Depending upon the purpose of the assignment, research can be used to accomplish many things. Whether you are writing to inform, persuade, or critique, research should be used in conjunction with your own ideas to support your thesis and your purpose. Do not let the research speak for itself. You, the writer of the document, are the most important voice. You are using outside sources to support your thesis. Therefore, let your comments, connections, objections, etc. play the strongest role in your paper. When you quote or paraphrase an outside source, provide appropriate in-text citations. Following the citation, you must comment on this information: its significance, relevance, or even failure of the information as it relates to the thesis of your essay. Avoid stacking together quote after quote without showing your audience the purpose of the information. Always bring the paper back to your thoughts.
It is essential to use outside sources that are going to back up your argument. In many cases, researching will reveal evidence that might relate to the topic but does not support your position or “side” of the argument. Many assignments will ask you to acknowledge the other sides of the argument, so be sure to research your topic thoroughly and from many angles. Don’t just find sources that agree with your view. Remember that most issues are complex and have multiple “sides” or perspectives; a simple pro-con may not help you address the nuances or complexities of issues. Listen to and understand the variety of perspectives offered.
For some assignments, outside research may not be necessary. Thus, in determining the necessary amount of research needed, first evaluate the topic of the assignment. For example, a paper that is based solely on one’s opinion will likely require much less research than one that covers a highly scientific subject. To be sure, always ask your instructor for specific instructions.