How to Write a Successful Research Paper
As frusterating as it may be, everyone should learn how to effectively write about research in a way that is valuable to readers. Sounds difficult, right? Not really. In this article, I will attempt to make writing research papers sound like a piece of cake. Over the years helping my peers and working at my ex-university's reputable writing center, I have often found that students are missing these main points when writing a research paper: claim, evidence, response. In order to have a successful research paper, you MUST have these three elements. In this article, I will explain how to use these elements in the larger scale (the entire research paper) and small.
Before you have a main claim, you must have a research question. This question must be thoroughly researched before developing a claim. Too often students jump into their claim before doing their research because they already have an answer in mind. Also, students can simply be quite lazy. Not doing research before developing a claim does NOT make your work scholarly. I cannot stress this enough. Not doing research before making a claim makes your paper completely invalid and untrustworthy. I've dubbed the result of this act of laziness or misunderstanding an "internal hypothesis." Creating a claim without research to back it up is simply an educated guess; nothing more or nothing less. It is also important to note that if you do this, the research process will be much harder for you. Instead of doing research as a discovery exercise, you will be searching for evidence that backs up your preconceived answer, thus limiting the otherwise valuable sources and research pieces out there. Back to the claim....once your have developed your research question and have done research, you may develop your claim. Because you will more than likely have to write about the opposing side to the argument in your paper as well, the easiest format for constructing a claim is 'although, however, because.' Let's see how all of this ties together.
NOTE: Do not use this topic. It has been done too many times. I am only using it as an example, and making up this claim.
RESEARCH QUESTION: Are violent video games making children more aggressive?
CLAIM: (although) Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between violent video games and aggression in children; however, video games are not the direct cause of aggression, because more often than not, children who participate in these games are also subjected to domestic violence, an instable home-life, and a lack of high quality education.
AGAIN NOTE: I created this claim as an example. This has not been researched. You MUST research your question before developing a valid and trustworthy claim.
Combining Claim, Evidence, and Response...
Now comes the fun part! The main claim above is what your entire paper is about. Now let's understand what you have to do with it. You will develop sub-claims. These subclaims are important because they will be the first sentence in each new paragraph and they allow you to breakdown and analyze your main claim through evidence and response. Evidence is data from your credible sources and response is your own thoughts on the matter (usually tying in the data to the main picture). This may sound difficult, but I have come to the conclusion that we do this exercise in our everyday speech, usually when speaking to someone else. For example:
CLAIM: I got the job!
EVIDENCE: The manager called and said I will be starting on Friday. The pay is $10 per hour.
RESPONSE: I am really excited. I needed this job because my bills are due!
Let's understand how it works with our makeshift topic (aggressive children/video games), keeping in mind all of the elements of our main claim:
SUB-CLAIM: Domestic violence in homes with children is growing at an alarming rate.
EVIDENCE: According to the New York Police Department, 30% of children will be subjected to or witness domestic violence in the beginning stages of their lives (30).
RESPONSE: Being involved in such aggressive behaviors, witnessing or being the subject of, will more than likely create a desire for aggression as the child gets older.
NOTE: The above evidence is in no way, shape, or form correct, or stated by the New York Police Department.
It is important for you to know that this model of Claim, Evidence and Response can be used multiple times throughout a paragraph, and will be used multiple times throughout your paper until all of your points are covered, thus validating your main claim and making readers believe in your work.
I hope you have found this article useful as you write your wonderful research paper. Doing the beginning stages correctly (research question/research/main claim) will make your paper much easier to write. As you can tell, the Sub-Claim, Evidence, and Response model will create a distinctive flow to your paper, making it easier for readers to follow along with and understand your work. This type of organization and validity is important to have if you want your reader to buy what you are selling. Good luck. Oh, and don't forget to THOROUGHLY research before developing your main claim.
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