It follows that undergraduates applying for graduate school would be best to write and publish their own research, too. Because not many undergrads have the opportunity to do so, saying that you've written something before even stepping into grad school says a lot about your dedication to research. But where do you start?
Although writing research papers seems like a daunting task, remember that it's more straightforward than you think. Scientific writing follows a fairly simple and rigid structure - Title, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. Dr. Tyler Shaw at George Mason University, who conducted the workshop, recommended writing the Results section first. Even though most would warn against doing any sort of interpretation of the results in the Results section, Dr. Shaw advised us to organize the findings in a top-down structure, with the larger context of the study in mind. It is important to be thorough and concise when reporting data in this section.Next, write the Methods section, remembering to write about the sample for your study, the experimental design, apparatus used (including surveys) and the procedure, which gives others the ability to replicate your study.
The Introduction is the most important part of your paper. It should begin with an illustrative - not exhaustive - review of the literature on your topic. Focus on elements of work that is relevant to your own work. Then, transition to your current study in the second to last, or last, paragraph. The Discussion section is where you interpret your results. The first sentence (or paragraph) should be a restatement of your hypothesis and whether it was supported or not. End your discussion with future directions and implications of your research.
The Abstract is like a little summary of your entire paper and hence should be the last thing you write. Remember to include a statement of your problem, the major hypotheses, a summary of your methods, a synopsis of your main results and conclusions and implications of your research. If you're having a hard time condensing your paper into an abstract, that's a sign that you need to rewrite it. A good tip is to look at the first few sentences from each section of your paper to get an idea of what to include in your Abstract.
For the rest of us who are still a little less concerned about publishing, here are some general tips to improve your writing, taken from How to Write A Lot, by Paul J. Silvia:
Avoid the following words:
Silvia, P. J. (2007). How to write a lot: A practical guide to productive academic writing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Flow chart and photo of book cover, writer's own
(In case you were wondering, this article is 878 words long and took me about an hour and a half to write, edit and assemble, with notes I had already prepared)