Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Exploring research papers, part of Writing Research Papers.
Research. Even the thought of it can be intimidating. How do I find the right research? How do I know if I have enough research? How do I know if the research is credible? Or once I find it, how should I incorporate it into my paper? How can I avoid plagiarizing if I use someone else's sources? All of these are valid questions and concerns. First, consider that we research every day. Not as formally, of course, as we do for a research paper, but we might compare and contrast clothing brands, or we might classify restaurants by types of food or by prices.
How would we get that reasearch? Probably by talking to people who have personal knowledge. Maybe by looking at online reviews, by making personal visits to the restaurant, or hands-on examining the clothing items. Why is researching clothing brands or restaurants important? After all, all clothes have the same basic function and all restaurants have food for sale. Research is crucial because it can strengthen any argument, can add depth to the discussion and can help eliminate a personal bias.
It gives credibility to what you're saying, and your research paper is more interesting to read with facts and statistics and quotes. Which of these two paragraphs about the importance of sleep would you choose as being credible, interesting, and objective? We all need sleep, but sometimes we stay up too late doing other things. I know I can't miss my favorite television program that comes on at 10:00 p.m. Not getting enough sleep can cause mental and health problems. Everyone needs to find a way to get enough quality sleep. Or this one. There's never enough time to get everything completed and get enough sleep. We have to answer email, do laundry, study and watch that special television program. One possible solution is to sleep less. However, research shows that people are more likely to succeed at all of those other tasks and be healthier, if they get enough sleep. Two-thirds of Americans say they lose sleep because of stress, and losing that sleep creates more stress. For example, less sleep results in more anxiety, impaired memory, and even increased heart disease.
And the more we worry about these issues, the less sleep we get. Setting a regular bedtime, having a daily exercise routine, and reducing the amount of caffeine, can all help in getting enough of that all-important sleep. That second version is more detailed and specific. It's more interesting and more credible and objective, because it is supported by research, not just the writer's opinion. Research papers are strengthened by facts and statistics, quotes from experts, and major and minor detail to add depth.
This research can be secondary research from books, articles, and other reports, or primary research, such as a survey you took or an interview you conducted. A research paper's purpose may be to describe, a vacation, for example, or to classify different types of vacations. A cruise versus a leisurely family road trip versus an outdoor adventure. You would need to research what the vacation included and maybe even use your own experience having taken one of those vacations. Primary research.
Or, if the purpose is to persuade a reader on a controversial topic, such as raise the national age for getting a driver's license, you'll need to research accident rates by age categories, insurance rates and driver education courses. Or, if your paper's purpose is to illustrate the best method for a process, such as advertising campaign for a new small business owner. You would need research on advertising in general, the cost of different advertising methods and the demographics of the target audience.
Maybe your purpose is to show a cause effect, such as better time management skills equal more productivity. You would need research examples of companies or individual's testimonials, and how better time management resulted in increased productivity. And stats on how clients follow up and resulting sales increased after time management training for the sales staff. Whatever the paper's purpose, length, or topic, research is necessary to increase your credibility as a writer, to make your paper more engaging, and to strengthen your paper's purpose.
- Understanding the different types of research papers
- Researching the topic
- Brainstorming your focus
- Developing a thesis statement
- Writing topic sentences
- Composing a title
- Using a style guide
- Formatting your paper