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Seven Ways to Write a Research Paper


Research papers are usually geared toward high school and college students and require an in-depth collection and analysis of information pertaining to a particular topic. They are most often written in one of seven different ways: analytical, argumentative, cause and effect, compare and contrast, definition, interpretive and report. Research papers typically require an introduction that includes a thesis statement and support from primary and secondary sources.

Analytical Research Paper

The analytical research paper generally begins with a question that is explored and examined through the use of primary and secondary resources. For example, after reading Elie Wiesel’s "Night," through your research you might explore the question, “How does Wiesel use language to convey effectively his experience in a World War II concentration camp?” This writing style is regularly used to offer critical analyses of literary works rather than advancing the writer’s personal interpretation of the research.

Argumentative Research Paper

The argumentative research paper is intended to persuade the reader of a particular point. The writer presents a controversial or debatable topic and clearly informs his audience through the thesis statement and subsequent writing which side of the argument he represents. The writer’s research will then further his position on the topic. This approach is one of the most common forms of the research paper and works quite well with many social topics. For example, you might evaluate the question, “Are the effects of school voucher programs beneficial to students?” This is a topic incurring much debate and an abundance of research is available to support and negate both sides of the question.

Cause-and-Effect Research Paper

Cause-and-effect research papers explore the relationship between an event or occurrence and the resulting outcome. Depending on the nature of the topic, some cause-and-effect essays will focus more on the cause, and others will focus more on the effects. When writing a cause-and-effect research paper, choose a topic that is narrow enough to allow you to fully cover it. Sometimes it is better to cover an element of the big picture more thoroughly than to try to evaluate an entire event. For example, researching World War II is far too broad, but examining how World War II affected the role of American women at home and in the workplace is much more focused.

Compare-and-Contrast Research Paper

Compare-and-contrast research papers are another common approach to the research paper. Depending upon the assignment, you might be asked to simply compare similarities, contrast differences or compare and contrast the similarities and the differences of a chosen topic. An introduction with a thesis statement and well-documented research throughout the body are still required. Organization is an important aspect of this genre because it must be tight and focused to be clear for your reader. Using a Venn diagram -- two overlapping circles – as a prewriting tool is helpful with this piece of writing.

Definition Research Paper

The fact-based, or definition, research paper requires research using primary and secondary sources to develop a thesis and present a topic. Many writers find the definition research paper easier to write because it’s fact-based and more of a presentation of information, rather than a personal interpretation. Establishing a solid outline before writing is often helpful and keeps the research focused and organized clearly. A logical progression of events, facts or processes usually works best with this type of research paper.

Interpretive Research Paper

An interpretive research paper is often used in the humanities and social sciences. Similar to the analytical research paper in presentation, the biggest difference is that part of your purpose is to understand the passage and present it to your reader. Your purpose is not to express whether you agree with the author but to share your own interpretation based on your research. For example, you might wish to interpret a line from a poem, one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, or the motivations of a character in a novel.

Report Research Paper

Report research papers are most often used in the workplace and business environments. They will typically follow a more business-like format, often including headings. Headings and subheadings should be used appropriately to highlight key elements. Reports will lack emotion and focus more on the issue. The specific format can vary based on need. An in-depth cost-curve analysis of shipping expenses of one company compared to its competitors is an example of report-style topic.

About the Author

Based in West Palm Beach, Fla., Emily Layfield has been writing and editing education-related work since 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Science in English and English/ language arts education and a Master of Arts in secondary English education from Auburn University.

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