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WelcometothePurdueOWL
ThispageisbroughttoyoubytheOWLatPurdue
(https://owl.english.purdue.edu/).Whenprintingthispage,youmustinclude
theentirelegalnoticeatbottom.

Contributors:JackRaymondBaker,AllenBrizee,AshleyVelzquez.
Summary:
Thishandoutprovidesdetailedinformationabouthowtowriteresearchpapersincluding
discussingresearchpapersasagenre,choosingtopics,andfindingsources.

WritingaResearchPaper
Theresearchpaper
Therewillcomeatimeinmoststudents'careerswhentheyareassignedaresearchpaper.Such
anassignmentoftencreatesagreatdealofunneededanxietyinthestudent,whichmayresultin
procrastinationandafeelingofconfusionandinadequacy.Thisanxietyfrequentlystemsfrom
thefactthatmanystudentsareunfamiliarandinexperiencedwiththisgenreofwriting.Never
fearinexperienceandunfamiliarityaresituationsyoucanchangethroughpractice!Writinga
researchpaperisanessentialaspectofacademicsandshouldnotbeavoidedonaccountofone's
anxiety.Infact,theprocessofwritingaresearchpapercanbeoneofthemorerewarding
experiencesonemayencounterinacademics.Whatismore,manystudentswillcontinuetodo
researchthroughouttheircareers,whichisoneofthereasonsthistopicissoimportant.
Becominganexperiencedresearcherandwriterinanyfieldordisciplinetakesagreatdealof
practice.Therearefewindividualsforwhomthisprocesscomesnaturally.Remember,eventhe
mostseasonedacademicveteranshavehadtolearnhowtowritearesearchpaperatsomepoint
intheircareer.Therefore,withdiligence,organization,practice,awillingnesstolearn(andto
makemistakes!),and,perhapsmostimportantofall,patience,astudentwillfindthatshecan
achievegreatthingsthroughherresearchandwriting.
Thishandoutwillincludethefollowingsectionsrelatedtotheprocessofwritingaresearch
paper:
GenreThissectionwillprovideanoverviewforunderstandingthedifferencebetweenan
analyticalandargumentativeresearchpaper.
ChoosingaTopicThissectionwillguidethestudentthroughtheprocessofchoosing
topics,whetherthetopicbeonethatisassignedoronethatthestudentchooseshimself.
IdentifyinganAudienceThissectionwillhelpthestudentunderstandtheoftentimes
confusingtopicofaudiencebyofferingsomebasicguidelinesfortheprocess.
WhereDoIBeginThissectionconcludesthehandoutbyofferingseverallinksto
resourcesatPurdue,andalsoprovidesanoverviewofthefinalstagesofwritingaresearch
paper.
Contributors:JackRaymondBaker,AllenBrizee,AshleyVelzquez.
Summary:
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Thishandoutprovidesdetailedinformationabouthowtowriteresearchpapersincluding
discussingresearchpapersasagenre,choosingtopics,andfindingsources.

