Lesson 11


Research Papers Begin With Research!

The Goal:

In this lesson we’re going to transition into talking about the research paper, and what it means to fully revise an academic paper. So far, you’ve been coming up with your paper topic first and then doing research based on your idea.

For the research paper, we’re going to reverse that process. This time, you should simply pick a topic first (though not one that deals with ethical issues: no abortion, capital punishment, or things like that). You will do research on that topic in order to see what other writers have already said about it. If you’re doing enough research, you will probably come across a perspective or idea that seems interesting to you. Only then should you begin writing. Sometimes we write about our own responses and use other writers to support our opinion, but at other times our job is to do the research and then understand our response to a topic based on the research.

So, in a nutshell, you will begin collecting and reading your own research on a particular topic. Since most of you will begin with online sources, you should stay away from Google and look for actual academic papers that have been peer reviewed and published in journals. Remember that your audience is an academic audience, so finding sources that an academic audience will find authoritative is important. Consider your topic from a skeptic's point of view: what sources would convince a skeptic, particularly a skeptic coming from an academic background? If your topic deals with any kind of biological science, then you will need scientists from that area, such as medical doctors, chemists, or wildlife biologists. If your topic deals with anything to do with engineering, then you will need engineers who are respected for their work in that area. That is why starting with academic journals that are peer reviewed (peers who have a lot of knowledge in that background so who know if something published is correct or not) is so important at the beginning, so that you are not mislead by bad information. Statistics are only as good as the method they were collected, so you need to pay particular attention to any statistics and look to see if it explains exactly how they were obtained. Who was polled? How many people? From what background? When? What exact questions were they asked? Remember, a research paper falls apart when the research is not believable to the audience.

You should further revise your research paper. You may want to do additional research, especially if your instructor has suggested you do so.

A  look at the full research process:  Library Research at Cornell


What to Read:

  1. Walk, Talk, Cook, Eat: A Guide to Using Sources' by Cynthia R.  Haller in  Writing Spaces, Vol 2.
  2.   * “Annoying Ways People Use Sources' by Kyle D. Stedman in  Writing Spaces, Vol


 Writing Exercise:

Writing Assignment

Begin searching for articles about your topic. It’s best if you have an open mind about your topic rather than coming to the table with a fully formed idea. You should read as many as you can and then choose 3 from scholarly articles to annotate. If you’re using reliable academic search engines, most of the articles you find will be in PDF format. You may find other formats, but if you do, the best idea is to convert the files into PDF. Use Adobe’s free PDF conversion service if you’d like. There are also many many other ways to convert things to a PDF. If you run into trouble, Google or YouTube the phrase “convert to PDF.'

Once you’ve annotated your articles, save them to the Dropbox folder.

You may want to download Adobe Reader X if you haven’t already (it’s free) and then learn how to annotate and markup your research documents. For more video tutorials on how to use Adobe Reader X to makes notes in a PDF, try using the search term “Adobe Reader X' in YouTube (don’t forget the quotation marks), and you should come up with a whole host of instructional videos.

If you are an advanced user of internet and computer tools, and you know that you’ll be doing a good deal of research as an undergraduate, you may want to learn how to use Mendeley.

Or, if you are experiencing technological problems, you can create the first three entries to your Annotated Bibliography, but I want these 3 entries to be especially detailed. You need to write out the source in MLA format as in a Works Cited citation and then give me 100-150 words explaining what is in the source and what information might be something you could use in each source. You will add another 12 entries to this annotated bibliography in the next 2 lessons, but the "annotation" can be slightly shorter for those entries. For these first three entries, it should be clear you read them thoroughly.



Submission Checklist:

1. Research Paper Topic Proposal (WA 5). 20 points.

A 100-200 word paragraph explaining what your research paper will be about, why you are doing that topic, what   background knowledge you have on it. (20 points)

2. Research Samples ( WA 6)
Three well-annotated research articles. Annotations can include highlighted passages, “sticky' notes, inserted comments, or annotated bibliography format. Your notes and comments should show that you are reading and thinking about what the author says. Insubstantial annotations will be graded as such. Also, these must be scholarly academic articles that have been published in academic journals. (20 points)