In an opinion paper, you will focus on a topic about which you have personal thoughts, beliefs, or feelings. Your goal is to persuadeyour reader that your position on this topic is the best one. You won’t accomplish that goal with a rant or diatribe. Instead, you will need to support your claim with facts, statistics, real-life examples or published research studies. So, despite its name, an opinion paper will require some research.
The most common research paper assignment (particularly in undergraduate courses) is a lot like a literature review. You will conduct a thorough search for scholarly sources about your chosen topic, then carefully read and summarize them. But beyond simply describing the books and articles that you read, your goal is to participate in the scholarly “conversation” surrounding your topic. You can do that by:
- Organizing your paper by themes or trends that you discovered in the literature
- Identifying and explaining controversies surrounding your topic
- Pointing out strengths and weaknesses in the studies that you read
- Identifying aspects of the topic that need further research
Sometimes (more commonly in graduate courses), you will design your own study and write about it. While this kind of research paper includes a literature review section, it will also require you to describe your study’s methodology, data analysis and results. The graduate section of Writing@APUS offers advice for students working on original research papers.
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The United States is so rich in history and culture making it very interesting to study and consequently one of the top research paper topics for college students. Research papers on recent events though, especially in the 20th century, can be quite hard to write with the lack of perspective and the differing opinions of experts with regard to the events.
On the abandonment of restrictive fashion of previous eras in favor of more comfortable clothing in the modern era;
On the Hiroshima bombing in 1945 which was considered to be a year of beginnings and endings;
On the Anthracite Coal Strike in 1902 and the effects of the coal mines on coal miners;
On the Black Power Movement and the fight for civil rights;
On the Chicano Movement in the 1960s for the Spanish-Californians and their fight for civil rights;
On the factors that led to the Great Depression in the late 1920s;
On establishing Veteran’s day to commemorate the end of World War 1 which was declared to be the war that ended all wars;
On the rise of organized crimes in the 1920s after the 18th amendment made it illegal to manufacture, transport, or sell alcohol;
On the War Power Act which limited presidential military authority; and
On the Women’s Christian Temperance Union regulating the consumption of alcohol at the time when women had limited legal rights.
Writing research paper topics about United States history or even writing a research paper, in general can get really tedious. This is why students often hire professional writers to do the dirty work for them – from doing the research to writing it down accordingly into a cohesive and comprehensive piece of research work.
Thesis. Pick a topic that is relevant to the general public and actually calls for an answer to real world questions. Avoid writing down summaries and narratives. Instead, argue your point and substantiate them accordingly with credible references in research papers.
Bibliography. A research paper requires a lot of research which means you will have to go through relevant primary and secondary sources.
Outline. It can either be a broad general guide or a very detailed plan, whichever works better for you. This allows you to check easily your progress and re-order parts as needed. This will also help you manage your time and ensure you submit on or before the deadline, with enough time to finalize and perfect the research paper.
Title. The title obviously has to give the readers an idea of what the paper would be about. Choose a title that suggests a question or a debate that you will be addressing in the paper.
Introduction. Start strong to convince your readers to read on. The introduction should introduce the argument and present some historical context of the issue.
Argument. Arguments without evidence to prove them are hearsays and will not hold water. Make sure that each argument you make is substantiated with appropriate and credible references that are properly cited. Again, do not just summarize and narrate the data and information you have gathered. Make sure to analyze the facts.
Conclusion. Summarize the entire argument at the end and add the value or reason of your research paper. It should reinforce the relevance of your research paper and convince your readers to actually act on the matter.
Style. Write in clear, concise English and avoid colloquial English or slang. In writing about history, make sure to use the past tense all throughout the paper.
Paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain one major point that will advance your argument.
Quotations. Keep all quotes short because what is important is your analyses and your thoughts on the subject matter. Remember to acknowledge the source of all direct quotations in the footnotes. Check with your instructor on which citation style guide to use. Otherwise, there are several style guides you can choose from.
Annotation. You can use either footnotes or endnotes, but never both. As already mentioned, you would have to check with your instructor on which citation style guide to use. In any case, the standard guides are M.L.A. or the Chicago style.
Revisions. Make sure to edit and proofread your first draft more than once. You can also ask other people to edit your work for fresh eyes. Make sure to look into your spelling, grammar, and writing style. These are the little details with big effects.
Technical desiderata. Research paper assignments usually go with instructions but absent these instructions, do provide a cover sheet and number pages.