The Long and Winding Road...the Body of the Paper

The body of the scientific paper is where the evidence itself is laid out. The evidence may be results from experimentation or logical reasoning based on case examples. The functional goals of the body are the same for all publications, though, and answer the questions "How was the work done?" and "What did the researcher find out?".  [Quick links: Case Studies   Theory/Model]

Quantitative/Qualitative Research Reports

Research reports -- whether quantitative or qualitative -- include detailed explanations of how evidence was generated. Thus produced are the functional subheadings, Method and Results.

Method Section

The Method section is the recipe for how the research was conducted, and like any recipe, starts with the ingredients and finishes with process. Ideally, the goal of the Method section is replicability; the reader should have enough information to do the research themselves. In practice, this is often not achievable, which is why accurate contact information is so important. 

Method sections vary quite a bit between disciplines, and even between sub-disciplines in the same field. Still, there are three types of information conveyed.

    Participants/Subjects/Sample -- who participated or what material was participated upon; in current parlance, humans beings are called "participants" and animals are "subjects", though the more general "sample" can be used for both. (Other biological or non-biological components may be called "materials" or simply listed by their names, e.g. "serotonin compound, PAT", and not occur in a separate section). NOTE: Final population descriptors are listed in this section in the social and behavioral sciences; general target population description (eligibility criteria, exclusion criteria) is listed here in the medical sciences, with the actual, final population who took part in the study described in the Results section.

    Materials and Instruments -- the instruments, machines, or materials used to complete the research -- be as specific possible. If new materials were developed, include thorough description and add an appendix with instrument, if possible (ex: surveys, stimuli).When possible, provides names and numbers of all equipment, software, etc used.

    Procedure -- explains how data was collected and how it was analyzed, including specific names of tests, procedures, and statistical tests.

In publication, relatively few articles have the classic triad of subheadings listed above. However, the Method section is organized using subheadings and must reference the three types of information. 

The two outlines reveal that in medical sciences, both stats-driven research and qualitative research have well- explicated Method sections. This contrasts "classic" qualitative research in the social sciences where the "method" may not be a stand-alone section.

Results Section

The results section consists of the observations and measurements recorded while conducting the procedures described in the methods section. These components should address the questions raised in the introduction and any hypotheses formulated there. Results sections can be organized using subheadings, though that is not required. Graphics play a big role: information that is visualized is often easier to understand than paragraphs of explanation. Tables are used to display quantitative information efficiently.

Results are organized according to order of mention in Methods section or from strongest to weakest results in terms of the research question. Results should include:

Case Studies

The body of a case study is the case report, generally with the subheading "Case/s", perhaps with a number if there is more than one. The case portion follows the classic medical clinical process, beginning with the patient's basic stats and symptoms upon presentation. Tests, diagnosis, and treatment typically follow. If the patient is atypical, the case report will then go into what the complicating factors were, still following the clinical process. 

Different medical specialties will create different case reports; for example, in psychiatric literature, the presentation of the patient includes the larger social background of the patient, including immediate patient history, family history, psychosocial profile, and finally the psychiatric symptoms. top page 

Theory/Model Paper

The body of a theory/model/framework paper consists of internal essays designated by the use of subheadings. Strategies for constructing the model include on-point literature review to establish the "problem" being solved in that section and carefully reasoned explanations for how the model corrects/overcomes/is superior for addressing the problem. The literature is referred to as necessary (or if available), and the writers' case examples may be used as well. 

The key to a successful theory/model paper is careful pre-planning and revising of the plan in a highly recursive process before and during the writing of the paper. Diagramming the relationships either by hand or using a diagram/concept map program is highly recommended, if not downright necessary. This diagram may never make it into the final paper, but it will help the writer tremendously when organizing thoughts, when searching the literature for supporting text, and for ensuring that the model has a specific, well-defined focus and reasonable scope for a single paper. Remember that a theory/model paper is still making a SINGLE, central argument, just as a research report investigates a single question -- that central argument is laid out nicely in title, and should be reflected in the subheadings. Chances are if you cannot produce a single (even if lengthy) sentence laying out the central argument, then you've not quite figured out what the model is about or how to express it succinctly. The central argument should follow something like "Model X is better (than...) because ____, ____, and ____" (or however ever many reasons follow). Below is an example...of course, this is a post-hoc analysis, so may have compromised validity...but, it still gives an idea of the sort of central statement that can be crafted before beginning a model paper or evolve through its composition.


A client centered model of medication decision making is superior (to the current medical model) because it increases patient's efficacious use of drugs (decreasing the likelihood of adverse events) by including the patient in the creation of medication regimen, recognizing the impact of patient/physician psychological and behavioral interactions, identifying patient-specific reasons for non-adherence, thereby helping patients to make more accurate, successful self-care choices.

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