Study Skills Writing

I am not sure what a research paper should look like.

I am not sure what a research paper should look like.

The following website offers a nice array of examples of research papers.

A research paper is NOT...

  • a rearrangement or summary of information from different sources;
  • a report that could be included in a general encyclopedia;
  • just a matter of cutting and pasting together from different resources (also known as plagiarism);
  • a result of one quick yahoo or google search on the web (a good way to find pretty useless information that is rarely legitimate, unless you know how to assess websites well).

A research paper IS...

  • your own reflections and analysis of information you find from legitimate resources, including primary and secondary sources. Even though you may not write such a paper in first person, you are writing down your thoughts and insights from what you have learned about this topic.

Be conservative in how you build your analysis and arguments. Don't jump to any radical conclusions without a lot of solid evidence to back you up. Don't get me wrong--you have my blessings to be as radical as you want personally... but in most research papers, you need to be cautious in how far you go. That can make it hard--you want to say more than an encyclopedia reference does, but not so much that you have left academia behind and are dancing in castles in the sky.

Some of the structure of this paper should remind you of the famous five paragraph essay. You state a thesis, then you prove your point. For research paper, typically longer than fiver paragraphs, you will identify commonalities among several different resources that relate to your main point.

A research paper can thus be harder to write than the classic fiver paragraph essay, because it combines not just the writing process but also good solid research skills. However, reading about your topic from several different resources (academic articles, newspaper articles, academic books, primary sources, etc.) usually leads you to think about the topic quite a bit, and helps you get ideas and build momentum so the writing may not be so hard.

Is it possible to enjoy writing a research paper?

Yes! This is your chance to teach yourself something new. Usually, your instructor is choosing what you will learn, but when you have a research paper assigned, you are now given some control over your own education. What do you want to know? What have you not understood before or would help you out in the future? What topic keeps getting ignored in your classes? Find out! After college, it will be up to you to teach yourself all the time, so get some practice now!