Research: What It IsA research paper is the culmination and final productof an involved process of: research, critical thinking,source evaluation, organization, and composition.The research paper is like a living thing, which growsand changes as the you explore, interpret, andevaluate sources related to a specific topic. Primary and secondary sources are the heart of aresearch paper, and provide its nourishment; withoutthe support of and interaction with these sources, theresearch paper would morph into a different genre ofwriting (e.g., an encyclopedic article).
Research: What it is notA research paper is not simply an informed summary of atopic by means of primary and secondary sources. It isneither a book report nor an opinion piece nor anexpository essay consisting solely of ones interpretation ofa text nor an overview of a particular topic.Instead, it is a genre that requires one to spend timeinvestigating and evaluating sources with the intent to offerinterpretations of the texts, and NOT unconsciousregurgitations of those sources. The goal of a researchpaper is not to inform the reader what others have to sayabout a topic, but to draw on what others have to say abouta topic and engage the sources in order to thoughtfullyoffer a unique perspective on an issue. Yourvoice/argument needs to be present in the paper!
Goal of your Research Paper1) Ask a question worth answering.2) Find an answer that you can support with goodreasons.3)Find reliable evidence to support yourreasons/argument.4) Draft a report that makes a good case for youranswer or perspective.5) Revise that draft until readers will think you met thefirst four goals.
Argumentative Research PaperThe argumentative research paper consists of anintroduction in which the writer clearly introducesthe topic and informs his audience exactly whichstance he intends to take; this stance is oftenidentified as the thesis statement. An importantgoal of the argumentative research paper ispersuasion, which means the topic chosenshould be debatable or controversial.
Analytical Research PaperThe analytical research paper often begins with thestudent asking a question (a.k.a. a researchquestion) on which he has taken no stance as of yet.Such a paper is often an exercise in exploration andevaluation. For example, perhaps one is interestedin the Old English poem Beowulf. He has read thepoem intently and desires to offer a fresh reading ofthe poem to the academic community in light of aparticular issue that relates to the poem.
Three Kinds of Questions: There are generally three types of questions that can guide Research Papers. As we begin research we will move from a topic of “noun phrase” to describe your research paper to a paper guided by a question of hypothesis.
Conceptual Questions: What should we think?A Question is conceptual when your answersto “So what?” doesn’t tell readers what to do,but helps them better understand someissue. Before we solve a practical problemwe have to do conceptual research to betterunderstand it.(ie) How did Shakespeare’s political environmentinfluence his plays?
Practical Questions:What should we do?When your answer to “So What?” tellsreaders what to do to change or fix someimprovable situation.* This is the least likely question you will askin your research paper. You are unlikely todo enough research over the next weeks to“solve” a problem or offer a plausible solutionto a large issue, but you can help the readerbut understand a problem. *
Applied Questions:Often we know we must do something to solve apractical problem, but realize before we canknow what that is, we must do research tounderstand the problem better.
What is your purpose in writing?There are many "correct" things to write about forany subject, but you need to narrow down yourchoices. For example, your topic might be "dormfood." At this point, you and your potential readerare asking the same question,"So what?" Why should you write about this, andwhy should anyone read it? Do you want thereader to pity you because of the intolerable foodyou have to eat there? Do you want to analyzelarge-scale institutional cooking? Do you want tocompare Purdues dorm food to that served atIndiana University?
How Are You Going toAchieve This Purpose?How, for example, would you achieve yourpurpose if you wanted to describe some movieas the best representation of disability issuesyou’ve ever seen? Would you define for yourselfa specific means of doing so? Would yourcomments on the movie go beyond merely tellingthe reader that you really liked it?
Who is your Audience?The concept of audience can be very confusing.Should the students audience be her instructoronly, or should her paper attempt to reach alarger academic crowd? These are two extremeson the pendulum; the former is too narrow of anaudience, while the latter is too broad. Therefore,it is important for the student to articulate anaudience that falls somewhere in between.
Audience related Questions:Who is the general audience I want to reach?Who is most likely to be interested in the research I amdoing?What is it about my topic that interests the generalaudience I have discerned?If the audience I am writing for is not particularly interestedin my topic, what should I do to pique its interest?Will each member of the broadly conceived audienceagree with what I have to say?If not (which will likely be the case!) what counter-arguments should I be prepared to answer