Research contribution. The research contribution of a paper is what it adds to existing knowledge. Is this trail-blazing research that goes where none have gone before or is it just a follow-up on prior expeditions? Either way, state the research contribution. Don’t assume it is obvious. Make clear how this research adds value, as if it doesn’t add value, why did you do it? The research purpose just given should provide a clue and ideally the purpose leads on directly to the contribution! It may be a problem that affects many people, a topic is relatively unexplored, or a method that hasn’t been applied to this topic before. Or perhaps a well–known result is not well understood, so the contribution is on a theory level. Explicitly stating the contribution is critical to publishing as every reviewer looks for it, so don’t ignore this.
Uniqueness. Another angle is to ask yourself how does my research differ from what others have done? What is new or unique about it? Is it testing a new aspect of current theory or existing findings? Is the sample size bigger than ever before? Draw attention to whatever is different about the research, as being different helps the paper stand out in the crowd.
Possible research contributions include:
- Adds new knowledge. Explores a new area.
- Tests theories. Data to test competing theories.
- Description. Better describes a construct.
- New method. Applies a new method to gather data.
- New analysis. Applies a new analysis to data.
- Review. Contrasts and compares existing theory and data.
- Replication. Repeats a previous study.
- New application. Applies current theory to a new problem.