Understand the assignment

Read over the instructions for the assignment to make sure you fully understand what the instructor has in mind and on what basis you will be graded. The Roane State Community College OWL (Online Writing Lab) (Henley, 1996) describes some common types of research papers as:

Report

Issue Analysis

Sometimes, a teacher will assign topics or give students a range of topics to choose from and ask that the students write a research paper on the topic. This type of research paper is really a form of individual study. The measure of success is how well the student can conduct research, analyze and organize the information and communicate it clearly in written form. Frequently, reports require an oral presentation to the class as well.

A research paper may highlight a particular issue or problem in a field of study. The paper may focus on analysis of the issue and its solutions, possibly from both historical and current perspectives. The posture of the writer is frequently r-

that of a neutral observer more than an advocate for a particular position. The success of the paper is often based on how completely and clearly the writer has identified the key aspects of the issue and their significance to the field to which they relate.

A research paper may involve taking a stand on an issue and defending it against opposing points of view. The student will research the issues and read others' arguments for and against. The paper will anticipate and deflect arguments against the position, while presenting supporting evidence in favor of the position. Success will depend on how persuasively the paper makes its case and defends against possible opposition.

There's also a quick reference list of different types of papers with short descriptions of each type at the Houston Community College Systems Library, available at its Web site, (http://www.hccs.cc.tx.us/Library/TipSheets/-Essay.html). See also our links (p 51) to Common Types of Papers and Papers on Special Subjects for articles on the unique aspects of various types of essays and research papers.

Be sure you understand what kind of a paper you've been asked to write, since the approach you'd take could be vastly different, depending on the purpose of the paper and the expectations of your instructor!

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