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Unformatted text preview: © TetraImages/photolibrary 6 Break long projects into
parts. Then assemble
the pieces into
—Roy Peter Clark (2006)
Writer and senior scholar at
the Poynter Institute soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 87 Writing the
In this chapter, we examine the final phase of the research process:
integrating the information you have compiled into a well-written
college research paper. We examine the characteristics of an effective
research paper and discuss the two most common types of research
papers you will be asked to prepare in your college courses: analytical
research papers and argumentative research papers. We also explain
the types of intermediate assignments you may prepare to help you
develop your research paper in a step-by-step manner. 7/7/10 2:02 PM Author Anne Lamott’s book about writing, Bird by Bird, got its title from an incident involving her brother when
he was ten years old. The boy had to write a school paper about birds and was overwhelmed by the huge task in front
of him. Their father put his arm around his son and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird” (Clark, 2006).
Research papers are projects we must take “bird by bird,” or step by step. Previous chapters in this text have
provided you with background information on formal academic research, the language and methods of scientific
and scholarly research, and information about research sources and how to search for them. In Chapter 3, we
discussed the tasks you must perform in the first two phases of the research process: the discovery phase and the
assessment phase. In this chapter, we examine the final phase of the research process: the integration phase. You
might want to refer to Figure 3.1, “Three Phases of the Research Process,” as we discuss the tasks you will perform
in this final phase. Later in this chapter, we discuss the ENG 122 research paper and the specific information you
must include in each section of that paper. 6.1 The Final Phase of the Research Process
The integration phase, the final phase of the research process, occurs after you have selected and narrowed
your topic; formulated your research question or hypothesis; gathered information and data related to your
topic; interpreted, analyzed, and evaluated that information and data; and formed some conclusions. Now
you are ready to present your research, in written form, in a formal research paper. Remember the jigsaw
puzzle analogy we used in Chapter 3? The integration phase is the point at which you will sort the pieces
of the jigsaw puzzle that you have collected and put them together to form a clear picture for your readers.
Below are the tasks you will perform in the integration phase of your research project. Planning the Paper
As we stated in Chapter 2, your research paper must have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
However, rather than reading a research paper straight through from beginning to end, as they might do
with an essay, people often scan or survey the paper looking for specific information for their own research
or to solve a specific problem. To help readers locate the information they need quickly and easily, the
introduction, body, and conclusion of research papers are divided into standard sections with headings, or
descriptive titles, for each section. This standardization helps other researchers know exactly where they
will find the specific type of information they are looking for. The headings for these sections may vary,
depending on the nature of the assignment and the purpose for which the paper is being written. However,
the information found in each section remains basically the same, whether the paper is a scientific study,
an academic paper, or a business research report. Let us look briefly at the basic research paper structure. Introduction
The introduction of a research paper states the topic the researcher intends to study or explains the problem
the researcher is attempting to solve. It also contains a statement of purpose, a sentence or two you write
that explains what you want to learn from the research.
The introduction also gives readers background information so that they can clearly understand the topic or
problem and the purpose for which the paper is being written. It also sets the stage for the research that follows soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 88 7/7/10 2:02 PM by defining any important terms that will be used in the paper. The introduction must also clearly state the
specific research question or the researcher’s hypothesis, which creates a focus for the paper, and the thesis
statement, which is the main point of the paper. If you are writing an argumentative research paper, which we
discuss later in this chapter, your thesis statement will be your claim, the point your paper will make or the
opinion that you will defend in the paper and want readers to accept. Finally, the introduction often includes
a justification, which explains why the research is important and worth studying.
