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How to Write a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write a research paper.

Start the Research Process

Before you begin writing the research paper, you must do your research. It is important that you understand the subject matter, formulate the ideas of your paper, create your thesis statement and learn how to speak about your given topic in an authoritative manner. You’ll be looking through online databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, periodicals, books, newspapers, government publications, reports, guides and scholarly resources. Take notes as you discover new information about your given topic. Also keep track of the references you use so you can build your bibliography later and cite your resources.

Develop Your Thesis Statement

When organizing your research paper, the thesis statement is where you explain to your readers what they can expect, present your claims, answer any questions that you were asked or explain your interpretation of the subject matter you’re researching. Therefore, the thesis statement must be strong and easy to understand. Your thesis statement must also be precise. It should answer the question you were assigned, and there should be an opportunity for your position to be opposed or disputed. The body of your manuscript should support your thesis, and it should be more than a generic fact.

Create an Outline

Many professors require outlines during the research paper writing process. You’ll find that they want outlines set up with a title page, abstract, introduction, research paper body and reference section. The title page is typically made up of the student’s name, the name of the college, the name of the class and the date of the paper. The abstract is a summary of the paper. An introduction typically consists of one or two pages and comments on the subject matter of the research paper. In the body of the research paper, you’ll be breaking it down into materials and methods, results and discussions. Your references are in your bibliography. Use a research paper example to help you with your outline if necessary.

Organize Your Notes

When writing your first draft, you’re going to have to work on organizing your notes first. During this process, you’ll be deciding which references you’ll be putting in your bibliography and which will work best as in-text citations. You’ll be working on this more as you develop your working drafts and look at more white paper examples to help guide you through the process.

Write Your Final Draft

After you’ve written a first and second draft and received corrections from your professor, it’s time to write your final copy. By now, you should have seen an example of a research paper layout and know how to put your paper together. You’ll have your title page, abstract, introduction, thesis statement, in-text citations, footnotes and bibliography complete. Be sure to check with your professor to ensure if you’re writing in APA style, or if you’re using another style guide.


samples of the research papers presented previously in areas of your interest

1. What are your views in using the samples of the research papers presented previously in areas of your interest?​


topic of particular personal interest & relevance to the researcher & his or her life tends to make the research and writing processes more exciting and enjoyable. It can also be helpful to know a little about a topic in advance, but prior knowledge is never as important as a true passion for a topic.




The conclusion sets the tone of the whole research paper properly. A key list of elements must be present in the conclusion to make it crisp and remarkable. View the sample paper and identify the points you thought were never a part of the conclusion.

New questions in Geography

samples of the research papers presented previously in areas of your interest

Research Paper Examples

Research paper examples are of great value for students who want to complete their assignments timely and efficiently. If you are a student in the university, your first stop in the quest for research paper examples will be the campus library where you can get to view the research sample papers of lecturers and other professionals in diverse fields plus those of fellow students who preceded you in the campus. Many college departments maintain libraries of previous student work, including large research papers, which current students can examine. Our collection of research paper examples includes:

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To Read Examples or Not to Read

When you get an assignment to write a research paper, the first question you ask yourself is ‘Should I look for research paper examples?’ Maybe, I can deal with this task on my own without any help. Is it that difficult?

Thousands of students turn to our service every day for help. It does not mean that they cannot do their assignments on their own. They can, but the reason is different. Writing a research paper demands so much time and energy that asking for assistance seems to be a perfect solution. As the matter of fact, it is a perfect solution, especially, when you need to work to pay for your studying as well.

Firstly, if you search for research paper examples before you start writing, you can save your time significantly. You look at the example and you understand the gist of your assignment within several minutes. Secondly, when you examine some sample paper, you get to know all the requirements. You analyze the structure, the language, and the formatting details. Finally, reading examples helps students to overcome writer’s block, as other people’s ideas can motivate you to discover your own ideas.

A Sample Research Paper on Child Abuse

Research Paper Examples

A research paper is an academic piece of writing, so you need to follow all the requirements and standards. Otherwise, it will be impossible to get the high results. To make it easier for you, we have analyzed the structure and peculiarities of a sample research paper on the topic ‘Child Abuse’.

The paper includes 7300+ words, a detailed outline, citations are in APA formatting style, and bibliography with 28 sources.

To write any paper you need to write a great outline. This is the key to a perfect paper. When you organize your paper, it is easier for you to present the ideas logically, without jumping from one thought to another.

In the outline, you need to name all the parts of your paper. That is to say, an introduction, main body, conclusion, bibliography, some papers require abstract and proposal as well.

A good outline will serve as a guide through your paper making it easier for the reader to follow your ideas.

I. Introduction

Ii. estimates of child abuse: methodological limitations, iii. child abuse and neglect: the legalities, iv. corporal punishment versus child abuse, v. child abuse victims: the patterns, vi. child abuse perpetrators: the patterns, vii. explanations for child abuse, viii. consequences of child abuse and neglect, ix. determining abuse: how to tell whether a child is abused or neglected, x. determining abuse: interviewing children, xi. how can society help abused children and abusive families, introduction.

An introduction should include a thesis statement and the main points that you will discuss in the paper.

A thesis statement is one sentence in which you need to show your point of view. You will then develop this point of view through the whole piece of work:

‘The impact of child abuse affects more than one’s childhood, as the psychological and physical injuries often extend well into adulthood.’

Child abuse is a very real and prominent social problem today. The impact of child abuse affects more than one’s childhood, as the psychological and physical injuries often extend well into adulthood. Most children are defenseless against abuse, are dependent on their caretakers, and are unable to protect themselves from these acts.

Childhood serves as the basis for growth, development, and socialization. Throughout adolescence, children are taught how to become productive and positive, functioning members of society. Much of the socializing of children, particularly in their very earliest years, comes at the hands of family members. Unfortunately, the messages conveyed to and the actions against children by their families are not always the positive building blocks for which one would hope.

In 2008, the Children’s Defense Fund reported that each day in America, 2,421 children are confirmed as abused or neglected, 4 children are killed by abuse or neglect, and 78 babies die before their first birthday. These daily estimates translate into tremendous national figures. In 2006, caseworkers substantiated an estimated 905,000 reports of child abuse or neglect. Of these, 64% suffered neglect, 16% were physically abused, 9% were sexually abused, 7% were emotionally or psychologically maltreated, and 2% were medically neglected. In addition, 15% of the victims experienced “other” types of maltreatment such as abandonment, threats of harm to the child, and congenital drug addiction (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, 2006). Obviously, this problem is a substantial one.

In the main body, you dwell upon the topic of your paper. You provide your ideas and support them with evidence. The evidence include all the data and material you have found, analyzed and systematized. You can support your point of view with different statistical data, with surveys, and the results of different experiments. Your task is to show that your idea is right, and make the reader interested in the topic.

In this example, a writer analyzes the issue of child abuse: different statistical data, controversies regarding the topic, examples of the problem and the consequences.

Several issues arise when considering the amount of child abuse that occurs annually in the United States. Child abuse is very hard to estimate because much (or most) of it is not reported. Children who are abused are unlikely to report their victimization because they may not know any better, they still love their abusers and do not want to see them taken away (or do not themselves want to be taken away from their abusers), they have been threatened into not reporting, or they do not know to whom they should report their victimizations. Still further, children may report their abuse only to find the person to whom they report does not believe them or take any action on their behalf. Continuing to muddy the waters, child abuse can be disguised as legitimate injury, particularly because young children are often somewhat uncoordinated and are still learning to accomplish physical tasks, may not know their physical limitations, and are often legitimately injured during regular play. In the end, children rarely report child abuse; most often it is an adult who makes a report based on suspicion (e.g., teacher, counselor, doctor, etc.).

Even when child abuse is reported, social service agents and investigators may not follow up or substantiate reports for a variety of reasons. Parents can pretend, lie, or cover up injuries or stories of how injuries occurred when social service agents come to investigate. Further, there is not always agreement about what should be counted as abuse by service providers and researchers. In addition, social service agencies/agents have huge caseloads and may only be able to deal with the most serious forms of child abuse, leaving the more “minor” forms of abuse unsupervised and unmanaged (and uncounted in the statistical totals).

While most laws about child abuse and neglect fall at the state levels, federal legislation provides a foundation for states by identifying a minimum set of acts and behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which stems from the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum, “(1) any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation; or (2) an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk or serious harm.”

Using these minimum standards, each state is responsible for providing its own definition of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes. When defining types of child abuse, many states incorporate similar elements and definitions into their legal statutes. For example, neglect is often defined as failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect can encompass physical elements (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision), medical elements (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment), educational elements (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special educational needs), and emotional elements (e.g., inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs). Failure to meet needs does not always mean a child is neglected, as situations such as poverty, cultural values, and community standards can influence the application of legal statutes. In addition, several states distinguish between failure to provide based on financial inability and failure to provide for no apparent financial reason.

Statutes on physical abuse typically include elements of physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of the intention of the caretaker. In addition, many state statutes include allowing or encouraging another person to physically harm a child (such as noted above) as another form of physical abuse in and of itself. Sexual abuse usually includes activities by a parent or caretaker such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.

