Genre and the Research Paper
This handout provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.
Contributors: Jack Raymond Baker, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez
Last Edited: 2011-03-30 09:06:38
Research: What it is.
A research paper is the culmination and final product of an involved process of research, critical thinking, source evaluation, organization, and composition. It is, perhaps, helpful to think of the research paper as a living thing, which grows and changes as the student explores, interprets, and evaluates sources related to a specific topic. 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 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 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. For example, it would be difficult for a student to successfully argue in favor of the following stance.
Cigarette smoking poses medical dangers and may lead to cancer for both the smoker and those who experience secondhand smoke.
Perhaps 25 years ago this topic would have been debatable; however, today, it is assumed that smoking cigarettes is, indeed, harmful to one's health. A better thesis would be the following.
Although it has been proven that cigarette smoking may lead to sundry health problems in the smoker, the social acceptance of smoking in public places demonstrates that many still do not consider secondhand smoke as dangerous to one's health as firsthand smoke.
In this sentence, the writer is not challenging the current accepted stance that both firsthand and secondhand cigarette smoke is dangerous; rather, she is positing that the social acceptance of the latter over the former is indicative of a cultural double-standard of sorts. The student would support this thesis throughout her paper by means of both primary and secondary sources, with the intent to persuade her audience that her particular interpretation of the situation is viable.
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. For example, perhaps one is interested in the Old English poem Beowulf. He has read the poem intently and desires to offer a fresh reading of the poem to the academic community. His question may be as follows.
How should one interpret the poem Beowulf?
His research may lead him to the following conclusion.
Beowulf is a poem whose purpose it was to serve as an exemplum of heterodoxy for tenth- and eleventh-century monastic communities.
Though his topic may be debatable and controversial, it is not the student's intent to persuade the audience that his ideas are right while those of others are wrong. Instead, his goal is to offer a critical interpretation of primary and secondary sources throughout the paper--sources that should, ultimately, buttress his particular analysis of the topic. The following is an example of what his thesis statement may look like once he has completed his research.
Though Beowulf is often read as a poem that recounts the heroism and supernatural exploits of the protagonist Beowulf, it may also be read as a poem that served as an exemplum of heterodoxy for tenth- and eleventh-century monastic communities found in the Danelaw.
This statement does not negate the traditional readings of Beowulf; instead, it offers a fresh and detailed reading of the poem that will be supported by the student's research.
It is typically not until the student has begun the writing process that his thesis statement begins to take solid form. In fact, the thesis statement in an analytical paper is often more fluid than the thesis in an argumentative paper. Such is one of the benefits of approaching the topic without a predetermined stance.
Before reading a research paper, people usually look at its thesis statement. It helps them to understand if your paper is useful for them. This small sentence can concentrate all the important information about your study: the main idea and the questions that are answered on the pages of your research paper.
You should not underrate the significance of a thesis statement for research paper. People would not read the whole document to understand its main ideas or purpose, and your professor is not an exception – he will take a look at the intro of your research paper and decide whether it is worth to continue reading right away. Thus, it is fair to say that a thesis statement is a key to your project’s success!
How to Write a Thesis for a Research Paper?
To get a general understanding of what it is and how it should look like, search for examples of such statements online – there are lots of samples available for reading and downloading so you can find many suitable examples. Note that many of them may be not quite good. Also, note that such samples may not match the type of your task.
If you understand what the main goals of your research are, what you want to prove and explain by it, and why you do it, it will be easy to write a research paper thesis statement – just write down the idea of your study and make your thesis statement look like a catchy and informative:
This sentence should also show your position. Let your readers know what your position regarding the subject is, what you think is true, and what you are going to prove, especially if your topic and ideas are very debatable.
Many tutors don’t recommend using questions as statements. Even if the whole research paper is full of answers to specific questions. The list is also not a good form for a thesis statement – it is better to use a simple small sentence that describes the general idea and purpose of your investigation.
You can use “A is true because of B” and other standard formulas. Just write down the first version of your thesis statement and revise it as many times as you need through the course of working on your project. If you start writing your research paper from a thesis statement, you will have to edit it a lot. This will only take more of your time! That is why many write this part and the whole introduction when they have all the other sections; otherwise, if you look at the introduction after writing the main section, you will see that it requires a revision.
The sentence should be focused. Do not put the information that is not relevant or significant. Try to make it brief but specific, make it clear to help readers understand what your research is about and what your position is.
Make it attention-grabbing! If you strive to engage your readers, a good topic and attention-catching thesis can help you with it because if they are debatable and relevant, it will make your readers want to read further to find out more!
Finding an Example
Looking where to find thesis statement examples for research papers? The easiest way is to look for them on the Internet. You can search for research papers examples prepared for similar areas of science, but even if their topics are not similar to yours, you still use them to learn how to write a thesis statement for a research paper.
However, there is one thing to remember. You should understand that these are only examples and you should not simply copy them, it is better to develop a unique piece of writing and use examples only to find out how to write them. Otherwise, it is plagiarism and it can be easily checked.
Need Any Writing Help?
Creating a good thesis is vital because in many cases it sets the tone for the rest of the paper and thus, becomes a decisive point of your project’s success. Where to look for help when writing a research thesis statement becomes difficult for various reasons? Students can use the help of their advisors and teachers. Your tutors can give you a valuable advice, help to write a good outline, clarify the requirements, check your text for mistakes, and provide you with any other help if you need, but they wouldn’t help you too many times, especially if you can find the needed information yourself.
Other students can also help you with writing. However, most of them would not want to waste their time on your assignments as they already have tons of tasks to complete; besides, many other students are not too good at writing research papers so their tips wouldn’t bring much help for you or can even harm.
The fast and reliable way to get a helping hand when working on a thesis statement is turning to essay writing services. Luckily, you have no reasons to look further! Our research paper writing service works with almost all types of academic tasks. With the support of our professional writers, it will be easier to get a good paper on time and don’t waste too much time on it, especially taking into account that you get all of the benefits at a cheap price!