doctor] workforce, [ACPs] are considerably less financially burdensome” . Participant 1, regional, clinician, manager
Many participants viewed the history of incremental development of NMP types of posts, with meso-level system support over many years, as increasing the familiarity of clinicians and managers as particularly helpful.
“So, the development started [in the NHS region] back in 2005, and that was funded by the strategic health authorities at the time, and then it became NHS [name of region]”. Participant . 8 regional, clinician, commissioner
Participants reported that NMPs were more widely accepted. The nearly twenty-years of incremental development of NMP posts, combined with recognition of ACPs by RCEM [ 17 ] was considered by many to have contributed to the acceptability of employing NMPs in EDs/UTCs.
Some participants also reported that senior clinical and managerial decision makers familiar with NMPs and viewing them as of value, took that knowledge with them to other organisations and influenced the spread and adoption.
“.. a lot of it is probably to do with whether there's someone in senior management wanting to champion that [NMPs] as a kind of way of improving the workforce. ……..someone who's moved from somewhere else where they've been doing that, and then there’s kind of like a snowball effect I think sometimes….. they take that idea with them” . Participant 11, national, lay.
Some participants considered that factors that were aiding the implementation of NMPs in urgent and emergency care came from all levels of the health system: the national policy statements by HEE and NHS England as well regionally funded training programmes. Several participants pointed to the value of training programmes that made explicit the level of NMP competency in emergency medicine to other clinicians, Examples were given of bespoke regional programmes as well as the credentialing process of RCEM [ 17 ]. The lay participants reported that, in the main, patients were content to be treated by the most suitable staff in terms of skills, knowledge, and experience rather than role. They reported the patient perspective as emphasising competent health professionals with good communication skills that engendered trust and confidence in the triage decisions.
“You'll get very little about, 'It would have been better if I'd seen a doctor quick.' I don't think you will. I think people are much more…they want to just get to the right person who they can talk to and get treated.” Participant 5, national, layperson
There were, however, also views expressed that a minority of patients expected to consult doctors and that there was considerable public confusion about who and what these new NMP roles were.
Participants described supportive factors for NMP employment as NMPs bringing a breadth of skills to the effectiveness of the team. Examples were given of NMPs from nursing and PA backgrounds bringing strong communication skills, NMPs from physiotherapist backgrounds having expertise in musculoskeletal conditions, NMPs from paramedic backgrounds having expertise in sudden deterioration of patient conditions and NMPs from pharmacy backgrounds having expertise in medicines.
“ I think the broadening of the workforce (with NMPs), and one of the things that brought me into emergency medicine…. I appreciate and value multidisciplinary working and I think it brings a far more holistic care to patients . Participant 20, national, regional, clinician
Two participants commented that while there was some research evidence as to the contribution of NMPs in EDs/UTCs this was very limited and there was a need for more. This was viewed by some as one of the factors inhibiting the wider employment of NMPs, which we now report.
Factors perceived to be negatively influencing the implementation and future intentions for non-medical practitioners in the urgent and emergency care workforce
The reported hindering factors grouped into overlapping themes about: the extent of evidence of value of NMPs, the variation in scope of NMP practice and regulation with concomitant concerns about clinical risk; variation in workforce models deploying NMPs, the absence of long-term workforce plans with associated business plans, system inertia and professional resistance.
Some participants argued that there was very limited evidence as to the value, safety and benefit of NMPs in EDs/UTCs. Others considered that the gap was in knowledge transfer about value and safety to local organisations in a way that was useful to decision making:
“I think a really clear articulation at a national level of actually what are the benefits, what are the risks? Where has this been done well? What can we expect from this workforce that might be different? So that can be something that's used for your local organisation.” Participant 17, subregional, clinician
As reported earlier, commissioners were thought to be focused on out of hospital services to address problems in EDs/UTCs and some suggested that NMPs working outside of hospitals could help provide solutions rather than NMPs within EDs:
“Because of the development of advanced practitioners, physicians’ associates, specialists in advanced practice, what we [ commissioners of services] can do is give people more treatment in their place of living.” Participant 18, national, clinician, commissioner
New models of emergency department care were described, which were addressing the wider problems of patient flow out of EDs/UTCs, and which did not necessarily require NMPs in the ED. Examples were given of in-reach into the ED from consultant speciality teams, for example from geriatrics, that included speciality specific ACPs. Others suggested that there was increased use of other professional groups in the ED/UTC, such as paramedics and pharmacists, but this was not necessarily in NMP roles:
“Some trusts are looking? at taking paramedics on to do front door streaming [of the ED] , not necessarily in that ACP role.” Participant 13, regional, clinician, commissioner
Many participants pointed to the negative impact of the lack of national, regional and often local level health care workforce plans. The lack of funding was thought to deter the creation of training programmes; training posts with associated training and supervisor time; as well as NMP posts with associated medical supervisory time. A few participants argued that local detailed ED workforce planning based on the organisation context and patient demand should be used to inform regional and national workforce plans, rather than some national superimposed template of staffing. However, these participants were in unison in observing that there was an absence of long-term workforce planning.