Finally, emotional or psychological abuse typically is defined as a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often the most difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm to the child. Some states suggest that harm may be evidenced by an observable or substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition, or by anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior. At a practical level, emotional abuse is almost always present when other types of abuse are identified.

Some states include an element of substance abuse in their statutes on child abuse. Circumstances that can be considered substance abuse include (a) the manufacture of a controlled substance in the presence of a child or on the premises occupied by a child (Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia); (b) allowing a child to be present where the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of controlled substances are used (Arizona, New Mexico); (c) selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a child (Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas); (d) use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver’s ability to adequately care for the child (Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas); and (e) exposure of the child to drug paraphernalia (North Dakota), the criminal sale or distribution of drugs (Montana, Virginia), or drug-related activity (District of Columbia).

One of the most difficult issues with which the U.S. legal system must contend is that of allowing parents the right to use corporal punishment when disciplining a child, while not letting them cross over the line into the realm of child abuse. Some parents may abuse their children under the guise of discipline, and many instances of child abuse arise from angry parents who go too far when disciplining their children with physical punishment. Generally, state statutes use terms such as “reasonable discipline of a minor,” “causes only temporary, short-term pain,” and may cause “the potential for bruising” but not “permanent damage, disability, disfigurement or injury” to the child as ways of indicating the types of discipline behaviors that are legal. However, corporal punishment that is “excessive,” “malicious,” “endangers the bodily safety of,” or is “an intentional infliction of injury” is not allowed under most state statutes (e.g., state of Florida child abuse statute).

Most research finds that the use of physical punishment (most often spanking) is not an effective method of discipline. The literature on this issue tends to find that spanking stops misbehavior, but no more effectively than other firm measures. Further, it seems to hinder rather than improve general compliance/obedience (particularly when the child is not in the presence of the punisher). Researchers have also explained why physical punishment is not any more effective at gaining child compliance than nonviolent forms of discipline. Some of the problems that arise when parents use spanking or other forms of physical punishment include the fact that spanking does not teach what children should do, nor does it provide them with alternative behavior options should the circumstance arise again. Spanking also undermines reasoning, explanation, or other forms of parental instruction because children cannot learn, reason, or problem solve well while experiencing threat, pain, fear, or anger. Further, the use of physical punishment is inconsistent with nonviolent principles, or parental modeling. In addition, the use of spanking chips away at the bonds of affection between parents and children, and tends to induce resentment and fear. Finally, it hinders the development of empathy and compassion in children, and they do not learn to take responsibility for their own behavior (Pitzer, 1997).

One of the biggest problems with the use of corporal punishment is that it can escalate into much more severe forms of violence. Usually, parents spank because they are angry (and somewhat out of control) and they can’t think of other ways to discipline. When parents are acting as a result of emotional triggers, the notion of discipline is lost while punishment and pain become the foci.

In 2006, of the children who were found to be victims of child abuse, nearly 75% of them were first-time victims (or had not come to the attention of authorities prior). A slight majority of child abuse victims were girls—51.5%, compared to 48% of abuse victims being boys. The younger the child, the more at risk he or she is for child abuse and neglect victimization. Specifically, the rate for infants (birth to 1 year old) was approximately 24 per 1,000 children of the same age group. The victimization rate for children 1–3 years old was 14 per 1,000 children of the same age group. The abuse rate for children aged 4– 7 years old declined further to 13 per 1,000 children of the same age group. African American, American Indian, and Alaska Native children, as well as children of multiple races, had the highest rates of victimization. White and Latino children had lower rates, and Asian children had the lowest rates of child abuse and neglect victimization. Regarding living arrangements, nearly 27% of victims were living with a single mother, 20% were living with married parents, while 22% were living with both parents but the marital status was unknown. (This reporting element had nearly 40% missing data, however.) Regarding disability, nearly 8% of child abuse victims had some degree of mental retardation, emotional disturbance, visual or hearing impairment, learning disability, physical disability, behavioral problems, or other medical problems. Unfortunately, data indicate that for many victims, the efforts of the child protection services system were not successful in preventing subsequent victimization. Children who had been prior victims of maltreatment were 96% more likely to experience another occurrence than those who were not prior victims. Further, child victims who were reported to have a disability were 52% more likely to experience recurrence than children without a disability. Finally, the oldest victims (16–21 years of age) were the least likely to experience a recurrence, and were 51% less likely to be victimized again than were infants (younger than age 1) (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, 2006).

Child fatalities are the most tragic consequence of maltreatment. Yet, each year, children die from abuse and neglect. In 2006, an estimated 1,530 children in the United States died due to abuse or neglect. The overall rate of child fatalities was 2 deaths per 100,000 children. More than 40% of child fatalities were attributed to neglect, but physical abuse also was a major contributor. Approximately 78% of the children who died due to child abuse and neglect were younger than 4 years old, and infant boys (younger than 1) had the highest rate of fatalities at 18.5 deaths per 100,000 boys of the same age in the national population. Infant girls had a rate of 14.7 deaths per 100,000 girls of the same age (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, 2006).

One question to be addressed regarding child fatalities is why infants have such a high rate of death when compared to toddlers and adolescents. Children under 1 year old pose an immense amount of responsibility for their caretakers: they are completely dependent and need constant attention. Children this age are needy, impulsive, and not amenable to verbal control or effective communication. This can easily overwhelm vulnerable parents. Another difficulty associated with infants is that they are physically weak and small. Injuries to infants can be fatal, while similar injuries to older children might not be. The most common cause of death in children less than 1 year is cerebral trauma (often the result of shaken-baby syndrome). Exasperated parents can deliver shakes or blows without realizing how little it takes to cause irreparable or fatal damage to an infant. Research informs us that two of the most common triggers for fatal child abuse are crying that will not cease and toileting accidents. Both of these circumstances are common in infants and toddlers whose only means of communication often is crying, and who are limited in mobility and cannot use the toilet. Finally, very young children cannot assist in injury diagnoses. Children who have been injured due to abuse or neglect often cannot communicate to medical professionals about where it hurts, how it hurts, and so forth. Also, nonfatal injuries can turn fatal in the absence of care by neglectful parents or parents who do not want medical professionals to possibly identify an injury as being the result of abuse.

Estimates reveal that nearly 80% of perpetrators of child abuse were parents of the victim. Other relatives accounted for nearly 7%, and unmarried partners of parents made up 4% of perpetrators. Of those perpetrators that were parents, over 90% were biological parents, 4% were stepparents, and 0.7% were adoptive parents. Of this group, approximately 58% of perpetrators were women and 42% were men. Women perpetrators are typically younger than men. The average age for women abusers was 31 years old, while for men the average was 34 years old. Forty percent of women who abused were younger than 30 years of age, compared with 33% of men being under 30. The racial distribution of perpetrators is similar to that of victims. Fifty-four percent were white, 21% were African American, and 20% were Hispanic/Latino (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, 2006).

There are many factors that are associated with child abuse. Some of the more common/well-accepted explanations are individual pathology, parent–child interaction, past abuse in the family (or social learning), situational factors, and cultural support for physical punishment along with a lack of cultural support for helping parents here in the United States.

The first explanation centers on the individual pathology of a parent or caretaker who is abusive. This theory focuses on the idea that people who abuse their children have something wrong with their individual personality or biological makeup. Such psychological pathologies may include having anger control problems; being depressed or having post-partum depression; having a low tolerance for frustration (e.g., children can be extremely frustrating: they don’t always listen; they constantly push the line of how far they can go; and once the line has been established, they are constantly treading on it to make sure it hasn’t moved. They are dependent and self-centered, so caretakers have very little privacy or time to themselves); being rigid (e.g., having no tolerance for differences—for example, what if your son wanted to play with dolls? A rigid father would not let him, laugh at him for wanting to, punish him when he does, etc.); having deficits in empathy (parents who cannot put themselves in the shoes of their children cannot fully understand what their children need emotionally); or being disorganized, inefficient, and ineffectual. (Parents who are unable to manage their own lives are unlikely to be successful at managing the lives of their children, and since many children want and need limits, these parents are unable to set them or adhere to them.)

Biological pathologies that may increase the likelihood of someone becoming a child abuser include having substance abuse or dependence problems, or having persistent or reoccurring physical health problems (especially health problems that can be extremely painful and can cause a person to become more self-absorbed, both qualities that can give rise to a lack of patience, lower frustration tolerance, and increased stress).

