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Types of Research Papers

Research paper types

Students present findings in various forms depending on the question’s requirements. The two most popular forms of academic writing are:

Argumentative paper

This paper persuades readers to accept a theory that is controversial or debatable. The writer offers a stance in the introduction -- develop their thesis statement -- and then argues in favor of the position. Using credible primary and secondary sources, they convince readers of a unique viewpoint.

Analytical paper

The purpose is to explore the answer to a question about a topic. Writers don’t stick to a particular side. They analyze a range of viewpoints and include enough support based on strong sources. This way, readers can make their own conclusions. Critical evaluation is essential!

Research paper guide


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Other types of research papers are:


The writer presents new findings in this paper. They may also prove or disprove current findings using their research, so strong support from a variety of sources is necessary.

Cause and effect

Students investigate the causes of an issue. Then they show the effects the topic has on other events and situations. Writers do not state an opinion. They present solid data through their research which shows undeniable links between two events or theories. When the evidence is strong, your work is an intriguing and informative read.

Compare and contrast

A compare and contrast research paper takes two or more issues and:

  • compares them - the paper identifies similarities
  • contrasts them - the paper explores differences

Students do more than describe different viewpoints; they draw links between similarities and highlight differences too. Readers formulate a clear understanding of the concept as a result. This paper is popular for topics on literature and historic events and people.

Professors or instructors usually tell students what kind of paper to write. The topic they assign will also contain clues, or keywords, that show how to answer a question. Regardless of the paper type, you must be diligent when you explore the topic and accumulate valid sources. Students must show a solid understanding of source data and critically examine links to the main concept.

In some instances, your professor will tell you the topic. At other times, though, you select your own. If this is the case, you need to spend enough time considering your options. Don’t rush the decision. Many students stumble at this initial stage because the topic they chose is too wide or too narrow. Moreover, choosing something that has already been studied misses the point of a research paper, and it becomes a summary instead.

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