I'm currently writing a research paper in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and me and my professor have slightly different views on how to present and order the different elements that are necessary in a paper.

I have two parties that are interested in my research, my professor (and school) and the company I do the research for. The company has no experience with scientific reports.

My professor comes from an psychology background and wants me to write in an hour glass structure. I however believe that I should be writing it for the public that is going to profit from the research, which is in this case the company.

After a search I came across this: Is it a good academic practice to tell the reader in the introduction what the essay is about directly? In which I found the answer by Jeromy Anglim that I completely agree with.

This however only goes in to the introduction and says nothing about the discussion/conclusion section of the paper.

At the moment I have a conclusion section right after my results where I answer my research questions. After this I have a discussion section on what these results mean with the theory and all that belongs there. This was very appreciated by the company.

However, not so much by my professor. He says the conclusion always comes after the discussion, or is part of the discussion.

Long story short:

  1. What is a good way to present the introduction and discussion/conclusion in a paper which has to be easily read and understood by non-academics.
  2. If I do not use the hour-glass structure, what section of my paper would be the best place to justify this decision?
  • 1
    What venue are you targeting for this paper ? is it a research paper to be published in CHI or some such venue, or a white paper for distribution within the company, or a "popular press" article for a blog or web page ? The answers to your questions depend on these things. And don't also rule out the possibility of writing two articles.
    – Suresh
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 10:28
  • Almost by definition, the conclusion is the last part of the report. Perhaps you should rename your section, since what you call "conclusion" mostly seems to be your "evaluation" section.
    – user102
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 10:28
  • @Suresh The paper will be distributed within the company and graded by the university. It might reach the 'outside' world after it gets graded. (I will then re-write the paper in more of an article form).
    – JonSpr
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 10:31
  • @CharlesMorisset Now you say that, it does make sense to have conclusion at the very end of the report. However, evaluation doesn't seem like a good replacement for the section I have now, where I want to make clear what the results mean for the company.
    – JonSpr
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 10:36
  • 1
    @Mangara I'm not sure if I'm allowed to reply to you in this manner, but thanks! What I did now was to write a research paper for the university and a recommendation paper for the company. It's basically just a (large) summary with what the results mean for their business.
    – JonSpr
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


Your problem is that a term paper for university is not the same as a company white paper. You cannot expect to write a nice white paper ("What is a good way to present the introduction and discussion/conclusion in a paper which has to be easily read and understood by non-academics.") and expect your professor to grade it as such. The conventions for white papers and academic reports are significantly different (and I would honestly be surprised of the positioning of the conclusions are really the only required change).

I like Suresh's suggestion - produce two versions of the report, one for the company, which focuses on the results and implications for the company, and one for the university, which is written for an academic reader outside the company. The style may well differ, even if the vast majority of the content will be the same.

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