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Crafting Your Research Paper

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1 Crafting Your Research Paper
GWRC workshop Fall 2012

2 Some basic genres of academic writing
The review (note: a book review, written as an evaluation of one specific text, is not the same as the literature review that forms part of your research paper or dissertation) Dissertations, monographs, and extended research studies Journal articles and seminar papers

3 Some commonalities All of these genres will require that you:
Introduce the area in which you are working (context and pertinent questions) Demonstrate familiarity with key works and current scholarly conversations in your specific field Explore the implications for the field overall (in a review section, discuss how the previous work has impacted the field; in a research paper, propose implications for your own new contributions)

4 Journal articles versus dissertations
Journal articles address one specific hypothesis and case study. They may be written for a particular journal or call for papers on a certain subject; they often explore one case study in depth. Dissertations require more extensive engagement with the history of the field, demonstrating your awareness of the depth and breadth of scholarship in the area. They also involve extended analysis of the larger implications of your research: how will this project reshape your field?

5 The components of a research paper
The abstract The introduction (if you have an abstract, this may not be required—check your guidelines) The literature review Argument and hypothesis Explanation of research design Analysis of results Conclusions

6 The abstract Abstracts are designed to provide readers (or journal reviewers) with a quick overview of your project, its context, your hypothesis, and its implications. Successful abstracts will: Contextualize your larger topic: what are you working on? Locate your work in context by referring to prior work (or a lack thereof) Raise questions to extend that prior work and suggest a new possibility or hypothesis that will contribute to a better understanding of the topic Suggest larger implications of your work: how might your research affect the field?

7 A sample abstract (from the Purdue OWL sample APA paper: http://owl
“This paper explores four published articles that report on results from research conducted on online (Internet) and offline (non-Internet) relationships and their relationship to computer-mediated communication (CMC). The articles, however, vary in their definitions and uses of CMC. Butler and Kraut (2002) suggest that face-to-face (FtF) interactions are more effective than CMC, defined and used as “ ,” in creating feelings of closeness or intimacy. Other articles define CMC differently and, therefore, offer different results. This paper examines Cummings, Butler, and Kraut’s (2002) research in relation to three other research articles to suggest that all forms of CMC should be studied in order to fully understand how CMC influences online and offline relationships. Keywords: computer-mediated communication, face-to-face communication”

8 The introduction The introduction is an important part of your research paper. While your introduction should be relatively concise, accomplishing the goals below will take more than one paragraph. In your introduction, you should accomplish the following: Capture the interest of the reader. Perhaps you can do this by pointing out a puzzle that we don’t yet understand or a controversy in current scholarship. Perhaps you can draw on the overall importance of your topic to draw the reader in. Make someone want to know what you have to say. State your research question clearly and explain why we should care about the answer.

9 The introduction, continued
Preview your argument and conclusions and provide a roadmap through the paper– let the reader know where you are going and what to expect. References to specific sections may be helpful here. Explain the value of your study. How does your work advance knowledge? For instance, are you developing a new argument? Are you extending an existing argument? Are you evaluating an argument in a new empirical domain? Where does your work fit in the established literature and what is new about it?

10 A sample introduction (paper title) Varying Definitions of Online Communication and Their Effects on Relationship Research Numerous studies have been conducted on various facets of Internet relationships, focusing on the levels of intimacy, closeness, different communication modalities, and the frequency of use of computer-mediated communication (CMC). However, contradictory results are suggested within this research because only certain aspects of CMC are investigated, for example, only. Cummings, Butler, and Kraut (2002) suggest that face-to-face (FtF) interactions are more effective than CMC (read: ) in creating feelings of closeness or intimacy, while other studies suggest the opposite. To understand how both online (Internet) and offline (non-Internet) relationships are affected by CMC, all forms of CMC should be studied. This paper examines Cummings et al.’s research against other CMC research to propose that additional research be conducted to better understand how online communication affects relationships.

11 The literature review In this section, you must situate your research project within relation to current literature and show how your project moves existing scholarship forward. In order to do this, you must demonstrate your understanding of the current state of theory and evidence on your topic and the ways in which your proposed project improves upon existing work. In other words, you must review the relevant literature.

12 The literature review continued
A literature review should not be merely a technical reporting of what has been done before, but a creative organization of past work that helps to frame and build your argument. Good literature reviews order individual articles and books into groups, producing patterns that help readers to see unresolved debates, inconsistencies, and new questions clearly and quickly. By organizing past research in this way, you can convince the reader that your research, which will help to resolve these debates and/or inconsistencies or answer these new questions, is particularly important.

13 The literature review continued
The most common mistake that students make in writing a literature review for a research paper is to lose sight of its purpose. The literature review is meant to explain both the basis for and contribution of your research project; it should be focused on issues directly relevant to your study and should be organized in a way to call attention to the contributions of your research. The purpose of the literature review is NOT to show that you have read a lot of material. Summarizing as many books and articles as you can, whether or not they relate directly to your research question, is not a good strategy. Short, well-focused literature reviews are more effective than long, meandering ones. At the same time, you must demonstrate your understanding of key texts as well as the current state of the field.