In some research papers, the introduction also includes a review of previous research that has been conducted on this topic and how the current research relates to that earlier research. This information is often
referred to as a “Review of the Literature.” It may be included in the introduction, or it may have a separate
heading in the research paper. Methods
The Methods, or Methodology, section of a research paper is essentially the first part of the body of the paper,
and it explains to readers how the researcher collected the information or data for the study. The Methods
section may discuss the types of searches that were conducted, how information was collected, and how
that information was analyzed and evaluated. Results
The Results section constitutes the second part of the body of the paper, and it presents the information and
data the researcher gathered during the research study. It is important to note that in this section of the paper
the researcher does not evaluate the evidence or draw any conclusions from the research results. He or she
simply presents the factual information and data that address the specific aspects of the topic the researcher
studied and, for each aspect of the issue, presents the facts and evidence found in the research. Conclusions
The Conclusions section is where the researcher summarizes the information and data gained from the research;
interprets, analyzes, and evaluates the research results; and reports the conclusions he or she drew from the
research results. In this section, the researcher answers the research question or determines whether the hypothesis formed at the beginning of the research process has been proved or disproved. This section may also
include a discussion of what these results mean and the implications they have for future research. References
In academic papers, all ideas or information from an outside source, unless they are common knowledge,
must be documented. In all online classes at Ashford University, this documentation is in APA style, which
requires that you document your sources in two ways: in a brief citation in the text where the borrowed
material appears (usually the author’s last name and a date, unless the material is a direct quotation from the
source, in which case a page number is also added) and a full reference in an alphabetical list of references
at the end of the paper. The purpose of in-text citations and references is to give credit to the originator of
the idea or the information. Properly crediting sources is crucial in research, and failure to do so is considered plagiarism—a serious form of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism carries penalties that can include failure
on an assignment, failure of a course, or suspension or expulsion from the university. To learn more about
plagiarism and the requirements for documenting sources, review the plagiarism tutorial and information
regarding APA citations and references in the Ashford Writing Center. soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 89 7/7/10 2:02 PM Organizing Information
Now that you have an overall idea of the structure of a research paper, you should be able to sort your research
notes and arrange the information and data you have collected to fit into one of the above sections. If you found
information on previous studies that were conducted, for example, you know that you will weave this information into the introduction of your paper as background information for your current research paper. You should
present this previous research in the order you think is most logical, most relevant, or most understandable.
You will also develop the other information required in the introduction and integrate it with the background
information to set the stage and prepare readers for the research that will be presented later in the paper.
You develop the Methods section of the paper by summarizing how you conducted the research. Where did
you search for research sources? What types of searches were most fruitful? What search techniques did you
use, and what types of sources did you find? Which sources were particularly useful? All these questions are
ones you might address under the Methods or Methodology heading.
The Results section of your paper is constructed from the notes you recorded as you read the research sources
you found. Your job in this section of the paper is to weave together the information you learned from your
research that addresses your research question or hypothesis. Again, imagine that you are fitting puzzle pieces
together for the reader. Present the research that you found, in the order that you believe is the most clear and
most logical to help the reader understand what you learned about your subject. Use transitions to create a
smooth flow to your writing and to help readers understand the most important information and evidence you
found to answer your research question, prove or disprove your hypothesis, or address the research problem.
As we discussed in earlier chapters, remember that writing a college-level research paper does not mean
simply copying information you learn from your investigation of a subject. You must think about the information you find, interpret it, put it into your own words, and blend or synthesize the information from a number of different sources into a unified, coherent, and well-written discussion of your topic and the specific
aspects of the topic you chose to study. The majority of the information in the Results section of your paper
should be paraphrase, or put into your own words, although you may use direction quotations from your
research sources occasionally. You can practice paraphrasing if you log into the Avoiding Plagiarism Tutorial
in the Ashford Writing Center.
In the final section of a research paper, you present the conclusions you formed from the research results
you obtained, answer your research question or reveal whether your hypothesis has been proven to be true
or has been disproved. You then discuss these conclusions, what you learned from your research study and
what this research might mean for the future. Integrating Information
As you integrate information into the various sections of your paper, you must make judgments about where
to place certain pieces of information. Use the basic structure above to guide you in determining what type
of information should appear in which section. However, what order to place the information within a section is a judgment you must make based on what you think is most logical and will help your paper flow
smoothly and be clear to readers.
