How to Write a Research Essay

The research essay is also called the research paper and the term paper. Along with being one of the most frequently assigned compositions, it is also one that strikes terror in the hearts of many students. However, once you know how to research and organize a research essay, it can be one of the most satisfying papers to write.

A major part of writing the research essay is compiling and organizing the information you need to write the paper. The best way to begin researching is to “start fresh”. Whether the topic is assigned or one of your own choice, clear your mind of all opinions and ideas on the topic until you have reviewed expert information on the topic. Then decide if your paper will be expository or argumentative in nature.

Like all essays, the research essay has three main parts: It begins with the introduction followed by the body and, of course, concludes with the conclusion. Yet, the body of the research essay usually has several distinct sections that are unique in either type or placement when compared to other types of essays.

Parts of the research essay include:
The Introduction: Like every essay, the introduction to a research essay introduces the topic. It may also include your statement of interest in the topic. How you introduce the topic is a matter of your personal choice. Some examples are:

The Thesis: While your thesis should appear as early as you can fit it into your research essay, it may be placed either in the introduction or in the first paragraph of the body, depending on the subject and depth of the information your essay explores. The thesis should be clear and concise. A rule of thumb says that if your thesis extends beyond a single sentence, you may need to redefine your argument. As usual, the supporting points of your thesis directly follow it.

Argument and Documentation: The “meat of your research essay”, the argument and documentation section presents your case. How you develop your points depends on whether your essay format is expository or argumentative.

The Historiography: The historiography is an overview of other works written on the same topic, those that share your point of view as well those opposing your argument. Although often addressed only in footnotes or endnotes, you may place the historiography within the body if it is important to the development of your essay. For instance, you might use the historiography to acknowledge a contradicting position and explain why it's invalid or to introduce an expert source that agrees with your viewpoint.

Discussion of Sources: Different from the usual list of cited sources, the research essay takes time to discuss sources of information. The discussion of sources takes into account the biases and weaknesses of your sources as well as their strengths and the value they add to your argument. Furthermore, in a discussion of sources you may also include sources that you didn't use and the reasons why you omitted them from your paper.

Although the discussion of sources also is most often found in footnotes, its placement depends upon its importance to your topic and to the development of your article.

Conclusion: Again, the conclusion of a research essay differs from the standard essay format. Although you'll redefine your thesis and summarize the supporting points, you may choose to add some pertinent information. For instance, the conclusion of a research essay is the only place in your paper where it's appropriate to express your personal opinion. Furthermore, you might add information that connects your topic to a contemporary issue such as how it brought about some significant change. You may also provide avenues for further research.





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