Know your audience
Know who your audience is and anticipate what they are most interested in knowing.
Follow formatting conventions for the field of a publication.
The title, usually written last, should clearly communicate the topic of the study.
An abstract, also usually written after other sections, provides a short (less than 150 words) synopsis of the study. Include the problem you investigated, a description of participants, methods with full names of measures you used, findings, and key conclusions.
In an introduction, include a review of relevant empirical literature, explain the purpose of your study and its contribution to your field, and provide hypotheses. For a qualitative study state the central thesis, theme, or topic of your study in one or two sentences. A thesis is a proposition, often arising from a comparison of your study to past research, which you support with evidence. A theme is a concept or theory that emerges from your data, while a topic is descriptive and more limited in scope. An example of a topic is, "What makes for an effective lecture?" Don't provide overly detailed information at the start of the introduction; reserve finer points for later, once general concepts have been introduced. The introduction frequently concludes by outlining the rest of your paper.
In a methods section, describe the design and implementation of the study in enough detail for a knowledgeable reader to replicate it. Describe your sample, providing demographic statistics, and explain how participants were selected. If data from some participants were excluded from the final analyses, explain why. Describe any observation measures you used, providing citations and evidence of validity and reliability. For a qualitative study, explain how you analyzed the data.
In a results section, first present main findings, then cover more peripheral ones. For quantitative studies, tell whether your hypotheses were confirmed or not supported. Identify statistical analyses you used and provide p values, means or medians, and standard deviations or standard errors. If you use tables and graphs, reserve them for the study's most important findings. For tables, provide a clear, descriptive title and the number of participants involved. For graphs, provide a clear, descriptive title and label both axes clearly, with equal intervals on the X (horizontal) axis. If the Y (vertical) axis does not begin with zero, clearly indicate this. On bar charts, all bars should have the same width.
For qualitative analysis of observer commentary, support general assertions using examples from observer notes. Be sure that your descriptions of participants do not reveal their identities. If there is any possibility of confusion, identify whose perspective you are writing from-that of the observer or that of a participant.
In a discussion section, compare the results of your study to those of prior studies. Summarize major findings, being careful not to overstate results. Discuss strengths and limitations of your study, including possible sources of bias and sampling error, possible explanations for your results, the implications of your findings, and directions for future research.
List all literature cited in a reference section.
In an appendix, provide a copy of your data gathering instruments with any instructions and figures that accompanied them.