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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

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Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

  • Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
  • Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
  • Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

  • A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
  • A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.

Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

  • Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
  • Are there any heated debates you can address?
  • Do you have a unique take on your topic?
  • Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

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A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

  • Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
  • Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
  • Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement;
  • topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
  • and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

  • Offer new arguments or essential information
  • Take up any more space than necessary
  • Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

  • Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
  • Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
  • Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
  • If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible. You can speed up the proofreading process by using the AI proofreader .

Global concerns

  • Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
  • Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
  • Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.

Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

  • each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
  • no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
  • all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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Scholarly writing: overview, introduction.

Scholarly writing is also known as academic writing. It is the genre of writing used in all academic fields. Scholarly writing is not better than journalism, fiction, or poetry; it is just a different category. Because most of us are not used to scholarly writing, it can feel unfamiliar and intimidating, but it is a skill that can be learned by immersing yourself in scholarly literature. During your studies at Walden, you will be reading, discussing, and producing scholarly writing in everything from discussion posts to dissertations. For Walden students, there are plenty of opportunities to practice this skill in a writing intensive environment.

The resources in the Grammar & Composition tab provide important foundations for scholarly writing, so please refer to those pages as well for help on scholarly writing. Similarly, scholarly writing can differ depending on style guide. Our resources follow the general guidelines of the APA manual, and you can find more APA help in the APA Style tab.

Read on to learn about a few characteristics of scholarly writing!

Writing at the Graduate Level

Writing at the graduate level can appear to be confusing and intimidating. It can be difficult to determine exactly what the scholarly voice is and how to transition to graduate-level writing. There are some elements of writing to consider when writing to a scholarly audience: word choice, tone, and effective use of evidence . If you understand and employ scholarly voice rules, you will master writing at the doctoral level.

Before you write something, ask yourself the following: 

  • Is this objective?
  • Am I speaking as a social scientist? Am I using the literature to support my assertions?
  • Could this be offensive to someone?
  • Could this limit my readership?

Employing these rules when writing will help ensure that you are speaking as a social scientist. Your writing will be clear and concise, and this approach will allow your content to shine through.

Specialized Vocabulary

Scholarly authors assume that their audience is familiar with fundamental ideas and terms in their field, and they do not typically define them for the reader. Thus, the wording in scholarly writing is specialized, requiring previous knowledge on the part of the reader. You might not be able to pick up a scholarly journal in another field and easily understand its contents (although you should be able to follow the writing itself).

Take for example, the terms "EMRs" and "end-stage renal disease" in the medical field or the keywords scaffolding and differentiation in teaching. Perhaps readers outside of these fields may not be familiar with these terms. However, a reader of an article that contains these terms should still be able to understand the general flow of the writing itself.

Original Thought

Scholarly writing communicates original thought, whether through primary research or synthesis, that presents a unique perspective on previous research. In a scholarly work, the author is expected to have insights on the issue at hand, but those insights must be grounded in research, critical reading , and analysis rather than personal experience or opinion. Take a look at some examples below:

Needs Improvement: I think that childhood obesity needs to be prevented because it is bad and it causes health problems.
Better: I believe that childhood obesity must be prevented because it is linked to health problems and deaths in adults (McMillan, 2010).
Good: Georges (2002) explained that there "has never been a disease so devastating and yet so preventable as obesity" (p. 35). In fact, the number of deaths that can be linked to obesity are astounding. According to McMillan (2010), there is a direct correlation between childhood obesity and heart attacks later in their adult lives, and the American Heart Association's 2010 statistic sheet shows similar statistics: 49% of all heart attacks are preventable (AHA, 2010). Because of this correlation, childhood obesity is an issue that must be addressed and prevented to ensure the health of both children and adults.

Notice that the first example gives a personal opinion but cites no sources or research. The second example gives a bit of research but still emphasizes the personal opinion. The third example, however, still gives the writer's opinion (that childhood obesity must be addressed), but it does so by synthesizing the information from multiple sources to help persuade the reader.

Careful Citation

Scholarly writing includes careful citation of sources and the presence of a bibliography or reference list. The writing is informed by and shows engagement with the larger body of literature on the topic at hand, and all assertions are supported by relevant sources.

Crash Course in Scholarly Writing Video

Note that this video was created while APA 6 was the style guide edition in use. There may be some examples of writing that have not been updated to APA 7 guidelines.

  • Crash Course in Scholarly Writing (video transcript)

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Home » Scholarly Paper – Format, Example and Writing Guide

Scholarly Paper – Format, Example and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

Scholarly Paper

Scholarly Paper

Definition:

Scholarly paper is a piece of academic writing that presents original research or analysis on a particular topic. It is usually written by scholars or experts in a particular field of study and is intended for an audience of other scholars or researchers. Scholarly papers typically follow a specific format and include a literature review , research methods , findings , and conclusions .

Scholarly papers are often published in academic journals or conference proceedings and are subjected to a rigorous peer-review process to ensure the quality and validity of the research presented. These papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field and help advance understanding and knowledge in that area.

How to Write Scholarly Paper

Writing a scholarly paper involves several important steps that need to be followed to ensure that your work meets the high standards of academic writing. Here are some general guidelines to help you write a scholarly paper:

  • Choose your topic: Your topic should be narrow enough to be manageable but broad enough to provide sufficient scope for research.
  • Conduct research: Research your topic thoroughly using a range of sources, including books, academic journals, and online databases. Keep track of your sources and take detailed notes.
  • Create an outline: Develop a clear and logical structure for your paper. Your outline should include an introduction, a literature review, a methodology section, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Write your introduction : Introduce your topic and provide some background information. Clearly state your research question or hypothesis and explain why your research is important.
  • Write your literature review: Summarize the existing research on your topic, highlighting key findings, debates, and gaps in the literature. Use the literature review to provide context for your research question.
  • Write your methodology section : Explain how you conducted your research and what methods you used. Be clear about your sample, data collection procedures, and data analysis techniques.
  • Present your results: Report your findings in a clear and organized way. Use tables, graphs, and charts to help visualize your data.
  • Discuss your findings : Interpret your results and explain their significance. Relate your findings back to your research question and literature review. Discuss any limitations of your study.
  • Write your conclusion: Summarize your main findings and their implications. Discuss the contributions of your research and its potential impact. Identify areas for further research.
  • Edit and proofread: Review your paper carefully for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Ensure that your paper is well-organized and that your arguments are clear and concise.

Scholarly Paper Format

The format of a scholarly paper can vary slightly depending on the specific requirements of the academic institution or journal. However, most scholarly papers follow a similar structure, which typically includes the following sections:

  • Title page : This includes the title of the paper, the author’s name, the name of the institution, and the date of submission.
  • Abstract: This is a brief summary of the paper, typically no more than 250 words, that describes the purpose, methods, and findings of the study.
  • Introduction : This section provides background information on the topic and outlines the research questions or hypotheses that the study aims to address.
  • Literature review : This section provides a summary of existing research on the topic and discusses how the current study fits within the broader context of the field.
  • Methods : This section describes the research design, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques used in the study.
  • Results : This section presents the findings of the study in a clear and concise manner, using tables, graphs, or other visual aids as necessary.
  • Discussion : This section interprets the findings of the study and discusses their implications for the broader field. It may also address limitations of the study and suggest directions for future research.
  • Conclusion : This section summarizes the key findings of the study and highlights their importance.
  • References : This section lists all sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style (such as APA or MLA).

Example of Scholarly Paper

Example of Scholarly Paper structure is as follows::

I. Introduction

A. Background and context

B. Research question or thesis statement

C. Importance of the research

D. Objectives or goals of the study

II. Literature Review

A. Overview of the relevant literature

B. Key concepts or theories

C. Methodologies used in previous research

D. Gaps or limitations in previous research

E. How the current study addresses those gaps

III. Methodology

A. Research design

B. Participants or subjects

C. Data collection methods

D. Data analysis procedures

E. Ethical considerations

IV. Results

A. Description of the data

B. Statistical analyses

C. Findings related to research question

D. Supporting evidence

V. Discussion

A. Interpretation of results

B. Implications of findings

C. Limitations of the study

D. Suggestions for future research

VI. Conclusion

A. Summary of main points

B. Implications for practice

C. Contributions to the field

D. Concluding thoughts

VII. References

A. List of sources cited in the paper

VIII. Appendices (if necessary)

A. Supplementary materials such as graphs, tables, or figures

B. Informed consent forms C. Other supporting documentation.

Purpose of Scholarly Paper

Scholarly papers serve various purposes depending on the field of study and the intended audience. Here are some purposes of scholarly papers:

  • To advance knowledge : One of the main purposes of scholarly papers is to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a particular field. Scholars conduct research, analyze data, and present their findings in a scholarly paper to build upon existing knowledge or introduce new ideas.
  • To communicate research: Scholarly papers are a means of communicating research findings to other scholars, practitioners, and the general public. Through scholarly papers, researchers can share their insights, data, and interpretations with others, leading to a better understanding of the topic under study.
  • To review literature : Scholarly papers may also serve as literature reviews, which summarize and synthesize existing research on a particular topic. Literature reviews help to identify gaps in knowledge, highlight areas for further research, and inform research questions.
  • To support academic evaluation : Scholarly papers can be used to evaluate academic progress and achievement, such as in the form of thesis and dissertation papers. These papers are expected to demonstrate a student’s mastery of the subject matter and their ability to conduct independent research.
  • To inform policy and practice: Finally, scholarly papers can inform policy and practice by providing evidence-based recommendations for decision-making. Scholars may conduct research on social, economic, or environmental issues and present their findings in a scholarly paper, which can then be used by policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to inform their decisions and actions.

When to Write Scholarly Paper

Here are some situations where you might need to write a scholarly paper:

  • Academic Requirements: If you are a student pursuing an academic degree, you may be required to write scholarly papers as part of your coursework or to fulfill the requirements for your degree program.
  • Publishing Research: If you are a researcher, scholar, or academic, you may need to write scholarly papers to publish your research findings or analysis in academic journals, conference proceedings, or other scholarly publications.
  • Grants and Funding : If you are applying for grants or funding to support your research or academic work, you may be required to submit scholarly papers as part of your application.
  • Professional Development : Writing scholarly papers can help you develop your writing and research skills, and can also help you build your reputation as an expert in your field.

Advantages of Scholarly Paper

Some Advantages of Scholarly Paper are as follows:

  • Credibility : Scholarly papers are usually written by experts in their respective fields, and the information presented in these papers is rigorously researched, verified, and reviewed by peers. This gives them a high level of credibility and makes them reliable sources of information.
  • Access to new information: Scholarly papers often report on new findings and discoveries in a specific field, making them an important source of new information. Reading these papers can help researchers and professionals stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field.
  • In-depth analysis: Scholarly papers typically include a detailed analysis of the research question, methodology, and results. This level of detail helps readers understand the research and its implications more thoroughly.
  • Peer review: Scholarly papers undergo a rigorous peer-review process in which experts in the field review the paper before it is published. This process ensures that the paper meets high standards of quality and accuracy.
  • Citation: Scholarly papers are often cited by other researchers and professionals in the field, which helps to build a body of knowledge and establish the author’s expertise.

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  • How to write a research paper

Last updated

11 January 2024

Reviewed by

With proper planning, knowledge, and framework, completing a research paper can be a fulfilling and exciting experience. 

