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7.1: Introduction to the Research Process

  • Page ID
    170531
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    Scrabble tiles spelling researchWhat is Academic Research Writing?

    Research writing is writing that uses evidence from journals, books, magazines, the Internet, and subject experts to persuade or inform an audience about a particular point.

    Research writing exists in a variety of different forms. For example, academics, journalists, or other researchers write articles for journals or magazines. Academics, professional writers and others create web pages that both use research to make some sort of point and that show readers how to find more research on a particular topic.

    Academic research writing projects are a bit different from other kinds of research writing projects in three significant ways:

    1. Thesis: Academic research projects are organized around an argumentative point or a thesis that members of the intended audience would not accept as common sense. A research project is not merely a report on what is already known. Audiences want to learn something new, either by being informed about something they knew nothing about before or by reading a unique interpretation on the issue or the evidence.
    2. Evidence: Academic projects rely almost exclusively on evidence in order to support the thesis. Of course, all writing uses other means of persuasion—appeals to emotion, to logic, or to the credibility of the author. But the readers of academic research writing projects are likely to be more persuaded by good evidence such as readings you find in the library (journal and magazine articles, books, newspapers); materials from the Internet (web pages, information from databases, other Internet-based forums), and information you might be able to gather in other ways (including interviews, field research, experiments).
    3. Source Citation: Unlike most types of non-academic writing, academic research provides extensive source information to explain where the evidence that supports the writer’s point came from. This not only adds credibility to the writer's argument, but gives readers information about where to look to find more information if they wish to do their own research.

    Research Writing is a Process of Steps

    1. Coming up with an idea or a topic (sometimes called brainstorming, invention or “pre-writing”);
    2. Choosing a controversy within that topic to argue;
    3. Writing a rough draft of that argument;
    4. Showing that rough draft to others to get feedback (peers, instructors, colleagues, etc.);
    5. Revising the draft (sometimes many times); and
    6. Proof-reading and editing to correct minor mistakes and errors.

    An added component in the writing process of research projects is, obviously, research. Rarely does research begin before at least some initial writing (even if it is nothing more than brainstorming or pre-writing exercises), and research is usually not completed until after the entire writing project is completed. Chances are you will need to do at least some simple research to develop an idea to write about in the first place. You might do the bulk of your research as you write your rough draft, though you will almost certainly have to do more research based on the revisions that you decide to make to your project.

    Remember, the process of writing isn’t completely linear and straight-forward. Writers generally have to start by coming up with an idea, but writers often go back to their original idea and make changes in it after they write several drafts, do research, talk with others, and so on. So instead of thinking of the writing process as an ordered list, you should think of it more as a web where different points can and do connect with each other in many different ways, and a process that changes according to the demands of each writing project. While you might write an essay where you follow the steps in the writing process in order (from coming up with an idea all the way to proofreading), writers also find themselves following the writing process out of order all the time. That’s okay. The key thing to remember about the writing process is that it is a process made up of many different steps, and writers are rarely successful if they just start to write without a plan and work straight through without revisions.