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Argument/opinion paper:

A type of term paper in which you take a stand on a topic and justify it with evidence --either for or against. Both sides --pro and con-- of the issue are typically discussed.


A technique for properly attributing information to the appropriate author or source.

Descriptive/informative paper:

A type of term paper that describes the nature of a topic, allowing you to acquire a deeper knowledge of the subject or issue.

Research questions:

Specific questions that you hope to answer through your research that will form the basis for your overall paper. 

RQs narrow your purpose statement into the fundamental questions in your overall topic.

Thesis/purpose statement:

A summary in one to two declarative sentences indicating what you hope to achieve through your research.


McAdoo M. L. (2015). The student's survival guide to research. Neal-Schuman.

Getting Started

icons that suggest research

One of the most difficult parts of writing research papers is understanding what they really are. A research paper has to, at its most basic level, inform about the research on a topic. You can't simply pick a topic and say "I'm going to write a research paper about this topic," and then actually start writing it. You need to know what it is you're researching, why, what purpose it serves, and what type of research paper you are working on.


This might sound simple, however, people often get stuck coming up with a research question, or even really wondering what the difference between a research question and a regular question is. Research questions are those that can not be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A research question is "[N]ot any question we ask. Instead, it is a clear, specific, and goal-oriented query related to a problem that needs to be addressed" (Nassaji, 2019, 283).

  • Example of a regular question: Is a tomato a fruit?
  • Example of a research question: What effect does the acid in tomatoes have on your tooth enamel?

This guide is far from exhaustive, but it aims to inform you about what research papers are, what pieces are necessary, what formatting and citation style to use, and how to properly compile everything.


Nassaji, H. (2019). Good research questions. Language Teaching Research, 23(3), p. 283-286.


Integrating Sources

Need help figuring out how to integrate sources into the text of your paper? Check out this handout for assistance in both APA and MLA format!

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