Though it might initially sound slightly intimidating, this guide will help you embrace the challenge. 

By documenting your findings, you can inspire others and make a difference in your field. Here's how you can make your research paper unique and comprehensive.

  • What is a research paper?

Research papers allow you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic. These papers are usually lengthier and more detailed than typical essays, requiring deeper insight into the chosen topic.

To write a research paper, you must first choose a topic that interests you and is relevant to the field of study. Once you’ve selected your topic, gathering as many relevant resources as possible, including books, scholarly articles, credible websites, and other academic materials, is essential. You must then read and analyze these sources, summarizing their key points and identifying gaps in the current research.

You can formulate your ideas and opinions once you thoroughly understand the existing research. To get there might involve conducting original research, gathering data, or analyzing existing data sets. It could also involve presenting an original argument or interpretation of the existing research.

Writing a successful research paper involves presenting your findings clearly and engagingly, which might involve using charts, graphs, or other visual aids to present your data and using concise language to explain your findings. You must also ensure your paper adheres to relevant academic formatting guidelines, including proper citations and references.

Overall, writing a research paper requires a significant amount of time, effort, and attention to detail. However, it is also an enriching experience that allows you to delve deeply into a subject that interests you and contribute to the existing body of knowledge in your chosen field.

  • How long should a research paper be?

Research papers are deep dives into a topic. Therefore, they tend to be longer pieces of work than essays or opinion pieces. 

However, a suitable length depends on the complexity of the topic and your level of expertise. For instance, are you a first-year college student or an experienced professional? 

Also, remember that the best research papers provide valuable information for the benefit of others. Therefore, the quality of information matters most, not necessarily the length. Being concise is valuable.

Following these best practice steps will help keep your process simple and productive:

1. Gaining a deep understanding of any expectations

Before diving into your intended topic or beginning the research phase, take some time to orient yourself. Suppose there’s a specific topic assigned to you. In that case, it’s essential to deeply understand the question and organize your planning and approach in response. Pay attention to the key requirements and ensure you align your writing accordingly. 

This preparation step entails

Deeply understanding the task or assignment

Being clear about the expected format and length

Familiarizing yourself with the citation and referencing requirements 

Understanding any defined limits for your research contribution

Where applicable, speaking to your professor or research supervisor for further clarification

2. Choose your research topic

Select a research topic that aligns with both your interests and available resources. Ideally, focus on a field where you possess significant experience and analytical skills. In crafting your research paper, it's crucial to go beyond summarizing existing data and contribute fresh insights to the chosen area.

Consider narrowing your focus to a specific aspect of the topic. For example, if exploring the link between technology and mental health, delve into how social media use during the pandemic impacts the well-being of college students. Conducting interviews and surveys with students could provide firsthand data and unique perspectives, adding substantial value to the existing knowledge.

When finalizing your topic, adhere to legal and ethical norms in the relevant area (this ensures the integrity of your research, protects participants' rights, upholds intellectual property standards, and ensures transparency and accountability). Following these principles not only maintains the credibility of your work but also builds trust within your academic or professional community.

For instance, in writing about medical research, consider legal and ethical norms, including patient confidentiality laws and informed consent requirements. Similarly, if analyzing user data on social media platforms, be mindful of data privacy regulations, ensuring compliance with laws governing personal information collection and use. Aligning with legal and ethical standards not only avoids potential issues but also underscores the responsible conduct of your research.

3. Gather preliminary research

Once you’ve landed on your topic, it’s time to explore it further. You’ll want to discover more about available resources and existing research relevant to your assignment at this stage. 

This exploratory phase is vital as you may discover issues with your original idea or realize you have insufficient resources to explore the topic effectively. This key bit of groundwork allows you to redirect your research topic in a different, more feasible, or more relevant direction if necessary. 

Spending ample time at this stage ensures you gather everything you need, learn as much as you can about the topic, and discover gaps where the topic has yet to be sufficiently covered, offering an opportunity to research it further. 

4. Define your research question

To produce a well-structured and focused paper, it is imperative to formulate a clear and precise research question that will guide your work. Your research question must be informed by the existing literature and tailored to the scope and objectives of your project. By refining your focus, you can produce a thoughtful and engaging paper that effectively communicates your ideas to your readers.

5. Write a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a one-to-two-sentence summary of your research paper's main argument or direction. It serves as an overall guide to summarize the overall intent of the research paper for you and anyone wanting to know more about the research.

A strong thesis statement is:

Concise and clear: Explain your case in simple sentences (avoid covering multiple ideas). It might help to think of this section as an elevator pitch.

Specific: Ensure that there is no ambiguity in your statement and that your summary covers the points argued in the paper.

Debatable: A thesis statement puts forward a specific argument––it is not merely a statement but a debatable point that can be analyzed and discussed.

Here are three thesis statement examples from different disciplines:

Psychology thesis example: "We're studying adults aged 25-40 to see if taking short breaks for mindfulness can help with stress. Our goal is to find practical ways to manage anxiety better."

Environmental science thesis example: "This research paper looks into how having more city parks might make the air cleaner and keep people healthier. I want to find out if more green spaces means breathing fewer carcinogens in big cities."

UX research thesis example: "This study focuses on improving mobile banking for older adults using ethnographic research, eye-tracking analysis, and interactive prototyping. We investigate the usefulness of eye-tracking analysis with older individuals, aiming to spark debate and offer fresh perspectives on UX design and digital inclusivity for the aging population."

6. Conduct in-depth research

A research paper doesn’t just include research that you’ve uncovered from other papers and studies but your fresh insights, too. You will seek to become an expert on your topic––understanding the nuances in the current leading theories. You will analyze existing research and add your thinking and discoveries.  It's crucial to conduct well-designed research that is rigorous, robust, and based on reliable sources. Suppose a research paper lacks evidence or is biased. In that case, it won't benefit the academic community or the general public. Therefore, examining the topic thoroughly and furthering its understanding through high-quality research is essential. That usually means conducting new research. Depending on the area under investigation, you may conduct surveys, interviews, diary studies, or observational research to uncover new insights or bolster current claims.

7. Determine supporting evidence

Not every piece of research you’ve discovered will be relevant to your research paper. It’s important to categorize the most meaningful evidence to include alongside your discoveries. It's important to include evidence that doesn't support your claims to avoid exclusion bias and ensure a fair research paper.

8. Write a research paper outline

Before diving in and writing the whole paper, start with an outline. It will help you to see if more research is needed, and it will provide a framework by which to write a more compelling paper. Your supervisor may even request an outline to approve before beginning to write the first draft of the full paper. An outline will include your topic, thesis statement, key headings, short summaries of the research, and your arguments.

9. Write your first draft

Once you feel confident about your outline and sources, it’s time to write your first draft. While penning a long piece of content can be intimidating, if you’ve laid the groundwork, you will have a structure to help you move steadily through each section. To keep up motivation and inspiration, it’s often best to keep the pace quick. Stopping for long periods can interrupt your flow and make jumping back in harder than writing when things are fresh in your mind.

10. Cite your sources correctly

It's always a good practice to give credit where it's due, and the same goes for citing any works that have influenced your paper. Building your arguments on credible references adds value and authenticity to your research. In the formatting guidelines section, you’ll find an overview of different citation styles (MLA, CMOS, or APA), which will help you meet any publishing or academic requirements and strengthen your paper's credibility. It is essential to follow the guidelines provided by your school or the publication you are submitting to ensure the accuracy and relevance of your citations.

11. Ensure your work is original

It is crucial to ensure the originality of your paper, as plagiarism can lead to serious consequences. To avoid plagiarism, you should use proper paraphrasing and quoting techniques. Paraphrasing is rewriting a text in your own words while maintaining the original meaning. Quoting involves directly citing the source. Giving credit to the original author or source is essential whenever you borrow their ideas or words. You can also use plagiarism detection tools such as Scribbr or Grammarly to check the originality of your paper. These tools compare your draft writing to a vast database of online sources. If you find any accidental plagiarism, you should correct it immediately by rephrasing or citing the source.

12. Revise, edit, and proofread

One of the essential qualities of excellent writers is their ability to understand the importance of editing and proofreading. Even though it's tempting to call it a day once you've finished your writing, editing your work can significantly improve its quality. It's natural to overlook the weaker areas when you've just finished writing a paper. Therefore, it's best to take a break of a day or two, or even up to a week, to refresh your mind. This way, you can return to your work with a new perspective. After some breathing room, you can spot any inconsistencies, spelling and grammar errors, typos, or missing citations and correct them. 

  • The best research paper format 

The format of your research paper should align with the requirements set forth by your college, school, or target publication. 

There is no one “best” format, per se. Depending on the stated requirements, you may need to include the following elements:

Title page: The title page of a research paper typically includes the title, author's name, and institutional affiliation and may include additional information such as a course name or instructor's name. 

Table of contents: Include a table of contents to make it easy for readers to find specific sections of your paper.

Abstract: The abstract is a summary of the purpose of the paper.

Methods : In this section, describe the research methods used. This may include collecting data, conducting interviews, or doing field research.

Results: Summarize the conclusions you drew from your research in this section.

Discussion: In this section, discuss the implications of your research. Be sure to mention any significant limitations to your approach and suggest areas for further research.

Tables, charts, and illustrations: Use tables, charts, and illustrations to help convey your research findings and make them easier to understand.

Works cited or reference page: Include a works cited or reference page to give credit to the sources that you used to conduct your research.

Bibliography: Provide a list of all the sources you consulted while conducting your research.

Dedication and acknowledgments : Optionally, you may include a dedication and acknowledgments section to thank individuals who helped you with your research.

  • General style and formatting guidelines

Formatting your research paper means you can submit it to your college, journal, or other publications in compliance with their criteria.

Research papers tend to follow the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) guidelines.

Here’s how each style guide is typically used:

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS):

CMOS is a versatile style guide used for various types of writing. It's known for its flexibility and use in the humanities. CMOS provides guidelines for citations, formatting, and overall writing style. It allows for both footnotes and in-text citations, giving writers options based on their preferences or publication requirements.

American Psychological Association (APA):

APA is common in the social sciences. It’s hailed for its clarity and emphasis on precision. It has specific rules for citing sources, creating references, and formatting papers. APA style uses in-text citations with an accompanying reference list. It's designed to convey information efficiently and is widely used in academic and scientific writing.

Modern Language Association (MLA):

MLA is widely used in the humanities, especially literature and language studies. It emphasizes the author-page format for in-text citations and provides guidelines for creating a "Works Cited" page. MLA is known for its focus on the author's name and the literary works cited. It’s frequently used in disciplines that prioritize literary analysis and critical thinking.

To confirm you're using the latest style guide, check the official website or publisher's site for updates, consult academic resources, and verify the guide's publication date. Online platforms and educational resources may also provide summaries and alerts about any revisions or additions to the style guide.

Citing sources

When working on your research paper, it's important to cite the sources you used properly. Your citation style will guide you through this process. Generally, there are three parts to citing sources in your research paper: 

First, provide a brief citation in the body of your essay. This is also known as a parenthetical or in-text citation. 

Second, include a full citation in the Reference list at the end of your paper. Different types of citations include in-text citations, footnotes, and reference lists. 

In-text citations include the author's surname and the date of the citation. 

Footnotes appear at the bottom of each page of your research paper. They may also be summarized within a reference list at the end of the paper. 

