What is a Research Paper?
Before discussing what a research paper is, it is important to note what a research paper is NOT. It is NOT a term paper. In a term paper, you are trying to show the instructor that YOU have learned something. In a research paper, you are essentially telling the reader something that THEY do not know. It is NOT a textbook or a tutorial. You are NOT attempting to teach people who don't know anything about the topic; people read research journals because they are familiar with the general topic, but want to see what insights you might be able to give them about a specific area within that field.
There are some basic criteria that make up a research paper:
A research paper presents the results of your investigations on a selected topic. Based on your own thoughts and the facts and ideas you have gathered from a variety of sources, a research paper is a creation that is uniquely yours. The experience of gathering, interpreting, and documenting information, developing and organizing ideas and conclusions, and communicating them clearly will prove to be an important and satisfying part of your education.
There are many approaches to research — an essential part of every business and profession — and many ways to document findings. The library has books which will help you, and most English composition textbooks contain chapters on research techniques and style. It is important to follow consistently and accurately a recommended format.
The formatting of citations recommended here is based on American Psychological Association (APA) Format (5th Edition). You might also want to check the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers Fifth Edition (1999). Both handbooks can be found at the Library, purchased at the University Bookstore or obtained on-line (The on-line versions are not complete, but sufficient for this course).
This page was last updated on 04/08/04.