You might think of the research paper as engaging in a conversation with other researchers and your readers
about the research you conducted. The Purdue University Writing Lab (OWL) (2010) describes the research
paper this way:
A research paper is the culmination and final product of an involved process of research, critical thinking, source evaluation, organization, and composition . . . . It is a genre that requires
one to spend time investigating and evaluating sources with the intent to offer interpretations soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 90 7/7/10 2:02 PM of the texts, and not unconscious regurgitations of those sources. The goal of a research paper
is not to inform the reader what others have to say about a topic, but to draw on what others have to say about a topic and engage the sources in order to thoughtfully offer a unique
perspective on the issue at hand . . . . (para. 1 and 2)
Another way to explain what you are being asked to do in a research paper is to use the term synthesize that
we mentioned earlier in this text. Your job as a researcher is to synthesize, or blend together, ideas to form
a unique new perspective on an issue. If everyone in this course investigated the same subject, every final
paper would be unique because each researcher would find slightly different sources, select different pieces
of data to explore, and blend the research findings together in a different manner. A good analogy might be
baking a cake. Several cooks might use the same basic recipe, but the cakes will all be unique because of
differences in the selection of ingredients and the manner in which the cooks blend the ingredients as they
prepare the recipe.
As we stated earlier in this text, the discovery, assessment, and integration phases of a research paper often
overlap one another. When you combine or integrate information from your research, you may find that you
have too much information on a particular topic, and you must select the information that is most useful or
relevant to your topic. It is difficult for many researchers to let go of information they have worked hard to
gather. However, you must be ruthless; if the information does not fit into your paper, do not try to “squeeze
it in somewhere.” Simply discard it.
On the other hand, you may find that you have “holes” in your research paper where you do not have
enough information to explain an issue or to draw reasonable conclusions. In this case, you will need to go
back and conduct additional research, looking for sources that will help you fill in these holes.
Remember that when you integrate information, you should not simply copy information from sources
and paste them in your paper. You should generally paraphrase information, or put information into your
own words, although you may use some direct quotations. Your goal should be to create a clear and wellorganized discussion of ideas, with smooth transitions from one idea to another and from one section of the
paper to another.
If you followed the advice presented in Chapter 3 and put information you found in sources into your own
words, or paraphrased it, before you recorded it, your job of integrating information will be easier at the
integration phase of the paper. However, if you have simply copied information from your sources, you must
put the information into your own words before you blend it with other information and include it in your
paper. Also remember to document your sources properly, as we discuss below. Revising
Once you have developed each section of your research paper, set it aside for a day, if you can. Then go back
and look at the paper with “fresh eyes.” Evaluate how you organized and presented the information. Revising is a “big-picture” task. When you revise, you examine and make sure that you have not included any
information that is irrelevant to your research topic. Also make certain that you have enough information to
answer your research question or to determine if your hypothesis has been proven to be correct. When you
revise your paper, remember to use transitions between one piece of information and another and as you
move from one section to another, to help your paper flow smoothly. You will find a list of transitions under
“Writing Resources” in the Ashford Writing Center to help you accomplish this goal.
Because research is always limited in some manner, researchers can rarely answer a research question completely or prove a hypothesis absolutely. You may encounter instances where your conclusion is inconclusive. In other words, the information you found in your research does not decisively answer your research
question or prove your hypothesis, and more research will be necessary in the future to continue to study soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 91 7/7/10 2:02 PM the problem. If you have conscientiously tried to answer the question and have conducted the research as
required, simply report this fact. Not reaching a conclusion is not an excuse for not doing the research work.
However, it is sometimes the outcome in spite of your best efforts. Editing
Once you have revised your paper, remember to edit your work for proper grammar, punctuation, sentence
structure, and usage. Also run the spell checker and grammar checker to ensure that your writing is correct
and that your paper represents professional college-level writing. Proofreading and Formatting
As a final check of the content of your paper, proofread your writing carefully to ensure that what you think
you wrote is what is actually on the paper. Also check the formatting of your paper and ensure that your text,
margins, headings, title page, and references page are properly formatted in APA style. Use the resource
materials in the Ashford Writing Center if you need assistance with any of these issues. Documenting Sources
Finally, before submitting your final paper, make sure that any ideas you use in your paper from outside
sources, whether paraphrased or quoted directly, are documented properly. All Ashford University courses
require that you document your sources in APA style. This means that the sources must be documented in
two places in the paper: (1) in the text where the borrowed information appears (in a citation that usually
includes the author and date of the material) and (2) in an alphabetical list of references or sources at the end
of the paper, called a reference list. In other words, for every source listed in the reference list, you should
have at least one corresponding parenthetical reference in the text of the paper. Review the APA models in
the Ashford Writing Center for examples of proper in-text citation and reference list formats.
