A research paper is written to present an author's thesis. The style of writing is argumentative or presents an opinion on a stated position. A research paper therefore has to be written in a way that makes the author's opinion look valid, or if not valid at least worth some further consideration. A research paper needs the author to use facts, details, examples and the opinions of notable authors in a creative way that supports the thesis. Conversely, a research paper is not just a collection of facts stated in an unrelated way, a summary, especially plagiarized, of opinions from other sources, a report of what other people are saying on the topic or a piece of writing that is just a description of the topic without an evaluation.
A good quality research paper needs to have many qualities in order to be given high marks. It needs to be written as a tight argument around a thesis and should not wander off into other areas. The paper must demonstrate that the author knows the topic well and can show this within the thesis. It must be demonstrated that the author knows and understands the source material being used to prove the argument. It is also important that the research paper uses a wide variety of source material and different authors to show a wide understanding of the topic. The research paper also needs to provide evidence of counter arguments and counter views to the author's argument. Ultimately, though, the author needs to be able to convince the reader that the argument being presented is correct. The thesis needs to be presented in a logical fashion and any points that are made must be backed up by stated persuasive facts. All facts and other supporting material used in the research paper needs to be carefully documented; this is normally done in a bibliography at the end of the paper. The bibliography needs to be presented in a way that is accepted by the institution for which the paper is being written. It is also important that the research paper is an original piece of work and is not plagiarized from other sources.
The structure of a thesis normally includes a title page, an abstract, a table of contents, the main body of the text and finally a bibliography or other reference section. The abstract is a brief summary of what is to come in the thesis and is helpful to allow the reader to understand what is going to be discussed within the rest of the paper. The abstract is different from the introduction in that it can be read and understood n isolation from the paper. The abstract should include a statement regarding the problem the thesis is addressing, the research methods used, what the research uncovered and the main conclusions that the author is putting forward. The abstract can typically vary in length from 100 words to a whole page.
The main body of the text needs to include an introduction, literature review, argument and then a conclusion. The main body of the text needs to be accompanied by a table of contents in order to allow the reader to effectively navigate through the thesis which, if it is a Ph.D may be 60,000 words in length. The introduction, unlike the abstract, should introduce the topic to the reader and also the argument that should, hopefully, be cogently presented throughout the document. After the introduction comes the literature review that aims to present a critical review of all the current knowledge about the topic and any methodological or theoretical contributions to the field. This area of the paper should not include any new work and should just be a review of current secondary sources. The literature review should aim to analyze and review current literature, to set the table for the author's argument in the main body of the text.
The body of the work should include the author's work in a form that should persuade the reader as to the merits of the author's main argument. The thesis should then end in a conclusion that sums up the points of the essay and states any recommendations that have come forth from the work. The conclusion should not introduce any new material. The final thing should be a bibliography that records in an ordered way the sources used in the writing of the thesis. Effective recording of sources will help reduce claims of plagiarism.