“The NHS only seems to really plan for the next 12 months from April to April, and we really struggle to persuade organisations that, actually, this is part of a five-year, ten-year plan, and they've got to invest now [in ACP in ED training] in order to have that positive effect much later on down the line”. Participant 1, Regional, clinician, manager
A few participants described public sector organisations as incapable of swift, radical changes and consequently this was deterring wider NMP implementation. Variation between local level NHS organisations was cited as evidence of different attitudes to innovation. Devolved decision making within organisations was thought by some participants to result in risk averse choices rather than innovation.
“I think there's real desire, actually, at the top of the trust to do this and to support this [introduction of NMPs]. But the long and short is the budget doesn't sit with the board. The budget sits with the operational units…..We're talking about them taking a risk. We're talking about them converting one type of post into another type of post. Or, actually even worse for them, investing to save…... But I think we're talking about such a fundamental shift that it becomes really hard for risk-averse divisional managers to, to decide to take that risk. ” Participant 17, sub-regional, clinician
The variation in scope of practice and training of different NMPs (i.e., leading to uncertainty in the competency and capability of NMPs), was identified by several participants as a factor that deterred inclusion of NMPs in ED/UTC workforces. This factor was mitigated, as described previously, for some participants by programmes that provided quality assurance of knowledge and skills; for example the RCEM ED-ACP programme [ 17 ]. A few participants pointed to a tension amongst senior decision makers as to how to standardise and quality assure competency amongst NMPs in EDs/UTCs.
“At the moment, there is a want [to fill medical vacancies] , and there are those who would put a white coat on a clapping monkey and call it a clinician. You have to say, 'No, this has to be a quality assured measurement and training, because at the end of this is the patient's safety.” Participant 20, national, regional, clinician
Individual professional organisations were thought to be ambivalent as to NMP roles and credentialing processes by other professional organisations. This was another factor that was considered to inhibit NMP development:
“The organisations who represent the professions are more hesitant. The organisations who represent trust leaders or employers are much more pro, because we can see the value” . Participant 6, national, policy
The absence of licensure by health professional regulatory bodies in the UK for advanced practice and for PAs, combined with linked restrictions (such as paramedics unable to prescribe certain classes of medications), was described as an ongoing deterrent for employers.
“ The lack of regulation over physician associates …..It's a real shame, because we could really benefit from seeing, for instance, prescribing rights. And that can only come with regulation. And it will just help in the workforce planning piece to know how far people can work up in terms of skill sets ”. Participant 6, national, policy
Finally, resistance within the medical profession to the development of NMPs roles was discussed by some participants. Only one participant reported direct objection from concern about future jobs:
“I know there’s been a little bit of resistance when the ACP programme was first set up, from people who felt like, perhaps medics, who felt like their jobs might be, not be protected if they start training other people who can do quite a lot of their job”. Participant 9, national, policy, commissioner
Medical consultants were described as considering a doctor as the ‘ gold standard ’ (Participant 17, sub-regional, clinician) in the workforce and consequently considered any other professional in that post would constitute a loss. Other participants reported more mixed views amongst doctors as to the acceptability or otherwise of NMPs. It was also pointed out that other professional groups could display negative behaviours towards the concept of NMPs.
“They [nurse ACPs] also got kickback. They can get sometimes bullying, effectively from… Or snide remarks from their colleagues. 'Oh well, you're not one of us anymore because you're on that [ACP rota] . ” Participant 16, national, clinician
The tension between occupational groups was described by several participants as most frequently observed in the defence of staffing budgets against conversion to NMP posts. Staffing budgets were reported to be ringfenced to specific professional groups rather than the service in total.
“For me, again, one of the big tensions is around developing these roles, 'Oh, well, where's the money coming from? Is it out of the nursing budget or the medical budget?”. Participant 20, national, regional, clinician.
The ambiguity over the position of NMPs vis-a-vis both medicine and nursing, was considered to influence discipline specific budget holders not to support the use of their professions’ staffing finance for NMPs.
This study explored the macro and meso level factors influencing the implementation of NMPs in EDs/UTCs in England in the context of a National Health Service. While there are many studies of the introduction of NPs in primary care [ 41 , 42 , 43 ], to our knowledge this is the first study to explore this issue specific to EDs/UTCs from a national perspective, and the first for multiple types of professions in NMP roles. We found new evidence that suggested the numbers of NMPs were relatively small, unevenly distributed and faced uncertain growth. Similar views have been reported for multi-professional ACPs in all types of secondary care services in England [ 44 ].
