ENGL 102
Writing and Research
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Writing a research paper is like any other writing assignment:
first you must determine what is expected of you,
and then you should do your best job in fulfilling that assignment.

The key to this assignment is that it is to be a RESEARCH paper, not a term paper or report.

You are not being asked to just look up some facts and then repeat them back to your reader(s).

Reports Repeat; Research Papers Explain.

You are not being asked to just look up some facts and then repeat them back to your reader(s).

Instead, you are expected to research a subject of your own choosing, and once you've learned something new about that subject, tell your readers about what you've learned and what your opinion or view is of that subject now.

In effect, you will be taking your audience along the same path of discovery that you yourself followed in doing your research. Thus, you must come to a decision or conclusion about your subject before you start writing your research paper.

The main problem with research papers: all the hard work and thinking is done before you start writing.

In this research paper, you should emphasize YOUR opinion and views, not those of your sources. The experts and authorities will be used to support and explain how you developed your ideas and views, not the other way around. If the experts are used to support your thesis, they add weight to your argument(s) because of their reputations and authority. Your opinion adds little to anything to their arguments. It means little if you agree with them, but it means a lot if they agree with you and back up your position.

One unavoidable fact of life is that there will always be people who disagree with your position on any given topic. If you take the attitude that only your position is valid and anyone who doesn't understand after reading your definitive paper is an idiot, you risk alienating your readers. A better approach to take is proving the validity of your belief. You don't deny that other opinions are possible, or even valid in their own way, you just show why you have chosen the view you hold. If you can back this decision up with good examples and a solid argument, you run a lesser risk of alienating your audience. They might still disagree, but they can judge your thesis as an argument or opinion and not as the absolute positive truth.

This focus on your own view does not mean that you simply ignore all sides of an issue except your own, however. It is very important to show that you have looked at all sides of an issue in a fair manner and simply chosen the view that made the most sense to you. Part of leading the reader down your path of discovery is also showing them why other views didn't work for you. Discuss these other views and show why you disagree or disapprove of them. Don't just dismiss them by saying they are obviously stupid or wrong. Remember, somebody believed these other views enough to write about and publish them. Compare and contrast these different views, showing where they do and don't stack up compared to your overall view. You must then prove your case by giving the reader proper and convincing evidence that your view does indeed make more sense than the other views. If only certain parts of certain theories make sense, then form your own theory out of the pieces that make the most sense.

Another key component to research is that you want to double check and verify the claims and ideas of your sources. Just because you have one source that makes a claim does not mean that the argument is valid. You can find at least one source arguing just about any and every claim these days. In order to have the best possible support for your arguments, you will be writing synthesis style papers in this class. In synthesis papers, whenever possible you have multiple sources to support any argument or claim, not just one source. It can be having a statistic from one source and an example from another or two examples from two sources, or any other combination, but the idea is to have multiple sources, not just one.

A successful research paper shows:

This is just a basic primer on the topic of research papers, but it should let you know what your instructor is expecting from your paper and yourself. These guidelines will lead you to a new style of writing a paper that will hopefully make your papers more interesting to yourself and your audience. NOTHING will ever make them less work.

In the course of this course, you will do your research project in several stages or steps, including the working bibliography, the proposal, the outline and the rough draft.

Following these steps is the easiest way to guarantee a better experience, and grade, in this class.

All of these steps are evaluated as pass/fail, but you MUST pass all of them before your rough draft or final draft will be evaluated. The rough draft of the research paper will be evaluated, but will not be given an actual letter grade. The final, revised draft will be evaluated with a grade and count as a large percentage of your overall final grade. It is impossible to pass this course without submitting an acceptable research paper final draft. You can not simply submit a final paper. You must go through the steps and the instructor must see the paper evolve throughout the semester and the research process.

The first step in the research process is to actually start doing research and finding sources. Move on to the next steps to learn how to do research at a college level.