Understanding Assignments Part II
Last week on our blog we talked about different types of assignments, including literary analysis, summary, and response or reflection essays. This week we’ll talk about two different types of research papers: analytical research papers and argumentative research papers.
A research paper is a type of essay that requires the writer to investigate and integrate sources related to his or her subject. It is not a summary, nor an exposition, nor an opinion piece, but might take on elements of all of those genres. Research papers offer an informed study of a topic that engage outside source material, including primary and secondary sources, to offer other perspectives on an issue.
Argumentative Research Paper
The goal of an argument paper is to persuade the audience of the merits of a debatable topic. If the topic is not debatable, meaning there are two sides to the topic, it is not considered argumentative. The writer of an argument paper must make a claim (the thesis statement) and back it up with source material. Outside research is included to support and prove your point, or claim (thesis). The writer of a successful argument paper will spend a good amount of time pouring over research that best supports his or her argument. The argument paper will also include opposition. If there is no opposition, there is no argument.
The topic for an argument paper must be debatable and is often controversial. Read the following examples of arguments, and decide if they are debatable:
- Body piercing is popular among the youth of today.
- There are a lot of benefits to using computers in grade school.
- There are some negative and positive aspects to lowering the drinking age.
If you guessed they are not debatable, you are right. How can you reword each one to make it an argumentative thesis statement?
Analytical Research Paper
An analytical research paper differs from the argument paper in that it often begins with a research question which the writer will explore and evaluate. An analysis leads us to determine what something “means”; what is the “how” or “why” behind a topic? A thesis statement in an analytical paper will most often answer a “how” or “why” question.
Some examples of analytical thesis statement might be
- Childhood obesity may result from environmental factors, socio-economic factors, and genetics.
- An analysis of the sandhill crane reveals conflicting research on their once-believed monogamous mating habits.
As you can see, the thesis statements above do not present the topic in the form of an argument, but in the form of a statement that clearly communicates or forecasts the essays’ contents. The analysis will often analyze different points of view on an issue or topic, but may not necessarily support either side of the issue. The topic may very well be debatable, but the writer’s purpose is not necessarily to persuade the reader of a position, as in the argument paper.
Other Types of Analysis Papers
Literature instructors will often require students to write a literary analysis paper on an assigned reading (see last week’s blog post). A literary analysis paper attempts to present an idea about a text through careful examination of the text’s components, incorporating the writer’s insights. A literary analysis research paper will incorporate outside research or sources other than the primary text. The literary analysis will significantly expand a reader’s understanding of a text, often by making an assertion about the text. The writer might introduce a theory or interpretation (the thesis statement) about the text, then fully “analyze” this interpretation through close reading, textual support, and secondary source material.
Academic jargon can often be difficult for the new students to understand. Always refer to your assignment objectives and ask your instructor to clarify any ambiguous or confusing lingo.
For more information on research papers, visit the following links:
Research Thesis Statement Examples
Literary Analysis Thesis Statement Examples
Published by E. Mack
Writing Center Underground is supported by Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska and maintained by Elizabeth Mack, Writing Center consultant. The Writing Center, staffed by experienced English teachers and writing consultants, provides professional assistance and outreach programs to help students and faculty with written communication across the disciplines and beyond. Simply stated, the Writing Center is a place into which writers invite other writers to dialogue about writing. View all posts by E. Mack
Analytical vs. Argumentative Research Papers
When writing a research paper, you have the choice of two main approaches: analytical and argumentative. Sometimes your research assignment may specify which approach you should use, but sometimes the decision on how to approach your topic rests on your shoulders. The scope and purpose of your paper determines which approach is more suited to your topic.
While there are distinct differences between writing an analytical research paper and writing an argumentative research paper, there are some common principles as well:
- Logical thinking is necessary.
- Smart evaluation of information fuels what is included.
- Comprehensive research of source material is conducted.
The major difference between the two research paper types is made in the process of writing, or presenting the topic. Analytical papers create a balanced, neutral approach to presenting a snapshot of an overall topic from which you draw conclusions, and argumentative papers create a debate between differing sides with a logical argument that favors one side of an argument over another.
The analytical research paper
Forming a research question is the basis of an analytical research paper. The question is neutral and provides direction for you to evaluate and explore the topic as it relates to answering the question. Your thesis statement presents the research question, and the remainder of your paper supports your thesis.
This type of research paper is not a simple regurgitation of information. Instead, it is your thoughts, conclusions and evaluations of a topic that is backed up with logical information. Several things are vital in formulating an analytical research paper:
- You answer the research questions objectively.
- You have no preconceived notions or opinions about the topic.
- You evaluate the topic and draw conclusions from factual information from reliable sources.
- You piece findings together to present the purpose of the paper.
- You use serious contemplation and a critical evaluation to answer the research question.
The argumentative research paper
Taking one side of an issue or topic is the central point of an argumentative research paper. Your stance is built into the thesis statement, which makes the argument you feel is more logical for the given topic. The biggest goal of this type of paper is to convince your readers to agree with your point of view by backing up your position with a logical argument supported by facts and information from credible sources.
An argumentative research paper does not simply demand readers agree with you based solely on your opinion. Instead, careful and structured research is used to demonstrate the viability of your argument by providing information that allows readers to draw the same logical conclusion. There are several things that are crucial in writing this type of paper:
- You use logical persuasion to build your argument in order to convince readers.
- You clearly state your argument or stance in the thesis statement.
- You introduce the topic sufficiently before taking a stance.
- You use credible sources to back up your position and include information about the opposing view.
- You use critical evaluation to create a logical argument.
Regardless of which research paper type you are undertaking, the backbone of writing a great paper starts with conducting thorough and structured research, using effective note-taking strategies and forming a strong thesis statement. While the thesis statement you start with may evolve as you write your paper, an analytical research paper has a more fluid thesis than an argumentative one; the thesis statement may undergo more changes as you begin outlining, writing a rough draft or finalizing your paper.
As you work through the organization process of writing a research paper, stay aware of which approach your topic requires to stay focused on the right aspects of the topic. If you are writing with an analytical approach, use an objective and logical presentation of facts to answer your research question. If you are writing with an argumentative approach, use logical thinking and an accurate representation of both sides of an issue while persuading your audience to reach the same conclusions you do.