GenreandtheResearchPaper
Research:Whatitis.
Aresearchpaperistheculminationandfinalproductofaninvolvedprocessofresearch,critical
thinking,sourceevaluation,organization,andcomposition.Itis,perhaps,helpfultothinkofthe
researchpaperasalivingthing,whichgrowsandchangesasthestudentexplores,interprets,and
evaluatessourcesrelatedtoaspecifictopic.Primaryandsecondarysourcesaretheheartofa
researchpaper,andprovideitsnourishmentwithoutthesupportofandinteractionwiththese
sources,theresearchpaperwouldmorphintoadifferentgenreofwriting(e.g.,anencyclopedic
article).Theresearchpaperservesnotonlytofurtherthefieldinwhichitiswritten,butalsoto
providethestudentwithanexceptionalopportunitytoincreaseherknowledgeinthatfield.Itis
alsopossibletoidentifyaresearchpaperbywhatitisnot.
Research:Whatitisnot.
Aresearchpaperisnotsimplyaninformedsummaryofatopicbymeansofprimaryand
secondarysources.Itisneitherabookreportnoranopinionpiecenoranexpositoryessay
consistingsolelyofone'sinterpretationofatextnoranoverviewofaparticulartopic.Instead,it
isagenrethatrequiresonetospendtimeinvestigatingandevaluatingsourceswiththeintentto
offerinterpretationsofthetexts,andnotunconsciousregurgitationsofthosesources.Thegoalof
aresearchpaperisnottoinformthereaderwhatothershavetosayaboutatopic,buttodrawon
whatothershavetosayaboutatopicandengagethesourcesinordertothoughtfullyoffera
uniqueperspectiveontheissueathand.Thisisaccomplishedthroughtwomajortypesof
researchpapers.
Twomajortypesofresearchpapers.
Argumentativeresearchpaper:
Theargumentativeresearchpaperconsistsofanintroductioninwhichthewriterclearly
introducesthetopicandinformshisaudienceexactlywhichstanceheintendstotakethisstance
isoftenidentifiedasthethesisstatement.Animportantgoaloftheargumentativeresearch
paperispersuasion,whichmeansthetopicchosenshouldbedebatableorcontroversial.For
example,itwouldbedifficultforastudenttosuccessfullyargueinfavorofthefollowingstance.
Cigarettesmokingposesmedicaldangersandmayleadtocancerforboththesmokerandthose
whoexperiencesecondhandsmoke.
Perhaps25yearsagothistopicwouldhavebeendebatablehowever,today,itisassumedthat
smokingcigarettesis,indeed,harmfultoone'shealth.Abetterthesiswouldbethefollowing.
Althoughithasbeenproventhatcigarettesmokingmayleadtosundryhealthproblemsinthe
smoker,thesocialacceptanceofsmokinginpublicplacesdemonstratesthatmanystilldonot
considersecondhandsmokeasdangeroustoone'shealthasfirsthandsmoke.
Inthissentence,thewriterisnotchallengingthecurrentacceptedstancethatbothfirsthandand
secondhandcigarettesmokeisdangerousrather,sheispositingthatthesocialacceptanceofthe
latterovertheformerisindicativeofaculturaldoublestandardofsorts.Thestudentwould
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supportthisthesisthroughoutherpaperbymeansofbothprimaryandsecondarysources,with
theintenttopersuadeheraudiencethatherparticularinterpretationofthesituationisviable.
Analyticalresearchpaper:
Theanalyticalresearchpaperoftenbeginswiththestudentaskingaquestion(a.k.a.aresearch
question)onwhichhehastakennostance.Suchapaperisoftenanexerciseinexplorationand
evaluation.Forexample,perhapsoneisinterestedintheOldEnglishpoemBeowulf.Hehasread
thepoemintentlyanddesirestoofferafreshreadingofthepoemtotheacademiccommunity.
Hisquestionmaybeasfollows.
HowshouldoneinterpretthepoemBeowulf?
Hisresearchmayleadhimtothefollowingconclusion.
Beowulfisapoemwhosepurposeitwastoserveasanexemplumofheterodoxyfortenthand
eleventhcenturymonasticcommunities.
Thoughhistopicmaybedebatableandcontroversial,itisnotthestudent'sintenttopersuadethe
audiencethathisideasarerightwhilethoseofothersarewrong.Instead,hisgoalistooffera
criticalinterpretationofprimaryandsecondarysourcesthroughoutthepapersourcesthat
should,ultimately,buttresshisparticularanalysisofthetopic.Thefollowingisanexampleof
whathisthesisstatementmaylooklikeoncehehascompletedhisresearch.
ThoughBeowulfisoftenreadasapoemthatrecountstheheroismandsupernaturalexploitsof
theprotagonistBeowulf,itmayalsobereadasapoemthatservedasanexemplumof
heterodoxyfortenthandeleventhcenturymonasticcommunitiesfoundintheDanelaw.
ThisstatementdoesnotnegatethetraditionalreadingsofBeowulfinstead,itoffersafreshand
detailedreadingofthepoemthatwillbesupportedbythestudent'sresearch.
Itistypicallynotuntilthestudenthasbegunthewritingprocessthathisthesisstatementbegins
totakesolidform.Infact,thethesisstatementinananalyticalpaperisoftenmorefluidthanthe
thesisinanargumentativepaper.Suchisoneofthebenefitsofapproachingthetopicwithouta
predeterminedstance.
Contributors:JackRaymondBaker,AllenBrizee,AshleyVelzquez.
Summary:
Thishandoutprovidesdetailedinformationabouthowtowriteresearchpapersincluding
discussingresearchpapersasagenre,choosingtopics,andfindingsources.

