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The Basics of an English Research PaperWriter's Web
(printable version here)

A well-constructed research paper properly synthesizes the writer's views with the outside perspectives and critiques of other authors. Emphasizing both the author's original insights and the interpretations of respected supplimentary sources, it should ultimately be an expression of the writer's inquiry into a specific topic of interest. Research paper assignments for the English discipline often range in specificity and length. Nonetheless, there are certain stylistic conventions and expectations associated with an English research paper.

About The Genre

The research paper occupies a caterogry of writing all on its own. A reseach paper demands that the author invest time and thought in analyzing outside sources in order to forge his or her own unique vision of the text or to shed new light on past interpretations. A research paper does NOT consist of the writer merely rewording or recontextualizing the thoughts of other authors, but rather must include the writer's own thoughts and reflections on different perspectives. The goal of the writer is to ENGAGE sources and not to simply RESTATE other interpretations. Therefore, it is neither necessary nor beneficial to only include perspectives which are in agreement with your own.

The Analytical Research Paper

Reseach papers are generally designated into two distinctive categories: the argumentative research paper and the analytical research paper. Research papers for the English discipline almost always fall under the latter heading. The specific expectations and demands of the analytical research paper are as follows:

  • The analytical research paper typically begins with the author posing a research question.
  • The author should hold off on explicity stating his or her interpration until the topic has been sufficiently discussed in terms of its varied implications.
  • In contrast to the argumentative research paper, the analytical research paper is a practice in exploration and reflection, rather than a concisely outlined perspective on a contentious issue.
  • The author's thoughtful inquiry into the research question should ultimately conclude with the creation of the author's own, unqiue perspective on the topic. His or her perspective need not refute or stand in opposition to other readings, but rather shed light of offer a new means by which to understand the topic under inquiry.
  • The author will typically develop his or her thesis statement throughout the course of researching and writing the paper. It is to the writer's benefit to enter the research paper writing process without a predetermined stance and to remain open to the possibility of changing his or her interpretation and thesis several times throughout the process. Listed below is an example of a typical research question and an author's interpretation to the question under consideration.


Possible Research Question: How should one interpret and respond to Christina Rossetti's poem "Goblin Market?"

Possible Author's Interpretation: Although Christina Rossetti's poem "Goblin Market" is typically viewed as a poem reflecting on the dangerous implications of the material world on morality and, more specifically, female chastity, it can also be read as an expression of Rossetti's adamant belief that the female should be viewed as both a wholly erotic and spiritual being.

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