APA also has specific requirements for formatting headings in your academic papers. Check the Ashford
Writing Center for guidance on formatting headings in APA style as well. 6.2 The ENG 122 Research Paper
Now that we have examined the basic structure of research papers, let us look at the specific structure you
will use for your ENG 122 research paper. Figure 6.1 shows the structure required for your final paper in
ENG 122. You will note that this structure includes the four basic sections of the research paper we discussed
at the beginning of this chapter, along with a list of the specific information you must include in each section. The research papers you prepare in other Ashford University courses may be slightly different, but their
structure will be similar to that of the ENG 122 paper. Always read your Ashford University Course Guide
carefully to determine the specific requirements of each research paper you are assigned. Characteristics of an Effective Research Paper
All well-written research papers share some common characteristics. An effective research paper
• Explores a researchable topic.
Includes a clearly stated research question or hypothesis.
Follows the prescribed structure for a research paper. soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 92 7/7/10 2:02 PM Below is the structure you will use for your research paper in ENG 122. In future courses, the structure of
your paper may be slightly different.
Prepare a properly prepared, APA-formatted title page for your paper with a title that clearly describes the
subject of your research.
INTRODUCTION (may use heading, if desired)
In this section, inform the reader of what the research is about. Include the following:
• Begin with a strong opening statement.
• Indicate the topic you studied.
• Narrow the topic and reveal the specific aspects of the topic you studied.
• Present the purpose statement and your specific research question or hypothesis.
• Provide background information; set the stage and create a context for your paper.
• Review and summarize any previous research that was conducted on this topic.
• Define any key terms related to the topic.
• Justify the research; explain why this topic is important.
• Present the thesis.
METHODS (the first part of the body of your paper; use heading)
In this section, explain how the research was conducted. Include the following:
• State the type of research you conducted.
• Discuss how you conducted the research.
• Explain what types of sources were useful for the paper.
• Mention any source that was particularly useful or influential and why.
RESULTS (the second part of the body of your paper; use heading)
In this section, integrate your research findings and report what was learned from the research. Include the
• For each main point, establish the point and support it with facts and evidence you found
in your research. For an argumentative paper, support your argument with facts and logical
reasoning and back it up with evidence.
• Paraphrase material from the research clearly and concisely and use transitions to lead from
one piece of evidence to another and from one main point to another.
• Use direct quotes sparingly. Make sure to quote accurately and explain the significance of the
quote to your main point.
• Whether paraphrasing or quoting, avoid plagiarism by documenting all sources properly in the
text and in the reference list.
CONCLUSION and DISCUSSION (use heading)
In this section, draw conclusions that are supported by the research results you present or that prove your
claim. Reflect on what was learned from the research. Include the following:
• Summarize your research and what you learned.
• Discuss any limitations of the research.
• Reiterate the importance of studying this subject and comment on implications for future
• Discuss any limitations of the research and implications for future research.
REFERENCES (use heading)
Include a properly prepared, APA-formatted reference list. Figure 6.1 Structure of the ENG 122 Research Paper soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 93 7/7/10 2:02 PM •
• Is written from a third-person point of view. Avoid the use of first-person pronouns such as I or my.
Instead, refer to yourself in third person. For example, instead of saying “My research shows . . . ,” say,
“The research shows . . . ” or instead of “I will . . . ,” state “The researcher [or the author] will . . . .”
Is clearly organized and contains the required information for each section of the paper.
Is coherent, which means it flows well and the sections of the paper relate logically to one another.
Utilizes sufficient, relevant, valid, and reliable evidence that addresses the research question or the
Includes properly documented sources in the text and in the reference list. 6.3 Types of Research Papers
Research paper assignments deal with subjects on which two or more points of view exist or subjects that are
not completely understood. We study these subjects to acquire more knowledge and to increase our understanding of them. Because research is conducted in all types of organizations, research documents take many
different forms. As you have learned in this text, they may be called studies, reports, white papers, case studies,
or a number of other terms.
