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“The Research Paper”
Writing a research paper is much like planning, drafting, and revising any other essay. However, because you integrate research into your essay by using quotations and ideas from other writers, the process of writing a research essay is more challenging. The process becomes manageable if you remember to complete each of the six steps in order:
1. Narrowing your focus to an appropriate topic for the assignment length
2. Locating source materials and taking notes
3. Analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting materials
4. Arranging and classifying materials
5. Writing the paper with a sense of purpose as well as with clarity and accuracy
6. Handling problems of quoting and properly documenting your sources
If you follow these six steps you are well on your way to mastering the research writing process. Remember that both Successful College Writing and Decisions: A Writer’s Handbook have excellent sections on the research paper. Be sure to examine the excellent sample research papers in both texts.
?The Research/Argument Essay”
When we write persuasively we try to move our readers either to belief, action, or both. We do this through appealing to our audience’s reasons, emotions, or sense of ethics. When you write an argument, as a reasonable writer you will present a reasonable proposition that states what you believe. For instance, “As we enter the twenty-first century, Americaremains the best country in the world for freedom, democracy, and the opportunity to succeed.” To convince your audience of the merits of what you have stated in this thesis, you must offer logic, evidence, and perhaps emotional appeals in your essay. An argumentative or persuasive essay argues a position and defends it with a series of solid reasons.
With most of the other essays written in this course you have done the same thing — presented a point and then supported it. The difference with this essay is that in a more direct and formal manner, you will advance a point about which you feel strongly and seek to persuade your readers to agree with you.
Frequently the topic chosen for this essay is controversial — “Mandatory drug-testing is essential for public officials with access to classified information.” In your essay you must provide supporting evidence through specific examples, facts and figures, the opinions of experts, case histories, narratives, and considerations of cause and effect. Any or all of these techniques can be used to support your argument.
The structure of an argumentative essay is similar to other essays. The thesis statement in the introductory paragraph must clearly state the claim or opinion you will defend throughout the paper. In the body paragraphs be sure to build the evidence which either supports the claim you made in the thesis statement or refutes the arguments against it. Your evidence must be based on facts or expert opinion. Order the body paragraphs by beginning with the weakest evidence and building to the most convincing evidence throughout the subsequent paragraphs. Then conclude your essay by restating your main point and quickly mentioning key evidence and reasons for support.
Using Your Sources Effectively
When writing a research paper you must tell the reader the sources (books, magazines, internet) of the borrowed material in your paper. Whether you quote directly or summarize ideas in your own words, you must acknowledge your sources. In college English courses students are usually required to use MLA style in their research papers. MLA style, as established by the Modern Language Association, is different from such other major style formats as APA (used mainly in the social sciences) and CBE (used in the biological sciences).
When citing a source within your paper, you must mention the author’s name and the relevant page number. The author’s name may be given either in the sentence you are writing or in parentheses following the sentence. Two examples illustrate these points:
? “There is, at present, no centralized program to provide quality drinking water to the children of Liberia,” states Samantha Smith (67).
? One authority states, “There is, at present, no centralized program to provide quality drinking water to the children of Liberia” (Smith 67).
Your research paper should end with a “Works Cited” page, which includes all the sources actually used in the paper. Remember not to list any other sources, no matter how many you have read. The Works Cited is organized alphabetically according to the authors’ last names. Entries are not numbered. Refer to the excellent information and sample entries for both in-text citations and the Works Cited page in Successful College Writing and Decisions: A Writer’s Handbook.
Proper Quotation Guidelines
“Why do we need to use quotations from research sources in our papers, anyway?” This is one question I often hear from students when the time arrives to start writing their research papers.
I often respond with the following example: “What if someone told you that the world would end tomorrow? What would your first reaction be?”
Of course, your first instinct would be to question the source of the messenger. You would ask, “Who told you that” or “Why do you think that?” Your second instinct would be to evaluate the messenger?s source: If the message originated from an FBI agent, you would more readily accept this than if it originated from the messenger?s comic-book obsessed teenaged neighbor.
When you write a research paper, you are playing the role of the messenger. You are formulating your thesis and then delivering it in the most persuasive way possible to the reading audience. One of the most persuasive ways to write is to quote reliable and respectable sources ? and to quote them properly.
