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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Appendices

The purpose of this guide is to provide advice on how to develop and organize a research paper in the social sciences.

Definition

An appendix contains supplementary material that is not an essential part of the text itself but which may be helpful in providing a more comprehensive understanding of the research problem or it is information that is too cumbersome to be included in the body of the paper. A separate appendix should be used for each distinct topic or set of data and always have a title descriptive of its contents.


Tables, Appendices, Footnotes and Endnotes. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.

Importance of...

Appendices are always supplementary to the research paper. As such, your study must be able to stand alone without the appendices, and the paper must contain all information including tables, diagrams, and results necessary to understand the research problem. The key point to remember when including an appendix is that the information is non-essential; if it were removed, the reader would still be able to comprehend the significance, importance, and implications of your research.

It is appropriate to include appendices for the following reasons:

  • Including this material in the body of the paper that would render it poorly structured or interrupt the narrative flow;
  • Information is too lengthy and detailed to be easily summarized in the body of the paper;
  • Inclusion of helpful, supporting, or useful material would otherwise distract the reader from the main content of the paper;
  • Provides relevant information or data that is more easily understood or analyzed in a self-contained section of the paper;
  • Can be used when there are constraints placed on the length of your paper; and,
  • Provides a place to further demonstrate your understanding of the research problem by giving additional details about a new or innovative method, technical details, or design protocols.

Appendices. Academic Skills Office, University of New England; Chapter 12, "Use of Appendices." In Guide to Effective Grant Writing: How to Write a Successful NIH Grant. Otto O. Yang. (New York: Kluwer Academic, 2005), pp. 55-57.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  General Points to Consider

When considering whether to include content in an appendix, keep in mind the following points:

  1. It is usually good practice to include your raw data in an appendix, laying it out in a clear format so the reader can re-check your results. Another option if you have a large amount of raw data is to consider placing it online and note that this is the appendix to your research paper.
  2. Any tables and figures included in the appendix should be numbered as a separate sequence from the main paper. Remember that appendices contain non-essential information that, if removed, would not diminish a reader's ability to understand the research problem being investigated. This is why non-textual elements should not carry over the sequential numbering of non-textual elements in the body of your paper.
  3. If you have more than three appendices, consider listing them on a separate page at the beginning of your paper. This will help the reader know before reading the paper what information is included in the appendices [always list the appendix or appendices in a table of contents].
  4. The appendix can be a good place to put maps, photographs, diagrams, and other images, if you feel that it will help the reader to understand the content of your paper, while keeping in mind the point that the study should be understood without them.
  5. An appendix should be streamlined and not loaded with a lot information. If you have a very long and complex appendix, it is a good idea to break it down into separate appendices, allowing the reader to find relevant information quickly as the information is covered in the body of the paper.

II.  Content

Never include an appendix that isn’t referred to in the text. All appendices should be summarized in your paper where it is relevant to the content. Appendices should also be arranged sequentially by the order they were first referenced in the text [i.e., Appendix 1 should not refer to text on page eight of your paper and Appendix 2 relate to text on page six].

There are few rules regarding what type of material can be included in an appendix, but here are some common examples:

  • Correspondence -- if your research included collaborations with others or outreach to others, then correspondence in the form of letters, memorandums, or copies of emails from those you interacted with could be included.
  • Interview Transcripts -- in qualitative research, interviewing respondents is often used to gather information. The full transcript from an interview is important so the reader can read the entire dialog between researcher and respondent.
  • Non-textual elements -- as noted above, if there are a lot of non-textual items, such as, figures, tables, maps, charts, photographs, drawings, or graphs, think about highlighting examples in the text of the paper but include the remainder in an appendix.
  • Questionnaires or surveys -- this is a common form of data gathering. Always include the survey instrument or questionnaires in an appendix so the reader understands not only the questions asked but the sequence in which they were asked. Include all variations of the instruments as well if different items were sent to different groups.
  • Raw statistical data – this can include any numerical data that is too lengthy to include in charts or tables in its entirety within the text.
  • Research instruments -- if you used a camera, or a recorder, or some other device to gather information and it is important for the reader to understand how that device was used; this information can be placed in an appendix.
  • Sample calculations – this can include quantitative research formulas or detailed descriptions of how calculations were used to determine relationships and significance.

NOTE:  Appendices should not be a dumping ground for information. Do not include vague or irrelevant information in an appendix; this additional information will not help the reader’s overall understanding and interpretation of your research and may only distract the reader from understanding the significance of your overall study.

ANOTHER NOTE:  Appendices are intended to provide supplementary information that you have gathered or created; it is not intended to replicate or provide a copy of the work of others. For example, if you need to contrast the techniques of analysis used by other authors with your own method of analysis, summarize that information, and cite to the original work. In this case, a citation to the original work is sufficient enough to lead the reader to where you got the information. You do not need to provide this in an appendix.


Format

Here are some general guideline on how to format appendices, but consult the writing style guide [e.g., APA] your professor wants you to use for more detail, if needed:

  • Appendices may precede or follow your list of references.
  • Each appendix begins on a new page.
  • The order they are presented is dictated by the order they are mentioned in the text of your research paper.
  • The heading should be "Appendix," followed by a letter or number [e.g., "Appendix A" or "Appendix 1"], centered and written in bold type.
  • Appendices must be listed in the table of contents [if used].
  • The page number(s) of the appendix/appendices will continue on with the numbering from the last page of the text.

Appendices. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Appendices. Academic Skills Office, University of New England; Chapter 12, "Use of Appendices." In Guide to Effective Grant Writing: How to Write a Successful NIH Grant. Otto O. Yang. (New York: Kluwer Academic, 2005), pp. 55-57; Tables, Appendices, Footnotes and Endnotes. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Lunsford, Andrea A. and Robert Connors. The St. Martin's Handbook. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989; What To Know About The Purpose And Format Of A Research Paper Appendix. LoyolaCollegeCulion.com

Writing Tip

Consider Putting Your Appendices Online

Appendices are useful because they provide the reader with information that supports your study without breaking up the narrative or distracting from the main purpose of your paper. If you have a lot of raw data or information that is difficult to present in textual form, consider uploading it to an online site. This prevents your paper from having a large and unwieldy set of appendices and it supports a growing movement within academe to make data more freely available for re-analysis. If you do create an online portal to your data, note it prominently in your paper with the correct URL and access procedures if it is a secured site.


Piwowar, Heather A., Roger S. Day, and Douglas B. Fridsma. “Sharing Detailed Research Data Is Associated with Increased Citation Rate.” PloS ONE (March 21, 2007); Wicherts, Jelte M., Marjan Bakker, and Dylan Molenaar. “Willingness to Share Research Data Is Related to the Strength of the Evidence and the Quality of Reporting of Statistical Results.” PLoS ONE (November 2, 2011).