Chapter 15: Sharing Your Research
15.2 Writing up Research Results
Reports of findings that will be read by other scholars generally follow the format outlined in the discussion of reviewing the literature in Chapter 5. As you may recall from that chapter, most scholarly reports of research include an abstract, an introduction, a literature review, a discussion of research methodology, a presentation of findings, and some concluding remarks and discussion about implications of the work. Reports written for scholarly consumption also contain a list of references, and many include tables or charts that visually represent some component of the findings. Reading prior literature in your area of interest is an excellent way to develop an understanding of the core components of scholarly research reports and to begin to learn how to write those components yourself. There also are many excellent resources to help guide students as they prepare to write scholarly reports of research (Becker, 2007; Johnson, Rettig, Scott, & Garrison, 2009; Justice Institute of British Columbia, 2018; Sociology Writing Group, 2007).
Reports written for public consumption differ from those written for scholarly consumption. As noted elsewhere in this chapter, knowing your audience is crucial when preparing a report of your research. What are they likely to want to hear about? What portions of the research do you feel are crucial to share, regardless of the audience? Answering these questions will help you determine how to shape any written reports you plan to produce. In fact, some outlets answer these questions for you, as in the case of newspaper editorials where rules of style, presentation, and length will dictate the shape of your written report.
Whoever your audience is, do not forget what it is that you are reporting: social scientific evidence. Take seriously your role as a social scientist and your place among peers in your discipline. Present your findings as clearly and as honestly as you possibly can; pay appropriate homage to the scholars who have come before you, even while you raise questions about their work; and aim to engage your readers in a discussion about your work and about avenues for further inquiry. Even if you will not ever meet your readers face-to-face, imagine what they might ask you upon reading your report, imagine your response, and provide some of those details in your written report.
Finally, take extraordinary care not to commit plagiarism. Presenting someone else’s words or ideas as if they are your own is among the most egregious transgressions a scholar can commit. Indeed, plagiarism has ended many careers, even many years down the road (see https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/11/us/politics/plagiarism-costs-degree-for-senator-john-walsh.html). Take this very, very seriously. If you feel a little afraid and paranoid after reading this warning, consider it a good thing—and let it motivate you to take extra care to ensure that you are not plagiarizing the work of others.