A reference list includes all of the research used within the paper at the end of the document. It should include the author, date, paper title, and publisher listed in the order that aligns with your citation style.

10 research paper writing tips:

Following some best practices is essential to writing a research paper that contributes to your field of study and creates a positive impact.

These tactics will help you structure your argument effectively and ensure your work benefits others:

Clear and precise language:  Ensure your language is unambiguous. Use academic language appropriately, but keep it simple. Also, provide clear takeaways for your audience.

Effective idea separation:  Organize the vast amount of information and sources in your paper with paragraphs and titles. Create easily digestible sections for your readers to navigate through.

Compelling intro:  Craft an engaging introduction that captures your reader's interest. Hook your audience and motivate them to continue reading.

Thorough revision and editing:  Take the time to review and edit your paper comprehensively. Use tools like Grammarly to detect and correct small, overlooked errors.

Thesis precision:  Develop a clear and concise thesis statement that guides your paper. Ensure that your thesis aligns with your research's overall purpose and contribution.

Logical flow of ideas:  Maintain a logical progression throughout the paper. Use transitions effectively to connect different sections and maintain coherence.

Critical evaluation of sources:  Evaluate and critically assess the relevance and reliability of your sources. Ensure that your research is based on credible and up-to-date information.

Thematic consistency:  Maintain a consistent theme throughout the paper. Ensure that all sections contribute cohesively to the overall argument.

Relevant supporting evidence:  Provide concise and relevant evidence to support your arguments. Avoid unnecessary details that may distract from the main points.

Embrace counterarguments:  Acknowledge and address opposing views to strengthen your position. Show that you have considered alternative arguments in your field.

7 research tips 

If you want your paper to not only be well-written but also contribute to the progress of human knowledge, consider these tips to take your paper to the next level:

Selecting the appropriate topic: The topic you select should align with your area of expertise, comply with the requirements of your project, and have sufficient resources for a comprehensive investigation.

Use academic databases: Academic databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and JSTOR offer a wealth of research papers that can help you discover everything you need to know about your chosen topic.

Critically evaluate sources: It is important not to accept research findings at face value. Instead, it is crucial to critically analyze the information to avoid jumping to conclusions or overlooking important details. A well-written research paper requires a critical analysis with thorough reasoning to support claims.

Diversify your sources: Expand your research horizons by exploring a variety of sources beyond the standard databases. Utilize books, conference proceedings, and interviews to gather diverse perspectives and enrich your understanding of the topic.

Take detailed notes: Detailed note-taking is crucial during research and can help you form the outline and body of your paper.

Stay up on trends: Keep abreast of the latest developments in your field by regularly checking for recent publications. Subscribe to newsletters, follow relevant journals, and attend conferences to stay informed about emerging trends and advancements. 

Engage in peer review: Seek feedback from peers or mentors to ensure the rigor and validity of your research. Peer review helps identify potential weaknesses in your methodology and strengthens the overall credibility of your findings.

  • The real-world impact of research papers

Writing a research paper is more than an academic or business exercise. The experience provides an opportunity to explore a subject in-depth, broaden one's understanding, and arrive at meaningful conclusions. With careful planning, dedication, and hard work, writing a research paper can be a fulfilling and enriching experience contributing to advancing knowledge.

How do I publish my research paper? 

Many academics wish to publish their research papers. While challenging, your paper might get traction if it covers new and well-written information. To publish your research paper, find a target publication, thoroughly read their guidelines, format your paper accordingly, and send it to them per their instructions. You may need to include a cover letter, too. After submission, your paper may be peer-reviewed by experts to assess its legitimacy, quality, originality, and methodology. Following review, you will be informed by the publication whether they have accepted or rejected your paper. 

What is a good opening sentence for a research paper? 

Beginning your research paper with a compelling introduction can ensure readers are interested in going further. A relevant quote, a compelling statistic, or a bold argument can start the paper and hook your reader. Remember, though, that the most important aspect of a research paper is the quality of the information––not necessarily your ability to storytell, so ensure anything you write aligns with your goals.

Research paper vs. a research proposal—what’s the difference?

While some may confuse research papers and proposals, they are different documents. 

A research proposal comes before a research paper. It is a detailed document that outlines an intended area of exploration. It includes the research topic, methodology, timeline, sources, and potential conclusions. Research proposals are often required when seeking approval to conduct research. 

A research paper is a summary of research findings. A research paper follows a structured format to present those findings and construct an argument or conclusion.

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  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Academic Writing Style
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise. Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Like specialist languages adopted in other professions, such as, law or medicine, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts within a community of scholarly experts and practitioners.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020.

Importance of Good Academic Writing

The accepted form of academic writing in the social sciences can vary considerable depending on the methodological framework and the intended audience. However, most college-level research papers require careful attention to the following stylistic elements:

I.  The Big Picture Unlike creative or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohesive and possess a logically organized flow of ideas; this means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be narrative links between sentences and paragraphs so that the reader is able to follow your argument. The introduction should include a description of how the rest of the paper is organized and all sources are properly cited throughout the paper.

II.  Tone The overall tone refers to the attitude conveyed in a piece of writing. Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate narrative tone. When presenting a position or argument that you disagree with, describe this argument accurately and without loaded or biased language. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. You should, therefore, state the strengths of your arguments confidently, using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.

III.  Diction Diction refers to the choice of words you use. Awareness of the words you use is important because words that have almost the same denotation [dictionary definition] can have very different connotations [implied meanings]. This is particularly true in academic writing because words and terminology can evolve a nuanced meaning that describes a particular idea, concept, or phenomenon derived from the epistemological culture of that discipline [e.g., the concept of rational choice in political science]. Therefore, use concrete words [not general] that convey a specific meaning. If this cannot be done without confusing the reader, then you need to explain what you mean within the context of how that word or phrase is used within a discipline.

IV.  Language The investigation of research problems in the social sciences is often complex and multi- dimensional . Therefore, it is important that you use unambiguous language. Well-structured paragraphs and clear topic sentences enable a reader to follow your line of thinking without difficulty. Your language should be concise, formal, and express precisely what you want it to mean. Do not use vague expressions that are not specific or precise enough for the reader to derive exact meaning ["they," "we," "people," "the organization," etc.], abbreviations like 'i.e.'  ["in other words"], 'e.g.' ["for example"], or 'a.k.a.' ["also known as"], and the use of unspecific determinate words ["super," "very," "incredible," "huge," etc.].

V.  Punctuation Scholars rely on precise words and language to establish the narrative tone of their work and, therefore, punctuation marks are used very deliberately. For example, exclamation points are rarely used to express a heightened tone because it can come across as unsophisticated or over-excited. Dashes should be limited to the insertion of an explanatory comment in a sentence, while hyphens should be limited to connecting prefixes to words [e.g., multi-disciplinary] or when forming compound phrases [e.g., commander-in-chief]. Finally, understand that semi-colons represent a pause that is longer than a comma, but shorter than a period in a sentence. In general, there are four grammatical uses of semi-colons: when a second clause expands or explains the first clause; to describe a sequence of actions or different aspects of the same topic; placed before clauses which begin with "nevertheless", "therefore", "even so," and "for instance”; and, to mark off a series of phrases or clauses which contain commas. If you are not confident about when to use semi-colons [and most of the time, they are not required for proper punctuation], rewrite using shorter sentences or revise the paragraph.

VI.  Academic Conventions Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references as either footnotes or endnotes is a key feature of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, data, paraphrased, or quoted text that you have used in your paper as a defense against allegations of plagiarism. Even more important, the scholarly convention of citing sources allow readers to identify the resources you used in writing your paper so they can independently verify and assess the quality of findings and conclusions based on your review of the literature. Examples of other academic conventions to follow include the appropriate use of headings and subheadings, properly spelling out acronyms when first used in the text, avoiding slang or colloquial language, avoiding emotive language or unsupported declarative statements, avoiding contractions [e.g., isn't], and using first person and second person pronouns only when necessary.

VII.  Evidence-Based Reasoning Assignments often ask you to express your own point of view about the research problem. However, what is valued in academic writing is that statements are based on evidence-based reasoning. This refers to possessing a clear understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that exist within, and often external to, your discipline concerning the topic. You need to support your arguments with evidence from scholarly [i.e., academic or peer-reviewed] sources. It should be an objective stance presented as a logical argument; the quality of the evidence you cite will determine the strength of your argument. The objective is to convince the reader of the validity of your thoughts through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing. This is particularly important when proposing solutions to problems or delineating recommended courses of action.

VIII.  Thesis-Driven Academic writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or position applied to the chosen topic of investigation, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions applied to investigating the research problem. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how you will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects you believe are most critical, or suggest a method for gathering information or data to better understand the problem.

IX.  Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking Academic writing addresses complex issues that require higher-order thinking skills applied to understanding the research problem [e.g., critical, reflective, logical, and creative thinking as opposed to, for example, descriptive or prescriptive thinking]. Higher-order thinking skills include cognitive processes that are used to comprehend, solve problems, and express concepts or that describe abstract ideas that cannot be easily acted out, pointed to, or shown with images. Think of your writing this way: One of the most important attributes of a good teacher is the ability to explain complexity in a way that is understandable and relatable to the topic being presented during class. This is also one of the main functions of academic writing--examining and explaining the significance of complex ideas as clearly as possible.  As a writer, you must adopt the role of a good teacher by summarizing complex information into a well-organized synthesis of ideas, concepts, and recommendations that contribute to a better understanding of the research problem.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Roy. Improve Your Writing Skills . Manchester, UK: Clifton Press, 1995; Nygaard, Lynn P. Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard . Second edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2015; Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007; Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice. Writing Center, Wheaton College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Strategies for...

Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon

The very definition of research jargon is language specific to a particular community of practitioner-researchers . Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to words and phrases specific to a discipline or area of study. For example, the idea of being rational may hold the same general meaning in both political science and psychology, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research domain of a each discipline may have subtle differences based upon how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.

Given this, it is important that specialist terminology [i.e., jargon] must be used accurately and applied under the appropriate conditions . Subject-specific dictionaries are the best places to confirm the meaning of terms within the context of a specific discipline. These can be found by either searching in the USC Libraries catalog by entering the disciplinary and the word dictionary [e.g., sociology and dictionary] or using a database such as Credo Reference [a curated collection of subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, guides from highly regarded publishers] . It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but you should avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.

Problems with Opaque Writing

A common criticism of scholars is that they can utilize needlessly complex syntax or overly expansive vocabulary that is impenetrable or not well-defined. When writing, avoid problems associated with opaque writing by keeping in mind the following:

1.   Excessive use of specialized terminology . Yes, it is appropriate for you to use specialist language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of complex or obscure words or writing complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your paper is more about style than substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about. Focus on creating clear, concise, and elegant prose that minimizes reliance on specialized terminology.

2.   Inappropriate use of specialized terminology . Because you are dealing with concepts, research, and data within your discipline, you need to use the technical language appropriate to that area of study. However, nothing will undermine the validity of your study quicker than the inappropriate application of a term or concept. Avoid using terms whose meaning you are unsure of--do not just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or the Credo Reference database [see above].

