Clarifying the Parts of a Research Paper

As a student, it is difficult enough to be bombarded with daily assignments in nearly all of your classes. But what makes it doubly hard is when you do your best to learn more about the task, yet you are stumped by the terminology. This is particularly true in a research paper as different websites seem to use terms interchangeably, and yet, your teacher says otherwise.

If you have been having similar problems with figuring out certain parts of the research paper, then please read on.

  1. Aim versus Objectives

The aim of your research is the overall goal that you want to achieve. It is what you want to discover. The objectives, however, are the specific actions you will undertake to accomplish your aim. Objectives should be well defined. Here is an example:

Aim: To ascertain whether educational apps can improve the reading skills of first graders


  • To discover what reading apps first graders use.
  • To determine if reading apps improve the reading skills of first graders.
  • To reveal which reading app is the most effective.
  1. Study’s background versus Literature Review

The study’s background can be found in the introduction. Here, the reader is brought up to speed about the topic by providing them with information about what the problem is, how it is affecting society now, and why it is important to study it.

The literature review presents the different theories and studies that you consulted and found important. All of these inform the reader if something similar to what you are doing has been done and what those results were. This will make it easier to understand the purpose of what you are doing.

  1. Research Problem versus Research Questions

The research problem is the big issue that your research is trying to address. This might be a challenge society is facing, a theory that needs testing, or doubts about certain accepted practices or views.

On the other hand, the research questions are more specific queries connected to your big issue. These are narrowed down to ensure the study hits each aspect of the research problem.

  1. Methodology versus Research Methods

The research methodology is the overall rationale behind the methods the researcher uses. This includes the logic used and the reasons why certain steps and procedures were chosen over others. The research methods, on the other hand, are the techniques involved, such as the use of a questionnaire, an online survey, face-to-face interview, or focus group discussion.

  1. Results versus Discussion

These are two separate sections in your paper that are interconnected. The section on results presents all your findings. These may include the survey responses, the results of your experiment, or the highlights of an interview. This part of the paper is usually filled with tables and diagrams where the general trends are shown.

The section for the discussion is where the findings are interpreted according to the different theories and compared against the past studies, which are all mentioned in your literature review. This section is also where you start answering your research questions.


So those were some areas of confusion that many students encounter when they begin their research papers. Study the differences before you start so that you will not make so many mistakes. Good luck!



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