Guidelines for the Senior Research Paper

The final paper is the culmination of all your research efforts. Among other things, think of it as an opportunity for you to (i) organize your thoughts about what you have studied; (ii) demonstrate that you have a good understanding of your chosen area of research; (iii) tell us what your research has entailed; (iv) convey to us what you have learned from your efforts and how your work fits into a broader context. The precise organization of the paper will depend on the research project, but some general guidelines are given below.

The title should be concise, but informative enough to convey to the nonexpert reader the topic of your research project.

The abstract should succinctly state the main results of your research project. Briefly state the problem you have studied, the technique used to carry out the study ( e.g. what kind of experimental method was used, if appropriate), and the primary results and conclusions presented in the paper. The abstract should be self-contained — do not use technical jargon and do not include references. The abstract should consist of one paragraph that is at most fifteen lines long.

Main Body of Text
The main body of the text will be composed of several different sections, the exact number of which will depend on the nature of your research project. In all cases, there should be an introduction, and a conclusion. If you are doing an experimental research project, other section headings might include experimental method, results, and discussion. For a project based more on library research rather than laboratory research, sections might be organized according to topic. If you are uncertain how to organize the sections of your paper, discuss it with your research mentor early in the semester.

The introduction should be written at the level of a Scientific American article. It should show that you have a firm grasp of the basic concepts in your field of research. Motivation for your research project should be given here, and you should cite relevant work done by others.

The conclusion section summarizes in a few paragraphs (at most) the main results of your research. This is also a good place to remind us how your research fits into the `big picture’ — what is the impact of your research, what open problems remain to be answered, etc.

Include a paragraph acknowledging those who have contributed substantially to the research described in your thesis. In addition, describe specifically your role in generating the results. It is entirely appropriate and in many cases inevitable that your thesis will include data from current or former members of your research group, or that your ‘independent research’ was in practice highly collaborative, but you don’t want to appear to be taking credit for someone else’s work!

References appear in a separate section right after the conclusion. All references in your proposal will appear in this endnote section. There is no separate bibliography section. The references are for recognizing previous research that has been performed in your field, for citing scientific ideas, hypotheses, and conjectures made by others (including your research mentor), and for explanatory footnotes to clarify the text. Do not quote directly from any of your scientific resources. Always rephrase another author’s ideas in your own words. Be certain to give credit to the work of people who have preceded you!

References are to be numbered in order of their occurrence and to appear within brackets [1] in the text of the proposal. The endnote should be written according to the style of Physical Review Letters (which you find online).

[1] Authors’ names, Journal or Book title, Volume number (in bold), page number and (year).

Tables and Figures
Each table and figure must be referred to in the text of the paper, and must be numbered consecutively according to their occurrence in the body of the paper. If the figures are not embedded directly into the text, the tables should appear first right after the references; they are followed by the figure captions and the figures.

Length requirements
The length of the text should be between 10 to 20 pages for a one semester research project, and at least 20 pages for a full year project. — double spaced, 12 point font. Label each section heading, and use subheadings if necessary. References, figures and tables are not to be used in determining your length restrictions. Note that each figure and table must be numbered consecutively, and referred to explicitly in the text.

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