Additional Problems to Avoid

In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should be aware of. These problems include:

  • Personal nouns . Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. These words can be interpreted as being used only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem. Limit the use of personal nouns to descriptions of things you actually did [e.g., "I interviewed ten teachers about classroom management techniques..."]. Note that personal nouns are generally found in the discussion section of a paper because this is where you as the author/researcher interpret and describe your work.
  • Directives . Avoid directives that demand the reader to "do this" or "do that." Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations or goals leading to specific outcomes. Note that an exception to this can be found in various forms of action research that involve evidence-based advocacy for social justice or transformative change. Within this area of the social sciences, authors may offer directives for action in a declarative tone of urgency.
  • Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms . Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they can be open to interpretation. Your writing should be direct and concise using standard English.
  • Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and developing a narrative that does not have confusing language . By doing so, you  help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the design and purpose of your study.
  • Vague expressions (e.g., "they," "we," "people," "the company," "that area," etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper, be sure to look for and edit any vague or imprecise statements that lack context or specificity.
  • Numbered lists and bulleted items . The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, "The four main problems with hedge funds are:" and then list them as 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing, this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item arranged in separate paragraphs? Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols.
  • Descriptive writing . Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study. In fact, some description or background information may be needed because you can not assume the reader knows the key aspects of the topic. However, the content of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem rather than background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
  • Personal experience. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease] can be an effective way of introducing the research problem or engaging your readers in understanding its significance. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.

NOTE:   Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone.  A quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it or using a different quote to convey the same meaning. Consider inserting the term "sic" in brackets after the quoted text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source had grammar, spelling, or other errors. The adverb sic informs the reader that the errors are not yours.

Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Eileen S. “Action Research.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education . Edited by George W. Noblit and Joseph R. Neikirk. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students' Research Proposals. English Education Department. Yogyakarta State University; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Structure and Writing Style

I. Improving Academic Writing

To improve your academic writing skills, you should focus your efforts on three key areas: 1.   Clear Writing . The act of thinking about precedes the process of writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from the literature they have reviewed before creating their work. Writing detailed outlines can help you clearly organize your thoughts. Effective academic writing begins with solid planning, so manage your time carefully. 2.  Excellent Grammar . Needless to say, English grammar can be difficult and complex; even the best scholars take many years before they have a command of the major points of good grammar. Take the time to learn the major and minor points of good grammar. Spend time practicing writing and seek detailed feedback from professors. Take advantage of the Writing Center on campus if you need help. Proper punctuation and good proofreading skills can significantly improve academic writing [see sub-tab for proofreading you paper ].

Refer to these three basic resources to help your grammar and writing skills:

  • A good writing reference book, such as, Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style or the St. Martin's Handbook ;
  • A college-level dictionary, such as, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ;
  • The latest edition of Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form .

3.  Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor expresses a preference to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or not, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide rules on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to a style of writing helps with the narrative flow of your paper and improves its readability. Note that some disciplines require a particular style [e.g., education uses APA] so as you write more papers within your major, your familiarity with it will improve.

II. Evaluating Quality of Writing

A useful approach for evaluating the quality of your academic writing is to consider the following issues from the perspective of the reader. While proofreading your final draft, critically assess the following elements in your writing.

  • It is shaped around one clear research problem, and it explains what that problem is from the outset.
  • Your paper tells the reader why the problem is important and why people should know about it.
  • You have accurately and thoroughly informed the reader what has already been published about this problem or others related to it and noted important gaps in the research.
  • You have provided evidence to support your argument that the reader finds convincing.
  • The paper includes a description of how and why particular evidence was collected and analyzed, and why specific theoretical arguments or concepts were used.
  • The paper is made up of paragraphs, each containing only one controlling idea.
  • You indicate how each section of the paper addresses the research problem.
  • You have considered counter-arguments or counter-examples where they are relevant.
  • Arguments, evidence, and their significance have been presented in the conclusion.
  • Limitations of your research have been explained as evidence of the potential need for further study.
  • The narrative flows in a clear, accurate, and well-organized way.

Boscoloa, Pietro, Barbara Arféb, and Mara Quarisaa. “Improving the Quality of Students' Academic Writing: An Intervention Study.” Studies in Higher Education 32 (August 2007): 419-438; Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; Candlin, Christopher. Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach . Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style . College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Writing Tip

Considering the Passive Voice in Academic Writing

In the English language, we are able to construct sentences in the following way: 1.  "The policies of Congress caused the economic crisis." 2.  "The economic crisis was caused by the policies of Congress."

The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether you want to focus on “Congress” and what they did, or on “the economic crisis” and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice. When you want your readers to focus on the "doer" of an action, you can make the "doer"' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb. When you want readers to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence by using the passive form of the verb.

Often in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is doing an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action. The passive voice is useful in academic writing because it allows writers to highlight the most important participants or events within sentences by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.

Use the passive voice when:

  • You want to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself;
  • It is not important who or what did the action;
  • You want to be impersonal or more formal.

Form the passive voice by:

  • Turning the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence.
  • Changing the verb to a passive form by adding the appropriate form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of the main verb.

NOTE: Consult with your professor about using the passive voice before submitting your research paper. Some strongly discourage its use!

Active and Passive Voice. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Diefenbach, Paul. Future of Digital Media Syllabus. Drexel University; Passive Voice. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.  

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Writing an Academic Paper: A Beginner’s Guide

Writing an Academic Paper: A Beginner’s Guide

Table of contents

writing scholarly papers

Catherine Miller

An academic paper might be quite different from other writing you’ve done before. But never fear — with my experience of writing as an undergraduate, Master’s student, and teacher, I’m here to help you understand the ins and outs of writing an academic paper so you’ll ace your next assignment. 

Academic writing is done by scholars for an audience of other scholars. This means your audience is likely to be quite informed about your field of study, so you won’t need to start from the absolute basics. But, it also means your piece needs to be well-researched, with a clearly thought-out argument or informative literature review supported by academic sources. 

In this article, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide to putting together an academic paper that will get you a top grade. 

writing scholarly papers

Topic Selection

If you need to write an academic paper as part of your class assignment, you might have clear instructions on what the topic needs to be. This could be a question to answer, an argument statement to support or refute, or a general topic area to research which you can then develop your own specific paper title for. Make sure you double check the grading requirements and any other guidelines provided by your teacher or institution.

If you’ve got some freedom to come up with your own ideas, spending some time reading around your subject and brainstorming potential topics could be a good place to start.

Brainstorming Ideas

It’s wise to start by reading the recommended course material, especially the key texts. If you’re not sure what the best books and articles for additional reading might be, ask your professor for some recommendations. 

As you read, keep an eye out for ideas that might be ripe for exploration. If your paper is supposed to be an argument, look out for areas of the topic that seem to generate debate. 

It’s a good idea to make notes as you go, keeping track of potential citations and the information you’ll need to include in your bibliography. Organized notes can make all the difference when it comes to putting your finished paper together! You could do this using software like Notion , Evernote , or Google Keep , a spreadsheet, or even good old pen and paper.

Selecting a Focused Topic

Most academic papers will require you to come up with an argument, and a good place to start is narrowing down your thesis statement, i.e. the main point of your paper. This needs to be a defendable statement, so picking something for the sake of being controversial might leave you in a tricky position if there aren’t enough sources to back it up. Additionally, it needs to be something focused enough to explore in a few pages, rather than needing a whole book to explain. 

For example ‘ The economic situation of 1930s Germany was the key reason for Hitler’s rise to power.’ The thesis statement takes a clear position, can be defended, and isn’t too wide-ranging. 

Your own opinion on what you’ve read will be important, but you should also engage with the existing scholarship in the field. Whether you decide to stick with the consensus, or go against the grain, you will need to have a good understanding of what others have said.

Exploring the Background Information

Once you’ve reviewed any provided course materials and recommended reading, it’s important to recognize and address any glaring gaps in your knowledge. Are there any terms you don’t understand? Do you need to build an understanding of any particular events, people, or themes? Check the citations and bibliography of your readings to find and jump off to other works to build an understanding of how scholarship on the topic has progressed. 

Finding Scholarly Sources for Research

Depending on your subject area, you may need to find and use both primary and secondary sources for your research. Primary sources may include:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Historical documents
  • Eyewitness accounts or interviews
  • Documentary materials
  • Photographs
  • Novels, plays, and/or poems 
  • Pieces of art
  • Government reports
  • Lab data/reports

Secondary sources are usually other academic papers, critical works, or books that review a range of evidence and comment upon primary sources. These can include textbooks, biographies, literary criticism, etc., depending on your field of study. 

Your college library is a great place to start your research, especially if you need to use works that are not yet available digitally. However, many academic journals are now online, meaning you can find a wealth of other papers to read and reference within a few clicks. You should check which journals your college subscribes to, and you can search sites like JSTOR and Google Scholar .

Read the full article -  Best Research Tools of 2023

Outline Creation

Before you start writing, it’s a good idea to create a paper outline. This will help you fix your structure, clarify your points, and can ultimately make it quicker to write up the final piece.

Read the full article -  Creating an Outline with AI .

Creating an Overall Structure

The structure of an academic paper is likely to be more complex and developed than essays you may have written for school. You will need to make your thesis statement clear and support this with both evidence and analysis, as well as refuting other, competing ideas. Your work should reach a clear conclusion that leaves your reader in no doubt of your main argument. Nailing down your thesis statement, the key supporting points, and the main points you want to refute, should provide you with an overall structure for your academic paper.

Identifying and Summarizing Key Points

As you read around the topic, you should start to find repeated ideas that will become the main themes of your work. For example, if you are exploring how a theme is presented by a particular poet, you might find five or six ways the writer handles this idea. You will need to decide which one you find most persuasive by deciding which one has the most compelling evidence. This will become your thesis statement. The other ideas can be refuted as you develop your argument.

It’s a good idea to create a summary of each main idea you want to include by boiling it down into a few sentences at most. You can use software like Wordtune Read to help you. This AI (artificial intelligence) reader automatically summarizes longer documents to make it easier for you to condense the main ideas you will later re-expand. 

As you write out your plan, these summaries will form kernels of your developed paragraphs, saving you lots of time in writing the final piece.

writing scholarly papers

Essential Steps of the Writing Process

Writing up your academic paper might feel intimidating, but once you’ve got your structure plotted out, fleshing out the bones of the argument is the fun part. Make sure you leave enough time to write the paper and review it in plenty of time before the deadline, ideally taking some time away from the paper so you can come back to it with fresh ideas (which makes it easier to see any mistakes!).

Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement should come towards the start of your academic paper. This sets up the purpose of your paper, and establishes a trail of thought that your reader should be able to follow throughout the piece. It’s good practice to return to the thesis statement regularly throughout your work, and make sure you restate it in the conclusion (paraphrased if necessary to avoid robotic repetition). 

Before you begin writing the whole paper, work on your thesis statement by condensing the main argument of your paper into just one sentence. If you’re not sure if you have enough evidence for the argument you want to make by the time you finish your plan, you might need to revise your thesis statement before you write the whole paper. Trust me: it’s easier to change the thesis before you write all the paragraphs.

Read the full article -  How to Write a Thesis Statement with AI

Writing an Introduction

The introduction of an academic paper must make your argument clear, and should be concise and free of any fluff. You need to clearly lay out your argument, but should also set the scene for your work by summarizing the major scholarship, or history of the field, which most writers do first. You should also consider if the information you include in the introduction is definitely relevant to or necessary for the rest of the piece. For example, throwing in dates or definitions at this point may well be a distraction. Someone should be able to read just your introduction and already have a clear idea of your argument.

