A statistics research paper is a piece of original research in written form, primarily aimed to be published in an academic journal or magazine and reviewed by the author’s peers. There are no strict requirements as to the assignment’s size, format, number of sources to be used and other characteristics – it is an extremely versatile kind of work, and you should always consult the guidelines of your particular college and ask your instructor about the specifications required in your case.
Research papers in statistics are the main method of moving the research in this discipline forward. They are presented for peer review and don’t exist by themselves, but are intended for discussion and criticism. Although your research paper is just a college assignment, it should fully meet the requirements of this standard. For you, this means that you should carefully prepare your writing for potential counter-arguments and refutations. The quality of your writing depends to a very significant degree on how well you manage to prepare to potential opposition to your point of view. To be fully ready for this, you have to study not just the data sets dealing with the primary subject of your paper, but with all the significant texts about it written before you as well.
In this statistics research paper writing guide, we will cover all the factors that define whether your research paper succeeds or fails.
Choice of Topic
This is, unmistakably, one of the most important stages of your work – a poorly chosen topic means harder work and worse results. That’s why you cannot approach this step carelessly.
- Reword your potential topics as questions. Then look at each potential topic and ask yourself: can this question be answered with the help of statistical analysis? For example, ‘Is there life on Mars?’ is a fascinating question, no doubt about it, but the answer to it lies beyond the domain of statistics;
- Check if there is enough data on the topic or if you are going to be able to gather enough of it to support your point. That is why you should analyze the existing body of research before you settle upon a particular topic;
- If you are having trouble singling out a topic you would like to write about, try checking out online academic databases and search engines, like Google Scholar and EBSCO. By running searches related to the general direction of your future paper, you will be able to discern the topics that are already well-researched to avoid inadvertently choosing them. In addition, it may give you valuable ideas on potential research around which you can build your paper;
- Don’t forget to discuss the topic you’ve chosen with your instructor. What may seem like an awesome research direction to you may look completely different at somebody who has seen hundreds of papers and knows what topics work and what do not.
In the end, the topic you choose should at the same time leave you enough space for independent data collection and analysis and provide sufficient background information to build your argument upon.
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Here are some examples of good topics you may find helpful in your work:
- The Study of Diversity in Motion Picture Industry;
- Statistical Analysis of Home Advantage Influence on Performance of Football Teams;
- Evidence of Reverse Discrimination in American Businesses during the Last Decade;
- Effects of Placement Based on Academic Ability vs. Placement Based on Age in Education;
- Positive and Negative Effects of Net Neutrality.
As you can see from this list of topics, statistical analysis can be applied equally effectively to almost any area of human knowledge.
There are three types of sources to be used when writing statistics papers:
- Experiments and information gathering activities you’ve carried out personally;
- Statistical information and data sets received from reliable sources, such as FedStats or Google Public Data Explorer;
- Published works by other authors (journal articles, books, newspapers, online sources, etc.).
Probably more than any other types of academic assignments, statistics research papers are dependent on the information gathered by students themselves and not found in published sources. That is why methods of your data collection occupy a significant portion of your assignment.
Be very careful when selecting data collection methods. You may be given some recommendations by your instructor – if so, follow them and don’t try to be original, for they know what works for your particular case and what doesn’t. If there are no recommendations, try to obtain them – if you ask intelligent questions, instructors usually don’t refuse to answer them.
You should be as careful as possible when collecting your data. Once the information is collected, it is impossible to correct the mistakes that have been made in the process of gathering it, and the trustworthiness of your entire paper can easily be compromised.
Make sure you provide sufficient information about your data collection methods for your readers to be able to reconstruct your results. Experiments that cannot be repeated aren’t given much value in the academic community.
Your introduction should be, on the one hand, based on facts and, on the other hand, be fascinating and thought-provoking, so that the reader becomes interested in the contents of your paper upon reading just a few lines. In addition to that, it should explain the purpose of your work and smoothly lead to the main content of the paper.
Begin with the so-called a hook – a sentence aimed at grabbing the reader’s attention right off the bat. It may be some interesting statistical information, unexpected piece of data, not a very well-known fact – anything that can pique the audience’s interest and motivate them to read on.
Then move to the thesis statement – a short (no longer than a couple of sentences, and just one if possible) summary of your primary idea behind the entire paper. It is important to understand that a thesis statement is not identical to the topic. A topic simply limits the scope of your research. Thesis statement actively declares what your hypothesis is, and the rest of the paper is dedicated to finding out whether your idea about the subject matter is right or wrong. For example, “Statistical Analysis of Health Benefits of Weight Training vs. Aerobics” is a topic. “Aerobic exercises possess much higher relative health benefits for non-professional sportsmen than weight training” can be a thesis statement for a paper on this topic.