In your undergraduate degree program, you will approach these research assignments in primarily one
of two ways: by writing an analytical research paper or by writing an argumentative research paper. The
research process and the types of sources you will use for these papers are similar, but the purpose and
development of each type of paper is very different. Let us examine these two types of research papers in
more detail. Analytical Research Papers
The purpose of an analytical research paper is to objectively examine, analyze, and evaluate different perspectives or points of view on a subject. In this type of paper, you include information from a wide range of
sources, but you do not take a side on the issue or let your personal opinion influence your research. You
assume the stance of a crime scene investigator or an investigative reporter who is trying to find the truth
about the subject and does not become personally involved in the investigation. An analytical research
paper objectively reviews the facts on both sides of a controversial issue, the studies performed by other
researchers, and the conclusions they reached in an attempt to better understand the subject and to suggest
avenues for further study of the issue. Although the subject may be debatable and controversial, you must
not get involved in the debate or, in fact, let any bias or prejudice on your part enter into your paper. Your
goal is to critically interpret the primary and secondary sources you find that are related to this issue.
The analytical research paper usually begins with the researcher developing a specific research question he
or she would like to answer through the research. Then the researcher explores this question to determine
what other researchers have learned about it and evaluates and reports these research findings in the paper.
An analytical research paper, like all good academic papers, contains a thesis. However, the thesis is often
developed late in the research process, once the researcher has gathered information and the direction of
the paper becomes clear.
The conclusions the researcher forms in this type of research paper must be the ones that are best supported
by the evidence found, not what the researcher wants to be true. If you are that researcher, it may be difficult
to report a conclusion that does not agree with your own personal point of view on a subject. However, your
task with this type of paper is to completely remove yourself and your opinions from your analysis and to
focus solely on the facts you uncovered in your research study.
Because of the difficulty in remaining objective and not letting your own personal opinions or biases enter
into your research, it is often wise for this type of research assignment to avoid topics on which you hold soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 94 7/7/10 2:02 PM strong personal points of view. You are allowed, at times, in an analytical research paper to include a Discussion section at the end of the paper. In this section, you can comment on your reaction to your research
findings or discuss additional avenues of research that could be followed to obtain additional information.
However, this discussion is separate from the body of your research study and the conclusions you reached
in your study. Although you cannot take sides in the discussion regarding any disagreements you find in your
research, you can point out issues such as flaws in the methodology the researcher used or unsubstantiated
conclusions the research reached. Argumentative Research Papers
Like an analytical research paper, the purpose of an argumentative research paper is also to examine a controversial issue, one on which two or more points of view exist, and to analyze and evaluate the different
perspectives or points of view on the issue. However, in the argumentative paper, the researcher takes a
personal position on the issue and states his or her viewpoint at the beginning of the paper. This viewpoint,
or claim, must be stated clearly in the introduction of the paper and forms the thesis for the paper. Once the
thesis is presented, however, the researcher must objectively presents facts from different sides of the issue
and analyze the pros and cons of each argument examined. The goal of the argumentative research paper is
persuasion through the use of logical reasoning and the skills of formal argument.
An important point to remember about argumentative research papers is that even though the researcher
favors one position more than others in a debate on the issue, the research and the analysis must be objective, factual, and balanced. Approximately equal time should be devoted to analyzing and evaluating both
your own point of view and points of view that differ from yours, and you must not simply gather information
that supports your point of view. You must deliberately seek out information on other sides of the issue, so
you can present a fair and balanced viewpoint of the subject. In other words, after you reveal your position in
the beginning of the research paper, you must then step back from your personal point of view, conduct the
research as though you had no stake in the outcome, and present the research findings fairly and objectively.
You are required in an argumentative research paper to make an impartial and balanced report of all the
relevant information you find on the subject. You must not misrepresent information you find or omit it
because it does not support your viewpoint. Instead, you present this information and dispute it by citing
other research sources that present opposing viewpoints and by using the skills of formal argument you may
have learned in other writing or philosophy courses. In the conclusion of an argumentative paper, after you
have presented the information on both sides of the issue and disputed differing viewpoints, you will then
reinforce your personal point of view and defend it.