The second explanation for child abuse centers on the interaction between the parent and the child, noting that certain types of parents are more likely to abuse, and certain types of children are more likely to be abused, and when these less-skilled parents are coupled with these more difficult children, child abuse is the most likely to occur. Discussion here focuses on what makes a parent less skilled, and what makes a child more difficult. Characteristics of unskilled parents are likely to include such traits as only pointing out what children do wrong and never giving any encouragement for good behavior, and failing to be sensitive to the emotional needs of children. Less skilled parents tend to have unrealistic expectations of children. They may engage in role reversal— where the parents make the child take care of them—and view the parent’s happiness and well-being as the responsibility of the child. Some parents view the parental role as extremely stressful and experience little enjoyment from being a parent. Finally, less-skilled parents tend to have more negative perceptions regarding their child(ren). For example, perhaps the child has a different shade of skin than they expected and this may disappoint or anger them, they may feel the child is being manipulative (long before children have this capability), or they may view the child as the scapegoat for all the parents’ or family’s problems. Theoretically, parents with these characteristics would be more likely to abuse their children, but if they are coupled with having a difficult child, they would be especially likely to be abusive. So, what makes a child more difficult? Certainly, through no fault of their own, children may have characteristics that are associated with child care that is more demanding and difficult than in the “normal” or “average” situation. Such characteristics can include having physical and mental disabilities (autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], hyperactivity, etc.); the child may be colicky, frequently sick, be particularly needy, or cry more often. In addition, some babies are simply unhappier than other babies for reasons that cannot be known. Further, infants are difficult even in the best of circumstances. They are unable to communicate effectively, and they are completely dependent on their caretakers for everything, including eating, diaper changing, moving around, entertainment, and emotional bonding. Again, these types of children, being more difficult, are more likely to be victims of child abuse.

Nonetheless, each of these types of parents and children alone cannot explain the abuse of children, but it is the interaction between them that becomes the key. Unskilled parents may produce children that are happy and not as needy, and even though they are unskilled, they do not abuse because the child takes less effort. At the same time, children who are more difficult may have parents who are skilled and are able to handle and manage the extra effort these children take with aplomb. However, risks for child abuse increase when unskilled parents must contend with difficult children.

Social learning or past abuse in the family is a third common explanation for child abuse. Here, the theory concentrates not only on what children learn when they see or experience violence in their homes, but additionally on what they do not learn as a result of these experiences. Social learning theory in the context of family violence stresses that if children are abused or see abuse (toward siblings or a parent), those interactions and violent family members become the representations and role models for their future familial interactions. In this way, what children learn is just as important as what they do not learn. Children who witness or experience violence may learn that this is the way parents deal with children, or that violence is an acceptable method of child rearing and discipline. They may think when they become parents that “violence worked on me when I was a child, and I turned out fine.” They may learn unhealthy relationship interaction patterns; children may witness the negative interactions of parents and they may learn the maladaptive or violent methods of expressing anger, reacting to stress, or coping with conflict.

What is equally as important, though, is that they are unlikely to learn more acceptable and nonviolent ways of rearing children, interacting with family members, and working out conflict. Here it may happen that an adult who was abused as a child would like to be nonviolent toward his or her own children, but when the chips are down and the child is misbehaving, this abused-child-turned-adult does not have a repertoire of nonviolent strategies to try. This parent is more likely to fall back on what he or she knows as methods of discipline.

Something important to note here is that not all abused children grow up to become abusive adults. Children who break the cycle were often able to establish and maintain one healthy emotional relationship with someone during their childhoods (or period of young adulthood). For instance, they may have received emotional support from a nonabusing parent, or they received social support and had a positive relationship with another adult during their childhood (e.g., teacher, coach, minister, neighbor, etc.). Abused children who participate in therapy during some period of their lives can often break the cycle of violence. In addition, adults who were abused but are able to form an emotionally supportive and satisfying relationship with a mate can make the transition to being nonviolent in their family interactions.

Moving on to a fourth familiar explanation for child abuse, there are some common situational factors that influence families and parents and increase the risks for child abuse. Typically, these are factors that increase family stress or social isolation. Specifically, such factors may include receiving public assistance or having low socioeconomic status (a combination of low income and low education). Other factors include having family members who are unemployed, underemployed (working in a job that requires lower qualifications than an individual possesses), or employed only part time. These financial difficulties cause great stress for families in meeting the needs of the individual members. Other stress-inducing familial characteristics are single-parent households and larger family size. Finally, social isolation can be devastating for families and family members. Having friends to talk to, who can be relied upon, and with whom kids can be dropped off occasionally is tremendously important for personal growth and satisfaction in life. In addition, social isolation and stress can cause individuals to be quick to lose their tempers, as well as cause people to be less rational in their decision making and to make mountains out of mole hills. These situations can lead families to be at greater risk for child abuse.

Finally, cultural views and supports (or lack thereof) can lead to greater amounts of child abuse in a society such as the United States. One such cultural view is that of societal support for physical punishment. This is problematic because there are similarities between the way criminals are dealt with and the way errant children are handled. The use of capital punishment is advocated for seriously violent criminals, and people are quick to use such idioms as “spare the rod and spoil the child” when it comes to the discipline or punishment of children. In fact, it was not until quite recently that parenting books began to encourage parents to use other strategies than spanking or other forms of corporal punishment in the discipline of their children. Only recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and recommended that parents do not spank or use other forms of violence on their children because of the deleterious effects such methods have on youngsters and their bonds with their parents. Nevertheless, regardless of recommendations, the culture of corporal punishment persists.

Another cultural view in the United States that can give rise to greater incidents of child abuse is the belief that after getting married, couples of course should want and have children. Culturally, Americans consider that children are a blessing, raising kids is the most wonderful thing a person can do, and everyone should have children. Along with this notion is the idea that motherhood is always wonderful; it is the most fulfilling thing a woman can do; and the bond between a mother and her child is strong, glorious, and automatic—all women love being mothers. Thus, culturally (and theoretically), society nearly insists that married couples have children and that they will love having children. But, after children are born, there is not much support for couples who have trouble adjusting to parenthood, or who do not absolutely love their new roles as parents. People look askance at parents who need help, and cannot believe parents who say anything negative about parenthood. As such, theoretically, society has set up a situation where couples are strongly encouraged to have kids, are told they will love kids, but then society turns a blind or disdainful eye when these same parents need emotional, financial, or other forms of help or support. It is these types of cultural viewpoints that increase the risks for child abuse in society.

The consequences of child abuse are tremendous and long lasting. Research has shown that the traumatic experience of childhood abuse is life changing. These costs may surface during adolescence, or they may not become evident until abused children have grown up and become abusing parents or abused spouses. Early identification and treatment is important to minimize these potential long-term effects. Whenever children say they have been abused, it is imperative that they be taken seriously and their abuse be reported. Suspicions of child abuse must be reported as well. If there is a possibility that a child is or has been abused, an investigation must be conducted.

Children who have been abused may exhibit traits such as the inability to love or have faith in others. This often translates into adults who are unable to establish lasting and stable personal relationships. These individuals have trouble with physical closeness and touching as well as emotional intimacy and trust. Further, these qualities tend to cause a fear of entering into new relationships, as well as the sabotaging of any current ones.

Psychologically, children who have been abused tend to have poor self-images or are passive, withdrawn, or clingy. They may be angry individuals who are filled with rage, anxiety, and a variety of fears. They are often aggressive, disruptive, and depressed. Many abused children have flashbacks and nightmares about the abuse they have experienced, and this may cause sleep problems as well as drug and alcohol problems. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and antisocial personality disorder are both typical among maltreated children. Research has also shown that most abused children fail to reach “successful psychosocial functioning,” and are thus not resilient and do not resume a “normal life” after the abuse has ended.

Socially (and likely because of these psychological injuries), abused children have trouble in school, will have difficulty getting and remaining employed, and may commit a variety of illegal or socially inappropriate behaviors. Many studies have shown that victims of child abuse are likely to participate in high-risk behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse, the use of tobacco, and high-risk sexual behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex, large numbers of sexual partners). Later in life, abused children are more likely to have been arrested and homeless. They are also less able to defend themselves in conflict situations and guard themselves against repeated victimizations.

Medically, abused children likely will experience health problems due to the high frequency of physical injuries they receive. In addition, abused children experience a great deal of emotional turmoil and stress, which can also have a significant impact on their physical condition. These health problems are likely to continue occurring into adulthood. Some of these longer-lasting health problems include headaches; eating problems; problems with toileting; and chronic pain in the back, stomach, chest, and genital areas. Some researchers have noted that abused children may experience neurological impairment and problems with intellectual functioning, while others have found a correlation between abuse and heart, lung, and liver disease, as well as cancer (Thomas, 2004).

Victims of sexual abuse show an alarming number of disturbances as adults. Some dislike and avoid sex, or experience sexual problems or disorders, while other victims appear to enjoy sexual activities that are self-defeating or maladaptive—normally called “dysfunctional sexual behavior”—and have many sexual partners.

Abused children also experience a wide variety of developmental delays. Many do not reach physical, cognitive, or emotional developmental milestones at the typical time, and some never accomplish what they are supposed to during childhood socialization. In the next section, these developmental delays are discussed as a means of identifying children who may be abused.

There are two primary ways of identifying children who are abused: spotting and evaluating physical injuries, and detecting and appraising developmental delays. Distinguishing physical injuries due to abuse can be difficult, particularly among younger children who are likely to get hurt or receive injuries while they are playing and learning to become ambulatory. Nonetheless, there are several types of wounds that children are unlikely to give themselves during their normal course of play and exploration. These less likely injuries may signal instances of child abuse.

