What Is a Research Paper?
What Is a Research Paper?
A research paper is a document that reports on a project, experiment, or survey that presumably contributes to creating new knowledge. The keyword here is presumably. There is always the possibility that the information in a research paper could be entirely baseless and useless. However, I don’t think this is the case for most, if not all, research papers. It’s worth noting that a good research paper can come in the form of an essay even though it involves reporting new knowledge from a study (most often).
A research paper is more than a summary of a topic with credible sources; it is an expanded essay that presents a writer’s interpretation and evaluation of the argument. Writing a research paper aims to analyze a perspective or argue a point, thus demonstrating your knowledge, writing and vocabulary skills, and ability to do great research on a given topic.
Sometimes a research paper is referred to as an accursed research paper. The term is synonymous with hard work and long hours needed in working on research papers that can earn an “A” grade
Essentially, the section headings of a research paper include the following information with varying levels of detail:
- Title page
Define Your Research Question
The first step in writing a research paper is defining your research question. Has your instructor assigned a specific topic? If so, great—you’ve got this step covered. If not, you’ll need to develop one on your own. Consider the following tips when selecting a research question:
- Selecting a research question that interests you: Your attitude towards your topic will determine the amount of effort and enthusiasm you put into your research.
- Make sure there’s enough information to write about: Unless you have a truly captivating story, try to avoid overly controversial topics that have been written about many times before or aren’t backed up by easily obtained credible sources. It’s best to choose one that’s narrow in scope, but make sure it’s something that interests you so much that you’re willing to spend hours digging through books and online databases for credible sources.
- Identifying the scope of the research: Once you’ve selected an appropriate topic, consider what kind of research question will best suit it. You can get some ideas from these examples:
Create a Research Strategy
Now that you have an idea about the topic and the research question for your research paper, it’s time to start thinking about how you will gather information from your sources. This is an important part of the writing process, as it can help guide what you intend to cover in your paper and give you several sources to start with. It’s essential that this strategy be based on your research question because this will ensure that all the information and resources you use will be relevant to your assignment.
There are many different strategies that you can use when developing a research strategy; here are a few ideas:
- Do some background reading on the topic. This is often a good place to start as it can give you an overview of the subject and may even introduce questions or topics that you might want to focus on in more depth later on. What kinds of reading should I do? Anything related to your topic! Use books, journals, newspapers, or magazines from both online databases (like Academic Search Complete) or print material at any one of our libraries’ locations. You can learn more about using these resources in our resource guide below, “How Can I Find Books & Articles?”
- Look for opportunities where people are asking questions related to your topic. There are many different places where people ask questions—you could look at websites like Quora or Reddit or even ask friends and family members about something they’ve been wondering about lately. What kind of questions should I look for? Ones related to what interests you! One thing we’ve learned over time is there isn’t anything too silly if it …
Now that you’ve gathered a wide array of sources, it’s time to do source evaluation. As you read through the sources, note what information is relevant, current, and reliable. This can be challenging because some publications will cite other publications in their bibliographies, which could lead you to very old or inaccurate research.
You have to be discerning about the reliability of your source and avoid using outdated information. The most important question to ask yourself when evaluating a source is, “Does this source answer my research question? If not, the source does not belong in your research paper.
One of the proper source documentation rules is to conduct independent research in your research voyage. You can also look if the source employs statistical data and has a strong knowledge of your topic.
An important academic research paper step and an essential aspect of academics are to examine the type of research paper you have qualified as a source. Does the source have relevant and sufficient information? Did an experienced researcher in the field author it? What are the citation styles applied? (MLA, Harvard, or APA style).
Why Write Research Papers?
- Research papers are important for writing skills. Research papers teach you to craft arguments in a way that is convincing for your audience. As such, research papers are great for learning how to write down the steps of your argument and why each step leads to the next, or what obstacles you find along the way. Additionally, research papers help you understand both primary and secondary sources and their importance.
- Research papers help you learn new things outside of class. Many professors will require that their students do some reading outside of class to understand better what they’re learning about in class. A research paper allows you to do this work in a more organized fashion than just reading on your own time for fun.
- Research papers help you learn about your chosen subject firsthand rather than simply reading about it from books written by other people who have done it before.
- Writing research papers helps us understand our world and ourselves better and helps us communicate with others more effectively. Writing allows us to express our thoughts clearly to communicate them effectively with others. This ability is called critical thinking, defined as “the mental process involved when one is evaluating information or making decisions based on facts rather than emotion” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).
- Learning Scholarly Conventions: Each discipline (history, English, sociology, biology) has its writing style and conventions for documenting scholarly work that is often different from what you may have learned in high school or on the job. Researching and writing a paper facilitates learning about your topic as well as about academic writing conventions and the process of producing a scholarly piece of work so that when you enter the professional world or graduate school, you will be better prepared to meet such expectations (see other bullet points below).
- Organizing Information: As with any project, the ability to break down a large assignment (such as ‘write my entire textbook’) into smaller tasks makes it easier to accomplish and prevents us from feeling overwhelmed or procrastinating by leaving our assignments until they are due (in other words: don’t wait until one day before it’s due!). By breaking down our task into manageable chunks—researching sources, taking notes/outlining ideas, organizing information into a research paper outline, drafting text/writing introduction paragraph(s), etc.—we can achieve our goals step-by-step with less stress in less time than if we were trying to complete everything at once!
- Managing Time: Although it may seem obvious that longer assignments require more time management than shorter ones, do not underestimate how difficult some projects can become when left unfinished until days before they are due; by breaking down large assignments into smaller steps completed over several weeks we avoid both procrastination (which usually results from being overwhelmed) and last-minute scrambling around at 2 am trying desperately not finish everything we should have started earlier!
Final thoughts on What Is a Research Paper.
A research paper is not just a piece of academic writing. It is a way to show that you have learned about your subject and what other students have thought about it. You should be able to find good, up-to-date sources that will give you the correct information about your research topic. When writing a research paper, it is important to think carefully about your sources’ quality. Writing a research paper can seem difficult at first, but once you know how to do it, it will become easier each time!
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