Additionally, your introduction needs to engage the audience by giving them a hint of the argument to come and suggesting why this topic is important. From a pile of 200+ papers, will your professor enjoy reading yours? A good introduction can help you to make a great first impression.

Read the full article - A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Compelling Introductions

Body Paragraphs

Each paragraph of your paper should clearly support your thesis statement, or refute an alternative idea. Topic sentences (sentences that lay out the main point of each paragraph, before you go on to flesh out the detail) can be a good way to establish a clear thrust for each paragraph. However, it’s better to avoid formulaic or repetitive paragraph structures where you can. 

The key idea of each paragraph should be supported by evidence, which you will want to comment on, either to establish how you agree with it or to argue against it. Drawing connections between different pieces of evidence, or synthesizing and/or comparing ideas, can make your use of evidence more complex and nuanced, and therefore more effective.

Consider how the paragraphs flow into one another. Referencing the previous paragraph and setting up the purpose of the next can create a more coherent structure for your paper and therefore make it easier to follow. 

Drafting a Conclusion

The conclusion should bring the reader back to your thesis statement, and leave them in no doubt as to the strength of your argument. This is not a place to introduce new information or ideas at any length, although you may want to suggest further areas of study or research. 

Keep your conclusion concise, too. If possible, finishing with a memorable closing sentence can round off your paper with a flourish and leave a lasting impression on your audience. 

Don’t forget that revising your work is a crucial step! You should re-read your work a number of times to check if the structure and argument work well. You could try re-summarizing each paragraph, too, to make sure your points are clear. 

Once you are confident that the content of the paper is solid, it’s time to look at the technical construction of your phrases and sentences, which is where editing and proofreading come in. 

Editing and proofreading

Editing and proofreading are very important. The last thing you want to do is hand in a paper that’s difficult to read and follow because of technical errors. However, for many people, this is also an intimidating step.

One technique to try with your paper is to read it aloud. This can often highlight phrases or sentences that don’t work well or that don’t feel natural. You could also try reading your paper backwards, sentence by sentence. This forces your eye to stop skimming the page, which can lead to you missing mistakes. 

It’s not just technical features that may need editing. As you re-read, you might notice words and phrases that can be upgraded to make your ideas stronger, or to help you communicate in a more engaging way. Luckily, you don’t need to do this all yourself; a digital tool like Wordtune can help you improve your work by suggesting alternative ways to express your ideas. You can even direct it to make suggestions in a particular tone (for example, more or less formal). Wordtune will also check your work for spelling and grammar mistakes, which can also save you time and stress. 

writing scholarly papers

Including Citations

The evidence you use in your academic paper needs to be cited correctly. Check the guidelines your institution follows for citation, as there are a few different models out there. However, most models will share the following in common:

  • For each quotation from a source, provide the author’s name, date of publication, and page number (this can be in-text or as a footnote, depending on style guidelines). Some models also like you to provide the title of the text and the location of production.
  • Use quotation marks to indicate where you have taken text from another source (to avoid plagiarism) 
  • To include a bibliography at the end of your paper (a full list of works cited). This should only include the texts you have cited, and usually references the title of the academic journal or book, date of publication, volume number (if it’s a journal), page numbers (if referencing a chapter or article), publishing company and location of production.

Citing correctly is a crucial part of how to write an academic paper, but it can also be fiddly and time consuming. Keeping accurate and organized notes while you research can make this bit easier. 

Practice makes perfect

Learning how to write an academic paper is a process, so give yourself plenty of time to write your first one. As you progress in your studies, you will become more efficient and quicker at writing papers. And, don’t forget, you’re not alone! There are loads of resources out there to help you write an academic paper, including digital tools like Wordtune, online help guides, and support from your professor and institution, too. Before you know it, you’ll be turning in high quality, engaging academic papers that will help you ace your courses.

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A corpus-based comparison of linguistic markers of stance and genre in the academic writing of novice and advanced engineering learners

  • Siu Wing Yee Barbara 1 ,
  • Muhammad Afzaal   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-4649-781X 2 &
  • Hessah Saleh Aldayel 3  

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  11 , Article number:  284 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

186 Accesses

Metrics details

  • Language and linguistics

Stance-taking in academic writing plays a crucial role in enabling tertiary academic writers to express their positions about their topics and other voices. Based on a corpus linguistic analysis of academic reports by civil and environmental engineering (CEE) undergraduate students and student papers in the Michigan Corpus of Upper-Level Student Papers (MICUSP), this article investigates the use of stance markers in the genres of persuasive and argumentative writing as well as analytical explanatory writing. This study compares the stance markers used by L2 engineering students (Hong Kong University) and native engineering students (U.S. University) to investigate the genre-specific lexical stance patterns used by academic writers. This study found that stance within the CEE reports and MICUSP was expressed through approximative hedges and boosters, code glosses, and adversative and contrast connections, pointing to a specific developmental trajectory as academic writers. Non-native engineering students were found to use a significantly smaller number of approximative, self-mention, and evidential verb hedges. In addition, they tend to use a more significant number of modal hedges compared to native English speakers. The CEE students’ reports also tended to be characterized by the underuse of boosters, contrastive connectors, emphasis, and counter-expectancy markers. However, the study found no significant difference in the use of exemplification markers between the CEE and MICUSP. The findings of this study support the construction of the academic stance as a process of delimiting one’s perspective. This is achieved by deploying selected stance features to account for other scholarly perspectives.

Introduction

In academic writing, linguistic devices are strategically deployed by writers to communicate with their readers (Jin, 2015 ). In technical terms, such attempts to interact with readers may be understood as ‘stance’ (Alghazo et al., 2021a ). ‘Stance’ is defined here as ‘the speaker’s or writer’s feeling, attitude, perspective, or position as enacted in discourse’ (Strauss and Feiz, 2013 ). In an academic context, this allows academic writers to take charge of their work by expressing knowledge-based evaluations of the topics within their writing to convince their readers of their authorial position (Jiang and Hyland, 2015 ). In the realm of academia, writing assumes a formal and enduring style of communication, where individuals from diverse linguistic backgrounds employ stance to share knowledge and actively contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge, (Alghazo et al., 2021a ; Abusalim et al., 2022 ).

As part of their studies, undergraduate and graduate engineering students undertake various types of scholarly writing, with academic reports comprising one of the most common writing tasks assigned to them. A vital imperative of an effective academic report is the need for students to formulate and present their position or stance towards the topic of scholarly voices within the field. Numerous scholars have identified stance as playing a pivotal role in academic writing research, particularly in linguistics-based studies (Hunston and Thompson, 2001 ; Hyland, 2005b , 2012 ; Silver, 2003 ; Afzaal et al., 2021 , 2022 ; Strange, 2023 ; Keisling, 2011 ; Lu, 2023 ; Alghazo et al., 2023 ). In light of this context, the current study undertakes a comparative analysis of stance markers employed by L2 engineering students and native engineering students with the aim of investigating genre-specific lexical stance patterns utilized by academic writers. Consequently, this research concentrates on undergraduate students pursuing civil engineering, specifically those who have submitted their final-year projects and hold the potential to publish their reports in high-caliber academic journals.

Over the past two decades, various linguistic features have been examined to gauge how writers express stance (Hunston and Thompson, 2001 ), namely: appraisal (Martin and White, 2005 ), evidentiality (Chafe, 1986 ), metadiscourse features (Hyland, 2005a ; Vande Kopple, 1985 ), and positioning (Harré and Van Langenhove, 1999 ; Aull and Landcaster, 2014 ). As this body of research shows, the importance of posture is evident in academic writing across early and upper-level English second language (L2) writing and published academic writing (Hyland and Jiang, 2018 ). Stance-taking and stance-support are considered to be defining acts in the argumentative or expository essay, a text type often used as an assessment tool in academic settings (Chandrasegaran and Kong, 2006 ). Furthermore, stance is viewed as part of an expert writer’s tacit genre knowledge awareness, which can help student writers succeed in college-level writing (Soliday, 2011 , p. 37).

In academic writing, stance is considered vital because it expresses the communicator’s “attitudes, feelings, judgments, or commitment concerning the propositional content of a message” (Biber, 1999 , p. 23). Biber ( 2006 ) elaborates that stance expressions “convey many different kinds of personal feelings and assessments, including attitudes [towards] certain information, how certain they are about its veracity, and how they obtained access to it and what perspective they are taking”. Stance can be achieved through “grammatical devices and lexical words, which express epistemic knowledge (e.g., might, suggest, probably, possibly, likely) and authors’ attitudes towards propositions (e.g., unfortunately, surprisingly)” (Biber et al., 1999 in Shen and Tao, 2021 , p. 2). As a linguistic mechanism, stance is studied from the perspectives of evidentiality, affect, attitude, attitude, evaluation, appraisal, and meta-discourse (Shen and Tao, 2021 ). Drawing upon these linguistic mechanisms, writers can convey their position and feelings about the proposition within their discourse and establish an effective interpersonal relationship with their readers (Kiesling et al., 2018 ; Shen and Tao, 2021 ; Zhang and Zhang, 2023 ).

Metadiscursive cues for facilitating “social negotiations embedded in discourse” are prominent in all “university registers” (Biber, 2006 in Aull, 2019 , p. 268). However, they are particularly significant in scholarly discourse in which “stance is constantly adjusted in interaction with the construed readership” (Wharton, 2012 , p. 262). Drawing upon Hyland ( 2012 ) and Soliday ( 2011 ), Aull ( 2019 ) observes that for learners entering tertiary education programs, linguistic mechanisms for expressing stance tend to be “tacit”. Hence, it is difficult for novice academic writers to comprehend scholarly writing as a discourse that acknowledges, creates, and navigates social relations through the use of stance devices, thus enabling them to evaluate propositions and address alternative perspectives. This is something that is unlikely to be unattainable if the text lacks the use of stance. Under such circumstances, the text is likely to reflect impersonality.

Although stance markers are present in all university registers, they tend to be more prominent in scholarly writing, wherein stance experiences ongoing modification while interacting with an imagined audience (Wharton, 2012 , p. 262). Changing one’s stance is contingent upon disciplinary preferences and broader academic practices (Afzaal & Du, 2023 ; Hyland and Tse, 2004 ). Using stance norms is also important because it directly impacts the grades achieved by native speakers and English language learners who write for school (Lee and Deakin, 2016 ).

Research interests in linguistic stance markers within undergraduate writing have been growing as students who are new to higher education tend to be unaware of these linguistic devices (Hyland, 2012 ). In addition, studying Stance in the writings of L2 writers is also necessary because they employ fewer linguistic resources to alter epistemic commitment when compared with L1 writers (Hyland and Milton, 1997 ). The academic writing of L2 writers differs noticeably, indicating that undergraduates are still learning to apply these linguistic markers. Compared with seasoned scholarly writing, the written output of undergraduate learners tends to make more extensive use of boosters and significantly limited use of hedges (Hyland, 2012 ).

Against this backdrop, the present paper compares the stance markers used by L2 engineering students (from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University) and native engineering students (U.S. University) to investigate the genre-specific lexical stance patterns used by academic writers. Therefore, this study focuses on undergraduate students studying civil engineering who have submitted their final-year projects and have the potential to publish their reports in top-quality academic journals.