14 Excerpt from a review section
Two programs exemplify how rich experiences can serve as venues for developing and assessing multiple intelligences. The first, Project Spectrum, is an interactive assessment process for preschool children developed in the 1980s at Harvard Project Zero (Gardner, Feldman, & Krechevsky, 1998), This process evaluates each intelligence directly, rather than funneling the information through a linguistic paper-and-pencil test. Spatial orientation and manipulation tasks evaluate spatial intelligence; group tasks evaluate interpersonal intelligence; self-assessments paired with the other assessments evaluate intrapersonal intelligence. Project Spectrum environments do not segment tasks strictly into one intelligence or another. Instead, they set up situations in which a student can interact with rich materials—and teachers can observe these interactions—to see which intelligences come to the fore and which are relegated to the background. (from Moran, Kornhaber, and Gardner, Orchestrating Multiple Intelligences)

15 Argument and hypothesis
In this section, you must clearly explain your own argument to your readers. This requires that you: identify the assumptions you are making show how you derive expectations about causal mechanisms and causal effects in a logical manner from those assumptions suggest a theory or hypothesis to explain those mechanisms

16 Argument and hypothesis continued
A good theory or hypothesis must provide a discussion of cause advance the understanding of the field overall (that is, be generalizable to a class of events beyond those you study) be potentially verifiable (or potentially provably false). (In other words, you must be able to identify evidence that, if uncovered in empirical evaluation, would convince you your theory was wrong) Do your best to identify as many observable implications of your theory as possible, even if you will not be able to test them all in this paper. Try also to identify the bounds of the theory. Under what conditions should it apply, and under what conditions would we expect it not to apply?

17 Articulating your argument
Your argument is your presentation of your own scholarly, well-informed, considered opinion. State your hypothesis clearly and explicitly, in as few sentences as possible; this is not the place to confuse your readers. Define any potentially unfamiliar terms, and give credits to the originators of those terms. Remember, how you present information , as well as the content of that presentation, affects your credibility as a scholar!

18 Example of setting out a theory
Multiple intelligences theory was originally developed as an explanation of how the mind works—not as an education policy, let alone an education panacea. Moreover, when we and other colleagues began to consider the implications of the theory for education, the last thing we wanted to do was multiply educators' jobs ninefold. Rather, we sought to demonstrate that because students bring to the classroom diverse intellectual profiles, one "IQ" measure is insufficient to evaluate, label, and plan education programs for all students. Adopting a multiple intelligences approach can bring about a quiet revolution in the way students see themselves and others. Instead of defining themselves as either "smart" or "dumb,“ students can perceive themselves as potentially smart in a number of ways.

19 Explanation of research design
In this section, you will explain to the reader how you intend to evaluate your hypotheses. Some important questions to address may include: To what population should the hypothesis apply? What sample will you study, and how and why did you select this sample? What is your unit of analysis, and how have you have measured your dependent variable and independent variables? You must explain the sources of your information, and how you determined the values of the variables. Keep in mind that this step is necessary even if you are evaluating only a few cases and using words rather than numbers in your evaluation. You must still explain what criteria you used to determine whether (for instance) a university had a lot of bargaining power with the state or very little, or whether a cooperative agreement followed traditional patterns, and how you obtained information about the cases.

20 Explanation of research design, continued
What, if any, control variables are necessary to include in your analysis? Why do you include these control variables? Where did you get information on these variables? What method of analysis do you use to draw inferences and why? Make sure to explain any particular aspects of the data analysis that require specific attention.

21 An example paragraph One game involved participants manipulating a joystick to control a robot that can lift and move a cube to a target space. When played alone, this exhibit primarily assesses bodily-kinesthetic and spatial intelligence. But when two to four people each control a different joystick—one that controls the left wheel of the robot, another that controls the right wheel, another that raises the cube, and another that lowers the cube—they must coordinate their play to accomplish the task, employing linguistic, logical-mathematical, and interpersonal intelligences.

22 Analysis of results Here you must present your analysis and a discussion of the results. In constructing any tables and/or figures, make sure that you provide clear labels and a title. Readers looking at a table or graph should be able to see with no difficulty the relationship you intend to demonstrate and the population of cases that you examined. It is important, however, that you not only present the data in tables, but also explain it in words. Readers should be able to understand your key results simply from reading the text.

23 Analysis of results continued
Not only should you present the data, but you should also evaluate the result. This section is important—remember, the data does not necessarily speak for itself. You must tell your audience what you believe these results demonstrate. Some ways of thinking about this question: What conclusions have you reached about your hypotheses? Did the data support your initial theory, or challenge your expectations? Are there weaknesses in the tests of the hypotheses? Are there particular cases that stand out as not matching expected patterns? Why might that be? It is useful to think as skeptically as you can about your findings and think of any other possible interpretation.

24 Conclusions Conclusions are the final section of your paper, and often the last chance you have to make an impression on your audience. Strong conclusions will: Summarize the overall trajectory of your work. What did you argue and what did the evidence show? Discuss directions for future research. What does this project lead you to believe must be studied in the future? Did your analysis raise new questions? Were there things that you would have liked to be able to evaluate but were unable to? This allows you to open up the critical conversation in new and productive ways. Explain why your work is important. How did it advance scholarship in this field, or contribute in a larger cultural context?

25 Some general comments Check to be sure that you have supported all assertions with evidence. Even if you think a statement is logical, your audience may not have the same context as you do. Make sure the connections between your data and your conclusions are clearly expressed. Again, even if the connections are clear in your head, they may need to be plainly stated for your readers. Remember, be proud of your work—this is your contribution to your chosen field!

26 References Leeds, R. (n.d.). Guide to writing your research paper. Unpublished manuscript, Political Science, Rice University, Houston, Retrieved from Moran, S., Kornhaber, M., & Gardner, H. (2006). Orchestrating multiple intelligences. Educational Leadership, 64(1), The Purdue Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). Conducting Research. Retrieved from

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