ChoosingaTopic
Thefirststepofanyresearchpaperisforthestudenttounderstandtheassignment.Ifthisisnot
done,thestudentwilloftentraveldownmanydeadendroads,wastingagreatdealoftimealong
theway.Donothesitatetoapproachtheinstructorwithquestionsifthereisanyconfusion.A
clearunderstandingoftheassignmentwillallowyoutofocusonotheraspectsoftheprocess,
suchaschoosingatopicandidentifyingyouraudience.
Topic

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Astudentwilloftenencounteroneoftwosituationswhenitcomestochoosingatopicfora
researchpaper.Thefirstsituationoccurswhentheinstructorprovidesalistoftopicsfromwhich
thestudentmaychoose.Thesetopicshavebeendeemedworthybytheinstructortherefore,the
studentshouldbeconfidentinthetopichechoosesfromthelist.Manyfirsttimeresearchers
appreciatesuchanarrangementbytheinstructorbecauseiteliminatesthestressofhavingto
decideuponatopicontheirown.
However,thestudentmayalsofindthetopicsthathavebeenprovidedtobelimitingmoreover,
itisnotuncommonforthestudenttohaveatopicinmindthatdoesnotfitwithanyofthose
provided.Ifthisisthecase,itisalwaysbeneficialtoapproachtheinstructorwithone'sideas.Be
respectful,andasktheinstructorifthetopicyouhaveinmindwouldbeapossibleresearch
optionfortheassignment.Remember,asafirsttimeresearcher,yourknowledgeoftheprocess
isquitelimitedtheinstructorisexperienced,andmayhaveveryprecisereasonsforchoosingthe
topicsshehasofferedtotheclass.Trustthatshehasthebestinterestsoftheclassinmind.Ifshe
likesthetopic,great!Ifnot,donottakeitpersonallyandchoosethetopicfromthelistthat
seemsmostinterestingtoyou.
Thesecondsituationoccurswhentheinstructorsimplyhandsoutanassignmentsheetthat
coversthelogisticsoftheresearchpaper,butleavesthechoiceoftopicuptothestudent.
Typically,assignmentsinwhichstudentsaregiventheopportunitytochoosethetopicrequire
thetopictoberelevanttosomeaspectofthecourseso,keepthisinmindasyoubeginacourse
inwhichyouknowtherewillbearesearchpaperneartheend.Thatway,youcanbeonthe
lookoutforatopicthatmayinterestyou.Donotbeanxiousonaccountofaperceivedlackof
authorityorknowledgeaboutthetopicchosen.Instead,realizethatittakespracticetobecomean
experiencedresearcherinanyfield.
ForadiscussionofEvaluatingSources,seeEvaluatingSourcesofInformation.
Methodsforchoosingatopic
Thinkingearlyleadstostartingearly.Ifthestudentbeginsthinkingaboutpossibletopicswhen
theassignmentisgiven,shehasalreadybegunthearduous,yetrewarding,taskofplanningand
organization.Onceshehasmadetheassignmentapriorityinhermind,shemaybegintohave
ideasthroughouttheday.Brainstormingisoftenasuccessfulwayforstudentstogetsomeof
theseideasdownonpaper.Seeingone'sideasinwritingisoftenanimpetusforthewriting
process.Thoughbrainstormingisparticularlyeffectivewhenatopichasbeenchosen,itcanalso
benefitthestudentwhoisunabletonarrowatopic.Itconsistsofatimedwritingsessionduring
whichthestudentjotsdownofteninlistorbulletedformanyideasthatcometohismind.At
theendofthetimedperiod,thestudentwillperusehislistforpatternsofconsistency.Ifit
appearsthatsomethingseemstobestandingoutinhismindmorethanothers,itmaybewiseto
pursuethisasatopicpossibility.
Itisimportantforthestudenttokeepinmindthataninitialtopicthatyoucomeupwithmaynot
betheexacttopicaboutwhichyouendupwriting.Researchtopicsareoftenfluid,anddictated
morebythestudent'songoingresearchthanbytheoriginalchosentopic.Suchfluidityis
commoninresearch,andshouldbeembracedasoneofitsmanycharacteristics.
ThePurdueOWLalsooffersanumberofotherresourcesonchoosinganddevelopingatopic:
UnderstandingWritingAssignments
Prewriting
StartingtheWritingProcess
InventionSlidePresentation
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Contributors:JackRaymondBaker,AllenBrizee,AshleyVelzquez.
Summary:
Thishandoutprovidesdetailedinformationabouthowtowriteresearchpapersincluding
discussingresearchpapersasagenre,choosingtopics,andfindingsources.

