Components of Graduate Papers

by Writing Center Staff

The following list introduces the components of graduate papers in most fields. Depending on your field and assignment, you may or may not need to include specific components.



  • principle function is to inform reader about topic
  • should be concise statement of main idea (maximum length 12 to 15 words)
  • avoids words that serve no useful purpose:

"A study of . . ."
"An experimental investigation of . . ."


  • single paragraph (about 100 to 150 words)
  • brief summary of content and purpose of paper
  • should be self-contained and fully intelligible without reference to the body of the paper
  • should usually be written last, although working abstract often helps writer to focus



  • states the specific topic or research problem
  • explains importance of topic in broader context
  • might include brief discussion of relevant theories
  • should include statement of hypothesis and possible implications of the conclusions



  • includes brief review of previous work
  • includes clear explanation of the difference between literature on the topic and this body of work



  • clearly states the theory/model used
  • introduces evaluation criteria



  • necessary in empirical studies
  • explains exact experimental process and experimental design
  • identifies participating subjects
  • describes apparatus and materials used
  • summarizes procedures



  • necessary in empirical studies
  • summarizes data collected during experiment
  • mostly descriptive statistics, etc.
  • clearly states main findings
  • verbally describes tables and figures



  • contains conclusions, speculations, and inferences
  • evaluates results of experiment with respect to the hypothesis or research questions
  • applies evaluative criteria to situation
  • qualifies results and conclusions
  • notes shortcomings of the study



  • poses questions for further research
  • relates topic to the "Big Picture" and states significance of study



  • lists all references cited




Writing Center 141 East Twelfth Street, Claremont, CA 91711 909-607-0012

2014 Claremont Graduate University 150 E. 10th St., Claremont, CA 91711 (909) 621-8000 Campus Safety Emergency Info Campus Map/Driving Directions