Understanding how to identify what constitutes valuable stance patterns in student writing is another difficulty the students face. For instance, a valuable stance pattern may depend on the purpose of writing, ranging as it may from laying out the facts to persuading the readers. For the most part, undergraduate student writing does not resemble published academic writing in terms of level and genre. Students are far more likely to respond to assignments rather than produce writing for scholarly journals. For instance, the writing of undergraduates studying language, philosophy, and education reflects a greater tendency towards the expression of opinions as well as mental processes in the form of lexical verbs and phrases compared with the writing of graduate-level engineering students (Hyland and Jiang, 2018 ). In research comparing authorial attitude expressed via stance adverbs in abstracts within Chinese and American doctoral engineering dissertations, Bao ( 2022 ) found that the Chinese writers tended to deploy more boosters (a category of epistemic stance adverbs) and to use stance adverbs for the expression of affect rather than evaluation. It was observed that the language used to express thoughts and mental processes tends to be more prevalent in reports and research documents than in the assignment genre within the advanced writing corpus (Hardy and Friginal, 2016 ; Rhee, 2023 ). Hitherto, stance research on student writing has confined itself to common genres. While Charles ( 2007 ) has investigated theses and Hyland and Tse ( 2004 ) have focused on abstracts, Hyland ( 2012 ) has explored dissertations, and Aull et al. ( 2019 ) have turned their attention to argumentative essays.

The present paper undertakes a corpus-based comparative analysis of stance expressions in a corpus of final-year projects of engineering students (L2) and an L1 engineering academic writing corpus. As researchers have yet to explore the MICUSP assignment category from this perspective, the present study’s focus represents an attempt to address this gap.

Stance in academic writing

There has been considerable research into using hedges and boosters in academic writing. According to Hyland and Jiang ( 2016 ), these markers demonstrate that “the writer has expressed commitment to the veracity of the propositions he or she offers and the prospective influence on the reader”. Epistemic position markers such as “perhaps”, “maybe”, or “might” allow the creation of a dialogic space. They downplay the degree of confidence ascribed to an accompanying claim, thus allowing for the potential of other ways of thinking and divergence in opinion. On the other hand, boosters such as “unquestionably” sequester the dialogic space by allowing no room for dissent. Existing literature suggests that hedges and boosters enable authors to introduce more indirectness and politeness in academic prose (Hyland, 1998 ; Li and Wharton, 2012 ; Vande Kopple, 2002 ). Based on their studies of hedges and boosters, researchers such as Aull ( 2015 ) and Aull and Lancaster ( 2014 ) observe that successful academic writing is characterized by carefully calibrated epistemic commitment achieved through the strategic deployment of boosters and more liberal use of hedges.

Additionally, according to the studies mentioned above, students transitioning from secondary to postsecondary writing are not always aware of this expectation. Aull et al. ( 2017 ) and Hyland ( 2012 ) pointed out that learners transitioning to postsecondary writing are not always familiar with the notion of epistemic commitment or how to achieve it. Secondary and postsecondary writing is characterized by greater certainty and generality, even though teachers appear to prioritize writing with lower levels of certainty and generality. For instance, while the deployment of hedges in late secondary essays was associated with higher ratings of writing quality (Uccelli et al., 2013), Brown and Aull ( 2017 ) reported “emphatic generality” to be evident in low-attainment writing and “elaborated specificity” to be evident in high-attainment writing in advanced placement (AP) English. Research shows a predominant use of hedges in A-awarded argumentative essays (in contrast with B-graded essays) written by Chinese writers of English and native writers of English in their first year of college (Lee and Deakin, 2016 ). According to Thompson ( 2001 ), interactional techniques include questions or views potentially belonging to the reader (Aull and Lancaster, 2014 ). Interactional resources are modeled more generally as functioning either as “stance” or “engagement” devices in Hyland’s more lexically focused approach (see, for example, Hyland, 2005a , 2005b ). Hyland ( 2005 ) introduces the model of interactional metadiscourse features; within the context of this model, “interactional macro functions” are served by stance and engagement (Hyland, 2005b , p. 176).

Novice and advanced academic writers

Aull and Lancaster ( 2014 ) identified a greater use of hedges and limited generality compared to writing done by novice undergraduate learners (Aull and Lancaster, 2014 ). Investigating instructor evaluations of advanced undergraduate prose, Aull and Lancaster ( 2014 ) notes that while the writing teachers support the strategic use of boosters, they show a preference for student writers demonstrating critical neutrality from the claims. While research suggests that academic writers mould their writing in response to the discursive practices prevalent in their disciplinary field (Hunston, 1994), advanced academic prose, irrespective of the discipline within which it is produced, integrates characteristics that are obstructive rather than supportive of the writer’s argument (Mei, 2007 ). For instance, while observing that clausal features that explicated ideas and relationships supported strongly critical claims in undergraduate argumentative writing, Staples et al. (2016) found that in more explanatory genres, the student academic writers tended to deploy passive voice and complex phrases to distance themselves from critical statements. Therefore, this study focuses on comparing novice and advanced academic writers.

This study investigates stance-taking/interactional strategies deployed by L2 writers compared to native English writers in their report writing. The linguistic aspects of text-based analytical writing asking students to assess a nonfiction article’s theme, make claims about the author’s message, provide evidence to support the claim, and analyze the author’s craft remain unexplored. It is essential to explore these because understanding these aspects enables student writers to express their position and stance toward a topic, author, or issue more effectively. Writing in this style differs from the more common source-based, argumentative style. The present study is significant as it contributes to the existing literature by focusing on the idea that academic argumentation “involves articulating a viewpoint on matters that matter to a discipline” (Hyland, 2012 , p. 134) which can be improved through attention to stance in undergraduate writing. Therefore, the study addresses the following research questions.

The following research questions framed our investigation:

RQ1) What stance-taking/interactional strategies were deployed by L2 writers compared to native English writers in their report writing?

RQ2) What are the key patterns in stance markers deployed by writers in assignments from the CEE and MICUSP corpora?

RQ3) What are the implications of these patterns for the development of L2 writers in the argumentative genre?

The study investigated the stance-taking/interactional strategies used by the L2 writers in relation to upper-level writers in English in an L1 university setting. Therefore, MICUSP is used as the expert corpus, whereas CEE is used as the L2 corpus. A detailed description of the corpora is given in the next section.

The MICUSP corpus

The MICUSP is an online corpus of 829 upper-level student writing documented at the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan (see Romer and O’Donnell, 2011 ). It comprises the writings of ‘highly advanced student writers whose written assignments have been awarded the grade ‘A’ (Ädel and Römer, 2012 , p. 3). This online corpus is freely available to the public. The writing in MICUSP represents a very high standard of upper-level student writing because of the competitiveness of the University of Michigan (UM) undergraduate and post-graduate programs and the high ranking of UM itself, which was ranked as the 28th best undergraduate school in the country in the 2018 US News and World Report rankings (Romer and O’Donnell, 2011 ). Each post-graduate-level UM program included in this research is likewise very selective, placing amongst the top 15 in the country. These programs range from psychology and education to engineering and political science. The study focused on the essays written by civil and environmental engineering departments uploaded to the official corpus of the MICUSP. The upper-level writing in civil and environmental engineering was included to compare the final year reports of Hong Kong Polytechnic University undergraduates.

We extracted 155 Upper-Level Student Papers from the Michigan Corpus of (MICUSP) for our analysis. The MICUSP contains A-graded papers written by native students in the final year of undergraduate education or the first three years of graduate school, thus offering insights into ‘successful university writing models in terms of their linguistic composition, format, and style”’(Hardy and Römer, 2013 ).

The CEE corpus

The Polytechnic University corpus of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) was based on the final year reports submitted by undergraduates studying in the civil and environmental engineering department at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This study’s unit of analysis comprised 97 final-year reports written by L2 undergraduates at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Students write final-year project arguments using evidence from expository texts and take their time reading, drafting, writing, and revising them. The CEE corpus comprises a significant collection of writing completed by students transitioning to the next level of their education. The writing was in the form of an argumentative response to readings that were not discipline-specific and included time for the stages of the writing process. The length of the reports in the corpus varies. The average word count of the reports in the entire sample is 8362.69, and the total number of tokens in the CEE corpus are 811,181 (Table 1 ).

Analysis procedure

The research employs a mixed-method approach to analyze the data, encompassing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Initially, the study employs quantitative analysis, statistical analysis, and corpus-based analysis using Sketch Engine. Texts in the CEE and MICUSP were uploaded to Sketch Engine (Kilgarriff et al., 2014 ) and annotated with TreeTagger Tag Set (Santorini, 1990 ). The targeted searches of stance markers corresponding to each functional category were adopted from Aull and Lancaster’s ( 2014 ) analysis, which was compiled based on a large strand of relevant literature. In addition, several studies have also utilized Python to extract stance features from political discourse and narratives, as well as for the acquisition of discourse markers. This approach is exemplified in the works of Aminu and Chiluwa ( 2023 ) and Polat ( 2011 ). Corpus query language was written to extract stance markers. Then, each concordance line was manually scrutinized to confirm whether the retrieved item was used as a particular stance marker. For example, we first used the query language [lemma = “particularly”] to extract concordances containing the word particularly and then manually eliminated those in which mainly was used as an adverb, instead of a code gloss, for example, particularly complicated . Subsequently, it transitions to qualitative analysis to delve deeper into the data and gain a comprehensive understanding of the research phenomena. The mean and standard deviation of stance markers used in each corpus are summarized in Table 2 .

This study compares the use of stance markers in reports written by non-native civil engineering students (CEE corpus) with reports produced by native English academic writers (MICUSP corpus). Both hedging and boosting assist authors in expressing a greater or lesser level of commitment to their claims; the phenomenon is examined in our analysis. Hedging is typically realized through appearance-based evidential verbs ( seems, appears ), self-mention phrases ( we believe, from our perspective ), modal verbs of probability ( may, might, and could ), and approximative adverbs ( approximately, about ). In contrast, boosting refers to efforts made to increase epistemic commitment. This is typically accomplished by exaggerating or intensifying adverbs, such as completely and definitely which boost authors’ expressions of stance. Boosting is a form of embellishment (Biber et al., 1999 ; Hyland, 2005b ; Quirk et al., 1985 ).

The proportion of each metadiscourse category

Considering that the MICUSP has different sizes, the frequencies of stance markers used in each corpus are normalized to a common base, i.e., per 10,000 words. Figure 1 compares the normalized frequencies of metadiscourse in reports written by the CEE students and MICUSP writers. The most striking observation to emerge from the data comparison is that these metadiscourse categories are employed in loosely similar proportions in the CEE and MICUSP corpus. Hedges are used most frequently by native and non-native university students, with boosters coming in second place and contrastive connectors in third place. Moreover, the least frequent use is code glosses. Although Biber ( 2006 ) divides epistemic adverbs into four different categories, namely certainty, attitude, and style, these categories are not mutually exclusive. Our results indicated that civil engineering students used fewer phrases of clarity for expressions of likelihood. For example, a claim that is described as either extraordinarily likely or certainly unlikely is a boosted assertion along these lines.

figure 1

Frequency Distribution of Metadiscourse Features in the CEE (Black) and MICUSP (Grey).