There are three ways to use the sources you research in your papers.
1. Quote directly
Quoting directlyis the most common method, although you could quote in full or in part. Here is an example:
ORIGINAL: “Recent statistics show clear signs that a lower-middle-class person?s faith in his or her ability to climb the social ladder loses much of its meaning as unemployment rises.” (John Smith)
FULL QUOTE: According to John Smith, “Recent statistics show clear signs that a lower-middle-class person?s faith in his or her ability to climb the social ladder loses much of its meaning as unemployment rises.”
PARTIAL QUOTE: John Smith explains that underprivileged people no longer believe in their “ability to climb the social ladder” when the job marker is slow.
Be sure that any phrases or words directly attributable to the original author need to be identified as such by the use of quotation marks, as we have done with the phrase “ability to climb the social ladder” in the example above.
You should only quote the entire original passage when it is absolutely necessary to do so ? in other words, take only what you need from each author, because in the end, most of the paper should consist of your own words, and not be cluttered with those of others.
Another method of partial quoting is to use ellipses:
ORIGINAL: “The study showed that many Americans are overweight and that a significant number, which is truly alarming, are obese.”
QUOTING USING ELLIPSES: “The study showed that many Americans are overweight and ? obese.”
Note that the ellipses are three dots ( ?) that are used to indicate when you, the writer, have decided that certain phrases within the quoted passage are not necessary and that their removal will save space as well as NOT detract from the original meaning of the quote.
Paraphrasingis another way to utilize your sources in your research paper. This is not simply summarizing; indeed, a paraphrase can often be longer than the original passage! When you paraphrase, you are simply expressing the author?s ideas in your own words while still giving the author due attribution, just as you would if you were quoting the author directly.
ORIGINAL: “The study showed that many Americans are overweight and that a significant number, which is truly alarming, are obese.”
PARAPHRASE: The results of the study indicated that a great number of Americans are overweight; what is even more cause for concern is the fact that many are also obese.
Summarizingis the process of condensing a lengthy passage into a shortened form by using your own words. As with paraphrasing, you must be sure to cite the original author and give him or her due attribution for the original thought and/or idea.
ORIGINAL: “The study showed that many Americans are overweight, which can be judged by a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or more; furthermore, a significant number of Americans are obese, which can be judged by a BMI of 28 or more. The latter statistic will be a tremendous case for concern among parents, because many children fell into that category.”
SUMMARY: The results of the study indicated that a great number of Americans are overweight; what is even more cause for concern is the fact that many are also obese, including children, which will alarm parents.
So what is the best method to use when including your research in your paper? I recommend using a combination of al three methods. The general rule of thumb is to use only what you need. Just because it is in a magazine article or in a book and it relates to your topic does not mean that you should definitely put it in your paper. Instead, ask yourself the following questions when deciding whether or not to use a source:
? Is it directly relevant to the topic sentence in this paragraph, and will it not open a different door and get the paragraph off track?
? Can it be used to support a point I am making, or shed further light on the topic of the paragraph?
? If it?s an important quote, but a lengthy one, can it be summarized or partially quoted?
? Is the information it contains necessary to furthering my point?
? Does the author make the point in a style or manner that is unique and better than your own paraphrase or summary could be?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it is probably a good idea to use the quotation under consideration.
Make sure that you follow these quotation guidelines in addition to using the proper citation guidelines, as outlined in your textbook.
1. Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. Scribner, 1997. A seminal work on the subject of death and dying, Kubler-Ross?s book was initially publish in the 1960s and remains relevant. On Death and Dying is a commentary on the views toward death and dying held by our culture that illustrates the underlying moral/ ideological principles that have guided public policy in the area of right-to-die ethics. Moreover, Kubler-Ross emphasizes the experience of dying from the patient?s perspective, garnering information from case studies and interviews. Although offered primarily as a text to assist hospice, health care workers, friends, and family members in dealing with the difficulties of deathand dying, Kubler-Ross?s book is instrumental in painting a thorough picture of why our current laws exist and how they change in the future. At the heart of On Death and Dyingis the assertion that our culture does in fact deal with death in destructive ways and the book can therefore serve as a guide for advising public policy shifts.