While it is true that children are likely to get bruises, particularly when they are learning to walk or crawl, bruises on infants are not normal. Also, the back of the legs, upper arms, or on the chest, neck, head, or genitals are also locations where bruises are unlikely to occur during normal childhood activity. Further, bruises with clean patterns, like hand prints, buckle prints, or hangers (to name a few), are good examples of the types of bruises children do not give themselves.

Another area of physical injury where the source of the injury can be difficult to detect is fractures. Again, children fall out of trees, or crash their bikes, and can break limbs. These can be normal parts of growing up. However, fractures in infants less than 12 months old are particularly suspect, as infants are unlikely to be able to accomplish the types of movement necessary to actually break a leg or an arm. Further, multiple fractures, particularly more than one on a bone, should be examined more closely. Spiral or torsion fractures (when the bone is broken by twisting) are suspect because when children break their bones due to play injuries, the fractures are usually some other type (e.g., linear, oblique, compacted). In addition, when parents don’t know about the fracture(s) or how it occurred, abuse should be considered, because when children get these types of injuries, they need comfort and attention.

Head and internal injuries are also those that may signal abuse. Serious blows to the head cause internal head injuries, and this is very different from the injuries that result from bumping into things. Abused children are also likely to experience internal injuries like those to the abdomen, liver, kidney, and bladder. They may suffer a ruptured spleen, or intestinal perforation. These types of damages rarely happen by accident.

Burns are another type of physical injury that can happen by accident or by abuse. Nevertheless, there are ways to tell these types of burn injuries apart. The types of burns that should be examined and investigated are those where the burns are in particular locations. Burns to the bottom of the feet, genitals, abdomen, or other inaccessible spots should be closely considered. Burns of the whole hand or those to the buttocks are also unlikely to happen as a result of an accident.

Turning to the detection and appraisal of developmental delays, one can more readily assess possible abuse by considering what children of various ages should be able to accomplish, than by noting when children are delayed and how many milestones on which they are behind schedule. Importantly, a few delays in reaching milestones can be expected, since children develop individually and not always according to the norm. Nonetheless, when children are abused, their development is likely to be delayed in numerous areas and across many milestones.

As children develop and grow, they should be able to crawl, walk, run, talk, control going to the bathroom, write, set priorities, plan ahead, trust others, make friends, develop a good self-image, differentiate between feeling and behavior, and get their needs met in appropriate ways. As such, when children do not accomplish these feats, their circumstances should be examined.

Infants who are abused or neglected typically develop what is termed failure to thrive syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by slow, inadequate growth, or not “filling out” physically. They have a pale, colorless complexion and dull eyes. They are not likely to spend much time looking around, and nothing catches their eyes. They may show other signs of lack of nutrition such as cuts, bruises that do not heal in a timely way, and discolored fingernails. They are also not trusting and may not cry much, as they are not expecting to have their needs met. Older infants may not have developed any language skills, or these developments are quite slow. This includes both verbal and nonverbal means of communication.

Toddlers who are abused often become hypervigilant about their environments and others’ moods. They are more outwardly focused than a typical toddler (who is quite self-centered) and may be unable to separate themselves as individuals, or consider themselves as distinct beings. In this way, abused toddlers cannot focus on tasks at hand because they are too concerned about others’ reactions. They don’t play with toys, have no interest in exploration, and seem unable to enjoy life. They are likely to accept losses with little reaction, and may have age-inappropriate knowledge of sex and sexual relations. Finally, toddlers, whether they are abused or not, begin to mirror their parents’ behaviors. Thus, toddlers who are abused may mimic the abuse when they are playing with dolls or “playing house.”

Developmental delays can also be detected among abused young adolescents. Some signs include the failure to learn cause and effect, since their parents are so inconsistent. They have no energy for learning and have not developed beyond one- or two-word commands. They probably cannot follow complicated directions (such as two to three tasks per instruction), and they are unlikely to be able to think for themselves. Typically, they have learned that failure is totally unacceptable, but they are more concerned with the teacher’s mood than with learning and listening to instruction. Finally, they are apt to have been inadequately toilet trained and thus may be unable to control their bladders.

Older adolescents, because they are likely to have been abused for a longer period of time, continue to get further and further behind in their developmental achievements. Abused children this age become family nurturers. They take care of their parents and cater to their parents’ needs, rather than the other way around. In addition, they probably take care of any younger siblings and do the household chores. Because of these default responsibilities, they usually do not participate in school activities; they frequently miss days at school; and they have few, if any, friends. Because they have become so hypervigilant and have increasingly delayed development, they lose interest in and become disillusioned with education. They develop low self-esteem and little confidence, but seem old for their years. Children this age who are abused are still likely to be unable to control their bladders and may have frequent toileting accidents.

Other developmental delays can occur and be observed in abused and neglected children of any age. For example, malnutrition and withdrawal can be noticed in infants through teenagers. Maltreated children frequently have persistent or untreated illnesses, and these can become permanent disabilities if medical conditions go untreated for a long enough time. Another example can be the consequences of neurological damage. Beyond being a medical issue, this type of damage can cause problems with social behavior and impulse control, which, again, can be discerned in various ages of children.

Once child abuse is suspected, law enforcement officers, child protection workers, or various other practitioners may need to interview the child about the abuse or neglect he or she may have suffered. Interviewing children can be extremely difficult because children at various stages of development can remember only certain parts or aspects of the events in their lives. Also, interviewers must be careful that they do not put ideas or answers into the heads of the children they are interviewing. There are several general recommendations when interviewing children about the abuse they may have experienced. First, interviewers must acknowledge that even when children are abused, they likely still love their parents. They do not want to be taken away from their parents, nor do they want to see their parents get into trouble. Interviewers must not blame the parents or be judgmental about them or the child’s family. Beyond that, interviews should take place in a safe, neutral location. Interviewers can use dolls and role-play to help children express the types of abuse of which they may be victims.

Finally, interviewers must ask age-appropriate questions. For example, 3-year-olds can probably only answer questions about what happened and who was involved. Four- to five-year-olds can also discuss where the incidents occurred. Along with what, who, and where, 6- to 8-year-olds can talk about the element of time, or when the abuse occurred. Nine- to 10-year-olds are able to add commentary about the number of times the abuse occurred. Finally, 11-year-olds and older children can additionally inform interviewers about the circumstances of abusive instances.

A conclusion is not a summary of what a writer has already mentioned. On the contrary, it is the last point made. Taking every detail of the investigation, the researcher makes the concluding point. In this part of a paper, you need to put a full stop in your research. You need to persuade the reader in your opinion.

Never add any new information in the conclusion. You can present solutions to the problem and you dwell upon the results, but only if this information has been already mentioned in the main body.

Child advocates recommend a variety of strategies to aid families and children experiencing abuse. These recommendations tend to focus on societal efforts as well as more individual efforts. One common strategy advocated is the use of public service announcements that encourage individuals to report any suspected child abuse. Currently, many mandatory reporters (those required by law to report abuse such as teachers, doctors, and social service agency employees) and members of communities feel that child abuse should not be reported unless there is substantial evidence that abuse is indeed occurring. Child advocates stress that this notion should be changed, and that people should report child abuse even if it is only suspected. Public service announcements should stress that if people report suspected child abuse, the worst that can happen is that they might be wrong, but in the grander scheme of things that is really not so bad.

Child advocates also stress that greater interagency cooperation is needed. This cooperation should be evident between women’s shelters, child protection agencies, programs for at-risk children, medical agencies, and law enforcement officers. These agencies typically do not share information, and if they did, more instances of child abuse would come to the attention of various authorities and could be investigated and managed. Along these lines, child protection agencies and programs should receive more funding. When budgets are cut, social services are often the first things to go or to get less financial support. Child advocates insist that with more resources, child protection agencies could hire more workers, handle more cases, conduct more investigations, and follow up with more children and families.

Continuing, more educational efforts must be initiated about issues such as punishment and discipline styles and strategies; having greater respect for children; as well as informing the community about what child abuse is, and how to recognize it. In addition, Americans must alter the cultural orientation about child bearing and child rearing. Couples who wish to remain child-free must be allowed to do so without disdain. And, it must be acknowledged that raising children is very difficult, is not always gloriously wonderful, and that parents who seek help should be lauded and not criticized. These kinds of efforts can help more children to be raised in nonviolent, emotionally satisfying families, and thus become better adults.


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Understanding Interventions That Encourage Minorities to Pursue Research Careers: Summary of a Workshop (2007)

Chapter: 2 examples of previous research.

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2 Examples of Previous Research R esearchers have examined the processes involved in deci- sions to study science in college, enter graduate school in the sciences, and become a scientist. These research programs originate in a variety of disciplines and can have quite different perspectives, but they also complement each other in explaining the complex processes involved in making educational and career choices. Because many of those interested in these questions are biomedical researchers who may not be steeped in social science viewpoints on these issues, the planning committee constructed an early session in the workshop to provide a varied set of lenses for participants to think more broadly about this kind of work—and to help consider themes for future study. The perspectives offered at the workshop—and in this summary—do not provide an exhaus- tive set, but they help to provide a broader set of questions and approaches for thinking about these issues. Social Cognitive Career Theory Social cognitive career theory (SCCT) is an integrative theoreti- cal framework that explores the psychological and social factors that produce personal interests and lead to choices related to education and careers. The theory is also concerned with the network of factors that affect performance and persistence in a person’s educational and career paths and those that are responsible for an individual’s satisfaction in a particular job. 