In this first policy analysis study, we identified that the macro level policy in support of NMPs in EDs/UTCs was written in general terms rather than a prescription to the rest of the health service. Greenhalgh et al.’s model of implementation of innovation notes the importance of policy mandates in adoption of innovation. [ 33 ] The national policy statements on NMPs in EDs/UTCs had broadly desired implementation and outcomes i.e. they were normative in nature [ 45 ]. It has been argued that normative policies are subject to political contexts of ambiguity and conflict in implementation decisions [ 45 ]. Our finding that the employment of NMPs in EDs/UTCs was largely absent from the meso-level policies of NHS planning and commissioning organisations may be in part explained by the lack of directive from the national policy. Views of the national and regional level participants give weight to this explanation. The participants pointed to the absence of a national funded NHS England workforce plan as an inhibiting influence on further meso level actions in support of the spread and adoption of NMPs in EDs/UTCs. The absence of a national health care workforce plan has been commented on before in the NHS England context, although not specifically in the context of ED/UTC services [ 46 ]. A recent national recovery plan to improve ED/UTC patient waiting times and experience has committed (amongst other actions) to increasing the workforce throughout the urgent and emergency care system, including “increasing the numbers of advanced practitioners in priority areas, including emergency care “ (p 20, [ 47 ]). As part of this NHS England has required the local ICS to develop specific workforce plans for urgent and emergency care services [ 47 ]. On 1st June 2023 a new national NHS England workforce plan was published [ 48 ]. This committed to funding increased numbers of advanced practice and physician associate training places, with specifically 150 advanced practice paramedic training places a year to support the same day emergency care initiative. The national plan committed to work with local level ICS organisations to implement the policy, however, it remains to be seen if the implementation plans are more prescriptive. Further longitudinal study is required on the impact of these national and sub-regional workforce plans on the numbers and spread of NMPs in ED/UTCs in England.
Participants identified that areas with long standing, and acute shortages of emergency medicine doctors were more receptive to the innovation of NMPs in their workforce. In Greenhalgh et al.’s model this represents readiness for change of an unworkable situation [ 33 ]. The COVID-19 pandemic experience of having to innovate suddenly in workforce deployment and ways of working was considered by participants to have also contributed to system and service readiness for change. Participants reported that evidence of value and acceptability of NMPs to services, clinicians and patients was influential in supporting the spread and growth of NMPs; that is NMPs demonstrated the relative advantage as described in Greenhalgh et al.’s model for adoption of innovation [ 33 ]. However, there was also uncertainty and differing views amongst participants. Divergent views were offered as to whether there was publicly available evidence of clinical safety, efficiency, and cost effectiveness i.e., relative advantage of having NMPs in EDs/UTCs. Synthesis of evidence, primary research and modelling over long-term periods is required to provide clinicians and managers with the information to decide on the relative advantage, or otherwise, of NMPs.
There were also differing views as to which of the following problems NMPs were part of the solution to: medical shortages, problematic patient flow into and through EDs, failure to retain experienced ED nursing staff or lack of staffing continuity resulting from training rotations of doctors. Further ambiguity was identified as to which workforce models involving NMPs should be pursued to improve ED/UTC experience and services. Participants offered the following variety: NMPs in primary care to reduce patient demand at EDs/UTCs, NMPs attached to secondary care specialties to enhance in-reach into EDs/UTCs for specific groups of patients, NMPs with prior professional backgrounds to target specific patient groups in the ED/UTC e.g., physiotherapists and patients with musculoskeletal problems and NMPs working generically within the ED/UTC as senior clinical decision makers to help improve patient flow overall. Greenhalgh et al.’s model proposed that for successful introduction the innovation must be understood by all parties and be compatible with current ways of working [ 33 ]. Apart from differing NMP workforce models, participants reported uncertainties derived from varied NMP training, competencies, regulation and governance, as well as confusion among patients and the public. Counterbalancing these uncertainties were the macro and meso level work by some organisations to provide benchmarked training and accreditation for some types of NMPs working in ED/UTCs [ 17 ]. Further study over time is required to investigate whether these developments impact on decisions to include NMPs or not in ED/UTC workforces.
In the absence of national or regional policies, participants pointed to the positive impact of change management activities by individuals at the meso and micro-organisation level such as senior influential champions, which features in Greenhalgh et al.’s model [ 33 ] and has been described many times in relation to the introduction of NP’s roles in individual organisations [ 49 , 50 ]and in ED/UTC settings [ 21 , 22 ].