Figure 1 indicates that both native and non-native undergraduates used hedges more frequently than other categories of stance markers. The result highlights a general trend that writers, especially advanced language users, tend to open dialogic space using hedges in their writings (Aull, 2019 ). Moreover, the result suggests that boosters are the second most frequently used stance markers in both CEE and MICUSP. The finding is consistent with that of Hyland ( 2005 ) and Lancaster ( 2016 ), who found that advanced language users appear to employ hedges to open dialogic space while using boosters to close dialogic space to achieve more measures and less blunt tone of scholarly writing. Table 3 presents the normalized frequencies of stance makers used in the CEE and MICUSP. A chi-square test of independence was performed via SPSS to examine the relationship between native university students and non-native undergraduates in their use of metadiscourse features. Moreover, Fisher’s exact test was conducted for additional information about the significance value.

As shown in Table 3 , statistical analysis reveals that the use of modal hedges in the MICUSP was significantly less (62.42) than in the writings within the CEE corpus (81.65). However, native college students used a significantly greater number of approximative hedges (49.26), self-mention hedges (1.92), and evidential verb hedges (20.76) than non-native university students (respectively, 32.24, 0.12, and 13.46). In addition, the use of boosters in the MICUSP was greater (114) than evidenced in the writings within the CEE corpus (87.49).

The use of code glosses presents mixed results. Essays written by native college students were found to make significantly more frequent use of emphasis (3.30) and counter-expectancy markers (0.55) and less frequent use of elucidation markers (5.92). Moreover, there was no significant difference between the CEE (17.65) and MICUSP (16.19) concerning the use of exemplification markers. In terms of contrastive connectors, the frequency of contrastive connectors in the MICUSP (72.16) is significantly higher than in the essays written by the CEE students (34.14).

Further analysis of the most frequently used stance words or phrases by native and non-native university students shows more similarities than differences between the corpora from MICUSP and CEE. Table 4 presents the frequently used stance markers in the CEE and MICUSP in the order of their frequencies. For example, the most frequently used evidential verb hedges and self-mention hedges in the two corpora are identical.

Elucidation and exemplifying: use of code glosses

The analysis of the results focuses on code glosses because these are linguistic resources that “assist readers in grasping the acceptable interpretations of components in texts” (Vande Kopple, 1985 , p. 84). Many different code glosses, like approximative hedges, are used to express meanings with greater precision. Furthermore, by indicating that a proposition requires careful elaboration or clarification, code glosses can implicitly elevate the status of material as deserving readers’ attention.

One clear difference between types of code glosses is the distinction between elucidation and exemplification techniques (Hyland, 2007 ). As illustrated in examples 1 and 2 below, extracted from the CEE corpus, the former category comprises moves for explaining, paraphrasing, or specifying a point (made by the writer or someone else), whereas the latter includes moves to further illustrate a point with examples.

Elucidation : The microplastics cannot be treated by a normal wastewater treatment process because it is too small to screen and settle. In other words, microbead finally will discharge to the river or ocean directly and causing plastic resin pellet pollution. (FYP-CEE)
Exemplification: Sources of microplastics in the oceans of the world. Microbead can be defined as a 5 micrometre (μm) to 1 mm plastic fragments or beads made of synthetic polymers. For instance, polyethene, polylactic acid and polypropylene (Rochman, 2015 ). It can usually be existed in various exfoliating personal care and cosmetic products, including body wash, face wash and cosmetics instead of natural ingredients, including oatmeal, walnut husks, and pumice (FYP-CEE).

According to our findings, the CEE used more elucidation than the MICUSP students. Figure 1 also shows that CEE writers use other categories such as counter expectancy of code glosses less frequently than MICUSP writers. While there is a slight increase in the use of exemplification between CEE and MICUSP writers, the differences are minor. The CEE students, like the MICUSP students, include many examples in their argumentation, denoted by such as, for example , and other wordings.

Expressing concession and contrast

Our analysis of frequently occurring adversative/contrast connectors such as however, but , and nevertheless revealed the need to differentiate between two related functional categories: concessive/counter connectors on the one hand and contrast connectors on the other (see, e.g., Halliday and Hasan, 1976 ; Izutsu, 2008 ). Stance features appear in bold and are discussed below each passage. For example, example 3 comes from a research report written by an undergraduate student in civil engineering in the CEE corpus. Fu and Wang ( 2022 ) suggest that interpreted and spontaneous speeches tend to follow distinct hedging patterns in terms of preferred linguistic choices. In addition, hedges can assist researchers in defending their positions while also assisting them in applying plausibility and clarity to their assertions (e.g., Lakoff, 1972 ; Hyland, 2000 , 2005 ).

Concessive/counter : The supply of fresh water supplies declines, wastewater reuse after treatment is gaining recognition around the world. However, it is also important to remember the social and cultural disparities that in various parts of the world, particularly those in which wastewater reuse for food production or some other domestic usage is not yet suitable (FYP-CEE).
Contrast : People use these personal care and cosmetic products every day so that the microbeads flow to the wastewater treatment plant with wastewater. The microplastics cannot be treated by a normal wastewater treatment process because it is too small to screen and settle. In contrast, microbead finally will discharge to the river or ocean directly and causing plastic resin pellet pollution (FYP-CEE).

Concessive/counter connectors, such as those used in Examples 3 and 4, seek to establish an assertion as being contrary to the imagined reader’s anticipation, which falls under the functional category of counter expectancy (e.g., Martin and White, 2005 ). However, there is one more distinction to be made within this category. Whereas ‘however’ follows an earlier conceded element in example 3 (Gladwell is correct), it works in example 4 to signal a counter to an earlier conditional statement. If there is a concession element in the first sentence, it is not stated explicitly (e.g., through signals like certainly, of course, obviously, or is correct). Because these two meanings are related—the element being countered is projected as a possible view—we classified them as concessive/counters. However, contrast expressions such as in contrast and on the other hand , as seen in example 3, work to distinguish between two opposing ideas or views rather than to contradict an earlier statement’s expectation.

In the third example, the author presents both his or her own analytical technique as well as an alternate strategy, emphasizing the distinction between the two by employing a contrastive phrase. In these descriptions, the student allots roughly the same amount of textual space to each strategy, and they place an emphasis on processes (rather than, for example, human actors) and the assumptions that support each strategy.

The need for water in the residential, farming, manufacturing, and urban sectors grows as the human population grows. Whereas the effect of effluent reuse on human health and environmental risk are the two main issues. The effluent reuse should be approached cautiously and only with close analysis of the possible consequences and risks (FYP-CEE).
It became evident shortly after installation that the membranes were fouling. Because the water in Dundee is supplied from Lake Eerie, Enviroquip assumed that there should be no problems with mineral deposits in the Dundee plant. Therefore, in order to solve the fouling problem, the plant began flushing the membranes with a 1% sodium hypochlorite solution. Due to the frequent recurrence of the problem, the plant has used the cleaning solution every two months since the membranes were installed. Recently, the membrane racks were removed for cleaning, at which point mineral deposits were observed on the membrane surfaces. This means that the plant will also have to add flushes of 1% citric acid. However, it is possible that the fouling problems will be resolved by using the proper chemicals because the problem was related to mineral deposits rather than to biomass. As a result of the membrane fouling, the plant is forced to treat a lower quantity of water than it is capable of treating, making the current plant maximum capacity 3.3 MGD instead of the 4.0 MGD possible with the new raw wastewater pumps. Additionally, Enviroquip suggested that they lower the Mixed Liquor Suspended Solids (MLSS), which means that they are wasting a higher volume, and therefore producing more sludge. (FYP- MICUSP Corpus)
Common problems of prairie re-creation and restoration may be further complicated by managing LIHD systems for biofuel production. For example, degraded fields can be so dominated by persistent invasive species such as spotted knapweed (Centuarea maculosa), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), and orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) that increasing native diversity is nearly impossible. Many sub-dominant prairie species, important for overall diversity, have conservative establishment characteristics that limit their ability to compete with invasives. However, the greatest biomass, and thus the most energy, is available after the summer growing season (FYP-MICUSP Corpus)

When compared to the CEE corpus, the MICUSP students use more reformulation strategies, almost around half as often as noted in the examples from the experienced student writers. The bulk of these resources implement a certain kind of reformulation move, referred to as a particular reformulation move, which is perhaps the most significant point to substantiate their work.

Discussions

The study analyzed selected assignments from the CEE Corpus and the MICUSP to identify overlapping patterns in the CEE and the MICUSP corpora. Textual signals that signify reformulation, on the other hand, appear to be equally appreciated in both genre groups. In addition, the study suggests that second language (L2) writers need to be familiar with academic writing rules and the formal code. It is essential for students to understand what linguistic options they have and why and when these options are appropriate. A multi-faceted pedagogical approach may be necessary for teachers to help L2 students develop their language resources and repertoires. The findings presented in the “Results” section also resonate with previous research on boosters and hedges, which suggests that in general, and across all academic fields, skilled academic writers use more hedges than boosters (Hyland, 2005b ; Hyland and Milton, 1997 ; Piqué-Angordans et al., 2002 ). This approach should include exposing students to a variety of materials and activities that are representative of academic writing and align with its conventions, as well as providing explicit instruction that focuses students on syntactic structures and lexical use, as well as strategy instruction that shows how language is used to construct meaning (Maamuujav and Olson, 2018 ). Teachers can assist students in understanding how writers make meaning from and with texts and how linguistic choices are influenced by socially established genre conventions through this approach. Investigating paper categories in the MICUSP, Hardy and Friginal ( 2016 ) found that while more objective genres like reports or research papers featured a greater number of passive voice constructions, argumentative writing was more dialogic, reflecting the linguistic devices of the conversation (e.g., pronouns and adverbs). Students’ performance, academic writing, and metadiscourse markers have been studied extensively. These studies have investigated the ways L2 students write, adjust degrees of doubt and certainty (Hyland and Milton, 1997 ), engage and recruit readers into the discourse, intrude interpersonally in the text through sentence beginnings or themes (Ebeling and Wickens, 2012 ). Research based on secondary and early undergraduate writing has studied the connections between corpus patterns and the genre of assignments. For example, keyword analysis by Aull et al., ( 2017 ) revealed notable divergences between argumentative and explanatory writing in a composition module.

Overall, our investigation of stance markers or metadiscoursal features across all three levels revealed that there appeared to be a clear developmental trajectory in terms of frequency for three categories: hedges, boosters, code glosses, and connectors. These results align with Alharbi’s ( 2023 ) findings, indicating that Arabic writers prioritize the substance of their writing over captivating their audience. Notably, the Arabic corpus demonstrates a significant utilization of self-mentions, with a frequency of 4.2 occurrences per 1000 words. In addition, the most apparent discrepancies were seen between CEE students in more advanced writing corpus MICUSP. As a result of this, the response to our first question is that the CEE students have underused stance markers such as hedges, code glosses, and contrast expressions. In contrast, their more advanced peers and native English learners within MICUSP tend to draw on these linguistic resources more frequently. Moreover, as compared to second language learners of Arab countries extensively employ literary techniques like repetition and emphasis in their scientific writing.

The study found that metadiscoursal resources (e.g., hedges/boosters, code glosses, and adversative/contrast connectors) appeared with greater frequency in the MICUSP corpus (advanced writers) than in the CEE corpus (novice writers). Final-year students studying civil and environmental engineering programs used fewer metadiscourse markers than native English writers whose writings were part of the MICUSP. Specifically, the CEE students tended to underuse approximative hedges, code glosses, concessions, and contrast expressions, while the MICUSP academic writers made more frequent use of these.