In an argumentative research paper, you may also have the opportunity to include a “Discussion” section at
the end of the paper in which you reflect on what you learned through the research process. In some cases,
by objectively looking at the evidence on both sides of an issue, a researcher may actually be convinced to
change his or her own original position on the issue. If this is the case with a paper you write, the Discussion section is the place where you can comment on how and why you changed your viewpoint. There is no
shame in changing your mind about an issue on the basis of research findings. On the contrary, inquisitive
and open-minded thinkers are willing to learning new information. They use critical thinking to evaluate
ideas and do not cling to beliefs that they have learned are no longer valid.
Scientist and astronomer, Dr. Carl Sagan, who was quoted at the beginning of Chapter 1, once made the
following comment about scientific research:
In science it often happens that scientists say, “You know that’s a really good argument; my
position is mistaken,” and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear
that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should,
because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every
day . . . .(Sagan, 1987) soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 95 7/7/10 2:02 PM 6.4 Intermediate Research Assignments
In Ashford University online courses that have a research assignment, you will usually be assigned the paper in
week 1 of the course, and you may be required to prepare and submit intermediate sections of the assignment
each week, with the final paper due at the end of the course. These intermediate assignments are designed to
help you stay on track with your research assignment. They will assist you in preparing the final paper, or they
may be actual sections of the paper that you will write in advance, revise and edit later, and then integrate into
the final paper. Below is a list of intermediate assignments that are often assigned as part of a research paper and
a discussion of what is expected in these assignments. Let us examine some of the intermediate assignments
you may be asked to complete before you construct your final paper. Topic or Title
For some research assignments, you may be asked to submit your research topic and/or the title of your
research project in week 1 or week 2 of the course. The topic is the subject of your research, and you may
be required to submit either the broad topic area you intend to study, the limited topic that narrows your
broad topic to a workable focus for your paper, or both.
In essays, the title of the paper may be “catchy” and is often designed to grab the attention of readers and
to encourage them to read the essay. In research papers, titles are descriptive. They should be specific statements about what the paper will cover. In other words, include the focus of the research, not just the broad
topic area. For example, borrowing from the firefly experiment discussed earlier in the text, instead of titling
a research paper “Firefly Chemicals” (the topic), a researcher might title the paper “The Effects of Chemical
Agents from Fireflies in Cell Illumination in Mice.” Research Proposal
To help you focus your research efforts and develop a specific plan for your research paper, many research
assignments require that you submit a proposal before you begin searching for information. The research
proposal provides a brief background on the topic you will investigate and provides specific information
about what you will study, how you plan to conduct your research, and why the research is important. It
also helps you limit your topic and define the type of information you will need to find. As we discussed
in Chapter 3, one of the dangers of conducting research is having a research problem or issue that is too
broad and covers too much ground to handle in a five-week time period. The research proposal can make
your research more efficient by giving you a clear direction for research and minimizing the amount of time
you have to spend searching for sources. The research proposal must be prepared and formatted like other
Ashford University written assignments, in proper APA style.
Before you write your proposal, you must first complete the following tasks in the discovery phase of your
research project. Once you have completed these tasks, you should have the information you need to prepare the proposal.
• Select a topic.
Conduct preliminary research to limit the topic and establish a focus for your research.
Develop a research question or hypothesis. Research proposals follow a standard format. They are usually one to three pages in length and written
without any headings. Like the research paper itself, they are also written from a third-person point of view.
The research proposal is written in future tense, from the standpoint of what you intend to do, because it is prepared in advance of the actual research. However, when you write the proposal, you are actually beginning to soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 96 7/7/10 2:02 PM write the final paper itself. The information in the proposal will eventually become part of the introduction and
Methods section of your final paper. After your research is complete, you will change the proposal information from
future tense to past tense and report what you actually did and what you discovered during the research process.
Although research proposals do not have headings like the final research paper, certain specific information
must be covered. The required information is discussed below. Remember that the headings below are not
used in the proposal and are shown here only to aid us in discussing the types of information that must be
included. Figure 6.2 is a sample research proposal that illustrates how a typical research proposal might
read. See if you can identify the information below in that sample proposal. Scope and Nature of the Problem
Begin your proposal by setting the stage. Introduce the subject you have selected to research and indicate
your reasons for choosing it. Provide a brief background to create a context for your paper by thinking about
your readers and what they will need to know to understand the subject you are studying. Define any key
terms that will be important for readers to know and indicate the direction you plan to take in your research.