Multiple reviews of the introduction and spread of advanced and expanded health profession roles have pointed to national health workforce policies as enabling but that these have been dependent on the extent of opposition or support of other professions, most notably medicine [ 51 , 52 , 53 , 54 ]. Our documentary policy review provided evidence of active support at the national level by medical organisations to NMPs in ED/UTC, although the interviews provided a more nuanced view at the meso organisational level. Participants reported mixed views amongst doctors, with some being actively supportive, some that were neutral and some being unsupportive for a variety of reasons. These reasons included the erosion of medical roles and medical training opportunities, uncertainty as to the capability of NMPs and concern about the adequacy of the funding for medical supervision for NMP roles. Surveys of emergency medicine doctors in Australia and the US have similarly reported divided opinions [ 55 , 56 ]. The innovation of NMP roles is fundamentally a disruption to current ways of working and the work boundaries between professions. Abbott’s seminal work offered a theory of the system of professions, characterized as a jostling, interdependent ecology in which the activities of one occupational group impact on others and are tied up with issues of power, status, and rewards [ 57 ]. Abbott argued that at the micro level of the team, these boundaries were always blurred or fuzzy, and it was at the organization and broader societal level that the boundaries were significant in claims for professional jurisdiction, clients, knowledge, resources and rewards [ 57 ]. The uncertainties on regulation, governance and multiple credentialling systems, which were reported by participants as inhibiting factors to the development of NMPs in EDs/UTCs, could be viewed as evidence of the national level jostling between some professional organisations for jurisdiction and resources. The reported preference not to redeploy resources from one professional group (i.e., medicine or nursing) to long term funding of NMP posts in EDs/UTCs will continue to be inhibiting to wider spread and adoption.
Further investigation is required to consider whether these findings are generalisable to other specialties, and to similar health systems in other countries.
Limitations and strengths
We identified three limitations of the study. The first limitation was that the mixed methods data collection was dependant on publicly available documents of NHS organisations and details of senior NHS postholders, which proved less accessible at the meso level due to NHS reorganisations before and during the study. We tried to mitigate this through a systematic method of national and regional website searching and cross referencing. A second limitation was the smaller number of senior participants interviewed than we had planned, in part due to the timing of approaches through surges of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health campaigns. We were able to ensure that participants who were able to be interviewed represented diversity in levels, regions and organisations of the health system. The third limitation was that some of the research team have investigated new roles in the NHS through a number of funded studies which may have influenced their interpretation of the findings from prior knowledge, although this could also be a strength. Input from the wider team helped mitigate this as it included members who have not undertaken investigations of this topic and brought diverse clinical, managerial, and academic discipline perspectives. A strength of this study use of mixed methods which enabled data collection at both macro and meso levels. A further strength was the study was framed theoretically, and this was used in the analysis and to propose new lines of empirical enquiry.
This study investigated the implementation of NMPs in EDs/UTCs in England from macro and meso perspectives synthesizing evidence from documentary analysis and interviews. The evidence suggested the numbers of NMPs were relatively small, unevenly distributed and growth uncertain. A broad macro level policy support was identified but in a general rather than prescriptive form which appeared to result in little tangible support at the meso level of the system. Subsequent to the study, further national policy has been issued directed to the recovery of the urgent and emergency services and increased employment of NMPs [ 47 ]. Longitudinal study is required to identify the extent to which this is implemented and whether factors identified in this study endure. While we identified many features of a system ready to introduce workforce innovation there appeared to be much ambiguity surrounding NMPs in EDs/UTCs and the potential for conflict with other professional groups. There were many uncertainties reported about regulation, governance and multiple credentialling systems of NMPs in ED/UTCs. This warrants consideration over time too and in the context of other health systems where regulation has been established. An additional reported area of ambiguity was whether or not there was research evidence documenting the relative advantage of including NMPs within the staffing of ED/UTCs. The production of such evidence, disseminated in a format easily accessible to senior clinicians and managerial policy makers requires urgent attention for short- and long-term workforce planning. Further investigation is required to consider whether these findings are generalisable to other specialties, and to similar health systems in other countries.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from Dr Mary Halter on reasonable request.
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This is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research, NIHR131356—Implementation of the non-medical practitioner workforce into the urgent and emergency care system skill-mix in England: a mixed methods study of configurations and impact.). The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.”
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VMD, MH, FT, JG, HJ contributed to the conception, design and gaining funding for the study, VMD, MH, FT collected data and analysed it, all auhtors contributed to the interpretation, VMD drafted the manuscript. All authors reviewed critically reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content and agreed the final version.
Correspondence to Vari M. Drennan .
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The interview element of the study was reviewed and approved by an NHS Research Ethics Committee (REC number 21NE0071). All methods were performed in accordance with the relevant guidelines and regulations. Informed consent was obtained from all the participants.
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Drennan, V.M., Halter, M., Taylor, F. et al. Non-medical practitioners in the staffing of emergency departments and urgent treatment centres in England: a mixed qualitative methods study of policy implementation. BMC Health Serv Res 23 , 1221 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-023-10220-4
Received : 09 July 2023
Accepted : 26 October 2023
Published : 08 November 2023
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-023-10220-4
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