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Research Papers Library

Writing Research Papers

The purpose of a research paper in literary or cultural studies is to convince your reader of your opinion on one or more particular texts, authors, movements, productions, issues, periods, theories, etc. Summarizing the work of other critics or giving biographical background information on a particular author may occasionally be useful, but this can never be the main goal of a research paper. What is most important is your own critical approach to a topic and the persuasive presentation of your own argument, along with proof for the validity of that argument. This genre of writing does not primarily seek to gather information (as an encyclopedia entry might do) but to defend a certain understanding, reading or interpretation of particular texts/issues/events, to uncover aspects that might not be apparent at first sight, or to establish connections that might help your reader see in a new light the material you discuss. The hypothesis, opinion or argument that you set out to prove in a research paper is called your thesis. This thesis is the most important sentence of your research paper; it is usually presented at the end of your introduction. Your thesis should consist of a specific and precise announcement of what it is that you will prove/demonstrate/argue in your essay. A statement like “In the speeches of John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards there are many similarities but also some differences,” for example, is too vague. A better thesis would be: “While John Winthrop’s speeches use religious doctrines in order to justify a democratic social model, Jonathan Edwards employs Scripture primarily in order to reprimand his listeners and to insist on the necessity of strict religious codes of behavior. Where one concentrates on the common good, the other focuses on individual salvation.

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