IdentifyinganAudience
IdentifyinganAudience
Theconceptofaudiencecanbeveryconfusingfornoviceresearchers.Shouldthestudent's
audiencebeherinstructoronly,orshouldherpaperattempttoreachalargeracademiccrowd?
Thesearetwoextremesonthependulumcoursethatisaudiencetheformeristoonarrowofan
audience,whilethelatteristoobroad.Therefore,itisimportantforthestudenttoarticulatean
audiencethatfallssomewhereinbetween.
Itisperhapshelpfultoapproachtheaudienceofaresearchpaperinthesamewayonewould
whenpreparingforanoralpresentation.Often,onechangesherstyle,tone,diction,etc.,when
presentingtodifferentaudiences.Soitiswithwritingaresearchpaper(Infact,youmayneedto
transformyourwrittenworkintoanoralworkifyoufindyourselfpresentingataconference
someday).
Theinstructorshouldbeconsideredonlyonememberofthepaper'saudienceheispartofthe
academicaudiencethatdesiresstudentstoinvestigate,research,andevaluateatopic.Tryto
imagineanaudiencethatwouldbeinterestedinandbenefitfromyourresearch.
Forexample:ifthestudentiswritingatwelvepageresearchpaperaboutethanolandits
importanceasanenergysourceofthefuture,wouldshewritewithanaudienceofelementary
studentsinmind?Thiswouldbeunlikely.Instead,shewouldtailorherwritingtobeaccessible
toanaudienceoffellowengineersandperhapstothescientificcommunityingeneral.Whatis
more,shewouldassumetheaudiencetobeatacertaineducationalleveltherefore,shewould
notspendtimeinsuchashortresearchpaperdefiningtermsandconceptsalreadyfamiliarto
thoseinthefield.However,sheshouldalsoavoidthetypeofesotericdiscussionthat
condescendstoheraudience.Again,thestudentmustarticulateamiddleground.
Thefollowingarequestionsthatmayhelpthestudentdiscernfurtherheraudience:
WhoisthegeneralaudienceIwanttoreach?
WhoismostlikelytobeinterestedintheresearchIamdoing?
WhatisitaboutmytopicthatintereststhegeneralaudienceIhavediscerned?
IftheaudienceIamwritingforisnotparticularlyinterestedinmytopic,whatshouldIdo
topiqueitsinterest?
WilleachmemberofthebroadlyconceivedaudienceagreewithwhatIhavetosay?
Ifnot(whichwilllikelybethecase!)whatcounterargumentsshouldIbepreparedto
answer?
Remember,oneofthepurposesofaresearchpaperistoaddsomethingnewtotheacademic
community,andthefirsttimeresearchershouldunderstandherroleasaninitiateintoa
particularcommunityofscholars.Asthestudentincreasesherinvolvementinthefield,her
understandingofheraudiencewillgrowaswell.Onceagain,practiceliesattheheartofthe
thing.

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Contributors:JackRaymondBaker,AllenBrizee,AshleyVelzquez.
Summary:
Thishandoutprovidesdetailedinformationabouthowtowriteresearchpapersincluding
discussingresearchpapersasagenre,choosingtopics,andfindingsources.

