The Research Paper A Hands-On Approach
The Research Paper • There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. • Anxiety • Procrastination • Confusion • Unfamiliar • Inexperienced
Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! • Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics, and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety.
There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally! • Even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their careers! • Diligence • Organization • Practice • Willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!) • Patience
Research: What It Is A research paper is... • a detailed exploration/explanation of a particular topic based on a variety of expert sources; • the culmination and final product of an involved process of research, critical thinking, source evaluation, organization, and composition;
Primary and secondary sources are the heart of a research paper, and provide its nourishment; without the support of and interaction with these sources, the research paper would morph into a different genre of writing (e.g., an encyclopedic article). • The research paper serves not only to further the field in which it is written, but also to provide the student with an exceptional opportunity to increase his or her knowledge in that field. It is also possible to identify a research paper by what it is not.
Research: What it is not. A research paper is not... • simply an informed summary of a topic by means of primary and secondary sources. It is neither a book report nor an opinion piece nor an expository essay consisting solely of one's interpretation of a text nor an overview of a particular topic. • Instead, it is a genre that requires one to spend time investigating and evaluating sources with the intent to offer interpretations of the texts, and not unconscious regurgitations of those sources.
The goal of a research paper is not to inform the reader what others have to say about a topic, but to draw on what others have to say about a topic and engage the sources in order to thoughtfully offer a unique perspective on the issue at hand. This is accomplished through two major types of research papers.
Two Major Types of Research Papers • Argumentative • Analytical
Argumentative research paper: • The argumentative research paper consists of an introduction in which the writer clearly introduces the topic and informs his audience exactly which stance he intends to take; this stance is often identified as the thesis statement. • An important goal of the argumentative research paper is persuasion, which means the topic chosen should be debatable or controversial.
Analytical Research Paper • The analytical research paper often begins with the student asking a question (a.k.a. a research question) on which he has taken no stance. Such a paper is often an exercise in exploration and evaluation.
Organizational Patterns in Research • Chronological (time sequence) • Comparison/contrast (similarities/differences) • Topical (smaller units comprising the whole) • Problem-solution (problem addressed; potential solutions analyzed)
Choosing a Topic • The first step of any research paper is for the student to understand the assignment. If this is not done, the student will often travel down many dead-end roads, wasting a great deal of time along the way. • Do not hesitate to approach the instructor with questions if there is any confusion. A clear understanding of the assignment will allow the student to focus on other aspects of the process, such as choosing a topic and identifying one's audience.
Topics… A student will often encounter one of two situations when it comes to choosing a topic for a research paper. • list of topics • choice of topic left up to the student
Brainstorming/Prewriting • Brainstorming is often a successful way to get some of these ideas down on paper. • Seeing one's ideas in writing is often an impetus for the writing process. • Though brainstorming is particularly effective when a topic has been chosen, it can also benefit the student who is unable to narrow a topic.
It is also important for the student to keep in mind that an initial topic may not be the exact topic about which he ends up writing. • Research topics are often fluid, and dictated more by the student's ongoing research than by the original chosen topic. • Such fluidity is common in research, and should be embraced as one of its many characteristics.
Identifying an Audience • The concept of audience can be very confusing for novice researchers. • Should the student's audience be the instructor only, or should the paper attempt to reach a larger academic crowd? • These are two extremes on the pendulum-course that is audience; the former is too narrow of an audience, while the latter is too broad. Therefore, it is important to address an audience that falls somewhere in between.
Try to imagine an audience that would be interested in and benefit from your research. • For example: if a student is writing a twelve page research paper about ethanol and its importance as an energy source of the future, would an audience of elementary students be appropriate? • Instead, the writing should be accessible to an audience of engineers and perhaps to the scientific community in general.
What is MLA Style? MLA Style establishes standards of written communication concerning: • formatting and page layout • stylistic technicalities (e.g. abbreviations, footnotes, quotations) • citing sources • and preparing a manuscript for publication in certain disciplines.
Who Should Use MLA? • MLA Style is typically reserved for writers and students preparing manuscripts in various humanities disciplines such as: • English Studies - Language and Literature • Foreign Language and Literatures • Literary Criticism • Comparative Literature • Cultural Studies
Where do I begin? • There is neither template nor shortcut for writing a research paper; • again, the process is, amongst other things, one of practice, experience, and organization, and begins with the student properly understanding the assignment at hand. • As many college students know, the writer may find himself composing three quite different research papers for three quite different courses all at the same time in a single semester. Each of these papers may have varying page lengths, guidelines, and expectations. • So, learn the correct process NOW!!!
Questions every research writer should ask… • What is the point of my research? • Can I tell the reader anything new or different? • Do I have a solution to a problem? • What is my theory on the research subject?
4Rs of Research • Recent • Reliable • Relevant • Representative
Taking Notes from Source Material • After determining you are going to use a source, first prepare a 3x5 source card (see examples); • Read and highlight pertinent information; • Prepare a notecard by filling in the author’s last name (or 1st word in title if there is no author)and page number in the top right corner of the 4x6 card; • Write your note on the same 4x6 card; it should be a complete sentence; and, remember, one idea per card only!
Then, go back and write one or two words on the top left line of the card to identify its contents at a glance! • Continue to takes notes from that source (magazine article, webpage, etc.) until you are finished with relevant information; • Next, move on to another source; • Continue with the same process…source card first followed by as many notecards as you can take…
Source Card for a Book (3x5) • Author’s/Editor’s last name, first name • Title of book • Publisher • Date of publication • Place of publication
Source Card for a Periodical--magazine, scholarly journal, newspaper (3x5) • Author’s last name, first name • “Title of article” • Title of periodical • Volume (if given) • Date • Exact pages
Source Card for a Website (3x5) • Author’s last name, first name (if given) • “Title of Document” • Organization/affiliation (if given) • Date of last update • Complete URL (web address) • Date of visit
Notecard Format (4x6) Slug (1 or 2 words) Author’s Last Pg. # Complete Note in Sentence Form (1 idea per card to make it easier for you to organize into paragraphs for your paper)
Types of Notecards • Summary (brief overview of material) • Paraphrase (restati ng in own words and writing style) • Direct quote (exact words of source in quotes; use sparingly!)
Things to remember about notetaking: • These notecards turn into you paper—do them right the first time and typing up your research will be a breeze! • The source cards become your bibliography (or in MLA style, your Works Cited); do not leave any section blank when preparing them!
Major Issues List • Now that you have determined your research topic, you now have to think about what aspects of the topic you plan to cover in your paper • On a blank 3x5 card, write your research topic on the top line and the potential subdivisions of your paper below it • Be as specific as you can • The number of subdivisions you plan to cover depends upon the topic • The order of the subdivisions is up to you and can change as you complete your notetaking (and you have a better idea of what will be included)
Thesis Statement • One statement that specifies the point of the research • It expresses what you plan to do with your research topic • It is the statement of the aim, the goal, and the main idea of your paper • It controls and focuses the paper
It is closely related to the organizational pattern of your paper • It can be developed by using sources expert sources of information • It conforms to notecard evidence and title • It IS NOT a question • It DOES NOT begin with “I am going to tell you…explain…”