What the body of your paper should contain:
- Methodology – what methods of collecting and analyzing the information you’ve employed. Here you not just specify the methods themselves, but describe how you went about gathering data and conducting the necessary experiments. For example, if you used a survey, you should not only mention the method per se, but dwell on how you prepared questions for it, how you chose people to participate in it, how their answers varied depending on various factors and so on;
- Supporting materials – the best statistics papers are supplemented with graphs, charts, diagrams etc., visually supporting your point of view and serving as reliable proof of your findings;
- Topic paragraphs – here you present your findings. Make sure to never exceed the limitation of one idea per paragraph – papers on statistics are complicated enough without your making their structure unnecessary convoluted. If you always introduce just one point per paragraph, it shows the reader what he can expect and makes it easier to perceive what you try to prove.
General Style and Writing Tips: Secrets of Our Best Academic Writers
- Be wary of plagiarism, i.e., using the other writer’s work without acknowledging the authorship. Plagiarism is a very serious violation of academic rules, and can even lead to expulsion in some cases. So don’t use it intentionally – you will be caught – and use plagiarism checkers to make sure you haven’t done it accidentally, e.g., by forgetting to put quotation marks around a borrowed sentence or writing something that is suspiciously similar to another paper on the same topic;
- Try to keep your sentences relatively short (20-25 words), but don’t turn it into a goal in and of itself. If you need a sentence that is longer than that, use it – just try to gravitate to suggested length in general;
- Do not use colloquial words, expression and grammar structures, including contractions. Your writing should look as professional and impersonal as possible;
- On the other hand, don’t try to make your writing overly scientific through the use of longer and more complex words and more cumbersome sentence structures than necessary. You don’t have to make your writing simplistic, but use complicated terminology only when it is truly needed and don’t look for excuses to make your writing look smarter than it is – it is a very obvious trick;
- Be ready to go through several drafts before you achieve the results that satisfy you and will satisfy your instructor. A good statistics research paper requires a lot of work and revisions, so if you find it necessary to introduce serious changes into your work or even rewrite some parts of it completely, it is quite normal;
- Your goal is to find whether the hypothesis expressed in your thesis statement is true or false, not to prove it right no matter what. In statistics writing, it doesn’t matter whether the hypothesis turns out to be false – what your instructor is going to pay attention to is how you reached your conclusion, how you gathered information, how you carried out your analysis. Concentrate on these aspects and let everything else take care of itself;
- Avoid the passive voice unless it is absolutely necessary. Statistics papers are rather dry thanks to their methodology, and the use of passive voice makes them even harder to read and perceive the information they contain;
- Never cite books and other sources you haven’t read. It is quite easy to find out if you are familiar with this or that source, and if it turns out that you don’t know anything else about the source you are quoting, it is going to harm your reputation as a scholar.
A conclusion is a part where you sum up everything you’ve found out by this point, repeat your thesis statement and decide if your original hypothesis turned out to be true or not. There is not a lot to say about this part: you simply sum up your evidence, explain why you believe the research you’ve carried out to be important, make suggestions for further research in the same area and more or less repeat everything you’ve written up to this moment in short.
Post-Writing Tips: Revising and Proofreading Your Research Paper
You can simply reread your entire paper, trying to notice all the mistakes and flaws in your writing as you go along, but a much more efficient approach to the task of proofreading is using a checklist. You may prepare your own based on the blunders you most often make, or use a ready-made list, like this one:
- Check basic formatting: cover sheet, page numbers, bibliography, etc. Do all these elements comply with your style guide? Are there any ambiguous cases? Are you sure everything should be formatted the way you did it? Consult your instructor if in doubt;
- Introduction – is the “hook” sufficient to attract the reader’s attention? Does it correspond logically to the rest of the paper? Does it flow smoothly into the thesis statement?
- Conclusion – does it sum up everything important about your paper without missing anything?
- Body paragraphs – do you introduce no more than a single point in each paragraph? Are they logically connected to each other? Are the points you mention clear and unambiguous?
- Is all the data clear and backed up with statistical information?
- Do your arguments follow each other logically?
- Did you quote all the sources you used in your paper? If you missed some quotation marks even by mistake you can be accused of plagiarism, which can lead to very unpleasant consequences;
- Are you sure of your grammar, syntax and spelling? Are you sure about the meanings of all the words you used? If in doubt, look them up in a dictionary;
- Is the flow of your paper natural? Does it read easily? You may need to ask somebody else to read it in order to find out for sure.
Writing a statistics research paper is a long, hard and complicated job, but following the right work process, you can make your task considerably easier – we hope that these statistics research paper writing tips will be of help the next time you encounter such an assignment.