The words “research paper” on a syllabus may pack you with fear. Research papers mean hours spent in the library, more hours toiling with notes and drafts, and the headache of dealing with the arcane rules of documentation.
Before you begin working on a research paper in any course, it is significant to understand what a research paper is not .
- A research paper is not “about” a subject
A research paper should have a thesis — a clear point of view. It is not simply a generalized discussion of an issue.
- A research paper is not a summary of everything you can find
Your purpose is not to collect everything you can find out about a subject and summarize it. Albeit you should review as much material as possible, you should select sources that directly support your thesis.
- A research paper is not a list of quotes
The concentrate of your paper is your point of view, your commentary. Direct quotations, facts, and statistics may be woven across your paper, but they should support your position. Your commentary should do more than simply introduce or link quotations.
- A research paper does not support a pre-conceived point of view
Looking up facts that support what you already believe is not genuine research. You should examine evidence then form an opinion.
- A research paper does not present the ideas of others without documentation
Research papers must use documentation methods to prevent you from plagiarizing sources. Do not borrow ideas, statistics, or facts without noting their original source.
A research paper, no matter what the subject, must achieve specific goals:
Many instructors give specific requirements for research papers, detailing topics, use of sources, and documentation methods.
The more narrow you make your subject, the lighter your paper will be to write. It is better to write about one character in a novel or a play than attempt to comment on an entire work. It is lighter to concentrate on one treatment for a single psychiatric disorder than attempting to address mental health.
A research paper must express a point of view, not simply report on the ideas of others. The concentrate of the paper is not the views of others but your opinions and interpretations.
A research paper does not simply summarize and present the ideas of others. A good research paper distinguishes inbetween reliable and biased sources, inbetween authoritative and questionable statistics, inbetween fact and opinion.