 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS Personal interests are not the only factors that drive educa- tional and career choices and can be trumped by family expectations or other external influences. But interests are “strong motivational drivers of the choices that students make in their educational and career lives,” said Robert W. Lent, professor of counseling and per- sonnel services at the University of Maryland, College Park. Lent described his work on applying SCCT to the issue of expanding the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline, noting that it serves as a template with which to view and develop interventions designed to encourage minorities to enter research careers. SCCT draws heavily from the more gen- eral social cognitive theory of the Stanford University psychologist Albert Bandura. The key construct in Bandura’s work is the concept of self-efficacy—people’s beliefs about their ability to perform specific behaviors or actions. In particular, it refers to domain-specific con- fidence in particular situations, not to self-confidence as a general trait. In the context of science and mathematics, said Lent, self-effi- cacy addresses “the fundamental question: Can I do this thing? Can I, for example, do well in math and science courses in middle or high school? Can I do well in a science or engineering-related major in college?” Self-efficacy beliefs, in turn, derive largely from four sources, according to Bandura’s theory. The first and most important is prior performance—the levels of mastery or failure that people have expe- rienced. “If I have done well in the past at a particular academic subject, for example, I am likely to expect in the future that I can do well in it as well,” said Lent. “Conversely, if I’ve not done so well, my self-efficacy beliefs are going to drop.” The three other sources of self-efficacy beliefs are also important. One is observations of others’ learning or the experience of models, especially models that one perceives as being similar to oneself. “For example, in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, social class, and so forth, viewing our models as being efficacious at things we want to do is a good way of raising self-efficacy—or lowering it, depending on the nature of the model,” Lent said. Another source of self-efficacy beliefs is the social messages that encourage or discourage participation in an activity. Students receive many messages from others and from the mass media that can influence their confidence about a particular activity. “But talk is cheap,” Lent reminded the workshop participants. “Sometimes, if we try to convince people that they are good at things that we are not so sure they are—or that their own performance experiences

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH  disconfirm—then the source of that support may not be credible for very long, and people may not persist.” A final source of self-efficacy beliefs is physiological and affec- tive reactions. For example, if a person is so anxious in taking every math test that he or she does poorly, that person is likely to infer that math is a personal weakness. “So test anxiety can be, in that example, a negative influence on self-efficacy,” said Lent. This is one way in which gender can influence self-efficacy beliefs in science and mathematics, Lent noted. In a general popula- tion of college students, women at the college level and below tend to report significantly lower self-efficacy beliefs at math compared with men. However, the same tendency is not exhibited in more spe- cialized populations, such as engineering students. Also, if women have had similar experiences to men in terms of the four sources of self-efficacy beliefs, they tend to have the same self-efficacy beliefs as men. Interest in Bandura’s theory follows from a number of other factors, including the expectations surrounding particular outcomes. As Lent said, these beliefs “address the question: ‘If I do this, then what will happen? If I major, for example, in science or engineering, or if I choose to pursue a research career, what will be the outcomes? What will be the payoffs for me, and what will be the negative con- sequences? What will the salary be like? What will my co-workers be like? Prestige? Autonomy?’ These refer basically to career values that people want to fulfill.” Another factor is the goals that motivate people to engage in a particular activity or produce a particular outcome, such as trying to get an A grade in a particular math or science course. According to Lent, “Goals address the fundamental question of ‘how much do I want to do this course of action?’” Finally, within the theory, there are various kinds of social, financial, emotional, and other contextual supports and barriers that people encounter while pursuing their goals. These supports and barriers address the question of “‘how will the environment treat me if I try this particular course of action,’” Lent said. For example, “the phrase ‘chilly climate,’ which oftentimes refers to the experience of women and certain minority groups in science and engineering fields, refers to the perception of environmental barriers.” The importance of self-efficacy beliefs is often obvious among students studying science and engineering, Lent noted. For example, he has seen many students who did extremely well in high school lose confidence when they got poor grades on their first college mid- term examination. “All of a sudden their confidence levels plum-

10 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS meted, and they were convinced they were in the wrong field,” Lent said. “They had never gotten Bs, or worse, before, and all of a sudden it was time to change majors and career paths.” The ongoing experience of success or failure subsequently modi- fies or stabilizes self-efficacy and outcome beliefs “in a never-ending loop,” said Lent. Changes to these beliefs also can occur through outside influences like “technological advances, parenting, and other life experiences that may formulate changes in interest patterns because of their impact on self-efficacy and outcome expectations.” Each person has what SCCT theorists call “person inputs”— factors like personality, ability, gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and health status. These factors interact with background factors such as social class and the quality of early educational experiences. “Depending on who one is, and what one looks like, the environ- ment may selectively provide or withhold certain opportunities,” said Lent. Lent and others have applied this framework in several major research projects. In a study of students at a predominantly white university, Lent and his colleagues found “that SCCT variables were well predictive of goals and actual persistence in engineering over a three-semester sequence.” This model was equally good at predicting choice and persistence goals in engineering majors when extended to two historically black universities. Lent and his coworkers are now conducting a large-scale longitudinal study of computer science and computer engineering students at multiple predominantly white and historically black colleges and universities around the country. This theoretical work has suggested particular intervention points and approaches, according to Lent. One possibility is to work at expanding vocational interests, especially in high-aptitude areas, and “getting people to rethink areas they might be able to do well at but have prematurely foreclosed upon because they don’t believe they have the ability to do well or don’t know enough about the field to want to pursue it.” Other options are clarifying career goals, sup- porting career goals, strengthening self-efficacy, instilling realistic   R.W. Lent, S.D. Brown, J. Schmidt, B. Brenner, H. Lyons, and D. Treistman. 2003. Relation of contextual supports and barriers to choice behavior in engineering ma- jors: Test of alternative social cognitive models. Journal of Counseling Psychology 50: 458-465.   R.W. Lent, S.D. Brown, H. Sheu, J. Schmidt, B.R. Brenner, C.S. Gloster, G. Wilkins, L. Schmidt, H. Lyons, and D. Treistman. 2005. Social cognitive predictors of academic interests and goals in engineering: Utility for women and students at historically Black universities. Journal of Counseling Psychology 52: 84-92.

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH 11 outcome expectations, and helping people to manage environmental barriers and build effective support systems. Past work has also emphasized how much more could be learned through further research that applies this model. A particular need, said Lent, is for more longitudinal, multiyear, and multisite research. Also, according to Lent, the basic theory needs to be studied in rela- tion to women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, and more theory-based interventions and experimental studies are needed. “There has been some of this and I think it holds much promise for the future, but we need much more of it,” said Lent. Lent noted, by the way, that many individuals and groups out- side of academia are interested in applying this approach to the issues they face. In addition to his university position, Lent is a visiting scholar at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he said that the department views this issue as important to national security as well as economic prosperity. “There are some things that we probably don’t want to outsource to other countries,” Lent said. Human Capital Theory Another theoretical perspective, this one rooted in economics, is known as human capital theory. As described by Anne Preston, asso- ciate professor of economics at Haverford College, each individual has a stock of skills, knowledge, abilities, and other characteristics that determine his or her wage-earning potential. Individuals can invest in increases in their own human capital through education, on-the-job training, and other activities. “Human capital theory basi- cally allows us to understand under what circumstances an indi- vidual will decide to invest in further acquisition of human capital and [in] what types,” said Preston. “So you can think of it as a pure cost-benefit calculation made by what we in economics always talk about—the rational and perfectly informed actor.” Of course, as Preston noted, “we do understand that not every individual is totally rational or perfectly informed.” Costs, which Preston said are relatively easy to estimate, are for tangible expenses— such as tuition, room, board, books, and foregone earnings—and they occur at the time of the investment. Benefits, which can include future wages and future income streams, in contrast, can be much harder to predict. In addition, these cost-benefit calculations often require dis- counting future income versus current costs. “Some people value future income differently than others,” said Preston. “It depends on

12 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS your current family income, maybe your family structure, the sorts of needs that your family has in terms of income now versus in the future, and the expected duration of the work life.” Some of these factors can differ for different populations. Finally, economists know that people do not always act in per- fectly rational and perfectly informed ways. Methods exist to take a lack of information or irrational decision-making into account, but these methods may introduce additional levels of uncertainty. Human capital theory can be used to provide insights into how interventions might lead to different decisions, Preston said. For example, mentoring programs can increase knowledge and change expectations. Better job placement programs might lead to better returns on an investment in human capital. Fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and other forms of financial support can reduce the costs of the investment. Better information about the opportunities that investments give an individual can make a difference. Methodologically, human capital theory is a strategy in which economists quantify variables and seek to determine the relation- ships among those variables. Some of these variables have discrete values, such as whether a person stays in a field or leaves it, or a per- son’s race, sex, or type of school; others are continuous, like wages. Some variables are measured by proxies, as when the number of publications or number of citations are used as measures of research productivity. Preston explained that economists add variables to an analysis with the goal of explaining away the effect. If all vari- ables that can be identified—except for the one under study—fail to explain away the effect, researchers have an indication that the variable under investigation plays an important role. Economists also try to measure the quantitative effects of inter- ventions. If mentoring programs are thought to make a difference, for example, economists will try to analyze whether being men- tored influences the probability of investment in human capital. This could be done for majority and for minority students to see if there are differences in the effects of mentoring. Studies such as this introduce what economists call “selectiv- ity.” If the individuals being mentored differ from those who are not mentored in some important way, the effect ascribed to mentoring may actually arise from personal characteristics, not the mentoring program. Economists can try to reduce these effects using various complex mathematical techniques, but Preston said that “person- ally, I find them not very reliable or satisfying.” An alternative, she said, is “to move from these big national data sets [to create] indi-

