Chapter 12 The Research Process: Critical Essays and Research Papers
Chapter overview • Looks at two of the most common writing assignments: critical essays and research projects • Examines the genres • Overviews the research process • Follows one student as she does a project for her history class
Critical essays • Sample critical essays are generally short papers, ranging from 3 to 7 pages, focusing on a question or issue. • Student must use sources to “make sense of how authorities in a field define key issues and present interpretations.”
Research projects • Research projects are bigger undertakings than critical essays. • The page length for research projects tends to range from eight to 20 pages or more; students use more sources and will probably spend more time on the project.
What are faculty looking for? Whether writing a critical essay or research project, faculty expect you to do the following things, page 391: • To work with your sources • To create your own research space • To identify the central discussion, debate, and controversies
Sample critical essay, MLA • Pages 392-397, “The Dilemma of Empire” • Context: written for a course in international relations • Assignment: analyze a set of readings and explain key differences • The text looks at her essay and analyzes how she handled the assignment.
Two strategies • First, she establishes the context of issues to be discussed in the first three paragraphs. • Second, she introduces two key terms starting in paragraph four. She then explains the purpose of her essay and explains how those terms will be used.
Sample research project, MLA • Chapter next presents a research project, also done in MLA style. This paper (pages 398-408) was written for a first-year writing course.
Analysis of sample research paper • An analysis follows that examines his strategies in the paper. • It extends past research by applying it to new cases. • It identifies a gap in the existing research.
Checklist – MLA and APA style • See the shaded box, page 410. It points out four features common to MLA and APA. • Double-space manuscript • Use a one-inch margin all around • Indent paragraphs five spaces • Number pages consecutively, including Works Cited or References pages
Checklist – MLA style • Unless instructed, don’t include a separate title page; see page 410 for more details on how to format the paper. • Insert page numbers in upper right corner. • Begin bibliography (Works Cited) on a separate page.
Checklist — APA style • Unless instructed, use a cover page. See page 410 for specific details on formatting thecover page. • Include an abstract on the next page; this is a brief summary of no more than 120 words. • Begin the text on the third page. • Use headers for the various sections. • Begin references section on a separate page.
Sample research paper, APA style • See pages 411-418 for the sample essay. • Notice that the paper begins with an abstract, a one-paragraph summary of the paper. • The essay uses headers and APA in-text citations, and ends with the References section.
Analysis of the sample APA essay • An analysis follows, page 419. • Early on she identifies the central issues of her paper by discussing a controversial book. • In doing so, she establishes a sense of credibility, creates a space for her research project, and sets up a framework to organize her paper and use her sources.
Overview of the research process Pages 419-426 begin with five tasks: • Defining a research question • Finding sources • Evaluating sources • Making an argument • Planning and drafting
Analyzing the assignment Researchers position themselves five ways: • To provide an overview of the current thinking of experts • To review the arguments in a controversy • To pose and answer an important question or solve a problem • To position your own interpretation in relation to what others have said • To take a stand on a controversy
Doing preliminary research • The author suggests five places to start doing research: the Web, encyclopedias, recent books, recent articles, and people (classmates, librarians, teaching assistants, and faculty members). • She gives her first reactions to the assignment and then after doing some research, her reflections on what she’s learned so far. • She presents guidelines to develop a research question.
Other key tasks • Developing a research question, pp. 423-425 • See the list of four questions; each is followed by an explanation of its significance. • Writing a research proposal, pp. 425-426 • Defines purpose of research and research plan. • Does three things: identifies the topic or problem, presents a specific issue and question, and briefly sketches the research plan for how the question will be addressed.
Working bibliography A working bibliography is explained on pages 428. It lists the sources you plan to use in your research project. There are two advantages: • It helps you keep track of the sources you’ve located. • It makes it easier to prepare your Works Cited or References page later on.
More on finding sources • Lists information needed for each type of source: books, articles, electronic information. • Looks at library databases, pages 428-433. • Shows an entry from an online catalog; it’s annotated to show what some of the fields mean. Notice that you are looking at the full citation for the source.
Two ways to analyze sources • See page 434 for a list of four questions you should keep in mind. • See Chapter 2, “Reading Strategies of Academic Purposes,” and Chapter 3, “Persuasion and Responsibility: Analyzing Arguments” for more “tools to examine the rhetorical situation and the arguments writers make” (434).
Making an argument • See page 435 for a list of four questions “to help you determine the arguments you want to make.” • Amira writes a Statement of Purpose to help her follow her research path.
Planning and drafting • Amira makes an outline, pages 436-437. • Notice that it includes enough detail to be useful, but does not use roman numerals. • She does indent some entries to show a hierarchy of main ideas and supporting details.
Looking ahead • Amira now has analyzed her assignment, gathered research, and created an outline. • Now she’s ready to start writing the paper. • The next chapter will look at ways to incorporate sources into essays and research projects.
Companion Student Website • Go to the student side of the Web site for exercises, chapter overviews, and links to writing resources for this chapter: http://college.hmco.com/pic/trimbur4e