These results help to identify the areas where learners might need further support with their academic writing. This highlights indicators that help language teachers to arrange workshops and engage students in writing practice to improve their academic writing skills. Our study is limited to the students enrolled in environmental and engineering school of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, but future studies may find it valuable to study the reports from other schools because stance analysis is key to preparing student writers effectively for meeting the writing requirements in a variety of genres and disciplines.

These findings have pedagogical implications’ making clear to the reader that these findings have meaning in the real world. For instance, accommodating perspectives, negotiating stance, rebutting alternatives, and persuading the readers can be done more effectively if L2 writers learn to use contrastive connectors within argumentative essays more strategically. The students may also learn about deploying hedging more effectively to contribute to the overall impact of academic writing. Further, corpus-based studies such as this one are vital for identifying variations in stance patterns across writing proficiency levels and study majors.

Data availability

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article in the supplementary files.

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Barbara, S.W.Y., Afzaal, M. & Aldayel, H.S. A corpus-based comparison of linguistic markers of stance and genre in the academic writing of novice and advanced engineering learners. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 11 , 284 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-024-02757-4

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Critical Writing Program: Decision Making - Spring 2024: Researching the White Paper

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Research the White Paper

Researching the White Paper:

The process of researching and composing a white paper shares some similarities with the kind of research and writing one does for a high school or college research paper. What’s important for writers of white papers to grasp, however, is how much this genre differs from a research paper.  First, the author of a white paper already recognizes that there is a problem to be solved, a decision to be made, and the job of the author is to provide readers with substantive information to help them make some kind of decision--which may include a decision to do more research because major gaps remain. 

Thus, a white paper author would not “brainstorm” a topic. Instead, the white paper author would get busy figuring out how the problem is defined by those who are experiencing it as a problem. Typically that research begins in popular culture--social media, surveys, interviews, newspapers. Once the author has a handle on how the problem is being defined and experienced, its history and its impact, what people in the trenches believe might be the best or worst ways of addressing it, the author then will turn to academic scholarship as well as “grey” literature (more about that later).  Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position.  Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting, and overlapping perspectives. When people research out of a genuine desire to understand and solve a problem, they listen to every source that may offer helpful information. They will thus have to do much more analysis, synthesis, and sorting of that information, which will often not fall neatly into a “pro” or “con” camp:  Solution A may, for example, solve one part of the problem but exacerbate another part of the problem. Solution C may sound like what everyone wants, but what if it’s built on a set of data that have been criticized by another reliable source?  And so it goes. 

For example, if you are trying to write a white paper on the opioid crisis, you may focus on the value of  providing free, sterilized needles--which do indeed reduce disease, and also provide an opportunity for the health care provider distributing them to offer addiction treatment to the user. However, the free needles are sometimes discarded on the ground, posing a danger to others; or they may be shared; or they may encourage more drug usage. All of those things can be true at once; a reader will want to know about all of these considerations in order to make an informed decision. That is the challenging job of the white paper author.     
 The research you do for your white paper will require that you identify a specific problem, seek popular culture sources to help define the problem, its history, its significance and impact for people affected by it.  You will then delve into academic and grey literature to learn about the way scholars and others with professional expertise answer these same questions. In this way, you will create creating a layered, complex portrait that provides readers with a substantive exploration useful for deliberating and decision-making. You will also likely need to find or create images, including tables, figures, illustrations or photographs, and you will document all of your sources. 

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Article Contents

Molecular dissection of an intronic enhancer governing cold-induced expression of the vacuolar invertase gene in potato.

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Xiaobiao Zhu, Airu Chen and Nathaniel M. Butler contributed equally to this work.

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Xiaobiao Zhu, Airu Chen, Nathaniel M Butler, Zixian Zeng, Haoyang Xin, Lixia Wang, Zhaoyan Lv, Dani Eshel, David S Douches, Jiming Jiang, Molecular dissection of an intronic enhancer governing cold-induced expression of the vacuolar invertase gene in potato, The Plant Cell , 2024;, koae050, https://doi.org/10.1093/plcell/koae050

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Potato ( Solanum tuberosum ) is the third most important food crop in the world. Potato tubers must be stored at cold temperatures to minimize sprouting and losses due to disease. However, cold temperatures strongly induce the expression of the potato vacuolar invertase gene ( VInv ) and cause reducing sugar accumulation. This process, referred to as “cold-induced sweetening”, is a major postharvest problem for the potato industry. We discovered that the cold-induced expression of VInv is controlled by a 200-bp enhancer, VInv In2En, located in its second intron. We identified several DNA motifs in VInv In2En that bind transcription factors involved in the plant cold stress response. Mutation of these DNA motifs abolished VInv In2En function as a transcriptional enhancer. We developed VInv In2En deletion lines in both diploid and tetraploid potato using clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated nuclease 9 (Cas9)-mediated gene editing. VInv transcription in cold-stored tubers was significantly reduced in the deletion lines. Interestingly, the VInv In2En sequence is highly conserved among distantly related Solanum species, including tomato ( Solanum lycopersicum ) and other non-tuber-bearing species. We conclude that the VInv gene as well as the VInv In2En enhancer have adopted distinct roles in the cold stress response in tubers of tuber-bearing Solanum species.

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IMAGES

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  1. How to Write a Research Paper

    Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate. This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

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    Scholarly writing is also known as academic writing. It is the genre of writing used in all academic fields.

  3. Successful Scientific Writing and Publishing: A Step-by-Step Approach

    Published online 2018 Jun 14. doi: 10.5888/pcd15.180085 PMCID: PMC6016396 PMID: 29908052 Successful Scientific Writing and Publishing: A Step-by-Step Approach John K. Iskander, MD, MPH, 1 Sara Beth Wolicki, MPH, CPH, 1 , 2 Rebecca T. Leeb, PhD, 1 and Paul Z. Siegel, MD, MPH 1 Author information Copyright and License information PMC Disclaimer

  4. Scholarly Paper

    Scholarly paper is a piece of academic writing that presents original research or analysis on a particular topic. It is usually written by scholars or experts in a particular field of study and is intended for an audience of other scholars or researchers.

  5. How to Write a Research Paper

    8. Write a research paper outline. Before diving in and writing the whole paper, start with an outline. It will help you to see if more research is needed, and it will provide a framework by which to write a more compelling paper. Your supervisor may even request an outline to approve before beginning to write the first draft of the full paper.

  6. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper

    A research paper is a type of academic writing that provides an in-depth analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a single topic, based on empirical evidence. Research papers are similar to analytical essays, except that research papers emphasize the use of statistical data and preexisting research, along with a strict code for citations.

  7. Academic Writing Style

    Offers detailed guidance on how to develop, organize, and write a college-level research paper in the social and behavioral sciences. Definition Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise.

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    A guide to writing an academic paper By Valerie Strauss January 20, 2012 I keep hearing from college professors that too many of their students don't write well. So here's a primer written...

  10. PDF The Structure of an Academic Paper

    Writing the introduction As we've discussed, all introductions begin broadly. The audience, format, and purpose of your paper influence how broad it should be. You can expect more background knowledge from readers of a technical journal than you can from readers of a popular magazine. Use a 'hook' to capture readers' interest.

  11. Tips on Writing a Good Research Paper

    The more research papers you write, the more comfortable you'll get with the writing process and the style of writing a scholarly academic research paper. Editing, Reviewing, and Rewriting Your Research Paper. After you've completed a first draft, it's time to edit. Keep in mind that your first draft may need many revisions.

  12. Writing an A+ Scholarly Paper Step by Step: Tips and Samples

    A scholarly paper, aka scientific paper/research or scholarly article, is a piece of academic writing that studies a specific topic and is published in academic journals. As the name suggests, it's the type of writing researchers, scholars, and all those people from laboratories wearing white coats do. It sounds a bit scary, doesn't it?

  13. Essential Guide to Manuscript Writing for Academic Dummies: An Editor's

    Abstract. Writing an effective manuscript is one of the pivotal steps in the successful closure of the research project, and getting it published in a peer-reviewed and indexed journal adds to the academic profile of a researcher. Writing and publishing a scientific paper is a tough task that researchers and academicians must endure in staying ...

  14. Writing for publication: Structure, form, content, and journal

    Publishing papers in academic journals is the mechanism by which scholarship moves forward, and is also important to researchers in terms of its impact on their career progression. Therefore, researchers seeking publication should carefully consider all relevant factors - including journal scope, open access policies, and citation metrics ...

  15. PDF ACADEMIC WRITING

    exceptions to the rules in academic writing. - Practicums: These boxes give step-by-step instructions to help you build ideas and write papers. - The Writing Process: These features show all the steps taken to write a paper, allowing you to follow it from initial idea to published article.

  16. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Sometimes your assignment will be open-ended ("write a paper about anything in the course that interests you"). But more often, the instructor will be asking you to do ... When you make an argument in an academic essay, you are writing for an audience that may not agree with you. In fact, your argument is worth making in the first place ...

  17. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives.

  18. Writing an Academic Paper: A Beginner's Guide

    Learning how to write an academic paper is a process, so give yourself plenty of time to write your first one. As you progress in your studies, you will become more efficient and quicker at writing papers. And, don't forget, you're not alone! There are loads of resources out there to help you write an academic paper, including digital tools ...

  19. Scholarly Writing: Ideas, Examples, and Execution

    Writ- ing a scholarly paper is a long-term project that requires a great deal of time; you need to develop your ideas and understand your topic to be able to suc- cessfully complete your scholarly paper.

  20. Google Scholar

    Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. Search across a wide variety of disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions.

  21. Stance in academic writing

    Stance-taking in academic writing plays a crucial role in enabling tertiary academic writers to express their positions about their topics and other voices. Based on a corpus linguistic analysis ...

  22. Researching the White Paper

    Critical Writing Program: Decision Making - Spring 2024: Researching the White Paper ... the author then will turn to academic scholarship as well as "grey" literature (more about that later). ... For example, if you are trying to write a white paper on the opioid crisis, you may focus on the value of providing free, sterilized needles ...

  23. Practice Tests for the TOEFL iBT Test

    As of July 26, 2023, the TOEFL iBT test taken at a test center or at home contains a more modern and concise Writing task, called "Writing for an Academic Discussion," that replaces the Independent Writing task. All other TOEFL iBT question types will remain the same. Therefore, you can use all existing prep materials.

  24. Find tips & resources for academic writing

    The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing by Tonette S. Rocco; Tim Hatcher; John W. Creswell (Foreword by) The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing is a groundbreaking resource that offers emerging and experienced scholars from all disciplines a comprehensive review of the essential elements needed to craft scholarly papers and other writing suitable for submission to academic ...

  25. Molecular dissection of an intronic enhancer ...

    Abstract. Potato (Solanum tuberosum) is the third most important food crop in the world.Potato tubers must be stored at cold temperatures to minimize sprouting and losses due to disease. However, cold temperatures strongly induce the expression of the potato vacuolar invertase gene (VInv) and cause reducing sugar accumulation.This process, referred to as "cold-induced sweetening", is a ...

  26. TOEFL TestReady

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