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH 13 vidualized data sets.” Approaches such as randomized trials, where individuals are selected to receive or not receive an intervention and the effects of the intervention measured, diminish issues of selectiv- ity; however, they are seldom feasible and may even be unethical in such a setting, where some individuals are prevented from engaging in what is believed to be a positive intervention. Another possibility is to collect data from natural experiments, using existing variation in the population of study. For example, student outcomes could be measured from different schools, some of which have an institutionalized mentoring system and others that do not. Such experiments require thought, time, creativity, and fund- ing, said Preston, but “economists can really make some interesting inroads if they take up this challenge.” Social Identity and Stereotype Threat Claude Steele, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, professor of psychology and Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences at Stanford University, and his col- leagues have focused their research on two main themes. The first is underperformance in school by groups whose abilities are nega- tively stereotyped in the broader society—an issue closely related to the persistence of members of these groups in pursuing research careers. The second is the set of broader issues posed by diversity. “It is one thing to integrate a school setting or work place,” Steele said. “It is another thing to make that setting a place where everybody seems to flourish—where they feel like they belong.” Unlike many psychologists, Steele stresses the importance of context. “When we talk about schools and other environments of that sort, we tend to think of them as homogeneous environments— environments that are essentially the same for everybody. If there is one thing I hope you get from my remarks today, it is that they are different for people with different identities. The very same rooms with the same pictures on the wall, the same test items, the same teachers, can be very different as a function of social identities that a person has.” Each individual has many different social identities. These iden- tities can be based on age, sex, race, religion, ethnicity, and so on. Different identities generate what Steele calls “contingencies”— reactions by others to a particular identity. “You have to deal with certain things because you have certain identities,” he said. An individual’s social identities can change. During the great migration of African Americans from the southern to the north-

14 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS ern United States, an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 African Ameri- cans “passed” from being “black” to being “white,” asserted Steele. “[That’s] what I mean by contingencies,” he said. “They were avoiding the things that went with that identity.” Another example includes changing a foreign-sounding name to one that sounds more American. Some contingencies are threatening. An example might be an African American seeking to excel in an endeavor where members of that group are stereotyped as underperforming. When someone is threatened by the contingencies of a social identity, that person might seek to conceal or disguise that identity. But threats to an identity tend to make it central to your functioning, said Steele. Stereotype threat is a good example of a contingency. Stereo- type threat arises when a person is in a situation where a negative stereotype applies. A good example is women in mathematics. In a series of experiments done by Steele and his colleagues, women and men who were equally skilled in math were given a very difficult math test one at a time in a testing room. Women in this situation tended to underperform. When they experienced the frustration of a difficult test, the stereotype that women have weaker mathematical abilities suggested to women that they may lack ability. Men who are frustrated by the test may also believe that they don’t have the necessary ability, but it’s because of factors other than their male- ness. “So for a woman in that situation, there is extra pressure— especially if that woman cares about math, has high expectations for her performance, or is committed to it,” said Steele. In one recent study, simply mentioning the word “genetics” in the preamble to a math test worsened women’s performance in math. However, when the researchers told the women before they took the test that “for this particular test, women always do as well as men,” the women’s performance was higher than when they were experiencing stereotype threat. Interestingly, the performance of men tends to drop somewhat under these circumstances. “We can be advantaged by stereotypes,” said Steele, describing stereotype   C.M. Steele, S.J. Spencer, and J. Aronson. 2002. Contending with group image: The psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 24: 379-440. C.M. Steele and J. Aronson. 1995. Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69(5): 797-811.   S.J. Spencer, C.M. Steele, and D.M. Quinn. 1999. Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 35(1): 4-28.   Dar-Nimrod and S.J. Heine. 2006. Exposure to scientific theories affects women’s I. math performance. Science 314(5798): 435.

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH 15 lift, in which one group can be “on the upside of somebody else’s negative stereotype.” Men may do worse on the test because “it isn’t plausible to them that they lack the ability to do the work. It doesn’t make sense. So the experience of frustration is less. If you take that advantage away from them, . . . then you may see some decrements in performance.” The effects of stereotype threat also were observed among Afri- can Americans taking a test using Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a type of IQ test. When told that the test was to measure IQ, African American students dramatically underperformed compared with white students. But when African American students were told that the test was simply a puzzle, their performance rose dramatically. One remarkable finding from studies such as these is that the strongest students are often more susceptible to stereotype threat. “You have to care about [the domain] to experience stereotype threat,” Steele said. “One protection against stereotype threat is not to care about it. [If you] dis-identify with the domain, then you don’t care that much that your group is negatively stereotyped in that domain because you don’t care that much about the domain.” These studies also emphasize the importance of cues in the environment that accentuate or lessen threats, Steele pointed out. “Cues that signal threatening contingencies foster vigilance,” he said. “They hamper a sense of belonging in the setting, and this in turn impairs learning.” One such cue is the number of other people in a setting with whom you share a social identity. For example, when women are greatly outnumbered by men in taking a math test, they tend to perform worse than if men are absent. This kind of marginalization through small numbers can have a powerful effect on identity threat. The profound segregation that exists on many college campuses can heighten a sense of difference. The effects of cues on attitudes were tested in an experiment performed by Steele in collaboration with Mary Murphy, using stu- dents who were waiting to be interviewed for admission to a sum- mer workshop on science and engineering. While waiting for the interview, they watched a videotape about the summer workshop that showed students working together. In one videotape, men and women were balanced one to one. In the other, men outnumbered the women three to one. The women who watched the video with the unbalanced genders had a much better memory of the inciden-   R.P. Brown and E.A. Day. 2006. The difference isn’t black and white: Stereotype threat and the race gap on Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices. Journal of Applied Psychology 91(4): 979-985.

16 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS tal details of that videotape. Steele hypothesized that the cues in the videotape were making female viewers aware of their gender identity, which made them more aware of the situation than they would be otherwise. “Think of any time any of you have ever been in a situation where you are one of a kind,” Steele said. “You pay attention.” This awareness has effects not only on memory, but also on physiology. In fact, when the students were hooked up to physi- ological recording equipment (under the pretense that they would need it for a different experiment they would soon undertake), the women who watched the unbalanced videotape had much higher cardiovascular activity than the men. Steele takes several messages away from this research. One is that these kinds of cues and reactions are virtually unavoidable in a diverse society such as ours. “Any diverse setting holds these iden- tity threats,” he said. “This is sort of an American challenge. I think at one level we should be proud of it because we are a society that publicly holds on to the idea that all of society should be integrated. . . . But one of the challenges behind that commitment . . . is making integration work. It is making these settings, these schools, these programs work for a truly diverse population.” Also, these cues do not arise solely from discrimination. On the contrary, he said, they can exist in the absence of discrimination. “These are contextual factors that make identities function in certain ways,” he said. The importance of cues also suggests ways to promote learning. If the cues change, performance can change. The most important change that has to happen, according to Steele, is for women and minorities to have a sense that they belong in a particular setting. “For instruction to work—and for the decisions we want them to make to be made—they have to have a sense of belonging. As a soci- ety, [we have to] understand that that has to come first.” In fact, said Steele, without changing this sense of belonging, other interventions can be counterproductive: “If you push other things, like try to motivate [students], expose them to strong skill-focused programs, without at the same time addressing the sense of belonging, you can really get a backfire effect. Things may not work at all.” One cue is what people say. “What do the university president, the department chair, [and other] people say about the ‘belong- ingness’ of groups? Do they avoid the issue and see it as a minor issue and not something of importance? Or do they really own it and make the proclamation that everybody belongs intellectually in these settings?” he asked. Making the presence of particular groups

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH 17 the norm can relieve the tension in a setting and enable students to feel that they belong. Similarly, a critical mass of people with a particular social iden- tity is also pivotal, claimed Steele. Individuals are always looking around and counting how many other people share their social identities in a particular setting. “People do respond to numbers,” he said. Particular interventions can dramatically shape how students respond to cues. In a study done by Gregory Walton and Geoffrey Cohen at Yale University, African American and white students watched and then discussed a videotape of an African American student talking about how alienated and out of place he had felt at Yale. But the student went on to recount how, during a trip home, his father reminded him what a superb opportunity it was to be attend- ing Yale and that he needed to take advantage of it. The student described becoming active in a singing group and in academics, and he concluded that he was now very happy at Yale and that he was enjoying and learning from Yale’s rich environment. Just watching the videotape and talking about it raised the grade point average of African American students by two-thirds of a letter grade in the subsequent semester. “Why does that work?” asked Steele. “Because it gives [the students] an interpretation of the cues in the environment that [is] hopeful. . . . Everybody has those feel- ings [of not belonging], but if you’re a group that the whole society negatively stereotypes in this way, those feelings are really a weight. So you need an interpretation that makes your sense of not belong- ing normal. This guy in the videotape makes it normal, and then he offers light at the end of the tunnel. Wow.” In another intervention, having African Americans talk with members of other minority and majority groups in informal settings greatly improved their grade point average. “They found out that things that were happening to them were not things that were just happening to black kids. They were happening to every kid. They got the data, the evidence that their experience was not racially based, and then when their experience was not racially based in this environment, the whole environment changed. It wasn’t nearly as threatening. All those cues that might otherwise suggest threat were seen as much less threat.” Steele recounted from his own personal experiences that having an advisor during graduate school who believed in him was enough for him to overcome the many negative   G.M. Walton and G.L. Cohen. 2007. A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92(1): 82-96.

