Research paper writing is the disciplined process of investigating and seeking facts that will lead one to discover the truth about something. This truth, stated as one’s thesis, is a result of the facts one discovers, and it must be proved conclusively to the reader by the facts selected. The thesis may not be a statement of preconceived opinion or prejudice, nor may the paper be a stringing together of related quotations and a collection of footnotes.
The research paper, a formal presentation of these discovered facts, provides the evidence one needs to defend the opinion expressed as the thesis. Consequently, one must state how and where these facts were found. If they were discovered from what other people have said or written, the student must tell who said them and where they were said so that the reader could find them also; if they were discovered by direct observation, the student must describe this experience so that the reader could repeat it and observe the same phenomena or facts. The opinion, which is the thesis, the analysis of the material on which it is based, and the conclusions one draws from that material are the most important parts of the final paper. These are subjectively presented while the facts, which provide the supporting points, are objectively presented and carefully documented.
During the process of research, the student learns to select, evaluate, and analyze facts; to discipline habits of thought and work; and, most important, to think—to create a new angle of vision. In this sense only, the research paper is original; but it is important enough in itself to justify the work involved in its creation.
Because nothing else so clearly reveals the true quality and merit of the writer’s mind, the research paper becomes a valid criterion for judging the disciplined work habits and the intellectual maturity of the student.
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