WheredoIBegin?
WheredoIbegin?
Thereisneithertemplatenorshortcutforwritingaresearchpaperagain,theprocessis,amongst
otherthings,oneofpractice,experience,andorganization,andbeginswiththestudentproperly
understandingtheassignmentathand.
Asmanycollegestudentsknow,thewritermayfindhimselfcomposingthreequitedifferent
researchpapersforthreequitedifferentcoursesallatthesametimeinasinglesemester.Eachof
thesepapersmayhavevaryingpagelengths,guidelines,andexpectations.
Therefore,inorderforastudenttobecomeanexperiencedresearcherandwriter,shemustnot
onlypayparticularattentiontothegenre,topic,andaudience,butmustalsobecomeskilledin
researching,outlining,drafting,andrevising.
Research
Foradiscussionofwheretobeginone'sresearch,seeResearch:Overview.
Outlining
Outliningisanintegralpartoftheprocessofwriting.ForadetaileddiscussionseeDeveloping
anOutline.
Drafting
Draftingisoneofthelaststagesintheprocessofwritingaresearchpaper.Nodraftingshould
takeplacewithoutaresearchquestionorthesisstatementotherwise,thestudentwillfind
himselfwritingwithoutapurposeordirection.Thinkoftheresearchquestionorthesisstatement
asacompass.Theresearchthestudenthascompletedisavastseaofinformationthroughwhich
hemustnavigatewithoutacompass,thestudentwillbetossedaimlesslyaboutbythewavesof
sources.Intheend,hemightdiscovertheAmericas(thoughthejourneywillbemuchlonger
thanneeded),orandwhatismorelikelyhewillsink.
Forsomehelpfulideasconcerningtheinitialstagesofwriting,seeStartingtheWritingProcess
.
Revising,Editing,Proofreading
Revisingistheprocessconsistingof:
Major,sweeping,changestothevariousdraftsofaproject
Anevaluationofwordchoicethroughouttheproject
Theremovalparagraphsandsometimes,quitepainfully,completepagesoftext
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Rethinkingthewholeprojectandreworkingitasneeded
Editingisaprocessinterestedinthegeneralappearanceofatext,andincludesthefollowing:
Analysisoftheconsistencyoftoneandvoicethroughouttheproject
Correctionofminorerrorsinmechanicsandtypography
Evaluationofthelogicalflowofthoughtbetweenparagraphsandmajorideas
Thisprocessisbestcompletedtowardthefinalstagesoftheproject,sincemuchofwhatis
writtenearlyonisboundtochangeanyway.
Proofreadingisthefinalstageinthewritingprocess,andconsistsofadetailedfinalrereadin
ordertofindanymistakesthatmayhavebeenoverlookedinthepreviousrevisions.
Foradiscussionofproofreading,seeProofreadingYourWriting.
Contributors:JackRaymondBaker,AllenBrizee,AshleyVelzquez.
Summary:
Thishandoutprovidesdetailedinformationabouthowtowriteresearchpapersincluding
discussingresearchpapersasagenre,choosingtopics,andfindingsources.

WritingaResearchPaper:Generating
Questions&TopicsWorkshop
Thisworkshopdiscussesstrategiesforgettingstartedonaresearchpaper,includinggenerating
questionsandideasfortopics.TodownloadthePowerPointfile,clickontheabovelink.
PleasenotethatthisworkshopwasdevelopedaspartofthePurdueLanguageandCulture
Exchange(PLaCE)programforPurdueUniversity'sWestLafayettecampus.PLaCEfocuseson
providinginternationalstudentswithadditionallinguisticandculturalsupportastheacclimateto
theNorthAmericanhighereducationalcontext.

Copyright19952016byTheWritingLab&TheOWLatPurdueandPurdueUniversity.Allrightsreserved.
Thismaterialmaynotbepublished,reproduced,broadcast,rewritten,orredistributedwithoutpermission.Useof
thissiteconstitutesacceptanceofourtermsandconditionsoffairuse.

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