18 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS cues he encountered. “With this one big cue that said I did belong in that setting, the significance of the other cues tended to wane away,” he recalled. An especially powerful way to undercut stereotype threat is to attack and undermine people’s theories of intelligence, Steele said, citing the work of Carol Dweck and Joshua Aronson. Many Americans tend to think that each individual has a particular level of intelligence and that one cannot perform beyond that level. But others, such as those from Asian and Eastern European cultures, see intelligence much differently. Students in those countries are more often taught that abilities are incremental and can be expanded through learning. They do not see math ability, for example, as something that is fixed and genetically determined but as something that people can improve. “I think this has huge effects on people’s choices of majors and persistence in graduate school,” said Steele. He felt that intervention on this topic would be especially valuable in entry-level, technical, and quantitatively based courses where stu- dents may receive their first sub-par grades, especially with faculty members who discourage students by telling them that many will drop out of or fail their courses. Survey Research Carefully conducted surveys can explore the attitudes, expe- riences, and thought processes that underlie the theoretical per- spectives described above. With his colleague Catherine M. Millett, Michael T. Nettles, senior vice president and Edmund W. Gordon Chair of the Policy Evaluation and Research Center at Educational Testing Service, conducted a 28-page survey of about 9,000 doctoral students at 21 U.S. universities. (The research team used a variety of incentives to achieve a 72 percent response rate, Nettles noted, including a raffle for cash payments.) The survey asked students about their background, undergraduate and doctoral program expe- riences, finances, aspirations, and expectations for graduate study. Conclusions drawn from the survey were published in the book Three Magic Letters: Getting to Ph.D. One critical factor Nettles and Millett examined was how stu- dents are supported during their doctoral education. In particular, they contrasted fellowships (money, tuition, or fee waivers given to students with no expectation of repayment or of services to be rendered), research assistantships (tuition, fee waivers, or a stipend   M.T. Nettles and C.M. Millett. 2006. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH 19 given to students with the expectation of research services to be ren- dered), and teaching assistantships (tuition, fee waivers, or a stipend given to students with the expectation of teaching services to be rendered). Nettles and Millett found that in the sciences, mathemat- ics, and engineering, African American students were less likely than white students to be research assistants during their doctoral programs, even when background characteristics and student expe- riences are taken into account. Yet being a research assistant can have a profound effect on a student’s experiences in graduate school. For students with a research assistantship, Nettles pointed out, “we observe an increase in students’ social interactions with peers, their academic interac- tions with faculty, their interactions with their faculty advisers, their presenting papers and publishing articles, and their overall research productivity.” Somewhat surprisingly, a research assistantship did not influence students’ time to degree, their overall satisfaction with their doctoral programs, or social interactions with faculty. Nettles noted that universities often use fellowships to attract students to their institutions. While fellowships can be attractive to prospective students, they can have other consequences once students arrive on campus. Because students on fellowship are not always engaged in research or teaching activities from the beginning of graduate work, Nettles said, fellowships “can lead to the social isolation or the neglect on the part of faculty of students who are not actually engaged in the production of [that teaching and research]. . . . This is not to suggest that fellowships are not a good idea, but I think that what universities are experiencing is trying to figure out the right balance.” Another critical factor identified in the surveys is whether stu- dents have a mentor. Nettles distinguished sharply between an advisor—who acts in an official capacity to give a student advice about academic programs or coursework—and a mentor—who is a faculty member to whom a student turns for advice about intellectual and academic processes as well as general support and encourage- ment. One of the good messages to emerge from the survey, Nettles said, was that race was not a major factor in whether a doctoral stu- dent had a mentor (possibly the same person as a faculty advisor). Furthermore, of the students who had mentors, three-quarters were able to find them within the first year of their doctoral experiences. Having a mentor influences social interactions between students and faculty, unlike having a research assistantship. Having a mentor also influences the rate of scholarly publishing, degree completion,

20 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS and even time to degree. However, it did not influence satisfaction with doctoral programs or whether students left the program. A third key finding that emerged from their study was the importance of research productivity. Publishing in a refereed journal is a strong measure of this productivity, but the study showed that many other measures of research productivity are also important, such as presenting a paper at a research conference, publishing a book chapter, or being a member of a roundtable discussion at a professional meeting. As Nettles said, “many students pursuing research careers get on the train in different places.” Over half of the students surveyed had presented a paper at a conference, published an article in a refereed journal, published a chapter in an edited vol- ume, or published a book. Publishing in a journal “has become an extremely important endeavor for students,” Nettles said. “In fact, many people feel that they can’t complete [their degrees] without doing this because their first entry into the academic profession is going to be enhanced by their performance in conducting this activity.” However, the percentage of African American students publish- ing refereed journal articles in science and mathematics was signifi- cantly lower than for other groups (although that was not the case in engineering). Again, this was true even after controlling for factors such as student backgrounds and experiences. Before doing the study, Nettles thought that research productiv- ity might compete with time to degree because students would be devoting time and attention to producing articles and publishing. However, “we found just the opposite,” he said. Publishing articles actually was associated with an increased rate of progress in their doctoral programs and reduced the time to degree. Research on Existing Interventions Existing intervention programs can have research components that produce broadly applicable information. An example is the Alli- ance for Graduate Education in the Professoriate (AGEP), funded by the National Science Foundation. Yolanda S. George, deputy director for education and human resources at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which has provided evalua- tion capacity-building activities and research resources for the AGEP program, explained that the goal of AGEP is to increase the number of underrepresented minority students pursuing advanced studies, obtaining doctorate degrees, and entering the professoriate in STEM fields, including the social sciences.

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH 21 AGEP has identified several factors that facilitate progression of minorities into STEM post-secondary studies: • Taking high-intensity and high-quality advanced high school STEM courses • STEM pre-college programs • Post-secondary support programs in core STEM courses • Financial aid packages that reduce debt burden • STEM pre-graduate-school bridging programs. The institutions that participate in AGEP “are expected to engage in comprehensive institutional cultural changes that will lead to sustained increases in the conferral of STEM doctoral degrees, significantly exceeding historical levels of performance,” George explained. She discussed several of the important lessons AGEP has demonstrated in seeking to achieve this goal. One lesson, accord- ing to George, is that admission and selection committees need to be conscious of diversity issues. The AGEP program tries to have a diversity coordinator or diversity-conscious faculty member sit in on admissions and selection. “You will get a behavior change if you get an advocate there,” said George. AGEP programs have also found that following up with applicants and linking financial aid to admissions helps with recruitment. At the same time, AGEP has found that it is important to work closely with university administrators on what can and cannot be done with recruitment and retention programs. George said, “You have to start talking to counsel about diversity-conscious and legally defensible student admission selection criteria, financial aid, and programs before you get that letter from that group that is threaten- ing to shut you down.” Furthermore, these discussions need to be ongoing, said George, since challenges will continue to arise. AGEP has conducted meetings and workshops to explore par- ticular topics. For example, a 2003 meeting on mentoring found that relatively little was known about mentoring specifically for STEM students. “We know that STEM core mentoring appears to be more prevalent in the after-school programs at the middle and high school level, but the level of systematic STEM career and workforce mentoring is not high in undergraduate research programs,” George said. However, support networks for women, including students, in STEM areas in academia, industry, and government are useful in   AAAS created a Science Mentoring Research website that followed on the 2003 meeting: <>.