If you wish, you may include your justification (see below) at this point in the proposal. Research Question/Hypothesis
A research proposal, as well as the final research paper, must also state a specific research question or
hypothesis that you intend to explore. This research question or hypothesis should be suggested by what
you found in your preliminary research. The research question or hypothesis must also be one that can be
answered through your research. For example, “Is there life outside our solar system?” is not an acceptable
research question because you cannot answer that question definitively though your research. Specific Aspects of the Research Topic
This is the section of the proposal in which you limit your research topic. State the specific aspects of the
topic you plan to explore or specific subquestions you will attempt to answer through your research. Method of Data Collection
Indicate the method you will use to gather information to answer the research question or to test the hypothesis. Methods may include library research, Internet research, interviews, or other methods. Preliminary Findings
State what your preliminary research has uncovered to this point. Make certain the findings relate specifically to the research question you have posed or the hypothesis you have formulated. What does your
research indicate so far regarding this issue? The purpose of this section is to help you determine if enough
data exists to research this topic. Justification
To complete your introduction, make sure to include information about why your subject is worth studying.
You may think the subject is interesting, but why should readers be interested in it as well? This part of the
introduction is often referred to colloquially as answering the “so what” question. We know you want to
study this subject, but, so what? Why is it important? Why should readers care about this subject? In other
words, justify your research by explaining why the subject is important and is worth studying. soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 97 7/7/10 2:02 PM Note: This sample proposal is for illustration only and is not based on actual research results.
The rules for English grammar and usage have been well documented for almost a century. William Strunk, Jr. first
published his classic book, The Elements of Style in 1918, and another definitive work on the subject, Henry Watson
Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern Usage, was published in 1926. Modern versions of both books are still in print today,
along with more than 50,000 other titles one can find through an online search of the phrase “grammar books” on
Amazon.com. Numerous textbooks and educational reference guides dealing with English grammar and usage have
been published in the last hundred years, and the subject is part of the standard curriculum in most, if not all, U.S.
schools from elementary grades through high school. However, many adults today struggle to use English grammar and
punctuation properly in their oral and written communications.
The English grammar curriculum in many U.S. high schools has changed over the past several decades, and research
has shown continuing declines in test scores in English proficiency among secondary public school students across the
country since the 1960s. Whether the declines can be attributed to these curriculum changes or to other factors can
be debated. However, new approaches are currently being proposed in an attempt to reverse these declines. Revised
curricula in the past decade have generally focused on one of two general approaches: (1) a return to standards, or a
prescriptive grammar that emphasizes memorization and drilling on the rules that govern the English language and the
way the language should be used and (2) a descriptive grammar, which proposes “meeting students where they are”
and teaching grammar based on analyses and theory of how language is actually used. Both approaches have their
advocates and their detractors, and the literature suggests that both have their strengths and weaknesses.
An innovative approach to improving students’ language proficiency has been used in a few school districts but does
not appear to have been widely studied. This approach involves a hybrid of the two above traditional approaches. The
hybrid curriculum combines the emphasis on grammatic rules advocated by proponents of a prescriptive approach but
uses the language of everyday conversation favored by descriptive grammarians to teach concepts, rather than requiring
rote memorization of traditional nomenclature. The purpose of this research paper is to investigate this hybrid
approach and to determine whether higher test scores on high school English competency exams result from use of this
hybrid curriculum, as compared to traditional prescriptive and descriptive curriculum approaches. The hypothesis for
this investigation is that the hybrid approach will result in higher test scores than either of the traditional approaches.
This research study will be limited to high school curricula in the United States between ninth and twelve grades.
