What Is A Research Paper?

The following quotations about research papers are taken from books and articles about writing in college and university.

 Research papers can take two forms: factual, objective surveys of all the literature available on a topic, or interpretive analyses of selected evidence arrayed to support the writer’s viewpoint and ideas. An interpretive paper, though primarily concerned with the writer’s own ideas and interpretations, cannot ignore contrary evidence. Writers of such papers must be thorough and fair even though they must take a position on their material.” pp. 445-446, Perrin

Research essays and reports are not generically different from other types of college and university writing. The English word research derives from the French chercher, to search, and from the Latin cicare, to circle around, explore. Searching, circling around, and exploring are activities that can be important to any writing that you do. p. 163, Lunsford, Connors, and Segal

A research paper is an entirely new work that you create by consulting several sources to answer a research question. The paper is a synthesis of your interpretation and evaluation of the information you discover, with complete documentation of where these discoveries came from. It is not a summary of an article or book or a collection of summaries of articles or books. p. 440, Adams and Tickle

Attempt is an important word in relation to research. Some research questions lead to a final, definitive answer. Some do not, especially when an assignment asks you to take a position about a debatable topic and argue for that position in your paper. p. 141, Troyka

Your role in writing a research paper will depend on whether you are called upon mainly to report, to interpret, or to analyze sources. In reporting, you survey, organize, and present the available evidence about a topic (for instance, how lobbyists influence MP’s votes or how three mice responded to sleep deprivation). In interpreting, you examine a range of views on a topic in order to draw your own conclusions (for instance, the ethical dilemmas in using humans as experimental subjects), or you search in varied sources for facts and opinions relevant to your thesis (for instance, that adopted children should, or should not, have access to their birth records). In analysing, you isolate an unsolved problem or unanswered question (for instance, the failure of an economics theory to explain a change in the economy or the significance of a repeated image in the work of a poet), and then you attempt to reach a solution or answer through critical evaluation (or analysis) of relevant scholarly sources or of texts such as literary works or historical documents. As the examples indicate, reporting generally serves an explanatory purpose, while interpreting and analysing may serve either an explanatory or a persuasive purpose.
The three operations are not exclusive. p. 530-531, Fowler, Aaron, Downey, and Pell

The distinctive feature of the research paper assignment is that it requires you to find and use information in library books and periodicals and to acknowledge your sources properly. . . . You [must] decide whether the purpose of your paper will be chiefly informative (to report, analyze, or explain) or persuasive ( to prove a point). p. 473, Hodges, Whitten, Brown, and Flick

In time, you will come to understand that knowledge is not always something conveyed by experts in books and articles to novice writers who merely copy the ideas of the experts onto the pages of their research papers. In truth, you will want to generate new ideas about the issues and defend your position with the weight of your argument, as well as with the strength of your evidence. You will want to cite the sources that support your ideas, not cite the sources just because they relate to your subject. p. xvii, Lester

To gain power over your research project, you need to establish a feeling of authority. This means finding your own personal angle on the topic or finding the aspect of the topic that you care about. pp. 3-4, Hughes, Silverman, and Wienbroer

Perhaps in elementary or high school you . . . wrote a library paper. That is, you recorded facts you discovered and then handed in the results. If you only compiled information without making evaluations or interpretations about it, you were actually preparing a report.

. . .

A research paper differs from a report . . . in one major way: you are expected to evaluate or interpret or in some other way add to and participate in the information you gather and write about. In a research paper, you are expected to develop a point of view toward your material, take a stand, express some original thought. pp. 2-3, Roth

 

 What a research paper IS:

  1. The research paper synthesizes your discoveries about a topic and your judgment, interpretation, and evaluation of those discoveries.
  2. The research paper is a work that shows your originality.
  3. The research paper acknowledges all sources you have used.
  4. The research paper shows that you are part of a community of scholars.

 What a research paper IS NOT:

  1. A summary of an article or a book (or other source material) is NOT a research paper.
  2. The ideas of others, repeated uncritically, do NOT make a research paper.
  3. A series of quotations, no matter how skillfully put together, does NOT make a research paper.
  4. Unsubstantiated personal opinion does NOT constitute a research paper.
  5. Copying or accepting another person’s work without acknowledging it, whether the work is published or unpublished, professional or amateur, in NOT research. IT IS PLAGIARISM. pp. 2-5, Roth 

A research paper is a formal essay based on your exploration of other people’s ideas, rather than simply an analysis of your own thoughts. Although both the expository essay and the persuasive essay may use source material to some extent, the research essay is unique. Its purpose is to formulate a thesis based on a survey and assessment of source material. p. 79, Buckley

 A research paper is not

bullet a mindless regurgitation of everything you have read about a subject; 
bullet the reiteration of an argument you have found in a book or article, with a few other sources thrown in here and there to show your teacher that you “covered ” the subject.

 

. . .

A research paper is a report that an individual presents to others about the conclusions he or she has reached after investigating a subject and carefully assessing the information he or she has gathered. p. 3, Hubbuch

 

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P.S.

 

Thanks to the writer of this article, copied/reblogged from http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/bobtam/website/what_iexpect.htm.

 

 

 

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