22 UNDERSTANDING INTERVENTIONS helping to balance family and career, negotiating organizational or departmental challenges, and advancing in a career. George also observed that, through its program evaluation capacity-building project, AAAS has helped AGEP awardees build comprehensive evaluation and assessment infrastructures to exam- ine their graduate education enterprises. The framework for mak- ing change includes collecting and using disaggregated data for decision-making and leadership development within the faculty and administration. The goal of AAAS’s AGEP program is “to help the leaders in these projects, [who] are the deans and provosts in some cases, faculty members, and people who run the program, to figure out how to evaluate and assess the infrastructure in order to get the types of effects that they want,” George said. A particularly important task is to help faculty and administrators understand the research that has been conducted so that they can engage faculty members in the process of institutional change. Other Research Initiatives Several other important lines of research were mentioned more briefly by presenters and attendees at the workshop. Two described here are conducted by current grantees of the Efficacy of Interven- tions program; additional interventions and research studies are discussed elsewhere in this summary.10 For example, Reba Page, professor of education at the University of California, Riverside, conducts ethnographic studies of mentor- ing, journal clubs, research in labs, and so forth to understand how those components of intervention programs play out in practice. She wants to know “not what do people tell us they are, not what does the brochure tell us they are, but what do they actually look like in real time, as people, students and teachers together, enact the com- ponents.” By studying these situations and the processes they entail, Page is able to examine “the assumptions that undergird those pro- cesses and what holds them in place, and what we might want to target if we wanted to change them.” A prominent question in her work is why outcomes seem so resistant to change. The conclusion she has drawn is that outcomes depend not only on the culture of science but on the culture of the broader society. To understand sci- ence, including science education, “we have to see that science is embedded in our society,” Page said. Another line of research focuses specifically on the attitudes 10  See, in particular, Chapter 4 for discussion of initiatives by educational stage.

EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS RESEARCH 23 and preferences of students. Merna Villarejo, professor emerita at the University of California, Davis, has asked students in interviews about the motivating factors that caused them to make particular career decisions. Students who went to medical school tended to say that they want to give back to the community. But “that is not what researchers say,” Villarejo observed. “The most frequent answer for researchers for ‘why did you choose your profession’ is ‘because I really love science; it just turns me on; it is exciting; it is great.’” According to Rick McGee, associate dean for faculty affairs at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, another distinguishing characteristic was between students who wanted a fairly predictable future and those who were willing to live with more uncertainty. The students most likely to go into research were the ones who said, when asked about their future, “‘I don’t know, I might be doing this, I might be doing that, I might do this for awhile, I might do that for awhile.’ . . . They really are quite different people,” McGee said. As Daryl E. Chubin, planning committee member and director of the AAAS Center for Advancing Science and Engineering Capacity, said, many kinds of investigations can produce information needed to advance minorities in research careers. “Where does knowledge come from? We know it comes from data and we know it comes from research. But it also comes from evaluation and it comes from technical assistance and it comes from first-person reports. . . . The challenge here is to learn from all of these interventions and then try to apply that in our own context.”

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Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

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Academic and Professional Writing

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How to Write the Results/Findings Section in Research

samples of the research papers presented previously in areas of your interest

What is the research paper Results section and what does it do?

The Results section of a scientific research paper represents the core findings of a study derived from the methods applied to gather and analyze information. It presents these findings in a logical sequence without bias or interpretation from the author, setting up the reader for later interpretation and evaluation in the Discussion section. A major purpose of the Results section is to break down the data into sentences that show its significance to the research question(s).

The Results section appears third in the section sequence in most scientific papers. It follows the presentation of the Methods and Materials and is presented before the Discussion section —although the Results and Discussion are presented together in many journals. This section answers the basic question “What did you find in your research?”

What is included in the Results section?

The Results section should include the findings of your study and ONLY the findings of your study. The findings include:

If the scope of the study is broad, or if you studied a variety of variables, or if the methodology used yields a wide range of different results, the author should present only those results that are most relevant to the research question stated in the Introduction section .

As a general rule, any information that does not present the direct findings or outcome of the study should be left out of this section. Unless the journal requests that authors combine the Results and Discussion sections, explanations and interpretations should be omitted from the Results.

How are the results organized?

The best way to organize your Results section is “logically.” One logical and clear method of organizing research results is to provide them alongside the research questions—within each research question, present the type of data that addresses that research question.

Let’s look at an example. Your research question is based on a survey among patients who were treated at a hospital and received postoperative care. Let’s say your first research question is:

samples of the research papers presented previously in areas of your interest

“What do hospital patients over age 55 think about postoperative care?”

This can actually be represented as a heading within your Results section, though it might be presented as a statement rather than a question:

Attitudes towards postoperative care in patients over the age of 55

Now present the results that address this specific research question first. In this case, perhaps a table illustrating data from a survey. Likert items can be included in this example. Tables can also present standard deviations, probabilities, correlation matrices, etc.

Following this, present a content analysis, in words, of one end of the spectrum of the survey or data table. In our example case, start with the POSITIVE survey responses regarding postoperative care, using descriptive phrases. For example:

“Sixty-five percent of patients over 55 responded positively to the question “ Are you satisfied with your hospital’s postoperative care ?” (Fig. 2)

Include other results such as subcategory analyses. The amount of textual description used will depend on how much interpretation of tables and figures is necessary and how many examples the reader needs in order to understand the significance of your research findings.

Next, present a content analysis of another part of the spectrum of the same research question, perhaps the NEGATIVE or NEUTRAL responses to the survey. For instance:

  “As Figure 1 shows, 15 out of 60 patients in Group A responded negatively to Question 2.”

After you have assessed the data in one figure and explained it sufficiently, move on to your next research question. For example:

  “How does patient satisfaction correspond to in-hospital improvements made to postoperative care?”

samples of the research papers presented previously in areas of your interest

This kind of data may be presented through a figure or set of figures (for instance, a paired T-test table).

Explain the data you present, here in a table, with a concise content analysis:

“The p-value for the comparison between the before and after groups of patients was .03% (Fig. 2), indicating that the greater the dissatisfaction among patients, the more frequent the improvements that were made to postoperative care.”

Let’s examine another example of a Results section from a study on plant tolerance to heavy metal stress . In the Introduction section, the aims of the study are presented as “determining the physiological and morphological responses of Allium cepa L. towards increased cadmium toxicity” and “evaluating its potential to accumulate the metal and its associated environmental consequences.” The Results section presents data showing how these aims are achieved in tables alongside a content analysis, beginning with an overview of the findings:

“Cadmium caused inhibition of root and leave elongation, with increasing effects at higher exposure doses (Fig. 1a-c).”

The figure containing this data is cited in parentheses. Note that this author has combined three graphs into one single figure. Separating the data into separate graphs focusing on specific aspects makes it easier for the reader to assess the findings, and consolidating this information into one figure saves space and makes it easy to locate the most relevant results.

samples of the research papers presented previously in areas of your interest

Following this overall summary, the relevant data in the tables is broken down into greater detail in text form in the Results section.

Captioning and Referencing Tables and Figures

Tables and figures are central components of your Results section and you need to carefully think about the most effective way to use graphs and tables to present your findings . Therefore, it is crucial to know how to write strong figure captions and to refer to them within the text of the Results section.

The most important advice one can give here as well as throughout the paper is to check the requirements and standards of the journal to which you are submitting your work. Every journal has its own design and layout standards, which you can find in the author instructions on the target journal’s website. Perusing a journal’s published articles will also give you an idea of the proper number, size, and complexity of your figures.

Regardless of which format you use, the figures should be placed in the order they are referenced in the Results section and be as clear and easy to understand as possible. If there are multiple variables being considered (within one or more research questions), it can be a good idea to split these up into separate figures. Subsequently, these can be referenced and analyzed under separate headings and paragraphs in the text.

To create a caption, consider the research question being asked and change it into a phrase. For instance, if one question is “Which color did participants choose?”, the caption might be “Color choice by participant group.” Or in our last research paper example, where the question was “What is the concentration of cadmium in different parts of the onion after 14 days?” the caption reads:

 “Fig. 1(a-c): Mean concentration of Cd determined in (a) bulbs, (b) leaves, and (c) roots of onions after a 14-day period.”

Steps for Composing the Results Section

Because each study is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to designing a strategy for structuring and writing the section of a research paper where findings are presented. The content and layout of this section will be determined by the specific area of research, the design of the study and its particular methodologies, and the guidelines of the target journal and its editors. However, the following steps can be used to compose the results of most scientific research studies and are essential for researchers who are new to preparing a manuscript for publication or who need a reminder of how to construct the Results section.

Step 1 : Consult the guidelines or instructions that the target journal or publisher provides authors and read research papers it has published, especially those with similar topics, methods, or results to your study.

Step 2 : Consider your research results in relation to the journal’s requirements and catalogue your results.

Step 3 : Design figures and tables to present and illustrate your data.

Step 4 : Draft your Results section using the findings and figures you have organized.

Step 5 : Review your draft; edit and revise until it reports results exactly as you would like to have them reported to your readers.

One excellent option is to use a professional English proofreading and editing service  such as Wordvice, including our paper editing service . With hundreds of qualified editors from dozens of scientific fields, Wordvice has helped thousands of authors revise their manuscripts and get accepted into their target journals. Read more about the  proofreading and editing process  before proceeding with getting academic editing services and manuscript editing services for your manuscript.

As the representation of your study’s data output, the Results section presents the core information in your research paper. By writing with clarity and conciseness and by highlighting and explaining the crucial findings of their study, authors increase the impact and effectiveness of their research manuscripts.

For more articles and videos on writing your research manuscript, visit Wordvice’s  Resources  page.

Wordvice Resources


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