2. Callanan, Maggie; Kelley, Patricia. Final Gifts. Bantam, 1997. Written by two hospice workers, Final Gifts offers a constructive, ironically life-affirming perspective on death and dying. The authors, who coined the phrase ?Nearing Death Awareness,? focus on the potential of the dying process. From their experiences working with individuals with terminal illnesses and those who love them, Callanan and Kelley noticed that profound spiritual wisdom and meaningful experiences of enlightenment could accompany the dying process. Through systematic and fearless encouragement of creative communication, the dying can learn to communicate their fears and their dread, in order to alleviate their own pain and that of their loved ones. Final Gifts offers a positive perspective that can help eliminate deeply rooted social taboos of death and help therefore create a humane public policy regarding right-to-die.
3. Moody, Raymond. Life after Life. 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Harper, 2001. Raymond Moody?s book is a classic in its field. Based on over a hundred case studies, Life after Life offers anecdotal evidence for the possible existence of some kind of life after death. The book is valuable in the argument in favor of changing public policy in favor of a more humane view toward the right-to-die because it may help alter somewhat the norms and taboos in our culture regarding death and dying.
4. Nuland, Sherwin B. How We Die. Vintage, 1995. The author takes a decisively pro-right-to-die stance based on personal experience and objective analysis on a variety of common terminal diseases, Nuland shows that human beings must inevitably face their own death fearlessly and courageously. His book offers assistance to those who fear death, and Nuland demonstrates that all human beings deserve the right to die peacefully. How We Die urges those in the medical profession to become more aware of the relevance of assisted suicide in providing a compassionate, peaceful death.
5. Kessler, David. The Rights of the Dying. Perennial, 1998. Kessler presents a set of seventeen clear-cut ethical ?rights? of all living persons, who should ideally be able to participate in one of the most important parts of their lives: their death. Included among these rights is the right to die itself: the central issue in the reformation of public policy. Kessler?s book can provide an overall ethical framework from which to deal with the thorny issue of death and dying.
6. Byock, Ira. Dying Well. Riverhead, 1998. Another series of compelling case studies regarding the need for individuals in our society to better confront the issues of dying and death, Byock?s Dying Well shows that death is not only an integral part of life but one that should not be feared so fully as to impact public policy against compassionate right-to-die legislation. The stories contained in The Rights of the Dying can help voters make informed decisions regarding their own right to die as well as the rights of their loved ones.
7. Urofsky, Melvin I. Letting Go Death, Dying and the Law. University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. Unlike many of the other books in this annotated bibliography, Urofsky?s Letting Go offers a legalistic perspective on the right-to-die. Showing how the law can at once support a patient?s right to die and at the same time offer a sound, balanced, moral framework for a modern society, Urofsky?s book is instrumental in guiding shifts in social norms, awareness, and public policy. Letting Go demonstrates that the right-to-die need not interfere with religiosity in American society.
8. Eadie, Betty J. Embraced by the Light. Bantam, 1994. Another classic in its field, Eadie?s Embraced by the Light is an esoteric, new age view on death and dying. Focusing on the potential of the near-death experience, Eadie?s book is nevertheless Christian in perspective and can therefore be used to illustrate to the American public that although death can be frightening to think about, that death and dying themselves need not be perceived as so negative as to mould public policy toward admonition against the right to die.
9. Ritchie, George. Return from Tomorrow. Revell, 1988. George Ritchie had a near-deathexperience. Like other books of its kind, Ritchie?s encounters with the beyond and his renewed perspective on life can help reshape social norms in our culture and consequentially provide compassionate laws regarding the right to die.
10. Kubler-Ross. Questions and Answers on Death and Dying. Scribner, 1997. A follow-up on her seminal On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross here offers some updated advice for people dealing with their own or their loved ones? final moments. While Questions and Answers does not necessarily diverge significantly from Kubler-Ross?s earlier work, it can offer a focused perspective on some of the core issues surrounding the transition from life to death. Such illustrations can help change social norms and make for a political environment more open to right-to-die legislation.