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Descriptive Research Paper

Writing a descriptive research paper is a common academic task which students are assigned at all levels of study – high school, college and university. While descriptive research papers are primarily meant to provide in-depth information and knowledge related to a specific topic or subject, students need to know the major aspects of a descriptive research paper.

Common Elements

Descriptive research papers are generally divided into five chapters, which are further sub-divided into separate sections. Most students will be asked to submit a proposal prior to writing their descriptive research paper, which is generally written in the future tense. Descriptive research papers are commonly written in the APA format which is clearly explained in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

General Layout

The Title page of a descriptive research paper is the first page with no page number.
The title is centred vertically as well as horizontally.
Page margins are set at 1 inch on all sides, left, right, top and bottom.
Pages are numbered at the top right hand corner of the descriptive research paper.
Line spacing of a descriptive research paper is double spaced. Direct long quotations are single spaced.
Ideal font for writing descriptive research papers is 12 point Times New Roman, used uniformly all throughout the paper, except for appendices and chapter headings or titles.
All references used in the descriptive research paper should be cited according to the APA format. Parenthetical references should include the author’s last name followed by the year of publication (Smith, 2001).
The Reference section at the end of the paper should list all sources used in the body of the descriptive research paper and should be double spaced. References should be listed using hanging indentation.
Important Sections of a Descriptive Research Paper
Title Page –
Table of Contents –

Chapter I – Introduction

Make the introduction of your descriptive research paper as interesting and catchy as possible. Introduce your readers to your topic in a compelling and dramatic manner, urging them to continue reading your research paper.
Statement of Problem – This is the focus of your descriptive research paper and will serve as a roadmap for your research. It is generally only a single sentence stating a problem, but could be elaborated using examples and illustrations.
Purpose and Significance of Study – This is a statement or paragraph which explains the intent of the research and what the research aims to accomplish. It generally begins with sentences like “The aim of this research is...” or “The goal of this study is...”.
Significance of the descriptive research paper explains the larger issues such as why the study is important and who will benefit from it.

Chapter II - Background and Literature review

This section of your descriptive research paper should include the previous research in the field and how this would impact your investigation. It should also define the key terms used for the study.

Chapter III – Methodology

This section of the descriptive research paper explains the research methods used for the investigation of the problem. You will need to define the population and state the kind of research methodology you used on the sample to prove your hypothesis.

The procedure should indicate the exact time frame of the research from the start to the end. You should also state any special procedures you followed for writing the descriptive research paper.

Validity and Reliability

The validity and reliability measures should be described in detail.

Scope and Limitations

This section of your descriptive research paper should state the limitations and scope of the study. You should clearly mention any or all limitations including budgetary limitations. You should be able to provide the reader with a clear indication of the scope and impact of your descriptive research paper.
Chapter IV – Results
The results section of your descriptive research paper should analyse and state the descriptive statistics of the sample used for the investigation. Each research question should be re-stated and answered separately. All statistics should be clearly reported and explained.
Chapter V – Conclusion
The conclusion section of a descriptive research paper is the final section and is a basic summary of all the important points. It generally also includes a discussion of the results and how these results support the theoretical base related to the study. The writer of the descriptive research paper should also expound the reasons for the research results. Recommendations are an important part of any research paper, descriptive in nature. Recommendations should not be based on personal prejudices but should be well supported with the research conducted and the results obtained. Recommendations can be made to the sponsors of the study or to other researchers connected to the study in some way.  

References and Appendix Sections are the last sections of a research paper. All sources, graphs, maps, interviews and any other material used in the paper should be clearly stated in the research paper.

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