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Research for International Students

The ways research is conceived, approved, conducted, and reported in the U.S. may differ from how it is done in other countries. This guide describes those processes and some of the context for them.

Values Affect Writing

Evidence and Innovation

The research community values both evidence and innovation. It means that you you will need to cite previous research or other kinds of authority. Your thesis or dissertation will use many citations. You will need to show how your research connects that that background information. Your role as the writer is to synthesize what you have found. (Take what you have found in your sources. Identify the important bits. Mix the information together to form a convincing argument. Your words explain how the different pieces of information you found are connected.)

You will need to summarize, paraphrase, and refer to the sources you have found. The research community values evidence. It means that you will need to cite your sources too. The people who read your thesis or dissertation want to know where you found the information. The people who read your thesis or dissertation want to be able to investigate that source on their own.

Citations appear throughout your thesis or dissertation. Use them to introduce topics and to connect your project with other people's projects.


As you write, include details and explain your thought processes. Your reader should not need to guess what you mean or use their imagination. Each paragraph in your paper should lead into the next paragraph. Use transitions to make it easy for the reader to understand those connections. This may be uncomfortable to you but your readers will appreciate it!

It is especially important to be detailed and clear in the methods section of your paper. The methods section is where you tell your reader what you did in your study. Who or what did you study? How did you select them? How well does your sample represent the population your research is about? What did you do? Detailed and organized methods sections help your reader understand your results. Detailed and organized methods sections help show the impact of your results. A good methods section helps others repeat your study and check if they get similar results. It helps others create a similar type of study.

Information as a Commodity and a Public Good

Theses and dissertations sometimes include existing materials, such as images or survey instruments. You will need to get permission if you want to use those materials in your thesis or dissertation.

MCPHS will keep a copy of your thesis or dissertation for future researchers to read. You will also submit information about it to a company. The company help other people learn about your thesis or dissertation. You can delay when your thesis or dissertation becomes available for others to read. Decide how long you want that delay ("embargo") to be. Learn more on the Thesis / Dissertation Submission page .

Examples of Theses / Dissertations

Theses and Dissertations take many forms. Your program will give you guidelines on what they expect in a thesis or dissertation. Theses and dissertations are usually much longer than research papers. Theses and dissertations are usually more detailed than research papers. In some programs, your thesis or dissertation is actually a series of research papers on a theme.

Explore examples of theses and dissertations before you start writing yours.

Using Copyrighted Information from Other Sources

Sometimes, you will want to include content that other people have created in your thesis or dissertation. For example, you might want to use someone else's image, chart, or survey instrument.  and other content that others have created in your thesis. Information is a commodity. U.S. Copyright law limits how you can use someone else's content. The video and links in this section will help you learn if you can use someone else's content. The videos and links will help you learn if how you can include someone else's content.

Citing Sources

Your program will tell you what citation style to use.

No matter what style you are using, you will cite sources in two places. You will cite them in the text of the paper itself and in a list of references at the end of the paper. The list of references is usually at the end of the thesis or dissertation but before any appendices. In some dissertations, each chapter has its own list of references. Follow the guidelines for your program.

Each source should appear in in the text and in the full list of references. Some citation styles make exceptions for specific types of information. For example, in APA style, you only need to cite personal communication (such as emails) in the text of your paper.

Writing Help

The Writing Center at MCPHS can help you as you write your paper. They will not write your paper for you but they can tell you how to improve your paper. They can give you tips on how to write clearly, develop your arguments, and cite your sources. There is no fee to use their services.

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