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Index of Assignments

Genre Trading Card genre icon writing icon audience icon argument icon evidence icon
practice-oriented icon

Research-Oriented Genre

In our ongoing efforts to disseminate the results of new research, the most common genre is the academic journal article. Its primary goal is to report the results of an empirical or theoretical study, and to convince the reader that those results have important implications for social work practice and research—that the results add something important to what we know about the domain of social work.



The audience will include other social-work academics already familiar with the subject matter, so we can often save space by avoiding definitions of very common terms. However, audiences may include practitioners, researchers, and instructors, so it is often important to be sure to define highly specialized technical terms, particularly if they are used differently by different researchers. These audiences have read quite a few journal articles, and will be looking to situate our work among other work on the same topic, so it is important to begin by contextualizing the study, establishing how it fits with (or alters) what we already know.



The overall argument is that our work has made a useful contribution to knowledge in the topic area. The argument has similar pieces as well (and these pieces each have their own argument and conventions, so this section will include links to the separate “subgenres” with more details):

  • Introduction: We will usually need to convince the audience that the time is right for this kind of research by establishing that the topic area is important—that a problem is serious, for instance, and has wide-reaching effects, and that it has (or should have) been an object of study for researchers. We need to establish exigency for new research. See the introduction subgenre for more information.
  • Literature Review: We will also usually need to convince the audience that our research adds to available knowledge, and to do that, we need to convey a sense of what is currently known about the topic, and where there are gaps in the knowledge—what is not currently known. Usually we want to set up the lit review so that our study is positioned to fill a gap. The literature review should be organized thematically, or by the issues, rather than going study by study. See the literature review subgenre for more information.
  • Study Purpose & Methods: We need to declare clearly what our study did, and how. See the methods subgenre for more information.
  • Results: We need to clarify what we found, as clearly and succinctly as possible. If we use charts or figures to show the results, we need to explain the information they contain, so that a reader who could not see the chart would still get the gist of the results. See the results subgenre for more information.
  • Discussion: We need to make the argument that the results are important, and this usually involves explaining and contextualizing them, showing how they venture beyond the existing knowledge. See the discussion subgenre for more information.

Conclusion: It is always important to offer implications and recommendations, both for what practitioners might do, based on our findings, but also for what researchers (“future studies”) might do to continue to develop new results. See the conclusion subgenre for more information.



The journal article should draw upon other academic sources, particularly in the lit review and discussion, and may also need reliable public data in either the lit review or the introduction. However, the methods and results should generally draw upon what the researchers actually did, presenting the empirical data that was collected, and generally avoiding other sources (unless methods used derive from previous sources).


Hybrid Writing

Particularly in the discussion, we will need to be adept at shifting gears between discussing what we did as researchers, and what others have found out in their research. The introduction and lit review are generally conducted in a more theoretical model, however, while the results and discussion sections are often framed in practice-oriented terms, where “we” becomes appropriate (although some venues may require the third person, “the researchers” or “the study”).


“Research Paper”: This is sometimes used as another name for this genre. See the “research paper” section for more information about other uses of this term.

Qualitative Research Project: This version of the journal article specifies that we must use qualitative methods to answer an appropriate research question—that is, a question about subjective human experiences, “what it is like.”

Quantitative Research Project: This version of the journal article specifies that we must use quantitative methods to answer an appropriate research question—that is, a question aiming to ascertain facts about a larger population, using statistical analyses.

Conference Paper: This is a version of a journal article delivered in abbreviated form, often orally, at an academic conference. It has the same audience, purpose, argument, and major sections, but must provide the information as concisely as possible, since time is usually limited.

Systematic Review of the Literature: This is a version of the journal article that studies other journal articles. It uses a specified scientific method to retrieve every article about a specific (and carefully defined) topic, and analyzes them with an eye to how they manage specific aspects of the research process. It is a very different project from the literature review subgenre.

Note: Exact requirements may vary from instructor to instructor and from assignment to assignment!

So check the instructions carefully!

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