Because more curriculum experimentation appears to take place in private institutions rather than public high schools
that have mandated curriculum requirements to qualify for federal funding, this study will examine English curricula
in both public and private U.S. high schools. Research will be conducted in subscription databases of scholarly
educational journals and news magazines and through interviews with administrators and teachers of one such hybrid
curriculum currently being used in a high school in northern Minnesota. Likely sources for current information for this
study will be scholarly journals in the field of education and state department of education test scores and statistical
Approximately twelve hybrid programs have been reported in the literature as being initiated in U.S. high schools in
the past five years. Preliminary research findings from studies of these programs several years ago indicate that students
did better on comprehension of grammar concepts with a hybrid program than with a traditional program. However,
test results of students’ application of grammar concepts are inconclusive. More current studies will be examined to
determine if any significant trends are apparent in both student comprehension or application of concepts over the past
If we are to reverse the continuing decline in academic test scores in English grammar among young people in our
schools, we must investigate all promising approaches to improving student competencies, particularly in areas as
important to academic and professional success as language usage. If the hypothesis guiding this research study is
proven to be correct, it is hoped that the outcome of this study will guide curriculum revisions in the future so that
another decade of young people do not graduate from high school without the grammar competencies they need to be
successful adults. Figure 6.2 Sample Research Proposal soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 98 7/7/10 2:02 PM Preliminary Reference List
In your Ashford University course, you may also be asked to prepare preliminary reference lists for your
research assignments. These preliminary references must be arranged in alphabetical order and formatted
in APA style. Use the APA models in the Ashford Writing Center to help you prepare your references properly. The purpose of a preliminary reference list is to help you get started on your preliminary research and
encourage you to decide early in the course whether enough sources are available for your paper.
In some assignments, you may be asked to annotate your preliminary reference list, which means you will
format each reference in proper APA style, then double space and type a note or a comment about the
source and its potential value to your research project. Your annotation can be a summary of the information
the source contains, a comment about how you intend to use information from that source in your paper, a
note about any special features such as a glossary or an extensive list of references that are contained in the
source and that you think will be helpful, or a note about the credibility of the author or the importance of
the source to your research. Abstract
An abstract is a brief summary that allows readers to quickly survey the contents of a research paper or a written
article. It is usually between 150 to 250 words and explains the purpose of the research study, specifically what
was studied, the research method used, the results, and the conclusions drawn from the study.
You will not have to prepare an abstract for your Ashford University research papers in your undergraduate
degree program unless one is specifically requested by your instructor. However, many business or marketing research papers include a similar summary that covers the same subjects and is labeled “Executive
Summary.” 6.5 Summary
The most effective way to write a research paper is to break this large task into steps and to take one step at
a time. Once you have found what you believe to be sufficient sources for your paper, the final phase of a
research paper, the integration phase, contains several steps you must complete to create your final paper.
Planning the paper is the first step in the integration phase, and it involves addressing the four standard sections of a research paper: the introduction, methods, results, and conclusions. The second step in the integration phase, organizing information, involves sorting your research notes and arranging the information
and data you have collected into one of the above four standard sections. The third step, integrating, requires
that you make judgments about where to place certain pieces of information and that you weave together, or
synthesize, the information you found as you engage in a conversation with your readers about the research
you conducted. These initial steps are followed by the standard steps in the writing process common to all
academic papers: revising, editing, proofreading, formatting, and documenting sources to ensure that your
paper is the best it can be. I suggest you follow these steps in your ENG 122 research paper as well as other
research papers you are assigned in your Ashford University courses.
In your Ashford courses, you will usually be expected to write one of two types of research papers: analytical
research papers or argumentative research papers. An analytical research paper requires that you develop
a specific research question and then objectively examine, analyze, and critically evaluate different points
of view about a subject, without taking a position on one side or another or favoring one side over another.
The second type of paper, the argumentative research paper, also requires you to present different sides
of a controversial subject and to examine, analyze, and evaluate different points of view on the subject. soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 99 7/7/10 2:02 PM However, in the argumentative paper, you take a personal stand in the debate, often in the form of a hypothesis. You then step away from your position on the issue and present facts objectively. In this type of paper,
you use logical reasoning and the skills of formal argument to attempt to persuade readers to accept your
position on the issue.
Often you may be assigned intermediate assignments that can help you stay on track with your research
assignments. These intermediate assignments may consist of submitting your research topic or title in
advance, a research proposal, a preliminary reference list, or an abstract. If you take care to prepare these
intermediate assignments well, they can save you a great deal of time in the final week of class because, with
a few modifications, they can become portions of your final paper. soL82373_06_c06_p087-100.indd 100 7/7/10 2:02 PM ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course ENG 122 ENG 122 taught by Professor Jessicaheld during the Fall '10 term at Ashford University.
- Fall '10
- Bird by Bird